Some Thoughts at the Dissolution of Mars Hill

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Over the the past few weeks, I’ve started and then stopped a number of posts on the now daily events surrounding Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church. None seemed adequate to the situation and so many others closer to the situation were saying it all so much better anyway. I was not sure I had anything to add of any substance.

Maybe I do now. Maybe not. But I wanted to offer a few thoughts in a format you, my faithful readers, have come to expect.

1) One of the more expected responses I keep seeing is how people don’t like all the rejoicing over Driscoll being gone from Mars Hill and the dissolution of Mars Hill into a bunch of independent churches.

First, there are certainly some who have reacted in an unseemly fashion to these events. But this is story is big enough to be picked up by major news outlets, the reactions will be varied and there will be extremes just like there is for every other news story ever. If you are pro-life you won’t appreciate being branded by the extreme of those who justify the killing of those who do abortions.

Second, I’ll call their bluff. There are good reasons to rejoice and celebrate. Driscoll had no business being a pastor. Mars Hill was an abusive ministry (Paul Tripp’s words) bordering on a cult. I can only assume the fear and oppression that once prevailed no longer does. There is a lot to rejoice about.

Last, I’ve seen far more sadness and grief and joy at the repentance taking place than anything. That won’t get as much press. But if you are really paying attention, this is what you will see more than anything.

2) Apart from blogs, none of the good things we are seeing, happens. I truly believe that. You don’t like those blogs (watch bloggers!)? I really don’t give a care. Were they  perfect? Of course not. But sometimes when you are helping the weak and wounded, it gets messy. Bloody and ugly. Sometimes you hope those who are speaking out against would emasculate themselves. The bloggers spoke up because no one else did.

3) Yesterday, a beautiful letter of repentance was released, exonerating Petry and Meyer and their firing and the shunning of their families. Go read it. Read it because that kind of repentance is so rare. Read it because you need to see the details of the evil perpetrated in the name of the gospel against these men and their families.

Here’s the thing, I’ve known about these charges for years. And I believed the stories. I believed the stories because I had pastored at an Acts 29 church and so much rang true from what I saw in my experience there.

Am I supposed to believe the leadership board of Acts 29 didn’t know these things? How is that even possible? The consolidation of power and “the bodies under the bus” comments were not exactly secrets.

They either knew and didn’t care or just couldn’t believe the stories were true.

Of course the problem is the Mars Hill brand was exported throughout the world. There are a number of Acts 29 churches out there with good men leading them. But I have had connections to two A29 churches. Both have/had manifested much of what we have seen in Mars Hill that is ugly. One of the churches no longer exists as a result.

4) The ripple effect of all these things will be seen for years to come. And the effects will be widespread. It would be inexcusably naive to think this is a local issue only. It is very local, I agree. But it became more than that through all the conferences, Acts 29 bootcamps, books (plagiarized and otherwise), and podcasts. Yes, it’s a cautionary tale for churches everywhere. But more than that, the “brand” of Mars Hill is everywhere.

5) When someone says they like Jesus but they are struggling with liking the church, this is one reason why. One among many. But a really, really good reason for you to listen and be patient.

9 thoughts on “Some Thoughts at the Dissolution of Mars Hill

  1. rsaenz November 4, 2014 / 10:02 am

    I think this essay helps explain the thinking that allows people like Mark Driscoll to continue on far past the point of no return.

    • mattbredmond November 4, 2014 / 10:13 am

      “But maybe you, too, downplayed the problem because facing it might mean making a sacrifice”

      Yep.

  2. jgapril246 November 4, 2014 / 4:50 pm

    Thank you for your posting.

    I came out of the Jesus freak movement in LA. There was allot of churches planted and a common theme was domineering and abusive leadership. These churches fell apart (Calvary Chapel didn’t which is a good thing) and we felt like God owed us an explanation of why this happened and we felt betrayed and needed justice. However, we all grew up, got married, had kids and now counting grandkids. Although we went through this, another common theme was the deep fellowship we had and still look for in churches. After 36 years we still keep in touch and another reunion is scheduled for this spring. You see, there is life after things fall apart. God doesn’t owe an explanation because He already has given us everything.

    I believe Mark Driscoll was a false teacher. He sounded good, had reformed theology but did not have the character supporting what he was teaching. I see, as you mentioned, the influence he has had and will have for years to come. He was a trojan horse looking good, teaching reformed theology and was hip. People supported him because it fead there own desires to speak out and be heard; and to be a part of the next big thing. The trojan horse brought with it a virus that will be carried through Acts 29 and Gospel Coalition pastors and churches. I will pray for you and Acts 29 to keep a watch over the sheep to protect them from the wolves in sheep’s clothing that Mark Driscoll helped to create by his example.

