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Monday, September 24, 2012

Mars Hill Announced the "Third Fastest-Growing Church" in America

Posted by on Mon, Sep 24, 2012 at 11:13 AM

That's according to Outreach Magazine's annual "100 Largest and Fastest-Growing Churches in America" issue. (Each church's attendance surveys are self-reported and not audited, FYI.)

You can't look inside the magazine without buying it, but Mars Hill p.r. contact Justin Dean was happy to give me the details: Mars Hill is the 28th-largest church in the country with 14 locations in four states and plans to open 5 more in the next 12 to 18 months. In last year's issue, it was ranked the 43rd-largest church in America.

In the past 12 months, its weekly attendance has supposedly grown by 3,530 to over 13,000. That's impressive, especially given the church's public image problems—reporters from The Stranger to the New York Times to Slate have questioned Pastor Mark Driscoll's machismo theology, his bullying leadership structure, his odd claims to have supernatural powers, and the church's micro-management of its members' lives.

To his earliest critics, Driscoll just seemed like a grotesque curiosity. But his continuing rise to power begs a deeper look. He's obviously tapping into something in the culture—I'm guessing a backlash against the gains made by women and gays in mainstream politics has something to do with it.

Or, you know, he's one of God's true messengers, if you go in for that kind of thing.


Comments (30) RSS

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treacle 1
I think he's made a deal with Smokey Joe from Down Below to be growing so fast... it's suspicious to say the least.

Ah well, the harder they come, the harder they fall.
One and all.
Posted by treacle on September 24, 2012 at 11:25 AM · Report this
Dr_Awesome 2
Could be true, most likely is bullshit. Scientology claimed absurdly high growth figures for so many years that people started pointing out that for their numbers to be true some absurdly high (and obviously false) percent ofof the country would have to be a Scientologist.
Posted by Dr_Awesome on September 24, 2012 at 11:28 AM · Report this
Remember: Mark Driscoll is the brother of famed Seattle punk/art/rock band Purdins' lead singer Tony Driscoll. It makes much more sense than you may think.
Posted by Dory Purdin on September 24, 2012 at 11:30 AM · Report this
i always find it interesting that their fundy xtian church is named for the roman god of war. (and/or his alleged "hill".)
Posted by Adrian Ryan on September 24, 2012 at 11:32 AM · Report this
Sung Yun Moon just died, so maybe there are an excess of cultists looking for a new home.
Posted by SPG on September 24, 2012 at 11:40 AM · Report this
Posted by Portlander on September 24, 2012 at 11:41 AM · Report this
Looking For a Better Read 7
I think it's important to note that Mars Hill is not continuing to capture larger percentages of a single community, as that would indicate growing acceptance of message and influence; instead, they're growing by reaching out into multiple communities. So their message appeals to a fringe element (say, less than 0.05% of any given population). Absent Mark Driscoll, those people would probably flock to any number of other big-mouthed whack jobs.
Posted by Looking For a Better Read on September 24, 2012 at 11:42 AM · Report this
It's just post-punk quiverfull/promisekeepers bullshit. Their long term strategy is to outbreed the heathens. Of course they're going to grow.
Posted by dirge on September 24, 2012 at 11:47 AM · Report this
very bad homo 9
Still waiting for their cult leader to be caught with an underage hooker.

Oh, you know it's gonna happen.
Posted by very bad homo on September 24, 2012 at 11:53 AM · Report this
Hernandez 10
He's tapping into male insecurity, plain and simple. It's not even political so much as cultural. We've succeeded in raising a generation of scared little cowards, and they're all looking for something to make them feel Big and Strong.

So along comes Driscoll and the macho bully Christ he's invented. And he promises that all the bad feelings will go away if we just shun the queers and put the women in their place, then we can all be Big Strong Important Men. Apparently it's a very effective outreach.
Posted by Hernandez on September 24, 2012 at 12:00 PM · Report this
I think it's depressing that the largest and fastest growing American churches all seem to be of the bat-shit crazy right-wing variety. Churches run by nice people, like slog's own Kim in Portland, don't seem to attract nearly as many followers as hate-mongers like Mark Driscoll. This unfortunate state of affairs lends a certain amount of credence to the claim that the secular-progressive-homo-liberal agenda is a war on Christianity. I don't think we will go back to feeding Christians to the lions or anything. However, I do think that victories by gay rights activists and sex positive feminists will inevitably diminish the role of religion in society.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on September 24, 2012 at 12:02 PM · Report this
Beetlecat 12
@4 my guess is buried somewhere is a reference to an actual "mars hill" that would have been present in Roman/post-Roman times. It's certainly no accident at the masculine nature of the name, though.
Posted by Beetlecat on September 24, 2012 at 12:04 PM · Report this
rob! 13
The Areopagus or Areios Pagos is the "Rock of Ares," north-west of the Acropolis, later referred to by the Romans as "Mars Hill." It functioned in classical times as the high Court of Appeal for criminal and civil cases in Athens.
Posted by rob! on September 24, 2012 at 12:22 PM · Report this
rob! 14
...and more to the point, was from this location, drawing from the potential significance of the Athenian altar to the Unknown God, that the Apostle Paul is said to have delivered the famous speech, "Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands."
Driscoll flatters himself exceedingly.
Posted by rob! on September 24, 2012 at 12:26 PM · Report this
thatsnotright 15
Hate and misogeny sells.
Posted by thatsnotright on September 24, 2012 at 12:35 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 16
#2 for the win. I just read a history about Scientology and that cult made all sorts of grand claims; and still does.

