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.