Mark Driscoll Gets Political with Sen. Martha McSally

This Sunday, Mark Driscoll will host Sen. Martha McSally during the 11am service at The Trinity Church where she will give a testimony.

I hope they are on their best behavior. Both McSally and Driscoll are known for their use of foul language.  Driscoll famously shamed one of his Mars Hill elders into swearing during an elder meeting, even though the elder didn’t want to do it. He also was once known as the “cussing pastor.”

McSally is also known for her colorful language and brusque manner. When Senators were discussing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, she stood and signaled her wish to repeal it with an urgent profanity.

McSally acknowledges she uses “salty” language and, for that reason, refused to condemn Trump’s reference to “shithole” nations. More troubling than the language is Driscoll’s move into advocacy for the Trump agenda.

McSally will be a big draw among Trump supporting Republicans along with the water slides and other attractions at the property. A source close to the church told me that The Trinity Church is not using mitigation measures such as social distancing and masks. So add Driscoll’s church to the growing list of COVID spreading, Trump supporting ministries.

Blog Theme: Mars Hill Church – Interview with Dave Bruskas and Sutton Turner, Part One

In the category of unlikely interviews, this one is near the top of the list. Today, I publish the first part of an interview with Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas. Turner, Bruskas and Mark Driscoll made up the three executive elders of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. Driscoll was also the president of the corporation and clearly in charge. Turner was the financial guy and Bruskas occupied the number two spot. Given amount of leaked information I was reporting on Mars Hill, I imagine I was public enemy number one for this trio in 2014.

Nonetheless, after the church closed, neither Turner nor Bruskas were hostile when I contacted them. Over the years, they have talked more about how they have reached out to Mars Hill people and tried to mend fences. I don’t know all about it, but I don’t need to.

I do know that they have a perspective that I never was able to get while I reported on Mars Hill. Almost everything they have told me vindicated the reporting I did. But with that out of the way, I wanted to know how it was to try to function in what Paul Tripp called, “…without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.” They did not evade their own responsibility as you will hear.

So I hope you will hear them out in both parts of the interview (part two coming Thursday). In part one, we discuss Dave Kraft’s first charges, the Strange Fire Conference, “big brother” James MacDonald, the Janet Mefferd interview, the Result Source Bestseller scheme, Driscoll’s content management system and Driscoll as “The Brand.”:

For all posts on Mars Hill Church, click here.

For all posts on Mark Driscoll, click here.

To watch all interviews reflecting on 15 years of blogging, click here.

Book Review: Mark Driscoll’s Spirit-Filled Jesus

In this guest post, freelance writer Becky Garrison reviews Mark Driscoll’s new book Spirit-Filled Jesus with a focus on what is missing from the book.

The Revisionist Rebranding of Mark Driscoll from Calvinist to Charismatic

By Becky Garrison

Mark Driscoll’s latest book Spirit-Filled Jesus: Live by His Power slated to release on October 2, 2018 represents his first major public offering since he resigned from Mars Hill Church (MHC) in October 2014 amid allegations of plagiarism, financial mismanagement, and abuse. Backed by the PR muscle of A. Larry Ross Communications, who represents such Christian powerhouses like the Billy Graham Legacy, Saddleback & Rick Warren, and The Family aka Fellowship), Driscoll appears poised to rebrand himself from “young, restless and reformed” to older, wiser and spirit-filled.

One could see signs of Driscoll’s move from Calvinist to Charismatic when he appeared with Robert Morris of Gateway Church on DayStar TV the same month he left MHC. However, by publishing with Charisma House, Driscoll’s transformation into a spirit-filled pastor appears to be complete.

Throughout this breezy book, Driscoll offers simplistic step-by-step instructions for how one can live a spirit-filled life by following Jesus’ teachings. Those well versed with charismatic teachings might find this book of interest as Driscoll mentions Jesus with far greater frequency than most charismatic authors, who tend to focus on the Holy Spirit. However, those well versed in the Mars Hill saga will find his whitewashing of his past telling.

For example, his bios on both his website and the Spirit Filled Jesus website make no mention of his role in founding and pastoring MHC. Nor does Driscoll reference his connections with Antioch Church or the Young Leaders Network, two entities that played a seminal role in Driscoll’s formation as a pastor. (On a side note, Brad Sargent aka Futurist Guy offers this timeline of the US emergent church. A review of this timeline along with Wenatchee the Hatchet’s detailed history of MHC point to the similarities in both entities in terms of their histories of abuse.)

