Why Mark Driscoll May Be More Important Than Pope Benedict XVI

If Pope Benedict XVI passed away tomorrow, the coming Sunday Mass would not change. A new pope would  be selected and we’d substitute his name in place of Pope Benedict’s during a prayer in the Mass. A new photo would eventually be ordered for the hallway.

If Pastor Mark Driscoll passed away tomorrow, Mars Hill Church as we know it is done.

What’s the difference?

The multi-site campus experiment of evangelicalism is placing more and more pressure on celebrity pastors. If you attend Mars Hill Church, whether it is in Seattle, Portland, or Albuquerque, you watch a recorded version of Pastor Mark preach from a video screen (I’ve attended several of these services and was planning to be an intern at one campus). The stated goal is to establish many more “churches” that watch Driscoll preach in HD. While campus pastors are present and do the announcements and occasional preaching, Mars Hill’s identity is wrapped up in Mark Driscoll.  He is not alone. Celebrity pastors around the country are adopting the multi-site idea (despite the protests of some Protestants).

Personally, I think the idea of multi-site campuses are logical given the presuppositions of evangelicalism (and I don’t question the sincerity of Mark Driscoll). “Getting fed” by the sermon is near sacramental, so why not have the best preaching available? Unfortunately, the extreme focus on the preacher in place of Christ in the Eucharist leads to celebrity pastors (and a Wal-Mart styled expansion of a church’s brand).

In evangelicalism more deference is given to the individual personality than to the position (how many times have you been wowed by someone who simply told you they were a pastor?). In Catholicism more deference is given to the apostolic position than to the individual. Popes and priests are replaceable. Mark Driscoll is not.


11 thoughts on “Why Mark Driscoll May Be More Important Than Pope Benedict XVI

  1. Pastor Mark – while I enjoy his oratory and books ( and I am sure he is sincere in his faith), has placed himself on a pedestal as a celebrity. Whether intentionally or not, is beside the point. I would wager (not that I gamble 🙂 ) that more people go to these mega-churches simply to hear a sermon by a “rockstar” than they go to hear the pure, undiluted word of God preached and be with their fellow believers in corporate worship realized as a local expression of the body of Christ. So if it is true that people are going to these churches simply to see the celebrity – then you sir are absolutely correct. However if the body of Christ is realized in it’s local expression at these mars hill sites then it is the real body of Christ and it wont fail – because Christ is stronger than our failings.

    • Thanks for your comment! You make a good point that not all Protestants are fans of celebrity pastors. However, my suspicion is that the minimization of the Eucharist and the elevation of the sermon inevitably leads to celebrity pastors. Evangelicalism has a history of celebrity pastors, from George Whitefield to Charles Spurgeon to Billy Graham. When the focus is on the Eucharist the individual priest is minimized and it becomes more about Jesus. This is true in some Protestant circles and especially true in Catholicism.

      It’s not bad to enjoy good teaching, and quite natural for people to be attracted to what is viewed as the best teaching of the day. Unfortunately when this becomes the definition of “going to church” it’s a problem.

      It’s also interesting how Protestants and Catholics have different meanings to different words. I’d be interested in hearing more about your comment “then it is the real body of Christ and it won’t fail.” I wrestled with that as a Protestant. There was so much heretical teaching it was really hard to distinguish who was a “true church” and who wasn’t. If I just started a Bible study with other men who were qualified as elders had we thus become a church? The Catholic system of one unified Church of Jesus Christ visibly represented through his apostolic leaders (the pope and bishops) is radically different but makes more sense to me biblically, historically, and logically.

  2. I think you’re absolutely right that the root of the problem is the focus on the preacher (and, I might add, the worship band a lot of times as well) rather than being on Christ in the Eucharist. You see this in the very structure of the two “liturgies”: in a Catholic Mass, everything builds toward meeting Jesus in the Sacrament; He is the climax of the liturgy. In a typical Protestant Evangelical service, everything builds towards the preacher delivering a sermon…

    Ironically, I think that by taking the focus off of preaching, and putting it back on Christ Jesus in the Eucharist, a lot of times (not always) you end up with more effective preaching. I find that I am far more encouraged in my walk with the Lord by many of the 8-10 minute homilies my priest gives than I ever was by the overwhelming majority of the 45-60 minute epic sermons I heard when I was in the Reformed world. Very few people can truly focus for an hour on a speaker anyways, no matter how dynamic he may be in the pulpit…

    • Nicely put! I also think when people look at church history (even to the very early times) the focus was on the Eucharist. The average Southern Baptist church takes communion 4 times a year and many evangelical churches are once a month. Big, big difference.

      • Absolutely. The evangelical church I grew up in *never* took communion on a Sunday morning…it was always only at a Wednesday night service, and only one Wednesday a month at that. Needless to say, that church is built entirely around the pastor’s personality/preaching skills…

  3. I absolutely loved this post. I was actually just thinking about something similar recently. When an Evangelical pastor needs a “fill in” for a Sunday, I imagine it’s quite a difficult task. The odds of finding another Christian pastor who believes precisely the same doctrine must be nearly impossible.

  4. I’m so encouraged by seeing all of these young evangelicals coming into communion with the Catholic Church. It is a journey that I myself took just a little more than a year ago. I think with the breakdown of consistent teaching (especially on moral issues) in evangelicalism I think this trend will continue. Deep down, people want the Church to be consistent in its teaching and not follow the winds of culture. They want the Church to be this way because Jesus was and IS this way. The Church has to be like Him. God bless you! This was an excellent observation and it is one I had been thinking about off and on myself.

  5. So wait, he wants a church spanning an infinitely vast geographic region, all united together in a single organization and headed-up by a guy most of them have never physically met? I think there’s already a church which does that…and it’s been around for about 2,000 years… 😉

    Seriously though, he doesn’t really explain why all these locations have to hear *his* sermon. If the goal is simply to get people to meet Jesus, why can the local pastors not be trusted to break open the Word? :-/

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