Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill-A Tutorial on Spiritual Abuse

God will not hold us responsible to understand the mysteries of election, predestination, and the divine sovereignty. The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, " O Lord, Thou knowest." Those things belong to the deep and mysterious Profound of God's omniscience. Prying into them may make theologians, but it will never make saints. -AW Tozier

 

nasa goddard 1/2012

Massive Solar Flare 1/ 2012 NASA-Goddard

 

 

As many of you are now aware, Matthew Paul Turner has posted two explosive articles:

(1) MARK DRISCOLL’S CHURCH DISCIPLINE CONTRACT: LOOKING FOR TRUE REPENTANCE AT MARS HILL CHURCH? SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE here

(2) MARK DRISCOLL’S ‘GOSPEL SHAME’: THE TRUTH ABOUT DISCIPLINE, EXCOMMUNICATION, AND CULT-LIKE CONTROL AT MARS HILL here.

We want to commend both Turner and Andrew (who is the subject of these posts) for their courage in allowing this story to be presented to a watching world. This saga has carefully exposed the underbelly of what appears to be abusive leadership at Mars Hill Church and sounds a clarion call to those in the pew. It is time to stop the excuses and start dealing with the bizarre "goings on" in today's post-evangelical era.

TWW has decided to conduct a Tutorial:  How to Get out of an Abusive Situation with a Minimum of Personal Damage.  A reader, whom we shall call Sophia (which means "wise"), submitted her story of a "close encounter of a bizarre kind" with Mars Hill.  Upon reading the narrative, we were impressed with how she handled the poisonous arrows coming her way . Although the experience was personally painful, she was able to avoid some serious damage.

Here is what we would like to do.  Today, we are posting her story.  We ask our readers to carefully assess the steps she took to "get the heck out" of a bad situation.  We would like the comments on this post, as much as possible,  to evaluate what she did right as well as to discover the warning signs of an abusive situation.

Tomorrow, we will give our take on the situation.

In the meantime, we want to run a parallel story with an outcome that was both disturbing and damaging to a young man who is around the age of our own children.  We hope this will serve as a warning that it is best to run as fast as you can once you realize that your church is weird or abusive.

A Brief Synopsis of Andrew's Story

Andrew, a young committed Christian who attends Mars Hill Church, dates and becomes engaged to a Mars Hill elder's daughter.  While on a trip, apart from his fiancee, he makes out, stopping short of intercourse, with another woman.  He is deeply distressed by his behavior, realizing that he has sinned and wants to do the right thing.  Following what apparently is a "rule of Driscoll," he confesses his indiscretion to his fiancee who understandably becomes upset.  Andrew then confesses his sin to his "care group leader" (an oxymoron).  He is repentant from the get go and seeks forgiveness from God Almighty and those whom he as hurt.

What ensues from this point forward is a blueprint of a church run amuck.  Andrew is subjected to a number of meetings in which he is berated for his sin.  Then after this lengthy humiliation, he is presented with a discipline contract that he is expected to sign. This contract sets forth a number of steps he must take in order to work his way back into favor.  One such requirement is a written, detailed listing of any sexual sins, including thoughts, from his entire life!! 

Andrew, at this point, wises up, realizing something is very wrong and decides to get out of Dodge. But, Mars Hill has another "Gospel surprise" for him.  A letter detailing Andrew's sin is sent out to the entire church via their online community called "The City".  The congregation is then instructed to shun Andrew.  This letter includes explicit instructions on how to treat Andrew if members have the unfortunate experience of bumping into him.  Oh, he is no longer engaged.

We have received permission to publish the "discipline contract" Andrew was expected to sign and will post it tomorrow.  In the meantime, you can find it at the above links.  We ask that you pray for Andrew because this tragic situation is currently unfolding — the letter to the congregation was dated January 11, 2012.  Once again, as in so many other posts, we apologize to Andrew for the actions of some seriously poor representatives of Christ's love.

With this situation in mind, we present you with Sophia's story.  See how many warning signs you can spot as you walk through the chronological retelling of her story.  Then, see how many things you can find on how she (and her husband) minimized the damage.

 

Our Mars Hill Story by "Sophia"

 

How did we end up here? It is a question we are still asking ourselves. Maybe the whole purpose was this blog, to help others break free? We consider ourselves lucky to have discerned and left when we did. We have a hard time considering ourselves “survivors”, as we were not involved very long but were damaged nonetheless. We are sure that there are people out there that have suffered much more than we have. We hope that exposing these wrongs will bring healing and change.

A little bit of background on us…we were fortunate enough to live in a special little town with an amazing church that we loved. For five years, that town and church brought a lot of healing and freedom for each of us individually and as a couple. However, my husband’s job transferred him and we found ourselves moving to a new county. Ironically, the 6 months before we left, our church did a study of Galatians and I personally did Beth Moore’s Breaking Free study. So when we moved, I was feeling liberated and freer than I ever had in my life.

As you may or may not know, Mars Hill just planted 4 new churches as of January 15, 2012. We ended up moving to one of the towns in which Mars Hill would be planting a church. I was excited! I had heard all the hype about Mars Hill from my Reformed friends. I was moving to a town where I knew NOBODY, and I liked that Mars Hill had community groups, as most of my friends back home were from church and I knew this would be the main way I would make new friends.

So we started attending the “Core Group Gatherings” about 6 months before the launch. We were really excited to meet people whom we believed to be passionate about Jesus and furthering the gospel. We attended regularly and joined a community group as soon as we arrived in our new town.

At the community group meetings, there was a lot of “theological sword play”, and not a whole lot of Bible. People would discuss doctrine and concepts, and I would find myself trying to figure out what they were talking about. They were using a lot of words but saying nothing. My husband and I participated as much as possible. We often went home VERY frustrated; however, we could reason that these were believers from many different churches coming together to be a part of a new church plant, and that it would take time for everyone to get on the same page. We were determined to be the “salt and light” and would try to bring it back to the Word.

It came time for the community group to split into two groups, and the person who was chosen from our group to lead the new group was someone my husband and I felt was the least qualified in terms of having the integrity of someone who would be leading people. He was, however, very similar in personality to the original leader and very enthusiastic about Mars Hill. We decided to go ahead and break off with that leader as our good friends were going to that group and we thought perhaps we could bring balance. We are in our mid 30’s, and we were actually the oldest people in our groups.

It was later revealed to us by other group members that our original community group leader was actually the “keeper of the gate”. He would report back to the two head pastors about the people in the group and whether or not he thought they were fit for leadership! This guy was no more than 25 years old!

Over time it seemed that being involved with Mars Hill took over our lives. I found myself with the women of my community group up to 4 days per week. If there was an event or 3 day weekend, there was something to go to, all in the name of building “community” and “doing life” together. At the beginning I welcomed it because I didn’t know anybody, and I was so anxious to try to recreate what I had left behind when we moved. It began to take its toll, and I felt like I needed to establish some “margin”. I pulled out of children’s ministry, took a break from play dates and bible studies, and spent A LOT of time in the Word.

In the next week, all the troubling pieces of the puzzle began to come together:

• A lot of time and attention is paid to the discussion of concepts and doctrine. This is not bad in and of itself; however, it is not balanced with the LOVE of God, the GRACE of God, and there is very little emphasis (if any) on living a Spirit led life. Whenever I bring up the Holy Spirit more than once, it seems to make people uncomfortable. I sometimes feel like the weird "charismatic" because of this. It seems to be a worship of sound doctrine, of being right.

• There is a definite sense of ELITISM. Pride in Mars Hill, and it is clear that we have the “perfect” doctrine. There is much talk of Christians who think they are saved but really aren't or sleepy Christians who need to be woken up (which leaves the unstated concept that if they switched over to MH then their doctrine would be right and they would really be saved or that we are the ones to help wake them with our doctrine.

• The distinctive of complementarianism seems innocent enough on the surface. It takes a position that we follow the Bible when it comes to women preaching or teaching men. But it is a constant thing (almost like reminding a woman of her place), and it seems like the church feels a need to "beat" us over the head with this. The thing I have observed is almost all if not all of my friends at MH seem to be oppressed and do not exhibit the joy that should be theirs in Jesus. My friends from back home are some of the most submitted women who honor their husbands, not because a church beats them over the head with it but because they are living Spirit led lives, and their husbands are not trying to lord it over them. The Holy Spirit working in them guides them to mutual submission, and they are able to joyfully submit. They do not seem oppressed by it but blessed by it.

• MH preaches freedom…freedom to drink beer or wine or go to the pub, to engage with culture, to be sexually free within the context of marriage. However, I feel that there is a legalistic overtone to MH. You are free to do those things but there does not seem to be a freedom in worship, freedom to operate in the gifts, or freedom to hold the elders accountable.

