Christine Carter

To tell this part of my story is very difficult for me. While I’m pretty open to talk about other aspects of my story this part I have not shared publicly, though asked many times to do so. To me my experience at Mars Hill is small and insignificant. I don’t really understand why so many have asked to hear it. When Nicholas (my first husband) disappeared in February 2008 the story was covered by a great number of local and national media (if you don’t know the story hang tight I’ll explain in a moment). Every single news outlet wanted to know why just two days before his disappearance we resigned our membership at Mars Hill Church to which we had been faithful and serving members for nine years. To be honest I didn’t see what the big deal was to the media that we had resigned from our church. I became frustrated and confused and just wanted the help to find my husband and felt that talking about Mars Hill would shift the focus of the search for Nicholas onto the mess currently going on at Mars Hill.

In February 1999 I was attending The Art Institute of Seattle and had just met the man that I would marry. A week after we started courting Nicholas and I began attending Mars Hill Church, which was congregating just a few blocks from my apartment in Seattle at the First Presbyterian Church. We were immediately drawn into the unique atmosphere and excited to finally be hearing a pastor preach that was not afraid to dig deep and dive into the hard scriptures that many pastors wouldn’t dare preach on a Sunday morning. I was raised Conservative Baptist and Nicholas was brought up in the Catholic Church. Needless to say Nicholas and I had many discussions about religion and God and often we did not agree but that is a different story for another time.

Nicholas and I grew in many ways at Mars Hill. We were baptized by Mark Driscoll, attended weekly pre-marriage classes in Mark’s home, and then Mark officiated our wedding in January 2001 (at that time I was led to believe that Nicholas and I had come to agree on the theological and doctrinal issues we once disagreed on). We spent nine years at Mars Hill and in that time we served in different ways, we were faithful tithers, we attended community group regularly and all seemed well and good. I loved our church deeply and the people in it. Looking back on those nine years I see so much damage that was done to Nicholas, myself and many others by those in leadership at Mars Hill. It all happened like a slow drip of poison into our veins. Just a little at a time. It’s hard to notice when it’s happening slowly and over an extended period of time.

I thought I knew what abuse was as I lived in a home with an abusive father for the first twelve years of my life. I experienced a wide spectrum of abuse and thought that I could see it coming. I did not see what was happening at Mars Hill as abuse. I took what I was being fed and foolishly believed it because it was disguised so well with scripture. I believed what was preached numerous times over the years about how a woman should look, so much to the extent that I thought I was being a good wife by starving myself so that I’d be pleasing for my husband to look at almost to the point of my death just after the birth of my second child. I believed the elders that told me that I was not trusting my husband enough (I believe it was in the beginning of 2007) when I went to them, scared, and told them how I felt my husband didn’t love me and that I feared and suspected that he was cheating on me for quite some time. I’ll never forget sitting in that counseling session and explaining how I felt and having the elder look over at Nicholas and ask, “Do you love Christine?” and when Nicholas responded with a simple and cold, “yes”, the elder was satisfied and told me that I needed to trust my husband and that I was the one that needed to change. I’m not a perfect wife and never claimed to be but what was said to me and how it was said was not okay. When that elder then asked Nicholas if he was cheating on me and Nicholas responded by looking me in the eye with a heartfelt, “no” the elder then repeated to me that I need to trust my husband and let go of my past wounds. You see I was told that because of my childhood I was holding onto distrust and that I had a good husband and I needed to fix myself up and be more available. So I did just that. What I understood them saying was that all of what I was feeling was my fault and I needed to suck it up and figure it out. This was all too familiar and I just swallowed it ignoring the many alarms going off inside of me. There is much more to what I have just spoken of and I have left out other incidences, many details, too many for this time.

Fast forward to the fall of 2007 and Pastor Paul Petry and Pastor Bent Meyer had just been fired. You can read about this at  . These were the last two men I ever thought would be fired. Like many others this raised my eyebrows and caused me to start seeking answers. I did not like what I was finding. I read the new bylaws over and over and so much didn’t sound right. I found myself confused. These men that are our pastors they are not suppose to lie to us they are suppose to lead us in a gospel-centered direction. I was supposed to be able to trust the pastors in my church. The curtain had been pulled away and we were all seeing the leadership as it really was and it was so frightening. It still is. Like many, I idolized Mark and Mars Hill so when the truth was coming out and my idol was falling to the floor it was frightening. In seeing the sin that was occurring in leadership I was facing my own sin as well. So many out there have had the wool pulled over their eyes and refuse to acknowledge it and remove it. Ignorance is not bliss, it only leads to more pain and in this case more sin. Idolizing your pastor, putting him on a pedestal, is sinful and easier to do than you think especially when it is a little at a time.

It was February 2008 and we were still at Mars Hill though at this point we had made the decision to leave. We met with the Petry’s and had a good long and eye opening conversation. Leaving their home that Thursday night we had firmly decided that we would not be returning to Mars Hill. There was no way we could dispute the facts laid before us in black and white. That next Monday, February 11, 2008 we emailed our membership resignation letter. It was received and accepted. Two days later, February 13, 2008 my husband of seven years and three kids (I was 6.5 weeks pregnant with our third) did not come home from work.

Here are a few links to give you a brief summary of the story:
Lifetime Movie also available on iTunes.
Primetime
The Other Side

The story quickly flooded all local news channels. So much was happening all at once it’s hard to articulate it all. So many people came to help right away. It took three days before my former campus pastor contacted me. When he finally did call the first thing he said to me was, “Would you be willing to recant your membership resignation? We are unable to help you if you are not a member.” The words were cold. He sounded more like my employer than my pastor. In that moment I felt abandoned by my beloved church. To me it did not matter that we had resigned I needed the leadership that I had known and trusted for so many years. I was shocked by his question. He did not ask how I was. He did not ask what he himself could do to help. Suddenly he became an enemy in my mind. I was already scared and now I felt like I was talking to a snake. I do not think the man that said these words understands the wounds they inflicted. As I understand it he is no longer with Mars Hill. You also may not understand why they cut so deeply. Those words told me that I did not matter to the leadership. I was just a number with a bank account to help pay the salaries of the elders. That he was only contacting me because it had become damage control as word was getting around that the church was unwilling to help. I was told by a friend that was helping with the searches, also a Mars Hill member, that when they asked to use the copy machines for missing posters at the church they were turned down because I was no longer a member (seriously! I resigned just two days prior after nine years!). And what does being a member of a church have to do with helping find a missing person? As I recall it being told to me they were told that the church would not be helping at all.

A few days later I was brought into the police station for interrogation (I was being looked into as a murder suspect in the disappearance of my husband). During that interrogation they asked me numerous times if Mars Hill had anything to do with the disappearance. I was asked over and over again if I thought that Mark or any of the other elders went “old testament” on my husband. This made me angry. I wanted them to stop asking about Mars Hill and just go find my husband. At that point I was six and half weeks pregnant, my husband was missing, my church leadership had turned their back on me and I was sitting in an interrogation room being pressed for answers about my missing husband, I was fingerprinted and accused of murdering him and scamming the public for donations. Needless to say that was a horrible week.

When I went home that night a bouquet of flowers was waiting with a card. I opened the card. It was hand written by Jamie Munson and there was a donation check from the church. My first thought was, “I wish he would have called me and at least pretended to care how I am and how the kids are.” While I was very grateful for the financial help to be honest I wanted to know that they had not abandoned me. I had asked numerous times for Mark to come and pray with me. He refused to even talk to me. In that moment I just couldn’t understand why asking my pastor of nine years to come and pray with me during the worst time of my life was so outrageous, regardless of my current resignation. To be very clear, the members and attenders of Mars Hill, for the most part did not turn their back on me (though some did and still do as I found out recently when I bumped into them at a function). They were an amazing source of support along with many, many people outside of Mars Hill. They were able to take any differences we had about Mars Hill and set them aside to help my kids and me walk through this. In fact some relationships were reconciled. They showed gospel-centered love. All of these people came together and demonstrated the church as laid out in scripture and guess what, they didn’t need a fancy building or large salaries to do so. They just let the love of Christ pour out of them regardless of which church organization they were a part of.

About a month after Nicholas disappeared and his double life was discovered I sent an email to Mark and he ended up calling me and talking with me for a short bit. He also came to my home with my former campus pastor and talked with me. Though it was more about how to handle the media than how to start moving forward he did answer one question that I had, and that was if I had biblical justification to divorce Nicholas. Even though I was confident that I did at the time, for whatever reason, I needed to hear it from Mark. There were some things said by Mark during that meeting that rubbed me the wrong way and contradicted some sermons that he passionately preached in the past that I took seriously (like caring for the widows and the orphans). It was good to have some closure on that chapter of my life.

To this day I am extremely cautious of pastors, tithing to a specific church, church membership and the like. I am not afraid of church I just don’t blindly trust the men running them. Trust is earned and I will not give it freely, especially to a pastor. I am tired of being abandoned and abused. The wounds inflicted on me by Mars Hill and others are deep and still healing. You know the ironic thing…. I ended up marrying a pastor (not from Mars Hill). There is much more to say, more to the story, but for now this is all that I feel led to share so perhaps I will write more on this at another time.

Adam Wygle

This is hard for me to write. I had a great time while at Mars Hill and while on staff. I’ve a lot of friends that still call Mars Hill home. I love them. Dearly. And want them to see what is going on. That is why I’m telling my story.

I moved up here from Portland in 2001. I had heard about Mars Hill only because of the all ages music venue they ran called The Paradox. I started attending in October, and within a few weeks, I felt right at home.

One of the first things I remember is this old guy standing up. Making a joke about being the only old guy in the room. He had a strange name, but he was wanting to pair people up for mentoring. I got his contact info and emailed him as soon as I got home.

A few days later, he responded. Bent Meyer invited me to a meeting at the old Earl building. It turned out only 3 people had signed up saying they wanted a mentor. I got paired with AJ Hamilton. He and I exchanged contact info and he invited me over to his house for dinner.

Dinner was really nice, it was the first home cooked meal I had since moving up. As we were talking, he found out I had a huge passion for music. He told me he wanted to connect me with Jeff Bettger at The Paradox. That’s when everything started happening. There are so many stories to tell.

From that connection I made so many friends. I moved into the basement of one of the pastors, Gary Shavey. I met and am still friends with people that I look up to, laughed with, cried with. There was one point, a few years down the road, that 5 of us all in the same community group had children within less than a 60 day span and we all got on stage together, as a community, and dedicated our children. It’s been an amazing 13 years. I guess what I’m getting at is that it wasn’t all bad. There was so much good. So much.

One of the other things AJ and I started doing was helping me find a wife. At one point we sat in

an upper room of the Paradox talking and looking out over the people during a service. He went around the room, pointing at ladies he had seen me interacting with.

“What about her?”
“She talks too much.”
“What about her?”
“I think she has a boyfriend.”

I was clearly influenced by Jerry Seinfeld, maybe too much.

He eventually pointed to someone named Heidi that I ended up marrying.

Heidi and I started dating. Right away I knew I had to tell her that I had a problem with pornography. We started seeing a counselor from her old church. He told us to never talk to each other again (more or less). That didn’t happen.

