It has been almost 10 months since we left our former church. I've hesitated to post our story for a number of reasons, most revolving around fear. Fear is something i struggle with greatly. But as 1 John 4:18 expresses-
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
So, here I am. I know that this will likely cause me to lose friends, at the very least to be threatened with loss of friendship, (the primary wound which has so deeply been stabbed into me and the very hardest part of deciding to speak the truth out loud- despite the cultural unacceptability of that choice.
Another blog post will be coming regarding WHY i am speaking out. But for now, here is my story. It was written in March of 2012.
Our experience with Mars Hill
We started attending Mars Hill after leaving our old church due to both a personal issue with another member and also disagreeing with the church's focus and the conviction of the Holy Spirit that we were to raise our children differently, and we wanted to find a church that met our needs in that area. It was a hard decision to make and one that we didn't take lightly. We had been there for 7 years, made a lot of friends and the kids and we, were deeply integrated into the church and its culture.
We came to Mars Hill to visit and knew immediately that THIS was the church we were supposed to be at. 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. Andrew and I went to redemption group at Mars Hill, an incredible church counseling like program for victims of incest or rape (me) or addicts, and their spouses (Andy). It was in redemption group that I finally started to heal from my childhood issues that had held me hostage for so long. Redemption group changed my life. I made amazing friends, learned how to forgive those who have hurt me, and most importantly, really learned how to “cry out to Jesus” which for a very linear person like myself sounded hopelessly abstract before RG.
I came to LOVE Mars Hill, our local pastor, and our amazing church family. I really thought we'd be here indefinitely. But it was not to be. I'd always seen nasty Mark Driscoll comments on the internet and rejected them out of hand. Really, most of them were snarky, baseless comments from people who just plain seemed like they were trying to be mean. I was offended, and often defended him on blogs, particularly when it was clear the issues against him were baseless. When the real marriage book came out, I was excited to have gotten to be a reviewer for book sneeze and gladly reviewed the book. I really liked it and excitedly typed up a review, which I later started to regret as I read thoughtful reviews by Tim Challies, et. Al. Seen here http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/book-review-real-marriage He was clearly not being mean, He had very valid points. Other things were happening as well.
We both separately started having that naggy peace-less feeling, and I asked Andy if he had any concerns about Mars Hill. He revealed that he had and the dialogue opened and for a few months we just casually talked about things. At first, the mere thought of leaving was not even an option, I couldn't stand the thought of it, but more and more started to happen, just little things alone, but together, it was bigger. The little discussions about things I disagreed with on the City- I'd posted a few times, not to be argumentative or to rip on the church or anyone in the church but because 1. I was sincerely concerned with the direction our church was headed and 2. I think about issues through discussing issues, it helps me to analyze and the whole process of hearing it aloud when talking or seeing it printed, (even better!) helps me to deeply explore issues.
I think the first big issue I had was hearing Mark talk of the sexually explicit “visions” he'd had of coworkers and members of the church. This threw me for a huge loop, as being a Sexual abuse survivor, the idea that the leader of our church would sometimes look into someone's eyes and see abuses against them or sexual interactions they'd had truly freaked me out. Really, there were 3 options. 1. he was lying. Seems awfully far fetched to lie about though... didn't think that was the option. 2. He was given visions by God. The cessationists argue that this kind of thing doesn't happen, and i'm not willing to rule it out- No where in scripture does it say that God stopped giving people spiritual gifts, but it did seem ODD and inappropriate and very un-Godlike... still its possible, however, the final option was that his source of vision was demonic. This, more and more, is what I'm fearing is happening with Mark Driscoll. I think he's made some poor choices, allowed pride to motivate too much of his action, and has given satan and his demons an opening. I readily admit I could be wrong, but the thought is scary. That's just one issue-
Additionally, there was the fund drive in December, and feeling like the infomercial-like sermons on Mars Hill history (which in itself is surreal, and took Andy and I both aback because the history was so strange, it didn't resemble our experience with Mars Hill at our last time of attendance, It seeemed heavily edited, so many omissions, no mention of the original 3 founders, other than Mark, No Mike Gunn, no Lief Moi, it was so odd. (back in the presbyterian church in seattle days) and the sudden plea for a huge amount of funds right at Christmas time seemed a bit manipulative. I voiced concern on the city and others responded in similar ways to each other, usually just minimizing the validity of my concerns (not in a mean way) and secondly questioning my own sin in the situation. Each of these issues had nothing to do with me sinning so it was never an issue, but I did get a phone call, concerned that I was not submitting to the leadership of Mars Hill and suggesting I think about whether we really want to be here if I wasn't willing to do that.
Now, first of all, you have to understand that i'd barely HEARD of church discipline and the whole concept of “submitting to leadership” was completely new to me, so I researched a bit, tried to figure out what my responsibility toward my church was.
I talked with this friend about the history i'd had with Mark driscoll, just one time- composed of an email discussion that turned snarky and nasty on his end and how I was still a bit cautious about Mark and didn't even see him as OUR pastor, explaining how Pastor Samuel is our pastor. HE's the one who's around, he's the one we see every sunday, who's wife we know, who directs classes and helped teach redemption group and plays basketball with the guys. But she reminded me that Mark and his fellow elders were indeed our pastors too and we needed to respect their authority. I still don't see anywhere scripturally that asserts that some other man other than my husband has authority over me.