• The worship feels dead. Very few people lift their hands or seem to feel free to worship as they feel led. MH has basically said that it does not embrace most mainstream Christian music but prefers to use its own music and revamped traditional hymns. They categorize most contemporary Christian music as doctrinally off. EVERYTHING always comes back to DOCTRINE, not JESUS.

• The membership covenant emphasized submission to elder authority and being held accountable and church discipline. There is no provision for how one can hold a leader or elder accountable or question them in regards to inappropriate behavior. (read it http://marshill.com/about/become-a-member/member-covenant)

• “Doctrinal Statement”- specifically the section about spiritual gifts (read it http://marshill.com/about/what-we-believe )

• That _______ was the "gatekeeper" who reported back to the leadership on his evaluation of individuals and their suitability for leadership. What if he didn’t like you?

• Community group is spent discussing concepts from the sermon and tends to be an intellectual or theological wrestling match that does not include much scripture. When challenged often does not fly, especially if challenged by me (a woman, with a Bible in my hand)

• Hyper focus on idolatry

• Hyper focus on accountability

The Fall

We were in the midst of the “Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe” sermon series. One of the sermons and subsequent community groups talked about covenants. The term was used very loosely, and it was explained that members were required to sign a membership “covenant”. Our old church did not believe in membership, and so we had some questions about this. We knew that if we did not become members, we would be limited in what we could do as far as service.

We asked some friends about the membership process as they had already completed it. They informed us that you did the “Doctrine” series and then you did a membership interview. In that interview they talked with you, I believe you made your giving pledge, and you had to confess a sin that you still struggle with. At some point we were told that your community group leader would “hold you accountable” (aka question you) if you were not meeting your pledge.

I finally (reluctantly) asked my husband if he had any concerns/red flags about Mars Hill. I say reluctantly because I knew he would, and I knew that these were irreconcilable and that we would probably leave over them. I feared that I would lose the only friends I had made in this new town. When he began to raise the same concerns I had written in my journal, we both decided we would pray about it for a while. The next week we both spent a lot of time in prayer and the word. We weren’t sure if we were just rebels (that spiritual manipulation thing is no joke) or if what we were seeing was our sign to get out.

The Holy Spirit is so awesome…God led us both to many of the same exact scriptures in our private times of searching. He confirmed through his word what we needed to do (I may share these on another page).

Due to the whole “will not be divisive” clause in their documents, we both decided that we wanted to keep our reasons private and not cause division among our community group by raising questions on “secondary” or “open handed” issues. We sent an email (cut and paste so there was no confusion and everyone got the same story) to our leaders and anyone whom we felt we owed at least a goodbye because of the “close” relationships we had built in community group.

Our email was kind, we said that we felt we were being called elsewhere (we had not found another church yet), and that we loved them and wished them well. We were optimistic in thinking that the church is universal and that we would maintain the friendships we had built.

A few friends responded passionately and immediately, wanting reasons. We did not feel it was wise to share reasons so we said that we disagreed on some of what Mars Hill considered “open handed” issues and for us they were held tightly in our “closed hand”. We were trying very hard to leave well.

None of the leaders that I emailed responded to me. Our community group leader emailed my husband and asked/pushed that my husband call him so they could talk. My husband, quite frankly, did not feel that he needed to make himself accountable to this person. He has a team of older men from different churches to whom he makes himself accountable. Based on the leader’s personality, we knew that it would not end well. My husband informed the leader that he was welcome to email him his questions, but that we both felt resolute in our decision. He wanted my husband to meet with him so they could discuss all our reasons, and based on our experiences (theological swordplay and doctrinal debates) and some of the other experiences we read on the internet, chose not to subject ourselves to such a meeting.

We did not hear anything for a few days. The silence from the leadership, and some of the people I considered friends, was deafening. I was crushed! This was my only group of friends in this town, and I felt like everything was being taken from me, and I was having to start all over again. I was pressed for reasons again by a well meaning friend and I came unglued (I later apologized to her). I left for the weekend.

About a week later, my husband and I finally received an absolutely horrible email from our community group leader. Although we never became members, they were trying to require us to explain so they could “bless us and send us out joyfully”. Based on previous interactions, we knew it would be a very bad idea to attend our community group under these circumstances. We expected to be put on the hot seat so they could decide if they agreed that the Holy Spirit was, in fact, leading us elsewhere.

In a nutshell, our community group leader questioned our ability to discern God’s leading, suggested that it might be our own motives (huh?), and if so, we were endangering our family and hurting the church. It was apparent in the email that all of the community group members (our friends) had compared notes on their interactions with us. We had not found a new church (we were new to the area and had only attended Mars Hill), and were told that not having a church was isolation from God’s people (because I have no other Christian friends?). My husband’s ability to lead our family was questioned. It was implied that we were “consumer Christians” and although we had not become members, we still needed to answer to them since we were regular attenders.

We were then accused of causing division (by talking to our friends), fleeing community, and hiding from leadership. We were informed that we were being removed from the community group and “The City” (MH internal facebook-like website). After that email, our community group leader wanted my husband to call him so they could sit down and discuss the matter together.

My husband responded by calling him out on the tools of manipulation he was using and informing him that they would not be sitting down together. I also responded later with as much class and scripture as I could muster.

We have never again heard from any of our friends in that group. I have maintained one friendship with someone from Mars Hill, and she is the saving grace that reminds me that most of the people are just victims of a controlling system.

The allure of Mars Hill is great, and the manipulation is very subtle. Based on our experience, you are slowly conditioned and indoctrinated, and before you know it you feel spiritually dead and cannot quite put your finger on how that happened.

In a future post, I will share all the beauty that has come out of this experience…as there is plenty! 

 

Sophia's husband shares his testimony about being involved with Mars Hill, which you can access HERE.

 

Lydia's Corner:   Isaiah 15:1-18:7    Galatians 1:1-24    Psalm 58:1-11    Proverbs 23:12

Comments

Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill-A Tutorial on Spiritual Abuse — 173 Comments

  1. In case you’re curious about Driscoll’s whereabouts today, he’s a ring leader in a circus called The Elephant Room.

    Driscoll is updating his sycophants via Twitter.

  2. On Driscoll’s “My Take On Why….” article:

    You know, I agree with Driscoll’s views on sex (the church is squeamish, the culture worships it, and the real answer is to be found in scripture). However, the truth is, that’s only one part of why people are criticizing the book. Other topics are:

    His view of women

    His lack of a spiritual understanding of marriage as per Ephesians 5

    A BALANCE of sex talk vs. marriage talk that seems to be obsessing over sex in exactly the way he claims we shouldn’t

    Each of these problems are things I’ve seen addressed in numerous different blog posts and reviews.

    Driscoll has adeptly addressed why some people are criticizing his book, but he has fallen far short of addressing all the criticisms. There’s no obligation on him to do so, mind you; I just hope he realizes that there are more problems than the ones he sees in this article.

    And also, WHY was he surprised that people were going to criticize a book about marriage/sex when they are already criticizing all his teachings on marriage/sex? I mean I know it’s frustrating, but Jeez Louise didn’t you see it coming??

  3. The gatekeeper, community leader, was “no more than 25 years old!”

    Remember Mark’s rant against the UK (supposedly) not having any good “young” pastors?

    Seems like there is an unhealthy preoccupation with recruiting young males to leadership at MH, emphasizing power, aggression, and their God-given status — reminds me of Germany’s Nazi party.

  4. I wasn’t going to mention this, but since Final Anonymous has already broached the Nazi analogy, I found the “Gatekeeper” eerily redolent of the “Keeper of Souls” from that team’s WWII roster.

  5. Sergius

    There are similar traits to all abusive groups. There is always an us vs them mentality. The fools who run Mars HIll actually believe that they have heard a word from God on all of this, including Driscoll’s “pornovision.”

  6. I always love the quotes at the beginning of your blog, but I especially like this Tozer quote! Last year after months of studying Calvinism and spiraling deeper and deeper into depression, it was hearing this quote in a Beth Moore study that changed everything for me! I wrote it in the front of my Bible and gave it to everyone in my small group (our Calvinist leader was absent, but his wife got a copy)! It literally “broke the spell” Calvinist doctrine had over me, and it put joy back into my life again! God bless Tozer for that powerful quote!

  7. “see how many things you can find on how she (and her husband) minimized the damage.”

    Sophia and her husband were grounded and united. They recognized intrusive abuse for what it is, even if some of the people sending it their way didn’t intend it to be so. It isn’t easy, when you love people minimizing, rationalizing and justifying are often confused with 1 Corinthians 13.

    They communicated clearly, set strong communication boundaries, searched scripture, listened to the still small Voice, refused to be drawn into manipulative emotional drama, and understood and parsed assumptive code terms like ‘bless us and send us out joyfully.’

    In spite of their maturity, they were still emotionally crushed, as any of us would be. They have a time of grieving, a necessary time, but will land on their feet far more quickly than many, partly because of the diversity of their relationships (wisdom in many counsellors).

