Run Baby Run: Personal Insights on Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll

To be risen with Christ means not only that one has a choice and that one may live by a higher law – the law of grace and love – but that one must do so. The first obligation of the Christian is to maintain their freedom from all superstitions, all blind taboos and religious formalities, indeed from all empty forms of legalism.-Thomas Merton

Salem Witch Trials-Salem Witch Museum.

Update on CJ Mahaney:

Well, folks, this one is a real yawner. We called it last summer. CJ Mahaney has been declared, “FIT for duty.” However, there is a bit of a hooker. He is coming back as President of Sovereign Grace Ministries for a short time. Then he plans to leave to “start a church. “ You can read about it over at the Gospel Coalition here.

However, as an alert reader informed us, no comments will be allowed. Surprise, surprise-one of their very own, Kevin De Young, Gospel Coalition, ( the other two have some ties as well) was part of the three “impartial” men who exonerated him. Conversely, over at the Christianity Today blog here, there is a lively discussion ongoing with our very own “Deb” contributing to the palaver. 

Here is a TWW prediction. His new church will involve the SBC. Remember, you heard it here first.

So many of our readers picked up on various aspects of Sophia’s near escape from the jaws of Mars Hill. We wanted to add our own thoughts to the mix. TWW thanks Sophia for providing up with an excellent insight on how not how to do an end run around a legalistic church.

Each bold statement is a lesson, which is followed up by a quote from her post. This list is by no means exhaustive.

If you have been a member of a good church in the past, use that experience to judge the new church. “For five years, that town and church brought a lot of healing and freedom for each of us”

Beware of new church plants. These are often used as training grounds for inexperienced pastors who will readily imitate, to a tee, their boss pastor. “We ended up moving to one of the towns in which Mars Hill would be planting a church.”

A church that gets a lot of press and hype usually does so by publicity stunts and /or a charismatic, authoritarian leader. Remember this mantra: hype does not usually equate to loving and supportive. “I had heard all the hype about Mars Hill from my Reformed friends.”

If you are new to an area and are seeking friends, be aware that you are emotionally vulnerable. Church is a good place to make friends. But, you want them to be normal friends, not “friends with an agenda. “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.”

Red Flag: Care groups/study groups which discuss theology and sermons, rarely the Bible. This is a way to control the agenda of the pastor.The Bible can get people riled up with all that talk about the Holy Spirit, priesthood of the believer and kings and priests that did evil in the sight of the Lord. “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.”

Do not assume that you can change things. Most likely, the agenda you see is the agenda you get. Use an old axiom that I learned in business school. If I knew nothing would ever change, would I still work here? Understand that the leaders of these groups are reflecting the “rules” of the church. That is why they were chosen as leaders. “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.” “We thought perhaps we could bring balance."

Red Flag: Young, inexperienced men are chosen to be leaders (either in care groups, as elders, deacons, etc.) Many pastors with authoritarian issues stack their leadership groups, elders, etc. with young men who tend to be idealistic, prone to hero worship, and easy to mold. If you see guys in their 20s getting appointed to key leadership positions, you can assume an agenda is in play. “This guy (new care group leader) was no more than 25 years old!

Do not assume that “care groups” have been formed as a place for Bible study and support. In fact, in many churches, these groups are used as a way to keep tabs on the flock. We have seen this in many other groups, such as reported by former members of Sovereign Grace Ministries. (Hmmm, maybe Driscoll dd learn something from ol’ CJ). “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!

Red Flag: All activities and friendships revolve around the church. It is a calculated way to make the person feel that their life is dependent on the church, ensuring loyalty. “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”

Smart Move: Pull back when you are unsure. It is time for reassessment. “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.”

Red Flag: Doctrine trumps grace and Holy Spirit. Doctrine can be used as a means to control the flock. Be especially aware of doctrine that stresses sinfulness over forgiveness and grace. This is often used as a means to control a member who gets out of line. For example, if you have a suggestion for the pastor, he can then tell you that you are sinful and a dumb sheep and need to repent. (See SGM Survivors). “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.

Red Flag: Our church and its members are right; other Christians are not. This is one of the markers of cult groups. “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."

Red Flag: Overemphasis of one or two secondary doctrines. This represents a lopsided agenda and indicates the pastor is not interested in the overall story of faith.“The distinctive of complementarianism seems innocent enough on the surface. 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." 

Smart assessment: Just because a church encourages certain freedoms (alcohol consumption, etc) does not mean they are not extremely legalistic in other areas. (Major applause for this observation).“MH preaches freedom…freedom to drink beer or wine or go to the pub, etc 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."

Red Flag: Only that church’s music selection is doctrinally correct.“MH has basically said that it does not embrace most mainstream Christian music but prefers to use its own music and revamped traditional hymns.”

Red Flag: The leaders of the church are not accountable to the members. 
“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 here.” 

Red Flag: Membership covenants with requirements for behavior-including monitoring of monetary giving and sins! Both of these items can be used to control members.

  • “You did a membership interview. In that interview they talked with you.“
  • “I believe you made your giving pledge,. 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.”
  • "You had to confess a sin that you still struggle with"

Smart, yet painful, Move: Both Sophia and her husband wisely assessed the issues even with the understanding that they might lose friends.  “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."

Smart Move: They decided to leave without discussing their concerns. They demonstrated a savvy understanding that their reasons would not be well received. In fact, sharing any problems with the church will be looked upon as divisive and could be used as a means to “discipline” you or even chase you to another church which happened to your glamorous blog queen.Such things can be easily dispatched but it ain't pleasant-speaking from personal experience. “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.“

Smart Move: They sent exact copies of their resignation emails to everyone in the church that they felt should know. It was also wise to not talk to them.“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.”

Smart move: They gave no explanation other than “being called elsewhere.” The church will have to work hard to come up with a way to control their departure.”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.”

Red Flag: Supposed friends exhibit irritation and asked for reasons. Smart Move: Sophia refused. “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.”

Smart move: Do not meet with a care group leader or pastor who claims to want to send you off well. They don't! “Our community group leader emailed my husband and asked/pushed that my husband call him so they could talk 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 a meeting.”

Red Flag: Total silence from “friends” in church. Remember, your leave-taking is interpreted (rightly so) of problems with their church. They cannot deal with that because they believe their church to be “the best.” Also, during this period of silence, the “leadership” is trying to figure out how to deal with you. In this instance, silence is NOT golden. It is merely a temporary ceasefire. “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.”

Smart Move: They realized that they are not required to ask permission to leave, give a reason for leaving, or meet with anyone regarding the departure. The church leadership tries to impose meetings, judgments and requirements on the leave takers. When the couple refuses to respond, they will become more insulting as they desperately try to control the couple and save face at the same time.    “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.

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.”

Smart move: Looking for the good in the midst of the bad.
“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.”

Tie-In to Andrew's Story

We thank both Matthew Paul Turner blog and Andrew for allowing us to reprint this document here. Please visit this blog for an in-depth analysis of Andrew's story along with advice for spiritual abuse.

Here is further evidence why Sophia and her husband were smart  NOT to sign a membership contract or agree to meet with their “boy” care group leader? Let’s see what happened to Andrew in yesterday’s story when he did just that. He got slapped with a “discipline contract.” This, after an extended period of time being “harassed” for his sin, in spite of his obvious sorrow and repentance. 

Mars Hill Church Church Discipline Contract
Background Issue (s)

  • Andrew has been sexually involved with another church member, keeping it secret and using deception to cover it up.
  • He was dating/courting the woman under false pretense, while being an active member, serving, and attending community group.
  • The repercussions of Andrew’s sin have been widespread, as he is well-connected in the church.
  • Andrew brought his sin to light with a friend and then his CGL. As a result, he is under church discipline with the hope and goal of full restoration upon walking in a repentant lifestyle.

