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These are stories by people who once went to Mars Hill Church. People are often hurt from their experience at the church and we hope to provide a platform for healing and change.

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Nathan V - An Open Letter To Pastor Mark

Online, 2010-Present

Pastor Mark,

I have been listening to your podcasts since 2010. I came to a saving faith in Jesus purely by listening to your sermons online. The cornerstones of my faith, and the most vivid mental images I have of scripture, come from your sermons. I have moved around a few times in the last few years, and only recently become part of a local church. I know you always encourage podcasters to tap into a local church, but when that was not possible, you were the closest thing I had to a pastor. And truly, you have been a spiritual father to me.

I had the benefit of finding Mars Hill long before I knew what a celebrity pastor was. I listened to the whole Luke series unaware of what Mars Hill was in terms of scope. Your description of the eyewitnesses, Luke being a doctor, and Theophilus’ commission of the Luke/Acts, was what my analytical brain needed to cross from skepticism to faith.

The first sermon in the Ephesians series was the single most life changing sermon I have ever heard. I shared that series with my brother, who was saved as I was, by simply hearing you preach.

I have often feared the day that some sort of scandal would come out about you and it would trigger all the underlying doubts and fears that I have always had about Christianity and religion in general. I acknowledge that it is my own fault for placing you on a pedestal that only Jesus could have lived up to. I have swept a lot of the smaller things in the past under the rug, but I regret to say that this latest forum posting from 2000 has come as a tipping point.

I say tipping point, because I see this as an amazing opportunity for you. I know you don’t want to use the pulpit to address personal matters, but its becoming increasingly hard to process your content without addressing matters like this head on. I pray that you use this as an opportunity to publicly demonstrate that you, like all of us, are a sinner in need of grace on a daily basis. Hearing you publicly accept full responsibility for that forum post, the plagiarism issue, etc. would be your most powerful sermon yet. When I watched the ‘apology’ video, you looked so tired and broken down. The burden is getting too heavy. Give it to Jesus. You don’t need Mars Hill, your book sales, your social media followers, the multiple campuses, the conferences, the podcasts, the speaking engagements. Those don’t define you. It’s okay to take a rest in Jesus. It’s clear that being a man’s man is very important to you, but in the eyes of God you are one of his children. Use this opportunity to demonstrate what it means for a man to humbly submit and repent to God.

When non-Christians think of the church, they so often think of scandal. Somehow the message that church people are supposed to be perfect is still out there. When Christian leaders get into hot water, they dodge the issue, make excuses, place the blame elsewhere. Exactly what non-Christians do. Again I will say, that this is such an amazing opportunity for you to show the church, the critics, the skeptics, the unbelievers, that a Christian man is not afraid to say that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

Mark, you are an amazing Bible teacher that has brought unknown numbers of people to Jesus. Your crown already has many jewels. You are my spiritual father. Many years from now I hope you will look back on this as one of the most pivotal turning points that led to a new golden age of preaching and teaching, and most importantly, modeling the Christian life, for you.

Best,
Nathan

Joey Furlan

I had a good cry about Mars Hill and Mark yesterday morning. Something about that first hint of Fall—the season my wife first introduced me to this amazing little church meeting on Earl St. The cool of the morning. The sharp sun blazing up over the mountains. So much has happened in the decade since then.

My heart ached. Now that justice and reform look to be on the horizon, I’m feeling the pain of a dream disintegrating. Like so many, I’ve largely held back since leaving in 2012. I have prayed for Mark and the church occasionally as stories would pop up, and as one friend after another left. I’ve been hoping that the proclamations of repentance and change are true. Hoping that the brilliant young preacher that is Mark Driscoll would mature into a Keller. Maybe even a Billy Graham one day—that he would add compassion and kindness to the power and strength. I’ve been hoping that one day even the split of 2007 would be repented of, healed and moved on from. In recent months that hope has dwindled to just a breath—just a whisper.