    The Mars Hill bubble isn’t big enough for God’s love, good grounding in the church universal and Sophia and her husbands thoughtful approach.

    Those who do not have a healthy religious upbringing don’t necessarily have the same foundations. The five years in a spiritually and emotionally healthy church may have helped save Sophia and her husband from further harm. That’s an eye-opener and a call to all of us.

    Good on you Sophia.

  8. Kathy
    I look forward to picking quotes for our blogs. They are each specific to the matter at hand (or an occasional jab). Thank you for letting me know that this was an important quote in your life.

  9. Free –

    I am so glad you didn’t continue with a commitment to this MH church. It is sad what this group is doing in the name of Jesus.

  10. Deb -

    I love the Tozier quote! Believe it or not, some of the first books I read as a christian were Tozier’s on the attributes of God. I have reread them several times!!

  11. It appears that various blogs’ attempt to get rid of C.J. Mahaney have failed? There have been thousands (if not ten thousands) of words written against him on the internet but he has been found fit for ministry. I thought that when the Washington Post article came out and actually didn’t have a lot to say (no deep, dark, ugly secrets – drugs/sex/rocknroll etc.) that the case against C.J. must be pretty thin. Everybody who is against him has had forums to make their concerns known, even commenters.
    My take; he’s been guilty of some egotism; welcome to the club.

  12. Jim
    Last summer we predicted this ending, just like we predicted his “fall” before that. In fact, a local mega-pastor was furious at us a year ago when we brought up CJ’s shortcomings. He is a faithful admirer.
    What makes you think a little board of 3 friendly men backed up by their buddies-Mohler, Dever, et al, would make for a fair conclusion? The ending is so boringly predictable that I yawned. Anyone who becomes associated with SGM only has themselves to blame.Thank God I am not involved with such a shameful organization and I mean that sincerely.

  13. Pingback: Mark Driscoll & Spiritual Abuse at Mars Hill Church « A Quiver Full of Information UNITED STATES

  14. Andrew is subjected to a number of meetings in which he is berated for his sin. Then after this lengthy humiliation, he is presented with a discipline contract that he is expected to sign. This contract sets forth a number of steps he must take in order to work his way back into favor. One such requirement is a written, detailed listing of any sexual sins, including thoughts, from his entire life!!

    1) Enlightened Self-Criticism before Party Commissars. (op cit USSR)

    2) Anything you list not only can but WILL be used against you. (op cit Scientology Auditing)

  15. One red flag that I see that I’d like to point out now:

    The church refused to allow this couple’s “no” to be “no”. Their ultimate intention was to try and control the situation. I thought it was quite comical (I read Sophia’s story earlier on her site) that after Sophia and husband had decided to leave, the church wanted to excommunicate them from membership. That’s like firing someone who quit yesterday. You can’t do that. Man, seems like they want to be the dumper but not the dumpee, at any cost.

    There is so much language in teh interaction that is so familiar is makes me gag… how to “best” do this and that. Do they realize they really dont mean that?! Best serve you. Best answer you. Best care for you. Best love you. Keep your freaking “best” and get out of my face! How arrogant to think you can do anything the “best” way. The sheer arrogance of these people.

    Another red flag: Questioning someone’s ability to hear from God individually without their help. As if they dont’ have the Holy Spirit as well. These types of churches lead people to become so dependent on them making decisions for you–because you dont have the discernment or clarity to know your own heart. Yet, you praise me for having enough discernment to leave my pentecostal/holiness/charasmatic church and not listen to TJ Jakes, but you dont think I have any discernment to know whether you’re full of crap either. It can’t work both ways, buddy boys!

    I was praised left and right for moving to DC to attend CHBC, leaving behind my unhealthy church(es). Yet, I was ultimately dissed and discredited for the cult-like behavior, racism, and authoritarianism that I had clearly begun to see at CHBC. Eitehr I have discernment or I don’t. But I dont loose it once I enter the doors of your doctrinally and theologically idolatrous “church”.

  16. Jimmy,

    The fat lady hasn’t yet sung in SGM churches. I predict congregants who haven’t yet done so will vote with their FEET.

  17. Deb–

    ….or their pockets… Monetary giving has been down at some of our local “SGM”ish churches… I wonder if that’s because Mr. Mahaney now darkens it’s doors and some secretly don’t agree with it. Of course, this is just a WAG, but ironic, nevertheless.

  18. I wasn’t going to mention this, but since Final Anonymous has already broached the Nazi analogy, I found the “Gatekeeper” eerily redolent of the “Keeper of Souls” from that team’s WWII roster. — Sergius Martin-George

    A Cult doesn’t have to have anything to do with religion. Naziism and Communism were both Political Cults, and operated not too differently from Jonestown. A Fuehrer or Party First Secretary control freak marshalling a private army of True Believer clones to keep the populace in line by any means necessary. And claiming some sort of Cosmic-level authority (whether god, Race, or Inevitable Dialectic) to justify it.

    “The only purpose of Power is POWER.”
    – Comrade O’Brian, Inner Party, Airstrip One, Oceania, 1984

    Though the term “Keeper of Souls” is new to me, and I’ve picked up a lot of historical trivia regarding the NSDAP.

  19. If anyone has seen “Cabaret” (play or movie), you’ll remember the scene… — Numo

    “TOMORROW BELONGS
    TOMORROW BELONGS
    TOMORROW BELONGS TO ME!”

    (Interesting trivia: In SF fandom, that tune’s been filked with various novelty lyrics from serious to ridiculous. I am most familiar with “Marching Song of the Mongol Horde” by Robert Aspirin, which automatically comes up in my mind when I hear that tune.)

  20. Eagle–

    If you are reading, I saw Catherine’s comment to you: If you are agnostic, why are you reading a Christian blog?

    (gasps) The nerve of her! Boy, people are a trip. And then she goes on to “describe” to you what is going on wtihin the blog, as if for some reason being agnostic, you couldn’t discern that for yourself?? I’m sorry, friend. Really. I apologize for her.

  21. I posted a link to this article over at SFL because they were discussing Andrew’s situation. There are some interesting parallels with Tina Anderson’s church discipline that commenters brought up there.

  22. Deb
    This is kind of like saying-OJ didn’t do it since he wasn’t convicted and that was by an impartial jury.

  23. Trina
    I heard there is a movement afoot amongst the remaining members who are upset to stop giving money and stop showing up at “family” meetings. My opinion, for what it’s worth-Just STOP SHOWING UP!

  24. BTW: lots of bad language, if you’re bothered by it. Forgot to include the warning. but I’m sure most of us can look past that and lend our hearts to the storyteller.

  25. BTW, Dee, it was hard to stay in the SGM blog. They have made wonderful ground, but it just seems that the convo and ideas get “stuck” in a way. I dont know how to describe it. But I think some of it’s readers would do well to visit other blogs and get beyond the pondering and thinking, and start moving towards learning other things and how to heal… Otherwise, they will just end up in another abusive church. It’s sad reading some of the conversations and seeing that they are still pretty much the same, I guess.

    Like you, I’m like JUST STOP SHOWING UP!

  26. This made me laugh out loud, but yet, how interesting… sorta remind me of his “I see rapes happen” visions…

    Not Alone says:
    January 24, 2012 at 3:33 pm
    “Andrew will write out in detail his sexual and emotional attachment history withwomen and share it with XXX.”

    “Andrew will write out in detail the chronology of events and sexual/emotional sinwith K and share it with XXX and Pastor X”

    I’ll repeat myself also Robert. This is crazy and abusive. This pastor is a pervert and Andrew is lucky that he never gave this nutjob anymore ammunition for his quest to control him and everyone around him. What a terrible place. That poor congregation is in bondage.

    Reply
    J. says:
    January 24, 2012 at 5:34 pm
    You are right. That pastor sounds like he is lecherously getting off on the details.

    Reply
    Sisterlisa says:
    January 25, 2012 at 11:05 am
    BINGO! Why would a pastor need to have a LIST of his church member’s sexual sins? Sounds like a whole lot of mental porn to me.

    Reply
    Steve says:
    January 25, 2012 at 12:08 pm
    Driscoll is probably furiously masturbating over the details all the while preaching that masturbation is the same as being gay

  27. Deb –

    I find it ironic that MD, in the link you post above, speaks only about the sex chapter(s) in regards to why he is getting so much criticism from christians. Didn’t he whine about people who were giving too much attention to those chapters and not the rest of the book? So, now, he responds about “his Christian marriage and SEX book,” . . . so it really was about the sex part then? And Grace had nothing to do with it now? It was “My” book now? Well, I imagine Grace just breathed a huge sigh of relief!

    Since MD believes that husbands are to present their wives spotless to God, and Grace is joyfully submitting to MD’s authority, do you think MD will gladly pay the price if he can’t present her spotless? ? ? ? ? Is this where this belief leads?