We dated for about 6 months or so before I proposed, got married a whole 10 months later—and in the world of Mars Hill, that’s a long engagement—and were pregnant with our first kid about 10 months after that. From the time we met, to the time we had Evelyn was just over 3 years.

Shortly after Evelyn showed up in April of 2005 was when everything really started changing for us, and not in the normal first kid way.

There was sermon about pruning and how we, as Christians, had to constantly prune ourselves of our sin so that we could bear good fruit. I don’t know what it was about this one in particular, sex was often preached, but this one struck a chord. On the way home I told her how addicted I still was to pornography. We called up Bent again. He connected me with a group that was designed to help guys deal with their addiction. I was in that group for a while before moving over to a Grace Group. All the while Heidi and I were meeting with Bent. It really helped.

I turned 25 in October. For my 25th birthday I got a herniated disk in my lower back. This meant I could no longer work at the job I had as an electrician. I was given long-term disability from my employer and sent on my way. We had just had a our first baby and the cut in pay was difficult. My doctor told me I needed to get a desk job, but I had no real marketable desk job skills.

I got some job retraining assistance from the state and enrolled in a community college. I also started volunteering in the tech department at Mars Hill in the spring of 2006 since I knew a little bit about computers. Originally I was just needed for a few hours a day here and there. But as time went on, it turned into a normal 40 hour job. But it was all volunteer. I enjoyed it, so I didn’t really mind at first.

After a few months, my boss told me he was trying to get approval to hire me. He ended up being told no. A few months later he said the same thing. And I was told the same thing.

We were getting really strapped, but I didn’t know where else to go. I had applied for a few full time jobs doing similar tasks for normal companies, but nothing ever came of that. So, when the letter from the bank saying we were magically approved for a line of credit came, we jumped on that. In one of our meetings with Bent we mentioned how tough things were for us financially. He told us his department had set aside some money to help people like me. It helped, but it wasn’t fully enough for us to stop living off of credit cards.

There were people on staff; my bosses, the people I worked with, the leads of other departments, that would tell me they were fighting to get my hired, but I just kept being told I needed to wait a little longer.

After about 18 months of working 40 hours a week for free, my boss finally came to me and told me that he was able to get approval in the budget to hire me and pay me a full salary. It was so great. We had had our 2nd daughter by then and were so excited to finally not be as tight.

My job was fixing computers, setting up email accounts and things like that. At one point in time I worked on every pastor’s laptop that was on staff during that time. I set up all the new hires’ email accounts on our exchange server. There were some, myself included, that didn’t like having to use the mail client, so we set up auto-forwarding accounts to gmail (and, from what I know, some of the ex-staff members still have all those old emails). I even made house calls to Mark Driscoll’s house to help him fix his printer, run a cable from the house to the garage/office, troubleshoot one thing or another on his computer.

It was shortly after coming on staff that Paul Petry and Bent Meyer were fired. I found out about it after chewing out Bent’s assistant for messing with his email account without asking the tech team to help. I can’t exactly remember why it bothered me so much, but when I found out why a few hours later, I went back to her and apologized. She was clearly in shock. The whole air of the office for the next few weeks was thick with unasked questions.

I went to my boss and asked if he could tell me the story. He told me that I needed to trust the leadership was doing the right thing. Again, I had a fear that my skills were unmarketable and so I had to take his word for it and stick around or lose my job. (In the last few months he has repented publicly and privately to me.)

A lot of people left. A lot of those people were our friends. My best friend Dwayne and I had countless hours of arguing over the whole thing. I remember one night sitting in a driveway until 4 or 5 in the morning shouting at each other. He and his family (and so many others) ended up leaving. I lost contact with most of them, but was able to stay in contact a little bit with Dwayne.

While working with the tech team, my boss, Zack Hubert, built The City, which was designed as a social network for the people that attend Mars Hill to communicate privately. It was very successful and was eventually purchased by an outside company in 2009. I took the opportunity to go with him and help spread the technology to the whole Church. And, hopefully, to get a bigger paycheck and start paying off some of the debt.

That’s when I started hearing from people all over the globe. It started to feel really strange that so many people didn’t see things the Mars Hill way. As I dug in with them, I realized that it wasn’t that Mars Hill was right and their church was wrong, they were just different. But that’s not what I learned while at Mars Hill. Mark Driscoll clearly taught that his version of theology was the right way and all others were jacked up.

But these were really nice people that also clearly loved Jesus. Something didn’t add up.

Around this time, we were invited by a friend to join him and his family for a weekly breakfast he hosted for his neighbors. We showed up and it was jam packed with people just hanging out and enjoying each other’s company.

I sat down with him and asked why he did this. It turns out that he understood the Bible to say that it was our responsibility as Christians to love our neighbors. Huh, interesting. And the best way to do that is over food.

As we hung out more and more, it became obvious to me that the giant, multi-million dollar building and infrastructure wasn’t the best way to do things. In fact, it started to seem more like a giant show to get people in the doors instead of in their neighborhoods.

When it was announced that the campus I was going to, Lake City, was being closed so they could use the money for a different building, we left. This was the summer of 2011.

Now we get to the pain.

While all of this was going on, I had chosen to be blinded by everything. I had people I loved tell me it felt strange. It was wrong. But I picked my job over the truth.

After we left, those blinders started coming off. I saw things a little more clearly.

The attitude of finding a wife seems strange to me now. It seemed more like hunting than pursuing. Heidi always jokes that I stalked her.

While I was dealing with my addiction and being told in counseling that I needed to own my sin (true, and I do) and no blame should fall on my wife, Heidi was being told from the pulpit that it was her fault (or, at least, lead to believe that).

In fact, a lot of the stuff preached about honor and chivalry turns out to be chauvinistic and misogynistic.

There had been many sermons preached on the dangers of debt, enough so that both of us had a lot of shame and felt sinful for needing to. And we both still do. To this day, we still have that line of credit, and it’s never really gone down. It’s just been so hard for us to climb out of that hole we dug.

 

After coming on staff and starting to be paid for my normal 40 hour work week, people started asking and pressuring me to serve in some way. I never really did because of how much I had done already. But I always felt guilty watching everyone else work 60 hour weeks.

Mars Hill wasn’t the only church. Isn’t the only church. But that is what we were lead to believe. And it’s been very difficult trying to come to a right understanding of that.

Last year, around the beginning of spring 2013, I started going through a deep depression. There were some physical issues and some psychological issues hitting me at the same time. I didn’t care about church at all. I didn’t want to hear all the people with their bullshit smiles tell me about Jesus. Heidi and I spent a lot of time fighting. My great friend and business partner Bryan Zug and I spent a lot of time fighting. I almost drove the company that he and I built into the ground. I’m sure I scared my kids quite a few times. I know I scared myself.

I’m out of that depression now. But I’m still not sure what I think of having to go to church on a Sunday. I had a friend recently (who was on staff at the same time but for longer) tell me that he goes because he knows he’s supposed to and hopes that someday he’ll want to. To me, that feels close to right, although I’m not sure that I’m supposed to.

But, luckily, I’m in a community of friends and connected to a church (Anchor Church here in Seattle) that doesn’t require anything of me. I was told, and have been told over and over by my pastors and friends that I don’t need to serve in any way. One leader told me I’m not allowed to, but not as a punishment. His heart was for me to just be and let others do the work for a little bit.

I don’t know where that leaves me. I guess I’ll just keep moving forward like I’ve always done and trust that if God wants me to do something, I’ll look back and see that I already did it.

Jonna Petry

My husband Paul and I started visiting Mars Hill Church back in the summer of 2001. I had recently read and loved J.I. Packer’s classic, Knowing God, and was finding great solace and security in a deeper understanding of God’s sovereignty. In those days, Mars Hill Church was about 400 members. There were not many families with children. And we came with five – our oldest 12 and our baby just turned one. We were very warmly embraced. Our family was rather ooo’ed and ahh’ed over. We seemed to have found a place where we were wanted and where we could lovingly serve (even if the music was completely unfamiliar to our ears.) And, what we didn’t realize, where our pride would be amply fed as well.

We were not without caution or discernment. We had seen enough upheaval in churches to know you’d better look closely at who’s in charge, how the leadership is structured and where the money goes. A year earlier, we had come across Alexander Strauch’s fine book, Biblical Eldership where he instructs about church government:

“By definition, the elder structure of government is a collective leadership in which each elder shares equally the position, authority, and responsibility of the office.”

In comparing this structure to what we had experienced previously, it was easy to embrace the premise that shared leadership, authority, and accountability are necessary for the healthy functioning of the church. For us, this became an essential for any future commitment to a church. And, our first Sunday at Mars Hill, there on the book table was a copy of Strauch’s book.

So we started attending regularly, heard a number of the pastors preach (because in those days they took turns preaching), listened carefully to what was said and mostly delighted in what we experienced. Mark Driscoll stood out then, as a persuasive speaker with a strong attitude but, we had confidence the leadership team, Mark included, was committed to the distinctive of biblical eldership. Though Mark was young, he was surrounded by a group of godly older men – Bent Meyer being one who also had years of pastoral experience behind him. This was very reassuring to us.

The church was growing and we became completely immersed in loving, serving and teaching. My father (who had not been in church for almost 40 years) and my sweet stepmother joined us monthly and then weekly for worship services – ferrying over from Poulsbo, Washington, to spend the day with us. Mark often used the expression that our church was “family” and we rather believed it – so effective in building a sense of belonging.

These were happy fulfilling years for us. My husband and I hosted a weekly home fellowship group that quickly grew to be the largest in the church. We had the space to welcome people in and hospitality was ministry for us. We hoped to demonstrate to the best of our ability the sacrificial love of Jesus because we believe this is the foundation of our lives as Christians. We were delighted to find a church home and thought we’d be there always. We loved and gave our very lives to the people in this church. Strong bonds of commitment and love were made and reciprocated. (We thought.)

After two years had passed, in the spring of 2004, Mark approached my husband, Paul, and asked him to consider serving as a pastor/elder. Mark at this time had become the primary preaching pastor in Ballard and Lief Moi, who bought an old theater for the church in Seattle’s University District, became the primary preacher at that venue – the Paradox Theater – which featured concerts by local bands on weeknights and was active in street ministry. Each venue had its own feel and crowd and we were blessed to see the diversity and unity in the Body of Christ.

After much consideration and prayer, Paul started the elder process and was confirmed a pastor/elder – before the entire church with the laying on of hands by the eldership. How excited we were, I was. I was so proud of my husband and the ways God was moving in our lives. Paul served as a pastor, unpaid, almost full-time, and continued to work as an attorney in private practice to support our family. It was a big commitment, a lot of work, but we loved it. We loved the people we were with. It was a great season for awhile.

After a year serving as a volunteer pastor, Paul was offered a full-time position as Pastor of Families and Member Care. It would mean walking away from his private law practice and taking a pay cut in his annual income, but after more prayer and consideration, Paul signed an employment contract and gradually shut down his law practice. The church was growing, many newly married and young families were attending and we relished the work of providing encouragement and teaching to strengthen all these dear ones. It felt so fulfilling to be used for the Kingdom of God.

It wasn’t long though, till the bubble started to leak and our eyes began opening a little…

What we had thought and hoped would be an entrance into deeper fellowship with godly leadership and with the Lord turned into a heavy burden of unspoken pressure along with the realization that things were not all they appeared to be.

