It’s All About Mark Driscoll: The Tragedy of Mars Hill Church

Occasionally, Mark Driscoll would make a comment from the stage on a given Sunday that I recall.  He would say (my paraphrase), “if I had to do this all over again, I would have called this church- Jesus’ Church”.  As largely irrelevant history would unfold, the church was named Mars Hill and now is infamous, not only in the Christian community but a little bit beyond that, for being controversial (and that is putting it nicely).  Not only is Driscoll’s comment ironic, it is tragic.

Leaving Mars Hill Church in the beginning part of 2011, my attendance lasted a little over two years.  A low level volunteer, I led a community group (a Bible study) group during that time.  Without a doubt, I encountered a lot of really great people.  Many of these people are still friends of mine to this day and I was plugged into a solid community after I moved from the eastern part of Washington state to Seattle.

I have hesitated to write or comment much on Mars Hill since my departure.  I realize now that this was a mistake.  Talking bad about other churches, ministries or pastors is not something that I want to do frequently.  Occasionally, I crack jokes about Joel Osteen’s hokey books and spineless theology.  I point out how much of a charlatan Benny Hinn and his counterparts are.  There are churches who have radically departed from the few core essentials of Christianity and to them, I should ask penetrating questions.  Finally, I (and really we) should be involved in questioning, doubting and even criticizing the contemporary version of American church which treats the ministry as an ever expanding corporation where numerical growth is the primary, ultimate consideration.  One of the major reasons I left in 2011 was the latter consideration.  I did not think that running a church akin to a corporation where a figurehead, Christian celebrity pastor becomes a “brand” (allegedly Driscoll’s own words, by the way) was healthy to the gospel.

There are wonderful people working at Mars Hill.  There are pastors who really care about people and love Jesus.  Caring people, that I still know, work as editors and writers for blog sites run by the church.  Good hearted volunteers pour time and effort into the carrying out of the organization’s mission.  My criticism is not directed at them in any way.  Instead, I reserve my personal rebuke to the very senior leadership up to and including Mark Driscoll.

Mark Driscoll (and other senior leadership including executive pastors Sutton Turner) have been at the center of multiple scandals for the past 5 months.  I will aggregate these scandals below:

-Driscoll shows up uninvited to John MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” conference.  He starts handing out and signing copies of his latest book.  Security asks him not to do that.  He states (on video) that they can have his books as a gift.  Later, he tweets, “Security confiscated my books. #strangefire” (http://www.christianpost.com/news/mark-driscolls-books-confiscated-at-strange-fire-conference-video-shows-mars-hill-church-pastor-offering-resurgence-copies-as-gift-107230/)

-Prior to the now infamous Janet Mefferd radio interview on November 21, 2013:  there were bloggers (such as Wenatchee the Hatchet) who were comparing passages of Driscoll’s books to other authors and/or commentaries.  Mefferd broke the plagiarism scandal to the larger press.  (http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/11/flunking-mark-driscoll-for-plagiarism/)

-Driscoll and Mars Hill church pay at least $210,000 in a marketing contract to ResultSource, Inc in order to conduct a bestseller campaign for the book written by him and his wife, Grace Driscoll.  The money to pay the marketing firm came from tithe money within the church.  The tactics that ResultSource uses are deceptive to the controls in place by the New York Times Bestseller list.  (http://www.worldmag.com/2014/03/unreal_sales_for_driscoll_s_real_marriage)

Beyond these scandals, which merit very serious consideration, are the testimonies of former pastors, elders, leaders, and laypeople being hurt by leadership in Mars Hill Church.  The various blogs and public outcries that have risen to the surface the last few years are not the efforts of a few people looking to merely throw stones.  They are a chorus of voices, many of them coming to terms with experiencing a sort of spiritual abuse and emotional abuse (generally, through manipulating their commitment to the Christian faith in order to follow a pastoral figurehead leader who demands their absolute allegiance).

