(Photo: Shane Hipps via The Christian Post)
Mars Hill Bible Church is in search for a new full-time preacher to replace Teaching Pastor Shane Hipps, who recently announced his decision to leave the megachurch.
Hipps' announcement last month came just months after Mars Hill's founding pastor, Rob Bell, left to pursue a new vision – which includes speaking and writing.
"When I originally accepted the calling to Mars Hill, I was given no promise by God that things would work out in any specific way. Neither was I told why I was called here. Just that I was supposed to come," Hipps wrote on his blog. "If nothing else, I was given the opportunity to serve as a leader in a time of historic transition in the life of this church. And while it is not what I envisioned, I am honored to have served here in this way."
Hipps, who previously worked in advertising and later pastored a Mennonite church in Phoenix, Ariz., joined Mars Hill in early 2010. He essentially served as a co-teacher with Bell at the Grandville, Mich., church and preached around 25 Sundays a year while also speaking and writing.
When Bell, author of the controversial Love Wins, resigned from the church in order to be able to reach a broader audience, Hipps became the primary teaching pastor beginning in January. The church also invited guest speakers to teach on Sundays.
His decision to leave, he explained, is over a disagreement with the elders over the role of the teaching pastor.
"Not long after Rob left, the Elders determined it was in the best interest of the church to restructure the role of the Teaching Pastor to be a full time teacher, which means approximately 40 Sundays a year," Hipps stated.
While he began to discern that call to become a full-time teacher, he felt "almost immediately" "the sad realization" that his current calling was coming to an end.
"I felt the maximum number of Sundays I could do was 30 and still serve to my optimum capacity. However, the Elders felt strongly that was not sufficient for the needs of the community," he said.
Lee Jager, communications director at Mars Hill Bible Church, was not available to comment.
Hipps expressed several times that he loved Mars Hill but he came to the conclusion that he couldn't fit the new role the elders had created.
Several Mars Hill attendees have expressed disappointment in the recent leadership changes.
One attendee responded to Hipps' blog post, stating, "I feel as though there is so much bad news lately that it makes me question the Mars Hill Elders because first it was Rob Bell and now you. I do not think they know the impact that this has on the church. Mars Hill lost quite a bit of people when Rob Bell left and I believe that once again with your departure that more will continue to leave."
Some have even suggested that the church find another co-teacher to join Hipps – the same way he and Bell had worked together before.
Others, meanwhile, have simply expressed gratitude to Hipps and have faith in God's plan for Mars Hill.
No departure date has been set as Hipps agreed to continue serving until a new full-time teaching pastor is found.
But he already has an idea about his future plans. Along with the release of a book, titled Selling Water by the River, in October, Hipps has another book planned for the following year titled Cats Don't Bark: How to Find Your Purpose. He also plans to pursue more intentionally the creation of a leadership development company.