A former pastor and elder at Mars Hill Church is reported to have been removed from his position over objections to the church’s non-compete clause in his annual performance review. The issue of whether a church should even have a non-compete clause is being debated in other blogs and articles, but the upshot is that no one who signs this is permitted to establish a church or join a church staff that operates within 10 miles of any Mars Hill site. As the map in that last link shows, any Mars Hill staffer in the State of Washington would have to sell their house and move away in order to find work unless the Mars Hill leadership approved the new job. That’s a horrible way to treat a fellow member of the family of God.
What I’m also concerned about is the non-compete clause’s self-justifying language:
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.
It looks like they are trying to say that setting up a new church within 10 miles of them would cause people to question the leadership’s love for God, the purity of Mars Hill Church, and the decision-making skills of individual members. What the clause really does, of course, is cause all those things to happen.
Its very existence calls into question the things they say it protects.
Questioning the “Purity” of the Church
The most disturbing phrase in the clause is that part about causing people to question “the purity of our church.”
Why would Mars Hill – or any church for that matter – look on itself as possessing the type of purity that can be protected by a non-compete clause? What do they even mean by “purity”?
The only purity we have, as individual believers or collectively as the church, is the purity of Christ through his finished work. (1 Corinthians 6:11, Hebrews 10:22, Revelation 7:14.) The church is not made less pure because a pastor leaves to serve in a nearby church, nor is it more pure because the leadership prevents pastors from leaving for nearby churches.
Mars Hill appears to be concerned about protecting a purity it doesn’t really possess, a purity that apparently depends on the efforts of its pastors. But a local church – Mars Hill or any other – is pure only insofar as it is part of the larger Church, the Bride of Christ which is itself made pure because of who the Groom is and not because the Bride has done anything to make herself pure enough for its pure and holy Savior.
So let’s hope we hear no more about needing a non-compete clause to protect the purity of a local church – Mars Hill or any other. That’s just nonsense.