Plan of Discipline

  • Andrew will attend XXX’s CG and meet with XXX on a regular basis (define)
  • Andrew will not be involved in serving at MH
  • Andrew will not pursue or date any woman inside or outside of MH
  • Andrew will write out in detail his sexual and emotional attachment history with women and share it with XXX.
  • Andrew will write out in detail the chronology of events and sexual/emotional sin with K and share it with XXX and Pastor X.
  • Andrew will write out a list of all people he has sinned against during this time frame, either by sexual/emotional sin, lying or deceiving, share it with XXX and develop a plan to confess sin and ask for forgiveness.

Need we say more? Andrew, wisely, followed the course of Sophia and got the heck out of there! However, Mars Hill, not content to let Andrew go, had one more abusive trick up their sleeve. And that is an "all church" discipline, known as "The Shun." More to come.

Tomorrow we will share another Mars Hill story from the perspective of a mother. We will also review a couple of issues with membership covenants along with why, in today’s climate, people should hesitate before becoming members of a church.

TWW applauds the actions of Sophia and her husband. They did not drink the kool-aid and acted with wisdom, saving themselves even more heartache. They also had the guts to tell others of their experience, thereby giving clear warning to beware of the many churches which appear trendy and fun but underneath practice the religion of Pharisees.

Wade Burleson, link, just posted an excellent article on authoritarianism and legalism. It is a must read.



Lydia's Corner: Isaiah 19:1-21:17 Galatians 2:1-16 Psalm 59:1-17 Proverbs 23:13-14


Run Baby Run: Personal Insights on Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll — 121 Comments

  1. Mars Hill isn’t the only organization that’s done this. The ICOC was also involved in keeping “sin lists” on its members. I never had to do a sin list, nor do I remember past sins being thrown back in my face, but I have heard of others who have had that happen to them.

  2. Tina

    I look forward to posting your story when we finish the Mars Hill saga. It will help others to see this stuff is only found in authoritarian churches, no matter the doctrine! It’s a man thing.

  3. Sophia

    Au contraire. We have you to thank for this. And, once again, well done!!! I should have followed a few of your steps in my own debacle. Trust me, there will come a day when you can make jokes about it but you will always feel like you lost a bit of your innocence along the way.
    In case anyone from my former church is reading (and I know they do) you guys are the reason for the success of this blog and the reason I am writing a book. You opened my eyes to the Matrix. You meant it for self protection, God meant it for so much more.

  4. Dee –

    I posed your prediction above as a question over at Survivor last week after someone from CHBC came on and said that CJs daughters and their families had become members at CHBC. A commentor came on and couldn’t fathom such a thing. CJ with SBC where they have elders and deacons and voting! She couldn’t see CJ being accountable to anyone. What do you think? Can he get around it? And he might stay with SGM and “pastor.” Now he is saying plant a church and preach. IMO planting and preaching isn’t pastoring.

  5. I wonder if anyone has sent these links to the gospel coalition and asked for a response? I was about to but feel too emotionally involved with the situation.

  6. At one point in Mars Hill’s history, there was some semblance of accountability. MD preached from the pulpit that he was accountable to the counsel of elders who each had one vote, the same as he did, and who had the power to discipline or fire him if need be. It was reassuring to many newcomers who had left authoritarian/abusive churches and found themselves at Mars Hill. This pastor seemed different. He was self-deprecating, humorous, sharp-witted, and knew the Bible. He was rumoured to have a photographic memory and did not use notes when preaching his sermons – which were not boring. And, he was completely accountable to what appeared to be a group of seasoned, godly men. Or so that was how things appeared then.

    A few years later, things changed. The numbers coming through the doors had grown by thousands, and the church coffers by $millions. MD decided that the bylaws needed to be rewritten to “streamline” decision-making and he demanded that they be unanimously approved by the then existing elders. The new bylaws would strip the elders of their vote, completely restructure the church governmental structure, and essentially make MD autonomous over the Mars Hill empire, answerable to no one, but with a public facade of accountability by still retaining “elders” who had no real legal authority. The new bylaws were passed. The history is well-documented online. Today, all the mischief the world is witnessing is the result of no accountability whatsoever – not to any elders, and not to members (Mars Hill “members” have no vote or say whatsoever in church government, except to “vote” with their feet or pocketbooks, and yet by virtue of the fact that they signed a members agreement are subject to arbitrary church “discipline” and waive their rights to seek redress in a court of law).

    Excerpt from a University of Washington student’s editorial:


    Mars Hill Bylaws
    In September of last year Mars Hill fired one pastor and placed another on probation. At the time the church was in the process of rewriting the church bylaws. According to Mark Driscoll, these 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.” In a sermon shortly after, he also talked about the men: “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.”

    Here is a discussion of the bylaws point by point from a legal perspective:

    The author provides a summary of what the bylaws do:
    *The full council of elders has been reduced to only 5 ruling elders.
    *These Ruling 5 are self-appointed and serve for life without effective accountability.
    *There is no effective oversight of Mark since he serves as his own supervisor on the Ruling 5.
    *These by-laws were voted in by the former full council of elders thus revealing the inability of these men to critically read, voice any comments, or express any substantive opinion.
    *Since a quorum is only 50%, effectively only 3 Ruling elders govern the church. These Ruling 5 may only be supervised by those whom they hand pick, as they also control the slate of those who may be appointed.
    *No scriptural basis is necessary to discipline any member of the Mars Hill body.
    *There remains no protection and no recourse for any member so disciplined, as has already been demonstrated when our very leaders have been subjected to having their character inpugned in public.

    My personal favorite quote from the bylaws:
    “Please respect the sensitive nature of a document like this and do not distribute it outside of the membership. There is nothing to hide, but our intent is to answer the questions of our members only, and not take the massive number of hours that would be required to also answer the questions regarding our legal governance to people for whom Mars Hill Church is not home.”

    I don’t think I need to go into some of the serious issues with this form of church governance. Secrecy, unquestioned authority, unchecked power…


  7. Anon
    I have heard about this. The one good thing is that secrecy is no longer a given due to blogs out there who are exposing this stuff. We will try to post some of this stuff next week. Thank you for sending it along. It’s our alert readers who keep this stuff front and center.

  8. Sophia –

    Send your story to them. The worst they can do is ignore you. They won’t be able to stand before their Father and claim they were clueless though.

  9. If anyone has time, take a look at this blog post from Patrick Kyle a confessional Lutheran. He talks about our buddy MD and Mars Hill. He talks about church discipline and his own experience (positive). Quite a different tale than good ole’ Mars Hill.

  10. Back in the Dark Ages, I went to law school and emerged with a law degree. I had to learn a LOT about contracts (two semesters’ worth, four hours a semester, as a matter of fact.) A real contract has both parties doing certain things for a particular goal. Example: you make a contract with a bank to buy a car. The bank lets you drive the car and use it during the term of the contract, but, in exchange, you have to make payments on the car and keep the car insured up to a certain level. The contract is fulfilled when the note is paid off, and you get the car title in the mail.

    When I looked at the “contract” Andrew was asked to sign, I was boggled. It’s not a real contract, because all the performance was on one side–Andrew’s side. There was nothing in this “contract” about what would be the consequences of failing to fulfill provisions of the contract, what Mars Hill and its pastor was required to do as part of the contract and how both sides would know the contract was fulfilled (i.e., a particular time period, or some other marker).

    No, this document wasn’t a contract, it was an attempt to enslave Andrew to Mars Hill. A real contract would have the things I mentioned above: consequences for failing to uphold your end of the contract, how long the contract would last, and what Mars Hill would do to uphold its end of the contract. Andrew did the right thing in walking away.

    tl;dr: A real contract has provisions that both sides have to complete. This “contract” given to Andrew by Mars Hill only went one way, and wasn’t a contract, but an invitation to slavery. Andrew was right to walk away.

  11. Fascinating comment over at Matthew Paul Turners blog by a lawyer.
    About contracts.

    Andrew’s discipline contract is not a contract because it is all one sided – it is about what Andrew has to do, and nothing about the obligations of leaders.

  12. Bene D, yeah, I noticed that, too. That kind of “contract” is not hugely surprising if you got a chance to see the 2007 by-laws. There’s no word whether the pastor’s daughter was made to sign any comparable discipline contract is there?

