How do you solve a problem like Mars Hill Music?

Recently, you might’ve have seen, or heard or read about the troubles at Mars Hill Church and with their Pastor, Mark Driscoll.

The question was put to me in regards to all of this: what do we do with the songs? What about the Mars Hill Music bands like Citizens and Saints or Kings K who’ve become popular with many worship leaders in recent years?

While I hope to address these questions, I think it kind of misses the point. Do you know where the songs you sing come from? Do you know what the implications of singing a song is? Or what the implications of promoting a worship leader are? Is Mars Hill Church the only church I need to be concerned about?

THERE’S A LOT OF TROUBLE OUT THERE

Pastor Mark is far from the only well known pastor with troubles brewing. In fact, this very morning I read about accusations that are 100 times more serious being made against Pastor Brian Huston, the founder the Hillsong Churches. There has been a certain amount of scandal around Elevation Church pastor Steven Furtick, and the more I read and hear about the theology and practice of Bethel church (from where Jesus Culture comes) I’m concerned.

So, while I am in no way comparing the charges against Brian Huston with my doctrinal disagreements with the folks at Bethel, my point is that Mars Hill is far from the only church with storm clouds overhead. Yet, I haven’t heard anyone asking “what do we do with Mighty to Save or One Thing Remains?”

KNOW WHERE YOUR MUSIC COMES FROM

I encourage worship leaders everywhere to know where their songs come from. While I’ve been a great fan of Mars Hill Music since it’s inception, I’ve been watchful. I have theological disagreements with MHC. I’m not reformed and they are and while it’s never become an issue, I’ve always watched out to make sure that theological teaching at odds with my church’s theological position didn’t creep in. The same should be true for any number of churches.

I like a lot of the songs from Hillsong, Bethel or Chris Tomlin, but I find that they are often incomplete in their theology. I’m a pastor at a Bible teaching church that’s part of a Bible teaching movement of churches. If we proclaim “the whole counsel of the word of God” (Acts 20:27) then why should our songs do anything less?

So whether it’s Mars Hill or the Southern Baptist Hymnal, I encourage all worship leaders to know where their songs come from and to be mindful of the theological “diet’ they feed their church each week in song.

RIP MARS HILL MUSIC?

From what I’ve read, Mars Hill Music currently exists in name only. Most of the bands like Citizens and Saints, Kings Kaleidoscope, and Dustin Kensrue have resigned from the church, many of them in protest.

This really bums me out. I’ll probably write more about Mars Hill Music in the future, but for now I’ll just say that whether it’s passing is temporary or permanent, it’s something to be mourned.

WHAT I’M DOING ABOUT IT

Truthfully, no one in my church has mentioned anything about where our songs come from, and most of the chatter has been between worship leaders. I feel that if someone is concerned about doing songs from MHC they should be concerned about other songs from other churches as well, but they’re not.

My policy is this: I’m still doing songs like Mediator, Rejoice and Oh! Great is Our God. Some of them, especially Oh! Great is our God have been embraced by my church and I see no reason to stop singing them just because some of the leadership at MHC are acting like knuckleheads. At the same time, I’m not promoting Mars Hill Music in any active way. If I send out youtube links for a song I’m probably not going to use the ones put out by MHC, etc.

Lastly, I’m praying. I’m praying that when the book is written and the story is told, that the tale of Mars Hill, it’s music and it’s leadership would be one of God’s grace working amongst broken sinners as opposed to sinners who wouldn’t be broken. I’m also praying that God raises up a replacement to Mars Hill Music because it’s a ministry that is sorely missed by many of us and the church is worse off without it.

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9 thoughts on “How do you solve a problem like Mars Hill Music?

  1. What great thoughts about this. I have been struggling with this as well. I think more about what do we do with the worship songs when the senior pastor or senior leadership is way off base with their theology. What immediately comes to my mind is the music of Israel Houghton since he is the worship leader at Joel Osteen’s church. I have the same queasy feeling about bethel music and (to a certain extent) hillsong. Do we judge the worship music because of the senior leadership or do we judge the music based on the songs themselves? Also, what about groups like Gungor? Michael Gungor denied the inerrancy of scripture and the actual Adam and yet sings about how God makes beautiful things out of the dust. What do we do with those songs whose message is so good but the place it came from is so off? That is the struggle I have been wrestling with and it is refreshing to know other worship leaders are wrestling with it as well.

    1. Hey Sam,

      thanks for commenting. I’ve found that the struggles we have as worship leaders are almost never ours alone. The some where there’s a guy in the next church or next town or next city over who has the same concerns. The internet has been great for guys like us to find out that we are not alone.

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  4. Do we throw out all the Psalms King David wrote because of his sins with Bathsheba and her family? Or do we throw out just the ones before his sin? Or just the ones after his sin? He was, after all, one very messed up dude. With 100 wives and 300 concubines “sex-aholic” might apply. Many of his early songs were full of arrogance and self-righteous pride. Interestingly, the psalms written AFTER his fall are the ones that are full of humility and awe at God’s patience and love for him. You’ll argue that David repented. The book is not closed on these current “sinners” and it’s not your place to judge in any case. The fact that this discussion even exists is testimony to the judgmentality and self-righteousness that pervades much of what is called the Christian church. I’m a worship pastor, btw, and these discussions nauseate me. Scripture testifies that we are ALL sinful and will continue to be so as long as we are on this earth. The only difference between you and the “fallen” leaders being discussed is that your sin hasn’t been shouted from the rooftop yet. Regarding the songs – if you are paying attention to the message of the songs from the beginning and choosing accordingly, the acts of some very human composer should not change your playlist.

    1. Jim,

      I don’t know how to respond to you on the Psalms. They are the word of God; “God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”.

      Regarding my sin vs others. I will fully admit that we are ALL sinners. But you have a leader in Mark Driscoll for whom, the elders of his church found to be in sin and he cut and run instead of repenting and being restored.

      what I think is really going here isn’t about sin and repentance. But influence and movement. For example, someone could have had a great ministry in the past and (if they were a worship leader) written a lot of songs that were very popular. Then they fell into deep, previous and disqualifying sin, or denied the faith (which is the case with more than one hymn writer). Their song has influence, but they, being dead, no longer have movement.

      A living breathing person can have influence and movement. Large groups of people and churches can be influenced and moved by the words or songs of just one person or just one church. While someone like Spurgeon can be read and influential among many christian leaders, but he himself can’t “move them”. So i can understand the hesitancy of a worship leader to use songs or promote the ministry of certain churches.

      Hope that makes sense

      1. Jeremy

        I know it’s 2016 and I’m replying to something a couple of years old but, but your reply, Adam, above does not make any sense.

        Cheers.

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