Kyle - Ballard, Shoreline 2004-14

Your Name




Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

Regular Attender, Member

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?

Ballard, Shoreline

What years were you involved / attending?

2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

My sister introduced me to the Mars Hill podcast in 2003 when Mark was preaching through Revelation.

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

Having listened online through Revelation and 1+2 Timothy I wanted to hear Mark preach live when he started Genesis in 2004.

What were your first impressions?

I was hooked. I'd heard music online so I knew it was very well done, but in person it was quite amazing -- felt like a concert. It was dark and there were large candelabras flanking the stage with burning candles; it felt "cool" yet "holy" at the same time.

It seemed... important? At the time I treated the polished production as the result of God being at work with the church.

Having just turned 18 and trying to find my place in the world, I found Mark's pounding home of topics on masculinity to resonate deeply.

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

As I heard Mark preach on topics of culture and as I read various "emerging church" books (including Radical Reformission) I was drawn to the idea of being a missionary at home and living a life engaged with culture.

I came from a very conservative/fundamentalist Christian background where culture was seen as enemy. Embracing culture as not intrinsically bad but as something to be accepted/redeemed/rejected was a useful way to make sense of the world.

I'd been very involved with the local baptist church I grew up throughout high school in, but they saw culture as an enemy and something to be at war with. So attending Mars Hill regularly and serving was "just natural" in many ways.

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

While I don't think the theology at Mars Hill was particularly "freeing," it was much more so than the theology I grew up with. And that was helpful early on especially.

Coming from an incredibly conservative/fundamentalist/isolated background, Mars Hill was the first place I found friends (of which I've kept a very few).

Mark's teaching gave me a framework from which to understand the world (the framework given to me growing up did not work in "the real world"), although I'd later find that framework to be flawed and fall apart.

Early on, my career was largely built through connections made at Mars Hill.

Being able to serve on productions teams was often enjoyable and allowed me to develop skills and knowledge I wouldn't have otherwise. It also served as an early way to develop my leadership skills.

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

Rampant spiritual abuse. Central to that was authoritarian theology. It touched everything including: ideas of gender, ideas of masculinity/femininity, "gender roles," relationships, church leadership, discipline, philosophical conceptions of truth/certainty/meaning, and ethics.

What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?

Had Mars Hill been able to move away from all of the extremely authoritarian theology/ideology, it would've become a veeery different place (hopefully for the better).

Which describes you?

I left Mars Hill prior to closure.

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

WORLD broke the story of Mark buying his way onto the NYTimes bestseller list. What Mark did was extremely unethical and it bothered me deeply. What bothered me more was how few people I knew at Mars Hill saw the ethical issue -- most rushed to defend Mark.

I already had other issues such as feeling like I didn't "fit in" at Mars Hill, particularly as I saw my theological beliefs changing over the years.

After trying to have real conversations with fellow Martians for three months and finding out that so few wanted to actually engage with the issues of Mark's actions, I realized I needed to try to find a different church.

Leaving was traumatic. It broke my world. To this day I am estranged from family who stayed at Mars Hill to the end and views me as an enemy who tore down their church. Most of my friends went to Mars Hill and most of them cut off all contact with me fairly quickly; after Mark's sermon on "wolves" I was labelled one by people I had been good friends with for years. I kept thinking "surely Mark will see his error" and everything would be back to normal, but that never happened.

I remember being so excited when A29 killed out Mars Hill. "This is it, at last Mark will see his error," I thought. A few hours later when it became apparent that was not the case, I was soooo devastated. I just wanted my friends and family back. And because of their blind devotion to Mark, that meant Mark needed to publicly own his wrongs and change his ways.

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

Mark and the other executive elders were highly unethical, abusive, liars, and probably crooks. Enough people saw that and wouldn't put up with it. Like the coward he is, Mark ran off (he made a stop at the bank on the way) while proclaiming his innocence.

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

Almost everything.

I spent the first 27 years of my life in the church. After leaving Mars Hill (March 2014) I spent the next ten months trying to find a new church while watching Mars Hill slowly implode. Watching from the outside, being estranged from friends and family... it was traumatic, revealing, and changed me.

Leaving Mars Hill broke my world. But, in February 2015 I realized the god that the Bible speaks of did not exist. And slowly the pieces of everything that happened at Mars Hill started fitting together for me.

I don't think Christianity is necessarily bad or evil. It gives many of my closest friends deep meaning in their lives -- as it once did me. But I no longer believe its claims must be true to provide that meaning. And while Mars Hill was only a small part of my life, the trauma of leaving Mars Hill gave me a unique opportunity to reevaluate my life and examine the claims of the Bible.

Today I'm an agnostic, although I tend to live life "as an atheist." Embracing the values of secular humanism has enabled me to rebuild my life and make sense of it.