It’s a small universe. Eldest Son, Eldest Daughter and Younger Daughter all attend the church described in the Times’ story as “a boxy gray building near the diesel-infused din of the Ballard Bridge.” It’s located about 15 minutes from Eldest Son and Younger Daughter’s university, and Eldest Daughter’s apartment, but there are half a dozen churches even closer to them. One in fact is right across the street from the university campus. It would certainly be convenient, if that was what they were after.
They ended up attending Mars Hill in part because of Pastor Mark, as well as Pastor Tim and Pastor Bubba. Yes, that really is his name, go figure.
I texted Eldest Son and asked him to describe in one sentence what makes Mark Driscoll such a good pastor, and he sent back two words: “Not possible.” After a bit he elaborated:
He is blunt and makes me think. I don’t always agree with him, and it makes me question why.
Eldest son is headed for a career in the USAF; but he’s no blind follower of orders. He has a deeply probing mind and values straight from the hip speaking. He’d never be content with a pastor who didn’t challenge him to explore what he believes.
Younger daughter also responded to my question:
He tells it like it is and is very passionate about God.
Contrary to what the Times’ author says, Mark Driscoll is easy to find on YouTube; even videos of the very topics cited in the article are there under the Mars Hill: Ask Anything playlist. This is classic Pastor Mark:
All three of my young adult offspring are intelligent and articulate. They’re also more apt to be leaders and independent sorts, not followers. They were raised from babyhood in the religion of our family, a non-denominational Protestant flavor, similar to the Baptists in doctrine. They made professions of faith and were baptized as older children, and went to Sunday School and Youth Camps and to private Christian and Catholic high schools (hence my familiarity with Catholicism). in short, they were “raised in the faith.” It was my hope that when they left home for college and adult life, they’d not leave faith behind along with their old high school uniforms.
Faith isn’t something you inherit along with blue eyes and lefthandedness. It’s something an individual has to embrace personally, for themselves, and being raised in a particular church often makes that harder, not easier. Being raised in [insert your parents' religion here] all too often can mean blind acceptance of a belief system without ever really believing its tenets. “I believe because Mommy and Daddy do” is fine for a small child, not so fine for an adult. When the tough times come–and they always do–that sort of faith usually proves to be no faith at all.
2 Peter 3:15 reminds Christians to
… in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
Being able to explain why you believe what you believe is supposed to involve far more than “I was raised that way.”
That my kids have all chosen to find a church to attend regularly, and that they all ended up at Mars Hill, tells me they’ve grown past a simple “I was raised that way” level of faith. And they’re more mature than I was at their age; once I left my parents’ home it took marriage and looming parenthood for me to figure out that I needed the worship, teaching and fellowship of a church again. College, for me, was a spiritual wasteland, but that’s a topic for another day.
I’ve visited Mars Hill’s Ballard location (they have six locations in the Seattle area) and admittedly it’s all that the Times article said. The music is way loud, the preaching is way intense. I found it…refreshing, in a step-out-of-my-comfort-zone way. I got the distinct impression that these are Christians who know what they believe, why they believe it, and that they care very much about the larger community around them.
If I lived in Seattle, I’d probably end up at Mars Hill too.