This week brought to light more disturbing facts concerning Mars Hill’s leadership. By paying to put Mark Driscoll’s book on the New York Times Bestseller list, Mars Hill Executive Elders may have put the church’s 501(c)3 tax exempt status in jeopardy. That would be a multi-million dollar hole from which the church may not recover. There is growing pressure for Mark to step down from leadership as more elders accuse him of what I have personally witnessed firsthand – a bullying, angry leadership style that leaves members and staff bleeding on the sidelines. He laughed about the dead bodies under the bus of Mars Hill in 2007/2008. People have been pointing out the dead bodies for years, but apparently the pile has to be big enough to see from space before enough pressure will be raised to cause change or repentance. But I admit from personal experience that, until you are personally splattered with your own blood or the blood of someone standing beside you in ministry, it is hard to believe the problem is as big as it is.
The larger Body of Christ needs to take seriously the criteria set in Scripture for acting on such accusations – two or three witnesses.
I Tim. 5:19-20 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.
Using an informal count in my head, I can think of at least 6 ELDERS, not counting deacons, former staff, or general members, with serious claims against Mark Driscoll. The executive elders repeatedly refused to obey I Tim. 5, and now the result is this public rebuke from multiple parties. The point of the Biblical standard of two or three witnesses is clear. One person crying foul does not a foul make. But those pointing out Mark’s issues have long since passed the Biblical standard for taking this seriously and rebuking him publicly.
If Mark steps down for a season, which he will likely be forced to do, Mars Hill Church will probably wither. Leadership made a choice during the time our family was still there to move toward a Mark-centered vision of ministry. When we started at Mars Hill, several elders preached the same message at various campuses on a given day, which was a sustainable model. However, since Mark was the most popular of the speakers, leadership decided to set up expensive video equipment to live broadcast Mark to the various campuses. Leaders decided to centralize around Mark and limit the public impact of the other pastors who had previously taught with him. I believe the church took out a large life insurance policy on Mark – Mark joked about it in the early days of consolidation around him. But the financial support of a life insurance policy won’t kick in in the event of the moral failure brought about by Mark’s longstanding anger problem.
Mars Hill began hemorrhaging leaders in 2008, when it lost 1000 members in a single year after two older, long serving elders were fired. Mark’s accountability structure at the time didn’t deal with the serious problems at that point, and the loss of mature Christian leaders at Mars Hill since then has only gotten worse. During the years since I left the church, I’ve watched the branches of the Mars Hill tree grow even heavier with new believers as the root system of mature Christians desperately needed to disciple these converts continues to erode. It is only a matter of time before a wind rushes through and causes the entire tree to crash down. I perceive that these current controversies might finally be that wind, and I do not rejoice in that AT ALL.
Despite all of the controversy though, the line at the communion table will continue. I spent many sweet Sundays in the line to the communion table at Mars Hill. Some of those in line with me now walk with me in line at my church. Some still walk the line at Mars Hill. Many have scattered throughout the pacific northwest. The line going forward on Sundays in the Mars Hill buildings may continue indefinitely. But maybe it won’t. Maybe the external structure will tumble down over financial woes and the loss of the integrity of its leader. Nevertheless, the line to the communion table will continue.
The ministry of Mars Hill has brought many to Christ. But we are mistaken if we think the line to the communion table will be thwarted by such misuse of ministry resources or power. People were saved at Mars Hill. But they were saved into something much bigger than Mars Hill. Church buildings and systems are temporary tents over an eternal, immovable rock. Tents blow away in a hurricane. But not the rock.
I walked the line to the communion table long before I went to Mars Hill. And I will walk it long after. I trust that those who found their way to the communion table for the first time at Mars Hill will also find it elsewhere if that ministry falls apart. In fact, I have great confidence that they will. Because the communion of saints and the inclusion into the Body of Christ transcends our temporal, earthly structures. Mars Hill is a tent. The Rock is eternal. The line continues to the Rock, and it is unstoppable.
Love this “tents blow away in a hurricane. But not the rock.”
