Rick - Orange County 2012-14

Your Name

Rick

Gender

Male

Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

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

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?

Orange County / Huntington Beach

What years were you involved / attending?

2012, 2013, 2014

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

In 2011 my old church was going through a rough season, factions were fighting, and my dad found a sermon of this guy guest preaching at John Piper's church. This sermon was fiery, captivating, and frankly the best sermon I had ever heard. From then I began to podcast Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll.

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

I moved to SoCal for college, when I heard there was a Mars Hill in Orange County I immediately started attending and got plugged in.

What were your first impressions?

I loved it, there have only been a few churches where I walked in and immediately felt like I belonged. I'm not cool or a hipster, but the atmosphere was awesome and I fell in love with the people of Mars Hill.

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

Because God made my community group my spiritual family. Because in community I finally understood grace and freedom in Christ. Because I believed God called me there.

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

I learned how impactful missional communities can be in a church. I learned how to take ownership of my church by serving. I learned that there are good and innovative ways to do church besides what I grew up with.

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

How Christianity failed me, how it failed Mars Hill. I believe all churches have shit, and all churches need to work through their shit when called out. What Christianity did was point to and yell about the shit they saw and condemned us. There were problems, and people only saw problems.
I am frankly bitter to this day towards Matt Chandler and Acts 29  because of how he handled his rebuke of Driscoll. Matt Chandler in his attempt to rebuke Driscoll gave the fuel to destroy Mars Hill. He "excommunicated" the whole church. His actions empowered the unloving critics and lead people like me to despair. He hurt me, he robbed me of my church family.
Chandler is not alone, in my view 90% of Christians condemned and rejected Mars Hill, Driscoll, and therefore me. There was little to no grace.

What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?

1. Leadership structure.
I believe that the structure was put in place with good intentions. I think that as the church grew and leaders become more separated in distance and relationship decisions were slower and less united. Thus, centralizing leadership in the executive elders was meant to keep the church on mission, on task, and keep advancing the gospel.
This was a mistake. Centralized authority robbed the local elders of their ability to lead well, especially at Orange County. Centralized authority caused issues to never be fully addressed. Centralized authority caused distance between our leaders and the people of Mars Hill.
Authority should have been equal among elders. If size and distance made this a problem, maybe that meant we were too big or separated to be one church.
2. Women in leadership.
I believe women should be free and empowered to lead as God calls them. I am a complementarian who doesn't believe in female eldership or pastorship. But other than that, women are free to serve and lead throughout the church. Mark from the beginning emphasized men, which was refreshing to me, but this emphasis lead to women not being in significant leadership.
This impacted the culture in negative ways.
3. Share the pulpit.
Mark preached most of the time, but I think he should have shared the pulpit with other Mars Hill pastors on a regular basis. I think at least once a month. Guest preachers were great, but we needed to be taught and led by our local elders.
4. Less traveling for Driscoll.
At times it felt like we were facilitating Driscoll's Christian Rockstar status, rather than being served by him. Teaching is serving, but it felt like the people were incidental. I think he should and could have spent more time with the people of Mars Hill. Maybe that would have made him aware of issued before they became scandals.
5. Don't plant campuses out of state, plant churches.
I think the multi-site church concept is a great idea in a city or close region, like Seattle and the Puget Sound. But frankly, I never felt like I was in the same church as Everett or Bellevue. Mars Hill Orange County was not a part of the 'one church many locations'. We were a controlled church in the Mars Hill church network. They should have planted an independent church rather than have 1,000 miles between us and our "church family."
6. Less or no video teaching.
Let others preach, collaborate with the elders and let them preach.

Which describes you?

I stayed at Mars Hill through closure.

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

Dustin Kensrue's letter was strong and resonated with me. One thing he wrote was to set a date to expect change, and if no change came, than you should consider leaving. This was in August 2014 for me. I prayed about it, and the Lord told me to see through the end of the year. As it turned out, that was how much longer the church had. Thus, I remained until the end.

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

We were a church that grew aggressively, had problems, and were neck deep in controversy. For a long time we were led by the elders at the top of the food chain, and they made mistakes. When Driscoll stepped down and all the elders were allowed to make a decision they decided to separate into our own local church bodies to decide our future from there.
My location, Mars Hill OC, decided to close down rather than try to keep going. We had lost so many people, and our leaders were burned out.
So yes, Mars Hill is gone. But now there are many churches born from Mars Hill that still worship and proclaim Jesus. And that is a comforting thought.  

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

I was angry with my local elders for closing down Mars Hill OC for a while. But I've come to understand and move towards forgiveness in that.

Please write anything else you'd like to add.

