Group Leader - U-District 2012-14

Gender

Male

Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

Group Leader (any leadership role)

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?

U-District

What years were you involved / attending?

2012, 2013, 2014

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

I heard about Mars Hill when I discovered clips of Pastor Mark's sermons on YouTube in 2010 while I was studying abroad in Japan.

What was the circumstance of your first time attending Mars HIll?

I had moved to Seattle to help with a parachurch ministry.

What were your first impressions?

I was excited to be a part of the church that I had heard so much about through Pastor Mark's sermons. I was excited by everything. The music, the Community Group structure, Redemption Groups, etc.

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

I loved the people, I loved the preaching, I loved serving. I felt like this was a church I would feel comfortable inviting friends, coworkers, and family to and feel confident that they would hear a clear Gospel message.

What about your time at Mars Hill has had a positive impact on you?

I learned so much through Pastor Mark's teaching. The truths he would share from Scripture would have powerful impacts on my life and others. One of the most powerful things I learned was about men taking responsibility for their actions AND taking responsibility for things that are not our fault. That undercut a lot of my pride and pushed me towards humility. I would hear Pastor Mark preach about loving and encouraging leaders (who we normally take for granted) and gave me a heart to encourage pastors. Pastor Mark would also preach about having an understanding heart and humility when approaching Christians from other churches who believe differently. Those things have stayed with me to this day

What about your time at Mars Hill has had a negative impact on you?

The dissolution of Mars Hill caused a lot of pain for people whose only experience of church was Mars Hill. They began to question whether it was real, or what they should believe. A healthy step, I think, but a painful one. Some ended up floating, unattached, unaffiliated and floundering in their faith. The most painful thing to see was Community Groups that had walked together for years through trials and joys, split because of differences of opinion on whether to stay or not, or because people chose different churches. I saw that even "theologically sound" men who preached truth are susceptible to hypocrisy and sin. I put less trust in men and less trust in big "Mega-churches" and "Mega-Pastors"

What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?

I would have limited expansion. There was a push to expand and push beyond the limits that the budget allowed. There was a "Feed the Beast" mentality of "The Show Must Go On" rather than reflection on what was going on with the church, following the leading of the Spirit and how to proceed. I would have loved to see Pastor Mark share the pulpit more, give more opportunities to local pastors to preach. More money, energy, time and prayer dedicated to World Missions. Mars Hill was hyper-Seattle/America focused. More real accountability for Pastor Mark and the other leaders including outside counsel, voting rights for local elders and Pastors in governance. Transparency in finances (how much did Pastor Mark make, was spent on marketing, etc.) since it seemed like churches were understaffed for the number of people they were serving. There was also a flippancy towards the LGBT community that I didn't appreciate. It was as if Pastor Mark had never met anyone who had struggled with Same-Sex attraction and in a city like Seattle, he should have been more sensitive to the struggles in that community rather than reduce an ideology to a joke. I might have agreed with him about what the Bible said, but his lack of tact and empathy was concerning.

Which describes you?

I left Mars Hill prior to closure.

Please describe why you left Mars Hill and what that experience was like.

When the ResultSource scandal hit, there wasn't much clarity from leadership on what was going on. The eventual answers seemed reasonable given that I trusted the leadership as opposed to news media and "The Internet". Then there were accusations from former elders. I didn't know any of them, so it was hard to discern who was right. There was silence from Mars Hill leadership on it and everyone pretended like nothing was happening. Then Paul Tripp left the board and contradicted Mars Hill's official statement on why he left. It was still hard to understand what was going on because it was only one side (accusation) and no defense from Mars Hill leadership. The event that brought the most light to the situation was Acts 29 leadership (Matt Chandler, Eric Mason, Paul Tripp) removing Mars Hill from the network. That's when I knew things were serious, and that the accusations were credible. The response from Mars Hill was not very satisfying, but I thought it might be best to give grace and see if anything changed as a result of that. I was hoping to see repentance.

I wanted to see Pastor Mark step down for a time and get some healing and work on reconciliation. When Pastor Mark didn't then there was additional accusations from current and former Pastors that I knew personally asking Pastor Mark to step down. I kept wondering throughout this whole time why these things kept happening. The heat kept getting hotter. Each event or revelation was more damaging than the last. It seemed like God might have been trying to see if Pastor Mark would let go of his hold on his "Ministry", and he kept gripping tighter. It all culminated with a message Pastor Mark was going to give after returning from sabbatical. We were told there would be a big announcement to address the controversy. I went to the 8 AM Bellevue service to hear the message live. I was looking for 2 things. Pastor Mark stepping down, and a change to the board/by-laws to increase accountability. That would have kept me there (reluctantly).

Instead I saw Pastor Mark use the sermon text to lash out at critics. Saying that John leaning in on Jesus at the last supper was to hear a secret and that "he didn't tell anyone, did he?" taking a jab at people that had betrayed his trust and confidence instead of being faithful to the text. And saying that Peter was a fisherman (businessman) to defend himself and Sutton in using business methods in the church. Pastor Mark was going to step away from the pulpit, only for a short while (not resign) and no by-laws would change, elders would not vote.

His apology didn't seem to validate the people that had been hurt and painted himself and his family as victims. It didn't seem like he took the criticism seriously or understood how badly he had hurt others or even if it wasn't true, wasn't willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the church.

That's when I knew I was done. Things couldn't have been clearer about what needed to change and there was seemingly little remorse or repentance. I was leading a CG at the time and our entire CG was ready to leave at the same time. I told my Pastor we were leaving and the day after I told him, it was announced that U-District would be shutting down.

Our CG then began the process of finding a church together, instead of splitting up and going our separate ways. We continued meeting despite not having a church. And then spent 3-4 months in limbo looking for a new church together. It was a difficult time for me as a leader since I wanted to choose a church after about 1.5 months, but I knew others needed time to process, so we waited until 4 months or so before officially "replanting" our CG at a new church.

How would you describe the reason for Mars Hill's closure to an outsider.

It closed because leadership was prideful and wouldn't change or be more accountable and the church members and leadership revolted, key leadership resigned, and the church dissolved.

What's changed for you since your time at Mars Hill came to an end?

Not much changed in my core beliefs. Even in my young life I've seen churches come and go and I have experiences with many other churches, so I can sift through what was true, and what was a uniquely Mars Hill emphasis or flaw. The things that changed for me were
1. I no longer trust huge mega-churches preaching truth as healthy by default. I view them with more suspicion and as potential pride-snares.
2. I have less faith in people and more faith in God. Anyone can fail.

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