Throughout the book, he makes vague allusions to his pastoral endeavors prior to establishing Trinity Church in Scottsdale, AZ without mentioning Mars Hill Church by name.

When describing his departure from Seattle, he states, “We moved to Arizona for a hard reset of life and ministry after years of feeling like a crash test dummy in a car with no airbags. After about two decades in ministry, I took some time off to heal up before entering the next season of God’s will for our life. For some months, we had church in our home on Sunday mornings before we relocated for safety reasons.” (pp. 31-32)

Later in this book, Driscoll describes how he healed from this unnamed ordeal. “After roughly two decades of teaching, I took a break for healing and learning during the most difficult season of my life for my family and me.” (p. 162) He alludes to this difficult season again with tears as the family gathered for Sunday church in their living room. (p. 185) One familiar with MHC’s history could presume Driscoll is describing the period after he resigned and before he moved to Arizona. But once again, he remains fuzzy on the details.

Then as he proclaims how his church plant in Arizona would be a “family ministry,” he makes this observation. “The first church my wife Grace and I planted, we were just twenty-five years of age with no children.” (p. 32)

While discussing his 2009 preaching services on Luke (available online at the Mars Hill Church website), he does not mention the specifics of where his preaching took place. “It took me roughly two years to preach that book to an audience comprised largely of college-educated singles who attended late night services because they had a hard time getting up by the crack of dinner.” (p. xi)

He later references pastoring a church prior to Trinity Chruch without delving into specifics. (p. 154) In fact, a reader unfamiliar with Driscol’s past would only know he has visited Seattle when Driscoll noted, “We were traveling from Seattle to Orlando” (p. 60). No mention anywhere in this book of his years living and pastoring in this city and the surrounding environs even though as Wenatchee the Hatchet documented most of the Mars Hill Church campuses have survived albeit under new names.

Continuing his revisionist retelling of his over two decades of ministry, Driscoll fails to acknowledge any of the carnage left behind after he departed MHC. Case in point, his chapters “Forgiven People Should Forgive People” and “Seven Reasons to Forgive” make no mention of the Facebook page established by MHC parishioners to air their grievances after Driscoll claimed he could not reconcile with those wronged by MHC because he could not address what he termed anonymous complaints. So one wonders about the validity of his forgiveness challenge designed as part of the book promotional campaign given that Driscoll appears unwilling to practice what he preaches.

Furthermore, given past revelations Driscoll plagiarized sections of Real Marriage and other works, one would think he would be more judicious in citing his sources in this book. His Jesus-filled index is quite sparse with one chapter ironically titled “Facing Foolish and Evil People With the Spirit’s Wisdom” having no citations at all. So just who came up with the “Six Kinds of Relationships” involving wise, evil, and foolish people described in detail in this chapter? Was Driscoll inspired by the Holy Spirit to pen these concepts? After all, he’s now playing in the Charismatic stream where personal revelation trumps traditional scholarship.

Given Les Parrott endorsed his book, I presume he does not object to having his work used by Driscoll without proper citations. However, since Parrott also lives in Seattle, I wonder why he would endorse a book that omits any reference to Driscoll’s controversial Seattle past. While Les Parrott and his wife Leslie are not connected directly to MHC, they co-author a range of relationship books that are represented by Sealy Yates, who was also Driscoll’s agent prior to the Real Marriage fallout. And like Driscoll, the Parrotts utilized Result Source to guarantee their book would chart on the New York Times bestseller list.

Most of Driscoll’s other 24 endorsements appear to be minor players in the Charismatic church scene. However, I am struck by the inclusion of Eric Metaxas, a Fox News pundit and one of the earliest and most stalwart Trump supporters, as Driscoll has never veered into faith based political debates.

I ran down this list of endorsers with Wenatchee the Hatchet to ascertain those individuals who had connections to Driscoll during his Mars Hill days. Here’s his assessment.

  • Larry Osborne was credited by Driscoll with advising him in a way that catalyzed the notorious 2006-2007 reorganization of MHC.
  • James MacDonald is a BoAA member and Executive Elder who helped Driscoll crash John MacArthur’s anti-charismatic Strange Fire conference.*
  • Craig Groeschel was another guy Driscoll name-dropped as someone he consulted with for the 2006-2007 reorganization of MHC.
  • Greg Laurie was a speaker at Resurgence 2013, and a client of A. Larry Ross.
  • Gerry Breshears was Driscoll’s advisor at Western Seminary and co-author of a few of his books, most notably Doctrine and Death By Love.