I still miss Mars Hill. It was an amazing community to be a part of. I wish we could have worked through our shit rather than walking away from it. I learned a lot and grew a lot in my time there. I have no regrets about being a member there until the end.

Sam - Ballard, Shoreline 2004-09

Your Name

Sam

Gender

Male

Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

Regular Attender

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?

Ballard, Shoreline

What years were you involved / attending?

2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

A family that was very close friends with my family for most of my life was a large part of Mars Hill from almost the beginning of the church, and they invited us to join. They were soon kicked out of the church because of the father's disagreement with Pastor Mark's leadership, but my family stayed, until almost the end of the church.

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

The family that we were very close to invited my family to come. We came, and my parents were uncertain whether they wanted to stay or not, because they didn't like how big of a church it was. My dad was an elder in the last church we went to, and he and my mom wanted to leave because they weren't happy with the way the pastor was handling the church's money (how ironic).  They ended up deciding to stay, because they liked Pastor Mark's sermons

What were your first impressions?

I was a teenager, and Mars Hill was just so much more exciting than the churches I had attended before. The music especially was great, considering how I always hated Christian rock. Here was creative, enjoyable music that was also Christian without being boring. That, and there were a lot of young, cool people to get to know

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

I was a teenager at the time, and I was also homeschooled, so it was at church that I made the most friends my age. I was very active in the youth group, "Proxy." Even after I "graduated" from Proxy, I volunteered occasionally as a youth leader.

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

I was at Mars Hill during my formative years, so it's hard to discern what was good and what was bad. I'll say this: I've had the best bible study groups in Proxy than anywhere else in my life. We would tackle really difficult theological issues, like the problem is evil, and the nature of God; things that we clearly had no answer to, but we enjoyed discussing none the less.

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

I had a lot of ideas implanted in my head, since I was so young, that I really disagree with now. For example, gender roles: the idea that women shouldn't be leaders, men must be the head of the household, and the patriarch is extremely important; that homosexuality is evil; that anything sexual outside of marriage is sinful and should be fiercely monitored; etc. The biggest thing of all though, is being told that I must always submit to authority, that I can make no decisions without the say-so of people older than me. That really broke me, when I found out that I disagreed with my elders; it was hard to not feel guilty for something I shouldn't have felt guilty for

What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?

Almost everything that had to do with doctrine. If it was a large collective of people who loved Jesus, and loved people, and loved creative music and art, and formed close, constructive relationships with each other, without trying to form everyone into one church, believing in only one doctrine, being led by leaders that think the way one person tells them to think. Mark used to brag about how he wasn't the lead pastor of the church, how he "couldn't even get into the church by himself, because he didn't have the keys." Turns out it wasn't that way at all

Which describes you?

I left Mars Hill prior to closure.

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

At first, I left Mars Hill because I went to college out of town. At that time I grew intellectually, and found I disagreed with almost everything I was taught at Mars Hill. When I came home to Seattle, I found a lot of my closest friends from Mars Hill and Proxy felt the same way. Soon after that, I had a profound experience that made me realize that I was no longer a Christian, and it was the most freeing feeling in my life. I had originally thought I had found salvation and grace at Mars Hill, but I felt it more profoundly after leaving

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

Well, it became a huge community of people who loved each other, and were connected under the belief of a loving Christ, and Mark Driscoll tried to control it for egotistical reasons and with manipulative actions, and it drove people against each other, until it all collapsed.

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

Not a Christian, and happy for it.

Lauren - Ballard, Downtown Seattle, Shoreline 2008-14

Your Name

Lauren

Gender

Female

Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

Regular Attender

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?

Ballard, Downtown Seattle, Shoreline

What years were you involved / attending?

2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

I actually first heard of Mars Hill when the local paper did an article about it and the Driscoll family. It was 1998 and I was in 7th grade. I didn't start attending until I was in college though and didn't become a member until I was married in 2010.

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

I was a high school junior and the churches served as a concert venue. My first sermon was as a high school senior and I went with my older brother. He and his wife were members.

What were your first impressions?

I thought it was great. It was hip, engaging, compelling, and unapologetic. A far cry from the PCUSA church I grew up in.

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

Because it didn't shy away from proclaiming biblical truths. In a city so anti-Christianity it was refreshing to feel empowered by my faith instead of constantly beaten down and criticized for it. MH's focus on community was unlike anything I had ever seen. The intentionality behind it was incredible. Growing up as a Christian in the PNW was not easy, finding a place like MH was a game changer.

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

Honestly, most of it. I have made some incredible lasting relationships with people. I have learned what intentional community looks like. I have learned to be bold, and courageous. I have learned good biblical theology which has left me so much more equipped to share the gospel with others.