I pray Mark steps down on Sunday. That he moves into a quiet season of feeling God’s love for him—of really coming to know how precious he (little Mark Driscoll) is in the eyes of his creator. Not for what he’s done or will do—just because Jesus made that little image bearer just like he made all of us—with love, joy, purpose and longing. I hope he drops that backpack of bricks—the shame. The sense of not being enough. The fear and the anger that has so often driven him off the road. The trappings of power—all the carrots and sticks.

I pray that Mark finds healing. A season of quiet remaking. A season of repentance and renewal.

I cried for the dream yesterday. What Mars Hill represented in those heady days was the closest thing I had ever felt to the amazing family I grew up in. The family that sort of blew to the four winds when my father passed away in 2000. I’ll always cherish those hangouts after church. That sense of being a part of a movement. Something amazing with leaders I could look up to. Men who inspired me to leave my narcissistic life of porn, MTV and stale secular trinkets. Men who inspired me to dream for something so much bigger.

I met Jesus in those early months—though of course he’d been pursuing me my whole life. Mark Driscoll made the introduction. Week after week I’d scoff at the sermon notes, and week after week I’d keep coming back—curious, cocky, and hoping deep-down inside that I could really come to believe. When I was baptized the following February, I was all in. It was death to life. A before-and-after experience that defined my life. I was a part of something good, true and beautiful. That’s how it felt.

There was this sense of movement. Of purpose. Of a world that could be changed for the better.

I’m sad for what it all became. I’m sadder for what it could have been—though part of me holds on to the hope that, by God’s grace, it could still one day be. For now, it seems to be just another failed experiment. Another Tower of Babel. It’s taught me things about life—the whole rise and fall of the enterprise. It’s taught me the value of really listening when older men stand up in the face of power and say, like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings,  ”You shall not pass!”

Mars Hill Church is an amazing illustration of how a brilliant revolutionary can lead people in a movement that slips into an oligarchy, and then a dictatorship. Civil unrest grows quietly into a full-on revolution with a military coup. When the military (which, in this analogy stands for the elders) finally steps up to strip the leader and his cronies of power, they work to establish a new system—something I hope to see happen at Mars Hill in the coming weeks.

I find myself so thankful that, unlike so many around the world, the little country of Mars Hill that I became a citizen of had no guns, no torture chambers and no prisons in which to throw those who oppose the regime. It’s really made me take a hard look at myself. To wonder what I would have done if I had been born into a world where Mark had a military force at his disposal and people began to disappear quietly.

I remember the wonderful sermon series Mark did on the book of Ecclesiastes. I remember, in particular, the metaphor he used about life being a can of peaches. He said that faith in Christ and the bible were the can opener that allows you to get to the delicious fruit inside. I remember the honor of courtship that Mark  taught through the book of Ruth. I remember the music. The laughter. The hope. The community.

Lastly, I remember a cold day in March 2011 when my wife lay fighting through her third month of a slow road to heaven. I remember Grace and the kids showing up with cookies. And one week later, Mark and Grace coming to be with us—just the two of them. After prayer around the bed where my wife rested, Grace spent an hour sitting quietly with her—reading scripture and praying while Mark sat with me in my studio. He asked questions, empathized, encouraged, and spoke words of hope and truth to me. Just a regular human being with a heart.

I never experienced, first hand, the horrible Mark so many friends of mine have experienced. Even so, my years of denial and defense are done. I hope Mark will step down this Sunday and begin a new life. I hope Mars Hill will find a new way, because it’s a place where much good has happened and where Christ has been made much of in spite of all the mess. I still love Jesus with all my heart. That part has stuck. All that was true about what Mark taught is still in my blood. My faith has not been shaken through all this, and I thank God for that.

I love Mark. I love his family, and I love all who are struggling through this. I’m praying for a miracle—for grace, beauty and truth to succeed in creating something unimaginably powerful and good. Right here. Right now.