That thought is why I am so grateful for the body of Christ, esp. after going through a rocky church split myself a couple of years ago.,
A hard but grace-filled post, Wendy.
We continue toward Jesus our Rock. Well said, Wendy, well said.
I feel burdened to share my thoughts, and know that I am simply a sister in Christ humbly sharing with you how this blog could be perceived:
This could subject the Body of Christ to unnecessary attack, pseudo bashing on our own Body, like a hand beating up a leg. We are called to walk in transparency, but never to take pleasure in or gain in another's wrongdoing (ex. blogging about leader's sin). We are all sinners in need of grace, and God is bigger than all of this. But please know that everyday we wage war in a spiritual battle for unity with God's church so that Christ may be what is glorified and what we present to the world, and not one brother hurting another. It says that the world will know us by our love for God and for one another. Praying for Mark, Mars Hill, the greater church and that the gospel could be proclaimed out of the whole situation.
Since secrecy, cover ups and lack of accountability have been such a big part of these issues, I absolutely think it's appropriate to address them publicly and I think you did so really humbly and graciously, which is very encouraging to see! I've seen some good comments from Driscoll on his own problems, which I appreciate…but my concern is that he seems able to call himself out with the benefit of hindsight but always in a way that says, yeah I admit this problem but I don't have it anymore. That looks really confessional, which it is I guess, but it still makes me question whether he can recognize the ongoing problems that are right in front of his face, that maybe need to be addressed right now.
Wendy, Thank you for this. May greater healing and new life come for all of us. ~jonna petry joyfulexiles.com
I appreciate your blog so much. I look forward to every new post that shows up on my RSS feed.
However… I have to wonder whether today's post does anything to build up our body of believers. It's one thing to take on bad theology or to discuss principles of good church leadership. This post seems do something else entirely.
I ask that you consider again whether it is good or helpful to air these grievances in such a public manner.
Galatians 2:11-13, NIV). Rebuke can be public, as in this case.
Paul Opposes Cephas:
“11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.”
True, Elise. The Bible also says we should expose false doctrine. Neither Paul or the OT prophets were reluctant to do so by name, and Jesus did it both directly to their faces and in parables.
P.S. I took the parable approach recently.
To those who criticize public posts like this — First, it certainly is possibly to sinfully gossip about this situation. Second, this is not sinful gossip. There comes a point when it was good and right for those directly connected to Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker to point out their public sins. Practical distinctions include the private verses public nature of the sin and the breadth of the public sin.
Again, I emphasize that Paul in GOD'S HOLY WORD instructs public rebuke when there is unrepentance after the testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses. I think technically, Paul would have Mark's immediate accountability structure publicly rebuke him. I don't personally intend this as a personal rebuke. Our family confronted Mark privately and left it to his elders to follow through, which they didn't do at the time. It was 4 years before I said anything publicly, and it took Mark publicly airing the entire thing in Real Marriage before I did so.
All that to say — if you think public rebuke of Mark's sin at this juncture is gossip or unbiblical, you need to study your Bible.
But to be clear — this is not a public rebuke of Mark. That's happening clearly elsewhere with elders with more authority than I. This is encouragement to the many waking up inside Mars Hill that the good news of Jesus transcends the Mars Hill structure, and they do not need to fear the future of their church to rest on the Rock that is eternally secure.
One final thought (accusations of gossip obviously are something over which I am sensitive). This story was on the front page of Christianity Today and World Magazine this week. It was also in the Huffington Post. Most importantly, it was on our local Seattle news station and front page in the local newspaper. Calling this gossip is like saying I'm gossiping by discussing Bill Clinton's impeachment.
