This morning I posted the story of Phil Poirier who was an elder at Mars Hill Everett. He was asked to sign a clause in the renewal of his position as a pastor of community groups that would, if followed, forbid him from serving at a church within a ten mile radius of a Mars Hill church. He declined to sign it and was relieved of his position because of his refusal. Read more about the situation here.
A couple of folks plotted the points where Mars Hill churches are located and figured out what a ten mile radius from each of the church locations looked like on a map. The first one below came from a commenter who doesn’t want to be named. The distance from North to South edges is nearly 100 miles and would take over two hours to drive.
Here is another effort to illustrate the problem from Pirate Radio’s Chris Rosebrough.
These maps illustrate the problem caused by this “Unity of Mission” arrangement. Pastors, paid and unpaid, may feel called to move from Mars Hill to a church of another denomination or to start their own church. Examine again the language presented to the Mars Hill elders:
6. Unity of Mission
An Agreement between each member of the Full-Council of Elders, Executive Elders and the Board of Advisors and Accountability of Mars Hill Church.
As Pastors, we commit together that we will serve the best interests of our Savior Jesus Christ, and our church, Mars Hill Church. If and when any of us feel led to serve the Lord somewhere other than at one of the church locations of Mars Hill Church, we will submit our opportunity to one another and our Executive Elders first in accordance with Proverbs 11:14, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”
Together this day, we commit that our next church ministry will not be within ten miles of any location of Mars Hill Church, except with the express consent of the local pastors of the nearest church, the sending church, if different, and the Executive Elders of Mars Hill Church . We are, as Ephesians 4:3 says, “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We care about the church, the testimony of our church, and the dear people who attend our church.
We would not want our actions to cause confusion or harm by making the people of Mars Hill question our love for the Lord, the purity of our church, or their decision to worship Christ here.
We acknowledge that as we adhere to this commitment, the Executive Elders and the Board of Advisors and Accountability will commit to do everything within their power to offer and support a church plant outside of the radius stated here.
Soon, I will post the response to Phil Poirier’s letter from Mars Hill Everett lead pastor Ryan Williams. Williams informed his other leaders that Poirier would be “transitioning” off of the elder board.