  13. Alan
    They have watered down the term “gospel” to mean anything they want it to mean for their agenda. For example “gospel” gender roles. What in the world does that mean? It means we must believe exactly like they believe or else we don’t believe the gospel. This is a very dangerous road. They pervert the beautiful gospel for their own doctrinal distinctives. They do the same thing with the word, “Biblical”. When I look at what is going on in some of these ministries, I can truthfully say that the words “gospel” and “biblical” are not the first things that come to mind.

  14. Bene
    One of our readers is going to send us a letter that people can send to their churches to tell them they are no longer members. Once these letter are sent, the church must cease and desist. Some of the exMormon sites have examples of such letter.
    The major problem with the contract (beyond the obvious garbage) is the legal consultation that goes on before these contracts are offered to members. It is despicable that the unsuspecting person is not informed that they should get legal advice before signing such a document. There is all this nonsense about not suing your brother. What about not telling your brother that you got legal advice in drawing up covenants, etc? It is downright hypocritical and deceptive.

  15. Eagle
    Thank you for keeping us up to date on the Internet Monk site. i really, really respect them.

  16. Eagle–I have no problem with you reposting what I wrote.

    I’d also note that what the Mars Hill “pastor” posted on the internal MH website is also pretty terrible. Others have pointed out that even if you’re following Matthew 18, what’s going on here doesn’t meet the Matthew 18 standards (Andrew was not unrepentant, he just objected to some pretty heavy-handed tactics by the leadership). Moreover, as people have pointed out over and over, treating a person like a tax collector is not an invitation to subject them to the Spanish Inquisition at every meeting–it IS, however, an invitation to follow Jesus and have table fellowship and be friends with them.

    If Christians acted more like Jesus, I’d be more interested in being part of a church. That’s not been my experience. I’ve found that I’d rather hang out with my friends the tax collectors, prostitutes and fellow notorious public sinners. We are under no illusions that we have the secrets of the universe but we do care about each other. And we’re quite willing to tell each other off when the situation calls for it.

  17. @ the first Anon up there, telling us about the change in church government:

    Do they teach this in seminary?

    Same thing happened at my former church here, with slightly different terms but leaving the pastor firmly in charge of everything. At this church I had a history with, the elders (voted in) were replaced by a council made up of the staff, whom were employed at the discretion of the pastor. That’s right, the decisions were made by people who depended on the pastor for their paychecks AND there were more than enough of them to drown out any one person’s dissent (who I am sure would be fired in short order as soon as it became apparent they weren’t pliable enough to the will of the pastor).

    It went from a church, to a small business. That’s what it really is: a business. But not just any business! Nope, a business with tax-exempt status. If religious institutions in this country ever lose their tax-exempt status, it will be precisely because of this new “church” model.

  18. Eagle,

    Thanks for keeping us so informed! Just read Rachel Evans’ post, and she makes some excellent points. I watched that video last night and couldn’t stop laughing!

    Finally, I saw your comment over on the CT blog about Mahaney, and what you shared is so true!

    Thanks for being such an encouragement to us, Eagle.

  19. Southwestern

    Ouch! We Christians deserve what you said here. I”’ve found that I’d rather hang out with my friends the tax collectors, prostitutes and fellow notorious public sinners. We are under no illusions that we have the secrets of the universe but we do care about each other.” I am so sorry that we the church do not live out what we claim to believe.

  20. Shadowspring
    I know a church in which the elders are all the pastor’s men. One pastor disagreed with the head guy and “boom” he was gone. Then they spout off nonsense like “unity.” That is not unity, it is TYRANNY.

  21. Then he plans to leave to “start a church. “ You can read about it over at the Gospel Coalition here.

    The end-state of Protestantism, as was done by Ted Haggard and Jimmy Swaggart — if you don’t like it, skip out and Plant a New Church with Yourself as Founding Pastor.

    However, as an alert reader informed us, no comments will be allowed.

    Only the Official Party Line.

    Surprise, surprise-one of their very own, Kevin De Young, Gospel Coalition, ( the other two have some ties as well) was part of the three “impartial” men who exonerated him.

    i.e. “One Hand Washes The Other.”

    Welcome to the Body of Christ (TM)…

  22. Sophia
    The Gospel Coalition knows all about this stuff. They are turning a blind eye to it.
    — Dee

    Because “Lot$ of $oul$ are being $aved”?

    (Word-for-word from the Mike Warnke Fanboy Playbook.)

  23. I’ve found that I’d rather hang out with my friends the tax collectors, prostitutes and fellow notorious public sinners. We are under no illusions that we have the secrets of the universe but we do care about each other. — Southwestern Discomfort

    That’s exactly how & why I left that “cult”-like Christian Fellowship(TM) in 1976 for the Dungeons & Dragons group in Claremont. That probably was what kept me from drinking the kool-aid and ending up sealed forever into their Holy Compound.

  24. When I looked at the “contract” Andrew was asked to sign, I was boggled. It’s not a real contract, because all the performance was on one side–Andrew’s side. — Southwestern Discomfort

    Not a contract, but a Show Trial Confession signed before Party Commissars.

  25. The whole idea of contracts or membership agreements is disturbing to me on many levels. But I guess the most obvious to me is that churches turn Christianity into a business with their use. This does not promote the two most important commandments as stated by Jesus. Right off the bat, their is no love toward one another, but a written contract. This implies from the entity (can’t bring myself to call it part of the body of believers):

    We dont trust you.
    You need to know what we expect.
    We are in control of you.
    You might screw up.
    We want to dissassociate with you if we must.
    You (or, really, God?) are not capable of working out your salvation.
    God WILL work through us (entity). (Because we control God.)

    So, then, how does one feel about God and themselves now? Now that you AND God have been put in your places?

    This is not love! Where is 1 Col. 13.?

    But, alas, if these, your “spiritual authorities,” say that this IS love, then I will submit to these older and wiser than me. They wouldn’t lie . . . the Bible says not to lie . . . they teach from the Bible . . . I need to listen and be a soldier like leader says . . .

    Why isn’t leader teaching me to read the Bible?!?! – hmm

  26. Headless Unicorn Guy,

    One hand washes the other is right with this crowd.

    In case you missed my post proving just how connected the impartial panel (DeYoung, Ortlund, and Trueman) is to Mahaney, you might want to consider reading this – Is C.J. Mahaney Fit For Ministry?

  27. “Red Flag: Only that church’s music selection is doctrinally correct.“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 didn’t start off this way though did they ? (reading W the Hatchet’s postings). I get the idea they started off writing a lot of their own music, and then turned this into a theological virtue.

    I would say that increasing exclusivity of any sort is usually a red light, whether it consists of music, preachers, books, etc.

  28. Chris Stiles –

    If they write their own music and children’s cirriculum and MD-help manuals, it would be interesting to see who owns the copyrights on all of it. You might find motivation galore for all inhouse moves by any group.

  29. Why isn’t leader teaching me to read the Bible?!?! – hmm -_ Bridget2

    Don’t Ask Political Questions, Comrade.

    One hand washes the other is right with this crowd. — Deb

    I “experienced” (more like got bent over and reamed by) the phenomenon some 15 years ago, courtesy of a crooked Homeowner’s Association. And they DIDN’T have Divine Right, even if they acted like it.

  30. HUG –

    You haven’t figured it out then? My disguise is working?

    Signed –
    Mrs. Bonhoeffer (shshsh! No one knows.)

  31. Dee: “The Gospel Coalition knows all about this stuff. They are turning a blind eye to it.”

    The hundreds of Acts 29 pastors are doing the same.
    Apparently, there are no Bonhoeffers in that bunch.

  32. Sophia, argh. I couldn’t even begin to make it through that wall of text put up by Mars Hill. It says volumes when the organization’s response to what’s been going on is to throw up (and you can take that any way you like) a whole chapter from one of Driscoll’s books on its website as if that were an answer to the criticisms being leveled. Not only is it not an answer, it’s also amazingly arrogant, as if something Driscoll wrote years ago is completely and directly appropriate to the criticisms.