Wendy, I apologize if I have offended you. I honestly share out of a pure heart that just longs to see the love of Christ cover a multitude of sins, since while we were yet sinners He gave his life for us. And that's our Father's heart. I believe that Godly rebuke is definitely needed where there is sin in the situation, and I trust the Lord to have his will with Mars Hill. And I understand that the news reports are doing their full job of bringing these things to the people's attention. But you can only control the words of your mouth and your heart in this situation via what you post on your blog. Our convictions may be different here, but when I seek the face of God and look toward what His heart is in the matter…yes He hates sin, but He loves the sinners. He desires unity and peace and forgiveness and grace upon grace for his church. And I feel like if I was a part of the Mars Hill church, the first part of what you said especially would only spur me on towards anger and bitterness towards my leadership, not hope for restoration. But I am sorry for the ways you were hurt by the church, the leadership and Mark, I am. I'm praying for healing where the enemy would want to bring division.
Thank you, Elise!
I wasn't hurt at Mars Hill and never struggled with personal bitterness. I instead witnessed much unrighteousness against others. I have long wrestled with when it is appropriate to quietly rebuke others about sins against someone else and when to take it public. I would handle it differently if it were only a sin against me. One can endure a lot of sin against themselves personally. But when I witness a sin against someone else who is crying out in pain, I feel a moral obligation to address it. It's the difference in a wife choosing not to testify against a husband who only abused his wife verses choosing not to testify against a husband who abused his kids. I'd have freedom in the one case, but if I dropped the ball on the other, then I would have sinned grievously.
Thank you for sharing with me. I'm glad we have the same God-given spirit of justice and mercy 🙂 Praise Him for that! Glad we can pray together for healing of the church through this time and that God would continue to show his flock that He alone is the perfect Shepherd ! I don't pretend to know the full of it but I know that God is good.
Well said. Amen.
As it says in timfall's post above, we're specifically called in the Bible to expose evil, and there's no qualification to that, it does not say “Except when the evil is perpetrated by one claiming to be a brother.” The only possible exception to this is in the narrow case of church discipline, when there's a procedure to follow with one with whom you're in direct fellowship (and even then, it's all about exposing the evil and bringing things to the attention of the larger body). Essentially the Bible is a very public 4,000 year airing of dirty laundry of those professing to follow the Lord; ipso facto, we know that the Lord is not uncomfortable with the uncomfortable truth about His people being made public. This is not a purely private matter that has no bearing on the public or anyone other than an insider in the Driscoll family, this is a matter that needs to be dealt with in the open.
When you exhort another to “build up the body of believers” through obfuscating the tough truth, you have become a part of the problem. An unethical cover up, even in the service of some greater good, is still an unethical cover up, and it's not the way the Lord ever seems to have done it.
God hates sin but loves the sinners.
Certainly He does, in a way that I'm sure we cannot begin to fathom in a lifetime. But He also loves those whom the sinners abuse and mistreat, and He tells us to stand up for the cause of the oppressed and to expose evil.
Under virtually no circumstances (other than a gratuitous revealing of an intensely private matter, the Nazi officer asking “Where are you hiding the Jews?” or the wife asking “Honey, do I look like a blimp in this?”) is hiding the truth acceptable or serving the Lord.
I cannot imagine the thought process of one claiming to know Christ who would think it's acceptable to cover up a bad-acting leader's behavior because we don't want to give anyone outside the faith cause for mocking it. The things that give them cause to mock are the very evils people like the blogger here are seeking to expose!
I disagree somewhat, Mike. I do think “love covers a multitude of sins” applies at points here. If these sins of Mark's could have been handled privately in a way that included genuine repentance and repairing with those that he had sinned against, that would have been good and right. But because Mark didn't repent and didn't repair the wrongs he did when he had the chance to privately, it became more and more necessary to make it public.
I appreciate this dialogue between the two of you. I agree strongly with Elise in her thoughts. I was surprised as I read this because I did feel like the tone was bitter, even though you have said that you haven't struggled with that. If these issues are already public, I'm failing to understand the point of bringing them up again on this platform. It seems to have stirred up a bit of dissension, and I'm clearly not the only one who is misunderstanding (or missing completely) your intentions. 🙁
Also, I'm sorry I posted anonymously–I couldn't get my computer to log on to wordpress properly. My name is Blythe. 🙂 Also, I reread my comment–I am not attempting to be critical or dialogue with you because I don't think I know enough about the situation or Scripture to have an argument. I think I'm just asking for clarification.
