Rick Gutierrez 2011-14

Your Name

Rick Gutierrez



Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

Regular Attender

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?

Orange County / Huntington Beach

What years were you involved / attending?

2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

Heard about Mark Driscoll first, through videos shown at our church, and consequently discovered Mars Hill.

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

My wife and I attended the first exploratory meetings for Mars Hill OC at a church in Irvine.

What were your first impressions?

Well-balanced with an excellent focus on community and mission. There was a strong impression that the leadership had everything together.

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

We (my wife and I) decided after much prayer and discussion to leave our current church to join the mission and take the opportunity to be in community close to our home.

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

There were times where we experienced love and prayerful support from many that we were in community with. We also experienced conviction through the preached word often.

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

It became quickly apparent through conversations with CG leaders that there was clearly a target demographic to be reached. It meant practically that our city (La Mirada) was only deemed worthy of attention because it was home to Biola University. We also slowly became aware of a lot of "branding". Things we'd taken to be impactful, were repeated so often as to become "mantras" or slogans.
As our family grew and our responsibilities increased outside of church, we felt kind of left behind, perhaps because we weren't contributing tangibly to the mission. While giving faithfully, church services never missed an opportunity to aggressively solicit more and greater contributions. We were also made to feel that cuts to newly hired staff who'd given up their other employment to serve the church were directly the result of our lack of generosity. When things started to unravel, our questions and concerns were turned on us, and when we persisted, our leaders seemed like they were being forced to deflect and divert us from those concerns by entreating us to trust those shepherds who were over us, though they also seemed confused and frustrated, even while toe-ing the party line. My wife and I waited and waited for someone in leadership to show some courageous support for people's concerns, but no one stepped out from under the umbrella. Also, we never heard what felt like a true, uncomfortable raw acknowledgement of the struggles that we the church were dealing with. Everything was so couched in soft, slippery language. It was so heartbreaking and frustrating.

What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?

What's to be changed? Sadly repentance was never proclaimed, and very few if any took real responsibility for their actions and behavior. God saw fit to tear down a business pretending to be a "church-facilitating structure". God saw fit to expose abuse and misappropriation of tithes and offerings. He saw fit to expose pride and wordy ambition. He rescued those that are His from being led astray. I'm thankful for that. He taught me what it looks like when career is to be more valued than the gospel. By His grace, may I never find myself there.

Which describes you?

I left Mars Hill prior to closure.

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

Our experience was more of a gradual lack of enthusiasm for attending. The insistence that we sing our hearts out when there was such a heaviness attached to everything without a real acknowledging the validity of the heaviness. Yes, Jesus was and is bigger than those issues, but we did not experience any comfort from that truth. As many things were being revealed about the goings-on at the administrative level, our prayer was for leadership to repent and for God to be glorified through it. What better, more amazing way for God to be glorified than through the repentance of such influential leadership? Wouldn't we be willing to lose an empire AND the influence that comes with it in order to repent and bring glory to God? It became clear that it wasn't going to happen, though we never stopped praying for it. We knew we were done with Mars Hill though. We felt abandoned by our shepherds. We began to question our own understanding of what "church" should be. We'd been seeking "the right way" for so long, and had fallen short, perhaps by leaning on our own understanding, who knows. Now we just don't know anymore, and have grown weary with trying. We are no longer sure of much in the way of modern church culture, and are currently unaffiliated with any brick and mortar meeting.

How would you describe the reason for Mars Hill's closure to an outsider.
A dynamic personality with the ability to preach to a particular need in the culture found a niche that grew into an empire of modern church business. As ambition for more growth became the goal, the undergirding motives were exposed. God brought judgement on the people and practices that brought the name of Christ into disrepute.

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

Since we left Mars Hill, we've been very tentative about where to attend. We've resolved that we will find a church that serves our local community, where we can be truly involved in sharing life with one another. We're definitely trying not to be douchebags about our theological bent. We've been forced to acknowledge that many people who don't have the same understanding as us theologically are far more submitted to loving Christ and others. All I know right now is that I don't know much. I realize how trite that sounds, but it can't be more truly stated than that.

Please write anything else you'd like to add.

We are a bit fearful of being taken in by another dynamic personality or attractive system. I think we've learned that appearing to do everything so well as a "church" is no affirmation of its true affiliation with Christ. Things are broken. And people are broken. Life is broken until Jesus returns to make it new. Until then, perhaps we're given just enough to get by. Our sinful selves can't handle much more than that without screwing it up.