A Tale Of Two Mars Hills

The important attitude in ministry: Watch your life and watch your doctrine closely

A third church comes to mind. It is the church led by a pastor you don’t know, a church you have never read about, a church that has never had a staff visit it to learn the “secret sauce” of its growth and influence. The pastor doesn’t have an audience outside of his church. People don’t download his sermons across the world. A decade ago, some in his church wished he were creative like Bell or edgy like Driscoll. But he didn’t change. He simply stayed the course of the ministry the Lord gave him.


Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Timothy 4:16).

When I was in my late twenties, serving as an executive pastor, two young pastors suddenly seemed to burst on the evangelical scene. Their churches, both named Mars Hill, were growing rapidly, and a broader Christian audience was taking notice. The two Mars Hills—Rob Bell’s in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area and Mark Driscoll’s in Seattle—were never associated with one another and were very different in doctrine and approach. The only relationship between the two Mars Hills is that they both became broadly well known around the same time. It seemed that suddenly I began to receive emails from pastors and Christians asking if I had heard of Rob Bell or Mark Driscoll and what I thought of their ministries.

Bell was recognized as a creative, story-telling preacher who launched his Mars Hill by preaching through the Book of Leviticus. After he preached a sermon at a Willow Creekpreaching conference with a goat next to him the entire time, multiple preachers attempted the same feat. His Nooma videos became Wednesday night youth ministry lessons in churches across the country.

Driscoll was recognized for his strong leadership and straightforward, biblical sermons. He had a brash edge to him, an edge that appealed to young men in the ministry with whom I served. His church was growing in Seattle, of all places, a place recognized as being one of the most unchurched cities in the entire nation.

Both men were influencing young preachers and young Christians. I was particularly grateful for Mark, as it was clear that he held tightly to and boldly proclaimed the Bible as the faultless Word of God. While Rob Bell wondered in his book Velvet Elvis whether or not the Christian faith would be in jeopardy if “we lost the doctrine of the Virgin birth,” Mark Driscoll continued to preach through books of the Bible, to point people to Jesus, and to call people to repentance.

Both Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll are brilliant; there is no question about that. Bell is a gifted and compelling artist in both his speaking and writing. Driscoll has an unbelievable mind, perhaps a photographic memory, as he is able to recall large portions of books and sections of Scripture on the spot. Admittedly, I find it frustrating that he can prepare sermons in 1-2 hours that would take me 20 hours to prepare. And both Bell and Driscoll are charismatic, magnetic leaders.

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