Reflections on the Christianity Today’s podcast series, “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.”

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Reflections on Christianity Today’s Podcast, “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.”

I have finished listening to all of the episodes to this point (including the bonus episode with Joshua Harris), and here are some of my takeaways.

1). Driscoll and the other leaders at Mars Hill were innovative and had a ton of great ideas they were able to implement to grow quickly as a church organization. However, with that rapid growth, came a lot of opportunities to abuse and spiritually manipulate people in the church. One of the comments that was constantly made was, “Look at the fruit.” There were a number of moments that showed a great bounty of spiritual fruit, but there was also a lot of rotten fruit that simply was ignored, because the “fruit” that was being looked at was numerical, then spiritual. It’s vitally important to not buy into the message that “Numerical growth = Spiritual growth.” The spirit may be growing, but it may not be holy.

2). Being a woman at Mars Hill was difficult. I understand that some religious groups/denominations have various views of women in ministry, gender roles, etc. When women are not allowed to work, because it would disqualify their spouse to be a leader in the church, that is toxic. When women have to stop what they are doing, because their spouses need to have their sexual needs taken care of, that is toxic. When a woman has to sit in a church service, and the minister talks about sex in a very pornographic way and proof-text the Bible to promote sex acts that a woman may be uncomfortable with, but has to perform because her husband request it of her and can now use the “Bible says/pastor says” card, that is toxic. Some notable quotes from former members was a woman, who praised this brash talk on gender roles and sex because it helped get her husband to “step up to the plate,” but then realized how toxic it because as the pendulum continued to swing too far. The other member (Jeff from 90lbs wuss), said that the teachings on sex in the church not only made his wife uncomfortable but that what was being communicated was “spiritual rape.”

3.) Transparency and accountability are vital to healthy church culture, and yet it is also the two things that continue to be thrown out the window in the guise of “protecting the integrity of the church.” Screw your false sense of integrity! It has nothing to do with integrity and everything to protect a brand. Out of all the times I have been a church member, consultant, and pastor, it is few and far between that I have seen leaders be humble and transparent with the church about sin, corruption, and other church issues. Transparency and accountability is a two-way street. In the case of Mars Hill, Driscoll needed to have accountability, and when there were by-law changes to give him more power and less accountability, it eventually lead to the fall of Mars Hill. On the same token, it is also important for governing boards and teams to be held accountable. I have witnessed and heard too many stories where a pastor was forced to resign, fired, or simply quit due to an overzealous, fruitless, fearful, power-hungry board who needed to protect their “assets” at the cost of destroying a minister and their family.

4.) The evangelical community needs to stop making celebrities out of ministers. The problem is two-fold. First, it puts an unrealistic amount of pressure on the pastor, regardless of the size of the church. They tend to focus more on performance than being transformed by the Holy Spirit. Second, it gives the leader a false sense of self and an overinflated ego, that gives him/her a “god-complex.” It leads to an abuse of power, and/or when there is a fallacy, it causes much damage across the church and community.

If you have not listened to “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill,” I would highly recommend it if you are interested in church dynamics and culture.

Daniel Fast – Day 10: Minister’s Meeting

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The third Tuesday of every month, I have a minister’s meeting where all the ministers in the area get together for some fellowship.  As I was getting in my car to go to this meeting, it occurred to me that there is always a meal provided.  Would there be anything that I can eat?  I get to the meeting and they have a lot of great looking food.  Broccoli and Cheddar Soup (Can’t eat), Salad (can eat, but with caution), garlic bread (can’t eat), cookies (Can’t eat) Cheesecake (can’t eat), and cheesecake toppings (can eat the strawberries and blueberries as they are not in a sugary syrup like the cherries).

So I get a salad and a side of fruit.  During the salad, I had to combat the chunks of chicken, cheese shavings, and croutons, while I ate the lettuce, cucumbers, onions, and olives.  After the meal, the topic to discuss was, “what spiritual disciplines are you participating in?”  The hosting pastor knew about my fast and asked me to share my experiences.  I talked about everything that I mentioned on Day 8 of my fast.  Other pastors talked about vision planning, prayer journaling, and even sitting in silence. As I listen to each pastor share what discipline they are practicing I thought, “Can these other disciplines be heightened during a fast?  My goal for this second week is to try a spiritual discipline and see how it goes.