Thanks for adding your name, Blythe. If you think I have a tone of bitterness, I can only say that I am not personally experiencing bitterness as I understand the term, though I do experience sadness for those hurt and those self-destructing by not being willing to repent.
Beyond that, I don't know what to tell you except that it is a very public issue that affects many around here personally. I meet woman after woman whose faith has been shaken by her experience at Mars Hill. Because Mars Hill was so good at evangelization, many people had their first church experience, good or bad, at Mars Hill. Since their one and only church experience is going very badly in a very public way, I am burdened that they know and are comforted by the fact that God was building His Body long before Mars Hill and will continue long after.
you said, “I was surprised as I read this because I did feel like the tone was bitter”.
When people lives are devastated and destroyed (even in part) by another human being, it is wholly appropriate to say “this is horribly wrong” in no uncertain terms. How much more so when that human being is someone who represents God, has powerful influence over people, and makes a living from it.
I'm quite sure you're confusing bitterness with honest appraisal of the truth. Perceived with eyes wide open.
Thank you for this post. It is refreshing to see someone talking about this a.) rationally and b.) with a clear understanding of the scriptures.
My husband and I are in the process of possibly leaving this church. My husband wants to see how all of this plays out, but the press release on Friday was really the last straw for me. We have been attending since 2007, and we grew tremendously in the church. However, the mysteriously high rate of pastor turn over, plus the scandals of the last year have really caused us to reconsider our membership. This whole thing is heart wrenching to the point that I feel physically ill thinking about it. I am very thankful for reasonable voices amidst this current chaos.
Amen Wendy. I too went through much at my Acts 29 church plant. Our pastor was well versed in Mark's very manipulative theology. Our building is gone and my reputation with it. The letter they mailed out to our entire church family has followed us for years. My life will never be the same after I made the mistake to stop ignoring the sin going on and start asking hard questions. The more quiet we are as a people of faith the stronger the foothold this kind of nonsense has in our churches.
I have read your blog for a while now, and it is shocking how similar what has happened at my church follows your description of what has/is happening at Mars Hill. Unfortunately, I still attend my church as my husband has not decided otherwise. But I am limited in my involvement, am not in leadership, and I wait and pray for what God has for me since I am still here (either by his design or not – I am still his vessel no matter where I am.)
I struggle with current leadership that is fully aware of the sin, and admits to concern, but refuses to stand up. Even if the current leadership was replaced, I dont know that I can ever return to leadership or even involvement after seeing the gutlessness of the leaders to deal with sin and stand up for right.
It is a very difficult place to be.
I've been following along in the comments and wanted to come back and address this- I don't know if people realize just how incredibly wide reaching the influence of Driscoll and Mars Hill is. I live in the midwest and have zero personal connection to Mars Hill but I've heard Mark Driscoll quoted in sermons and seen his books front and center on church book tables and seen churches openly trying to model themselves after his… and I feel like it's been faith shaking even for ME, to see him held in such high regard. Even worse, every time I see anything remotely critical posted about him on FB, etc. there are always pastors and other people who come absolutely flying to his defense, which has been really unsettling to me because I don't think there's any explanation for it beyond a major cult of personality being at work. The more I know about Driscoll (and I'm not just talking about others' reports, but his own books, videos etc.) the more concerned I am by the cult following he has in reformed circles.
Thank you for this, Wendy. Your analogy about the tree branches and roots is spot on and addresses the critics who say “Mars Hill changed my life.” Mars Hill changed my life, too, at one point, and I know people continue to meet Jesus despite all this. But I agree that the infrastructure to care for new believers and those struggling with serious issues is lacking, and here will be the sad collateral damage when the tree is finally toppled. I'm with you — this is sad.
And as for your main point, it's a good reminder that we are all called to something much greater than Mars Hill.
Wendy, thank you for this grace-filled post with an important reminder that we are saved into something much bigger than one pastor or one church (be it mega or regular sized!)
If this issue does eventually lead to Driscoll stepping down, will you feel at all disheartened that the thing which finally made people pay attention was NOT his anger, his bullying, and his problems with sometimes showing a lack of love–but rather just money issues?