    When I first head Mark I was immediately concerned. I had never seen so much arrogance in a preacher for the past 40 years. The only thing I could compare it to is when President Obama first came on the scene. I was concerned from the beginning when he came out and was so popular. I warned my friends about Driscoll and they thought I was being critical and they could not believe such a great man of God, teacher and someone who has so much impact could be a false teacher. I understand how hard it must have been for you and Acts 29 to try and get your arms around such a dynamic person. Very slippery and full of promises and lies. I think if a pastor lies once; that is one too many.

    Thank you for your faithful service and God Bless

    John April

  3. MC November 4, 2014 / 8:16 pm

    “I can only assume the fear and oppression that once prevailed no longer does”.

    I am not sure if that can be worked out of a unhealthy culture so quickly. it depends on if the independent churches changing how they do things. Some seem to not recognize the need for a culture change.

  4. Victorious November 4, 2014 / 8:44 pm

    Thanks for this post, Matt. I believe your analysis is spot-on! And I agree the ripple effects will be felt for a long time as well.

  5. Bill November 4, 2014 / 11:16 pm

    I think it wise to address the failure of the elders and the friend who counseled Mark but did not go to the elders..

  6. bt November 5, 2014 / 2:48 pm

    I’m so frustrated. I admit that I bring my own baggage into this Mars Hill situation. “Bill” may be making my point. My question is “Why now??” Why this letter of repentance NOW? How long ago were Petry and Meyer fired and shunned? The timing of this is so suspicious. Churches (and especially megachurches) are having a hard time hiding this despicable behavior because of the internet; because they can be publicly called out. There is no where to hide. So now that it has officially hit the fan…now there’s a public apology. It just feels like damage control to me. If this is true repentance then I am the first to shout “hallelujah!” (I’m aware that I am not the judge of true repentance). In my own experience (here comes my baggage), when bad behavior by leadership in churches becomes public then everyone scrambles to distance themselves from the main perpetrator. Do these elders expect us to believe that they NOW understand how much hurt they’ve caused? Or is it that publicly apologizing will serve their best interests? Kinda like overlooking the offensives and not standing up for what’s right and not calling out an offender served their interests in the past. While I am cynical, I do think this debacle may be one of the best things that has happened for the Church in a long while. We need to do better.

  7. Velour August 16, 2015 / 11:57 pm

    Excellent article, Matt!

    When I heard that Mars Hill closed, I thought: “Thank you, Jesus! An answer to prayer!” What an abusive, authoritarian cult. I like reading Pastor Wade Burleson’s blogs about all of this nonsense (and he’s a conservative Baptist who is a straight arrow and a fair-minded man). Wade has said “no” to church membership covenants as they are totally un-Biblical. Let your *yes* mean *yes* and your *no* mean *no.*

    When I first looked up *excommunication* and *shunning* (I didn’t even know it existed and it sounded like something out of a book of fiction I read in the 7th grade like The Scarlet Letter), I found Jonna Petry’s excellent blog Joyful Exiles about the firing, excommunication, and shunning of her godly husband Paul, an (attorney) and an elder at Mars Hill. Mr Petry opposed the consolidation of power of Mark Driscoll and changing the bylaws. It was horrible what was done to him and his family. Then Bent Meyer at Mars Hill was subjected to same and countless others.

    At my former church in California – I called it the Gulag NeoCal Church – I watched a godly doctor, married to his wife for 45+ years, solid, loving marriage; loving father to grown children; faithful Christian; get excommunicated and shunned for disagreeing in private with how the pastors/elders were running the church and using the Bible. (The doctor, a good and godly man, is a long-time, closer personal friend of Pastor John MacArthur’s in Southern California, who was outraged that his own friend had been excommunicated/shunned!) Our senior pastor told the church to *pray for the doctor’s wife*. After I left that church I spoke to the doctor and his wife. She told a completely different story: She said she’d always disliked the senior pastor, the elders, and the church and that she’d warned her husband that THEY SHOULD NOT GO TO CHURCH THERE!

    Later, I was ordered to be excommunicated and shunned for dissenting. The bizarre pastors/elders wanted to control everything from my home’s décor (they actually wanted me to get rid of art work that I had been given years ago as birthday gifts and it’s from Europe and none of it is racy, in fact one is a cross from Italy); control my friendships; wanted access to my personal business (nothing to do with sin). And on and on. No. I am a grown adult. I will not put up with this!

    Thank goodness for Dr. Ronald Enroth’s books on spiritually abusive churches such as Churches that Abuse and Recovering from Churches That Abuse, available for free on the internet now in electronic form. And then there’s blogs about spiritual abuse. So thankful for Christians who are *as wise as serpents* and are on to these abusive tactics. No wonder the Christian church is losing members in droves. Including older members.

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