    Without reading that eyebleed of text (tl;dr really does apply here), I did a quick word search to see if the word “contract” appears. It does NOT. Neither does the word “agreement.” That’s as much time as I plan on wasting on Driscoll’s drivel, because if neither of those words are included, then whatever’s being said in there does not apply to this current situation.

    In short, nice try, Mars Hill, but you’re still like Scientology. CULT CULT CULT CULT CULT CULT CULT.

  33. Any doubts I had about how they handled our situation, as in the two guys just handled it poorly, are GONE. They followed their own protocol. And if you read through, it doesn’t matter if you have a member….or if you have sinned!

    “Philippians 4:2–3 gives a practical illustration of two people who have a personal dispute. There is no hint of immoral sin or doctrinal heresy. For some reason, they just do not get along and are causing tension in the church because of their differences. The apostle Paul deals with this by setting up a mediator to cause them to agree in the Lord and expects them to submit to the mediator. Sometimes there is sin that needs formal discipline, and sometimes there are hurt feelings and strained relationships that need mediation.

    If the Christian persists in sin, we may seek the formal involvement of the church, initially from the elders, and, if necessary, the elders may inform and invite the prayers and assistance of the entire congregation. As a general rule, the lead pastor appoints a team to adjudicate each discipline case. At this point the member is formally placed under church discipline. At the discretion of the elders, the fact that a member is under discipline may be brought to the attention of the entire church or campus, and the member under discipline may be removed from any leadership roles and fellowship opportunities. To ensure there is no confusion or miscommunication, the member under discipline should be notified in writing of the disciplinary status and any applicable consequences. “


    “Church discipline is exercised in cases such as the following, examples of which are found in Scripture:

    When a Christian sins against another Christian, and it cannot be overlooked in love.

    When a Christian who professes faith lives in sin without repentance.

    When a Christian continually blasphemes God.

    When someone encourages or promotes false doctrine.

    When a Christian is a habitual doctrine debater.

    When a Christian will heed only false teachers.

    When a Christian is sincere but deceived.

    When a teacher is in moral sin or doctrinal error.

    When an elder is in moral sin or doctrinal error.

    When a Christian appoints himself or herself to leadership.

    When a Christian is divisive.

    When a Christian is an idle busybody.

    When a Christian promotes legalism.

    When a Christian refuses to obey civil laws.

    When an alleged offended Christian seeks legal recourse.

    When a Christian has repeatedly rejected counsel by a church elder.

    When a Christian is not consistently in community.

    When a Christian leaves the church to pursue sin or heresy.”


  35. Ted
    So many of these guys blissfully sign off on the statement of belief from Acts 29.Then they clim they are not like them. Well, which is it? Somehow, I think Bonhoeffer would not be hanging around these guys. He believed too much in taking up the Cross instead of focusing on taking up the collection.

  36. Sophia –

    That is a bizzar ducument. At about the midway point of a fast perusal was a “list” of reasons that you could be brought under church discipline (no scriptures). What I found hilarious, yet sad, was that Mark Driscoll himself would need to be under church discipline if he followed “his own rules.”

  37. I am “spitting mad” right now. Please pray for us as we determine where to go from here. I want to glorify God in whatever I do and say (as much as a sinner possibly can), and I don’t know what that looks like.

    I may need to just step away from this for a minute…

    The older I get the more I realize that my grandmother was right…the church really is full of a bunch of fatheads. LOL

    Spiritual abuse from a church feels like finding out the person you love is living a lie, is not who you thought they were. Going to buy the Johnson/VanVonderan book this weekend.

  38. SW dis-

    the operable word is “covenant”. Its use precedes by centuries the use of the word “contract” or the word “agreement”. And most “contracts” talk about “mutual covenants”. Further, under modern law, a written document does not have to refer to itself as any of these three, but if there are mutually binding things to be done by each party or side to or for the benefit of the other, then it may be considered a contract.

    Mutual commitment is the key, and generally either a written document or, for a shorter term (e.g., less than a year) a handshake followed by one side or the other actually carrying out their side of the bargain or some significant part of their side of the bargain. Then the other side can be considered to be bound by the bargain.

  39. Sophia,

    I’m praying for you and your husband. I know how you feel, and I will have some suggestions for you in a follow-up comment.

  40. Sophia wrote:

    Spiritual abuse from a church feels like finding out the person you love is living a lie, is not who you thought they were.

    yes… and on top of that, said person has told you that you’re summarily divorced. Out in the cold.

    Been there; praying for you and yours! And please do take as long as you need to in “step[ping] away.” I’ve had to do a lot of that over the years (9 and counting) since I was booted from That Church.

    One thing I can say, though: God’s mercy, love and grace are always with us, even when it feels like we’re 10 million light years away (or, conversely, that he is at least that far from us). I honestly don’t know how or why I know that, but I do.

  41. One other thought:

    After some time had passed, I started to feel like I was waking up (or had woken up) from an extremely vivid nightmare.

    The daylight – and waking life – started to feel more solid, more real and vivid than the night/day-mare that had gripped me.

    but it does take time.

  42. The preference for all in-house music had to do with not having to worry about copyright troubles or licensing issues. I was friends with a few musicians at MH over the years and they told me that avoiding having to ever pay any money to CCLI was an important guideline to what and how music got developed in MH in the early days.

  43. Arce, I stayed away from the word “covenant” for two reasons. First, the document Andrew was asked to sign was a “contract,” not a “covenant.” Second, my understanding of “covenant” in the Biblical sense is that it’s an agreement made by two parties, one of whom is in a much better position than the other. The classic example is the covenant God made with Abram in Genesis chapter 15. In other words, it’s not the agreement between equals or near-equals that the word “contract” strongly implies. Contracts have “covenants” in them, but they’re stipulations, not anything like what the Biblical “covenant” implies. For example, the contract for my house contains covenants in them, mostly binding me to pay homeowners association dues and run any external changes to the property by the HOA board (aw darn, no flashy fuchsia trim allowed).

    Now, it’s entirely possible that Mars Hill thinks of its “discipline contracts” as a covenant, where it holds all the power and authority (rather like God) and the individual subject to such a “contract” is obligated to do everything the “discipline contract” says. In some ways, that makes it worse…because Mars Hill could very well be setting itself up in the position of God to anyone under a “discipline contract.” There’s just something wrong with that.

    Let me make it clear that I’m not against rules and laws. I would prefer that people use their turn signals when they change lanes. I get annoyed when someone blows past me on the freeway. I pay my taxes and I burn when someone is caught out as a tax cheat. But those laws are in front of us and we know what the consequences are for breaking them. Such is not the case for Mars Hill. It’s all very, shall we say, amorphous. And, unlike traffic infractions or violations of the tax code, there’s apparently no appeal to a higher court. You just have to grin and bear it or leave and take your lumps from your former church.

    However, I think that if Mars Hill spelled out exactly what was involved in its disciplinary process, including the completely arbitrary nature of same, it wouldn’t have thousands of members. Maybe if they just put in their membership covenant, “Our disciplinary process is completely arbitrary and has no appeal process,” so people know up front that there’s no escape. Then maybe they’ll run. Or maybe Mars Hill will wise up…not likely!

  44. But most churches ask people to sign a covenant and then treat it like a voluntarily entered into contract between parties of equal power. So potential victims need to recognize what they are being asked to sign when joining many authoritarian churches. Never sign anything akin to a contract without the advice of an attorney. It is well worth the $200-$300 a lawyer typically charges in other than major metro areas to review a document and advise you of what hidden things are there and what is not there that should be there to protect you.

    BTW, in court, there is the principle that whoever wrote the contract must be treated as the one with power, so that interpretation must protect the one without power. The writer is bound more strongly than is the non-writer, unless the contract results from extensive negotiation of the terms therein.

  45. SD

    Mars Hill reply DID spell out exactly that…that it is arbitrary, the rules (or “sins”) are objective and that they don’t do appeals. They said it all and it actually answered ?’s i didn’t have answers to…the question is do any of the members care or have any critical thinking skills?

