Mark Driscoll’s Church Tells Other “Mars Hill” Churches to Cease and Desist

Mark Driscoll’s Church Tells Other “Mars Hill” Churches to Cease and Desist October 21, 2011

It seems that Mars Hill in Seattle doesn’t want any other churches to use that name.  I wonder if Rob Bell has gotten his C&D letter yet…

The third Mars Hill I know seems caught in the middle. It is pastored in Sacramento, California by a friend of mine, Scott Hagan. Scott planted another church years ago in the Sacramento area, then moved to pastor a mega-church in Michigan and is now back leading at Mars Hill in Sactown. I have Pastor Scott’s permission to share what I am going to write next. Several weeks ago, Scott and his Sacramento congregation received a “Cease and Desist” order which came from the Seattle Mars Hill Church.  They were told that the Seattle Mars Hill had copyrighted the name “Mars Hill” and they demanded that the California Mars Hill churches stop using the name and any logos with similar lettering.

I was flabbergasted. First, I could not believe that a church would try and copyright the name of their church. I suppose if you wanted to make some money on the side, you could lease the name out to others. (My friend Ken thought it would be smart to copyright the name “First Baptist” and stick franchise stickers on the name and concept…I applaud his entrepreneurial spirit). But to outright disallow others from using a name that is found in the Bible because you want a monicker and label that only recognizes YOU seems the very epitome of pride and arrogance. [Read the rest at Another Argument on Mars Hill « The Gates are Open]

I wrote about another mega-church that’s copyrighted their name, Watermark, in my book The New Christians.  Here’s where Watermark tells you that you can’t name your church Watermark.

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  • Has this been verified yet?

  • Nope. Not in a journalistic sense. I’m simply reposting what has been posted elsewhere.

    Also, I’m not a newspaper.

  • I have started churches called First Baptist, First Methodist, and Westminster Presbyterian.

    Please cease and desist all use of those names unless I say so. Thank you.

  • Of course not. It is the kind of story that in my mind is very damaging to a churches reputation. I’m no fan of Mars Hill Wa. But I might pause on this one.


  • angie

    This adds a whole other level to naming ministries. if I now have to look if a church has copyrighted that name.
    And I had my choices narrowed down to Mars Hill or Watermark.

    Back to the drawing board.

    • Lock – the troll

      I think they would be trademarking the name. Facebook was trying to do it with the word “face” I think.

  • I missed the comments. I read it last night. They have some official stuff now. Many thanks.

  • Seems as though someone forgot to read Matthew 5:25-26.

    “25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

  • Cody Wanner

    Breaking news: the religious title “Christian” was copyrighted early Friday morning. Anyone who wants to continue calling themselves a “Christian” can sign up to pay a monthly fee via auto-debit, for convenience. Some of the people previously known as Christians are absolutely furious that their check books will be taking a hit. “I don’t know if I am going to be able to carve out room in the budget for this new fee,” one protester said, “I am considering looking into other less expensive religions.” A small group that call themselves “followers of Jesus,” only loosely associated internationally with the “Christians,” made a statement shortly after hearing the news: “We are excited about what this could mean for the Kingdom of Heaven; Perhaps people will get fed up with religion like we did, and just start following Jesus… for free.”

  • One thing…

    I wrote about another mega-church that’s copyrighted their name,

    You mean trademarked. Copyright protects bodies of work (e.g., literature, music arrangements, song lyrics). Trademark protects names, logos, and slogans.

  • Paul

    Wow! I had no idea you could copy write the names of historical locations. The Areopagus is Mars Hill. Can someone call Greece and tell them they have to change the name of that hill? I’d do it but I cannot afford the long distance charge…maybe one of you who can speak some Greek.

    • Paul

      Shelly is right, not copyright (or copy write like I had it) but trademark.

      • Lock – the troll

        You can copyright places. And, Greek may have the Mars Hill copyrighted. Lord knows they need the money.

  • Christian


    I planted a church called Watermark in Tampa Florida (it’s still there, I’m not). Watermark contacted us-a board member who happened to be a trademark lawyer-and asked us to change our name….They write on their site: “We spent a great deal of time and effort to make sure there were no other churches named Watermark and then went through the process to legally copyright our name.” I’m not for sure but I think we actually started before them…does this mean they owe me some sort of royalty? I thought it was crazy then, and thinks its crazy now…..its quite narcissistic.

  • Christian

    Ok, I just looked at the trademarks from Watermark’s links…They did this in 2005, I started a church in Tampa Florida called Watermark Community Church in NOV 2001. The Dallas group was putting pressure on me to change it but they didn’t have their pattern yet…our board and there board had a meeting via phone conference…we in a nice Christian way to bugger off. Seems like, if I have the timeline right in my memory, these guys are really being “inauthentic” when they write: We spent a great deal of time and effort to make sure there were no other churches named Watermark and then went through the process to legally copyright our name.” Watermark in Tampa is now led by Tommy Phillips:

    • Lock – the troll

      If they had done a simple google, then could they have found you? I would like to see an investigative report on legal bullying of churches from one to the other.

    • If they keep using the term ‘copyright’ with regards to their church name, I’d be wondering how good their legal advice really is. Trademarks and copyrights are very different things, and if they use the terms interchangeably I doubt they’ve talked to real lawyers.

      Next they’ll try to tell you they’ve patented their web site.