As we watch the death, I want to remember the life.

Lief Moi - Thoughts on Driscoll’s Announcement

Lief Moi, along with Mark Driscoll and Mike Gunn, were the founding pastors of Mars Hill.  Lief Moi has previously confessed his sins to Mars Hill at RepentantPastor.com.  What follows are his personal thoughts on Mark Driscoll’s most recent statement on the latest charges against him.

Almost two years ago I began my treatment program for alcoholism. I was charged with a DUI and the court ordered that I attend treatment for 2 years. At first I was just angry and blamed everyone else but me for the level of my drinking and therefore was unable to see how deep into the abyss I had fallen. 

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Karen Schaeffer — A Letter to Mark Driscoll

For those of you who do not know me, I was Mark Driscoll’s Exec. Assistant from 2002-2003 and my husband, Greg, and I were close personal friends of Mark and Grace Driscoll from 1999-2003. Today, I have decided to release the letter that I sent to Mark, privately, at the beginning of April, for the following reasons:

1)     There has been much “spin” out of MH about Mark’s ungodly behavior being a thing of the past. That has now been refuted by the document written by the 21 Elders and many stories that illustrate more recent cases of abuse and misuse of authority, including some posted at this site. The point I want to emphasize, however, is this: The “root” of Mark’s behavior has never been eradicated and it has been evident from the beginning of the rise of MH, when I was Mark’s assistant.

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Jen Zug - The Story of How Mars Hill Church Broke Up With Me

I love Mars Hill.

I began attending in my late 20′s, way back in the 90′s. I served alongside Mark Driscoll for many years as a volunteer, and eventually became his assistant. It was an exciting time for all of us. As a team, we put the first .mp3′s on the Mars Hill web site, the foundation for today’s podcasts that reach so many people around the world. We restructured the website in an era before “content marketing” was a thing, putting fresh content on the homepage every Tuesday. We wrote our own music and arrangements because we believed that we were sub-creators of God, our ultimate Creator.

Mark Driscoll mentored me alongside other young men and women who served at the time, and my life is better because of how he connected a theoretical gospel to my real, practical, every day life.

Prior to my time at MH I wasn’t doing anything meaningful with my life, nor did I have a plan or a vision for finding something meaningful to do. I’m thankful for the push MH gave me to try my hand at ministry – to fail, to try again, and to iterate through to what I eventually understood was my calling, which is to mentor, write, and facilitate conversations that help connect disparate groups of people.

We used to read books like The Celtic Way of Evangelism and Resident Aliens. These are books about living in and loving the culture, about influencing the culture with the Gospel rather than separating ourselves from the culture and building walls that defined us vs. them. 

As a young woman who grew up feeling disconnected in an evangelical churchy church, these books and the mission of Mars Hill helped me realize I wasn’t called to service within the church, but to the marketplace and to the culture. I was meant to live among, work along side, and socialize with the people around me in this city. 

As the years went on, I became troubled by cultural lines drawn in the sand regarding yoga, teen vampire books, Obama, and the characterization of a “Richard Simmons hippy queer Christ.”

Read the rest at Jen’s blog

21 Former Elders Bring Charges Against Mark Driscoll

Today, recent documents of formal charges against Pastor Mark Driscoll from 21 former elders have come to light. We personally have known many and most of these men for years. They are like us. People God brought to Mars Hill, who were eventually called to leave. In taking this action, they’ve honored their conscience and calling, and we have as much respect for them now as we always have.

"We love the people of Mars Hill Church, and we are grateful for how Pastor Mark’s ministry has impacted our lives in positive ways. He has taught us sound doctrine. Many of us have been connected relationally to Mark and his family, and they have regularly been hospitable, and generous. Yet we believe that Mark has also impacted us, the church, and the watching and listening world with a pattern of harmful ways. We feel responsible to submit these charges for the sake of the gospel, our own consciences and the future well-being of Mars Hill Church. In addition, we believe that Mars Hill Church, and each and every Christian church worldwide, belongs to Jesus, not to any one leader, or group of leaders. The reputation of Jesus in our communities and around the world, and the noble office of elder is to be upheld and respected, no matter how gifted the leader."

