The following is an account from Conversations At the Edge by a Former Mars Hill Member. It is sadly very telling and very indicative of the kinds of abuse reported repeatedly by members and mostly former members of MHC.
109 11/11/06 4:57 PM Comment Link
I am also an “ex” member of Mars Hill church. I have been so harmed by this church and by Mark; I have been trying to reach out and get help for how spiritually crippled I have become, so I posted the below letter yesterday on Steve Camp’s blog. Please, please remember me in your prayers. I am obese, and have suffered such shame and humiliation at Mars Hill, that it’s a wonder I have the courage to leave my house at all now. Whoever wrote above that the church is WAY focused on the physical beauty of women is SPOT ON. What is so discouraging to me is that it wasn’t just the church leadership who treated me like a leper (including, btw, Mark’s wife, who is very beautiful), but many of the congregation as well – this is what alarms me, as I realize more and more how many “little Driscolls” are now being raised up there (and sadly, as the other ex member posted, the worst of them are women!). I have tried attending 6 small groups for the church and at every single one was very blatantly shunned for my “gluttony.” The arrogance and rudeness of the leadership is shocking. Ironically, Mark himself was always quite kind to me, way back in the day when the church was young.
Thank you for this post about Mark Driscoll. You raise important points while maintaining a position of grace, which is very instructive to me in my current situation.
I have been a member at Mars Hill church from almost the beginning, and it is time to say my goodbye. I am concerned about several things. Mark has more power than any one pastor should be given. I love him, however over the years I have watched my church evolve into the Church of Mark. Though Mark would never intend this, the church is no longer focused on Jesus of the Bible. It is focused on Mark’s Jesus, Mark’s anecdotes, Mark’s wife, Mark’s children, Mark’s truth.
He has stated several times from the pulpit and on the Member’s forum that though he is not opposed per se to having another pastor preach regularly at Mars Hill, he just has never met another pastor who could fill his shoes. Likewise, a few years ago he told us that he believes himself to be a chosen “apostle.” I believe this is very dangerous: both to a pastor and to a congregation. This thinking inevitably inspires a leader who is larger than life, a Super-Pastor, the vessel of all Truth – while creating a congregation who are unable to think without that pastor’s guidance. In this way, the pastor eventually transcends the congregation’s regard for the Holy Spirit in ministering.
Mark used to regularly, publicly confess to struggling with humility, grace, and legalistic perfectionism. The past few years, I have slowly watched him losing the battle. It grieves me more than I can say. This week, as you are probably aware, Mark’s official response to the Haggard situation was to point out adultery can happen when a pastor’s wife does not keep up her physical appearance and sexual availability. Perhaps this idea has merit and can be explored, but to broach this as a public response to the current scandal displays a woeful and whimsical lack of grace and tact.
Also this last week, Mars Hill laid off several employees due to financial troubles which Mark sternly attributes to an unfaithful congregation. I will not air the dirty laundry in more detail, but I decided once and for all to leave my church when we were informed that they will be releasing a list of members who are not “faithful” givers, in order that they be rebuked within their community groups and come to repentance. A problem with that is that many of us give in cash, myself included, because we do not believe in getting credit from any man or group for our tithes. Also, many who are unable to give substantially give instead in service. Whether they need to come to repentance or not, this issue should remain between Jesus and the believer.
I believe these things are happening because Mark feels extremely empowered by his emerging renown. He is increasingly presenting himself in an unconventional and controversial way in order to further his name. Though he intends to further Christ’s name, the one who is getting the attention here is Mark. Ultimately this is at the expense and detriment of his church body, and it has intensified into a steady crescendo the more famous he becomes.
I believe I can answer your question about what Mark would say if a member were to approach him and say “I don’t like your church, therefore I am going to start my own.” He would say, “Get out, we don’t want your kind here, because we only want those who love Jesus.” In other words, all of us as members know that the ultimate blasphemy is to disagree with Mark. I have seen so many members ousted for simply asking questions, weighing his theology, and inquiring about his often-harsh deliveries — they have been ousted for “not loving Jesus.” We know better than to question Mark, ever. Any question is considered “causing division.” This is unfortunate, given that Mark will no longer talk to members. Years ago, Mark would clear out an afternoon to address the concerns of any one of his flock. Now, even his old friends cannot reach him. Everything is intercepted by assistants and never gets to him. He has become like Elvis: sheltered, a myth, legendary, the King of modern Christendom.
I will close by saying that Mark’s condemnation of any truth but his own has left me spiritually crippled. I now realize that Mark’s Truth, instead of feeding me, has eaten me from the inside out. When there is no room for any reality but one very strong leader’s, when your only choice is to follow him completely, all or nothing, you begin to hear only his voice. After a few years of being required, as a member, to take Mark’s word for everything, I cannot open my Bible. I cannot open it without automatically thinking “I need Mark to tell me what this means.” I cannot open it without seeing a Jesus there who is angry, harsh, who wants to punish me because I don’t love Him enough. The grace and love that I once rejoiced in has slowly been replaced by a solid conviction of condemnation, of never bearing enough fruit to possibly be acceptable to Jesus.
Mark is not a bad man. He is actually a very kind person – in person. But when he gets on that stage, Mark the hipster, the pied piper of all Truth, takes over. Please pray for him, for the congregation of my church, and finally for me. I love Mark as my brother, but I have been very profoundly injured by him. I do believe that God has the power and desire to heal me from the damage that Mark has inadvertently done to me, and I pray for that day to come soon.