  28. If any of you have teens, or like teen flicks (like myself-and yes, I do have this DVD! Tina Fey rocks!) you’ll find this funny as heck!:

    Jordan Wiebe says:
    January 24, 2012 at 4:39 pm
    You know the scene in Mean Girls when they burn (the) book the Plastics kept (that) was published in the school hallway? Mars Hill is sooooo Regina George.

  29. I like how Driscoll trades in ‘gross’ for not wanting to talk about in public. Now I don’t keep much of a private life apart from my public life, but it’s not prudish to want to keep moments with your wife. It seems like an outlet for an exhibitionist.

    Paul tells husbands to serve their wives as Christ did His disciples, and wives to submit to their husbands. Why isn’t that enough? Why do we need book and book and books about how to have a successful marriage? How can that possibly help, let someone tell you how to run your marriage? It seems wholly artificial character alteration. Mutual service, but we Americans are too consumed by egoism. The Church in America is guilty of this country’s sins, we’re to be pilgrims not consummate promulgators of whatever the culture decides.

  30. I suggest that Deb and Dee take a look at the resignation letters people send to the Mormon church and not because they tell about how Joseph Smith isn’t a prophet but was a con artist, etc., etc. Rather, many of these sample letters contain language that indicates the church cannot take disciplinary action from the moment the letter is signed and mailed. The reason people include this language was because some bishops in the Mormon church had this bad habit of continuing to insist that it could excommunicate a person even if they resigned their membership. And in heavily Mormon parts of the country, a publicly-announced excommunication (even if no reason is given) can be the kiss of social death.

    If a church is being obnoxious and abusive in its dealings with a member, then perhaps a resignation letter with “back off, I’m no longer a member” language may be called for. Of course, I’m very well aware that this can be abused in many ways, but the fact of the matter is, here in the USA, once you have resigned your membership in a voluntary organization, absent any other contracts you may have entered into, that’s the end.

    On another note, I don’t think that Mars Hill is going to be laughed into irrelevance, as is occurring right now to a certain space-alien cult of greed and power. I think it’s going to be a long struggle to bring Mark Driscoll’s organization into a position where it’s not a center of abuse. Patience is a virtue and don’t expect things to improve in one month or one year. It took over a decade of picking at $cientology before the tide began to turn. It should also be noted that $cientology is an obviously non-Christian religion and Driscoll is able to cloak himself in the respectability that Christianity still commands in the USA. That does make a difference. Patience, grasshopper.

  31. Trina

    I think the thing about Questioning my ability to hear from and discern the Spirit is what pisses me off the most. It is like telling someone they are delusional! Or that they are somehow superior or closer to God than I am.

    Our former pastor taught us that the “ground is truly level at the foot of the cross”. I do not need a church, pastor, CG leader or even my husband to validate what the Holy Spirit is directing me to do…if it is in line with God’s character and the word of God.

    We seriously thought it would never end…they did not want to take no for an answer and it was truly exhausting. I finally had to tell my husband that he needed to deal with the pastor who was supposedly trying to get ahold of me (from whom i was “hiding”) because I was at a breaking point.

    Your comments about “best” are spot on. I would love to share the emails but I am not sure about that. Will pray for discernment.

  32. Southwestern Discomfort,

    I agree with you. Funny thing is that we were not members, and the church hadn’t even officially launched until two weeks ago. We were walking away because we did not agree with membership among many other things.

    I think it is going to take a long time, a lot of prayer and patience to see MD either repent or go down.

  33. Southwestern Discomfort said:

    “If a church is being obnoxious and abusive in its dealings with a member, then perhaps a resignation letter with “back off, I’m no longer a member” language may be called for. Of course, I’m very well aware that this can be abused in many ways, but the fact of the matter is, here in the USA, once you have resigned your membership in a voluntary organization, absent any other contracts you may have entered into, that’s the end.”

    Great suggestion!

    I plan to follow your recommendation and do a little investigating into those resignation letters to the Mormon church. I feel sorry for young Christian couples who are being bullied by hyper-authoritarian pastors.

  34. Southwsstern Discomfort,

    I have already found some incredible information at this link:

    Mormon Resignation

    They have three sample resignation letters and all kinds of suggestions for how to leave.

  35. Sophia, you said:

    “…We have never again heard from any of our friends in that group…”

    Permit me to say that they were probably never your friends to begin with. True friends are won and nurtured in a common and shared humanity, not in the empty promises of a fleeting ideological belief system.

    How do I know? I’ve lived life on many circuits about the sun. I’ve seen people give so much of their hearts to Jesus that they have none left for anybody else.

    It’s good that you and your husband have left Mars Hill behind. If you have children or are hoping for them, I’ll close with a lyric snippet from Elton John’s song -Rocket Man- :

    “…Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids, in fact it’s cold as hell … and there’s no one there to raise them if you did…”

  36. Dee/Deb

    Over the weekend, I will draft a sample letter for members or regular attenders of any church to send to declare that they are no longer affiliated with said church and no longer under the discipline of said church. Further, any publication that suggests that the person resigning was forced out or should be shunned will be treated as libelous and legal action for damages may follow.

    It will be short, powerful and meet typically state/federal legal standards. Note however, it will not constitute legal services from me, but merely a suggested form one may use.

  37. Muff–

    That made me laugh out loud! The cold in hell and nobody to raise the kids part.

    Sophia—

    In your own time you can post them. But you must consider what you might have to loose by sharing them, the that should help you make your decision. You can change names or identifying information of different people if you wish. It’s totally up to you, but our testimonies are things that develop over time, and yours doesn’t have to be complete just yet. So be patint with yourself. We will all be patient with you as well and hope that you find much healing.

    Robin–

    That’s another post on its own. I have written about it extensively here and can’t really sum it up into a reasonable sized post. I am African-American and yes, I was a member there–a predominately white church. I experienced racism and bigotry along with others there. Not all of the issues i exoerienced stemmed from racism and that is not my point. But it was definitely an issue and certainly a huge contributing factor to why I left and why others are leaving. I’ll leave it at that.

  38. Fed Up
    If you draft it, we will make it a post with the appropriate warnings that you would suggest. That is awesome!!!

  39. Trina,

    That Facebook humor was a hoot! How did you find that so quickly? It was just posted today?

    I’m so glad this information is getting out there, albeit in a humorous way. Laughter is the best medicine…

  40. My girl, Stephy, over at Stuff Christian Culture Likes posted it.. Did you see several of these ass-hat “pastors” in it all? I could see Driscoll, Mahaney and others. It was so funny!! Over at Stuff Fundies Like they are always talking about these Amerian Idol Style preaching competitions in the style of Jack Hyles. I love it!

  41. Deb – My best guess as to how Trinia found that is the Stuff Christian Culture Likes Facebook page. the owner of that page (and of the blog of the same name) has had her own problems with authoritarianism and abusive churches… so she’s quick to post such things.

    Trinia – I wasn’t an official member of COSC (aka That Church), either, but that didn’t stop them.

    Agreed also on the discussions on the SGM blog – they go in circles, but I can also understand why that happens, having been in a similar situation for many years. (Going from one abusive church to the next, partly because I believed their “leaders” when they said “But we’re not like that.”)

    HUG – thanks for catching my mistake re. Cabaret! I realized it after I posted, but wasn’t anywhere near a computer from then ’til a few minutes ago.

  42. Numo—

    That. Is. crazy. So let me get this right: you exercise authority you don’t biblically have, that you think you have, over someone who isn’t even a member-which by your own biblical qualification has to be a MEMBER no longer in good standing and has to be a member to be under your authority–to restore their non-membership? So your authority now controls non-members as well? WTF!

    Just like Sophia– if you can’t fire a person who quit yesterday, you can’t kick out a non-member who hasn’t even joined yet.

    Wow. I wouldn’t have been able to reserve my need to go tell them to F themselves. Luckily, I got out early enough where I was because people were pushing me to that point and getting on the “seriously about to get my arse whipped” list… It’s hard to avoid the angry black woman stereotype in a church full of people who expect you to act that way. The hard felt responsibility to dispel stereotypes are felt by many in my culture. Especially educated young black women, but man, some people really push you to that point and then are like bam! See we told you that’s how they are! And for that reason, I always tried my best to dial back and keep my mouth shut. But you get tired of the BS and playing games with people and begin not to care anymore. I say this from hard earned experience in that farce of a church community.

  43. Wow! What a lot of red flags in Sophia’s story! The worship of sound doctrine; the elitism of thinking they have the correct answers; the monopolizing of time, the membership covenants with detailed requirements such as pledging to give and confess a sin; the apparent belief that the Holy Spirit does not speak to and lead the individual; the lack of talk about the love of God and the grace of God; the heavy emphasis on complementarianism and women not teaching men. Probably the biggest red flag did not come until the end when the group tried to continue to control them when they had already left. Very cultish.

    They did a number of things right. They kept their eyes and ears open and their brains engaged. They searched the scripture. They pulled back when the group activities seemed to be sucking them dry. They did not sign a membership covenant. They dialogued with each other and prayed about what they were seeing. They refused to engage in discussion about their reasons for leaving.

