Rob Smith 2002-07

Your Name

Rob Smith



Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

Member, Group Leader (any leadership role)

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?

Ballard, Lake City / Wedgewood

What years were you involved / attending?

2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

We had just left a CRE church and were wondering where we would find a church that was both theologically sound and passionate about loving people.  A friend who had also left the church we were leaving began attending Mars Hill Church and suggested that we would enjoy the church. So we visited the church with him in 2002.

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

The first time we attended was at the 80th St location.  It was loud.... we were not used to the music... it was young. ..we were older. .. the sermon was long,  but good,  and people were interested in us.  Mark Driscoll was on the sidewalk talking to people,  and talked to me for some time.

What were your first impressions?

We liked what we'd saw and heard.  In my first discussion with Mark Driscoll I mentioned that it was hard to find a Reformed Church that was evangelical. .. "now there's an oxymoron" he quipped. I liked him immediately.

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

We loved the people and the keen sense of mission. It was biblical, contagious,  and genuinely all about living out our redemption in a city that we loved.

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

My five years at Mars Hill Church were the best 5 years I had ever had at a church.  There was little we did not love.  The people,  the purpose,  the systematic walk through the Scriptures... there was nothing we didn't enjoy and participate in.  We anticipated growing old in the church.  

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

Once we saw behind the curtain and merely raised questions,  the visceral reaction from Mark Driscoll revealed a narcissism that trumped his talent. The sermons,  the mission,  the rules,  suddenly morphed into the worship of Mark Driscoll.  I realized I had been duped.  We were attracted to a church run by many elders,  thus providing safety (so we thought). But a bait and switch had occurred. .. it was all about Mark Driscoll and and one who dared to raise a question would merely be disposed of.  

What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?

I would have never allowed the 2007 bylaws that changed the ecclesiology of the church to take effect.  In my opinion,  that single act changed the church irreversibly.  

Which describes you?

I left Mars Hill prior to closure.

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

Parts of my story is well documented. While both painful and at the same time hilarious, the month long process of leaving boils down to the following. For privately imploring the elders to hold a fair trial for Paul Petry and Bent Meyer I was placed under church discipline. The charge? I was trying to divide the opinion of the elders. When I stood up to the church discipline,  Mark Driscoll called me and demanded to come to my home with a posse of elders.  I suggested that instead I meet him one on one.  He refused and we talked for 90 minutes.  His vile language, anger, and disgusting threats to me,  including the threat to destroy me,  my ministry (Agathos) , and to make sure I could never minister again,  was the end for me.  Despite attempts to coerce me to stay,  including pulling an Agathos donor into the picture to pressure us to stay, Merle and I decided that we needed to move on.  It was a difficult month and a rough decision.  

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

A gifted man of little character destroyed the church he help create because men of character failed to stand up to him in time.  

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

We have not joined a church since.  We love Jesus and serve Him,  but have struggled to have the will to risk all that is invoked in giving yourself to a local body.. risking the shunning and rejection, followed by the character assassination that I endured at Mars Hill. I also no longer hold to my views on the safety of rule by a plurality of elders.  A single man with character is safer than a plurality of men that lack character.  I feel that elders need to be affirmed annually. .. by the members they serve.  There is no such thing as first among equals.  That is just a way of maintaining control.  There is no such thing as a vision pastor.  That is also just a means of maintaining control.  I desire to be a servant leader,  and desire to be in a community led by such.

Please write anything else you'd like to add.

It was truly a sad day when Seattle saw a man destroy the work of his own hands rather than simply humble himself and do the right thing.  For the church to shut down without addressing the shunning of Paul Petry is scandalous and heart breaking. For the remaining churches that formed in the wake of the collapse of Mars Hill Church to fail to publicly address the public shunning of the Petry family is also sad.  It tells me that in effect the leaders fail to see the real harm done to hundreds of families represented by the way that the Petry family was treated.  Basically, instead of one toxic church,  we now risk the reality that we have many more.