One can find some of the testimonies and stories in these places:

Former Pastor Dave Kraft – http://davekraft.squarespace.com/posts/2014/3/21/dave-kraft-mars-hill-church-and-mark-driscoll.html

Former Pastor Kyle Firstenberg – http://sinrepentancegraceforgiveness.blogspot.com/

Former Pastor Paul Petry (fired in 2007 with Bent Meyer over their objections to the new bylaws) – http://joyfulexiles.com

Bryan Zug- http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2014/03/20/more-mars-hill-church-grievances-former-member-calls-for-evacuation/

Jen Zug – http://www.thispile.com/archives/four-myths-regarding-the-current-public-discussion-of-mars-hill

Wendy Alsup – http://www.theologyforwomen.org/2014/03/the-line-at-mars-hills-communion-table.html

Unreformed – http://twocleareyes.blogspot.com/2014/03/driscoll-issues-supposed-apology-on.html

Former Worship leader Luke Abrams- http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2014/03/25/former-mars-hill-church-worship-leader-luke-abrams-to-current-members-vote-with-your-numbers-and-noses/

Former Mars Hill Member Jessica Abrams-http://jessicapades.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/on-this-womens-day/

Jeff Bettger- http://www.locustnhoney.com/?p=1201

Blogger Matthew Paul Turner on the Andrew Lamb situation- http://matthewpaulturner.com/2012/01/24/jesus-needs-new-prmark-driscolls-church-discipline-contract-looking-for-true-repentance-at-mars-hill-church-sign-on-the-dotted-line/

Wenatchee the Hatchet- http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2014/03/mark-driscoll-on-ordinary-demonic-not.html

The most compelling testimony about the tragedy that Mars Hill Church has become is from the people who have been deeply hurt, staff that has been fired/laid off/or forced to resign.  What seems clear is that all of these allegations and the scandals lead to a big general conclusion:  the senior leadership at Mars Hill, including Driscoll and Sutton Turner, have built an organization that is a far cry from being about the gospel.

Mars Hill exudes a culture of intimidation, striking fear in both employees and members who attend, and manipulating people’s genuine faiths for the exorbitant gain of the top officials.  People saying that Mars Hill is not a healthy church are not saying enough. Mars Hill is a destructive church and for all the talk on legacy, this is the work of the very senior leaders at the expense of the staff that are or have worked for the church.

Let me be clear about my own situation.  I was never hurt by any pastor or leader at Mars Hill.  I left on my own accord and because of my conscience based on the issues I mentioned previously.  However, I have many friends that have been hurt and are facing (or have faced) extreme hardship as a direct result of the culture the executive pastors have created.  By writing this, in my own way, I’m saying enough by whatever measure I can.

When we look at the Biblical qualifications for being an elder, there are pretty clear principles laid out for Christian shepherds.  The vital question raised by these principles (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) is how they line up with the current senior leadership of Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll and Sutton Turner.  My friend came up with this scale of the qualities and applied them to the allegations against Driscoll supported by overwhelming testimony and evidence:

As many have stated, no leader is perfect and no leader is without sin.  My contention is that Driscoll  has engaged in systemic patterns of abuse of staff, established a culture that has been hostile to members/attendees, participated in scandals to inflate his book sales based on dishonest tactics, has stolen intellectual property from other authors without proper citation, and potentially illegally used 501c3 funds (from his own church) to market his book (“Real Marriage”) which is owned by an LLC.  As a result, he should be disqualified from Christian leadership and ministry.  There is no excuse for why things like the above should happen (some of which over a course of years) at a church.

The sad endgame is that the foundation of the gospel has been removed.  It is not all about Jesus but about someone else who desires his own personal gain beyond the very core things that matter.  This is the tragedy.