  44. This is going to sound kind of weird, but the discipline that Andrew says he was subjected to sounds very similar to what is done to people in Scientology when they fall out of favor.

    They are required to list their “crimes”, and everyone else in the team has to sign their approval for a person to leave their punishment. People who face threat of disconnection if they can’t fulfil these requirements.

    Discipline that is Holy Spirit directed should not sound like that which came from the mind of L. Ron Hubbard.

  45. Wow!

    “Discipline that is Holy Spirit directed should not sound like that which came from the mind of L. Ron Hubbard”

    SPEAK!!

  46. Mars Hill has those preaching competitions a la American Idol. The put aspiring young men who want to be pastors into a preach off with MD and a few other pastors as judges. They are then publicly critiqued and it is decided if it is their calling and whether or not the judges think they are gifted or not.

  47. yeah – they had one a couple of months ago. Stephy went to it.

    T – I was just SO shocked and stunned for a while, and VERY angry, but nobody took THAT seriously. The 2 people who did have the temerity to speak with me kept telling me to put it aside, even though they agreed with my description of it being like a spouse divorcing you all of a sudden w/o ever saying why.

  48. and the thing is – re.mind control and emotional manipulation – that i already felt awful about myself, so they were able to capitalize on that.

    I spent a long time thinking they were right, while at the same time knowing that they couldn’t be.

    Result: continued to feel awful about myself, and was isolated, as I lost all of my friends, pretty much.

  49. but to a certain extent, I would NOT play their game. I got some angry calls from S. McAlpine, but let them go to voice mail, as I was NOT gonna talk to the guy. (always happened after he heard that I said I had been kicked out and shunned – I come from an area where shunning is practiced, so I can call that one right!)

    i felt so discouraged, though – like my life in the D.C. area was over. And I left the area (which is what they wanted me to do), although in retrospect, it wasn’t a bad idea to leave… i have mixed feelings about D.c. to this day.

  50. Yes really. All the young bucks at our campus were excited about the possibility of ever having a chance at it. Read my husband’s blog…he talks about how they capitalize on young guys aspirations for ministry “success” and position. I mean think about it, poop or be pooped on? Which would you choose? LOL of course they all wanted to have authority. Funny how there is no prayer to discern which men might be called to which positions, but the whole thing is handled like a reality show or a job interview.

    They would say every single service that their vision was 2 MH per county (=10) in our region of our state and also 10 A29 churches in those same areas (=30) + 500 community groups= a lot of opportunity for MiniMarks to try to emulate him.

    Numo~ Do you remember what they called it? I can remember and neither can my husband.

  51. Freedom in drinking beer?? I wouldn’t recommend any recovery alcoholics going to Mars Hill either. The problem in the area of drinking is the aspect that modern servings are on average at least five times stronger than those in days of Christ. What is interesting in doing this research is that the poor or common man most likely would be drinking weaker concentrations due to availability to resources to make it stronger and costs of making it stronger. Social drinking could make those in recovery stumble into relapse….don’t get me wrong in this…it is not about pleasing elders on this issues but in concern of weaker brethren.

  52. and weaker sisters as well. This concern on women submitting by conservatives is nuts. How bout husbands and pastors being shields against abusive wolves instead.

  53. I read on Sophia’s husband blog that he was reprimanded for smoking. He was told it was an idol. Umm why is it ok to drink beer? I bet that just happens to be the thing MD likes best so I guess it is ok. But, cigs well those are evil.

  54. Sophia: Thanks for that link.

    “The curriculum is based on my book Doctrine and was developed by Mars Hill Kids’ Ministry and Curriculum Director Chrissie Wright. Chrissie’s is a great gift to our church and an awesome addition to our leadership…”

    LOL!
    “…based on MY book…”

    Can’t have women pastors, so how do we get around that pesky rule?
    Call her “Director” instead of “Pastor” – even though we fired our former children’s “pastor” and replaced him with her. But then our old children’s “pastor” wasn’t Phi Beta Kappa with a degree from Stanford.

    Doesn’t anybody see the intellectual dishonesty?

    And did you notice the following statement?
    “we have children’s ministry for those families wanting to allow their children to participate in age-appropriate teaching during our various services rather than having them sit in the main services…”

    Yes. The main services are rated R and XXX. We get that.

    And then, focus your attention to the fine print at the bottom of the page, which is paid for by the generous giving of the church members:

    Copyright “2012 Mark Driscoll”

    It’s all about __________ .

  55. I think Driscoll has never gotten over his fiancee’s (now his wife) cheating on him once, which, so I’ve read, he gallantly reveals in his new book. So any sexual sin drives him up the wall, and he over-reacts. Of course, the irony is that he’s obsessed with sex.

  56. WTH weighs in with a powerful post.

    I can, however, in good faith and in all honesty say this, that when I finally felt I needed to leave Mars Hill back in 2008 I warned at least some of them about this very issue that’s become a talking point now. I warned that if there wasn’t some circumspection and introspection about the basis and practice of church discipline, going right down to one’s practical theology of sin, that a disaster was on the horizon. Whether or not anyone considered my advice is now completely moot.

  57. Eagle

    Two things about the faith
    1. Some men go into the ministry for their own gain-money, ego, payback, whatever. Those in the pews should be aware of this type of pastor.
    2. Others, who do well, suddenly start to believe their own press and begin to think they deserve what comes their way or believe they are specially anointed. That is a weakness of our human character. One thing many people don’t understand is this. Seminary merely teaches you about the Bible. It does not knock the weakness out of you. Pastors are sinners, just like the rest of us.

  58. Numo

    One of our readers is going to help us with a letter that you can send to churches who suddenly think they own you when you decide to take your money and leave. They can get into a heckuvalot of trouble if they step over the line. Heckuvalot+lost$$$

  59. Someone

    What a good comment. Mars HIll does sound like Scientology in this scenario. Which proves that having “Christian” in the name doesn’t mean that it is. Now, we need to figure out who is the Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch. Hmmm I know one or two commenters….

  60. Sophia (i really like that name for you)

    Thank you for reminding me about those preaching competitions. How American of them-let’s choose a good preacher via competition. How many great preachers would have been left out if judged in this manner? Billy Graham stuttered and worked to overcome it. Mark Driscoll is the Prince Poppycock of the postevangelical world.

  61. Numo
    Have you ever put your complete story down on paper? I know a blog that would loooove to post it.

  62. Pingback: Lord of the Flies Religion | kinnon.tv UNITED STATES

  63. The three biggest red flags, in my book, are:

    1. Trying to do theology without Bible study. Since the written Word reveals and testifies to Christ, the Living Word, and theology that isn’t firmly grounded in it is dead.

    2. The lack of joy in worship. I know Calvinism talks a lot about being sober and even somber, but the Puritans didn’t interpret those terms to mean “joyless.” Where there is no joy, the Holy Spirit is probably absent.

    3. (I’ve said this one before) Too much leadership concentrated in the hands of the young, with no older mentors to guide them. When I was in college, I served a term on my campus IVCF’s executive council. At 21-23, we all thought we knew everything. Boy, were we wrong!

    The membership covenant is another red flag, but it seems to me that it’s something you might not discover as quickly, and the other three flags can exist in any church/parachurch organization, regardless of their philosophy of ministry.

    I commend Sophia and her husband for sticking it out as long as they did and trying to provide the youngsters (can’t believe at 36 I’m using this term already) with some grounding. I probably would have done the same. I just wish the outcome had been better. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  64. This is going to sound kind of weird, but the discipline that Andrew says he was subjected to sounds very similar to what is done to people in Scientology when they fall out of favor.

    As in Fair Game Law or Directive R2-45 LRH?

  65. I mean think about it, poop or be pooped on? Which would you choose? LOL of course they all wanted to have authority.

    Your boot stamping on their face or their boot stamping on yours. Forever.

    Hmmm… let me think…

  66. HUG

    Could you explain Directive R2-45 LRH-I know it has something to do with getting shot with a 45.

  67. TBH, the writers themselves don’t seem all that balanced – though I’d totally go along with their final response.

    It appears that Ultimate Fighting Jesus doesn’t led to a particularly well balanced church, who would have thunk it?

    Also, would be interested in Trina expanding a bit on her comments about racism at CHBC.

  68. Chris–

    I’ll just repost:

    Robin–

    That’s another post on its own. I have written about it extensively here and can’t really sum it up into a reasonable sized post. I am African-American and yes, I was a member there–a predominately white church. I experienced racism and bigotry along with others there. Not all of the issues i exoerienced stemmed from racism and that is not my point. But it was definitely an issue and certainly a huge contributing factor to why I left and why others are leaving. I’ll leave it at that.