    • Rick Bennett

      They wouldn’t have found them. It was impossible to find Watermark online. I lived in Tampa 2 years before I found them. Of course, if Christian had done a simple google search before naming his church, he would have known that a GLBT newspaper in Tampa had the same name…

    • Rick Bennett

      BYW, Christian is an old friend and we attended Watermark. I am giving him %#$!

  • nathan

    My head just exploded.

    This makes me so (blankety-blank-blank-blank) mad.

  • Mike W

    Yikes. A malicious person could go and register all the common church names (on an “intent to use” basis,

  • Ben

    Mars Hill Presbyterian Church Georgia founded Jan. 1837
    Mars Hill Presbyterian Church Tennessee founded Nov 1823
    Mars Hill Baptist Church Georgia founded July, 1799

    if true this takes a amazing level of arrogance….

    • Uber Genie

      Ben brings perspective through fact-checking. Driscoll is arrogant, self-interested, plagiarizing, polarizing bully. That he has any book sales, church following, social media following is a commentary on our vapid and non-discerning culture. One could throw a stick in any city in any direction and have it bounce off of three individuals before it hits the ground that would represents Jesus’ humble nature more accurately than this self-promoting fool.

  • jim davis

    A trademark to be effective has to be proven in a court case. Often judges will rule against trademarks on names that have been aleady in use by others prior to the trademark defender. Mars Hill has to sue someone first and win for their trademark to really be in effect. I really doubt they would win since that word pair is in the English bible.

  • Matt

    That’s remarkably hateful. Why does everything have to be so polarizing?

    • jim davis

      Unfortunately, it seems to be a trend. Tho it could be that those are the cases that get reported.

  • jim davis
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  • KimG

    The new patent/trademark law should virtually rule this C&D request legal. Whoever files first wins regardless of who came up with it first. Oh the greed and arrogance in this world. It’s a shame and it’s shameful.

  • David

    Read the huffington post article. An unrelated comment, “the band plays Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” to warm up for the hymns they’ll perform during the service.” I know Doug Pagitt also loves Bruce, and perhaps plays some Springsteen before the service (I don’t know). Doug and Mark are about as opposite theologically as I can imagine within the big tent of Christianity. It reminded me of the 1984 presidential election campaign when both sides where using “Born in the USA” at campaign rallies. If I remember correctly Bruce asked one side, maybe both, to stop. I wonder what Bruce would think of this? 🙂

  • E.G.

    You know, I have appreciated Driscoll’s sermons for some time now. I don’t always agree. Sometimes he drives me crazy with the garbage that he spouts. But he has so many good things to say.

    And then stuff like this. And like the “worship leader” thing a few months back. And… and…

    And now it’s enough. I’m done. Off to iTunes to unsubscribe from the podcast.

    Makes me sad, though. I certainly don’t agree with his Reform theology. But he has such a great ministry potential, whatever his theology. Why does he continue to squander it?

  • Lock – the troll

    I was thinking of naming a church Solomon’s Porch. Pretty original, huh.

    • I see what you did there! 😉

  • Mars Hill’s official response, including an apology, an admission that they will not file suits, and admission that they are not asking any church to change their name :

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  • Christiam

    There’s proof in these post that many people just don’t know how to google. 🙂

  • Tess

    Although it may be about pride, or even narcissism, I suspect it’s more about money.

    Chuck Smith had Calvary Chapel “trademarked” and he owns it. Pastors who want to become affiliated, are to purchase and read Chuck’s materials. Once affiliated, it’s expected that they will sell Chuck’s materials. Judging by Chuck’s $350 million piggy bank, looks like “selling Jesus” has been profitable.

    Watermark says they are looking to the future when they “sell” their materials and events.

  • A29 Pastor

    As an A29 pastor I can say that A29, Mars Hill, and Driscoll are extremely generous in giving away their ideas and resources. MH has always made their sermons, and materials free, while many other churches and pastors charge.

    Mars Hill’s letter is humble and honest, that should be enough, we live in a fallen broken world, and until Jesus restores all things His people will continue to misrepresent Him, but the good news is that the gospel promises forgiveness, and we’re called to forgive one another as we’ve been forgiven.

  • farths

    Wow, what a gossip wheel, thanks Jim miller for putting the first sensible thing in this page of mud slinging. MAybe you could all learn something from this especially Tony Jones, Get you facts right before you use your blogging/journalistic powers to give the rumour mill a big spin with something that is so damaging to Christianity.

    • If you’re implying that I wrote something that was factually inaccurate, please tell me. Because I don’t think I did.

  • Howie Paul

    It appears that Watermark Church no longer mentions the line about not using their name on their website. Unless I need new glasses and missed it.

  • The idea in WWII was not to bring the captors to trial but to keep them off the field of battle. The mentallity of the left is that they have committed a crime and should be brought to trial with habeus corpus in mind.

  • Rick S.

    Here is a church that had to change their name:

  • Joe Banniter

    Can I just say, although I agree that legal action is not the correct way to do things, I can understand where Mar Hill seattle Mark Driscoll’s church is coming from!! If Rob Bell doesn’t believe the same things that Mark Driscoll does, I.e their complete different beliefs on hell and who will be going there etc, I can see why Mark Driscoll does not want Rob Bell’s beliefs to be mixed up with the truth!! What Rob Bell preaches is wrong, and why would Mark Driscoll want to be associated, by having the same name, with a preacher who is trying to change what the bible says?!! Surely you can see why Rob Bell calling his church Mars Hill, would gather people in, under a trustworthy, well known name, only to misslead people and teach them wrongly!!

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