I expect Mars Hill to go Jonestown at some point in the next 10 years.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on September 24, 2012 at 12:37 PM · Report this
He's obviously tapping into something in the culture—I'm guessing a backlash against the gains made by women and gays in mainstream politics has something to do with it.

I'd guess that many people drawn to the church either don't care about rights for gays and women one way or another, or they come in spite of Driscoll's views. The church's main draws are a charismatic pastor and a ready made community.
Posted by Joe Glibmoron on September 24, 2012 at 12:39 PM · Report this
Dougsf 18
"Fastest growing" is always the preferred metric of wing-nuts. If I get one person to do as I say—doubling the amount of people who listen to me in a single day—then I'll be the fastest growing church in America.
Posted by Dougsf on September 24, 2012 at 12:43 PM · Report this
@13: More importantly, St. Paul delivered a rather gloomy sermon there.
Posted by Joe Glibmoron on September 24, 2012 at 12:46 PM · Report this
Many people, love, love, LOVE to be told what to do.

Life is messy and confusing. Churches like Mars Hill promise to clean up that mess by providing a rules-driven formula for life. Just follow the rules (very closely, and the elders will be watching) and be happy!
Posted by Westside forever on September 24, 2012 at 12:49 PM · Report this
Posted by gberry on September 24, 2012 at 12:49 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 22

If you read anything about their recruiting practices, you'll see that's exactly it, especially the ready made community part. The recruiters specifically seek out and prey upon young lonely people. And, in Seattle, young lonely people are thick on the ground. They present them with a ready made community, with dozens of new best friends. Best friends who think you're just great, who want to be around you all the time, who want to help you out with your problems, and all of the advice comes straight from Driscoll's point of view of course.

Once they get those poor saps entrenched in that community, they make it impossible to leave. Challenge church authority or dogma in any way? Refuse to get married and have babies like a good Christian soldier? Say goodbye to all your dozens of best friends.
Posted by keshmeshi on September 24, 2012 at 12:51 PM · Report this
Mahtli69 23
Please just ignore Mr. Koresh, and maybe he will go away by himself.
Posted by Mahtli69 on September 24, 2012 at 1:02 PM · Report this
We've seen this movie before. It's going to end in a tearful video confession, off-shore accounts, embezzlement, meth, under-age sex, maybe a dead hooker or two.
Posted by tkc on September 24, 2012 at 1:36 PM · Report this
A cursory look at the demographic that attends his churches suggests to me too that the group drawn to him also wants the fellowship of being part of a Christian church without having to be around all those yucky elderly, or even middle-aged, people who go to other churches.
Posted by cracked on September 24, 2012 at 2:23 PM · Report this
@25: I've never understood why so many people prefer to interact almost exclusively with others in their age cohort/race/social class. I mean, I understand that it's more comfortable, but cutting yourself off from the POV of people who aren't exactly like you is a recipe for an incredibly parochial worldview.
Posted by Joe Glibmoron on September 24, 2012 at 2:34 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 27
@22 - Do they have a group that plays Pinochle regularly? I might be able to put up with all the other bullshit for that.
Posted by Free Lunch on September 24, 2012 at 6:06 PM · Report this
@27: Yeah, but the rules are different. Marriages are fine, but queens around is sinful.
Posted by Joe Glibmoron on September 24, 2012 at 7:01 PM · Report this
rob! 29
Posted by rob! on September 24, 2012 at 7:42 PM · Report this
blackhook 30
The clock is ticking on the strange fruit Mark Driscoll.

Come out Mark, come out now, come out wherever you are. You aren't fooling anyone with your charades. Hiding behind your beard wife & family - 5 kids ...while simultaneously railing against THE GAYS - not to mention THE WOMENS ...hmmm, sounds a lot like Ted Haggard. Your time will come .Until then, keep the weirdness a-comin'!
Posted by blackhook on September 25, 2012 at 2:27 AM · Report this

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