(Photo: Mars Hill Church/Will Foster)
Mars Hill Church in Washington state is kicking off a new worship service series called "Best Sermon Ever" featuring guest speakers whom Pastor Mark Driscoll said he regards as some of the best Christian thinkers of our time.
The list of speakers lined up to speak live at Mars Hill's Bellevue location from Aug. 4 - Sept. 1 include Dr. Paul Tripp, Dr. Bruce Ware, Dr. Wayne Grudem, Dr. Larry Osborne and Dr. Eric Mason.
"I picked these men because I love our church with all my heart and I want you to get the very best Bible teaching we can possibly bring you," explains Driscoll. "They're all world-class communicators, leaders, speakers, Christian authors, theologians, Bible teachers, and pastors — all friends of mine and friends of our church."
Tripp, a Philadelphia professor, church planter, author, parent, and counselor, will speak on counseling and community in a sermon titled "The Difference Between Amazement and Faith." Ware, a theologian, author and professor of Christian Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky, will preach a sermon titled "The Incomparable Glory of God Alone."
"Guard Your Heart" is the title of the message to be given by Grudem, an author and academic, professor and scholar from Phoenix. Osbourne, senior and teaching pastor of North Coast Church in California, will bring a message titled "Thriving in Babylon." Mason, author and pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in urban Philadelphia, plans to speak on "Brokenness."
Driscoll explains in his announcement of the new sermon series that the initiative affords he and Mars Hill's lead pastors a brief interlude to prepare for the fall. Driscoll describes the guest speakers as friends of Mars Hill Church, as well as personal friends, and expects the congregation will benefit from their teaching. More information about the Best Sermon Ever series, as well as brief background on the guest speakers' relationship with Mars Hill, can be found on the megachurch's website.
Pastor Driscoll is currently preaching through a series called "Acts: Empowered for Jesus' Mission," in which he recently took on direct questions about the Holy Spirit empowering Christians to speak in tongues (other languages or glossolalia). The Christian Post report on the the specific sermon, "Empowered by the Spirit to Follow Jesus," sparked a debate among readers who disagree on whether Christians are given such charismatic gifts as described in the New Testament today.
In his sermon, Driscoll asserted that Cessationists, those who believe speaking in tongues, faith healing and other similar gifts ended with Christ's first century apostles, are wrong in their view.
"So, we agree with the Cessationists that yes, certain gifts, at least, they're going to cease. They're going to cease," he said. "Where we disagree with the Cessationists and we agree with the Continuationists is when they cease. We believe that all of the gifts continue until one very important transitionary moment in the history of the world."
"So, when do these gifts cease? When? When Jesus comes back, when we see him face to face. So the Cessationists are right: certain gifts will come to an end. But the Cessationists are wrong: the end has not yet come. And the Continuationists are right: all the gifts continue until we see him face to face, until Jesus comes again," he added.
Reader responses fluctuated between flat-out agreement or disagreement, while others shared personal accounts of what they believe is evidence of modern Christians using charismatic gifts.
"The gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased and we can all clearly see this. No one is working miracles, no one is healing the sick and no one is speaking in tongues that we see in the scriptures. The fact that those who believe in tongues believe all gifts remain shows the emptiness of their argument. Are the dead being raised, are the deformed legs being straightened and strengthened?" wrote one reader, whose comment attracted the most disagreement.
"Why would God stop the gifts of the Holy Spirit but list them in the Bible as working gifts? Doesn't make sense," stated a reader with the most agreed with comment. "Besides, I've seen miracles. Most people in the Western world are too rational and don't take God at His word when it comes to miraculous gifts. I've seen miracles — mostly in Africa and Asia."
Pastor Driscoll's "Empowered by the Spirit to Follow Jesus" sermon, preached June 9, 2013, at Mars Hill Church Bellevue, can be found on the church's media page, where messages from the Best Sermon Ever series will also appear.
Mars Hill Church started as a small Bible study in the home of Mark and Grace Driscoll in 1996. Since then, the church has grown to well over 13,000 congregants across 14 locations in Washington, Oregon, California and New Mexico.