In a blog posting addressing the rise and fall of MHC, Breshears writes about those in MHC leadership repenting of their past actions as they replant many of the former MHC churches. So why would he then endorse a book by Driscoll who obliterates Mars Hill’s history with no sign of Driscoll repenting of his actions to date? Furthermore, why did four other individuals who had connections to Driscoll during his MHC days decided to endorse this book, thus participating in Driscoll’s rebranding efforts?

While the teachings of Jesus feature prominently throughout this book, upon further examine, suffice to say this book appears to be full of something other than Jesus.

(Note: The quotes from Spirit-Filled Jesus are from an uncorrected proof, not final copy.)

Becky Garrison is a freelance storyteller/satirist currently based in Portland, OR. Follow her travels via twitter and Instagram @Becky_Garrison

 

*Editor’s note: An earlier version of this review said James MacDonald might have had a “gambling habit” and racked up real estate debt for his church. Although there wasn’t an intention to link the two ideas, at least one reader did so and others may have.  To avoid confusion, I decided to remove this sentence. There was no intent to suggest that any poker playing led to church debt. 

On the point of MacDonald’s gambling, there is a credible report that MacDonald gambled with Jerry Jenkins in the past, but there is no intent in this article or evidence presented that he does now.  Wenatchie the Hatchet added a postscript to a recent article which also addresses this issue.

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Q&A With Former Mars Hill Church Executive Pastor Sutton Turner

In 2014, I could not get a comment from anyone at Mars Hill Church in Seattle about anything. I am sure that most of the leaders there saw me as a serious problem since I wrote so much about the church and problems in leadership there. Eventually, the church closed and distributed assets to several autonomous churches which had been part of the Mars Hill network of locations.

Sutton Turner was one of the executive pastors who presided over growth and decline of the church. Since the closing of the church, Sutton and I have had several friendly conversations about the church and his role in the situation. Because of that, I felt comfortable calling on him to discuss a recent positive move in his life.

Yesterday, I saw an announcement that Sutton has joined Vanderbloemen Search Group, a Christian job search company as Vice President of Candidate Relations. In the announcement, Mars Hill Church is mentioned but there is no direct mention of the downside of the organization. Curious, I asked Sutton some questions about what he had learned at Mars Hill. He was kind to answer them today.

Throckmorton: In the Vanderbloemen announcement, what you learned at Mars Hill is credited with fueling your passion for healthy churches. Could you expand on that?

Turner: I have 23 years of experience leading different organizations in business and ministry.   I have seen the best and worst cultures.   I have been a part of start-ups where I was able to create the culture and walked into cultures that I did not create but tried to improve.   All leaders find themselves in these two categories today.

After Mars Hill was divided up into independent churches in 2014, I began to meet with former members and staff from Mars Hill who wanted to meet with me.  I had moved to Texas, and some of these conversations first took place on the phone.   I also flew back to Seattle several times at my own cost.   Many people were former members before my time and Mars Hill, some were leaders that worked alongside me, and some were faithful members of the church.  The deep hurt felt by these members over the loss of their church cannot be understated.  It was a HUGE loss in their lives that continues today.   It affected their kids, marriage, and community.   Some people walked away from attending church all together from their Mars Hill experience.  These face to face meeting profoundly affected me and motivated me to help avoid another Mars Hill experience in the future.  I then wrote a series of blogs in 2015 to bring another perspective to what happened at Mars Hill and perhaps help others in their healing process.

Over the last year, I read William Vanderbloemen’s book “Culture Wins.” I absolutely love the focus around creating a great environment and culture of an organization. William’s company, Vanderbloemen Search Group (Vanderbloemen), has a great culture and wants to help other organizations create culture.  I am grateful to be able to join a culture and company trying to help others.   Vanderbloemen provides search and consulting for churches, non-profits and mission-based businesses.   As I join Vanderbloemen, I hope to use all of my experience to assist other leaders and organizations.   However, my first role at Vanderbloemen will be to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their search process.

Throckmorton: Many on the outside and inside at the time have questioned the health of Mars Hill. First, do you agree that Mars Hill while you were there was not a healthy church? In what ways did that lack of health manifest itself?

