Jessica - Ballard, Downtown Seattle, Portland, Tacoma 2009-13

Your Name

Jessica

Gender

Female

Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

Regular Attender, Member, Group Leader (any leadership role)

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?

Ballard, Downtown Seattle, Portland, Tacoma

What years were you involved / attending?

2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

Through a friend who was a member.

What were your first impressions?

The very first service me and my (now ex) husband attended was in Ballard. Mark preached a sermon directed towards men and husbands. Mark screamed half the service, calling on men to step up and take responsibility and cursing at abusers and fornicators. Having come from a long series of churches with mostly female leadership because men were simply disinterested, this was actually refreshing to me. I appreciated the fact that men were not allowed to slide under the radar here, that they were called upon to step up and be leaders.

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

I had just moved back to Seattle from LA where I worked on staff at another megachurch that was centered on service and sensationalist spirituality. I had been very burnt after seeing pastors who were more business executives than anything else make horrific and unbiblical decisions behind closed doors. I was tired of hearing shallow, "encouraging" words every week and wanted to learn the scriptures in depth. If Mark is any one thing, he is thorough. I learned so much and soaked it up like a sponge.

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

The most positive part of my time at Mars Hill was it's people. The pastors of MH Portland, specifically. My husband and I had moved to Portland to help start MHPDX and we were leaders there. 6 months later he had fallen back into his old life of drugs, stealing, cheating, manipulation and abuse. One night, the pastors came and picked me up, gave me a place to stay and then went back to retrieve all my belongings. I lived in my pastor's guest room for a month and everything I owned was in the church garage. Not only that, but they helped me through my divorce. None of them told me to divorce him, but none of them stopped me from leaving that abusive relationship. They helped me move a total of 3 times in 5 months. I could not have made it during that time without their support and love.

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

Mark preached that men should take charge and be leaders, but he left a lot of room for men like my ex to twist it into control and abuse their wives.

What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?

I know that the Redemption program had helped a lot of people, but I believe that it was a dangerous place for those with unstable mental health due to trauma. Without the guidance of certified counselors, there was a lot of pressure to "tell all" and forgive when sometimes a great deal of time and counseling is needed. The Redemption program was like amateurs performing heart surgery. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Mars Hill didn't take things at a case-by-case basis, it was black or white, all or nothing. "You confess. You forgive. You heal." It's not always that straightforward or easy or even healthy to do things that way.

Which describes you?

I left Mars Hill prior to closure.

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

Well, the short version is that I began working late on Saturday nights and didn't want to wake up early to go to church so I found one that had an evening service. However, if I really wanted to I would have made it happen. With everything that my Portland pastors helped me with, they never made me feel indebted to them. I sort of fizzled out. They would check in with me here and there, but never made me feel guilty for not coming anymore. In the end, I really craved a simpler, smaller church. And one that had a real pastor preaching in front of me, rather than someone phoned in on a screen.

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

Mark is a very extreme personality. He is over the top. He's human and interprets things the wrong way, shares his OPINION of the scriptures meanings. He was a part of something that got VERY big very fast and in this world of online media, he was severely attacked for his faults.

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

My beliefs are unchanged. Even while attending MH my beliefs had not changed much from my previous experience. I am, however, not as involved in a church as I was and probably never will be again. I love going to church, I believe it's important and I love being surrounded by other believers. But I no longer feel guilty for missing church. God's people are his church, it's not an organization. God can speak to me on my couch as much as he can in church. My foundation is in Jesus, it's no longer in what church I go to.

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