Group Leader - Downtown Seattle 2009-13



Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

Regular Attender, Member, Group Leader (any leadership role)

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?

Downtown Seattle

What years were you involved / attending?

2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

From a friend who recommended Mark's sermons before we moved to Seattle.

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

We lived near the downtown campus, so we visited on a Sunday.

What were your first impressions?

Music was good, people were hip, location was convenient. We were looking for a place to land in a new city, we didn't know anyone, and we needed a home. We were right out of college, young, and about to get married.

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

We were a young couple, coming from different religious backgrounds. I was coming from a Catholic upbringing, and my husband grew up Protestant. We wanted to be settled in a new city, and we didn't visit any other churches. We got involved in community group right away, and those were the only people we knew in Seattle. Once we got settled in the church, we didn't really look elsewhere. Our five years there went by quickly. We were young, immature and looking for people who were older and wiser to help us grow. We were sponges.

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

We learned a lot in those 5 years, which I think we would have regardless of our affiliation with the church. It the first 5 years out of college, a really formative time for becoming adults. But we did learn to read the Bible for ourselves. We learned that community is important. We learned to talk about things that are hard.

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

I'm still trying to process this. I don't trust people the way I used to. I'm far more skeptical than I used to be about church. We were lied to about everything. Lied to about where the money was going, what Mark's intentions were. We were lied to about what power the other leaders of the church actually had. Scripture was manipulated to reinforce Mark’s power and ideas. We were manipulated to give more money than we could afford. (I.E. If it’s not painfully “sacrificial” it’s not worth doing.) We signed a covenant to be members of the church. We kept up our end of the bargain, but Mars Hill did not. They deceived us, used us, took our money, and shut it down in time to get away with everything. I lived in a Mars Hill bubble - all my friends and community were part of that church. I didn't know hardly any people outside the bubble. Those relationships are mostly all gone. When we left the church, a lot of people ceased communicating with us at all. I started a business during my time there, and that was widely treated like a cute hobby. I had many people ask me, assume, and tell me I should shut down the business when we had kids. We went through a really tough two years of infertility while at Mars Hill, and I'm still working through with a counselor the bullshit people told me about my infertility while I was there. I was told that I was being selfish, that I was making "everything about myself" by grieving. I was told that I needed to put on a happy face and attend the (almost weekly) baby showers I was being invited to, because I was a bad friend for not attending. I was told that if I was hurting and grieving not being able to be a mother, it was because I didn't trust God and didn't believe enough. We gave of everything we had to that church, and in the end the leadership didn't care about us at all. They turned their backs on us and thousands of others.

What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?

We were told constantly to trust our elders, a way to silence questions and shut down dissent. It was made really clear that women were not to speak up. If your husband was a leader in the church you were a “leader’s wife” or a “pastor’s wife” but you were never really allowed to be a leader yourself. I was part of forging the women’s ministry at the church, and even though I was leading women’s bible study groups and coaching other leaders, I wasn’t able to ever get a meeting with a pastor. If I brought up questions in a group setting, I was shut down. It was made very clear that because I wanted to be a leader and my husband did not, we were not okay. Even though we served the church in several capacities every Sunday and throughout the week, we were always made to feel like it wasn’t enough. We never felt like WE were enough. We never felt totally accepted. We felt like we had to earn the right to be cared for. I’m sorry this is so jumbled. Like I said, I’m still working through it.

Which describes you?

I left Mars Hill prior to closure.

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

We had been arguing as a family about leaving for 6 months before we finally did. I felt sick walking into the church, but my husband was (understandably) nervous about leaving. We had watched dozens of our friends leave, and had seen the cruel things said to them and about them. I know I even participated in saying unkind things. It was such a hostile environment at that time, with everyone on guard and everyone hurting. There was a huge emphasis on “leaving the right way” which included not saying anything derogatory to or about the church, not speaking publicly, using words like “God has called us to go elsewhere,” and leaving quietly. So we tried to do that. We sent the pastors a letter formally resigning our membership. There are people who have not spoken to us since. It was so hard to leave. We felt like we were losing our family. But we found ourselves in a place that went against our conscience, against what we believed, being lead by men who were doing immoral things. We had to go. Leaving was painful, but also felt a little bit like being freed from prison.

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

Honestly I’ve tried to not talk about it with outsiders. It’s too messy to explain. It feels shameful to have been a part of. I feel foolish for not seeing it for what is was sooner. Mars Hill closed because Mark Driscoll had been lying and manipulating the leaders and the congregation, using people as a money making scheme to build his own empire. He ejected anyone who would stand up to him, and surrounded himself with yes men. He refused to accept critique and refused to hear anything about his own sin and failures. Instead of owning his mistakes and committing to change, he cut the rope and left the church to close.

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

We have not become members at our current church even though we've been going for over a year. We don't feel comfortable with that at all right now. We're learning that we don't have to earn being cared for at church, that's the church's calling from God not a perk of membership. We’re questioning the pastor’s conclusions about the Bible, and really trying to look at things in a different way. I’m seeing a counselor to help work through stuff. We’re focusing on the healthy of our family first, not the needs of the church. It’s taking time, but we’re seeing clearly.