"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
"Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it."
Dee and I began blogging on March 19, 2009, after several years of giving lip service to it. A week before we launched The Wartburg Watch, Dee called me saying, "We've have got to start blogging NOW because if we don't I fear we'll get swallowed by a giant fish!" For the literalists among us, that's figurative language.
With some degree of trepidation, we hammered out our thoughts and went online with our first post — Who Hijacked My Church? If you take time to read it, you will see that we have come a long way in our almost three years of blogging. However, history has shown that our research prior to launching this website was on target. At the end of that first post, we highlighted two issues that plague Christendom:
(1) The rise of a new brand of Calvinism and
(2) The expansion of church discipline.
In our assessment of Mars Hill, we find it interesting that these are significant characteristics of Mark Driscoll's church.
Since Dee and I missed the first explosion that rocked Mars Hill (MH), I thought it might be beneficial to take a look at that crisis in order to see what we can learn from MH history. As you may know, Mars Hill began in the spring of 1996 in Mark and Grace Driscoll's apartment. Mark was around 25 years old. The church had its first official service in October 1996, and over the course of the next three years the congregation grew to around 350.
Mark Driscoll garnered the trust of MH congregants in the early years by making proclamations such as this one: Who can fire the pastor?
As the church continued to grow, the by-laws had to be rewritten. According to an article published on November 19, 2007 in The Seattle Times:
"Mars Hill has grown exponentially since its founding in 1996 and today claims about 6,000 in Sunday attendance at its five campuses. Because of such growth, its bylaws, which outline how the church is organized, have to be rewritten once a year, according to an online posting by church leaders in the members forum. In the forum, some members said the bylaw changes don't address what they're supposed to — organizing multiple campuses — and instead put too much power into the hands of only a few pastors."
Two days before The Seattle Times article came out, Jonah Spangenthal-Lee published an explosive post: Fired and Brimstone at Mars Hill Church
Jonah (great name!) broke the news on the internet (as far as I can tell) by writing:
"In late September or early October, Mars Hill—the hipster yet ultraconservative church—fired one pastor and put another on probation.
In a letter to church members, Pastor Mark Driscoll—one of the cofounders of the church—referenced the church’s recent rewriting of its bylaws, and stated that the two men, “curiously were among the least administratively gifted for that task, and chose to fight in a sinful manner in an effort to defend their power and retain legal control of the entire church.”
Pastor Paul Petry, who preached at Ballard, was fired, while Bent Meyer, who preaches at the Shoreline location, was put on probation. The dramatic move caused quite a stir at Mars Hill, and members of the church aired their grievances in a long and lively thread on the church’s private online message board.
Things got even uglier in a September 30 sermon, when Driscoll—who’s been the face of the church since it was first established in 1996—stated, sternly referencing the two dissidents, that “There are a few guys right now, if I wasn’t going to end up on CNN, I would go Old Testament on ’em. There’s no, like, attorneys and blogging, just like I punched you in the mouth, now shut up. That’s clean; it’s simple.”
According to one former Mars Hill member, there are people rescinding their memberships because of the decision. Mars Hill currently has five locations—in Ballard, Shoreline, West Seattle, Redmond, and Wedgwood, with a new site replacing the Tabella Nightclub in Belltown on the way—and around 24 pastors.
Neither Petry nor Meyer would comment."
The Seattle Times article linked above broke the news to the Seattle community this way:
"The recent firing of two pastors is causing turmoil at Mars Hill Church, Seattle's largest congregation. About a month ago, Paul Petry and Bent Meyer were fired from their staff positions… Some Mars Hill members contend the pastors were removed because they challenged proposed changes in church structure that those members believed would consolidate power in the hands of top church leaders…
Mars Hill leaders said in forum postings that one fired pastor was removed, in part, for "displaying an unhealthy distrust in the senior leadership." They said the other was removed for "disregarding the accepted elder protocol for the bylaw deliberation period" and "verbally attacking the lead pastor" — charges the fired pastor denied, the leaders added.
Petry also was removed as an elder; Meyer remains a church elder but is on probation. At Mars Hill, elders are men who hold positions of authority in the church. Some are on paid staff and some are not.
Petry and Meyer declined to comment.
They questioned the bylaws' granting of indefinite terms to a select group of "executive elders," which currently includes Lead Pastor Jamie Munson, Preaching Pastor Mark Driscoll, and three others. Executive elders serve "indefinitely until resignation, death or replacement," according to the bylaws; they may also be removed by a vote of the church board of directors, including the executive elders. Driscoll is a former Seattle Times contributing Faith & Values columnist.
Some members also lamented the loss of Petry and Meyer, challenged their firings, and questioned whether dissent was being quashed and a "culture of fear and elitism" was being perpetuated…"
The Seattle Times article ends with a very telling statement, indicating that Driscoll's next goal was to attract ten thousand worshippers on Sundays. Not all Martians (Mars Hill worshipers) were pleased with their visionary leader, as you will see.
Because of the tremendous advances in internet technology, someone (we assume a disgruntled MH member) has waged a very public campaign to expose Mark Driscoll's pulpit antics. Here are three MUST WATCH videos of Driscoll ranting from his bully pulpit. Be sure to read the accompanying information for each video.
