"That which has been is that which will be,
And that which has been done is that which will be done.
So there is nothing new under the sun."
Mars Hill Church, which got its start in the rental house of Mark and Grace Driscoll nearly two decades ago, will fade into oblivion on January 1, 2015. Dave Bruskas broke the news on the Mars Hill website on October 31 (see screen shot below).
Bruskas had initially planned to serve as interim pastor at the Bellevue location until a permanent pastor could be chosen. However, those plans have now changed. Instead, Dave Bruskas is headed back to New Mexico to resume the pastorate at City on a Hill, the first out-of-state congregation to align itself with Mars Hill Church.
We are grateful to Warren Throckmorton, who has been diligently providing updates on this ever-changing situation. In a recent post over at Patheos, Throckmorton revealed:
The elders of Mars Hill Bellevue, soon to be doing business as Bellevue Church (or will the church be called Soma Bellevue?), have decided on Jeff Vanderstelt as their teaching pastor.
Soma Bellevue? That definitely got our attention. What in the world does "soma" mean?
The urban dictionary defines 'soma' as:
A drug used in Huxley's futuristic utopian novel "Brave New World." The substance is supposed to have the affect of modern drugs, yet no side-effects. Could describe bliss, oblivion, pure love, or pure utopia.
In the pharmaceutical industry, soma is "a muscle relaxer that works by blocking pain sensations between the nerves and the brain." Hmmm…
Then Warren Throckmorton provided another update that included this screen shot of an internal communication:
Several things jumped out at us, specifically:
Soma Tacoma and Family of Churches
Where have we heard "family of churches' before? Oh, yes… Sovereign Grace Ministries. We immediately began to wonder whether there were any similarities, so we started digging…
The We Are Soma website features this description:
SOMA IS A FAMILY OF CHURCHES WHO BELIEVE MISSIONAL COMMUNITIES ARE THE PRIMARY ORGANIZING STRUCTURE OF THE CHURCH AND THE MOST EFFECTIVE MEANS FOR DEVELOPING GOSPEL-CENTERED DISCIPLES.
On the About Soma page, Jeff Vanderstelt is a member of the Servant Leadership Team, focusing on Vision / Equipping.
The Soma Training page indicates that there are several different learning tracks, specifically: Soma School, Soma Immerse, and Soma Residency.
There are four one-week Soma Schools planned for 2015, with the cost being $500 per person. Soma Immerse is a 10-week summer program with one session geared toward high school students and another designed for college students and young adults. Soma Residency is obviously a longer commitment. Church planting is the name of the game at Soma.
The Soma website has quite a few resources from articles and blog posts to audios and videos. Also, there is a page titled Our Distinctives which is certainly worth a look. The most surprising piece of information (in our opinion) is found at the bottom of the page (see below).
NOTE: We adapted many of our theological distinctives from The Doctrinal Distinctives of Acts 29.
What is really going on here? Because the lingo on the Soma website is so similar to that of Acts 29 (words like 'missional'), it was a dead giveaway.
So far, there are 23 churches scattered throughout the United States that belong to the Soma family of churches. And guess what — most of these churches are part of the Acts 29 Network! What kind of game are they playing? Could it be that the Driscoll debacle has tarnished Acts 29's image so badly that it will eventually morph into Soma?
On the Q&A page, Jeff Vanderstelt responds to a variety of questions. Here he is explaining how Soma began and what inspired its name.
If you peruse the Soma website, you will see all kinds of resources. One of them is a pdf file focusing on DNA, which stands for Discover.Nurture.Act. Check out this screen shot from that file. See if you can spot the word that alarms us.
If you've been reading here for a while, you probably spotted it immediately – shepherding. How reassuring that Soma calls it 'gospel shepherding'. No doubt most of those attracted to Soma churches are too young to know anything about the shepherding movement, which was created and implemented by the Fort Lauderdale Five. These men have apologized for the great harm their accountability groups caused decades ago.
Take a look at how Soma describes DNA in this screen shot from page 3 .
Then on page 5 of the DNA pdf file, an explanation is given regarding D (Discover) N (Nurture) and A (Act). (see screen shot below)
Sorry, but this sounds just like shepherding to us. It seems eerily similar to the Redemption Groups of Mars Hill Church and the Care Groups of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving with our families, we want you to know that we will be giving thanks for our wonderful 'family of TWW readers'. If churches can be described as 'families', we believe internet communities can as well. 🙂
We appreciate the important contributions you make in this online forum, and we are grateful for each and every one of you! Blessings to you and your loved ones.
Lydia's Corner: Genesis 26:17-27:46 Matthew 9:1-17 Psalm 10:16-18 Proverbs 3:9-10