Here is an excerpt from an article that was quite disconcerting to me – Reclaiming the Mission » The Mars Hill Seattle “Cease and Desist” Letter: Why Branding Is the Ultimate Anti-Missional Act:

The part of the story I know goes like this: There was a church in Sacramento that named themselves “Mars Hill” several years ago. It is the same name as the well known Mars Hill church led by Mark Driscoll in Seattle Washington. A couple weeks ago the Sacramento congregation received a “Cease and Desist” letter which came from attorneys representing the Seattle Mars Hill Church. They were told that the Seattle Mars Hill had copyrighted the name “Mars Hill” and they demanded that the Sacramento California Mars Hill church stop using the name and any logos with similar lettering.” These events were made known by a blogger/pastor in the area (see here). A storm was stirred up. Then the Mars Hill Seattle pastors contacted the Mars Hill pastor in Sacramento. There was some good discussion, apologies and reconciliation. Sacramento Mars Hill agreed to change its logo so there would be less confusion surrounding its identity with the larger Mars Hill church in Seattle. (These events are reported here, here and here).”

My purpose here is not to attack Mars Hill Church (any of them) or Mark Driscoll, but I’m saddened that this seems to be what the institutional evangelical church is coming to – let’s trademark “our church,” and send threatening “Cease and Desist” letters to other ministries who use any portion of  “our” kingdom’s marketing tagline. Has the contemporary church become all about “logos and egos?” If this is being “missional” then I’m inclined to believe the goal is misguided. I know there are 2 sides to every story and my opinions here will offend some (I do have a right to be wrong, you know) but what is so disappointing to me is that this ministry (which includes Mars Hill Church, Acts 29 Network, and The Resurgence), one I have often appreciated and applauded, should not be anywhere close to this fracas (actually, none of these ministries should be).  

Known for their emphasis on missional living, the theology of Driscoll’s ministries may be pretty solid but this sounds like a sound bite from the Google vs. Apple controversy, with similar innuendo, greediness, and sensationalism. Why are respected ministries resorting to the world’s tactics when God’s Word strictly forbids one Christian suing another (alright, there was no actual lawsuit, just the threat of one – see 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 anyway)? Understanding we all make mistakes and God’s grace covers a multitude of sins, this situation makes me question my approval of this ministry and its leadership.

Why? Because a lost and gospel-antagonistic world celebrates our pettiness and self-promotion. Since when do we think it is “missional” to brand or trademark a ministry (or church name and imagery… I do, however, totally understand content copyright) that is supposedly called to exalt the name of Jesus and His kingdom above all else? How many funds are being diverted for these kinds of secular tactics that are better served spreading the Good News and reaching those who are in spiritual darkness? Is this good stewardship (attorneys don’t come cheap)? Also, let’s not give the unregenerate more reasons to discard the claims of Scripture while we haggle over names and logos.

Let me continue my rant. Since when is the name Mars Hill so sacred? After all, we find the first example of the connection between Mars Hill and the preaching of the gospel in the book of Acts (see Acts 17 for the text). It (the Areopagus) was the place where Paul spoke God’s truth to pagans and polytheists. Figuratively speaking, “Mars Hill” was providentially designed as a platform for the proclamation of God’s truth not a scene of litigious protectionism. Haven’t we, like Paul, better things to do? 

With no disrespect towards Mars Hill Church or Mark Driscoll intended – I could insert the name of any ministry or minister, mine included – let me take some radical (and to some, unacceptable) liberties with a passage from the great Apostle himself.  You can find this text in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. It is part of Paul’s letter to a church filled with worldliness, strife, and carnal self-promotion. Please take particular note of the very last phrase of this passage:

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by [the Media] that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow [Mark Driscoll],” or “[I follow Mars Hill Seattle],” or “I follow [a church growth methodology or the “missional” creed],” or “I  follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was [Mars Hill] crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of [Mark Driscoll]? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of [trademarks, branding, and threatened lawsuits], lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”