Mars Hill has recently decided to stop calling their sites “campuses” but to call them churches. I think that decision is biblically faithful and accurate (I made this specific observation in June 2008). I thank God for the change. They see that the campuses are actually fully functioning churches in their own right. Jamie Munson cites Driscoll’s book on the components of a local church:
- The church is made up of regenerated believers in Jesus.
- The church is organized under qualified and competent leadership.
- The church regularly gathers to hear God’s Word rightly preached and to respond in worshipful ways.
- The church is where the biblical sacraments of baptism and Communion are performed regularly.
- The church is unified by God the Holy Spirit.
- The church is a holy people. When they sin, they repent of their sin. If [a professing Christian] should fail to repent, the church and its leaders lovingly enact biblical church discipline in hopes of bringing the sinner to repentance and to a reconciled relationship with God and his people.
- The church is a loving community that devotes itself to fellowship.
- The church is an evangelistic community where the gospel of Jesus is constantly made visible by its preaching, its witness of the members, and its Spirit-empowered life of love.
So instead of campus pastor, they are now “lead pastors” of their local church. What does that make Mark Driscoll and the “executive elders”? I’m not sure, but I think the move is in the right direction in terms of faithful ecclesiology. I still think they are not as accurate as they can be with the nomenclature as this section reveals:
Ministry: United As One
Though by definition we may be many different churches, the Mars Hill Network of churches remains a single, united church. We share a common infrastructure, a common mission, common teaching, and a common belief that we can reach more people by working together rather than existing separately.
How are they a network of churches and yet a single united church? I can think of one New Testament reference that may grant this, but I don’t think it would be accurate. There is the universal church and the local church. This is somewhere in the middle and doesn’t have biblical warrant.
First off, calling this network one single church violates #3 of the descriptions of the local church listed above. They do gather regularly in their churches but not as a “single, united church.”
Secondly, if a lead pastor is primarily responsible for shepherding the flock, then why would he give up 70% of his Sunday preaching opportunities to a video sermon by a pastor-colleague who isn’t part of that local church? If you’re a lead pastor, the primary (not only) way you shepherd the flock (local church) is by preaching on Sundays. To give up 70 plus percent and still be a “lead” pastor doesn’t make sense to me.
Thirdly, depending on how the churches relate to the “executive elders,” this becomes a case of presbyterianism or episcopalianism that sets up an authoritative structure outside the local congregation, which in my view is unbiblical.
I’m happy for the change and consider it a move in the right direction. I’m even more happy that Mars Hill Churches are continuing to spread the gospel, see people repent and trust Christ, and plant local churches in our nation. I continue to rejoice with and pray for our brothers who love our Savior and seek to make him known.
Read the Mars Hill post in full.
See my previous posts on multi-site churches here: Multi-site church campuses; Russ Moore on multi-site churches; Driscoll’s Defense of Multi-site church ministry; observation #1 on Driscoll’s defense; observation #2 on Driscoll’s defense.
And be sure to check out this 9marks e-journal on the topic with articles from both sides.