Shortly before Paul was confirmed as a pastor/elder, I was invited to a dinner to celebrate Grace’s (Mark’s wife and my friend) birthday. There were a dozen or so women in attendance and I ended up sitting next to Karen Schaeffer, who was Mark’s administrative assistant – a lovely, older, godly woman whom I greatly respected. Sitting next to us was an elder’s wife who was close in age and who also had quite a bit of previous ministry experience. The three of us enjoyed great conversation – alive, encouraging, as iron sharpens iron. We ended up being the last three to leave the restaurant and as we walked to the car decided we should pray together for some of the things that had been shared. We got in the car and ended our time together praying for many things, including the elders, our families and the church.

The next morning I heard from the elder’s wife, the one Karen and I had so enjoyed – that she had shared our conversation with her husband and he felt that it showed “disloyalty” on Karen’s part, was gossip, and that it needed to be brought to Mark, which he did. Karen was fired. The gist of what she shared that was branded “disloyal” was a heart of thankfulness that my husband, Paul, was being made an elder because Mark needed strong men around him who could handle and stand up to push-back. When I found out what this elder and his wife had done, I called Mark immediately in tears and asked him to forgive me for my part in that conversation. Looking back, I’m not sure that Karen or I really did anything wrong, but I was sure afraid.

Regretfully, I treated my friend, Karen, horribly. After she was fired I stopped seeing her altogether. I was afraid of what it might mean for me if I continued as her friend. It was never spoken but rather understood that to remain in contact with her would be unwise. So with fear and pride in tow I conformed to the toxic system in order to show respect and loyalty. I chose to believe that God put us there for a reason – thinking now perhaps so we could encourage and strengthen the things that were weak.

Another rather ominous circumstance occurred in late 2005 when Paul was asked to participate in re- writing the church bylaws shortly after he came on staff. This happened after the church had renovated an old hardware store warehouse and moved into the 40,000 square foot facility. Lief shut down the Paradox Theater in the University District and returned to join the pastoral team at the new Ballard facility. Many from the Paradox congregation felt that Mars Hill had “sold-out” to a corporate model at that time, but with Lief’s and Mark’s assurances, most of them joined the Ballard congregation (Mark’s first book, Radical Reformission – Reaching Out without Selling Out, had just been published).

As the church was growing, Mark wanted a smaller group of men involved with the everyday details of running the church without the need to gather every pastor/elder for discussion and voting. A number of issues had to be hammered out and the bylaws changed in order to allow a smaller group of elected elders (termed “the executive elders”) to operate freely with the day-to- day administration and “vision” aspects of running the church while still granting full disclosure and including all the elders in votes for major decisions like changes to the bylaws and purchasing property. This was to ensure accountability and protection.

The elders wrestled back and forth some, concessions and compromises were made, but in the end, the newly adopted bylaws turned out to be, at least in Paul’s mind, a great governing document that would ensure the health of the church. Those bylaws were voted on and affirmed by every elder. As they were shaking hands, Jamie Munson (the church’s administrative pastor/elder, a very young man and fairly recent convert) said to Paul, “This is only half way.” I guess that should have been a premonition.

The last happy thing that transpired during our time at Mars Hill Church was near Christmas in 2006. Mark had asked the elders to consider which of them felt called to lead the new Wedgwood campus in NE Seattle (formerly Anchor Baptist Church) and to let him know. We had been thinking and praying about what was next for us as Mars Hill Church continued to grow and this opportunity seemed perfect. We went to Mark at the staff Christmas party to express this. He was delighted, saying it was a confirmation for him. He said Paul was just the elder he had in mind. Mark brought over Lief Moi (his best friend, co-founder and right-hand man at the time) to share the good news. Lief expressed delight as well. How excited we were.

Then something happened in late January or February. There was a shift. Mark had been seeking all kinds of information and strategy help for another reorganization plan in order to “grow the church to the ‘next level’” and had recently had meetings with Larry Osborn in California amongst others. Paul had one meeting with the executive elders about taking on the lead pastor role at Wedgwood. One Executive Elder, Steve Tompkins, insinuated that Paul had many people who looked up to him in the church and that could potentially lead to a church split. Steve asked Paul what he had to say about that. Paul was really shocked and hurt at the poison of this remark and no doubt this had something to do with the outcome.

Many drastic changes occurred in the spring of 2007. Mark pressured all the elected executive elders [with the exception of Jamie Munson] to resign their posts, saying a new structure was necessary. Mark also decided that Lief would no longer function as the pastor of the Ballard campus (the primary and largest campus where Mark taught mostly in person) and as a result the two of them had a horrible falling out. This was an ominous sign for me because Mark had often spoken about his love and appreciation for Lief’s willingness to go “toe-to-toe” with him and how this was vital for the health of the church.

Nobody talked to Paul about Wedgwood again until May, when in a sort of backhanded way, Paul heard from another elder, James Harleman (a former executive elder who had just resigned from that position under Mark’s pressure), that Paul was no longer being considered for the position, that James was in fact going to lead Wedgwood. That was really hard, but we covered over our stinging disappointment and chose to believe that God must have something else in mind for us.

During this same three months, another drastic change occurred. The way all the pastors’ salaries had been determined completely changed. It was proposed that Paul’s annual salary be cut by $15K to more accurately reflect his “importance to the church mission.” Further still, Paul, who is an attorney, was not asked to help rewrite the newest bylaws which Mark and Jamie were planning, despite the fact that Paul had helped draft the previous bylaws.

Mark was preaching through the book of Nehemiah, utilizing it to promote his future vision for the church. And now, into summer, an oppressive heaviness began to overshadow everything. There was a real sense of spiritual warfare and I fasted and prayed under the burden on multiple occasions. The summer elders’ retreat in Whistler, B.C. was all about the importance of “unity” and how the new structure and bylaws were essential if we were going to keep growing as a church. Saying that there was heavy coercion applied would be putting it mildly.

Up until that time it was a regular practice for the elders’ wives to gather monthly and pray and share and encourage one another. At our meeting in August 2007, I had been asked to give a short devotional lesson before we broke up into small groups. What I felt inspired to bring were a few Scriptures on “the testing of our faith” and I reflected on how the various struggles and testing we often face as a church and as individuals are God’s means to refine and purify us. How little did I know what severe testing would come.

Shortly after this meeting, in my praying for the church that God’s will would be done in the upcoming changes, I sent a letter to the elders’ wives inviting them to join me in prayer, along with Scriptures I had been meditating on. Mark, who reads Grace’s emails, was livid about it and verbally lambasted the elders at their next meeting for not keeping their wives in line.

Mark was upset by an invitation to prayer? Why he would be so upset is still a mystery. But I’ve often wondered if it was perhaps because his plans were already made.

We had been there long enough to see how growth, power, and money, were influencing decisions. We were not surprised to see how power tempts and corrupts. We knew that leadership was in the throes of testing. My husband took very seriously his role as an elder knowing his responsibility was first to the Lord and then to the sheep for the health of the church. The proposed new bylaws gave Mark control without any secure mechanism for accountability. Though Mark and Jamie thought otherwise, this wasn’t good for them either. And no doubt, they have both greatly suffered because of it.

The deadline arrived for commenting on the new bylaws. Paul responded as asked, in writing, making suggested changes and politely proposing some edits and wording which would put in place an appeals process for church members who might find themselves under “church discipline.”

Three days later on a Sunday evening at 8:30, after Mark’s last sermon on Nehemiah in which he ranted about men “who don’t follow the chain of command…even in leadership of this church” Paul and Bent Meyer were angrily threatened by Mark in a small private meeting that if they didn’t resign from staff and as elders immediately they would both be fired and put through “very personal and painful” trials to have them removed as elders, that their “files were full and growing.” No other reasons for dismissal were given. Neither of them resigned. The meeting lasted maybe five minutes. And then the hell really began.

That night after the service I was waiting for Paul in the lobby of the church. Paul had let me know earlier that evening that he had received an email from Jamie Munson saying there was a mandatory meeting following the seven o’clock service. I sat waiting for over an hour. Just about everyone had gone home by then.

I was starting to really wonder what was going on when my son and his girlfriend walked in from outside the church. “Daddy’s been trying to reach you on your cell phone.” (I had a few missed calls from unknown numbers). “He’s walking home.” (We live 7 miles from the church. It was cold and raining.) “He asked me to come by and get his cell phone, his keys and his coat out of his office. He was fired tonight, Mom.” My heart fell into my stomach.

[Earlier after the service while I sat waiting for Paul in the lobby I had seen one of the newly elected executive elders, Scott Thomas, and he glanced over at me a few times with an odd look on his face. I smiled back politely. Though I didn’t know it, he had just participated in that awful meeting where my husband was threatened and fired. I sat there waiting. Scott walked by and said nothing to me.]

Initially, I thought Mark had just reacted impulsively and in anger to something he thought Paul had done that was untrue. I thought, “We just need to trust God, continue to do what’s right and pursue peace.” I knew we hadn’t done anything wrong and so everything would eventually work out for good. I was naïve and oh so trusting. That painful night in the wee hours of the morning, Paul sent emails to the four executive elders that had participated in the firing asking to know what his ‘sins’ and offenses were so he might consider them before God.

Paul also sent an email to all the elders telling them what happened (they had no previous knowledge of it) and asking them to pray.

The next day we received a copy of an email from one of the elders, a close friend (we thought), titled: “Your accusers.” It was an internal email that had been sent from Jamie Munson to all the elders except Paul and Bent. Paul’s and Bent’s email access through the church network had been immediately cut off and the case against Paul and Bent was laid out; accusations that were a complete shock to us. Paul’s request to the executive elders hours before was completely ignored.

Two days after Paul and Bent were fired, Jamie posted a letter to the church on the members’ website stating what had been done. This caused a great commotion within the church. To say people were alarmed and dismayed is putting it mildly. [The elders were so bombarded with questions that they eventually opened up a place on the members’ website for a short period so members could ask any questions concerning Bent and Paul’s firing, elder trials, and the new re- organization of the church. The “elders” then crafted a 142-page document to answer “all” the questions and to quell the uproar.]

Even after a few days I thought to myself, “There is no way the other elders are going to let this stand. They know Mark’s proclivity to anger and impulsiveness and they love us too much to let this continue.” Yes, some of the younger men would be scared to speak up, but we had confidence that if it came to a trial the seasoned older men who loved Christ and who knew Paul and his character and who knew Mark and his character would see what was truly going on: that Paul had done nothing wrong – certainly nothing that would disqualify him as an elder, and that his convictions about the bylaws in no way warranted this kind of treatment.

I remember thinking, “This can’t be happening. God, you won’t let this stand. You know the truth. Lord, set this right. Please, God…”

After two weeks of “investigation” and “fact- finding,” a “trial” was convened. Twenty-two elders and all the elder candidates filled a large room where Paul was permitted to read his prepared statement regarding accusations he wasn’t even sure of and was then called upon to answer any and all elder questions. His accusers presided over the trial. Paul had no advocate, no friend, no witnesses to support him. After the questioning he was asked to leave the room so the elders could “deliberate.” Paul was found guilty at his “trial” of: “lack of trust and respect for spiritual authority and improper use of confidential information” (for discussing the proposed bylaws with a MHC deacon/friend to get input regarding an appeals process for members under church discipline). The elders then voted to remove Paul as an elder. We were stunned.