Turner: I believe until we get to heaven, there will not be a “perfect church” with a “perfect culture.”  All churches have areas to improve, just like all Christians have areas to improve.   I loved Mars Hill and I love the people of Mars Hill Church.  During my time there, I saw a faith family grow in their knowledge of the Bible, their heart for worship, and their service to others.  But Mars Hill had many areas to improve that were never addressed, some of which led to its closure.  Culture quickly is created by the decisions of leadership, and once the culture is created, it is very difficult to change.  Culture can be changed, but it takes committed leadership to make that happen.

Since the closing of Mars Hill in 2014, I have made many trips to Seattle to meet with hurt former church members.  Some members attended Mars Hill before my time.  I have learned a great deal through these meetings about how their lives were affected by the church.   I wrote several blogs to communicate what I have learned and help people with their healing.   As I stated in 2015,

Early on in my time at Mars Hill, I unfortunately operated in a sinful way that was consistent with the existing church culture that had grown and been cultivated since the early years of the church (late 1990’s). Instead of being an agent of change for good, I simply reinforced negative sinful behavior.  (I am responsible for my own actions, and do not blame my actions on the culture.)

I am planning another trip back to Seattle this fall to meet with more leaders and former members to continue the healing process.  I hope to continue to learn from what happened at Mars Hill and use this experience, along with my other leadership experiences, to help churches, non-profits and mission-based businesses while at Vanderbloemen.

Throckmorton: What can you tell us about what you learned in your position at Mars Hill which can help you help others develop a healthy church?

Turner: Over the last 4 years, I have studied the culture from Mars Hill and talked extensively to people that were negatively affected by the culture and its leaders.  I am building a set of material from this research to help other organizations which I have shared with several pastors and leaders.  They have identified one or two of these areas they see in their own church culture that needs improvement.   I hope to use my experience to help other leaders and pastors in the future while at Vanderbloemen.

Throckmorton: The growth of the church was remarkable, and yet the implosion was also remarkable. What observations can you offer about the rise and fall of Mars Hill?

Turner: Well, this is exactly the material I have been working on.  Trying to research the elements of the culture of Mars Hill and see what can be learned by its dramatic rise and fall.   Mars Hill started in the late 1990s.  The culture was created over the decade before Pastor Dave Bruskas and I joined senior leadership.  However, I fully believe that as John C. Maxwell says “everything rises and falls with leadership.”  In 2015, I wrote several blogs about what I learned and stated:

I have written about my personal journey of repentance and forgiveness (Part 1 & Part 2). Many will say that Pastor Dave and I did not do enough to change the culture; which is fair and certainly true, but only those who worked within the inner circle know how hard we tried.

Right now, I continue to research and document what I have learned from the Mars Hill experience.  I continue this effort to help people heal and help other leaders learn from the culture of Mars Hill.   No one wants to see what happened at Mars Hill ever happen again.  As a leader that was front row to the last 4 years of the church and created the plan to disband the church into independent churches, I have a good perspective to hopefully use my experience to help others.

Reflections

These are probably hard questions to answer. It is difficult to address the culture at Mars Hill without talking about Mark Driscoll. Although much water is under the bridge, Turner gives witness that there are still people who went to Mars Hill who are not over it. There is unfinished business for Driscoll to attend to in the Northwest.

On the bright side, in 2014 I never thought I would be reflecting back on Mars Hill with Sutton Turner (I have also had some nice exchanges with Dave Bruskas).

To read my posts on Mars Hill Church, see this link: Mars Hill Church

To read my posts about Mark Driscoll, see this link: Mark Driscoll

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Mark Driscoll Gets His Charisma On

Mark Driscoll is getting us ready for a big announcement. Check it out:

His next big book could be part of the fun. According to Christian Market Weekly, Driscoll is signing with Charisma:

Pastor Mark Driscoll is returning to publishing by signing with Charisma House. His new book, Spirit-Filled Jesus, will release in October 2018.

No doubt the Jesus-loving, Youtube-filming, Charisma-publishing Driscoll brand will be big. Even though the trail of busted stuff in Seattle is still there, it is easy enough in the big Evangelical circus to pitch your tent somewhere else and start a new show in a new season.
A resurgence of Driscoll branding is probably coming at about the right time. I have noticed in my little corner of the Christian world less awareness of him and the Mars Hill history. Just this year I asked a class of undergrads how many had heard of him and not one hand went up. That had never happened before and is a problem for The Brand.
For those coming late to this party, there are several links to get you started.