-Dave

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About dangeroushope

Striving to follow Christ, love people and learn more about the world.
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7 Responses to It’s All About Mark Driscoll: The Tragedy of Mars Hill Church

  1. Reblogged this on mutteringheart and commented:
    Because of the unbiblical counsel of these leaders of MHC the hurt they have done goes further than the staff or leaders. It extends to those of us who are so jaded by the corruption of leaders such as MD and his followers. They purposely hurt others and then say with their lips forgive me,but, their hearts are far from God. Woe to them and theirs. For we have been run over by that bus and it is carrying our daughter on the road to hell. May God have mercy on her soul for trusting and listening to these men thinking she needs to come under “pastoral authority” when her pastors are just part of the good ‘ol boys club to wealth by “using” my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    Spiritually growing ~ mutteringheart

    • Diana Antoniello says:

      We have been run over by that bus, too, because our son is fully entrenched at Mars Hill. His community group runs his life now. He has turned his back on us and basically rejected us from his life.

      • Maybe we as mothers should come together and start a group like MADD. Just call us MAMs. Mothers Against Mars Hill.

        Sorry for your sorrow in this time of cruel behavior. It took me years to finally be at peace. It is like a death has occurred, yet, you know that body is walking around.

  2. ephraiyim says:

    Unfortunately the chances of Mark Driscoll, or any other abusive church leader for that matter, stepping down or even being asked to leave is unlikely. The boards of these churches are just as involved in the sin as the pastors.
    They are not going to get rid of the money cow. Sorry but few people in leadership can see past the dollar signs. “how much will this effect attendance/tithes and offerings” is usually foremost on their mind. Not is this person an example of godliness and humility-servants heart.
    Unless some really bad eg. sexual, sin were to be exposed these types of pastors will continue. But look at the history of the church. Leaders throughout the past 2 millinea have abused their power and the people. Daddy has a plan. Most of the church leadership today will find themselves on the bench, at best, and out of the game entirely in many cases.
    There is an endtime move of the Spirit of YHVH and it will not be church as usual. It is gonna come from the streets not the church. Some churches will get on board with what God is doing, most will not.

  3. jmillie says:

    ” However, I have many friends that have been hurt and are facing …”

    To concur with MutteringHeart…. what about all the families, parents/mothers, siblings that have become estranged from their beloved family members and/or adult children? The control and destruction that Mars Hill serves up daily is not only within Seattle boundaries, but spread out across this country and perhaps to Europe as well. For you see as noted above, MH and MD and company fully engage our adult children to believe that we are doomed people, that we are headed to hell, we are not good, we are not worthy of being their parent and we sure as heck are not going to see grandchildren – at all, ever, never. I have been told this for over 5 years now and it has caused me to incur many health problems. We who lovingly and with much devotion raised our children who now despise us, mistreat us, yell at us, acuse us of things we have not done, nor said, prostelytize to us, tell us how we must live our lives, and yes, hold the threat and control that we will never see grandchildren.The hatred of a child who once loved you is unbearable but must be dealth with. We know he is in a bad place, that he is a follower, and he is easily persuaded by others and deep down, I pray that he still loves his family and I do believe that it is still there, buried because it is expected of him.

    We must be aware now of our own family members at home. Our other children, aunts/uncles/cousins, grandparents are hurting as well. Let us also not forget our financial inheritances,, and take measure to protect them from the coffers of MH. Do we want to leave our other childrens’ inheritances to Mark? We must also love all the more those other members of our family for they are hurting as well. They have lost a brother, a cousin, an aunt, a grandparent, friends…. and cannot make it change either. In order to survive this vast heartbreak, we need to reinvent our own family and find other’s that we can love and simply pray and hope that our child will someday see the truth.. and then get the help at reestablishing whom they are … it is a long road ahead and for some of us,, we might not see the end in our lifetime.

    So much for Mark’s sharing Christ across the world – “world domination” I believe is what he said at one venue. Let’s do our best to gather up families that have lost an adult child to this controlling man and his building top of the hill.. let’s unite and be heard.

  4. Pingback: Christian’s petitioning for Hillsong to remove the disgraced Mark Driscoll from their Conferences | Hillsong Church Watch

  5. Pingback: Christian’s petitioning for Hillsong to remove the disgraced Mark Driscoll from their Conferences | churchwatch central

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