Contrary to Mars Hill lore, Mark Driscoll didn’t plant his church alone. Though he prized the image of a solo, entrepreneurial pastor, Driscoll found early success thanks to two co-planters, a sending church, and a network of support. And 3,000 miles away in Boca Raton, Florida, the concept of the Acts 29 church network was already taking shape as an offshoot of the Spanish River Church Planting Network.

Church planting requires a certain audacity, and in the early 1970s, nobody had more than David Nicholas. Founder of Spanish River Church, David’s burden for evangelism took shape in mentoring relationships with pastors starting congregations of their own. A planter himself, David empathized with those who felt lonely in that particular calling, and he sought to encourage and empower leaders by offering them community—a network in which they could receive the care, training, and accountability to do their jobs well.

In this episode of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, host Mike Cosper invites us into the room with David Nicholas and Mark Driscoll—two church planters with widely divergent visions for what constituted successful church growth. Tracing the Acts 29 network from its beginnings, Cosper asks whether any leadership potential is worth overlooking red flags, and whether the broader church actually has what it takes to mentor young leaders with issues of character.

“The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” is a production of Christianity Today

Executive Producer: Erik Petrik

Produced, written, edited, and hosted by: Mike Cosper

Additional editing by Resonate Recordings and Matt Linder

Associate produced by Joy Beth Smith

Music, sound design, and mixing: Kate Siefker

Theme song: “Sticks and Stones” by King’s Kaleidescope

Closing song: “Citizens” by Jon Guerra

Graphic Design: Bryan Todd

Social Media: Nicole Shanks

Editorial consulting: Andrea Palpant Dilley, Online Managing Editor

Christianity Today Editor in Chief: Timothy Dalrymple