Daniel Fast – Day 6: Early Morning, Carbon Monoxide, & The Bin of Shame

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4:00 am.  My wife wakes me up because she hears beeping downstairs.  A few weeks ago, our Carbon Monoxide detector was defective and I replaced it right before Christmas.  My wife thought that the beeping was another defective unit, but in fact, it was warning us that the furnace was producing CO.  So I shut off the heat (luckily we were having warmer weather in VA), moved the kids to our bedroom and I got the last few winks on the couch after I called the furnace repair company to send a worker out.

Since the workers would be coming soon, I went and cleaned up the furnace room a tad bit.  One of the items was to empty out the trash can downstairs where there was just a bunch of packaging from junk food.  As I was looking at each item, I was beginning to think about all the times I had put junk into my body.  As the fast has begun to purge my body of any unhealthy eating habits I have partaken in, I began to search my heart and pray for the Spirit’s guidance to remove any bad habits that have been inhibiting me spiritually.  As the spirit continued to search my inmost being, I have seen how my attitude, impulses, and anger has to lead to unhealthy choices on a spiritual, physical, and emotional level.  It is through revelation that leads to repentance and through repentance is a renewed sense of self.

Daniel Fast – Day 5: Cranky Pants, Prayer Awareness, and Blood Loss.

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5 days in, and I have noticed that I am beginning to be cranky.  Sometimes I can be a bit cranky when there are big stressors in my life, but for the most part, I have a level head and pretty patient.  Today, I was just getting quickly annoyed with the smallest issues.  My prayer is that this does not become the norm during the fast.

One of the most interesting things about doing this fast is that I have had a heighten prayer awareness.  Multiple times throughout the day, I would be in prayer.  Most of the time, my mind would think about a situation or an individual and automatically, I stop what I am doing and began to pray.  Not just a quick prayer, but a focused, precise prayer.

The one thing I was nervous about was my blood donation appointment.  With a few days into the fast, I was curious how my body was going to respond the giving blood.  Typically, after I give, I usually will leave and drive back without feeling light-headed.  But with my fast, I thought it would be best to wait the 15 minutes before I attempt to leave.  It was not until some hours after, where just the simplest of the task would make me a bit light headed.  I also began to crave sugar.  I was beginning to think about sweets, and every sweet item that was in the house was a big temptation.  I was glad that I had church responsibilities to divert my mind from being consumed with cotton-candy fantasies.

Daniel Fast – Day 1: Beginning of my Daniel Fast

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Beginning in January 2018, my Church has decided to focus on prayer.  We are using Mark Batterson’s, “The Circle Maker,” as a guide to start the year off in prayer.  As I was preparing this series, I decided to do a Daniel fast at the start of it.

For those of you who do not know what a Daniel fast is, it comes from the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament.

At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over (Daniel 10:2-3 NIV).

The requirements of the fast are that one cannot eat any meat, or any by-product from an animal (ex. eggs, cheese, milk, etc).  You can not consume any food with sugar, chemicals, yeast and processed items.  The food I can eat is anything that comes from the ground and is not processed.  The duration of the fast is 3 weeks (21 days).

Most people do a Daniel fast for its health benefits.  You can do a google search for the Daniel fast and most websites are dedicated to diet, detox, and healthy living.  But one of the things I rarely see is for prayer.

The purpose of fasting is to amplify one’s prayer life.  Daniel, in the midst of Babylonian captivity, used fasting to gain wisdom and insight into a revelation of a Great War (Daniel 10:1).  The purpose of my Daniel Fast is not for health benefits but for wisdom, insight, and direction as I lead the church in pastor into the new year.

So far, the fast has been good.  I ate a salad without dressing and had a three bean chili for dinner.  I’m scared and excited by what will be revealed by the Holy Spirit during the duration of this fast.

Continue to pray for me as I begin this journey in fasting and prayer.