Denise Hopeman 2011-13

Your Name

Denise Hopeman



Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

Group Leader (any leadership role)

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?


What years were you involved / attending?

2011, 2012, 2013

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

Younger Christian friends who had attended Calvary Osuna in Albuquerque (Skip Heitzig - Pastor) had begun attending  City on a Hill (David Bruskas -  Pastor at the time) loved it and invited us to visit. Due to a previous church imploding we were looking. We attended and might have stayed, but shortly after City on a Hill merged w/ Mars Hill Seattle and instead of a preacher we were going to have podcasts. We left, continuing a search for a gospel-preaching church. After City on the Hill merged; they reidentified as Mars Hill ABQ, moved to another location, and we continued to hearing from the same young couple that "exciting" things were happening there.

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

Having not found a gospel preaching church where we felt we could bring homeless people we were ministering to...we went for a visit at MH ABQ.

What were your first impressions?

Very very young hipsters.  The ratio of old to young was 5 to 100...most of the people were between the ages of 18-30.  Mark Driscoll was commanding, spoke boldly that "we are all about Jesus all the time” and used Jesus name like seasoning throughout the sermon.  He addressed sin boldly, although w/ a lot of humor.  He seemed arrogant but adorable and we fell for the bait.  We knew that there were questions as to his style and delivery but BECAUSE we trusted J. Piper and Paul Tripp, and Acts 29's affirmation of him...we trusted them over what the Bible and the Holy Spirit was convicting us as dissonant. We thought perhaps as an older couple we would have something to "offer" this younger group. They were very verbal about Jesus and sin...very candid about their sin w/out discretion.

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

We stayed and became members because of the energy there; and because they said "we are all about Jesus" all the time.  The MH machine put everyone to work serving in some capacity and shamed those who weren't serving. We had an opportunity to be "useful" in specific ways that we had never had in other churches.  Mark, my husband, became a Redemption group leader, and i was apprenticing to lead small women's groups.  We both worked in janitorial services and maintenance projects.

What about your time at Mars Hill has had a positive impact on you?

Daniel Shumann (elder) during a counseling session early on bringing our attention to two things:  James 4:1-4 and an example from the Biblical counseling course there that taught us how to identify an idol. "When a good desire becomes a demand that you are willing to sin in order to get..the good desire  has morphed into an idol."

What about your time at Mars Hill has had a negative impact on you?

Competition, shaming, heavy handed leadership, silencing differing views, heavy emphasis on confessing sin indiscriminately which lead to vulnerability later used against us. NOT being encouraged to compare all things to the Word of God but rather to accept leadership's interpretation of it. Shunning from friends when we left.  errible.  The positive has come from what we learned that we ignored while there.  We were not Bereans, comparing what we were taught to what the Bible said.  We fell for the Mars Hill Brand of how to "do church" and compromised areas we knew didn't agree with scripture.  When we did finally begin to ask questions we were shamed, discounted, harassed, manipulated, or ignored (depended on the particular leader).  We were shocked at the ignorance of Scripture among many of the people.  Though we have read the Bible through every year for 9 years since being saved...we took being under authority very seriously and routinely deferred our own conscience to what we were "taught" was true for MH church.

What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ be preached; nothing added, nothing subtracted, that the branding which sustained the feeling that MH was better/superior than any other church in the area would be exploded. That there be open access to bring and interface w/ other churches in the area (very discouraged at the time). That serving outside MH in other capacities would have been allowed and encouraged.  We were made to feel our walk with the LORD was dependent upon our acceptance of MH methodology and it was suggest to people that going elsewhere would be a step down spiritually if not cause us to fall utterly away from Christ.

Which describes you?

I left Mars Hill prior to closure.