    They will defend him and won’t care until it is applied unfairly to them. I know it is stomach wrenching but it is a very insightful read into the mind of MD and the cult-ure of MH

  46. Arce – liturgical churches don’t have membership covenants or contracts. Being baptized and confirmed makes you a member (and not just of the church where you had those things done).

    I’d never heard of “membership covenants” until I 1st encountered the shepherding/discipleship movement…

  47. numo,

    My family joined a newly formed Southern Baptist church back in September 2003, and everyone signed a membership covenant. I had never heard of that before, and it seemed O.K. at the time.

    Now I see membership covenants as a legal document that primarily benefits the leadership of the church.

  48. numo,

    BINGO! Although I didn’t know it was Reformed when we joined – all I cared about was that it was Southern Baptist.

    I didn’t find out until after we joined the church that during the pastor search process, one of the influential elders REALLY, REALLY wanted John Piper to come and pastor this brand new church. From what I was told, he approached Piper at The Cove in Asheville and boldly expressed this desire. The elder continued to insist in numerous phone calls that he take the position, and finally Piper told him in no uncertain terms NOT to call him again! To be honest, I didn’t know much about John Piper way back then, after all, it was almost a decade ago.

    I am really shocked at what has happened since then with the Neo-Calvinists and their influence.

  49. Deb have you noticed how Calvinistas like to keep it a secret that they are “reformed?” I don’t mean forever, I mean when they are trying to get converts. While in CO calvinist was NEVER mentioned not until much later on. If you believe your theology is true, why would you try to mask it for as long as you can?

  50. Numo –

    That link was funny. I couldn’t watch the whole video. Don’t like to be screemed at 🙂

  51. Bridget – did you get to the part where he proclaimed with great certainty that some of the men might die right there in church?!

    I don’t like screaming, either, but I thought there might be a particularly outrageous/obnoxious tidbit in there, given how John shore writes and makes points (hah!)

  52. Deb – I 1st heard of Piper in 2000 or possibly 2001. His “Christian hedonism” idea had caught on with the person who runs That Church.

    It wasn’t long until increasingly grim, frightening and judgmental sermons started coming from That Church’s pulpit. The thing is… I knew the noose was tightening (as I was reading some of Piper’s stuff online and while I liked a bit of it, other pieces were very disturbing to me), but I never, ever thought that I would be one of the people caught by that noose.

    In retrospect, it’s not as surprising as it seemed at the time, for all kinds of reasons.

  53. Numo –

    Ok. I’ll give it another go then. Hopefully it ends with a good laugh! The guy looks hidious in the first part.

  54. Numo –

    That was enough to make me sick. I’d love to go start visiting his church on a regular basis and get up during his false preaching, warn the congregation in a loud voice, and invite people to leave with me. How can anyone sit through him saying the nonesense he says? Hey, it would be great to get 100 people or so to go and do a flash mob reading of some pertinent scripture during a sermon and then ask people to leave with us. MD acts as if he is God himself. I think he’s sick!

  55. I wonder what Mars Hill’s security patrol would do if a flash mob incident were to occur…

    What kind of church has security anyway? I thought Macho Men attended Mars Hill. Why do they need protection?

  56. Deb
    I started giggling thinking about Mars HIll response. Think Driscoll would have a flash mob of strippers doing pole dances as an example of godly womanhood?

  57. I thought the security was mainly for MD . . . he’s not so macho after all?!

    Funnier yet would be if the flash mob was only women, 45ish and older (grandma’s?), holding babies, while admonishing the young foolish bucks with a reading of scripture about destroying families in the name of Jesus.

  58. Deb,

    if you get any insider information that indicates this may actually occur (flash strippers)…can you send us all an email .. wouldn’t want to miss that one!

  59. One has to wonder what it was that drove Driscoll to Christianity as opposed to some other religion where he at least could have gotten 72, very submissive virgins.

    probably be his dying words…arrgg if only I was a Muslim..arrggg

  60. Bridget2,

    A grannie flash mob could definitely happen. Here in North Carolina, the “raging grannies” dominated the news several months ago as they protested an energy rate hike. They even came up with their own protest song. It was a hoot!

    Raging Grannies

  61. Well, lookie here (Southern slang) . . . Seattle already has a group of raging grannies, which appears to be a growing phenomenon from a quick search on YouTube.

    Seattle Raging Grannies

    This group of Seattle grannies appears to be a political organization. What we need are some godly grannies who say enough is enough!


  62. Dee,

    I have come to the conclusion that the GRANNIE FLASH MOB / PROTEST outside of Mars Hill is the best way to bring national attention to this mess. The MH security would never let them inside. Are older people even allowed inside Mars Hill?

    I believe this kind of protest would draw the press like a magnet.

  63. I’ve obviously been thinking about this all week. The question I keep hearing asked is, “Why ask a repentant Christian to sign a contract?” It’s a good question I’ve yet to see the logic of, because if he really is repentant then no document would seem to be necessary.

    But let’s assume, as many have, there is more to the story and he is not as repentant as he would lead us to believe. Indeed, I’ve been in contact with a MH campus pastor who alludes to the fact by saying I don’t have all the facts. OK, I’ll bite, let’s say he is not repentant. The contract still makes no sense. If he’s not repentant, why would you even approach an unrepentant person with such a thing? “Would you sign this document so we can make your unrepentant heart official? Well make copies – one for your records, one to distribute among the flock and one to put in our vault so your guilt will live on in perpetuity. Here, we brought a pen.”

    It makes no sense whatsoever.

    Even if the theology behind and the contents therein do not bother you, the contract’s logic makes no sense.

  64. Great points, Matt! Thanks for contacting a MH campus pastor. They need to be challenged.

    Here’s what I’m pondering. If Andrew was not repentant, why in the world would he go public with this embarrassing situation? Now that wouldn’t make ANY sense if he was unrepentant.

  65. Matt and Deb –

    You realize that MH pastors are the ones who determine if you are repentant or not. They are able to judge the heart of man. They have learned well from MD! Apparently, the Holy Spirit is unable to be effective in MH camps. Must be that awesome forcefield that MD controls 🙂

  66. Actually, I was contacted by the pastor. He let me know I was being unhelpful. I, of course, let him know there are many who would disagree with such an evaluation.

  67. You ladies are doing the Lord’s work.

    After a friend complained of emotional abuse by a pastor, I traced her church to Driscoll’s Acts 29 cult (and book club.

    I spent a couple of days looking at A29, Mars Hill, The Resurgence, and Gospel Coalition websites and official corporate filings. My surmise was that this syndicate functions exactly as you portray it on this blog.

    Thanks to you ladies, I’m pretty sure that I did the right thing in sounding the alarm right away about the A29 plant Legacy Church, the “missional community” with “gatherings” at the Cedar Bluff Middle School here in Knoxville, TN on Sundays at 10:30 AM.

  68. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, here’s what we can work out from Andrew’s tale:
    1) Andrew was engaged to the daughter of a campus pastor
    2) Andrew was a member at Mars Hill Ballard and volunteered in security
    3) Andrew was sexually active with his fiancee (i.e. pastor’s daughter)
    4) Andrew fooled around with an old associate, no sex, but felt guilty
    5) Andrew confessed to fiancee after community group; she fled; he apologized to CG and was moved to a new CG
    6) Andrew ended up meeting with his fiancee’s step-father
    7) Andrew, feeling guilty about his failures, also admits that he has been sexually active with his fiancee (no indication if PK mentioned this)
    8) Andrew is labeled a wolf, gets a discipline contract handed to him that he doesn’t sign
    9) Andrew is then treated to escalation in which a MH campus pastor notifies the Ballard members of Andrews “unrepentant sexual sin”
    10) PK is not mentioned as the member in question and by this time Andrew has been ejected from the CG in which both he and his probably now ex-fiancee attended together. No mention is made of whether or not the daughter was consensually sexually active with Andrew during the engagement (and the reason is, well, duh).

