No. 23 on the list of most-read posts on this blog appeared on January 25, 2007, and was the concluding segment of a conversation I had with Wendy Alsup, a deacon at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. It was very interesting to get the inside story on what it is like to be a female deacon working at Mark Driscoll’s church.
It is a pleasure to welcome to my blog today, Wendy Alsup, who is a member of Mars Hill Church Seattle—led by Mark Driscoll. Wendy is a mother of two, and Deacon in charge of Women’s Theology and Training. There has been a lot of controversy about Mark Driscoll in the blogosphere, so I thought it would be great to get an insider’s look at what it is like to be a member of the church he leads. For more information see my interview with Mark Driscoll, his blog or the new look Mars Hill Church website – their video section is especially cool. In part 1 we focused on finding out a bit more about Wendy and the church she attends. In part 2 we looked at what Mars Hill does to maintain a sense of community. Part 3 looked at the church’s emphasis on theology. Today I conclude by asking Wendy more about what ministry looks like at Mars Hill.
Clearly it sounds like the Bible is highly valued at Mars Hill. It is often said that many churches seem almost as though they have chosen between being a “Word” church or being a “Spirit” church—do you feel that is true in the case of your church?
H-m-m-m-m . . . that’s curious. That is a very unbiblical concept. When Christ first instructs on the Spirit’s coming, he says the Spirit will not speak his own, but will bring to remembrance the teachings of Christ. So the evidence that the Spirit is at work is that Christ, the Logos, is lifted up—which means a true “Spirit” church must be a “Word” church. I think the Spirit is working mightily at Mars Hill because I see Christ’s name lifted up and lives transformed, and I know that only happens through the Spirit’s quickening.
What does the ministry of Mars Hill feel like behind closed doors? Mark Driscoll says things like, “I am a charismatic, but not that sort of charismatic.” Just how charismatic would the church feel to the average member who is fully involved in the life of the church?
I grew up in a non-charismatic background and was initially skeptical of switching my views on this—even once I was convinced from Scripture that the gifts are still for today. Maybe I was subconsciously afraid of being personally slain in the spirit during a service. Then I began to slowly realize that many of my most respected friends at church quietly practiced charismatic gifts, but did so in a private way that seemed consistent with Scripture. My respect for them eased my skepticism and concern. Overall, it’s not a big deal around church.
Behind closed doors, Mars Hill is not dominated by any personality. It is simply a bunch of humble believers doing their best to control the chaos. It reminds me of the old Super Bowl commercials of the company that built a plane while it was flying, and another where the company likened themselves to cat herders. There is no time to become territorial, and no room to etch an empire. We’re all hanging on for dear life, but loving it at the same time. We’ve grown by nearly 4000 people in just the four and a half years I’ve attended. That’s crazy! The testimonies of transformed lives bring me to tears again and again, and makes all of it worthwhile.
What can you tell us about what it’s like to be a woman on staff at Mars Hill?
I am not technically on staff—I’m a volunteer and do most of my work from home. Our church does employ a number of female deacons, and we have many more who volunteer their time and energy. We have a wonderful group of elders who are very sensitive to the needs of women in the church and are very humble, gracious servants of Christ. It’s been an honor and blessing to work with them. In particular, any time I’ve approached an elder with a women’s issue that concerns me, they always receive my concern and work willingly with me to address it. But we do believe that women can’t be elders, and that wives need to submit to their husbands. And for some people, no matter how you explain it biblically, they take that to be synonymous with female oppression. The reality is that Mars Hill is filled with strong women who search the Scriptures and know the Word. But, Lord willing, our strength is submitted to God’s control. We’re called to be gentle, not weak, helpers, not doormats. Gentleness implies tempered strength. Babies aren’t gentle—babies are weak. But when an adult who has the strength to crush the baby instead cradles them in their arms, that’s gentleness. That’s what God has called us to be as women. Strength under God’s control. I’m very impressed with the strength, character, and theological depth of the women at Mars Hill. I’m also impressed with the way our leadership receives and develops the gifts among our women.
Read more . . . “Interview with Wendy Alsup, Deacon at Mars Hill Church—Seattle“