Music at Mars Hill: The Mars Hill Record Label and the Great Revolving Door

Music at Mars Hill is a weekly column by Luke Larsen that seeks to find God amidst the newest trends in both mainstream music and independent music.

One thing that God has been teaching me recently is to get along with other well-intentioned people whose opinions differ from mine. Take Mark Driscoll, for example. I mean, honestly, the guy has said enough offensive things that I can’t imagine ever having a desire to attend a Mars Hill–related church or event.

But having never attended Mars Hill, I’ve begun to realize that I know very little about the church itself. Sure, I’ve read the shady rumors about strange discipleship problems—but if I’m honest, I really have very little upon which to base my negativity. I have made divisive determinations in my mind without even an attempt to find common ground.

And now I am faced with the announcement of Mars Hill Music, a record label being launched by the church that will release records from the church’s many worship bands.

I was extremely skeptical when I heard this. My skepticism grew to cynicism once I watched the announcement video and heard Driscoll talk about the new record label as an entity that was going to save Christian music from its devilish path toward femininity. Even worse, the director of the whole thing was a former guitarist in Christian metal band Demon Hunter. The last thing the Church needed was some insider from the Tooth & Nail world thinking he could save the inevitable sinking ship that was CCM! Figuring that this would be perfect material to scathe at in my Music at Mars Hill column, I went ahead and checked out some of the music.

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What I found was a diverse set of styles and songs that felt both relevant and totally appropriate to sing on Sunday mornings. Bands like The Sing Team take on the folk pop style of Sufjan Stevens singalongs, while bands like Ghost Ship have a mature indie rock sound that feels like a perfect hybrid of John Mark McMillan combined with a more standard worship sound. You can listen for yourself to decide, but after hearing the music, I am actually quite excited for the future of Mars Hills Music. While I still don’t know how I feel about the entity being so directly connected to the church itself, I can’t help but think that a lot of what comes from the project will be a huge blessing to the Church.

A friend of mine posted a blog entry from the worship director at New Spring Church a few weeks ago. The article was titled: “Your Dream Sucks.” It detailed with great precision all the emotions and misled desires of just about anyone who has ever led worship at a church. It hit me like a bag of bricks. One line in particular stuck out to me: “I even hate the lack of artistry in worship music until I try to write worship music and realize how hard it is.”

Having personally gone through this exact phenomenon in my own life, I can readily concur by saying that writing good worship music is extremely difficult. In my experience, it’s much harder than writing other kinds of music. As part of the royal priesthood that is the Church, we are called to sum up the praises of creation to God. I can’t think of a more direct way this happens than when people write songs for the Church to sing. People who write music and sing it at their church are taking the huge responsibility of summing up the praises of creation to our God into their hands and guitars—it’s a big job.

If you’ve followed this column, you’ll know that I’ve touched on the issue of Christian worship music quite a bit. The Church and pop culture have a revolving door relationship. If you check out the past 100 years of church music, you’ll see how gospel, soul, rock, CCM, R&B, and pop all have influenced each other in pretty significant ways. That’s what it means to be in this world, but not of this world. The revolving door is what this column has always been about and as much as I’d like to deny it, Mars Hill Music seems to embody that idea pretty fully as well.

I still am not into the idea of attending Mars Hill any time soon. However, not only do I feel good about the idea behind Mars Hill Music, but the project has also been a good reminder that we are on the same side. We are all a part of the same Body. The same Church. The same mission.

 

About Luke Larsen

Luke Larsen is a freelance writer, music lover, and indie game enthusiast hailing from the Great Northwest. His writing has been featured in publications such as Paste, RELEVANT, GameChurch, and Prefix. You can find him tweeting at @lalarsen11.

  • http://www.theretuned.com Matthew Linder

    I really enjoy the music created by The Sing Team especially their song “Satisfied in You” based on Psalm 42. What a powerfully, simple song that speaks of our need, hunger, desire and thirst for Christ. To me hearing the type of music that they are creating for worship is a breath of fresh air when most of the worship music I have been exposed to through various churches is mostly CCM and kitschy. When I was part of a worship band at a church I tried to encourage our worship leader to look outside the enclosed bubble of CCM artists for worship songs but he was under the impression that for the people of the congregation to really connect with the music they needed to have heard it already on Christian radio. That kind of made me really sad because there is so much worship music out there that is not heard on Christian radio, which has so much more musical and lyrical depth than most CCM.

  • Marissa

    I had the same skepticism toward Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill before my husband and I stumbled into one of their church services last year. We are now members. Your curiosity is quenched, serving in a Mars Hill church body is different than reading tabloids and streaming sermons. What I’ve realized is that when any man elevates their pastor (or president or mechanic), he will fail them. The rumors come from many people who are looking for their practical-savior instead of seeing Jesus as their Chief Shepherd. Also, I am apart of a MH band, and I can tell you that the expectation for creating solid gospel-centered worship music is high. I received a small manuel from Dustin Kensrue on songwriting and choosing music for a worship service, and the first priority is being transformed by the gospel. Cheers.


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