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

We left MH the fall of the imminent collapse; weeks prior. Reasons: Fraudulent financial practices came to light in donations to foreign missions, Mark Driscoll's buying a position on the Bestseller list, Mark Driscoll and David Bruskas crashing the John MacArthur Strange Fire conference, rampant disorder in the leadership, Methodology incongruent w/ Scripture.  Skewed theology that promoted brand loyalty over Biblical Truth. Peer pressure heavily instituted by group leaders to snuff out questioning or differences of understanding and thought.  We met with all our elders and gave each of them the same in depth letter explaining our personal griefs, sufferings, and Biblical reasons...i'm sure it was tmi.  However, they were a weird response of silence, defending MH, owning some of the problems, confused themselves by all that was coming down. We were begged to stay off of Patheos, shamed to be commenting on that website and my commenting there was followed by the pastors and my husband (who had given me permission) was brought in to "discuss" my involvement at least 4 times.  Each time they tried to change his mind so that he would have me stop interacting and telling our story, frustrations, and getting feedback from other online Christians w/ greater maturity than ourselves.  When we left...only one person sought us out to see how we were doing.  A female friend group leader.  She was very humble and kind and wanted to listen. She was grieved at the turmoil and acknowledged the rampant disorder in the leadership. Donovan Medina told us that most of the elders information came to them through articles posted on Patheos.  Warren Throckmorton had people inside MH leadership reporting what was taking place as it did.  There was no open communication route for the 50-60 local elders across the satellites.  In fact, we were told by them that they were discouraged from talking among themselves.  Everyone looked to Seattle for direction...down to how long to stay on stage to pray during a service.   As far as i know she and her husband are still at North Church (MH ABQ new name).  

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

Exactly as i did above ^^^.

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

By God's grace we found an Evangelical Anglican Church in ABQ,  Trinity@theMarketplace w/ Pastor Michael Kelshaw.  He debriefed us through about 15 hours of processing what had taken place at MH.  Wise, godly, GOSPEL saturated man...adding nothing to scripture nor taking from it.  He led us into a deep understanding of gospel truth...what Jesus has done for us on the cross...what the Holy Spirit has covenanted to do in us in conforming us to the image of Christ...assuring us that in Christ and through his Word we have ALL we need for life and godliness every minute of every day. He taught  us this and it has been a life changer.  MH was utterly stressful all the time...drenched in half truths and misunderstandings of THE Truth.  Michael Kelshaw taught us this, and we remind ourselves of it daily. LIFE and JOY, FREEDOM and gratitude flow from it/HIM.  "All the imperatives in the Bible are, for the elect,  undergirded by the fact of God setting us apart as His before time began.  In Christ’s finished work on the cross FOR us we have a complete inheritance enabling us to fulfill his commands for our joy and his glory.  Set free from slavery to sin, we get to believe and obey, and our hearts desire becomes progressively more eager to!  When we fail we have an Advocate w/ our Father...Jesus who laid down his life for his friends. What a God! What a Savior! What a LORD and King!  LIFE is imparted to me NOT by turning inward on my own anxieties, fears, worldly lusts, temptations, and temporal conditions; but by turning outward to gaze upon the glory of Christ’s finished work FOR me and the covenant of his Spirit to be daily working IN me!  He has promised to use ALL things that impact me (comforting, discomforting, good and seemingly bad)  to conform me to his image and sanctify me for eternal life with him. No situation, no person, no relationship or lack thereof, no material or physical anything can add to, or subtract from my rest and peace in Him.  Nothing can make me more or less whole than I already am in Him. He finished work on the cross has given me EVERYTHING I need for life and godliness for every moment of every day until he brings me home! It's not a figment of my imagination....I have it all because I have Him. The Holy Spirit reveals every lie to the contrary…let my emotions and the words of men be lies…but God be true!! Hallellulia!"

Please write anything else you'd like to add.

That's a good start...If you want some of the confusing gory personal details i will gladly give you a copy of the letter written to the elders upon our departure.  When i read it now i see an incredibly confused, anxiety ridden experience in its 5 pages.