    Now the thing about these details is that even at a Mars Hill campus as big as Ballard that’s really specific. How many Mars Hill campus pastors at Ballard are
    1) old enough to have adult daughters.
    2) in a position to have a daughter who is simultaneously a stepdaughter

    How is it that Andrew ended up talking to his fiancee’s STEP-FATHER? Was the Mars Hill pastor whose daughter Andrew was engaged to divorced? Is the pastor married to a divorced woman? That seems unlikely.

    The only scenario of a pastor having a daughter who has a step-father that would fit in Mars Hill metrics of pastors would be if the “father” and “step-father” were the same person. A Mars Hill pastor married to a divorced woman might not easily get a pastoral job. On the other hand, a Mars Hill pastor who was divorced wouldn’t get a pastoral job unless he was divorced back when he was not a Christian. But a Mars Hill pastor who is older, widowed, and then remarried and along the way got a step-daughter could fit all the details mentioned in Andrew’s story.

    The details Andrew shared with MPT are so specific that if there happened to be any information about the spouse or children of a campus pastor listed for the public, it would be a simple process of elimination to figure out which campus pastor would have authorized the treatment of Andrew.

    People here are so fixated on Driscoll they’re missing the point. Driscoll is busy shilling Real Marriage and the day the January 11 letter about Andrew was posted to The City, Driscoll was probably mulling over things like the Brierley interview or what to ask Jakes. It’s not necessary to connect Driscoll to this in any direct way, even if he knows everything.

    In journalism studies I was taught that there is a time where the real story is not what everybody’s already talking about – it’s what nobody’s talking about. Driscoll is, in this case, not very relevant. What’s relevant is campus pastor profile information has been scrubbed. Why? Simple, because if the press and the public begin to piece together which pastor authorized the treatment of Andrew any or all of the four concerns could come up:

    1) Andrew got unusual discipline resulting from nepotism. (i.e. he was having sex with a pastor’s daughter to whom he was engaged)
    2) Andrew got unusual discipline resulting from a conflict of interest. (i.e. the campus pastor was authorizing Andrew being treated as a wolf after finding out Andrew had cheated on his daughter)
    3) Andrew got unusual discipline that resulted in a double standard. Andrew is the wolf and the pariah while any mention of the pastor’s daughter as the fiancee Andrew was sexually active with gets no mention.
    4) Andrew got unusual discipline that was retaliatory. (i.e. for all the above)

    The scandal here has nothing directly to do with Mark Driscoll and chauvinism. Folks need to step back and stop filtering this through a prejudice against Driscoll. The controversy Mars Hill is probably trying to avoid is not about Mark. It’s about the Ballard campus pastors and allaying any concerns that if the disciplinary procedures against Andrew could be linked to a Ballard campus pastor who was the father of Andrew’s presumably now ex-fiancee, the discipline “could” appear to be a retaliatory sanction motivated by a combination of nepotism, double standards, and a conflict of interest. The scandal they may be trying to avoid is not one of what outsiders think it could be – they’re trying to avoid giving away to insiders how arbitrary and without adequate precedent disciplinary procedures are on the inside. Sometimes Wartburgers get tunnel vision about Mars Hill because of Driscoll. I get that, but it’s something to work against. If people only react to everything coming out of Mars Hill as though it were all Driscoll all the time it makes it easier to dismiss the concerns and cases at hand.

    For instance, there’s no reason the pastors at Ballard could not have suggested to Andrew that he at least temporarily change campuses with some private oversight from a campus pastor at another site. This would ensure that the Ballard campus pastor wasn’t bringing down a beating on Andrew because Andrew admitted to having sex with his daughter without the pastor’s knowledge. Instead, Ballard leaders seem to have decided Andrew was a wolf because in addition to admitting to cheating on his fiancee, he admitted he and his fiancee were already sexually active before marriage. That’s too bad but it’s not worse than what Driscolls were doing around that age.

    As I have written at some length, the problem is that Mars Hill has no real coherent disciplinary precedent other than the ad hoc reactions of pastors who, time seems to be showing, react in ways that can suggest the risk (at least) of a conflict of interest, of retaliatory moves, and of decision-making made without reference to conflicts of interest.

    A pastor who brings an accusation against a member of a church should not simultaneously be the pastor who issues the disciplinary edicts. My hunch is that the Ballard campus pastor/dad who levied the charge of wolf was also the one who authorized the shunning or had someone do it on his behalf. (i.e. Mars Hill alter accusations and judgments that spring from a conflict of interest may be the core problem.) This, of course, is not even close to news for folks who ended up in the vortex of the 2007 firings.

    Yet, Mars Hill is surely big enough now as an organization that adjudication of such situations as Andrew’s should not take place strictly within the confines of a single campus, especially in a setting where a campus pastor could be tempted to assume the worst about Andrew because Andrew admitted to sexual sins that were connected to the pastor’s daughter.

    The leaders at Ballard did not have to be so stern with Andrew, and they did not have to put themselves in a position where once Andrew shared what was going on it began to be clear that at least one or more Ballard campus pastors had some kind of conflict of interest. They could also have avoided the possibility of making Andrew a pariah while avoiding any mention of the pastor’s daughter in the public shunning document. Andrew deserved the same privacy and consideration as the pastor’s daughter but, obviously, Andrew wouldn’t have shared things with MPT if this had been the case.

    I’ve felt obliged to say this a few times, but don’t let Driscoll distract you from paying attention to other things about the denomination. There are times when the story is not what EVERYBODY is talking about but what NOBODY is talking about. Sometimes the story is not in what is said but in what is scrubbed. While Driscoll promotes Real Marriage on his tour and plasters pictures of all his kids on his site, campus pastors have nothing indicating who their spouses or children are. Ashley is 15 and wouldn’t be engaged to anyone. Driscoll isn’t at the center of this, though he’s probably sanctioned website scrubbing. Driscoll and others have probably taken measures to protect a campus pastor from any risk of being shown to have acted in a way that highlights conflicts of interest, double standards, nepotism, or retaliatory disciplinary gestures. If Andrew was engaged to any woman in the church but a pastor’s daughter, would any of this have been news?

  69. WTH: “The scandal here has nothing directly to do with Mark Driscoll and chauvinism. Folks need to step back and stop filtering this through a prejudice against Driscoll.”

    Thou dost protesteth too much O WTH.
    If this was the first time, or an isolated incident, perhaps we could agree with you. But your many words make it sound like you are bending over backwards to “prove” your objectivity and remain in the good graces of all the powers that be.
    Consider this:
    This stuff has been going on for a long time.

  70. TedS, you write as though you’re in the know and if you really are then you can explain to the other Wartburgers why Lief Moi isn’t a pastor at Mars Hill anymore. Explain the gap between the formal announcement and what actually happened. Explain how the first music pastor at the church got treated. Explain what happened with Rob Smith and Agathos with respect to Mars Hill. Perhaps you can update us on what Paul and Bent have been up to since dee asked you about that. Help us out. I can answer dee’s question but since she asked you, I’ll let you do it.

  71. WTH,

    I agree with much of what you say. But the problem is MH’s church culture has a great deal to do with Driscoll’s personality and celebrity. The nepotism didn’t just show up. His personality is stamped upon Acts 29 churches thousands of miles away. I think it is important this is understood to be bigger than Driscoll but it is certainly not other than.

  72. Wenatchee The Hatchet,

    You are so right! We have been too fixated on Driscoll. Thanks for enlightening us about this situation. I hadn’t even thought about the ramifications of this scandal. I have done some investigating and have a fairly good idea of who is involved. Thanks for pointing us in the right direction.

  73. WTH, I understand your point about Driscoll and stepping back but disagree with it because of my experience in mega churches and how they operate within their systems. Driscoll built the “system” everyone in leadership at MH is functioning within. It has his DNA all over it. It may have variations but the overall principles will be the same to protect the system.

    Zimbardo did a great presentation on such systems and how they operate that I would recommend you listen to. It was on TED a while back.

    Driscoll is very proud to point out his numbers and to take credit as he did on Justin’s show and other places. It is his system. He may have borrowed from other wolves (the stories I am reading out of MH sound very similar to SGM tactics)but he is the one who built the system starting with a bible study in his home and now with thousands and thousands of followers…..some in other denominations who are imitating him.