I've been thinking of how many hurt people have desperately cried out for the wider church culture to recognize the pain Mark causes, and how many people have asked that Mark be encouraged to step down–for his own good and for others. Yet it takes a misuse of money to make people care enough to move forward.
Perhaps I'm being too down and cynical about this. Just wondered about your thoughts on this 🙁
Thanks, Jen, for commenting. You know the issues well.
Yes, I don't miss that irony. But many are also noticing the growing group of former pastors/elders who are speaking out about Mark's verbally abusive leadership style. I think, in the end, it will be that, and not the money, that is the issue for which he steps down.
Wendy — thank you for your courage. I have been so dismayed at Mark's teaching on many issues — but particularly The Song of Songs. I pray for courage and wisdom for the leadership.
lots of attendant accusation here; not to discount any appropriate path straightening not qualified to speak of here but recalling appreciation for some prior ~ words “I am amazed God would use an ass like me” How about us -are we also astounded about this for ourselves?
Wendy, I appreciate your boldness to speak Truth and your passion for the Gospel. ” People were saved at Mars Hill. But they were saved into something much bigger than Mars Hill.” Very well said.
I have been following this controversy concerning Mark Driscoll for several months now. Just let me say that I have been blessed by a number of Pastor Mark's messages, especially his series on Ruth and a sermon on the Magnificat.
However, one of the things that bothered me from the beginning was the fact that all the Mars Hill churches used videos of Mark for their sermons. That is not standard practice for churches, and I have always found that aspect more than just a little strange and even dangerous.
So, I have been blessed by the ministry of Mars Hill in some ways, but put off by it in others. Still, I tend to enjoy Mark's preaching style, if you don't mind my saying that.
It would not surprise me to find that Driscoll has hurt many with his angry outbursts, though.
But, Wendy, you probably do have firsthand information that the rest of us do not have access to. It's just that when you say something like, “I can think of at least 6 ELDERS, not counting deacons, former staff, or general members, with serious claims against Mark Driscoll.” it makes me want to know what you mean by “serious claims”.
Does he owe them money? Did he beat them up? Did he threaten their families? Did he sleep with their wives? What did he do to them? Of course, you are probably talking mainly to people who are in the know, which I am not. Maybe everyone else knows exactly what you are talking about.
Also, when you say that the tax status of the church may be in jeopardy, aren't you engaging in some wild speculation? I really doubt that anything has been done to have the IRS revoke their tax exempt status. It seems you are trying really, really hard to build a case because you want Pastor Mark to leave the ministry.
You may be right. That may be what happens. I have thought for awhile that it would be best for him to step down and turn each one of the churches over to their own pastors and leadership.
Why do I care? Not sure. There is just something not quite right about the case being brought out to try to force Pastor Mark out of the ministry. I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe I don't have to. It's probably just hurt people who want Pastor Mark to have to pay for what he did to them. Maybe it is something more noble. It just doesn't add up.
How do you avoid looking like a group of disgruntled ex-employees of Mars Hill who have taken to the Internet in order to smear their former employer? How do you come to terms with your own involvement with Mark Driscoll, since surely you knew of his anger problems early on in your ministry there? Why did you stay so long, knowing what he was like?
We only look like a group of disgruntled ex-employees to those who find that narrative easiest to dismiss. I for one was never employed by Mars Hill. And I am not disgruntled by any personal treatment of Mark against me. The issue is that the Apostle Paul sets out a process for entertaining an accusation against an elder, and that process has been well followed. Paul says to rebuke that elder publicly if he refuses to repent. Mark has refused to repent and repair with those he has said specific words of hate. And, well, here we are.
What did Mark do? In publicly recorded sermons, he said of 2 elders that he'd like to break their noses. On the Mars Hill social network seen by 1000's internally, he told a husband that if he didn't shut up his wife, Mark would do it for him. In a publicly recorded sermon, he said he had an elder that was like a fart in the elevator and that should die. I could go on and on. Those are the recorded words. Those words reflected a sentiment held by Mark that resulted in the kind of actions against those specific people that one would expect of someone feeling those things he expressed. Ted Tripp's War of Words is a good resource for the link between our words and our heart.
