King Of The Hill

Sometimes people do things that their harshest critics probably wouldn’t even think of as a sort of parody because it would be so unbelievable and/or offensive to attack another person in that manner. This appears to have happened with Mark Driscoll as his church has now slapped a cease and desist order on a church in California that also happens to call itself Mars Hill. Money quote from the original post:

“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.

Second, that a church would take legal action to require other churches to comply violates both the letter and the spirit of the Word of God. The Bible is explicit when we are told not to take other believers to court when the issues regard spiritual matters. The naming of a church is certainly a spiritual matter and it is hard to see how someone could theologically skirt around this.”

As I said above, this is the sort of thing that I didn’t think that Driscoll, for all my points of disagreement with him, would ever actually countenance. In fairness, I suppose that this could have been a letter sent in error by a particularly zealous underling. In reality though, this story has been making its way around Twitter for the better part of a day and as yet none of the multiple Mars Hill™ Seattle sites have done anything to correct, deny, or respond to it. (If they do substantially challenge the version presented in the above link, I’ll be happy to edit this post to reflect their comment on the matter.)

Would this have been a problem if Driscoll had decided against expanding his church on a scale normally reserved for denominations? There is going to be a Driscoll-brand Mars Hill in California at some point in the near future (as well as one in Oregon to go with their existing non-Washington State locale, Albuquerque). It’s not clear to me what these Mars Hill churches do that Driscoll could not do with his Acts 29 church-planting network. The only metaphor that seems to work here is that Driscoll wants corporately-owned stores rather than franchises or resellers. I guess if the vision for the Mars Hill “brand” is that it be a presence all over the West Coast, then there had better be no confusion. How terrible would it be if someone walked into a church expecting the Mark Driscoll Experience™ only to get some other pastor!

Of course those that sow in the wind can reap the whirlwind too, there are older institutions that use the name “Mars Hill” and one wonders whether any of them would be so crass as to use an army of lawyers to shake down Driscoll for his hair-product money.

Update: Mars Hill has posted a response on their blog. The gist of it seems to be that they weren’t actually suing the other Mars Hill but that they were just sending threatening letters through their lawyers but that now they’ve apologized and admitted that that was wrong – though not as wrong in their eyes as blogging about this whole thing. I’ll have more comment on this later.