As you can see Pastoral Authority is getting way out of hand. Mark Driscoll is having a tremendous influence on young followers — especially males — and the future of Christendom looks dire from our perspective. Will Christians learn from Mars Hill's brief history or will it be repeated? Thankfully, "authority" is becoming a HOT TOPIC in the blogosphere, and we are grateful that others are speaking out. Please read Pastor Wade Burleson's timely post on Christian Authority.
With the elder crisis behind him and the future of Mars Hill firmly in his grasp, Mark Driscoll is becoming more bizarre. Take a look…
You know, Mark Driscoll isn't the only one who sees things.
Here at The Wartburg "Watch", we see things too (like Mickey Mouse peeping out from Driscoll's jacket), and we don't like what we are seeing. In fact, we have been keeping our eyes on Mark Driscoll for three years and we are extremely concerned! Keep in mind that we haven't even waded into the Real Marriage material in this post.
We understand from a reliable source that none of the MH elders/pastors who have been forced out have ever spoken out. That is, until now. . .
We are honored that Bent Meyer, one of the two elders fired by Driscoll, boldly posted the following comment here at TWW.
BENT MEYER on Sun, Jan 29 2012 at 06:06 pm (link)
"I am one of the men fired the day of Mark’s rant about two elders he felt needed broken noses. Someone asked what has happened since that day.
I am happy to say, the next Sunday my wife and I attended another Church with far better expository teaching and a community that authentically and generously helps the marginalized.
I also finished my master program and have a private mental health practice serving the Seattle and Eastside area. This was a very good and satisfying result.
Regarding whether I spoke up or not. I have not been silenced by any direct or implied threats of retaliation. It is clear that the one who possess the air waves controls the content and spin of a story, so there was not much to be done.
I thought a lot about how I would response and just what my motives would be. I chose not to be lured into a public argument through the Seattle Times asking me for a blow by blow description of the events I have documented. I have a tendency to keep material for years and years.
I did prepare my narrative, including supporting documents, for members only to read who came to me for explanation. They had to agree never to disclose any of it to the media. These people have been honorable. As best I know, none have. By doing this I opened up myself to their scrutiny and possible rebuke. I have received nothing but kindness and support.
As to my motives, I want Mark’s best. In my opinion he is a very troubled man. He is caught in his own hell. The consequence, of course, is the influence he has on others, which is mixed.
He, Lief Moi, and Mike Gunn, together the founders of Mars Hill Church, sent out to focus on those that were young, upwardly mobile and future leaders. They wanted to position themselves to influence their faith decisions and their life choices. This is a lesson for many church leaders to learn from and choose for themselves.
The downside is Mark’s pathology shows up in ways that are impulsive, aggressive, irascible, shut off from effective relational influence, and most apparent not respectful and submissive to anyone, though he claims otherwise.
I have hoped and still hope for something short of him destroying himself that would bring about substantial change for this ever increasing population of worshiper. Some have fretted there will be a great loss of Christians with the demise of Mark and/or the Church. I don’t think so. The church that comprises all of us will survive. The chaff will be blown away, but the church will remain.
I would speak a caution to all of us. There is much to be learn for the Mars Hill phenomena. Don’t dismiss the hunger and openness to be influenced represented in those ages 18 through 30. Invent content that is useful and distribute it freely on the web. Always incorporate creatively some explanation of the gospel at the end of every teaching session with an invitation to do business with Jesus.
Even though Mark’s portrayal of masculinity is more like a comic book superhero and women needing to be protected and rescued is his focus, young men coming into manhood is richly important. Absent fathers is epidemic. Think about what it is that has caused them not to attach to their families. Mark comes at it from the standpoint of duty and responsibility, which is mechanical, missing other primary questions. Why do so many men not attach to their families? Why do they abandon family so easily? Mark uses shame and intimidation as the means of gaining compliance, which has the appearance of working, but is not transformational in the long run, or creates other issues of abusive relationships related to power and control. In many men, the tendency is understood in the short saying, “Monkey see monkey do.” Don’t over react, young men need to mature.
I feel like I need to give attention to the needs of women with equal if not more space since women are marginalized and silenced in so many ways. But, I will leave that for another time.
I hope this will satisfy the primary curiosity of those who wonder what has happened to me. I will say, the other elder fired at the same times is a good friend and is doing well."
We want to thank Bent for sharing his unsolicited comment here at TWW. Our hearts go out to him and his loved ones for the obvious pain they have experienced in this debacle. We are grateful that Bent has been able to use this trial at Mars Hill to earn a masters degree and establish a private mental health practice serving the Seattle and Eastside area. If you have ever considered hiring a professional counselor to help you work through your issues, Bent is obviously qualified to tackle a wide range of counseling needs. You can contact him at Paradigm Counseling at Puget Sound. We have added Bent's website to our list of recommended links. Bent has NOT asked for our recommendation, but we offer it freely and without reservation. We believe Bent is well-qualified to counsel others because of his training and personal experiences.
Based on the testimonies that have been arriving almost daily at TWW via private e-mail, we know that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have been adversely affected by the shenanigans at Mars Hill. If you have a MH story to share, you can contact us privately. Our e-mail addresses are listed under "Contact Us".
In the meantime, we’ll be keeping an eye on these “Martian” leaders at Mars Hill.
Lydia's Corner: Isaiah 25:1-28:13 Galatians 3:10-22 Psalm 61:1-8 Proverbs 23:17-18