Kevin Potts - Ballard 2000-07

Your Name

Kevin Potts



Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

Member, Group Leader (any leadership role)

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?


What years were you involved / attending?

2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

A friend of mine in Dallas had found the church for me online. I was living in Everett at the time, and she didn't realize that Seattle was as far south from Everett as it was, but she had found the website when I'd mentioned I was looking for a church to attend.

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

I walked in around January of 2000 when the church was meeting at First Presbyterian in downtown Seattle. It immediately felt like home: dim lighting, good music, dynamic preaching, and at the time there were enough people there to make it feel populated without it feeling overwhelming like the larger (several hundred) church I'd left in northern Washington

What were your first impressions?

I loved the focus on art, on cultural relevance, and the lack of how "churchy" it felt. I was involved in a writing workshop within a couple weeks, and had joined as a member within 3 months of first walking in.

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

I felt welcomed, I could involve myself, I liked the people, and I liked that it engaged with culture at the time instead of hiding from and vilifying it like so many other churches I'd gone to. I could be the guy who could talk about listening to heavy metal, I could show up in a t-shirt and jeans, and the people were engaging, intelligent, and not steeped in the subculture of Christianity.

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

I came away from my time there with a greater appreciation for legitimate Bible study, and not merely topical sermons. The focus on "Meaning, Beauty, Truth, Community" resonated with me, because they were all things I wanted from life, and there were legitimate efforts being made in the early days at incorporating all those elements into daily life through the lens of the Bible.

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

The bombastic growth led to a shattering of a sense of community. The abuses of authority by not only Mark Driscoll but other leaders soured me on the idea of top-down authority. Being told to be quiet and take what we were spoonfed instead of questioning everything rankled. I remember at one point watching Mark lose his temper when people were waiting for the service to start, and some production staff were playing foosball in the green room at the Ballard location. He blew up for no reason I could see, and immediately retreated to being upset that there were a couple ladies who were standing while some guys were seated, as he couldn't really zero in on anything else to justify his outburst (in reality I think he just wanted some quiet, but the band's green room isn't the best place to find that...). When I went to my production lead (I was a stage manager) and told him that it was rude the way Mark had talked to the people who worked under me, and that if he had some concerns they should be brought to me, my lead came back a service later with the statement that Mark was in the right, and we just needed to do what he said.

It was at that point I realized things started to go south. From there, things only got worse, culminating in the abomination that was the firing of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, and the awful way the church handled that scenario, and subsequent events surrounding discipline contracts, unquestioned authority, and the ever-growing beast that was Mark Driscoll's P.R. machine.

What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?

I think in retrospect that there isn't a lot of good that can come from churches once they reach a certain size, aside from greater resource availability. I think in order for leadership to remain humble and involved in their congregants' lives, their congregations need to be smaller than any given campus at Mars Hill was at the time of its closure. I think in retrospect Mars Hill should have considered making the individual campuses autonomous church plants instead of satellites within a network that just received content streamed from first Ballard, then Bellevue. If that centralized authority hadn't existed, shored up by the cult of personality surrounding Mark, I think a lot of the problems could have been ameliorated or even removed entirely without it ending in shambles and damage the way it did.

Which describes you?

I left Mars Hill prior to closure.

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

I left Mars Hill at the end of 2007, just prior to the start of my 8th year there. Mark had started an "Ask Anything" site with voting and anonymous commentary capabilities, with the intent of taking the top 8 most highly-voted questions and using them for a sermon series. Some people were using the comments section to make anonymous comments expressing concern over how the Petry/Meyer situation had been handled.

Concurrently, on the password-protected member's site, discussion was happening over that same situation, and someone noted that it would "be a shame if leadership had to start looking at IP addresses of the comments on the Ask Anything site and compare them against IP addresses of people logging into the member's site to figure out which members were being divisive and hiding behind anonymity." I implored them in that discussion to do nothing of the sort, noting people were upset with some leaders at that point, and doing something like that wouldn't engender the trust the leadership would require to be able to resolve the situation peacefully and completely.

One of the pastors had asked me if I was a particular individual posting on the Ask Anything site as "Concerned". I indicated I wasn't. He came back and said that he believed I was, as that individual's posts echoed comments I had made in my exit interview from the production department (I was transitioning from Ballard to the Lake City campus). In that interview, I had noted dissatisfaction with how the Petry/Meyer situation had been handled, and said, "It would be easy to cause division with how well-connected I am in the church, but I have no interest in doing that." That got reported to the leadership as "Potts is going to cause division in the church."

Those two things together resulted in my membership being suspended by the pastor who didn't believe me when I said I wasn't the individual on the "Ask Anything" site who was posting the commentary they didn't like. This pastor had indicated that he and two other pastors had concluded I was "in sin" (without anyone having spoken to me about it to give me a chance to explain/defend myself). After much thought and prayer, I concluded they weren't interested in the truth, they were interested in me acknowledging their authority and saying I was wrong, so they could save face and not have their authority undermined by having to admit they'd made a mistake. I chose to leave. Interestingly, Driscoll was my landlord at the time; not trusting him or his assistant to do the right thing, I had begun quietly moving my possessions to a storage unit so I could be out of the house within 24 hours if that scenario came to pass (it didn't; Driscoll later merely chose to try to sell the house out from under the tenants by getting people to voluntarily sign away their leases, and merely giving 20 days notice-to-vacate to those who were on month-to-month arrangements).

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

Mars Hill closed because a pastor started believing his own hype and started behaving as though the church was about him. When people tried to lovingly correct him and bring things back under control, he dug in, and eventually, when the leadership finally acknowledged it was time to put him under a formal discipline/restoration program, he left instead of face those consequences of his actions. The sad thing is he was right: he *was* Mars Hill, and once he was gone, the church folded.

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

I came perilously close to becoming an atheist, and even made a couple of statements to that effect. I don't trust church authority, though that's slowly changing. I refuse to join as a formal member at any church (though I'm now attending one again).

I believe it's more important to just be in relationship with people in your life, and let the Gospel work through that according to Jesus' timing and supernatural intervention. He can change hearts, man can't, no matter how much we try. Instead of spending time with people because you attend a Bible study together, I'd rather just be friends with people I'd be friends with regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs, and let the Gospel work itself out as Jesus wants through that. I believe far too often the greatest obstacles to people wanting to hear the Gospel are the people who are trying to preach it by shoving it down peoples' throats and using it as a hammer to make others behave as they want or think people should. I can't be that person, and actively work not to be.

I have an inherent distrust and dislike of the formal subculture of Christianity, for a variety of reasons too nuanced to communicate well in written form, without writing a novel (as though this one isn't already). I want nothing to do with it. I want to see people living their lives, coming to Jesus when they answer His call to their hearts and minds, in His timing, not mine. If I'm given the honor and blessing of being the person who leads them to Christ, all the better, but one way or the other, I'm here to live my life and be involved in theirs as long as they want me to be, and to peacefully leave if they don't.

That period of anger is past, and the period of mental and spiritual exhaustion in its wake is passing.

There's a light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm fairly confident again that it's Jesus.