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

Mars Hill burst the bubble of naivety i would have liked to keep. I have already learned that Jesus is bigger than the church. I have already experienced the disappointment of failed leadership so in that regard nothing that went down at MH was new to me. It didn't rock my faith or belief in the church. I was already passed that stage in my walk. It did however force me to be more discerning when it comes to who I follow and who I listen to. I can't give a pastor the benefit of the doubt any longer. That sucks. It sucks that people are sinners and it sucks that no one (or profession) is safe from that. Mars Hill left me with scars when it comes to trusting those in biblical leadership over me. I hate that.

What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?

That there had been more transparency. It wasn't like all the members of MH were brain dead lemmings. I honestly had no idea that so much of this crap was going on. If I had (if many of us had) this history of bullying and abuse would never have gone on so long. Transparency leads
To accountability. Which MH clearly didn't have.

Which describes you?

I left Mars Hill prior to closure.

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

It was awful. I felt stranded and disconnected in a way I hadn't felt since we joined MH. Looking for a new church was one of the hardest years of my adult life. It all felt so unnecessary. Like this all could have been avoided.

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

That it was a lot less juicy and exciting than it looked from the outside. The pastoral calling is a high one, it leaves a lot of room to fall. Mark Driscoll fell and he fell hard. Mars Hill was a church whose leader failed. He failed to lead, he failed to love, he failed to repent. That's what happened. Any further detail is gossip to an outsider because the details don't matter. There are a myriad of sins that could have disqualified MD from being a pastor. The specific ones he committed were immaterial to the outcome.

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

Not much. We found a new church, had another baby, we moved on with our life. We still love Jesus and we are still in Christian community. My faith and life were and are much bigger than Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill. This wasn't the first ministry I watched fail due to corruption and it may not be the last. We move on and stop dwelling on the sins of someone else. We remember and cling to the truth that Jesus is bigger than all this which is why we put our trust in him and not man.

Please write anything else you'd like to add.

I still pray that the heart of Mark Driscoll be softened. We are all called to repentance and it sucks to watch a brother in the faith sit in stubbornness. I will not hold my breath but reconciliation would be wonderful.

Sonja - Ballard 1996-2011


Your Name

Sonja

Gender

Female

Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

Member, Group Leader (any leadership role)

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?

Ballard

What years were you involved / attending?

1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

Really don't remember.  I'm a 5 point Calvinist and I think, just maybe, MHC was already in TGC.

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

Left a previous church -- a Calvary Chapel and not my soteriology.

What were your first impressions?

Loved it.  Was embraced and welcomed.

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

I honestly didn't care for the teaching.  It wasn't expository as advertised, but really connected with the other attendees.

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

My gifts were valued and used.  I was challenged out of my comfort zone and by grace I grew in faith.  Not only was I impacted positively, I believe I had the opportunity to impact others positively.  Not through community groups but by deacons on staff.  They all left long before I did.

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

Mark's building his own tower of Babel.  

What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?

Having a teaching pastor that was not syncretic.  Driscoll never seemed to get beyond his RCC upbringing.  Not only that -- he wanted an empire and to be a dictator.

Which describes you?

I left Mars Hill prior to closure.

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

Mark Driscoll once said he never wanted anyone at MCH to defend him.  That changed, or he simply stopped lying.  He wanted himself defended.  It was never "all about Jesus" -- that was a fraud, it always was about Mark.  He has a very low view of God and His holy standard.

Good friends defend him to this day -- not only defend him, but have elevated a fallen man to their own little god.  It was encouraged when I left.     

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

NI don't believe it was closed to outsiders since it was all about numbers. Things changed a lot whereby back in the day, people were interviewed as to their salvation (that's vague, sorry).  Then no one cared if a new professing Christian had a clue who He is and what He did.  That I know as a fact, having "interviewed" people who wanted to be baptised.  If they breathed, they were ready to "confess" Christ.  Not a clue.

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

Great question!  I was brought to a deep repentance along with shame over having been so deceived.  God is SO good!  Matt. 24:24 came alive for me:

"For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect."

IF POSSIBLE ... even the elect.  It's not possible.  He brought me out of Babylon and away from people I trusted who wanted to bring destruction to me.  I pray for them.  If I heard one more person say "Mark has saved so many".  Oh please.

Please write anything else you'd like to add.

Good questions.  I'm over it.  I grew a lot, not because of Driscoll but in spite of him and grateful for that.  The wonderful people who were on staff at Ballard truly love Jesus and HIs Word.  I grew because of them.  When they left, I stopped growing and was offended by Driscoll's blaspheming His Word and elevating himself.  