What was going on? Why had Mark and Jamie so turned against Paul? Why had the rest of the elders gone along with such horrendous behavior? The only thing that now made any sense to us was this: that underneath all the spin and hysteria and Jamie’s blatant denial to the contrary, this was about power and control (authority and submission), this was about getting the proposed by- laws passed, and Mark would have no dissent. Mark was apparently willing to do almost anything to ensure he would get total compliance. And he did.

With this realization came the awareness that the life and health of the church was hanging in the balance. Mark’s behavior was frightening – angry, accusing, “beating and battering” his co- shepherds, his closest friend, and any who showed even a slight resistance or question to his desired plans. This didn’t look like Jesus but more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Who was going to protect the sheep and the church? Lief Moi (Mars Hill co-founder and Mark’s so-called best friend – the one who would go toe-to-toe with him) had been demoted, diminished, and basically cast aside. Five elected executive elders had resigned under pressure.

Mark and Jamie fired the men who were willing to disagree with them. Now what men would be willing to stand up or even suggest that at least they take more time to consider this complete change to the leadership structure of the church? If the elders voted for the new proposed bylaws they would be giving up all authority to govern the church forever. In essence they would no longer be elders. Mark with his handpicked one or two would basically be able to do whatever he wanted with millions of dollars at his disposal.

These circumstances called for men of integrity and courage. Those days may well have been my husband’s finest hour. No longer “officially” an elder yet still very much a man with a deep love and concern for the well-being of the church, Paul appealed to every elder in a heart wrenching letter pleading with them to pause, pay attention, and realize the gravity of what voting for the new proposed governing structure would mean and instead find another way. Please read his document entitled: My Confession and Request for a Redress of Grievances.

My husband’s letter did not affect the outcome. The bylaws passed. New “elders” were added to the now impotent group and Mark had unquestioned control. It did not change the outcome, but I cannot imagine it didn’t convict some hearts as my husband attempted to save the church. (My husband doesn’t like that last sentence as he thinks it sounds too dramatic, but that is the way I saw it.) The men who were called to shepherd God’s flock bowed under the pressure of abusive manipulative power and the church has greatly suffered because of it.

After the trial we were “restored as members” and our access to the church’s members-only website was re-activated. We were still attending services, though the family class we were scheduled to teach had been taken over by other elders. But, once the new bylaws passed at the end of October, we knew we could not remain at the church under the top-down leadership authoritarianism. Not a hint of biblical eldership remained even though it was talked about as though it was adhered to.

Completely dismayed and devastated, we withdrew as members. We could not support the church’s new bylaws, which was a requirement for church membership. We resigned our membership, in writing, in an email we sent in early November to both Mark and Jamie. They accepted our resignations responding back by email with empty condolences. We never heard from Mark again.

Not long after that, one of the pastors, Brad House, a young man with no previous pastoral experience, sent Paul an email asking us to come in for a meeting so we could “discuss” our grievances even though we were no longer members. Paul had a couple of heated phone conversations with him hoping that this wasn’t what it appeared to be. Paul was hoping that Brad or someone in leadership really cared enough to act like a brother who loves through adversity.

It became clear that Brad wasn’t sympathetic toward us or our situation at all; that he would only further attempt to use his “pastoral authority” to “help” us see the “rightness” of the elders’ actions. Oh, the layers of spin and manipulation that were conveyed.

Some very dear people who were not our close friends (but proved to be) who had eyes to see what was going on, questioned the elders in emails, phone calls, and in personal meetings. And because of it, they also endured their own scenarios of abuse and resigned as members. If not for this small band of devoted Christ-followers who came alongside us and carried us through the darkest season of our lives, who knows to what extent the devastation would have been? Paul received three months severance pay but this could not carry us through the season needed for Paul to rebuild his law practice. This same group and other dear friends, some who remained anonymous, kept us afloat that first year with financial support which helped us pay our mortgage and radio ads for Paul’s law practice.

Some of these same folks also rented a room in a community center near our home for a season so we would all (about 30 people) have a place to worship on Sundays while we continued pursuing steps toward reconciliation. Paul had no desire to start a church though some of that small band my have wished so. At this point everything we believed about church had just crumbled. But God’s love as demonstrated in these dear ones will never be forgotten.

In the first week of December 2007, over a month after we resigned our membership, the church elders voted to “discipline” Paul and published a letter instructing MHC members to shun him. The shunning document was published on the members’ website and letters were mailed to members as far away as Colorado.

I remember that day well, as my heart sank to the ground on reading the text a friend had emailed us. I could hardly breathe. In great anguish I thought to myself, “I can’t just do nothing. How am I supposed to respond to this?” I was reminded of the words from Scripture, “Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse…” So mechanically I went to the store and bought beautiful potted poinsettias and some generic but thoughtful Christmas cards that I lovingly signed and then personally delivered them – trembling and in tears – to the homes of several elders, including Mark Driscoll, Brad House, and Jamie Munson. At the Driscoll’s, Grace’s father and one of the children opened the door, Grace was coming down the stairs and when she saw me she said my name and hurried to the door, hugged me and cried too. No words were spoken.

In shock and heartbroken, Paul and I tried desperately that first half-year to bring about some level of reconciliation. We so longed to be restored to our friends, to have our name and reputation exonerated, and to have peace in our relationships. This had become our family that we loved and served and ministered to as our own dear children and as brothers and sisters. These were our dear friends. How could they do this to us? Words do not adequately describe the shock, horror, betrayal, and rejection we felt. The weight of the loss was excruciating.

My dear father and stepmother belonged to a Mars Hill community group that met in Poulsbo. Joining the group had been a huge step for them. Not having been in church for almost 40 years, my dad (a Vietnam Veteran and retired Colonel with 24 years in the United States Air Force) was moving toward trusting Jesus and Christians again. They even hosted the community group for a time in their home and were enjoying small group fellowship for the first time in their marriage. After the shunning letter was posted, Brad House called my dad and said that if they could not support the elders’ decisions regarding Paul, then they would have to leave their community group. So ended my father’s (a man I had earnestly prayed for almost my whole adult life to know the Lord) beautiful reentrance to the church. They never went again. And no one from their group remained in friendship with them. They were shunned, too.

Thankfully, my father didn’t throw away his new child-like faith. One day in their home, not long after these appalling events, I was sitting on the couch next to him, his arm around my shoulder, my head leaning on his chest, (I knew he was heartbroken for us but he was very strong and a bit stoic) and he said to me, “Honey, this is just a good reminder that we cannot put our eyes on a man, but only on Jesus.” So much wisdom and love in that one statement.

Trying to do everything just right, we walked out the steps of Matthew 18, the scriptural guidelines for reconciling when a brother offends you (though before the firing and after they had not been walked out toward us). We did not mass email all our friends and acquaintances in the church (hundreds of them) to tell them what had really happened to us, as we were still trusting that godly resolution would occur and we didn’t want to do anything that could jeopardize that. So we purposed to only speak about these matters to our church friends if they came directly to us with questions, believing that reconciliation would come soon.

One local pastor, a friend to our family, who heard about what was going on, called Mark and pleaded with him to take the shunning letter off the members’ website, saying it was “giving the church a black eye.” At one point, this pastor was thinking he might be able to serve as a mediator but he quit his involvement after Mark’s continued refusal.

In January 2008, we made another strong appeal to Mark and Jamie, demanding this time that they take down the shunning letter (which had remained posted on the members website for almost 2 months), and retract the lies about Paul that had been written and published to members, or face possible legal ramifications. We implored them to face the reality of the cruelty they had unleashed on us, our children, and our family. We pleaded with them to bring in a mediator to help resolve the gross injustice. Jamie’s response in a nutshell was this: “Though we still believe we have done nothing wrong, we are willing to meet with you and anyone you choose.” They did, however, remove the shunning letter from the church’s website.

This offer to meet felt completely disingenuous. Likely they knew they were in a legal bind and were willing to discuss a possible legal/financial settlement hoping we might agree to some sum with a requirement to sign a “gag order” or non-disclosure contract, as has been reported by other Mars Hill pastors and employees who have resigned. (Signing a non-disclosure contract appears to now be a requirement for receiving any severance package.)

Our last letter to Mark and Jamie, sent in February 2008 (a response to Jamie’s “we still believe we’ve done nothing wrong” letter), reveals the state of our completely broken hearts. It wasn’t a legal settlement we were after. What we so longed for, what we were hoping for, was a demonstration of God’s love and grace. These were pastors right? This was a church, right – not a cutthroat corporation?

Along with this last letter we included a copy of a letter Bent Meyer (the pastor/elder who was fired with Paul) had recently written to the elders appealing to them to change their course, make things right and restore us. The elders (all but one or two on staff), were impotent to do anything. Nothing changed.

After multiple appeals were continually rejected by Mark and Jamie, we discreetly implored some local and then national leaders, who Mark said he respected, to help us, including John Piper and C.J. Mahaney. No one was willing to get involved. I was shocked and heartbroken again. You’re kidding? The whole Body of Christ and no one is willing to step in, judge the matter, and attempt to make things right? How can Matthew 18 be carried out if not one Christian leader will stand in to bring peace and reconciliation?

Months passed as we exhausted every avenue we could think of to reconcile with leadership. We were still hoping to salvage some of our relationships with people we loved and respected in the church. Now we felt free to pursue some of them (about 30 families we hoped to remain in friendship with) to explain what really happened to us. We wrote a short letter expressing our love and desire for continued friendship and sent copies of the documents that clearly told the story (asking that the documents be kept confidential), trusting they would see the horrible injustice we endured. This was naïve on our part. The assault on our reputation and the spin from the elders had been extremely effective. Only about a third of those we pursued in love were willing to remain in friendship with us – another heart wrenching reality.

During this whole season since the firing and the months that followed, I was emotionally and spiritually devastated. I was often tormented by fear. I had nightmares and imaginations of someone trying to physically harm Paul, me, and the children. If Mark had had ecclesiastical power to burn Paul at the stake I believe he would have. I literally slept in the fetal position for months. I stayed in bed a lot, bringing the children in bed with me to do their schoolwork. I became severely depressed and could hardly bring myself to leave the house except when absolutely necessary. I cried nearly every day for well over a year thinking I must soon cry it out, right? But, the sorrow was bottomless. My faith was gravely shaken. How could a loving God allow this? Later it became clear that I had typical symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression and that these reactions were common in someone who has experienced spiritual abuse.

Spiritual abuse occurs when someone uses their power within a framework of spiritual belief or practice to satisfy their own needs at the expense of others. It is a breach of sacred trust. Christians are commanded by Jesus to love one another. When that is projected, articulated, enjoyed and then treacherously betrayed, the wounded person is left with “a sense of having been raped, emotionally and spiritually” – not by a stranger, but by someone who was deeply trusted. (See Recovering from Church Abuse by Len Hjalmarson)

Anyone who has experienced such treatment will tell you the greatest sorrow, however, is not over how you are harmed but how the ones you love the most are harmed. I mentioned my father. I will not mention the deeper aspects of how this has affected my husband and my children who were in close relationship with the Driscolls and other elder families. Our oldest son loved Mark and had great respect for him. He drove Mark’s truck on occasions to the dump, to pick up supplies, and spent time helping Mark with other work and errands when he could lend a hand.