  69. Could you explain Directive R2-45 LRH-I know it has something to do with getting shot with a 45.

    As I understand it, it’s Clamspeak (Scientologese) for assassination. “Forced externalization of a Thetan by two rounds from a .45 automatic.” The “LRH” suffix means it comes direct from Elron. Said to be a joke, but given Elron’s personality, that of his successor Miscavage (True Believer plus Short Man Syndrome) and some of the stunts Scientology has pulled on Squirrels and Suppressives (i.e. anti-Scientologists), you never know.

    Towards the end, with the R6 Bank Images and the Inner Mysteries of OT3 (the myth of Xenu, told completely straight on South Park — “Scientologists Actually Believe This”), Scientology saw itself as the restoration/reincarnation of an ancient Galactic Empire, and gave themselves the heirarchy and bureaucracy to match.

    If anyone were to tell the accurate story of Scientology, it would be crazy, funny, and tragic all at the same time.

  70. Chris
    You said “TBH, the writers themselves don’t seem all that balanced.” So, being honest and all, could you expand on what you mean by balanced? She told her story which is what I asked her to do. There is plenty of “balance” coming out of MD and the MH apologizers every day. People like Sophia are not allowed to tell their stories at MH . If they do, they get slapped with discipline, etc. So, what about telling their story here is so “unbalanced?”

  71. Sophia (Free),

    Maybe “unbalanced” is the new buzz word for “gullible and easily deceived”.

    I, too, would welcome Chris’ explanation of this term and how he is applying it this forum.

  72. Sophia
    Be careful with these buzzwords. I noticed that chris did not mention your pain, once, a violation of TWWs Prime Directive. This means there is an agenda involved.

  73. We must also then add Moses to the list of MD’s preaching flunkies!

    BTW – is “Preaching” something we need to be concerned about as far as scripture is concerned? I thought the term was “able to teach” along with many other character qualities which many “preachers” seem to flunk out on.

    It all seems a bit topsy turvy to me these days!

  74. Dee – yep, I know the name of *that* blog! ;)

    Not sure that I want to re-traumatize myself by writing it all down though – seriously.

  75. Chris
    One further item: Are you familiar with our Prime Directive? Many people who attend and support authoritarian churches and their pastors often are not coached in this area. It is called COMPASSION. Unless a commenter acknowledges the pain of an individual, even if they do not agree with them, we at TWW believe we are talking to a defender of the stats quo and will often dismiss their comments as agendized. Perhaps you didn’t realize this?

  76. Hey Dee,

    The CT article on cage fighting features the opinion of Matt Morin, a former cage fighter and grad student at Duke Divinity School. Morin says “It’s not God Honoring”.

    I have an idea… Why don’t we try to contact Matt and interview him for TWW. We could drive over to Duke and treat him to lunch.

  77. Matthew Paul Turner’s newest post is up…

    Spirutual Abuse Must Stop

    Please, please read it.

    I feel like he is speaking for me. I really appreciate the support I have received here, but can I be honest? I am disappointed in the larger church right now. In telling my story, I received 1, yes 1 email supporting me and sharing her story (privately) with me. And some wonderful comments from NLR and another reader Molly.

    Are we this afraid? What happened to not fearing man? Please read proverbs 29 towards the end it talks about assisting a thief and how we dare not testify.

    Discouraged!

  78. Dee,

    Fighting with words is so much better, and I dare say that you and I beat Driscoll hands down! He has to use a certain three letter word ad nauseam to get people’s attention, particularly guys.

  79. Man, Dee, I’d pay my rent money to see you in a cage with that punk. hahahaha I’d be your “Hype Girl”.

  80. Sophia,

    Just read Matthew Turner’s post. He gets it! My favorite parts of his post are:

    “We, members of the universal church of Christ, need to stand up and speak out on behalf of the victims of spiritual abuse.”

    “…the truth is, sometimes our establishments, our rules, our hoops and hurdles, our fixes, and our leadership are abusing people, good people, people who are not being heard or listened to, people like you and me, people who will try to experience life at another church but will likely fail, people who might not trust you at first, people who are cynical and skeptic, people who are dying inside looking for somebody to shine a light on their story, their situation, their pain.”

    “We begin by listening. And giving those who have been spiritually abused an opportunity to tell their story. Because only when we have the freedom to share, can we begin to walk on a path toward being free. Let’s help people get free.”

    Dee and I have been blogging for close to three years now, and this has been our mission from the beginning. We MUST help victims find their voice and identify those Christian leaders who are abusive in order to protect our brothers and sisters in Christ from experiencing harm.

    In the process, may God be glorified!

  81. Sophia–

    You will be able to use that disappointment in some really great ways. It will teach you; it will help you to see particular things about yourself that you never saw before–the good, the bad, the ugly; it will give you more compassion for the “unchurched” and it will help you bring more weightier and profound aspects of who God is and how he loves us to the forefront of your heart. So much that many things that mattered to you befoer won’t matter now. And things that didn’t move your heart, the simplicity and depth of God’s love and compassion, will move you beyond your hurt, distrust and hardness from your experience, towards a soft and tender heart towards God… Especially when you come to terms more and more each day with what he has saved you from.

    Hang in there. Many of us have and are walking in the same path as you.

  82. Sophia,

    My apologies for not responding to your situation more directly. I believe that what happened to you was despicable, and I share your pain. Kudos for getting out when you did, and to your husband too.

  83. Sophia and husband,

    Both of you are blessed to be out and we thank you for sharing. I apologize for the Christian faith for the failure to rein in and expose the cult extremists at MH and A29.

  84. re. the CT article – well, I don’t have time to get into all the points I thought were positive and all that I thought were ridiculous. ;)

    But I have got to say that anyone who claims that UFC is “martial arts” is kidding themselves. Nobody who competes in East Asian martial arts disciplines is EVER allowed to do what’s done in cage matches. (Deliberately harming someone; competing with intent to harm.)

    One thing, though: people mentioned the women in bikinis, etc. What about the competitors wearing shorts that pretty much show everyone *their* goods, eh?!

    I wish they’d asked a couple of women to comment on UFC.

  85. Sophia

    Thanks for standing up and thank your husband for us as well. I have an amazing relationship with a wonderful Christian who happens to be my wife and frequently my spiritual guide and prod. She is a wonderful preacher with an MDiv and lots of pre-ordination experience, but cannot get a nibble from a church to serve on staff, and is now applying to teach public elementary school once again (her career before seminary). She is a good mentor, a life coach who has trained pastors in coaching, and a great Bible scholar and Bible teacher.

    Your relationship with your spouse is the second most important relationship you have, and third is any children, then extended family, THEN CHURCH. Too many people put the church in the place of God, as if they were one and the same. And in some churches it really doesn’t matter much. But at MH and the like, it makes a great difference, to the detriment of the faith and the faithful.

    Blessings on you and your spouse for your discernment, your courage, and your common sense. The pain you now feel is a sign of victory over a force of evil.

  86. Thanks everyone.

    @arce: this has been one of the biggest lessons i have learned…placing the church in its rightful place on the totem pole of my priorities.

    I think it is time for reflection on the good that came out of this….blog post forthcoming.

  87. Sophia – I’m very grateful for your courage and honesty in telling your story. (Ditto for your husband.)

    The thing is… it takes time to “process” what you’ve (we’ve, actually) been through, and what you’ll get from it in two weeks, two months, two years – or ten – will be quite different. At least that’s been my own experience, and while I cannot presume to speak for you, I think there are things that all survivors of abuse (of every kind) have in common.

    I am SO glad you and your husband are out of MH!

  88. Stuck on a Spiritual Glacier with Mr. McUseless? 

    TWW,

    Thankz!

    You have touched on something about this generation with your posts. Many of us are feeling like the earth is moving under our feet, with a great shaken-ing.  Church ”Leaders” like C.J. Mahaney (SGM) & Mark Driscoll (Acts29) are apparently building their churches (empires) and ruling them with an abridged version of the law. 

    More like, the sand… (ahem! glacier ice?)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J847OF_jZ20&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    More like they’re a couple of fries short of a ‘Happy Meal’.
    Window of opportunity? What window? What opportunity?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCREJmUlf9k&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    Perversion abounds, on many levels: spiritually, the spoken word, sexually, mentally…you name it?!?

    Many large names are going along with all of this?!? (Huh?) which makes it all the more confusing. Their silence is deafening!!!

    Whatz wrong wit diz picture?

    The twisting of truth we are witnessing, is oh so frightening… The testimonies  & the stories found here are just as frightening!

    *
    My cry is for Jesus!

    Jesus, please make the dark places light and give me a place to run to while you do this! 

    (Don’t know what to do…)

    Because I am tired of stepping in their poo. 

    (Don’t know what to do…)

    It is certainly not what I signed on for. 

    Where?s the joy, Where?s your light…

    Why do I continually have to run from the creepy!?!

    (Don’t know what to do…)

    Their creep’in me out!

    Your light is no longer anywhere to be found in these places that bear you name! 