More Articles on Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church

Wenatchee the Hatchet. – This blogger has followed Mars Hill Church for many years and has a wealth of information and detail about church history and various players who have been associated with the church over the years.
Mars Hill Church Blog Summary – This link will lead to all blog posts about Mars Hill Church. My posts started in late 2013 after Mark Driscoll’s disastrous interview with Janet Mefferd.
Daily Beast – This link leads to my series of articles at The Daily Beast on Mars Hill Church. For those wanting a quick summary on Mark Driscoll’s plan to place his book Real Marriage on the New York Times bestseller list, this is a good place to start. Also, these article provide a summary of the fall of Mars Hill Church.

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2017

In 2017, the following ten posts received the most page views:
10. K-LOVE’s Pledge Drive: Money Behind the Music (2017)
9. Former Newsping Pastor Perry Noble Incorporates Second Change Church (2017)
8. American College of Pediatricians v. American Academy of Pediatrics: Who Leads and Who Follows? (2011)
7. After the Demise of Mars Hill Church Mark Driscoll Landed on His Feet with Over One Million in Donations (2017)
6. IRS and Postal Service Agents on Scene at Benny Hinn’s Office (2017)
5. Mark Driscoll Spins the End of Mars Hill Church (2017)
4. A Major Study of Child Abuse and Homosexuality Revisited (2009)
3. Former CFO at Turning Point Claims David Jeremiah Used Questionable Methods to Secure a Spot on Best Seller Lists (2015)
2. What’s Going on at Harvest Bible Fellowship? James MacDonald Resigns as President of HBF (2017)
and the #1 post is:

  1. Open Letter to Gateway Pastor Robert Morris from a Former Member of Mars Hill Church (2014)

 
Some past posts have aged well. The 2009 post regarding child abuse and non-heterosexuality has been in the top ten nearly every year since 2009.counseling image 2 Readers continue to be interested in Mars Hill Church and various players surrounding the demise of that church.
Although the page views don’t show it, the story that continues to be covered here and almost nowhere else is the Gospel for Asia saga. The target of federal scrutiny and two RICO lawsuits in the U.S., GFA has also initiated and been involved in various legal actions in India. Although the scope of the GFA empire dwarfs other organizations I have examined, it continues to fly along under the radar.
For a profile of my work and the role blogging has played in it, see this lengthy article by Jon Ward in Yahoo News earlier this month.

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The learn more about the sexual identity therapy framework, go here.

After the Demise of Mars Hill Church, Mark Driscoll Landed on His Feet with Over One Million in Donations

Screen capture from Mars Hill Church video, 2014
Screen capture from Mars Hill Church video, 2014

If her article at the Washington Post today is any indication, columnist Kirsten Powers is more than a little peeved at my blog host Patheos for taking in Pastor Mark Driscoll as a blogger. In the piece, Powers smartly summarized Driscoll’s history of misogynous utterances and then opined:

Any outlet that promotes him as a respectable teacher is as complicit in our culture’s misogyny as other abusers’ enablers.
But what do I know? I’m just a woman.

As her article shows, Powers knows a lot. But she might not know how much cash one can pull in even with a reputation as a purveyor of toxic masculinity. Stay with me, I am about to show you.

Mark Driscoll Ministries

According to the 2014 and 2015 IRS 990 forms required to be filed by nonprofit organizations, Mark Driscoll Ministries pulled in $1,132,009 from November 2014 to December 2016 (figure comes from adding all donations and speaking fees).
MDM 2015 front page 990
Of course, it takes money to run a “ministries” (why is one guy’s ministry called ministries?) so he didn’t get all of that million, but most of the donations went to his compensation, moving expenses, and housing allowance. His new church got $25,000. I wonder how many donors thought they were helping to plant that church with their donations.
Former Mars Hill Church members: you might be interested to know that much of current content of Mark Driscoll Ministries website was paid for by your charitable giving. Just recently on the Patheos blog, his posts have been recycled from his books and the Resurgence website. Mars Hill fundsMDM patheos disclaimer paid Docent Research Group and a team of people at Mars Hill to provide the research for the content of the books. These materials have been recycled and keep on giving Driscoll returns on your investment.
So don’t worry about Driscoll. After he resigned from Mars Hill Church rather than comply with his elders’ recommendations in October 2014, his brand seems to have recovered well. Now all he has to worry about is people who remember things and write about them in the Washington Post and of all places Patheos.

