In light of this week’s events, the PARSE editors are lifting our longstanding ban on the discussion of Mark Driscoll to share this piece from William Vanderbloemen. – Paul
This week, amidst mounting pressure, Pastor Mark Driscoll resigned his position as Senior Pastor of Mars Hill Church, which he founded in 1996 and grew to14,000 in weekly attendance over 15 campuses. His resignation was sudden, would have been unforeseen by most even a year ago. There was no sexual scandal. His board took over 1000 hours to review his work and decided that while Pastor Driscoll had made mistakes, he was not unfit for ministry and they had not called for his resignation.
This high profile a resignation as a voluntary act of a founding pastor is unprecedented. It has created a firestorm of online speculation.
Regardless of what opinion people have on Pastor Driscoll or Mars Hill Church, this resignation signals a new day in pastoral leadership, and a shift in how leadership is both validated or invalidated in at least three critical ways:
1. Social media has impacted church leadership even more than it has businesses.
There’s an undeniable pattern in church history: every major church growth breakthrough happens on the heels of a communication breakthrough.
Every major church growth breakthrough happens on the heels of a communication breakthrough.
Rome built roads, and then Paul planted churches. Alexander conquered the then known world and gave it one common language, and the New Testament was canonized in his Koine Greek. The printing press was invented, and Martin Luther put a Bible in the hands of anyone who wanted one. Now, as we sit on the heels of the most seminal communication breakthrough ever, the church is poised for enormous growth and expansion.
Mars Hill Church was one of the first churches to leverage social media to help grow a platform and a congregation (Pastor Driscoll has nearly half a million Twitter followers alone). Many other churches followed suit, and now, evangelical pastors are viewed by Twitter as powerhouses. Enough so that some time back, Twitter moved a key executive to Atlanta just to be close to the high number of evangelical pastors in the area.
But with that opportunity comes danger as well. Just as social media and the hyper connected internet age helped catapult Mars Hill onto a national scene, they also played a key role in the turbulence at the church that led to Pastor Driscoll’s resignation. Daily blogs from across the country criticized the church, the board, and/or Pastor Driscoll. Some of the most popular posts were from people who have never even attended Mars Hill.
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