Which describes your role at Mars Hill?
Regular Attender, Member, Group Leader (any leadership role), Staff
What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?
What years were you involved / attending?
2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
How did you first hear about Mars Hill?
I first heard about Mars Hill through the media, particularly surrounding the attention Pastor Mark was receiving around the Peasant Princess series. Mars Hill came to my attention even more as I moved from Whidbey Island down to Seattle and several friends recommended it as a church to check out as I got settled in Seattle.
What was the circumstance of your first time attending Mars HIll?
I moved to Seattle in March of 2010, and the first Sunday I attended was Easter (April 4, 2010).
What were your first impressions?
I was blown away. A lot of people, the church I was attending previously had at most 150 people on Christmas/Easter. Loud music, solid preaching, friendly people. I was definitely intrigued and planned to attend again.
Why was Mars Hill your church home?
I was brand new to Seattle when I started attending Mars Hill, and didn't know anybody in the city other than my brother. The friends I made during my time at Mars Hill helped me transition much better to life in the new city. I also have lived in Magnolia my whole time in Seattle, so the Ballard location was the easiest to get to.
What about your time at Mars Hill has had a positive impact on you?
I truly became a Christian at Mars Hill. Through Pastor Mark's teaching, I became totally aware of my need for Jesus and gave my life to him. I had the opportunity to be a part of and lead several community groups, I was able to serve on and lead several teams on Sundays, had the opportunity to become an intern and to join the staff at Ballard, and was blessed by the many people I encountered during my time at Mars Hill. I was able to go through Redemption Group, as well as attend ReTrain as I grew as a Christian and as a leader.
What about your time at Mars Hill has had a negative impact on you?
As great as my experience was at the church, I became very disillusioned to the church as I got more and more involved and saw the inner workings of the church. I was encouraged to take part in the spin that was put forth by Central while I was on staff, even though I pushed back and questioned what was going on. I saw many people hurt by the actions of the leadership at both Ballard and Central as we saw staff members transitioning out rapidly (some for amicable reasons, many were let go), questions being left unanswered, and being chewed up by the machine. Ultimately, after I left staff, and seeing how many dear friends were treated by the leadership of the church, and more importantly, not experiencing Jesus, I made the decision to leave the church in 2014.
What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?
I think the biggest thing I would have changed about the church was how much was kept behind closed doors. I know that there is plenty of things that are discussed at any church that should not be brought forth to the entire congregation (counseling matters, Redemption group discussions, etc), but at Mars Hill most everything was kept secret. People invested a lot in the church as it grew larger and larger, but they were kept in the dark about what was being done. I feel that how it was handled at Mars Hill was very unloving and untruthful.
Which describes you?
I left Mars Hill prior to closure.
Please describe why you left Mars Hill and what that experience was like.
I made the decision to leave Mars Hill in September of 2014 after seeing how Pastor Mark Dunford was treated upon signing the Letter from the Nine. This was the straw that broke the camel's back for me, my departure had been building for a while after I left staff in March of 2014. My concerns about the church had been growing, and I asked many questions about what was going on as the clouds were accumulating surrounding the church leadership. I was heartbroken as I saw many leaders leaving Ballard in particular, men that I had grown to love as I served alongside of them; I was crushed to see so many people leaving the church, men and women that were instrumental in my own growth as a believer and a leader within the church. Ultimately, I keep going back to the passage that God led me to at that time, Matthew 14:22-33, Jesus walking on the water and calling Peter out of the boat. Peter stepped out onto the water, though he started to sink as he looked at the wind and rain and storm and took his eyes off of Jesus. Once he looked back at Jesus and focused his attention on him, Peter was able to rise back up and get into the boat safely. The storms of distraction were drawing my eyes away from Jesus towards the end of my time at Mars Hill, and I was not okay with this. I needed to refocus my life on Jesus, and I felt that I needed to break away from Mars Hill to do this. I met with Pastor Adam Christiansen the week before I made the decision to leave, and he and I prayed for this decision. I let him (and Pastor Scott Harris, who was the lead pastor at Ballard at that time) know via a long and tear stained email that I had made the decision to leave. I let them know that I would continue to pray for both of them (which I have, even to this day), for the church (which I have, through the split and reorganization as different local bodies), and for the people, wherever God has led them. To be completely honest, this hurt. A lot. Mars Hill had made a huge impact on my life, and to come to the realization that it would no longer be a part of my life was devastating. I was anxious to get my life re-centered on Jesus, and to do this change needed to happen.
How would you describe the reason for Mars Hill's closure to an outsider.
Wow, this is a deep question. To do this, I would need to share my own story about what Jesus has done and is doing in my own life, and how Mars Hill played a part in this. Depending on the context of the conversation, I would most likely give a bullet point explanation of what happened at the end of Mars Hill, and close the convo with an emphasis of how important a saving faith in Jesus really is, not only in our own lives but also in that of the church as a whole.
What's changed for you since your time at Mars Hill came to an end?
As I made the decision to leave Mars Hill, I really had to step back and reevaluate what I really believe as a Christian and what I was looking for in a church. I knew that I needed to be surrounded by other believers to continue growing as a Christian and to heal, I couldn't do this without being a part of a church. As I began the process of looking for another church, I found myself comparing every other church I attended to Mars Hill. I was critical of the music, of the teaching, of the ministries. I really had to rediscover who Jesus was and be open to him leading me to where he wanted me to be, to take my eyes off of the distractions that were blinding me. Once I did this, I ended up finding a great church home where I am fed, challenged and loved. I am a part of Quest Church now, ironically Quest's new home is in the same building where Mars Hill Ballard was located. I am still healing, have had many opportunities to share my experience at Mars Hill, and am continually working on following Jesus. My faith was definitely shaken by what happened at Mars, shaken but not broken. Ultimately, my faith has become stronger because of my experience at Mars. I have experienced many highs and lows during my time at Mars and after, but the one constant in this whole time has been Jesus. I know it was a catchphrase/slogan at Mars, but it really is all about Jesus. He is in the business of redeeming lives, my own is evidence of this.