I ignored this for 2 years, but Phil brought me out.

http://www.gty.org/Resources/Articles/A362

Thanks for the opportunity to give voice.  Driscoll is a dangerous man.  He bends like a reed in the wind, wanting to apologize to Osteen (who hasn't a clue who he is) but disdains those who destroyed.  He's reinventing himself and so few listen in this new arena.  Nor do they want to listen.  They believe he's God's anointed and so do people from MH.  :(

H.E.M. - Ballard 2000-06

Your Name

H.E.M.

Gender

Female

Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

Regular Attender

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?

Ballard

What years were you involved / attending?

2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

I heard about Mars Hill from my friends and also looked it up online before the first time I went.

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

My friends brought me.

What were your first impressions?

I really liked that it was in Ballard, and that it was in a different kind of building. I knew a lot of the people I went to church with. At that time it was not as big and there were not as many services - so it still felt small and nice.

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

Because that is where I first heard real, godly teaching about who Jesus is and the gospel.

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

I grew as a Christian, got into God's word, had a place to serve, and learn about church ministry and how to reach others for God in my city.

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

Later, when they opened a second campus, I did not like that. A couple of my friends started going to that campus and that was a bummer. More and more the sermons would be on a big screen and not a pastor preaching to us live. It felt weird and pre-recorded. The church added so many services that it started to feel mega-churchy. I still liked serving, but I did not understand why we had to have a campus instead of just planting a new church over there. Then MORE campuses started and more friends moved to other campuses so we were not going to the church all together anymore or serving together.

What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?

I would have liked to just have the Ballard campus be Mars Hill and the other campuses be new church plants. I would have liked to stay smaller or at least added different pastors to preaching the evening services and other services instead of the pre-recorded sermons.

Which describes you?

I left Mars Hill prior to closure.

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

I left Mars Hill because I got married and we moved 4 hours away where my husband became a pastor! :-)

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

My friends and family continue to go to the church (Ballard) that is there now in place of Mars Hill. We all really do not understand the closure. I do not know why it had to come to an end. It was always my home church, and whenever we have a weekend off we would come home to Mars Hill to worship and learn about God with our friends and family, and now it is not there and we do not know really and truly why.

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

Beliefs, church, convictions are all the same, but even more so now I am opposed to churches splitting off into campuses, and would voice my opinion more strongly if my church wanted to do that. I would say to that church, no, we should plant churches with a pastor for that church, no big screens and campuses.

Please write anything else you'd like to add.

The small groups were a great part of Mars Hill Ballard. We enjoyed our small group leaders but they were often hired and then laid off and then hired again and laid off or fired, with very little reason given from the management of MH Ballard. It was very stressful to them and their families, as they would have to find a job and then quit the job and then find one again. It did not seem that MH provided a stable employment for these people who wanted to be Pastors at the church and do full time ministry.

Member - Ballard, Lake City, Shoreline 2001-09

Gender

Female

Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

Member

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?

Ballard, Lake City / Wedgewood, Shoreline

What years were you involved / attending?

2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

My parents had friends from their old church who started attending MH in about 2001, and those friends invited my parents.

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

I was nine years old, and the service was in the previous Ballard building up on Earl Ave NW.

What were your first impressions?

Being nine years old, I'm sure the first thing I noticed was that there was no children's church. I sat in the sanctuary like everyone else, and was one of the very few kids above the age of 6.

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

I think my parents were drawn to MH for much of the same reasons anyone else was -- charismatic preaching, a big emphasis on "community," sermons preached from the Bible.

It was my home because it was my family's church, and I was too young to have a well-formed opinion.

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

I think it has really finely-tuned my bullshit meter when it comes to what public figures say vs. what actually happens.

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

I do not trust American evangelical Protestantism at all, particularly when certain people (regardless of gender or theological bent) are seen as leaders or definitive voices. I am openly critical of any church that employs graphic designers to advertise church functions, regardless of how nice it looks. I absolutely cannot abide any organization run exclusively by men. I have very little motivation or interest in participating in a church at all.

What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?

I just wish we had never gone.

Which describes you?

I left Mars Hill prior to closure.

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

Thankfully, when I was 17 I left for college and did not have to return. I had zero emotional attachments to the church, just memories of exclusion, fear, disappointment, and rejection. The one friend I had, a mentor who I spoke with often and who I truly loved and respected, eventually completely stopped talking to me and we have not contacted each other in almost three years.

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

People genuinely believed that God could be threatened by questions.

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

I am openly gay and not ashamed about being mentally ill, for starters, both things that would have 100% been Big Sins at MH. I haven't heard the phrase "but have you given it all to Jesus?" lately and I'm thankful for that. I attend a non-evangelical church now that makes me feel loved just the way that I am.