I think that your first sentence is a false assumption, but I am sure you really feel that way.
Okay. Here is what I understand from what you are saying. You are not a disgruntled former employee. In fact, your ministry and work at Mars Hill was as an unpaid volunteer. You did not get paid for your work with women.
You were not personally mistreated by Pastor Mark. So, you are following proper Biblical proceedures for rebuking an elder. What Scripture are you using to support your actions? I assume that it is Matthew 18 and 1 Timothy 5.
Then, Mark has said and done things that are not acceptable for a pastor to do and say. He has not gone to those he offended to make things right. So, somehow taking it to the next level of public rebuke involves Twitter, this blog, and possibly other social media.
Mark made what can be interpreted as threats to men who disagreed with him. I can see that. His temper is no secret and often manifests itself publically. Yes, that's a very bad thing.
Not sure what actions he took, but I assume it involved people getting fired and bad-mouthed. Also, not good at all. Totally inappropriate.
Not sure I need Tripp's book to figure this out, but if the book helped you, I am glad for that.
So, why did you take to social media, since that is not the congregation? What Biblical support do you have for taking this outside the body of Christ and into the world for the world to judge? Where do your blog and Twitter feed fit into 1 Timothy 5?
Abuse within the church is never a happy topic to bring up; but if it is really there, not addressing it is even worse. Thank you for your boldness and humility in speaking about what leaves so many with hidden, unresolved wounds. You are in good company with Nathan the prophet! May our Lord use your words to bring about a similar purification within His church. For more on that story, see
Thank you for your patience, Wendy. I think that I figured out what is bothering me about your post and your activity on Twitter- as well as my own, come to think of it.
Thanks for taking the time.
You can't separate social media used by the Church and the Church. It's like asking why we choose to use a microphone instead of just speaking at a normal tone of voice to the congregation. Social media is a tool, but it's a tool among Christians for the use of the Church. I don't think everything that's been said about Mark publicly has been good or right. Often, it's said by those who just can't stand him. Period. But when others within Mark's original accountability group start to come out in droves to rebuke him, then that is when I Tim. 5 is being lived out correctly (assuming the correct number of witnesses and that they went to Mark privately first).
Wendy – what are you thoughts on Mark's recent apology?
I try to give the benefit of the doubt in such cases. He has truly stepped away from twitter and facebook (though he hasn't closed the accounts), which reinforces his desire to not be a celebrity pastor. I think that is genuine.
But on the more serious note, he has not contacted the elders he fired, said he wanted to break their noses, and had the church to which they were ministering shun them. Until he makes contact with the specific people he said harsh public words about, his apology does not reach the level of repentance required by I Tim. 5.
In the letter to Mars Hill he says that he's met with people over the past year to apologize and seek reconciliation.
It seems as if you're saying that you know this process has not reached as far as the elders you mention above?
Yes. It has not yet reached to the elders that we saw endure the heaviest of Mark's angry actions.
Thanks for getting back on that detail. I'm going to pray that God does something powerful through this mess.
Good work, here, Wendy. Appreciate your honesty, fairness, and wisdom.
Wendy – thank you so much for your voice that is well supported with your knowledge of scripture! I am sorry some people accuse you of being bitter & see no evidence of that at all! I have been personally offended by MD's teachings for many, many years!
I was at MH during the whole Petry thing and I never “shunned” them (or anyone else for that matter), so please don't lump us together. In fact, Pastor Paul told me that I needed to stay home with my child (I was a single mom at the time and he knew this) because I was exasperating them and that's why they were acting out and I was in sin. Unless he wanted me to quit my job and live off welfare…I left his office in tears and discouraged. I'm just saying, no pastor is perfect.
Anne, I hope you will let Paul know of this. I feel certain he would want to apologize and repair with you. He knows he adopted Mark's harsh tone toward women at times and repented at the time he was fired.