I learned today that the infamous Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is scheduled to picket Mars Hill Church in Seattle this weekend. For those of you who don’t know anything about these two churches, I’ll give a brief summary.
Westboro Baptist Church has gained notoriety for its openly hateful language towards homosexuals and picketing the funerals of American soldiers. Their website is affectionately titled http://www.godhatesfags.com.
Mars Hill Church is led by Mark Driscoll and has been a major player in the neo-Cavinist, Gospel-centered, church planting resurgence. In fact, Mark Driscoll is the founder of a church-planting network called Acts 29 and major contributor to a website called the resurgence.
In the past, Pastor Mark has gotten in trouble for his openly hip preaching style filled with a lot of machismo and bravado. He’s very doctrinal, but his contexualizations could come across as sometimes vulgar, insensitive, and arrogant. He’s a terribly funny guy, but sometimes takes things a bit too far. More recently, his flair has toned down a lot, and still I am grateful for the way God has used him to spark a resurgence of love for the Gospel and a call to true biblical masculinity and femininity.
To get a feel for who he is, you can read his blog response to the Westboro Baptist Church protests here.
Personally, I am thrilled that WBC is picketing Mars Hill for several reasons.
1. To an undiscerning world, evangelicalism will be able to distance itself from the WBC. Whenever someone like the WBC or Harold Camping’s Family Radio claim to represent God in a most ungodly manner, I cringe because I know that most non-Christians out there will simply lump every Christian into that camp. To a biblically illiterate world, Christians are Christians, every church gets a bad name because of these extremist crazies. By being protested, the world can see that Mars Hill is definitely not in the same camp thereby increasing their credibility (perhaps?) and distancing WBC from broad evangelicalism.
2. It gives Mars Hill the opportunity to respond in love and show what real Christ-like ambassadors look like. By responding in love in Jesus’ name to the hateful opposition of the WBC, real Christians who have a robust understanding of the heart of God can demonstrate counter-cultural love. Instead of protesting back or responding with hate, Mars Hill has the chance to conquer all.
3. That said, nothing brings unity (or in this case, mission) like a common ‘enemy’. I’m reminded of Paul’s exhortation in Phil 1:28, “and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.” Mars Hill has an opportunity to band together against a common opponent, and this will bring about commitment, unity, and loyalty more than a hundred potlucks ever could.
Here’s the takeaway for my church several hundred miles away in IL. We need to watch our lives and doctrine closely. Our ministry needs to be of the quality that we would be protested for loving sinners too much and opposed because we’re too Jesus-centered. In short, we’re too Christian to the world and too pagan to the fundamentalists. I hope that our love for people, regardless of where they are and how they feel about us, would be so compelled by the love of Christ that we would be able to overcome any opposition with love.
Endure and testify in the power of the Spirit, Mars Hill, our prayers are with you this weekend. Happy Father’s Day!!!