Private 2011-14

Gender

Male

Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

I was one of the above but prefer not to specify.

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?

Prefer not to specify

What years were you involved / attending?

2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

I saw Driscoll speak at a conference in the Midwest in 2005, and started following he and Mars Hill with interest from then on.

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

I started attending the Resurgence Training Center in 2010 after joining the staff of an Acts 29 church in the Midwest. I visited several campuses then and was convinced to help start one of the four campus set to launch the following year as a volunteer lay leader.

What were your first impressions?

When you grow up in the church, have every youth pastor you had (5) affected by sexual sin of some kind, attend Bible College where two of your ministry professors were fired over sexual issues (1 arrested for rape, the other for cheating on wife with a student), and then by some miracle attend and graduate seminary and still want to plant a church for Christ's kingdom, Mars Hill was nothing short of amazing. I loved that they were aggressive and laid heavy burdens on men. It felt like the solution to all the problems I'd experienced and felt my faith had barely survived. I just knew sexual sins wouldn't compromise the leadership in this ministry context, that it would get dealt with. But where sexual sin was killed, pride in many forms was nurtured to a full bloom. Something about the type of grace that was taught there had a dark flip side.

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

I touched on it above, but I also felt called to be married and I knew marriage was taken seriously at Mars Hill. I did indeed meet my wife and had robust support for our dating, engagement and early marriage. I also appreciated the preaching and the systems I saw as correctives to pretty much all of my church experiences until that time. There were an abnormal number of people becoming Christians (though since its demise I've seen a number of the ones I saw make decisions leave the faith, very sad and casts shadow on methods we used). At the time it looked and felt like the total package, and the first time I felt in mission with my church instead on mission to my church.

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

While I now acknowledge so much of the public teaching on marriage and relationships was misogynistic and domineering, there were truly wonderful, common, Christ loving people, included local pastors and staff for sure, who had beautiful marriages and lives and really invested in me and my wife. I still thank God for that, and maintain these relationships to the best or my ability, and did so even in the midst of stark disagreements over what I found to be a cult of Driscoll.

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

I fundamentally changed my professional life due to the mentorship I received at Mars Hill, all the while volunteering full time while having rediscover my career away from home. When I couldn't pull it all off with the ease of Jordan fadeaway, and sought outside counsel from a local A29 pastor who encouraged me to slow down, I was made to feel implicitly like a failure and explicitly like a threat because I talked to someone outside Mars Hill (this has been resolved in direct communication post demise, I mention here for clarity, honesty and context). My new relationship at the time was just starting so I took my beating like a good Mars Hill man in process and made the best of it. After getting married and finally landing a decent job (key to being accepted as a lay elder) I tried to reinsert myself as a volunteer leader (beyond membership class and leading a home group). I was then able to see how far out of favor I had fallen. I was processing the reality of that just when the clothes begin to rapidly leave the emperor's body. These personal situations mixed with the public debacle had a profound impact on me. My faith in Christ, and my belief in the viability and possibility of healthy organic churches did not waver, but I felt extraordinary hurt, unsure of how to protect my new wife (from our...friends?), and foolish. When elders past and present begin releasing information and I was able to see how many of them were treated, including watching one of my good friends treated very poorly and being asked to help the establishment smooth things over with him, I was devastated.

What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?

Many things in hindsight like everyone else. But I honestly believe one simple and key thing would have made all the difference. As bad as things got, as dark as it was and still feels, honesty from all the pastors, and not just those who risked their jobs and reputations, would have made all the difference. Obviously, Driscoll could have resolved this himself. He could have kept Mars Hill, but not control, and keeping control won and is winning the day. All is forgiven, but the healing from that releasing control would have been profound. I knew and still know too many folks who were waiting and wanting restoration for it to come to abandonment and closure. Mars Hill church was not a cult in my view, but the leadership was. I think that's the simplest summary of what I'd want changed. Cult of leadership gone.

Which describes you?

I left Mars Hill prior to closure.