Our son gave huge amounts of his time, energy, and heart to the church, volunteering for building and painting projects and as a youth sound technician. Our oldest daughter regularly babysat for the Driscolls and for other elders’ families. One day we were in loving safe community (we thought) and the next day completely cut off and scorned. I have never experienced such cruelty or rejection in all my life. Seeing your loved ones abused, their hearts broken, their emotions heavy and dark, and their faith nearly destroyed, is the greatest pain of all.

At several points along the way we were urged by family and friends to seriously consider suing Mark, the elders, and the church because not only had they violated Scripture, their own bylaws, and the church membership covenant, but under civil law we believed they were guilty of multiple violations as well, including intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, libel, slander, tortuous interference with business relationships, violations of employment standards, and more. We prayed and wrestled with the idea for months, finally concluding that it was better to be wronged and entrust it to God’s judgment.

This story is not without redemption, however. For us and our children “the spell” has been broken and we are free as we continue to heal. Free to love, trust, and follow Jesus apart from abusive leadership. I have come to see more clearly my own sin and complicity with the abuse. I have come to understand that I was wrong in the way I entrusted my heart to people, looking to them for approval and affirmation, finding my identity in my relationships and in my ministry instead of completely and solely entrusting my heart to the Living God and finding my identity and security in Jesus Christ alone, who loves me and died for me and calls me His own. For we are all capable of great sin. And, no doubt, the wrong way I entrusted my heart to others coincided with the depth of my pain at their betrayal and rejection.

There have been some restored friendships with former elders. In addition to Bent and Joanne Meyer, we have reconciled with Lief Moi and his dear wife, Tonya, who were co-founders of Mars Hill along with Mike and Donna Gunn. The Mois came to our home in May of 2009, shortly after Lief resigned as an elder and they left the church. It had been over two years since we had last seen them. They stayed at our home all afternoon and poured out their hearts to us regarding their own pain of betrayal, and apologized for the ways they had sinned against us. Many tears were shed.

After relaying the painful story of my father’s treatment, I asked Lief if he would consider calling my dad to also apologize to him. Lief said he would. But that night, my father, who was fighting lung disease, suddenly departed to be with the Lord. To this day, the church’s treatment of my father is still one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever experienced.

In the fall of 2010, another former pastor/elder, Tim Reber, contacted Paul, expressing his desire that they meet. Tim apologized for going along with what he knew at the time was wrong. Soon after, Tim and his sweet wife, Mary, came over to our home so the four of us could repair our relationship. It is so healing to be restored to those you have loved.

Waking up to the abusive system we had been a part of, I was reminded and convicted about how I had treated my friend, Karen, years earlier. I sought her out during this same time. It had been 6 years since we last saw each other. We met for coffee. I apologized and asked for her forgiveness for how I had rejected her, and shared my own story of abuse. More tears were shed.

Thankfully our relationship has been restored and has now deepened into something of great beauty. God has done amazing things with us, like bringing us together last year one heart- wrenching evening as we cared for friends, a couple who were members at Mars Hill Church, the wife who lay dying of cancer after lingering for months. She departed on that day we were there to care for them.

It has been a long time in coming, but I do now have renewed hope and joy for the future. I believe God is working through all these things and who knows what the future holds? We regularly run into the Driscolls and the Munsons during baseball season. Our boys play in the same youth baseball league. We have mutual friends with many of the elders that cause our paths to cross at weddings and funerals. There has been a strained cordiality between us and that is better than open hatred. The final chapters of this story are yet unwritten and I remind myself that, “All things are possible with God.”

As a result of my experience, I have come to know and depend on Jesus and his love more deeply. My faith, though crushed initially, has been greatly strengthened. I am grateful to be able to say, “What was intended to harm me, God intended for good…” And, I do pray that even as more painful stories come to light that ultimately, this will turn out for Mark’s good, too. I believe there are many things he is blind to and many things he adamantly resists. I pray God will open his eyes and give him the courage to face them. Whereas, I used to believe the most loving, gracious, faithful thing to do was to keep these matters private. I do not believe that anymore. The spiritual abuse must be exposed and, with God’s help, eradicated, so lives can be healed (victims and perpetrators) and the damage that has been done to the reputation of the Gospel repaired.

Two years ago I heard one of those painful stories. I sat in a room with a friend and a few other invited people as she read out loud (and I heard for the first time) her story of spiritual and emotional abuse at the hands of Mark and Grace Driscoll. I cried. My husband had been a pastor/elder on staff at the time. Though we didn’t know about it then, after hearing her story the realization of our shared responsibility sank in.

On the surface, so many factors look great at Mars Hill Church. Who wants to be a critic when in many ways this ministry appears blessed and is so popular? As the thinking goes, “God must be pleased. Look how the church is growing!” Like a lot of others, we were willing to overlook Mark’s immaturity, his character weakness and wrong-doing for all kinds of reasons: because he was young, because he was talented, because we really didn’t know all the facts, because we trusted, because it wasn’t our place, in order to extend him grace, so as not to offend him or lose his good favor, in order to protect the reputation of the gospel, because we were afraid. Just writing these excuses makes me sick at my stomach.

Not as an excuse, but the fact is, while we were at Mars Hill Church there was a lot we did not see. Many things were kept secret. And we did not have clear vision then. We were in the ether, under a kind of “delusion.” I have come to believe that when idolatry is at play, it often creates and allows for an unreality to take hold of those who participate, as if under a spell, unable to see or hear the truth because it is all filtered through a projected “reality.” But it is a false reality – a delusion. I believe this dynamic is often true in cults where there is one dominant, charismatic, controlling leader.

As I look back, this “delusion” aspect makes sense to me and helps to explain why the abuse is allowed and continues, while so many people are unaware and/or unwilling to confront. At some point though, a circumstance with leadership arises that invariably places you in the fray. You either bow and submit, or resist and face searing retribution.

By God’s mercy, that circumstance came to us. We resisted the pressure of coercion, and dreadful consequences were meted out. But ultimately, this turned out to be our rescue – as we were delivered out of a sick, dysfunctional system. And now, I thank God for it. I have my own sin in all this. I contributed to the dysfunctional system. I acted in pride, idolatry, fear of man, people pleasing, cowardice, and favoritism. I am truly sorry for all the ways I personally hurt people by my words, my actions or inactions, directly or indirectly, during my time at Mars Hill Church from 2001-2007, especially as a part of leadership. And now, I am also very sorry for how my years of silence regarding the spiritual abuse that I suffered have indirectly contributed to the abuse of other precious people. Though truthfully, I don’t think I could have written about it any sooner.

What started with a beautiful beginning – three families sent from Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland to plant a “daughter church” in Seattle that would be authentic and relevant to reach the lost – has turned into the personal ministry of one very ambitious man. Although it is still called a church, I think a more honest and accurate name might be “Mark Driscoll Ministries,” not unlike the name for Billy Graham’s organization, a man who Mark has said he greatly admires. I think what we are seeing demonstrates a confused ecclesiology and I fear this is also being taught to many other young church planters through the Acts 29 Network who want to “have” a church just like Mark’s.

The amalgamation of church and personal ministry did not happen overnight. The church began committed to certain distinctives, like biblical eldership, and core values like “meaning, truth, beauty and community” and then one driven, talented individual eventually monopolized power, pushed all dissenters away, and turned the church into a “City within a City” where he functions like a king because he believes this is the best way to “grow the numbers.” And in this case, Mark has proven that to be true, drawing in thousands with his entertaining (and regrettably often crass and inappropriate) speaking. I realize that many believe this is great and see no problem with it. But I would never have agreed to this if it had been openly stated – and I believe many others would have felt the same. I believe this was spiritually abusive toward all the members of the church at that time. And, apparently, a thousand or so members had problems with it as well and chose not to renew their membership in 2008 after the leadership cancelled everyone’s membership and asked them to reinstate as members under the new bylaws.

So here we are over four years later, finally able, willing, and convicted to share our story. Why? Why does it matter now?

We remained quiet for over four years hoping there would be evidence of self-correction and maturity and that we might be able to cover over the gross injustice we experienced with love. But it appears things have only grown worse.

In Acts, Chapter 20, the Apostle Paul pleaded with the Ephesian elders to pay attention and guard the flock. This admonition, along with the mounting stories of abuse and misconduct coming out of Mars Hill Church, has added to our conviction. We believe that to remain quiet now would be unloving and disobedient to God.

As my husband stated earlier – if we fail to remember our history, we leave it for others to re- write. And, unfortunately, some of that has occurred.

And, in Mark’s own words from his book, Vintage Jesus:

People are not perfect. As sinners we need to be gracious, patient, and merciful with one another just as God is with us or the church will spend all of its time doing nothing but having church discipline trials. It is worth stressing, however, that we cannot simply overlook an offense if doing so is motivated by our cowardice, fear of conflict, and/or lack of concern for someone and their sanctification. In the end, it is the glory of God, the reputation of Jesus, the well- being of the church, and the holiness of the individual that must outweigh any personal desires for a life of ease that avoids dealing with sin biblically. Sometimes God in his providential love for us allows us to be involved in dealing with another’s sin as part of our sanctification and growth. It is good for us and for the sinner, the church, and the reputation of the gospel if we respond willingly to the task God has set before us.

What happened to us was very wrong. The way it was publicly described by Mark and the elders at the time was completely exaggerated and deceptive. The way the media and blogs have since reported on it has many holes and errors. Now it is open and plain to everyone.

If Mark and the organizations he leads do not change, I fear many more will be hurt, Mark and his family included. To not speak is to not love or care and shows no thought or consideration for those who have been wounded and those who will be in the future. We are witnesses. There is a pattern. There is a history. There is an ethos of authoritarianism and abuse. Mark is the unquestioned head of Mars Hill Church and the Acts 29 Network. His elders have no way to hold him accountable. Those under him likely fear him and want to garner his favor so they don’t dare say nor do anything that might anger him. This is tragic.

Perhaps at some point, with enough outcry and exposure, Mark will come to his senses, own his harmful behavior, and get the help he needs to change. I hope so. Our common Enemy can make terrible use of our weaknesses and blind spots. Our Lord’s harshest words were for leaders who used their status, power, the Scriptures, and God’s people for their own self-aggrandizement. Surely this is not what Mark meant to do.

A Christianity which perpetuates the exaltation of mere men to god-like status, while belittling and wounding so many of God’s children in the process, is completely antithetical to what Jesus taught and is just as harmful to the leaders as it is to those who follow. Sadly, this is not the love of Jesus Christ or the power of the gospel we are called to demonstrate to one another and to the world.

Setting the Table

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

This site gives a voice to those who have been hurt, damaged, abused, neglected, shunned, or rejected by Mark Driscoll and other elders at Mars Hill Church.

The gospel of Christ teaches us that we all need a Savior, and there is blessing in repentance. We don’t draw attention to these stories out of bitterness or revenge but because of our conviction that repentance, forgiveness, and healing can be had through Jesus’ death on the cross.

