Our history with Driscoll and the church:
I remember we saw an article in Mother Earth News about Mars Hill and vowed that we wanted to at least visit this church with its dramatic preaching and upbeat music. It was, I believe, 1997 or 1998 when we first started attending. My memory is foggy but i think it was about a year when we attended back then. The pastors alternated preaching. They were pretty harsh back then. I remember the sermons about womens' role in the home, just all around unfiltered in the approach to sermons. Sometime between the first and final time we attended Driscoll claimed the church for himself. We left for two reasons the first time. 1. the drive was LONG, church was in the evenings, which was hard for a family with two little kids who lived in Tacoma, and 2. I'd gotten a pretty solid chewing out by Driscoll in email, in which he angrily told me, when I questioned the church's support of the Pearls' book "To Train Up a Child", that my children were going to go to hell if we refused to beat them. His tone was angry and defensive; not at all what I'd expected of a pastor. At least he WAS a pastor back then. That was the last straw for us and we moved on.
In 2010 we left our old church and started the process of looking for a new church home. We needed a fresh perspective having had issues with the theology at our old church. Unfortunately, I encouraged my husband that we try Mars Hill again. We did and were immediately sucked in by Driscoll's skillful preaching during the Luke sermon series. I was impressed with Driscoll at the time. I recalled attending years ago and how rough and harsh the sermons were, but before me this time was a much more refined, gentle Mark Driscoll. I was convinced that he'd changed. So many accusations online had been leveled against him, but whenever I saw an argument that seemed baseless and rude, i'd defend Driscoll. He's repented of his earlier ways, I persuaded. I was wholly sucked in by his stellar speaking style and strong sermons. It was really quite impressive. We quickly got connected with a community group and were accepted with open arms, 7 kids and all. I've never known such a wonderful sense of family that we've known at Mars Hill. We ate meals together, went camping together, babysat each others kids, shared our life's most intimate details. We also jumped at the opportunity to attend redemption group at Mars Hill, a church counseling like program for victims of incest or rape (me) or addicts, and their spouses (Andy). we continued as regular attenders until enouraged to join the church. At this point we were having serious concerns about Driscoll and the church. The sermon series after Luke was one that basically reviewed the history of Mars Hill. Watching this series was surreal. The history had been heavily altered. It reminded me of the book "1984" in how thoroughly its history had been scrubbed. There was no mention of Moi, Dunn, or any of the other early players in Mars Hill history. Why is this a big deal? Because its revisionist history. In a small scale, yes, but revisionist history nonetheless.
At this point, we were also having concerns with the church, particularly Driscoll as well. It was the "Real Marriage"series that started to open our eyes to the situation. It didn't bother us, other than in retrospect, when we left our children at home, (a couple were babysitting age) during most of the series. We were encouraged to bring our older children along, but we believe in handling issues of sex education ourselves, not relegating that to the church. When, in a small group setting, the video stated that if you were not having sex 2x or more per week, there was something very wrong with your marriage. Again, we thought this completely inappropriate to be addressed in church and my husband and I looked at each other incredulously and looked around us, seeing no one else with funny expressions on their faces. When the "Andrew" situation hit we were further concerned. What did it for us was Jonna Petry's story. Wow.
We left Mars Hill, in the process losing most of our friends. It was extremely traumatic It's about the worst feeling you could imagine. Its a social calendar starting out full and instantaneously becoming EMPTY. Its people you loved, trusted, confided your deepest secrets in suddenly OUT of your life. Sometimes you'd run into them randomly and they'd be friendly and whatnot but we both knew the truth about our relationship. It was shallow, reduced from everything to nothing.
It is with a heavy heart that I submit my story. At one time I quietly placed my story on my blog, not inviting a lot of attention. I was afraid. I'd experienced the rejection of so many, and didn't have the emotional strength to deal with that again. But I do now. I'm a different person than I used to be. So much has changed with me, personally. I'm stronger, i'm more wary, more skeptical. Being a part of Mars Hill Church opened my eyes in ways I never expected. I came to realize how my history of abuse played a huge part in my desire for religion, a desire for close family, a desire, if not consciously, to continue to be abused. To invite churches such as Mars Hill to teach me that i'm worthless without Jesus, that Jesus HATES sinners, not just sin. That I'd better get into line or i'm off to hell. I no longer accept that perspective. I'm not saying that Mars Hill caused my loss of faith, but I think its fair to say that it contributed to it.
I am sharing my story out of concern for those still at Mars Hill. I feel sad for those who are stuck in this church. I feel sad for people who believe Mark Driscoll's philosphy and ideas. I hope that in telling my story others eyes might be opened and they might have the courage to step out and be counted. I hope that it might encourage others to take that hard step of risking so much, being shunned, losing life as they know it, losing their “family” because of the important fact that what is going on there is simply wrong.