Full document: http://buff.ly/1ljE4xS

Ron Wheeler

You were once one of my closest friends.

You were once my trusted mentor and benefactor.

You were once someone who preached the Gospel with a fierce and captivating passion and purity.

You were the one who inspired me to be a preacher… a church planter.

Read Ron Wheeler’s story

Zane Sporleder

A window into my thoughts on Mars Hill

My family left Mars Hill a few months ago, it was a hard decision but I believe the right one. If I’m honest, I think about Mars Hill a lot. Mars hill meant so much to me and it has not been easily moved on from. When I think of MH it usually goes to four different places. Praise, repentance, grief, and assurance. I will share my thoughts on these with you then give you my prayers for MH and for us all. This is not my story of why we left, this is a window into where I am at and what consumes my thoughts on the issues at hand.

Evidences of God’s grace

A major thing that stands out to me about my time at MH, is the incredible amount of Gods grace toward me in my time there. I love MH for so many reasons and was blessed by God by it for many years. I want to take some time to simply list dozens of ways my life has been changed for the better by my time at MH.

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Amanda Stewart

Ballard 2003-2008

Bellevue 2008-2009

I was raised in the church.  As a child I fell asleep on narrow pews. I ate graham crackers and drank Tang in Sunday school.  I knew all the hand-motions to every peppy evangelical song ever sung at Bible camp.  I had a good childhood, but like most teenagers who endured youth group I was ready to leave the church behind as I moved away to college. Christianity felt intellectually bankrupt and culturally irrelevant.  Then one Sunday on a providential whim, I attended a little church in Ballard and for the first time in my life I heard the Bible preached exegetically.  Verse by verse.  Book by book.  And the Word came alive to me.

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Philip C

2005-2013

Ballard, Portland

My wife and I have been processing our time at Mars Hill Church.  We have been praying and seeking wisdom and seeking the Lord’s will.  I believe at this time it’s appropriate to share our story with you.

Part 1  Early Mars Hill

My wife and I started going to Mars Hill Ballard in 2005.  During that time we liked what we saw.  We were plugged into a CG (community group) and had real fellowship and grew in love and good works toward one another and towards non-Christians.  We liked how Mars Hill challenged Christian Culture and encouraged us to be people of the community, to get involved in the lives of our co-workers and our neighbors as a way to love them and share the good news that Jesus came to save.  We came from a church that loved God and the Bible but there always seemed to be pressure to do more and more church activities and meetings instead of reach your neighborhood and get involved in your city.  It was refreshing to go to a church that encouraged people to hang out with your neighbors and love your city.  We loved that Jesus was preached all the time and the gospel was made a central focus in the messages.

Part 2  Portland Campus

In 2007 we moved to Oregon, just before the elder firings and changes to the by-laws so we didn’t hear what was going on with the church.  Then, in 2010 we heard MH was planting a church in Portland.  We were excited!  We joined a CG in Portland several months before the plant and started getting to know people.

Before the Portland church officially started there was an info meeting and someone asked Pastor Tim how often he would be preaching.  We were told that he would preach about a third of the time and Driscoll’s recorded sermon would be on the rest of the time.  I didn’t want to attend a church where they just projected recorded sermons week after week, it would seem remote and impersonal and not necessarily a place to bring my non-Christian friends.  But if Tim was preaching a third of the time, I could work with that.  Well, that didn’t happen.  Out of the two and a half years we were at MH Portland I only heard Tim preach three times and once was when Driscoll’s video didn’t work and another time during a men’s early morning meeting.  Ironically, Tim had made fun of the previous church who owned the building because they met every week and just watched old videos of their televangelist pastor.

Part 3  Sexual Felony

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