Most of us here were at Mars Hill early on, for many years. We valued the theological teaching and supported the evangelical message. We were members because we saw God moving powerfully in the Mars Hill community.

Yet, each of us reached a breaking point where God clearly showed us our need to leave. The stories here tell how we moved from enthusiastic, on-mission member to concerned believer feeling a need to call Mars Hill leadership to repentance.

If you want to share your story, you can submit it at  You do not have to use your name publicly and can contact us at to arrange that.

Darlene Lopez

We had been attending our church for almost a year before it transitioned over to Mars Hill. We were to be the first out of state satellite campus. This was an exciting time for our church. We were really beginning to trust and appreciate our pastor Dave Bruskas at the time. All our friends had begun attending and we all seemed excited for the new journey that our church was about to go on.

My husband had listened to Mark Driscoll a few times in the past and thus he knew of the way Acts 29 Church plants were run and he wasn’t quite sure what he thought of Driscoll. After all, this pastor was across the globe and the few sermons my husband did hear were all about Jesus so he found no fault with the messages he had listened to, so we were willing to stay through the transition, and besides, our friends of over 9 years were there.

During this transition our close friends became community group leaders, it was very fast and this concerned us (for other reasons) but we loved them dearly and didn’t say anything and just went along with it. During the transition we began to read things about Mark Driscoll online like the open letter John MacArthur wrote and how Driscoll was called “The Cussing Pastor.” We were alarmed at his reputation online, but we didn’t want to be quick to judge so we brought our concerns up to our friends who were our community group leaders. They laughed it off and said, “Yes, we know, we too had those concerns, but becoming a member doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything, it just means you’re joining and being part of this team here locally.”

Week after week we watched all our friends become members and we were subjected to Pastor Mark’s heavy sermons that now looking back were very abusive in tone on how those who weren’t members were “in sin”. I remember week after week feeling like the scum of the earth for not becoming a member; I wondered why it was essential to join. He made it sound like it was essential to our salvation. I remember one time in his sermon he had all the members in the church stand up and he told all the non-members to look at them and thank them for picking up our slack and for doing our work because well since we weren’t members those who were members were doing more serving, more giving, and more committed than those who weren’t members. Gosh, I felt so ashamed that we weren’t members.

We wanted so badly to serve in the church but we knew that we were limited in our serving unless we were members; it was like members had access to more than non members in their ability to serve. My husband was not convinced that membership was essential to being part of any church, and thus he didn’t want to become a member, but we were still actively giving financially, serving in the capacity allowed as non-members, but still that didn’t change the pressure from the elders and our community group leader (who were our friends of 9 years) on us to join.

Over six months had passed and the pressure grew for us to become members, my husband had some concerns that since we didn’t agree with the doctrine wholeheartedly that perhaps it wasn’t a good idea for us to join, and also the membership stated that we would not question the leadership and my husband found that to be very odd.  Of course our friends reassured us that we were free to express any concerns/or ask any questions any time and that becoming a member was for our benefit as we would be able to hold leadership accountable and not to worry about the doctrinal differences as they had them too. So my husband and I became members, although my husband still was reluctant and even as he signed it he was telling our friends, “I don’t feel comfortable but I don’t want you guys to get in trouble as leaders (as they were telling us that the Elders were coming down on them as community group leaders for us not becoming members yet).

 

After we became members our community group leaders, our best friends, began to change. They began to be very authoritative and intrusive. I remember my best friend beginning to ask me how much we were giving to the church and I thought she was asking as my friend so I told her we were only giving $40 a month as that was all we could afford. We had just moved into a home that was infested with termites/mold that we didn’t know about and the repair damage was intense. We barely could afford to repair anything. My in-laws were helping us. Despite telling this to my best friend and our community group for months we received no help from our community group.

It was a hard time. We went through the winter without a heater. When we asked for help our community group leader again took an authoritative role, asking intrusive questions like why weren’t we saving enough money to fix these repairs, why did we move into this house, and why didn’t my husband plan better, as if he was sinning (which he wasn’t), but it was a trial we were going through. Yet they still were intrusive about how we managed our funds. I remember getting our checkbook out and telling my best friend she could look and see that we weren’t being unwise with our funds. She insisted we take a “finance class” held by one of the elders. Our community group leaders even insisted we go get food stamps as this would free us up to give more financially to the Church. We were in shock by this.  Finally they posted that we needed help and a couple of people helped out. Thankfully we got space heaters that winter. We saw a different side to our friends of 9 years during this time. It was very weird.

My community group leaders began to watch my personal Facebook wall, making sure that I didn’t say or do anything that was contrary to what they thought was good for me. If we missed church or community group we would get a phone call and get asked a lot of questions about why we missed. We always felt like we’d better have an emergency for missing.

Our lives were consumed with Mars Hill and Community group and all other churches were wrong and not like Mars Hill. We were trained to believe that we were the real church, the real ones loving Jesus, and those other churches and Christians didn’t understand or know Jesus like those at Mars Hill did.

Week after week our community group looked more like a therapy session on Dr. Phil. Opening our Bibles and prayer seemed to dwindle and we read more from the script given to us by the elders, which included Mark Driscoll’s sermons. Any time we would try to point out an error in Mark’s sermon, we would have the whole community group in an uproar, even if we tried to use scripture. We then began to sit silent most of the time. We didn’t seem to have much to contribute to the lengthy therapy sessions week after week and because of that we were accused of being “religious” because we didn’t share with the group our sins committed for the week or our struggles, and when I did share my struggles with the group, which included to get up early (i.e. not be lazy) and seek the Lord in prayer and reading the word, I was told that I was being religious or it was scrutinized and stripped down so much so that I was beaten down and made to believe that I was committing idolatry for wanting to do any good in my life, that I was being religious, and how I needed the community group/elders to point out my idolatry for me.

The whole thing became so confusing to me. Week after week, sermon after sermon, I felt less and less human, I felt more like scum and wicked and dirty and filthy for even wanting to be godly and glorify God, again it was because of all the “therapy” that took place in community group.

Mark was preaching on bullying and how Christians bully each other. How ironic that during this sermon he was being a bully when he delivered that message. Yelling, telling his congregation how they were like scum and a joke, etc. How they were nasty, wretched, wicked. He wasn’t affirming their identity in Christ. Rather, he was stripping their identity only to build a new identity that included Mars Hill leaders as their new authority alongside Jesus.

My best friend decided after hearing that message that she and I could no longer be friends. I asked her why, she said she didn’t feel our friendship was edifying anymore. How ironic after 9 years of friendship and now that they were in leadership and the day before I had stood up to their newfound leadership, telling them that they had no authority over me to tell me what events I could and could not attend, that now all of sudden she was convicted to not be my friend. I was so hurt and said okay and told her that I still wanted to be her friend but whatever she wanted to do I would support her.

Two weeks went by and we didn’t talk but we still went to community group. It was awkward but then we talked again she then said that God told her we could still be friends, but that we had to stop gossiping (apparently she felt we were doing a lot of gossip), and she felt we talked too much on the phone. I agreed with her and we only began to talk on the phone once a week and our focus was prayer for our community group. She began to go through a trial herself during that time. I was at her house almost daily, helping her take care of her 4 children as she was unable to do so and she had doctor’s appointments, I was there babysitting and cleaning/cooking for her and praying with her, reading scripture to her during her time of struggle.

A couple months passed and then she of the blue said, “I don’t want to be your friend. I went to a demon trial”. Apparently, the elders were doing demon trials on members or anyone who had oppression in their life. Mark Driscoll wrote this whole procedure on how to summon, and then put on trial the demons that are oppressing the believer. It all sounded strange to us. I asked her why she couldn’t be my friend and she said my name was brought up in a demon trial. I asked her what that meant, and she didn’t answer any more questions other than “talk to your elder about it, but that she would no longer ask me for prayer, talk to me about spiritual things, etc. without giving any other reasons. She said we were still welcome to attend community group, though. A flood of emotions came in, there was no sin issue as we had already dealt with her concerns of gossip/talking too much two months prior so I didn’t understand why now she didn’t want to be friends. Her defense was that she should have listened to God two months ago and not be my friend. I asked her if she saw any changes in our friendship since then. She said yes, that we were talking less on the phone and that when we did talk we were praying and keeping it Christ-centered. To this day she says she ended our friendship because of “sin.” But it wasn’t until that demon trial that things changed.

We got a copy of the formality of the demon trial that Mark Driscoll wrote, and my husband thought it was very wacky and unbiblical. At this point we hadn’t been to church in a couple weeks. We were praying, seeking counsel at what to do next. Then the unbelievable happened, the ELDERS sent out an email on the City (the internal website for members), telling them that we left the church unbiblical and if anyone sees or talks to us to urge us to talk to the leadership about why we left. The funny thing is we never had officially left; we just hadn’t been there for a couple weeks. We began to get messages on our personal Facebook wall from members telling us that we left the wrong way. My husband was appalled. As we hadn’t even left the church yet. We were in shock that the elders who sent this message to members made no effort to email us personally or call us to see if in fact we had left.

At this point, my husband wrote a formal letter expressing all our concerns with Mars Hill, especially addressing the abusive tone and nature of the leadership and Mark. He also addressed the demon trials and how they were unbiblical. After that we never heard from anyone again.

Almost a year later a woman I knew contacted me. She told me she was attending Mars Hill and she wanted to know the process of getting assistance for her baby like getting food stamps etc. I asked her why she would be asking me what the process was; she said she assumed I would know since we had 5 children. I told her I didn’t know the process but that I could look up a number for her online, which I did. I asked her if she was in need. She said yes, that her husband had a gambling problem, which I had known about as she had confided me in the past about her marital issues. She told me that she had no money for food for her and her baby. I asked her if she was tithing to Mars Hill, she said yes and that she and her husband were fighting about it because he didn’t want her tithing. I asked her how much she was giving. She said $300 a month, at this point I told her that she should stop tithing and buy groceries instead, she said well I thought I had to tithe as Pastor Mark Driscoll always preaches about giving and tithing and I love Mars Hill and Jesus. I explained she didn’t have to tithe and that any church should be ashamed of themselves accepting a tithe from a woman they know is on the verge of divorce, whose husband doesn’t approve of her tithing and who has to go apply for food stamps because she tithes the grocery money.

She agreed with me and went to her community group leader’s wife (who was our mutual friend that I knew for about 8 years) whose husband was just ordained as the new Biblical Living Pastor of Mars Hill. I received a phone call from her. She was very upset that I would tell her not to tithe, and how unbiblical of me to tell her that megachurch pastors receive high salaries (of which I never said) and that she didn’t have to tithe. I told my supposed to be friend that there was no reason for her to be tithing her grocery money. But she refused to listen to me. She yelled at me, telling me I was sowing seeds of bitterness and being divisive and that I was just mad about what happened with my best friend and I was bitter against Mars Hill. I kept telling her that this gal called me asking me for advice and I told her she didn’t have to tithe. Her words were, “Leave our sheep alone. If any of our sheep call you, just refer them back to us. We are very protective of our sheep, and how dare you tell her anything about tithing.” She then said, “I am telling her not to listen to you, that you’re giving her bad counsel.” I asked her why she would slander me like that when she is supposed to be a pastor’s wife. She then said, “What is this girl going to think of my husband, who just got ordained as the new Biblical Director?” I then told her, “Oh, I see. You’re more concerned about your reputation than you are about the well being of this girl who is on the verge of divorce and applying for food stamps because she is told by your pastor and you that she has to TITHE. I told her if you really love your sheep and are protective of them like you say then maybe you all should find a way to help your member, not take from her, especially in her time of distress.