    And I agree with Matt above. One reason is because now (since so much has come out about Driscoll such as the “I see things” vid) there are many in the SBC who are trying to convince folks that Acts 29 and Driscoll are totally separate since the SBC is funding Acts 29 churches. The problem with this is that Acts 29 churches have Driscoll DNA all over them. They may not be led by Driscoll clones but the overall principles that MH was built upon are there.

  74. Matthew Redmond, I’ve never intended to say that Mark Driscoll is not ULTIMATELY responsible for creating a church culture like Mars Hill. What you describe shows just how successfully this church culture runs on autopilot now that Driscoll has given the church culture its shape. All he has to do is read annual reports to get an idea that the existing campus members need to give more so the new campuses can get opened.

  75. Can someone tell me why Pastors are called to account when their adult children found to be in sin? Why do these systems (SGM and MH come to mind) want to hide the sin in some cases and use the sin in other cases to be rid of a pastor? What WTH states above is true. Sin is used for a specific end and it all depends on where/who the male parent is on the chain. In Andrews case, he was expendible.

    Here is what the issue is – PEOPLE – that get trampled when they are on the wrong end of the systems agenda. As the children grow up in this culture where everyone has to look good, especially PKs, elders kids, often small group leader’s kids, it kills their faith in God. Kids see the hypocricy more than adults. My own child walked away, not so much because of our family, but what he saw in the church as a whole. Why do they want to be in a system that says Christ has and will forgive when they see people treated the opposite. They also see kids bare the guilt of a father (pastor/elder) loosing his job/income because of the child’s, maybe even an over 18 year old’s sin. This is why children are walking away from the faith. They see laws and no love. They are shunned from even their own families if they do not follow the family rules – even when they are an adults. I understand that we call them to account if they consider themselves a Christian. But I have seen and heard horrible relational issues in families over these issues and kids get messed up – ugh!! The church often makes it worse.

  76. Bridget
    You are not the only one who has had a child walk away from the faith. I have been in touch with another woman whose child left the faith coming from the same “family of churches” as you. Legalism without grace weighs very heavy on young people. Many of them see a God who is into retribution for every little infraction because of some systems that leave Jesus still suffering on the Cross. We did a review of Mahaney’s Cross Centered Life. We were not impressed. I believe Deb said it like this. Jesus is on the Cross and it ends with a period. But the Jesus we know hung on the cross with a comma-“yet he arose!” That is the Good News.

  77. TedS
    I have to agree. I have no reason to be prejudiced against Driscoll. I live on the east coast and knew very little of him 3 years ago. And then, he spoke to UNC Chapel Hill when Deb’s daughter was present. Thus began our concern about this guy. Then the Song of Solomon weirdness. The “punch em in the nose” firings. All the statements listed on my post “Mark Driscoll Did I Stutter” followed by”pornovision” (I see rapes), the British situation…Good night!!! Driscoll is a train wreck, and I fear there is something seriously wrong here. I believe the former elder just said on a comment here that he, too, believes MD is troubled.

    Driscoll is one of the saddest examples of the post-evangelical church. May God have mercy on those who believe that Driscoll represents the faith.

  78. WTH
    Thoughtful assessment on MD and Ballard. However, I am willing to bet that this discipline idea was not generated at that campus but had been done on numerous occasions at Martian Central. This environment was created by driscoll and the nice little “Why we do discipline” nonsensical reply to the situation comes from Central. Central is in this up to their eyeballs. Even if they weren’t involved initially, they sure are now. MH has a mess on their hands, and not just from Andrew.

  79. Kent
    I have to smile, especially at the “book club” comment. They all seem to endorse one another’s books. I believe anyone attending any new church should sit back, don’t join right away and assess the situation over a prolonged period of time. It is also important to check the affiliations and ask direct questions of the church leadership. I particularly “like” the statement on masculine love in the Acts 29 statement of beliefs. We wrote a post on it.

  80. Matt
    I have to hand it to you. You contacted a Mars HIll pastor and he responded to you! As for not having “all the facts”, that is probably true but I bet that cuts both ways. The contract itself was interesting and needed to be exposed. I agree. There are many issues inherent in the document. If Andrew resigned before the “all church, all points shunning bulletin” went out, the church could be liable. I plan to do a post this week on resignations and the church’s need to “back off” when this happens.

  81. Dee – you bet it came from Martian Central!

    A parallel: Watergate. Just because Nixon didn’t personally break into the DNC office (etc. etc.) doesn’t mean much – he actively schemed with his lieutenants to have all kinds of things done.

    To quote a very old saw, Handsome is as handsome does (Or not.)

  82. Watergate parallels are fine.

    TedS, I confess I’m puzzled by your inattentive reading. If I’m bending over backwards to appease the powers that be at a church I don’t even attend how would saying the disciplinary process at Ballard has been corrupted by nepotism, conflict of interest, double standards, and retaliation that has roots in disciplinary procedural problems going back to 2007 accomplish that? I don’t even think that suggesting that Driscoll is a remote-controlling absentee landlord who only pays attention to campuses to guilt members into giving more money is exactly high praise either. I’ll be the first to say I do not cultivate a tone of outrage in my writing but that’s not to say I haven’t suggested that a vast array of outrageous things have not been happening at Mars Hill over the last decade.

    I think most Wartburgers may have noticed this but my not writing everything I know isn’t because I feel the leaders need protecting, it’s because if friends of mine who got reamed by Mars Hill aren’t comfortable going public or speaking on record I don’t want to be like other people who leaked things back in 2007. One of my long-standing friends had his contact information leaked to the press and then a bunch of Mars Hill people blamed HIM as having to have been the person who went to the press. Out of consideration for friends who had their privacy violated in the process of other people trying to fight injustices at Mars Hill I say things cautiously and in a restrained style because I’ve seen how people acting immediately out of anger and outrage can actually perpetuate even more sins against people who have been reamed by the church.

  83. correction, a vast array of outrageous things have happened but I don’t have to write about them in a tone of outrage. I’ve seen too many Martians dismiss things based on tone without paying attention to content. They may keep dismissing things but I don’t have to stoop to a Driscoll level in airing my concerns.

    Sophia, what’s the breaking news?

  84. WTH
    To this day, there are some pastors who believe I contacted the press about a terrible situation at our church. I didn’t but they don’t believe it. However, it is important to stand up against abuse and I think the doors are blowing open at Martian Central. May the fresh air of the Holy Spirit do some cleaning. Perhaps, as courageous men and women step forward, it will give others the strength to do the same.

  85. I love this from a times post:

    “Driscoll is still the one who gazes down upon Mars Hill’s seven congregations most Sundays, his sermons broadcast from the main campus to jumbo-size projection screens around the city. At one suburban campus that I visited, a huge yellow cross dominated center stage — until the projection screen unfurled and Driscoll’s face blocked the cross from view. Driscoll’s New Calvinism underscores a curious fact: the doctrine of total human depravity has always had a funny way of emboldening, rather than humbling, its adherents.”

    Rather interesting picture, Driscoll’s face blocking the cross from view. I would say PUN should be intended, if not. : ) I’m sure the author has no idea how powerfully clear that statement.


    I do believe Driscoll is the problem, BUT I also see your point and think it to be a VERY good one. Many of us are actually paying more attention to him than we should be regarding the entire situation. To look at this from your angle provides more depth to the issue at hand, and reveals even more about how deceptive this “minsitry” chooses so willingly to be.

  86. to leave a church with controlling personality, send the following letter, return receipt requested (and tracking, in case the PO lets them have it without returning the card). Put the return receipt number on the heading of the letter (you can get the form with the number at the PO, before typing the letter).


    To the pastors and administrators at ____________ church.

    This letter is notice that I am not longer a member [attender] at _______________ church, effective with the date of this letter.