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

After seeing how I had lost favor over not being able to perform as a high capacity volunteer, and then being told I was taking the public breeches to Driscoll’s character too personally, I sought a lot of counsel again. I talked to everyone I knew in A29, and other Mars Hill campuses. The information I got in private, even before elders began releasing info online, was so damning I couldn't sleep for a couple days. I was more connected than most members at my campus because I had been apart of A29 and attended ReTrain. On the last night I prayed and then talked to my wife and we agreed to patiently pursue our calling elsewhere. I was able to find a job related to my original passion quite quickly and took it as a sign. We left as quietly as we could because we watched a number of folks get their reputations smeared if they raised too many issues or didn't accept very basic explanations and pleas to "just trust the leadership." Eventually the some folks at that campus were told their questions were reminiscent of Eve questioning what God had said when talking to the serpent. Really deceptive tactics to deflect questions and maintain the illusion of spiritual authority. I particularly did not want my wife to have to deal with that. Once things did go completely south I privately met or called those who would talk to me, and some went well right away, and many have gone well as time has passed. But the very first time it didn't go well at all, and in subsequent interactions with other leaders of that campus I knew I had been labeled among the dissenting factions, the deceived Eve’s who allowed the serpent (bloggers) to poison our trust in God (Mars Hill's loyal leaders). You stop being greeted with a smile. Over time that changed though. To this day this is the first time I'm saying anything publicly about it even if as anonymously as I can. I still value these relationships and a number of them have started to have PTSD, as for the first time some leaders are feeling a vacuum of meaning in their lives in Driscoll's absence and have come to grips with how busted the leadership culture really was and how it affected them. I'm 100% sympathetic to that, and want to be a peer and a friend. I also know many have not had the freeing opportunity to process how they are feeling openly, particularly pastors of the legacy churches left in the wake of Mars Hill where simple reasons have been supplied for how things went down and robust and ongoing healing is being overlooked in favor of keeping what's left intact while "moving on." If that's you, don't buy that method. If your leadership culture can't handle your need to heal, it is perhaps not the most gospel centered or healthiest place to be.

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

I simply say the leadership lied on many issues for many years and denied as much as they thought they could until the literal and bitter end. One of the campus pastors where I was went as far as telling a dissenting member that Jesus lied so it was ok for them to if they had folks best interests at heart. There's much more that was wrong, but that's the root. And ultimately, I stand by what one honest lead pastor said as things were closing, Jesus shut this thing down.

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

I've become a better friend to people. I read the accounts here and elsewhere of folks who felt used as members of Mars Hill. I'm so ashamed of that. Friends as long as active volunteers but otherwise not so much. I did that, and had it done to me. This wasn't just a MH thing, many churches seem to be pushing an "intentional friendship" model of basically forcing people into community. At some level this is understandable, but it definitely began to be at the expense of unintentional friendships. Those were often discouraged at collective home group leader meetings as something childish. Too much mission to do for long term naturally-made friends that aren't likely to last anyway. So I reject that for one thing, and feel terrible I ever had it in me to have to reject.

Also, I completely reject Christian celebrity in all its forms. Even pastors and teachers I like and think I still respect, I bristle when I see their stuff go viral. I've unfollowed a lot of these folks on social. When I see grasps for celebrity happening in small ways with friends and at my local church I warn people that I see them reaching for an idol that's not worth it.

I also reject the mega church multi-site model in general. Not a hill I'd die on, mostly because I won't be found on that hill again, Mars or otherwise.

I've had to unmysoginize myself in some ways, to my shame. I'm not looking for a new label for my relationships and roles just yet either.

I'm happier.

Please write anything else you'd like to add.

I responded to this site and respect its purpose because I am still meeting and hearing of people who are really broken and confused for reasons directly related to Mars Hill's influence and don't have anyone to process with. I was in that boat at one point and I felt very confused. It's part of the cycle of spiritual abuse, and though it's no use throwing condemnation around, it's certainly not helpful to bury the pain in a haphazard effort to move on. These events lose their grips as we are able to share in safe community, even if much of that one community is still in many places, and requires the internet to facilitate (some things haven't changed). Jesus is indeed bigger than everything that happened and is happening, positive and negative, with Driscoll and related to Mars Hill. But it's a lie to think that that means Jesus stands above our pain, both from how we treated people trying to be a true Mars Hill approved leader when it failed to be Christ-like, and how we were treated by those leaders. He's here to heal us all, so we can move forward with him even if we never quite "move on" from our scars. He understands scars.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for these words. Some of the very most accurate and helpful for me.

    ReplyDelete

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