It has taken me 3 years to heal from the emotional and spiritual abuse that took place at Mars Hill. When all you hear week after week is how you are worthless, wicked, the scum of the earth, how you are lazy, not fit for anything, how selfish and how religious you are for wanting to attempt anything for God, and how you need your leaders and community group to keep you in line, hold you accountable; you begin to believe it and it drowns the voice of the Holy Spirit.

I have been wanting to tell our story for the past 4 years. I knew that if I went public, I would be labeled as “divisive, bitter, unforgiving, mean-spirited, slanderer, gossiper” etc. I knew this because after we left and I began to find similar stories to ours online and as I posted them on my personal Facebook page, my Mars Hill friends would respond with words like, “Check your heart against bitterness, you are slandering, stop gossiping and being divisive, stop dividing the body, etc.”

This furthered my silence and slowed down my speaking out and I only told my story to those that asked me why we left. Nevertheless, this still didn’t stop the shunning that took place after we left. I love the people at Mars Hill, who are broken, real and all about Jesus. I loved that while we attended Mars Hill the people were always very open and willing to share very personal aspects of their lives with each other. It isn’t policies, procedures or board members that make up the Church at Mars Hill, it is the people.

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.

On Aug. 22, 2014, the NY Times published an article presenting an overview of the issues facing Mark and MH. However, the article’s author, Michael Paulson, included a statement that does not ring true for many of us who have been close observers of MH from the early days: “Mr. Driscoll’s critics trace the church’s troubles to 2007, when the pastor demanded a revision of the church’s bylaws to reduce the authority of most of the church’s elders.”Yes, it is true that the bylaws were changed and the result was a violation of the Biblical model of church governance which allowed Mark to consolidate his power, to the great harm of the church. But, the truth is that verbal abuse, shunning and ruthless use of pastoral power by Mark and some (not all) of the other Elders had already done a great deal of damage, even before 2007. The troubles with MH began very early on and they have not abated, they have only increased in proportion with the size of the church.

Anthony Ianniciello, Mars Hill’s executive pastor of media and communications, has pointed to a statement the church’s board issued last week, saying, “The attitudes and behaviors attributed to Mark in the charges are not a part and have not been a part of Mark’s life for some time now.” I would argue that my testimony, along with Ron Wheeler’s and countless others up to and including the charges by the 21 Elders, simply confirms that a pattern of abuse, fueled by outbursts of anger over any attempts made to question Mark about his behavior, leadership or vision, was established early on, sustained by a power structure that was almost impenetrable.

2)     I cannot bear to read one more item the MH media machine churns out in an attempt to twist the truth about the people (Rob Smith, Paul and Jonna Petry, the Acts 29 Board, the 21 Elders, etc.) who have chosen to go public with the truth about the abuse, betrayal and ruthless tactics engaged in by Mark and some of his leaders. I am heartsick about this “spin” and I want to make it clear that I believe that this ungodly behavior springs from Mark’s very nature—as the Apostle Paul defines it in Eph. 2: 3, our intrinsic, unregenerate nature of wrath—a portion of which Mark has never allowed Jesus to transform and that has led to this ongoing tragedy.

For this reason, I take very strong exception to the statement made by Mark to his congregation in March and quoted in the NY Times Article referenced above: “In the last year or two, I have been deeply convicted by God that my angry-young-prophet days are over, to be replaced by a helpful, Bible-teaching spiritual father.” From the revelations that have occurred in the past 6 months or so, I would contend that he may have been convicted, as he says, but he has not acted on that conviction and his desire to be perceived as a spiritual “father” is further proof of his controlling nature, no matter the benign description in which it is couched.

3) I also want to make it clear that Mark is an “equal-opportunity” abuser. If he felt his power and authority were in any kind of jeopardy, he was ready with weapons of verbal destruction, no matter one’s gender. There are numerous accounts regarding the way he treated the men around him and there are various stories recounting his chauvinistic treatment of women, both in person and from the pulpit. There are also cases where he spoke ruthlessly to women and I am one of those. Although I am a woman who he had claimed to love and admire and who he once likened to a woman much loved and respected by the Apostle Paul, he did not hesitate to “mow me down” when I unwittingly questioned his authority.

4) I have an unusual and unique perspective, in that my son, Justin, was a member of MH for many years after my husband and I left, working as Administrator and then eventually becoming the Biblical Living Pastor at the MH Shoreline Campus. Justin and his wife, Amy, and their three sons left the church last year to prepare to plant a church in the Atlanta area, where Justin is currently interning at Renovation Church, under the leadership of Sr. Pastor Leonce Crump, who is on the Board of Acts 29. Part of my own story is about the balance of being spurned and shunned by Mark and other elders and their wives, while continuing to uphold our son in his walk with God, and a portion of that story is included in this letter to Mark.  I have watched the unfolding of the events at MH both as an insider and as an outsider who was “tethered” to the church through my son and his family. Justin eventually had the “veil” lifted several years ago regarding the deeply dysfunctional nature of MH’s ministry and my son has provided me counsel and prayer covering regarding the release of this letter, for which I am profoundly grateful.

I would be the first to admit that the letter I sent to Mark is written in the “prophetic” voice and that the scripture from Ezekiel 24, which the Lord showed me in October, 2003, was given through the work of the Holy Spirit. I recognize there are those readers who may find that this makes them uncomfortable. In that case, I hope that, even in their discomfort, the reader will be able to see that God had a plan and He has been executing it for years. Throughout the 11 years since Mark accused me of heresy, I have talked and commiserated with countless people who have said, “How long, O Lord, how long?” To the thousands of those both directly and indirectly affected by Mark’s wrath, it has often appeared as though God was allowing Mark and MH’s meteor to rise without an acknowledgement of the cost to those “under the bus.” But the Lord has always known how long he would give Mark to hear His truth and repent and He also knew that, if Mark did not, the cost would be staggering.

In my letter, I state that the Ezekiel scripture makes it clear that there will eventually be healing, but that it will only occur after a great deal of pain and suffering. I am unable to put into words the depth of my sorrow that it has come to this because, at one point, I had such hope that God would be glorified through Mark and the ministry of Mars Hill Church. However, the Word is quite clear: “For the Lord will not be mocked and whatsoever a man sows, also shall he reap.” Gal. 6:7

Scripture also makes it clear that, after ALL is said and done, only three things remain:  Faith, Hope and Love.  And the greatest of these is Love. (1 Cor. 13:13)   I have seen these eternal values emphasized and lived out by many of those who were previously at MH and I believe this is also true for many of those still attending MH.  As does my son, Justin, who wrote me several days ago: “I’m sure that there are godly, humble, loving servants of Jesus who are [currently] serving as members, deacons, and maybe even as elders at Mars Hill.”   

Love, the greatest of these, is left standing.  Even in the midst of the unfathomable pain and heartache, the love I have for Mark and his family, those who were at MH and those who are still there has, ultimately, compelled me to release my letter.

April 3, 2014

Dear Mark:

Unlike many of your former members and staff, I am not writing to request a meeting with you in the hopes that you would ask for my forgiveness for the way in which you and the Elders treated me at the end of my tenure on staff and the subsequent months Greg and I were still at MH following my termination.  Perhaps that will transpire someday, but that is not my aim.

I am writing you with a prophetic message from the Lord and I do so with a heart full of pity, a soul full of misery and eyes full of tears.  I think I know something of what Jonah felt, wanting to get in a boat and go the other way—not that I am like Jonah in hoping that you will not repent.  I would rejoice if you listen to this message from the Lord and are spared the full force of God’s judgment.

For the past several months, I have prayed and wrestled and asked for confirmation and I believe the Lord has indeed confirmed that I am to deliver this message to you.  Please know that I have Greg’s full support as I send you this, as well as the prayer undergirding of a few faithful, devoted Christians who I am honored to call my friends.  This counsel has kept me grounded in the knowledge that I received this message in a very supernatural way, led wholly by the Spirit, and that it is God’s choice to use me to deliver it.

I am well aware that there are other messengers who have spoken to you throughout the ensuing years since Greg and I were at MH.  During those years, Greg and I have followed your ministry, mainly due to Justin’s involvement with MH and, to a lesser extent, our membership at Harambee, where MH was mentioned periodically.  Greg and I were always invited to participate in Justin’s family celebrations–dedications, baptisms and commissioning services (pastoral and church planting) held at Shoreline and, during those occasions, we often heard you preach.  These were bittersweet services for us to attend, as they were special family milestones but also painful reminders of our very difficult experience at MH.

However, we had chosen, through the Lord’s leading, to support our son’s ministry after speaking to him about what transpired between you and me and his subsequent decision to stay with MH.  We prayed that the Lord would heal our hurt over Justin’s choice and He did so, on an ongoing basis, throughout those 10 years.

God put us in a position where we resolved to humbly lay down our pain and love our son and his family as God would have us love them.  The Lord works in mysterious ways and this was one of them, revealing to us that, in the midst of great pain, one can love unreservedly and unconditionally.  I rejoice in saying that nothing has ever come between Justin and us, no matter that the Enemy may have tried to use this for evil.  The fact that Steve Tompkins [who, together with his wife, Hilary, brought the accusation against me without my knowledge] was Justin’s boss for years could not have been more awkward for us but God used it for good, even as Justin continues to shake off the chaff from his time at MH.

In the meantime, the Lord has constrained me for more than a decade from delivering this message and I sometimes wondered if I would ever be called to do so.  Please know that I have sought the Lord’s guidance in delivering it to you at the exact moment He would have you hear it.  In fact, He began speaking to me in early January and, since then, I have prayed with Greg and my trusted friends, as God has called me, once again, to take my place as a Watchman on the Wall.

The first time I performed this function, I did so unwittingly.  This time, I do so knowing full well that, if I refuse to obey, I am responsible to the Lord and to those who are still members of your church, as well as all who follow your ministry.  Before I deliver this prophetic message, however, I think it would be helpful to provide you with some background on when and how it was received:

Immediately after that fateful meeting with you and Jamie on Oct. 9, 2003, in which you accused me of heresy, I went back to my office and, with fear and trembling, begged the Lord to show me the truth—had I sinned against Him, the One I love so much?  Had I actually done something so heinous?

I remember my mind re-living the conversation with Jonna Petry and Hilary that now had me “on trial” and I was almost faint with grief and disbelief.  I should have realized that what you said and the manner in which it was delivered –with eyes blazing hatred, arms crossed and every muscle tensed in your body–could not have been from the Lord.  He would never have treated me in that manner even if I had been guilty (which I was not) and I should have recognized your wickedness and the underlying fear that drove it.  No matter that I knew in my heart that your accusation was false, it cut me to the foundation of my soul that you would do such a thing

Ironic and now, I see, inevitable, that you would twist my concern for you–that you would make harmful mistakes without others around you strong enough to help you temper your ego and ambition–into the damning charge of heresy.  The moment you made that charge, my mind filled with the sound of rushing water as I absorbed the implications of that charge; what it would mean for me, my family, my friends.

