Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll Leaving Seattle Church?

Perhaps provoked by news that Rob Bell, pastor of a different church with a similar name, would be leaving the church he founded 12 years ago, Mark Driscoll, leader of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, has informed congregants this week that he has no plans to leave the church he started 15 years ago.

The comments published on his website Monday, Oct. 3, references the 15th anniversary of Mars Hill Church's founding and comes on the heels of the announcement that Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan, would be leaving his church.

In his 15-point notice, titled "A Long Letter from Pastor Mark to Mars Hill Church," Driscoll shared thoughts that came to mind in consideration of his church turning 15 years old.

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Driscoll writes as the final point:

Pencil me in for at least a few more decades. I do a lot of things, but the one thing I love the most after being a Christian, husband, and father is being a pastor at Mars Hill. I hope to get around a lot more in the coming years to preach at our various churches, encourage our leaders, preach the gospel for the salvation of the lost, and see what God is doing to love and serve all of Mars Hill.

But I have no plans or desires to go anywhere other than Mars Hill or do anything else but be a pastor. By God’s grace, I will serve you as well as I can for as long as I am able and helpful. My prayer has always been to die as a very old man who worshiped one God, was faithful to one woman, and pastored at one church and that, gladly, is my only plan.

Driscoll, seen as a bit of a controversial figure by some within and outside of the evangelical community (read: Ministry Asks Seattle Pastor to Apologize Over 'Effeminate' Comment), started Mars Hill Church in 1996 in the living room of his wife's home in Seattle.

The young pastor, 25 at the time, started the church with "a core group of twelve people" before the congregation's numbers swelled to one thousand six to seven years later.

Over time, Mars Hill Church's numbers began to swell further. Today, Driscoll has launched several campuses throughout Washington state, with a campus planned for Orange County, Calif., and another newly opened in Portland, Ore. (read: Mars Hill Church Targeted by Gay Groups).

As Driscoll stated in his recent post, he wants nothing more than "to die as a very old man who worshiped one God, was faithful to one woman, and pastored at one church."

Expressing a similar sentiment, Bell told his congregation on Sept. 25 that he thought he would remain at Mars Hill Bible Church until the day he died.

"To be honest with you, I thought I would die here, but that's not really the right way to say it... Change is a form of loss," Bell said, according to Heidi Fenton, who shared the comment in her Twitter feed.

However, that is where the similarity ends.

Mars Hill Bible Church announced two weeks ago that Bell would be leaving the Grandville, Mich., church he and his wife founded in 1999 to pursue a new calling he feels God has placed on his life, a call which may include co-producing a spiritual drama and a embarking on a speaking tour across the U.S. and in Canada.

The Michigan pastor caused a firestorm in the evangelical community with his March 2011 book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, which questioned whether the Bible actually teaches that there is a literal and eternal hell.

Love Wins drew various responses, with some evangelical leaders calling the book heretical and saying it espouses a universalist worldview.

Driscoll, known to be somewhat of a theological buff, responded to the argument upon which Bell pursues in his book, on whether a loving God would send people to hell.

In a March blog post on The Resurgence, a missional theology resource website that he helped found, Driscoll stated that it is important for people to understand that hell is real.

"Hell is only for those who persistently reject the real God in favor of false gods," the Seattle pastor wrote. "To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, either people will say to God, 'Thy will be done,’ or God will say to them, 'Thy will be done.'"

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