Reflections on the Collapse of Mars Hill Church


and this:

break my heart.

When Jesus is rejected in favor of another man, love and justice cease to be the focus of the church. And when Jesus, love, and justice cease to be the focus of the church, God will intervene and make sure no more harm is done.

He does not care about numbers, because Mars Hill was still seen to be one of the fastest growing churches in America as of late Spring (including number of conversions; non-Christian to Christian).

He does not care about quality of programs or wine-skins, as many of Mark Driscoll’s Bible teachings were – and still are – wholly Biblical, helpful, and encouraging.

What He cares about is the intent behind everything that the leadership of the church chooses to do. He cares about what goes on behind the scenes. He cares about what motivates the heart to make decisions that affect the emotional, spiritual, physical, and psychological health of the congregants.

He cares about people being pointed to the Lord Jesus Christ and Him alone.

Not to the church.

Not to the leadership of the church.

But to Him alone.

Driscoll and company had to fight in order to maintain positions of power and leadership. Their congregants no longer saw them worthy to be so, yet they fought tooth and nail for it. They removed members. They removed elders. And they labeled them all as “unrepentant, in sin, and not subject to authority.” Eldership at Mars Hill often boiled down the outside criticisms as being “satanic attack (spiritual warfare) because he is not pleased with how many people are meeting Jesus in one of the least churched cities in America.”

Yet the congregants did not see their criticisms this way. They stood firm in their  rejection of the spiritual authority that was over them; and only over them by proxy of choosing to stay close to friends and family in Christ and not leave them.

The rejected what was unbiblical,

They rejected the damage authoritarian power structures had cause to their friends, acquaintances, and to those whom they had only heard horror stories.

But they clung to Jesus together, knowing that the God of all justice, all mercy, and all grace would bring to light the truth, whether in this life or the next.

It is no coincidence when hundreds – thousands – of members from the same congregation (former and current) have the same criticisms, have experienced the same authoritarian power structures, and have undergone the same emotional, spiritual, and psychological trauma that results from leadership who want to keep total control of their people through manipulative, pseudo-Biblical, means.

Pastors, leaders, when the multitude cries out with the same criticism against you or your leadership structure, open your eyes, open your ears, and open your heart, because God is speaking.

I do not think that Mars Hill will be the only church that undergoes such implosions. This seems to be the first of many, unless the many repent.

God has sent Isaiah’s, Jeremiah’s, and Jonah’s into the world. Some will respond, and some will not. Some will return to the basicality of the Christian gospel, and some will press further and further into the depths of power struggle and control until God says “enough is enough!”

Thankfully, after many years, some of those in leadership at Mars Hill recently came to publicly repent and confess the unrighteous, unbiblical, nature of their rash decisions:

“Paul, on Dec. 5, 2007, those of us who were elders at the time voted to instruct the members of Mars Hill Church to treat you as an unrepentant believer under church discipline after you had resigned your membership from the church. The treatment was to have included ‘rejection and disassociation’ in the hope that you would ‘come to the acknowledgment of sin and repent.’ ‘The disciplinary rejection led to great loss to your family in extreme financial hardship, sudden loss of long-standing friendships, spiritual and emotional trauma to your family, and the public shaming of your character… We were wrong. We harmed you. You have lived with the pain of that for many years… The Seattle base mega-church has imploded over the past eight months.”

My heart breaks for the Mars Hill family. My heart breaks for Marc Driscoll’s family. But my heart breaks even more for those two elders – and the thousands of MH members, and other congregants across the world – that have undergone unrighteous acts such as these.

God, have mercy on Your church. Lord Jesus, show up in supernatural ways and redirect those in leadership to lead like You call us to in Philippians 2:5-8. Holy Spirit, infuse life into the heart of the leadership in the Evangelical church to never trust in numbers, to never trust in conversion rates, to never trust in how many are baptized, and to never trust in the man-centered quality of the wine-skin that they choose to employ. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, pour out blessing on the Evangelical church to return to the roots of the basic gospel. To return to the roots of the gospel that calls people to pursue You, Lord Jesus, and to pursue You to the ends of the Earth. May You, Holy Trinity, always be the center of our focus. And may meeting You, experiencing You, and being led by You be the call that we make to our members. Jesus, I pray that You would break authoritarian power structures in the church. And if you must, bring to breaking those who refuse to repent. Father God, may Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, and may Your Kingdom reign on Earth through a people who know You, love You, and serve You because their leaders direct them towards You and You alone. In Your Holy Name, Amen.

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