A Citation Error by Fellow Blogger Mark Driscoll Is a Blast from the Past

Screen capture from Mars Hill Church video, 2014
Screen capture from Mars Hill Church video, 2014

After reading the most recent post by my Fellow Patheos Blogger Pastor Mark Driscoll™ last night, a frequent reader of my blog informed me that the new post recycles lots of material from Driscoll’s book on doctrine. Indeed, there are several paragraphs in his Patheos post on evil in Las Vegas which first appeared in his book with Gerry Breshears titled Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe.  For instance, Driscoll wrote in his post:

The Bible uses a constellation of images to explain sin as everything from rebellion to folly, self-abuse, madness, treason, death, hatred, spiritual adultery, missing the mark, wandering from the path, idolatry, insanity, irrationality, pride, selfishness, blindness, deafness, a hard heart, a stiff neck, delusion, unreasonableness, and self-worship. Sin and evil are not rational or reasonable.

In his Doctrine book, he introduces a section on sin with the same paragraph:
Driscoll Doctrine Sin

To Recycle or Not?

Recycling previously published material without citation is somewhat controversial in the world of writers. Journalist Jonah Lehrer had his career sidetracked over it. I discovered lots of it in Fellow Patheos Blogger Mark Driscoll’s™ books. However, in this case, I doubt many people will care that he is recycling previously published material at his new blog.
On the other hand, his co-author might care. Unless Gerry Breshears was not really very involved or just lent his name, the material claimed now by Driscoll might have been written by Breshears. Having a co-author is one reason why authors should cite the original source for recycled material.

Deja Vu All Over Again*

However, the same reader alerted me to something else I hadn’t seen before. It appears I found another “citation error” (some would call it plagiarism) in Doctrine (see this image for other such citation errors). On pages 149-150 of the 2010 book (see the page image here), Driscoll and Breshears wrote:

To help you understand sin, in general, and your sin, in particular, we will examine eight aspects of sin that the Old Testament teaches us.
1) Sin in the Old Testament is first a relational breach. This is painfully clear in Genesis 2–3 where, because of their sin, our first parents are separated from God and one another; they hide from God and one another, fear God, blame one another, and seek to cover their sin and shame while living their life apart from God.
2) Sin in the Old Testament is a social matter because shalom has been vandalized. This is evidenced by the litany of murder, perversion, drunkenness, the continual evil that precipitated the flood, and human attempts at an Edenic-like society without any regard for God that spring forth in Genesis 4–11.
3) Sin in the Old Testament is a covenantal rebellion against God and his authority. This is witnessed perhaps most clearly in Exodus 32 to 34, where following God’s liberation of his people, they dishonor, disregard, and disobey him by worshiping idols while God is giving them the Ten Commandments through their leader Moses.
4) Sin in the Old Testament is a legal transgression that results in guilt that necessitates punishment. One clear example is found in Deuteronomy 32, where in worshipful song Moses recollects some of the most treasonous behavior of God’s people and the price that had to be paid for justice to be maintained.
5) Sin in the Old Testament results in ritual uncleanness, pollution, and filth, marked by the use of words such as “filth,” “defiled,” “unclean,” and “whore.”18 Importantly, this defilement happens both to sinners and victims; we defile ourselves by our own sin and are defiled by others when they sin against us.
6) Sin in the Old Testament includes emotional pain such as shame and disgrace.19 This is first seen in Genesis 3, where our first parents sin and then hide in shame and disgrace, whereas prior to their sin they “were not ashamed.”20
7) Sin in the Old Testament is spoken of in historical terms as an accumulating burden whereby sin is piled up from one generation to the next.21 In this way, sin only worsens over time as people invent new ways to do evil more effectively.
8) Sin in the Old Testament is spoken of with the finality of death.22 Sin is deadly, and ends only in death. This is because when we sin and prefer created things to our creator God, we stop ruling over creation and are ruled by it so that in the end we lose and the dust wins.23
(The footnotes go to Bible verses not human authors as you can see in the page image)

Now read the same eight aspects written by Christopher Wright in a 2008 book about the atonement (Scroll down to Chapter Four “Atonement in the Old Testament” and read the first four pages of that chapter – See the page images for the relevant parts of Wright’s chapter here as well: one, two)

The eight aspects of sin described by Wright ended up in Driscoll’s book without citation. The explanations were gently reworded but reflect the same classification and meaning as Wright’s two years earlier. Some of the same key words, phrases, and Bible passages also remain used as Wright did, e.g., Adam and Eve, shalom, Exodus 32-34, shame and disgrace, accumulating burden, etc.  (See also this side by side comparison.)
It was as if I was transported back to 2014.
 