    As a non-member, I am no longer subject to any of your discipline as of (date on letter). After (date on letter), any publication, notice, or speaking about me by any church staff or recognized church leader is no longer authorized by me. Any negative remark or statement about me, any encouragement that people shun me, or any action other than deleting me from your records will be evaluated for possible legal action for libel or other tort claim against the individuals involved and the organization. If any one asks about me, refer them to me, any other action may result in a tort claim against you.

    YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. You must desist from any act that may harm me or my reputation or come between me and other persons of my acquaintance. Legal action may ensue.



    Of course, you will mail the letter on the date on the letter and they will not receive it for a couple of days thereafter. Keep a copy, print out the tracking showing when it was delivered, keep the green card or, if it is refused, the returned letter (they are legally responsible for the content if they refuse it). Document any response or any failure to comply. If they (leadership or staff) call, listen but do not talk, except to say “I disagree” if they make a false statement about you. Document the conversation. And take it to an attorney if they proceed to trash your reputation or that of your business. Do not respond by trashing the organization.

  87. Fortunately the way Andrew’s story got out in the open was the better way–someone in MH thought enough of Andrew’s privacy being ignored to send things to him and then HE made the choice to go to someone. So I’m relieved about that. It’s a bad situation as well all know but at least THIS time the privacy of someone already harmed by Mars Hill isn’t getting further trouble by having their names dragged to the press without their consent. Overall it seems as though those who are trying to clearly articulate serious criticism of Driscoll from theological or political left, right and center have been on a faster learning curve over the last six years than Mars Hill has been about responding to it. Driscoll can’t defend himself by saying that if you tick off the liberals and fundamentalists you must be doing something right because even Joel Osteen can have that said about him now. 🙂

  88. At one suburban campus that I visited, a huge yellow cross dominated center stage — until the projection screen unfurled and Driscoll’s face blocked the cross from view.

    As in “This Is Your God!”?

  89. I have to smile, especially at the “book club” comment. They all seem to endorse one another’s books. — Dee

    One hand washes the other…

  90. Eagle –

    It is sad that so many young people (and older) have had bad experiences in the “so-called” church. Thankfully, I am now free from thinking that “knowing God = a church establishment.” I am a part of Jesus’ Church as is every person who pleads the blood of Christ and believes Jesus is now seated at the right hand of God interceding on our behalf.

    Jesus seemed to enjoy the fellowship of everyday people more than the spiritual leaders of his day as well. God does not need people in a church to speak to them.

    Praying for your dad.

  91. @WTH: If you read the book chapter on church discipline that Mars Hill linked, you’ll see that the way Andrew was treated is not exceptional. The chapter provides a framework that allows any two elders to arbitrarily declare someone unrepentant, discipline them without appeal, and order that they be shunned, with no right of confidentiality. The chapter completely lines up with what was done to Andrew and Sophia.

  92. kisekileia
    Thank you for that observation. I would never, ever allow myself to be disciplined by these types of guys. I would resign first and that is a subject we will discuss on Wednesday.

  93. The chapter provides a framework that allows any two elders to arbitrarily declare someone unrepentant, discipline them without appeal, and order that they be shunned, with no right of confidentiality. The chapter completely lines up with what was done to Andrew and Sophia. — kisekileia

    “Elders” or “Party Commissars”?

  94. kisekileia, I read the by-laws passed in 2007 and they spell that out along with how any two executive elders can fire any of the other elders at any time with or without cause.

  95. The book chapter would just be the retroactive prooftexts used to justify what the by-laws established on other grounds.

  96. Frustrating. Troubling. Disconcerting. Sad. Frightening. I will freely admit that I underwent my own church discipline in 2000 at Overlake Christian Church and this story horrifyingly reminds me my own account, with much pain and trembling, even 12 years later. My heart BREAKS for Andrew. My flesh CRAWLS at reading this article. We are to be Jesus with skin on. We are to faithfully administer God’s GRACE in its various forms. Legalistic tarring and feathering of God’s chosen people, His royal priesthood, His holy nation, does NOT result in better community or better growth. It results in an impoverished church, a beleaguered sense of trust in God and the body of Christ, and cultivates a climate of fear-based worship where God’s children are walking on eggshells. I can only imagine what Andrew must feel right now. Andrew, I love you in Jesus’ Name. You are repentant, you have repented, and you are forgiven. I do not know you, I have never met you, but you are LOVED IN JESUS’ NAME. I am deeply proud of you for bringing your sin into the light, and for bringing Mars Hill’s leadership’s sin into the light as well. Knowing church discipline all too well, I can freely also admit that one sin that cost me my position of leadership, my community at the church, my connection to the body of Christ there, etc., also eventually lead to an even greater sin which cost me my freedom and sent me to prison. I do not blame my actions on the church or the leadership, but I will indefatigably say that there is an inexorable tie between the church discipline / excommunication I received from Overlake Christian Church, and my eventual crime. Do I wish I could take back my crime? Yes. But I also wish with all my heart that I could take back the church discipline I received, and replace it with something restorative like a warm hug. Alas, warm hugs are not mentioned in Scripture for those undergoing church discipline. And such a legalistic, grace-lacking approaches only send us further down the drain, with no hope of compassionate restoration. Wash your hands of us if you will, you beloved megachurches, and in the process so subsequently condemn yourselves as unloving, uncompassionate, and unbiblical. Jesus loves me the same that he does me, and that is my Amen, because truthfully I’d rather ALWAYS be the guy beating his chest, saying “God be merciful to me, a sinner” than be you.

  97. First of all sin must be repented of by all of us without exception. Secondly if anyone in your life is so squishy soft as to ignore the mandate to “expose the deeds of darkness” than they are in league with satan not with the truth of the word of God and they are helping you damn your own soul…should you really be seeking to be hugged when your sin has so greatly offended God who is perfectly Holy and that you have so obviously offended and hurt the one(s) for whom you were forced into a prison sentence over??? It would be like saying…”I can’t follow Christ and His truth because people are being mean to me and asking me to tell the truth about my sin (confess) and further abandon my lies (turn and repent) which I have loved with all my life!” It reminds me of a story that a man who said he was seeking to get out of a homosexual lifestyle and the pastor said “We don’t accept fags at our church!” and so this man leaves and says he couldn’t possibly follow Christ because of this offensive pastor and what he had said to him in his greatest time of need. So I make this argument – Has God’s absolute truth changed in this circumstance? No-He and His truth are “the same yesterday, today and forever.” So then this man who is seeking to “escape the condemnation” of his own sin is not really interested in following Christ as Savior and His complete exposure of this man’s sin but rather have someone console him in his sin rather than call him out of it by the truth of the Word of God….You will indeed perish if you do not acknowledge your sin and repent of it and it will continue to destroy your soul and sear your conscience until you are unable to acknowledge your sin…Repent and be saved…if you don’t think your sin is sin then you don’t need a Savior and you have made Christ into nothing and He won’t be made into nothing even in your eyes…

  98. truth

    You have come onto this blog and immediately violated our prime directive. You are welcome to rail against the sins of the people but first you must acknowledge the pain that many people who post here have experienced at the hands of the church. Your tirade demonstrates a basic misunderstanding of a Savior who spent far more time exposing the deeds of the Pharisees.

    “Deeds of darkness” huh? truth, your are ignoring your own truth today. This very day you know of many sins in your life that your conveniently ignore because they aren’t “bad” sins. For example, you demonstrate a lack of love which is the very reason the Savior came to us. You appear to follow the Pharisees, not the Savior. I hope one day your experience the deep forgiveness and freedom of the grace of Jesus. Please don’t get stuck on certain sins as evil and the others as OK,sorta because well, at least you don’t go to bars and fornicate.

    And yes, the church chases people away with its harsh mandates. Someday we will stand in judgment for those who we treated disrespectfully, just as you are now doing. You didn’t come here to ask people to repent. You came here to show us your goodness and superiority and condemn everyone else.

    Finally, I well assure you that the two of us know our loving Savior and understand our sin so that we rejoice in being free. There is nothing we can do to fully overcome our sin and that is why Jesus came. Instead let us rejoice in the grace of Jesus and stop acting like some OT Pharisee.