>Recently, my church (Mars Hill Church in Seattle) started a new sermon series titled “Religion Saves and Nine Other Misconceptions”. The elders founded this concept based off the letters that the Apostle Paul wrote to address specific questions coming from his churches.
For a couple of months, Mars Hill launched a website to allow anyone to ask any question they hoped might be addressed from the pulpit. In all, there were 893 questions asked, and 343,203 votes cast to determine which questions would make it into the top nine spots. These top nine questions would then become the sermon series, where Pastor Mark Driscoll would preach the Biblical position on each topic, ultimately pointing it all back to Jesus Christ.
Additionally, a new twist was added to the series – a first for Mars Hill – text messaging questions directly to the pulpit, which Pastor Mark would then answer on the spot. This “add on” is opened up to one service only – our 8:30pm service which is attended primarily by single, college students, many who are newly saved or do not know Christ at all. Young children are not in attendance, and should the stray family wander in unsuspectingly, a clear disclaimer is given before the Q&A session begins.
The sermon series began with the question of birth control. Is it Biblical? If so, which methods? And so on. The Q&A session that followed included questions such as “Is masturbation an acceptable form of birth control?” and “Is aborting a pregnancy resulting from rape wrong?”.
I was not at the Q&A service, but I did have an opportunity to view the content on You Tube. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been a member of Mars Hill for more than seven years, and I feel I know my pastor’s heart, but I was not offended in the least bit. In fact, I feel grateful for how he handled all of the questions. He knows his congregation, and like the Apostle Paul, has been gifted with knowing how to be all things to all people so that some might be saved, all for the sake of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:22-23).
Various blogs have wagged their finger suggesting that Pastor Mark should never speak in such ways from the pulpit; that it is not God honoring. To that I wonder…is it more God honoring to avoid these topics? Is it more loving to know that a large percentage of your church is struggling with sexual sin (at worst) or sexual ignorance (at best) and then choose to not speak into their lives?
I’m sure you’ll agree that most people would not be comfortable asking such bold, honest questions in a one on one meeting with their pastor, or even a trusted friend. I consider it a blessing to allow these people to ask important questions anonymously and get sound Biblical counsel in a way that is conversational, a good mix of seriousness & light heartedness, a bit of rebuke if sin is involved, but always softened with the grace of the gospel.
Admittedly, this approach is not for everyone. I don’t however, believe it’s right to condemn the project as unbiblical and dishonoring to the Lord. Let’s instead praise God for working through technology, experimental preaching, video & text messaging; knowing that Pastor Mark is as sinful as the rest of us, but earnestly seeks to bring the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to thousands of people each week. To God be the glory!