After the whole drama about the man named “Andrew” at the Ballard campus, who was excommunicated and the whole situation that ensued, late January, we've been watching both sides of the story and since the story came out- Here- if you aren't familiarhttp://matthewpaulturner.net/jesus-needs-new-pr/mark-driscolls-church-discipline-contract-looking-for-true-repentance-at-mars-hill-church-sign-on-the-dotted-line/ there's also a part 2. Mars Hill in response posted a couple of articles that you may or may not have read, clarifying their position on the whole thing and also clarifying what constituted “Church discipline”http://marshill.com/2012/01/27/church-discipline-in-the-bible andhttp://marshill.com/2012/02/13/a-response-regarding-church-discipline I was a LOT freaked after reading about Andrew's story. Andy and I had tearfully discussed what we'd read and knew that we would not be willing to sign that contract. We had a LOT of problems with it- the idea of shunning a friend was simply not acceptable to us. We didn't want to give up that much freedom. Also, the “sins” pointed out were crazy subjective and seemed to be very workable to meet whatever criteria anyone wanted them to mean, and I could easily have seen myself being considered “divisive” Anyway, I was a mess, and went out to have starbucks with a great friend who helped me to calm down, look at the situation objectively, She encouraged me that we did NOT HAVE to become members, maybe just hold off a bit, (we'd already missed several classes and I knew we'd want to retake the series anyway if we did change our minds) and see what comes. So ok, I was calmed down, and we decided to commit the issue to prayer and see if the Holy Spirit might have something for us.
When no one even FLINCHED in community group when we watched the video of Mark and Grace talking about sex, and Grace saying if you weren't doing it over 1x a week then likely there was probably a problem- I realized something was VERY very wrong here. The similar response of the group, albeit very lovingly, to 1. minimize concerns and 2. figure out how I was REALLY upset because of my own sin, not the Driscolls' It came together and I realized that this situation was out of control. This is not normal. It is not normal for a pastor and his wife to try to control how much sex members of their church have. Its extraordinarily inappropriate. The whole sex theme is entirely inappropriate for church. The last few weeks found us telling our kids, “we're going to have you guys stay home today- we aren't sure what the sermon would be rated.” Jokingly, but truthfully..
I continued to have that awful nagging peace-less feeling, and continued to follow the stories as they came out on the internet. It was easy enough to write off “Andrew's” story, being that it WAS one sided, who knows what really happened, etc. But as people started to come forward in droves, forming websites likehttp://marshillrefuge.blogspot.com and sharing testimonials on other blogs like Sophia'shttp://thewartburgwatch.com/2012/01/25/mark-driscolls-mars-hill-a-tutorial-on-spiritual-abuse/ and her husband'shttp://twocleareyes.blogspot.com/2012/01/mars-hill-altar-of-doctrine-and-occult.html Former Mars Hill Elder Bent Meyerhttp://thewartburgwatch.com/2012/01/30/fired-mars-hill-elder-breaks-his-silence/ Then another fired elder Paul Petry started a blog- complete with his testimonial, his wife's testimonial, timeline of events at MH and documents. http://joyfulexiles.com/ This in particular was compelling to me. When I read Jonna Petry's testimonial, it clicked I realized this was the answer to prayer that we had been seeking, though it wasn't the answer either of us had hoped for.
We realized, finally, that Mars Hill has a horrible pathology, one that will infect everyone associated with it and eventually it will take the whole thing down. God doesn't allow sin to exist unrepentantly and particularily in His church. And SO much was going on- The Church government structure having been altered to make it nearly impossible to fire Mark if he's out of line, Firing Godly men after threatening to have their reputation destroyed if they don't resign on their own, and them refusing. Explicit sex talk in community group and reading for CG, the complete inability to hold Mark accountable in ANY WAY. (Other than his hand picked group of elders, within a structure that doesn't really allow for him to be fired anyway!) The inability to have any kind of ACCESS to our supposed pastor. We can't walk beside him, watch him live, hold him accountable. That is CRITICAL for a pastor, for his own good, so accusations such as THIS can't be leveled against him without reason.
I sent a letter to my dear friends and Church family, including much of what is contained in this post, and additionally am going public with this testimony because I love my people- I love my church and I refuse to stand by and do nothing while it goes down in flames. As a regular person at Mars Hill, I don't have access to the upper leadership and I'm not sure it would make a difference even If I did. I have to be honest, I am afraid. I am afraid of losing my closest friends, i'm afraid of what the future holds, But I truly believe that this is the right thing to do- Both leaving our church that we love, and our friends, who probably aren't our friends anymore, and going public. Something needs to change. And though we are horribly sad we are hanging on to the promise of Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. And Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” I know that His Word is true and I know that He is faithful. I will be praying for Mars Hill, its people and its leadership. I would encourage anyone reading to do the same. Thanks for reading,