*”Deja vu all over again” is often attributed to Yogi Berra.
 

Reflections on TGC's Life After Mars Hill Church

DriscollBuildingToday, Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra posted a reflection on Mars Hill Church two years later. I started twice to write an article like this but didn’t get an answer back from some of those former pastors Zylstra quoted. I must still be associated with the opposition.
Overall, I think Zylstra did a fine job of weaving together a recognizable picture of Mars Hill Church. However, I don’t think this is the last word on the subject. Several more of these kind of articles will need to be written. Probably the whole situation requires a book.
For now, I will add some comments to aspects of the article. I’ll quote Zylstra and then comment.

Slow Train Coming

Then, in a few breathtaking months, the whole thing collapsed. Founder and lead pastor Mark Driscoll’s bent toward the provocative, which was part of his draw, increasingly came under fire, fanned by a series of controversies.

The collapse was a slow motion ride of over a year. There were multiple controversies and turning points but much of what became controversial was the exposure of a pattern of leadership which had taken place over many years. In the last year, many on the inside decided they had tried everything an insider could do. Those people started to talk, organize, and give witness to what they had experienced.

PDCSD – Post Dysfunctional Church Stress Disorder

The collapse of Mars Hill released a tidal wave of hurt, disillusioned people. Many quit Mars Hill; some quit church or Christianity altogether. Hundreds limped into other area churches, asking about church bylaws and pastoral pay structures before even introducing themselves.

A valuable aspect of this article is the documentation of troubled ex-Mars Hill people careening into new churches with church related PTSD.  The church’s structure wasn’t the reason for the problems at Mars Hill but in the last days, the drama was played out on the stage Mark Driscoll and his oversight board had created. No wonder ex-members were wary of how other churches do things.

Your Pastor is Not Your Father

“The biggest fear was that I was going to walk away,” he said. “The thing that hurt the most, that they couldn’t believe, was that Mark would leave them. The feeling that they lost their pastor was a hard blow.”
That’s because “Mark called us his kids,” said Huck, for whom Driscoll was a father figure. “He up and left his kids. That’s the hard part we’re still dealing with. I don’t need a public apology, but it would be nice to be acknowledged. It’s like your dad left and started a new family, and you’re here with your brothers and sisters. And you’re just confused.”

In one of my early interviews on Mars Hill Church, a former leader told me, “Mark recruited all these guys with daddy issues.” While there was much more to the demise of MHC, a fantasy about the role of pastor was a key feature. Driscoll cultivated a paternalistic stance with the congregation. At least some of those people longed for what they imagined a father figure would be, and Driscoll delivered. Even when Driscoll was harsh and outrageous, many excused the actions as a sign of paternal boldness. After all, “father knows best.”
Hopefully, the MHC affair will disabuse Christians of the wish for the pastor-father. Your pastor is not your dad. He or she is a person who can play the role of a shepherd regarding matters of faith but beware of the pastor who wants to be your father.

The Fall Out

No one took a survey, but by most estimates, about half of the former Mars Hill congregants stayed with their campus. Of those who left, most seem to have landed in different area churches. (Two were planted from the Bellevue exodus.)

I think instead of guessing, it would be valuable to do a survey. I doubt that most have landed in area churches. No doubt some have, but I don’t assume that most people have moved on and are still in church.

Well Taught or Well Conditioned?

But even though they’re wounded and unsettled, the Mars Hill diaspora has one enormous advantage: They’ve been well taught.

I hope that’s true but there are many ex-members who I am pretty sure will dispute this.

Mars Hill Church Was Where Jesus Hung Out

One unintentional and subtle message of Mars Hill was, “If you want to be part of what Jesus is doing in our city, then you should be here,” Sinnett said. “When we got out of that ethos and into the church-planting realm, I was blown away by the million things Jesus was doing in the city which were unnamed and unbranded but just as spectacular.”

No, I think this message was intentional and obvious. Perhaps Zylstra was being kind, but a consistent theme I heard from former Mars Hill leaders was that MHC was the best church, really the only church where it was all being done correctly.

We’re Sorry Now

“To a man, every one of them has struggled with what role of complicity they’ve had in the whole thing,” Fairchild said. “That has been very good for us. I have learned the difference between intent and impact—you can have good intentions, but that doesn’t always translate into helpful, gracious impact.”
The elders from Bellevue and Sammamish “truly repented of their participation in any of the sin,” Vanderstelt said. “There was a deep godly sorrow, a genuine repentance, a real desire to walk out the fruit of repentance.”