I know the Holy Spirit guided me through the rest of our meeting, comforting me with His presence and giving me the right words to say, but when I sought the Lord immediately after our meeting, I was in desperate need of God’s reassurance that I had not deeply grieved Him.  To some degree, I was in shock and, with tears streaming down my face, I lay prostrate on the floor of my office and prayed.

After a time, I got up and returned to my desk, where I laid my hands on my Bible and pleaded with the Lord to speak truth to me.  I listened, but could hear nothing, not one scripture came to my mind as I waited.  I then closed my eyes, pleading once again for God to answer me, as I randomly opened the Bible and looked down to see Ezekiel 24:1-14.

I read the Cooking Pot allegory several times, puzzled by its meaning and horrified that I might have done something so egregious as to bring God’s wrath on me to the point where He would not relent. However, I gradually became aware of the Lord’s presence and I calmed down and was filled with a quiet reassurance that, somehow, these scriptures were probably not about me.

 

After I read the Ezekiel passage, I then called Jonna and Hilary and they retracted their supposed original statements (the belief that you and the leadership were “misguided” and that I thought the church needed new leadership) and we were able to establish the truth of what was said by me during our conversation. What they confirmed I did say, as you undoubtedly remember, is that you needed men around you to go “toe-to-toe” with you.  It’s ironic that this is fighting lingo, your very language.  Sad, too, that when men did go toe-to-toe with you, you usually spurned them.

I didn’t mean this statement for harm, Mark, I meant it for good.  I now believe your sneering rejection of that phrase (and the man I named, Mike Gunn, as the person who might go toe-to-toe with you) has grown throughout the years into a full-fledged rejection of humility and wise counsel.   At that point, Paul Petry was a new elder who I hoped would serve in the toe-to-toe role, as well, as I had mentioned in my conversation with Jonna and Hilary.  I was hoping and praying for you to receive the wisest possible counsel.

As you may know, several years ago Greg and I were reconciled with Jonna and Paul, who both asked me for forgiveness for shunning me after you fired me.  We have spent many, many hours together, enjoying fellowship and often taking time to pray for MH.  We have asked the Lord to intervene and speak to you about your pride and ruthlessness and to gentle you with His love and wisdom.  We have prayed you would seek reconciliation in all areas where you had wounded people or your leadership has done so, in Jesus’ Name.  After one such session with Jonna, I came home and the Lord spoke to me and told me He was going to completely unpack the Ezekiel scriptures for me, so I sat down at the computer and attached to this letter is the document that transpired.

I know you are now under siege and that you and those leaders still supporting you may believe that you will “spin” your way out of this, as you have many other debacles in the past.  I don’t believe that is true.  I believe that your cooking pot, the church and leaders the Lord gave you in order to produce a wonderful feast for him, is now totally charred and empty and no longer of any good use in God’s Kingdom and that you are in the midst of the last, raging fire of God’s message of repentance directed at you and MH.

You once said that you’d like to go all OT on some of your leaders.  Tragically, you will now reap the words and actions you have sown, because the Lord knows all and He knows your heart and the sin that spawns such statements.  He knows the why and how of your life and He sees that you have been deeply wounded, particularly by your father.  I was alarmed to see that you are now saying you want to take on that role in your church, as Catholic priests are called “father” and you are now adding another moniker to the titles of elder/shepherd/prophet/priest/king, coming full circle to your childhood and the scars you bear from it.  The Lord is deeply grieved by the physical and verbal abuse that occurred in your childhood and some things that have transpired in adulthood, as well (you, too, have been wounded by words) and He is standing ready to heal you.

But instead of seeking solace in Him, your Heavenly Father, you have allowed your honor hunger (as defined by Tim Keller in his book, Galatians For You, pages 159-165) to drive your ministry with anger and ferocity, echoing your chaotic childhood.  The Lord would have used that fierce passion if you had allowed Him to, turning it around for good, but without the balance of His love, humility and kindness, you have alienated many, many from your ministry and from Him.

Even with people like me who “proved” their love over and over, you did not allow a word of wisdom to be spoken regarding the dark side of your leadership.  You could not see or accept the love from all those who, according to what the Spirit has shown me, have given you multiple warnings; in fact, most of what is contained in this letter is not news to you.  Out of His great love for you, Jesus Himself has tried to speak to you through His Word, through His people, through dreams and even through nightmares, through your wife and your children and through His relentless voice, whispering in your ear when you cannot sleep.

But you have chosen not to listen and you have, instead, called many messengers, both within your church and outside of it, unspeakable names and deemed them fools, sometimes publicly and sometimes in your heart.  In fact, you have turned to other voices not of Him and so you have chosen to commit idolatry under the guise of ministry, a sin that the Lord abhors, as you know full well from your teaching and preaching.  You know that, as a shepherd, you are held to very high standards and you have repeatedly refused to believe or at least to admit that you have violated them.

Although He has given you grace upon grace and lovingly, patiently given you numerous opportunities to lay down your idolatry, you have not let Jesus into the recesses of your deeply wounded heart.  Because He has not been given leave to heal you, you have done unimaginable damage to others in His Name.  You have acted and spoken out of the woundedness, as well as the violence and deception in your heart, and there is a river of blood on the rock.  Now, I believe, your blood will be added to the rock as the final sacrifice on the altar of your pride.

You MUST repent–fully, totally and completely.  You must resign your pastorate, take a sabbatical to be with the Lord, and allow Him to show you the error and, indeed, the deadly sin of your ways and to re-make you into the man He has truly purposed you to be.  That transformation cannot take place in a cooking pot that is fully encrusted and will not yield to the Lord’s cleaning.  It just cannot.  You will note that Ezekiel 24:13 says that His wrath will subside and you will be clean again.  Hallelujah, He is able to make all things new.  However, the timing of that promise is now up to you.

It will go easier for you if you resign immediately, with a broken and fully repentant heart, understanding that it will take you a very long time to reconcile with everyone you have wounded with your ministry.  There is a great quantity of blood on the rock which is crying out for you to offer your heartfelt plea for forgiveness.  You will be afforded some dignity and a measure of sanctuary if you do so.

If you do not, please refer to verse 14 for a graphic picture of what the Lord will accomplish in your life to bring you to a place of repentance:  Having experienced the gut-wrenching fear of believing this scripture was meant for me, I now deliver this message to you with the heaviest of hearts and no small amount of trepidation, but the last lines are crystal clear:  The Lord will not hold back, nor will He have any pity, nor will He relent.  Your life will be broken in pieces and fully exposed, for His ultimate glory, with no hiding place in the cleft of the rock.

It is your decision.  How much of your blood will be covered with dust to shield you and your family is your decision.

May the Lord have mercy on you, Mark.

In His grace and peace,

Karen

Ezekiel 24

Jerusalem as a Cooking Pot

1 In the ninth year, in the tenth month on the tenth day, the word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, record this date, this very date, because the king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day. 3 Tell this rebellious house a parable and say to them:  This is what the Sovereign LORD says:

“‘Put on the cooking pot; put it on and pour water into it. 4 Put into it the pieces of meat, all the choice pieces—the leg and the shoulder. Fill it with the best of these bones; 5 take the pick of the flock. Pile wood beneath it for the bones; bring it to a boil and cook the bones in it.

6 “‘For this is what the Sovereign LORD says:

“‘Woe to the city of bloodshed, to the pot now encrusted, whose deposit will not go away! Take the meat out piece by piece in whatever order it comes.

7 “‘For the blood she shed is in her midst: She poured it on the bare rock; she did not pour it on the ground, where the dust would cover it. 8 To stir up wrath and take revenge I put her blood on the bare rock, so that it would not be covered.

9 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says:

“‘Woe to the city of bloodshed! I, too, will pile the wood high. 10 So heap on the wood and kindle the fire. Cook the meat well, mixing in the spices; and let the bones be charred. 11Then set the empty pot on the coals till it becomes hot and its copper glows, so that its impurities may be melted and its deposit burned away. 12 It has frustrated all efforts; its heavy deposit has not been removed, not even by fire.

13 “‘Now your impurity is lewdness. Because I tried to cleanse you but you would not be cleansed from your impurity, you will not be clean again until my wrath against you has subsided.

14 “‘I the LORD have spoken. The time has come for me to act. I will not hold back; I will not have pity, nor will I relent. You will be judged according to your conduct and your actions, declares the Sovereign LORD.’”

Below is what the Lord explained to me in 2011 concerning this prophecy:

“Jerusalem as a Cooking Pot” could be titled “Mars Hill as a Cooking Pot.”

God’s instrument of judgment is the fire He will allow to build inside the pot.  The “choice” pieces are the leaders, as the strength in a body comes from the legs and the shoulders and they are chosen from the “pick of the flock”

God’s judgment (i.e., His fire) is necessary to clean out the dross and to do that, the fire must be very hot. Then comes the reason for the fire: Woe to the church who has caused the hearts of so many to bleed and does not listen to the cries of the multitude of wounded who are strewn along the way.

The Lord has sent many messengers to fuel the fire (in order that the pot might be cleaned) but the pot is now encrusted, for the leaders would not listen. So, each leader will be judged accordingly, piece by piece, in an order only the Lord knows.

MH has poured the blood of those she’s wounded out on the bare rock, for all to see. “She” did not cover the blood, nor treat it with any sense of honor or dignity, and she made a public spectacle of those she pierced.  She defamed, she dishonored and she wrenched the hearts of many.

At some point, the Lord will, in the same manner, pour out her blood for ALL to see. So, woe to MH, as she continues in her conquests and appears to be something she is not, for as a meal that is left on the fire becomes unworthy of eating, so the Lord God Almighty will be building a fire under that seemingly delicious feast until it is hot enough for her impurities to be melted away.

ALAS!  Her “feast” will turn to ashes.  Even as the fire becomes unbearably hot, it will not cleanse her, for her “scum” is too great.  Her highest Leaders are guilty of adultery upon adultery (worshiping other than Jesus) and their lewdness has so deluded them that they cannot see their way and they don’t yet realize that their destruction is at hand and they are the very architects of it.

They have loved the place of absolute power over others.  They have craved it as a mistress, more than they have loved the Lord their God in their heart of hearts and God knows their hearts and He will judge them as He judged Cain for the blood of Abel crying from the ground.  The blood of many cries to God from the desert wasteland of betrayal and abuse.

Most of the Elders have been deluded and filled with fear of man and they have adjusted their vision to honor one man’s kingdom instead of the ONE Man in whose Kingdom we truly reside, in whom we can trust, whose vision is right and true and good and faithful.

Each righteous one who has tried to stand up and speak the truth has been accused of betrayal or heresy or malice or ignorance or cowardice or whatever “label” would impugn and malign his or her good name.  Then, those “watchmen on the wall” have been banished with no hope of grace or forgiveness extended to them from Mars Hill unless their [questions and concerns] were withdrawn.

I the LORD have spoken. The time has come for me to act, for I have given grace upon grace upon grace in order that repentance would come to this church. I will not hold back; I will not have pity, nor will I relent. MH will be judged according to her conduct and her actions, declares the Sovereign LORD.