Rick - Orange County 2012-14

Your Name




Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

Regular Attender, Member, Group Leader (any leadership role)

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?

Orange County / Huntington Beach

What years were you involved / attending?

2012, 2013, 2014

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

In 2011 my old church was going through a rough season, factions were fighting, and my dad found a sermon of this guy guest preaching at John Piper's church. This sermon was fiery, captivating, and frankly the best sermon I had ever heard. From then I began to podcast Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll.

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

I moved to SoCal for college, when I heard there was a Mars Hill in Orange County I immediately started attending and got plugged in.

What were your first impressions?

I loved it, there have only been a few churches where I walked in and immediately felt like I belonged. I'm not cool or a hipster, but the atmosphere was awesome and I fell in love with the people of Mars Hill.

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

Because God made my community group my spiritual family. Because in community I finally understood grace and freedom in Christ. Because I believed God called me there.

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

I learned how impactful missional communities can be in a church. I learned how to take ownership of my church by serving. I learned that there are good and innovative ways to do church besides what I grew up with.

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

How Christianity failed me, how it failed Mars Hill. I believe all churches have shit, and all churches need to work through their shit when called out. What Christianity did was point to and yell about the shit they saw and condemned us. There were problems, and people only saw problems.
I am frankly bitter to this day towards Matt Chandler and Acts 29  because of how he handled his rebuke of Driscoll. Matt Chandler in his attempt to rebuke Driscoll gave the fuel to destroy Mars Hill. He "excommunicated" the whole church. His actions empowered the unloving critics and lead people like me to despair. He hurt me, he robbed me of my church family.
Chandler is not alone, in my view 90% of Christians condemned and rejected Mars Hill, Driscoll, and therefore me. There was little to no grace.

What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?

1. Leadership structure.
I believe that the structure was put in place with good intentions. I think that as the church grew and leaders become more separated in distance and relationship decisions were slower and less united. Thus, centralizing leadership in the executive elders was meant to keep the church on mission, on task, and keep advancing the gospel.
This was a mistake. Centralized authority robbed the local elders of their ability to lead well, especially at Orange County. Centralized authority caused issues to never be fully addressed. Centralized authority caused distance between our leaders and the people of Mars Hill.
Authority should have been equal among elders. If size and distance made this a problem, maybe that meant we were too big or separated to be one church.
2. Women in leadership.
I believe women should be free and empowered to lead as God calls them. I am a complementarian who doesn't believe in female eldership or pastorship. But other than that, women are free to serve and lead throughout the church. Mark from the beginning emphasized men, which was refreshing to me, but this emphasis lead to women not being in significant leadership.
This impacted the culture in negative ways.
3. Share the pulpit.
Mark preached most of the time, but I think he should have shared the pulpit with other Mars Hill pastors on a regular basis. I think at least once a month. Guest preachers were great, but we needed to be taught and led by our local elders.
4. Less traveling for Driscoll.
At times it felt like we were facilitating Driscoll's Christian Rockstar status, rather than being served by him. Teaching is serving, but it felt like the people were incidental. I think he should and could have spent more time with the people of Mars Hill. Maybe that would have made him aware of issued before they became scandals.
5. Don't plant campuses out of state, plant churches.
I think the multi-site church concept is a great idea in a city or close region, like Seattle and the Puget Sound. But frankly, I never felt like I was in the same church as Everett or Bellevue. Mars Hill Orange County was not a part of the 'one church many locations'. We were a controlled church in the Mars Hill church network. They should have planted an independent church rather than have 1,000 miles between us and our "church family."
6. Less or no video teaching.
Let others preach, collaborate with the elders and let them preach.

Which describes you?

I stayed at Mars Hill through closure.

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

Dustin Kensrue's letter was strong and resonated with me. One thing he wrote was to set a date to expect change, and if no change came, than you should consider leaving. This was in August 2014 for me. I prayed about it, and the Lord told me to see through the end of the year. As it turned out, that was how much longer the church had. Thus, I remained until the end.

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

We were a church that grew aggressively, had problems, and were neck deep in controversy. For a long time we were led by the elders at the top of the food chain, and they made mistakes. When Driscoll stepped down and all the elders were allowed to make a decision they decided to separate into our own local church bodies to decide our future from there.
My location, Mars Hill OC, decided to close down rather than try to keep going. We had lost so many people, and our leaders were burned out.
So yes, Mars Hill is gone. But now there are many churches born from Mars Hill that still worship and proclaim Jesus. And that is a comforting thought.  

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

I was angry with my local elders for closing down Mars Hill OC for a while. But I've come to understand and move towards forgiveness in that.

Please write anything else you'd like to add.

I still miss Mars Hill. It was an amazing community to be a part of. I wish we could have worked through our shit rather than walking away from it. I learned a lot and grew a lot in my time there. I have no regrets about being a member there until the end.