Apparently, the Mars Hill financial distributions are over.
What is missing in this article is the testimonies of all of the healing that Mark Driscoll has said has taken place. Phoenix is happening but it seems obvious that Seattle still has issues.
 
For much more on Mars Hill Church, see this link.

Former Mars Hill Church Elder Disputes Mark Driscoll's Account of Church Demise

Mark Driscoll 2016
Mark Driscoll 2016

On April 6, Mars Hill Church founder Mark Driscoll claimed to Randy Robison and Sheila Walsh on the Life Today TV show that he left Mars Hill Church over a “governance” conflict which lasted eight years. At the time, I surveyed former Mars Hill Church elders and not one of them remembered it that way. Now another Mars Hill elder has spoken out in response to Driscoll’s claim. Yesterday, former elder Mike Wilkerson said on Matt Carter’s podcast, Break it Down, that the reason Mars Hill ended was not governance but Driscoll’s coercive and abusive style of leadership.
The video of Driscoll’s appearance on Life Today has been removed from the program’s website but the transcript is still available. Here is what Driscoll told Walsh and Robison about the end of Mars Hill Church.

Mark: At 22 we graduated; 25 we started a Bible study trying to reach primarily young 2 college-educated singles in what was at the time among the nation’s least churched cities. In the early years we were broke and we didn’t have kids and I was working a job and didn’t think it would amount to anything. Eventually, in God’s grace, God did some remarkable things through some wonderful people. We saw about 10,000 people baptized. We saw the church grow to 15,000 on a typical Sunday. We saw 15 locations in five states, just kind of superseded all expectations.
Randy: And this is the Pacific Northwest, this is not the Bible belt.
Mark: No. This is urban, single, young adults, all kinds of sexual issues, confusion, abuse, baggage and carry-ons — so lots of stuff going on. We had a governance war at the church that went eight years behind the scenes over who is in charge and how things play out. At the end we had 67 elders in 15 locations in five states, a large percentage of whom I had never met. They wanted to have independent local churches and we were one large church in many locations. So there was an eight-year battle that finally went public the last year and it was very painful for everyone involved, especially the wonderful, dear, generous, amazing people that served and gave and made it all happen.
So the governing board in authority over me invited us to continue and we prayed about it and talked about it as a family and felt like we heard from the Lord and I resigned. And left without — didn’t have an opportunity to say good-bye to the people so I want to let them know how much I love them and appreciate them and wish I would have had that opportunity. We took some time off just to heal up. I signed a non-disclosure agreement so you’re not going to talk about it, which was fair and reasonable and I agree with. And just decided to spend time as a family to heal up, to meet with wise counsel, to learn what we could learn and to see what the Lord had for the next season of our life.

Now go here and listen at 32:31 into the podcast to Carter ask Wilkerson if Driscoll’s recent statements on Life Today were accurate. The following is a transcript from 32:31 to 34:02.

Carter: A couple things, so the way that you’re describing that is, I’ll at least bring up and say that it seems to me to be at odds with what I saw Mark say on TV recently which was, which really tripped me out when he said it, yeah, there was problems there but it was an eight year governance war behind the, power struggle behind the scenes and it didn’t work out right and so God told me to leave. When he said it on there, I was like, hm, maybe I’m crazy and that’s what happened but I felt so weird like maybe I’m the crazy one because it sounded believable what he said the way he said it, but I think he, if I’m not right correct me on this, some of the stuff that you’re already discussing and whatever that is that he’s describing would largely involve you and other people.
Wilkerson: Presumably
Carter: How does that strike you when you hear him say that?
Wilkerson: What strikes me is that’s not true, but…
Carter: Do you think he thinks that’s true?
Wilkerson: I don’t know. I mean I don’t know. What I can tell you that I know is there I was in 2013, early 2013 dealing with these highly escalated issues and they had to do with the bullying, kind of domineering, that kind of stuff. There was no context about governance in that.

Then Wilkerson said he continued to hear stories of domineering and bullying behavior even after he resigned. About the reasons for Driscoll’s and the church’s demise, Wilkerson said clearly, “None of it was about governance, none, none of it was about governance. It was about the issues he was eventually charged with.”
To read those formal charges, click here. As you will see, none of the issues related to governance, eight years in duration or otherwise.
In the coming days, other Mars Hill Church elders may speak out.