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.