    (Don’t know what to do…)

    Ah huh

    Make your cords and turn the tables…many churches, attend? we are unable, cuz they take control, and make us slaves, o’ yeah! 

    Don’t know what to do…yeah! so I am crying out to you!

    -sad face-

    Sopy ;~)
    ___
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzf98AiNyVo&feature=youtube_gdata_player

  89. Mark Driscoll has some real issues. Really. Time to find a new church all ye who sit on Mars Hill. Plenty of Bible-teaching churches out there. You don’t need to sit at the feet of people who practice these heavy-handed unBiblical tactics. It’s pure intimidation and manipulation. They need to repent.

  90. Sopy,

    Our children are in your generation, and our hearts break for those who have been hurt.

    Love the song at the end of your comment. Third Day came and performed live at the Christian school that my daughters attended about three years ago. I was able to see them, along with the students. They are awesome!

  91. Mark
    I fear we are living in a generation in which we see many church leaders who invent a religion and call it the faith. These guys are not into repenting. That’s for wimps. As ol Mark said about some of his pastor who dared to differ with him “Punch em in the nose.” I fear there is something very wrong with Driscoll. Time will tell.

  92. “The allure of Mars Hill is great, and the manipulation is very subtle. Based on our experience, you are slowly conditioned and indoctrinated, and before you know it you feel spiritually dead and cannot quite put your finger on how that happened.”

    This statement that Sophia closed with is exactly how I have described what has happened to my daughters…Almost can compare it to how a pedifile(sp)slowly grooms its victims…Thank you for Sophia for speaking out…

    The outragous emotional and spiritual abuse along with the public shunning that Andrew has been going through for being an honest Christian young man has to be stopped… Mars Hill needs to bow their heads in shame for causing so much pain to so many people…
    As I speak my beautiful daughter is about to give birth to my first grandchild and because I had the nerve to ask questions I too have been shunned. Andrew…although it is so horrible, and it is…you are far better for leaving that aweful nut house. My heart goes out to you…

    We all need to keep spreading the word… and praying that the truth will be revealed before more people and families are torn apart….Blessings….

  93. Frankie
    Tomorrow your story will be the icing on the cake. Thank you for letting us share it with our readers.

  94. Frankie –

    The way you describe the experience sounds like a cult to me. :(

    So, when you get to a certain point in the grooming process, then you are “privileged” to be offered a membership contract I imagine? It must be quite an honor for young bucks to be “chosen” for the preaching contest with MD as well. That plays into one’s manliness thoughts of himself too!

  95. Dee -

    I think you should go to his “try-outs”! Oh – wait, you might need to prove you have a certain body part.

  96. Bridget
    Oh, don’t worry-i have more emotional cojones than a lot of men who have the physical ones.

  97. Dee and Deb,
    Thank you for doing this blog….you have brought those of us that thought we were all alone in this shocking abuse together to share in a safe place…
    Thank you to those who have shared, letting me know I am not alone…
    Blessings,
    Frankie

  98. Frankie,

    Keep the faith! Your daughters may one day discover their serious error. Truth will prevail.

    In the meantime, I’m praying that their eyes will be opened.

  99. As that old cynic Mark Twain once said, “God created man in His image, and man returned the compliment.” Mark Driscoll has created a God exactly like him. I fear the next step will be that Mark Driscoll is God. It may have happened already according to the discipline procedure in his church.

  100. Those tactics are over the top. But I have to say that the church I attended was so much like that really, just not to that level. I worry that this kind of stuff is pervasive. I say now – if you want to know what kind of church you are in, just disagree with the pastor.

  101. Sarah
    “if you want to know what kind of church you are in, just disagree with the pastor.” Best comment of the day. And you are right. I disagreed with two pastors in my life One handled it wonderfully and I will always be his biggest fan. The other, well, let’s just say this blog got a bit of wind for it’s kite from that encounter.

  102. “One further item: Are you familiar with our Prime Directive? Many people who attend and support authoritarian churches and their pastors often are not coached in this area. It is called COMPASSION. Unless a commenter acknowledges the pain of an individual, even if they do not agree with them, we at TWW believe we are talking to a defender of the stats quo and will often dismiss their comments as agendized.”

    dee – I believe I agreed in part with the individuals in question, which is why I stated that I thought they behaved correctly in response to the outrageous final demands of their church.

    That said, I also believe that there is a place for loyal opposition. There’s a parallel here in terms of the post Chaplain Mike made over on the Internet Monk about relational wisdom. It appears to me that at least initially both of the people lacked the wisdom to properly evaluate the church situation in which they were in.

    At lot of their early objections consist of ‘MHC is like X, we are more used to Y’. It’s worth pointing out that there are plenty of abusive churches where Y is true. Unless you think that abuse can’t happen in contemporary churches where thousands of people gather to sing charismatic praise whilst raising their hands .. (to pick one of their early examples)

  103. Chris
    Here is the problem. “It appears to me that at least initially both of the people lacked the wisdom to properly evaluate the church situation in which they were in.” Actually, these people showed a great deal of wisdom since they did not stay in that situation very long. And, in fact, they had been in a good church prior to this travesty and were able to sense that things were not quite right. Think of all those people who attend churches for years before picking up on a problem.

    It is also obvious that their previous church was not an abusive church since they quickly discovered that their new church was. I have two churches that i use for evaluating any church I go into. One is a great church, the other is a lousy church. You bet I compare against both of those standards. Their assessment had nothing to do with secondary issues and everything to do with important differences. I commend them on their quick and smart departure.

  104. Chris, are you familiar with the dynamics of abuse? It’s easy to sit on the outside and see that Desirable Church Situation A is very different from Undesirable Church Situation Z.

    But things rarely slide straight from A to Z — there’s a slight shift to B, a slight movement to C, a bit of a fall to D, back up to C, and so on.

    When you’re sliding along on the continuum, it can be tough to determine just exactly when things have deteriorated to a point where they cannot be fixed. Nobody wants to give up on a relationship too early.

  105. Final Anon – great observation, and so true! (Unfortunately.)

    Been there, done that. That church was OK when I 1st started going there…

  106. A local church was on the verge of going the church discipline route. A person was targeted as the first one to be disciplined, but a committee was appointed to consider the matter and investigate. The result was that the target was exonerated and the “accusers” have since left the congregation, along with several of their sympathizers. So sometimes it goes in the right direction, especially when there is congregational polity instead of pastoral dictatorship.

  107. “Chris, are you familiar with the dynamics of abuse? It’s easy to sit on the outside and see that Desirable Church Situation A is very different from Undesirable Church Situation Z”

    Exactly! And I would go a step further….had this couple been in their 20′s with very little church experience, they would not have seen the red flags when they did having more experience. This is one reason MH targets the young. Easier to fool them. And another reason young Andrew really got reamed. He came from a very fundy church, was used to authoritarianism and was very young.

    Many people tend never to see this stuff at all even when right in the middle of it because they never disagree or are not outspoken in any differences. They go along with whatever. Churches are filled with these types. Especially mega churches. They have no clue what is going on backstage. And do not think it is their business to know. They are perfect pew sitters for the money changers.

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  109. “And another reason young Andrew really got reamed. He came from a very fundy church, was used to authoritarianism and was very young.”

    Agreed. This hasn’t been highlighted enough on the Matthew Paul Turner comment threads. An Independent Fundamental Baptist, homeschooled upbringing would not prepare him at all well to identify problematic authoritarianism and be able to get out.

  110. I’m not sure how many twenty somethings would be savvy enough to deal with the hyper-authoritarianism we are seeing as we examine the underbelly of Mars Hill Church.

  111. Great words, Sophia. There is a lot of negative buzz about this MH “situation” and it’s refreshing to hear someone talk about it with hope.

    I agree with everything you said, but the thing that stuck with me the most was what you said about the Holy Spirit, how whenever anyone wanted to discuss something being “Spirit-led” everyone got nervous or jittery. I found this was true especially when I was at community group and that theological sparring began. This issue, I think, is the crux of a lot of issues at MH. Simply put, it seemed to me that God wanted the Holy Spirit to be my link to Him and MH wanted that place in my life. They wanted to have God’s power in my life. I didn’t quite see this or really discover God’s love until I left MH, but when I did I was slowly able to let go of all the hate I had for them. Had it not been for the love of God, I would have been caught in that poisonous spiral for a long time.

    There was so much talk about the greatness of Mars Hill and the size of it and how much good they’ve done in the world that it seemed like Mars Hill was bigger than anything else. They made it seem like the Kingdom of God was this thing that only Mars Hill people knew about. They “did life” together better than anyone else. They were “in community” more than anyone else. They did music better than anyone else.

    Like you said, it was hard to see this while you’re in it – someone else mentioned in a recent comment that this is harder to see for younger people, which i totally agree with. For me, the problems were so subtle that it took some distance and God’s revelation to see how controlling and manipulative that particular system was.

