Regular Attender - Bellevue 2011-14



Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

Regular Attender

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?


What years were you involved / attending?

2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

I was in college (far away from Washington State or any Mars Hill campus) and all my friends were talking about this preacher named Mark Driscoll. I hadn't up until that point bothered to podcast any preacher and couldn't find the point of it - Sunday mornings, campus ministry meetings, and Bible studies were enough for me. Then one Bible study, my Bible study leader told us to listen a recent Mark Driscoll sermon relevant to the topic.

I listened to that sermon and was amazed at how he made the Bible come alive. From that point forward, I couldn't get enough of Mark Driscoll. I would listen to his sermons at work, while I was cleaning my apartment, while doing homework, while driving, and basically any time I had an hour to spare. I don't know what it was about Mark Driscoll, but somehow he instilled in me a passion to know the Bible and know God more.

What was the circumstance of your first time attending Mars Hill?

A few years after I had first been exposed to Mark Driscoll, I graduated and a job in the Seattle area fell into my lap. I had felt called somewhere else after graduation, but after failing to land a job in that area and having an offer from the Seattle firm, I felt that God must be calling me to Mars Hill for at least a season. I had been disappointed with my walk with Jesus around that time and I felt that going to Mars Hill would be the spark that could re-ignite my relationship with God. All of my friends were really jealous that Mars Hill was going to be my new church.

What were your first impressions?

I arrived in Seattle on a Friday. While I had free time before starting work, I tried to knock out as many Seattle tourist attractions as possible. However, there was one thing I was more excited about than anything else - a Sunday at Mars Hill.

Mars Hill was surprisingly to me, a normal church. The Bellevue campus met in the gymnasium of a Christian elementary school back then. They had a guest preacher preach that weekend so I didn't hear Mark Driscoll preach.
The thing I was most surprised at was the fact that nobody talked to me or acknowledged my existence outside of a welcome by a greeter. This was generally my experience in my past church visits, but I had expected more from Mars Hill and this absolutely perfect church that I had in my mind.

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

During my first year at Mars Hill, I felt alone. I did not feel the sense of community I had felt in other churches/ministries. I had at one point begun to look at other churches, but I couldn't find myself quickly integrating into any of those places either (though to be fair, I never really gave them much of a shot).

Around this time, Mark Driscoll was preaching about the church being a family and that if there's something about your family you don't like, you don't just pick up and find a new family, you help out.

To this, I decided I would figure out a way to improve the community situation at Mars Hill. I became a greeter, but soon became overwhelmed by the rapidly expanding Bellevue campus as Mark Driscoll made his home there. I could not engage people - my job was to squeeze more people into the seats.

I started realizing that the Mars Hill leadership's vision of community and my own were incompatible. I mostly found community in parachurch ministries I was involved in while continuing to call Mars Hill my church home.

I at one point took membership classes at Mars Hill, but while I was going through those, the church discipline controversy hit and I got cold feet. I never did become a member.

Which describes you?

I left Mars Hill prior to closure.

Please describe why you left Mars Hill and what that experience was like.

One Sunday, Mars Hill advertised a Redemption Group celebration night. I really wanted to see what God was doing in the lives of those around me so I attended. It was there that I was encouraged to sign up for Redemption Group.

During Redemption Group, I began to go through a period of doubt. I had many such periods before and I usually snapped out of them. Given the open-sharing nature of Redemption Group, I decided to bring my doubts to the group. I found that there were no answers to all these questions that were inside of me.

One of the group leaders eventually said that God is a loving father and if his child cries out to him asking if he's there, he will wrap his arms around his child.

That night, I prayed and begged God to show himself to me and wrap his arms around me - tears streaming down my face. After a long night of doing this, I got my answer - there was no God. The world and everything in my life up until that point suddenly made sense. I had always believed it took more faith to be an atheist, but as God fell away as reality in my mind, I realized how many mental gymnastics I had done to allow God's reality to continue in my mind.

The next few remaining Redemption Group meetings never got to talking about me so I never told the group what I had concluded. It took me a while to tell Christians that I had walked away - imagine how hard it would be to talk to friends about a messy breakup when they believe your ex is perfect in every way and you're the screw up.

Despite this, I continued attending, serving, and even giving to Mars Hill for a few more months. Mainly, I wanted to keep up appearances and show people that my apostasy was not about money or time or anything other than genuine disbelief (more out of a thought that that's what I would have thought about a friend walking away).

Eventually, as more and more controversies started coming out of Mars Hill, I started to become disgusted that I was funding such an operation. I immediately stopped giving, attending, and serving at Mars Hill.

As more and more controversies started coming out of Mars Hill, it provided more and more confirmation for me that God was not real.

How would you describe the reason for Mars Hill's closure to an outsider.

I've had to explain Mars Hill's fall to many members of various atheist groups. There's a perception among these groups that Mars Hill was just this absolutely evil entity that got what was coming to it. I've had to explain that it's not. There were so many awesome people who went there that I loved. I was loved at Mars Hill. Many are surprised as I tell them the story of Mars Hill's fall that there was no sex abuse or anything of a similar nature - just a church populace that had higher expectations than a leader that employed bullying, shunning, and spiritual abuse.

That said, I absolutely believe that the Christian faith and church structure lends itself to this kind of spiritual abuse. Having joined various post-Mars Hill communities online, I see several people for whom Mars Hill was not their first abusive church. They will now find another church in the hopes that this doesn't happen again. My heart breaks for these people, but I feel I can't help them because I'm now an outsider and no one will listen to me because of what I believe (I'm not even convinced this story will be published).

What's changed for you since your time at Mars Hill came to an end?

Well, I'm an atheist now. At various times I've read what I've written in journals during my time at Mars Hill and I'm scared at the contents. I had a very negative self-view - absolutely hated myself. Evangelicalism always has the paradox that you are holy and blameless in God's sight but you are a piece of crap without Jesus and don't you forget it. I leaned on the latter statement. Since then, I've taken a much more positive view of myself and learned to love myself - celebrate the things I like and work on improving the things I don't (since I can't rest on the hope that Jesus is going to magically improve me). This, I believe is the most important change for me.

Please write anything else you'd like to add.

I know there's going to be a variety of reactions to this piece. Some are going to look through my story to see how I was selfish, sinning, not a real Christian, etc. and so it's no surprise I walked away (that's probably what Christian me would have done).

Some will see my story as a Mars Hill-caused tragedy and think that Mars Hill is the problem and that if I just went to their new church and if applicable, adopted their new version of Christianity, I would see that God is real and learn to love him again. It's definitely true that I would likely still be a Christian if it weren't for Mars Hill, but it's only because Mars Hill gave me a forum to be open with my doubts like never before instead of feeling ashamed of them and shoving them in the back of my mind until they resurfaced another time.

Some will look at my post-Christian triumphs and see me as selfish and the various ways I've committed my life to sin now that I've walked away.

Some will try any means necessary to persuade me to come back to the faith (spoiler alert: it's not going to happen).

Honestly, very few Christians will respond positively to me or this post. It's one thing not to believe because you don't know, it's another thing entirely to know, believe, and then suddenly walk away from all that.

I don't care about that though. This site serves as a record of the experiences of people who walked through Mars Hill. In participating in post-Mars Hill online groups, I've found that people with my story are very underrepresented. I feel my story deserves to be told just as much as those who inexplicably came out of Mars Hill with their faith intact.