Member - West Seattle 2008-13

Gender

Female

Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

Member, Group Leader (any leadership role)

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?

West Seattle

What years were you involved / attending?

2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

I'd moved to Seattle from Bellingham and knew someone up there who was part of an Acts 29 church and admired Mars Hill/visited it when he was in Seattle. So I'd heard about the church from him, but didn't know much of anything about it, it's culture, or even who Mark was.

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

After moving here for a job, I was looking for a church home and community, drive by MH West Seattle on my way to work one day and it jogged my memory of having heard of it before. So, I decided to go alone the following Sunday and check it out.

What were your first impressions?

I thought the satellite/screen message was really weird...but I liked the message a lot (came during the religion saves series) and felt like the demographic was made up of people similar to me. I was drawn in by the materials, decor, music and general "coolness" of it and I decided to stick around longer and try to meet people and get connected.

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

It started out that I felt connected and was around like minded people. It was an exciting atmosphere!  I was learning a lot and liked the teaching. I made a lot of friends, met and married my husband, etc. It became central to everything in my life. Over time as I had concerns, staying there became entwined with my fear people, of feeling worried about people's' perception of me leaving and if I'd lose friends were I to leave (I did) and about trying to 'stick it out' and be faithful.

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

I learned so much about the Bible and about the character of God...things I didn't know much about before.

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

I have a background of abuse at the hands of my father and already struggled with fear of domineering men. I was under the tutelage of and close to a pastor who was truly harsh, domineering and verbally abusive/manipulative. I witnessed a lot of this in a Community Group (CG) setting as well as Redemption Groups (RG) and it caused me a lot of confusion, fear and anxiety about even going to church/CG/RG. I felt manipulated into doing things such as serving in various capacities and complied at the risk of being told I was in sin (a common refrain). I feel that I was both consciously and unconsciously indoctrinated that women just aren't supposed to be 'heard' as much as men. My husband was often asked to speak for us in various circumstances and I didn't understand why I couldn't speak my own mind or even have a different opinion than him.This has had a lasting impact and is hard to untangle as I move forward at a new church home. I also felt that we weren't thoroughly/properly trained in various capacities such as RG leader, CG leader, youth leader. This caused strain on us/those serving and was a disservice to those we were leading.

What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?

Much of the culture felt like it was surrounding appearances of being hip and cutting edge...the charm of this wore off and I felt like resources and time could have been better spent elsewhere. Leaders were fast tracked into roles, far too often and then would burn out. My first inklings of concern began in 2008/09 with the incredibly high turnover of leaders at West Seattle and the constant lay-offs. I began to learn over time that MH was perhaps far too concerned with numbers and was running much like a business. I would definitely change that.

Which describes you?

I left Mars Hill prior to closure.

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

We left in March of 2013. We began to hear of things that we simply couldn't abide by and support...such as the Real Marriage book issue, the many stories of people feeling used and spit out, and or own observations of abuse of power and the church being run like a business. It was disheartening and sad. When we left it was the culmination of us giving ourselves a year of praying and deciding if we were to leave (meaning, we had began discussions about leaving a year prior). It was incredibly hard to go. At the time we knew no one personally who had left and. We felt judged and shunned by some when we shared that we were going. Others were supportive. We lost a few friends who simply couldn't understand and it drove a wedge between us. We met with the campus pastors twice  and explained our feelings and let them know we were going. They were mostly kind and understanding.

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

The leaders lost their vision and grew greedy in a number of ways...for growth, for reputation, for being on the cutting edge...and it ruined them. They took their eyes off Jesus, even if just a little and for that many suffered. It's very sad that the pulpit from which it was often declared 'what matters is that you end well'...MH went out with a disastrous bang and certainly didn't end well at all.

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

I have had a harder time trusting the church and diving right in as I did before. Yet, I see some of my own sin in this whole thing and that had been good. I made my identity, at least in part, about Mars Hill rather than solely Jesus and being His. I felt puffed up about how 'cool' our church was and how good the teaching was. It was a sobering and humbling experience when it all fell apart and caused me to see where I myself had let my gaze stray from Jesus and Jesus alone.

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