    When I told my community group leader that I felt like God was leading me elsewhere, we talked about it at community group – a big mistake I didn’t see until later – and they of course all told me they thought I was making a mistake. Any talk about the Holy Spirit leading me away from MH was shot down instantly. I later told my CG leader I was going to leave anyway and he told me that I needed to meet with our campus pastor and get an okay with him before I left. This made me nervous, but, thankfully, my parents helped me get through all the nervousness and I left.

    When I left, it was exactly like it happened to you. All the people that I had spent three to four days a week with shunned me. I saw them at a wedding a few months later and I got mostly cold shoulders. I’m still friends with some of them, but I have a hard time trusting the ones that I am friends with. I’ve forgiven them in my heart, but part of me struggles with all the MH paranoia.

    It’s over now for me with MH, but I continue to pray for the scores of people who don’t quite have the maturity to deal with all the subtleties of manipulation. Thanks for posting this. I found it extremely helpful.

    -Jon

  112. Jon – So sorry to hear what you’ve been through, but I’m glad you’re out!

    If I changed “mars Hill” to another name (or one of several names), your story could be mine. (It already is, but I’ve never been to Mars Hill…)

  113. Jon

    I am so sorry for your experience at Mars Hill. You have had an eye opening experience early on your life.The Holy Spirit did guide you out of there. When the curtain tore in the Temple at the time of the crucifixion, it spelled a new era for us. We no longer need a priest to act as a go between for God and man. God now dwells, via his Spirit , in all those who follow him. You are very wise, like Sophia. You said T”his issue, I think, is the crux of a lot of issues at MH. Simply put, it seemed to me that God wanted the Holy Spirit to be my link to Him and MH wanted that place in my life. They wanted to have God’s power in my life.” I wish I had the wisdom that both you and Sophia have shown at a younger age. It took me much longer.

    You also said “All the people that I had spent three to four days a week with shunned me. I saw them at a wedding a few months later and I got mostly cold shoulders. I’m still friends with some of them, but I have a hard time trusting the ones that I am friends with.” I think one of the reason that shunning is so popular is this. The people with whom you spent time, prior to your leave-taking, are weak individuals. Their identity is bound up in MD and MH as being the best church/pastor.

    When someone leaves, it is obvious that said person does not believe such a thing. This challenges the individuals left behind . They either have to wonder if something really may be wrong with the church and that may make them feel insecure in their own assessment skills as to what constitutes a good church. Many people cannot tolerate accepting they, too, may have made a mistake. This creates cognitive dissonance that they must rectify. It is far easier to shun the person who is presenting a painful reality. The leave-taker becomes the problem and they can protect their fragile egos.

    Jon, you have done well.One day I bet you will find that some of these folks awake to the reality of the problem and they will remember you. You may even hear that they now agree with you. It happened in my case but it took a few years.

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  115. From MD’s article on why he thinks Christians criticize his book:
    “There are some who think about almost nothing else but sex, treating it as a kind of god. This can happen in the form of addiction to sex or porn, severe promiscuity, adultery or participating in various sexual acts that the Bible speaks against, making personal preference and desire more important than what God says about sex.”

    LOL at this coming from Mark.

  116. Sophia, I hate what has been done to you, how your trust your beliefs your voice was silenced violated & abused!! I want to scream!! I hear the pain in your story & as you shared how terrible it felt to be spiritually abused & treated so unfairly!! I feel awful for you!! You are not to blame!! xoxo

  117. frogla
    Thank you so much for your kind words to Sophia. I wish more people would take your approach. That is the love the Bible speaks of!

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  119. I am no defender of Mars Hill. I don’t know anyone who’s posting their stories online either, so I have no way to independently verify them. I must take them at face value. That’s dangerous to me because it means the information is hearsay.

    Having said that, what I see is rather disturbing, and reminds me of the abuse that was rife within the Boston Movement of the Church of Christ (also called the International Churches of Christ) in the mid- to late 90s.

    For anyone suffering or who has suffered, I recommend reading the stories at http://www.reveal.org, so that at the very least you know you’re not alone, and that this has happened before.

    For the rest of you, know this has happened before, and not simply in the 90s. This kind of thing has been going on since the beginning – that’s what Colossians is about.

    If Driscoll and company are guilty of an institutionalized system of abuse, then Mars Hill will eventually fail, split into fragments, and vanish into obscurity as a forgotten Wikipedia article or a footnote in some PhD student’s thesis.

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  122. FYI
    Someone has linked to your Post in the comment section of this Story:

    http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2012/feb/16/unchurched/

    “Unchurched: Longtime member (FEMALE) faces discipline at Second Presbyterian”

    “Last week she received a letter, delivered by FedEx, barring her from the Sunday school class she has been a member of for a decade. Her best friend, church member Jan Wardle, sent an e-mail supporting Hawkes to church leaders after Hawkes received the letter.

    Wardle said she has been told to leave the choir until the matter is resolved.”

    “She contends that the real problem is that she continues to nominate women for the board of elders, something their denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, allows.”

  123. Guest 27,

    You have a sharp eye! Thanks for alerting us. I read the story, and it sounds a lot like some of the stories we have shared here. I also saw the comment that linked to our Driscoll article. Slate linked to the same post, so I assume that’s why our blog was linked.

    Blessings!

  124. Guest27
    Actually, I found that story of great interest. I wondered what she was doing to cause such a response. Form what I understand, women are allowed to be deacons (or is it elders) in her church according to the bylaws. However, the current pastor an Andy Davis clone, says he doesn’t want one. So, she continues to nominate females. For this, she is about to undergo a church trial? Am I correct, We would like to write about this story and wonder if you have any insights into the situation.

  125. Hi
    You could search for

    Dr. Nan Hawkes Memphis tn

    and get some contact information to see if she’s do a interview,

    but I think you have the right idea on whats happening.

    the church web site addresses some of it from their point of view.

    http://www.2pc.org/article/regarding-church-unity/

    and

    http://www.2pc.org/media/restoration-and-peacemakers-ministry.pdf

    which would indicate that she would be guilty of:

    “Unwillingness to submit to the authority of the Church”

    interesting

    “Although permanent records of each case must be kept for statistical and historical purposes, these records are securely stored in the church office.”

    Another Bloggers point of view can be found here

    http://newbbcopenforum.blogspot.com/2012/02/just-think-what-if-she-had-blog.html

    Interesting facts that come out in discussions like they follow an extra 224 page book called the book-of-order which includes:

    “Book of Discipline”

    http://www.epc.org/mediafiles/epc-book-of-order-2011-12.pdf

    More comments in the Paper

    http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/opinion/letters-to-editor/

    http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2012/feb/17/letter-nonmembers-should-just-butt-out/

    with this response

    “zzzzz, I believe there’s a verse in the bible that goes something like, “judge not, lest ye be judged.”

    This church, and many evangelical churches all over the US, have spent the last 40 years (at least) sticking their noses in the business of “non-members” and even going so far as trying to have your beliefs made into law for all of us. If you’re going to stick your noses into our lives (and bedrooms), don’t be surprised when we do the same to you.”

  126. When I see believers criticizing other cults, it conjures the image of people in a burning building urging others to seek safety in their room.
    Think outside the trap.

  127. Perfect Stranger

    I certainly understand your perspective. I have done as you suggest. I have spent years on ex-believer’s sites, I have read the atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris), I have read a lot by Tarico. Yet, in the end, nothing offered, to me, the answers that I find in Jesus.He defines for me the trouble with mankind and the possibilities for another solution. I questioned and came back.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment. We appreciate a differing view.

  128. Unfortunately, what is happening at Mars Hill is happening to many churches. Cornerstone Church of Ames, Iowa is also doing much the same way. One young teenager I know of actually had a mental breakdown because of the abuse he was receiving and when his mother tried to advocate for him they kicked her out of the church as being divisive. They even told people she had known for years not to talk to her or associate with her. Since I have heard of this story I have found at least three others who have been hurt by this church. One young man says he will never attend church again. All I can say is Jesus must weep over the abuse that has been done in His name.

  129. Concerned Christian
    We would like to do a story on Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa. I have heard the stories. Do you know anyone who might be willing to write their story or tell us so that we can write it?

  130. Sophia’s story is very similar to my escape from C3 (formerly Christian City Church) Hobart in Tasmania. I thought once I was out I was free and but it turns out the effects of spiritual abuse can run deep. Seeing a psychologist has been a blessing – there is power in having an outsider help you work through such a traumatic experience and find hope to once again be part of a loving christian community. I also found great satisfaction in the psychologist’s diagnosis of the senior pastor there. His name is Lucas Jacometti and she suggested he fits the textbook description of a functioning sociopath! I think Mark Driscoll might fit that description too.

  131. Tassie Tiger
    Now your story is one story i would love to hear. Would you be willing to write it or let us write it? Please contact us via our emails.
    Thank you so much for commenting. I pray for your recovery.