Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Kaelee's Story

My husband and I began attending Mars Hill at a very vulnerable time in our lives. We were newly engaged and had both recently moved out of our parents homes to start life in a big city. My husband's best friend and his wife had begun attending Mars Hill and loved it. They invited us along and we decided to go with them. At this point in my life I was surrounded by people that attended Mars Hill. My roommate was involved in a community group and they would be in our apartment often and pressure me to join. I had several coworkers who attended Mars Hill who very subtly would question my faith because I wasn't attending Mars Hill. I was very skeptical, but I also really wanted to fit in. I ignored my feelings and gave in to what people expected of me hoping it would help me avoid conflict. I was young, and I realize now how naive that mindset was.
       We were attending Mars Hill every Sunday but we weren't involved in any way. In fact I usually would subtly try and be late so we could avoid the, "Meet and greet" I felt so much subtle judgement every time I shook someones hand and told them that no, we hadn't joined a community group yet. I also saw fear in the eyes of others like me when they went to shake my hand and expected the same guilt trip for not joining a community group, for wanting to attend the church a few times and decide if it was the right fit. Every sermon was painful for me. It's really hard for me to explain honestly. I had been attending church since I was very young and with that church I had always felt a sense of peace. I didn't always see eye to eye with everyone there and sometimes I felt judged by other members, but it didn't change the fact that my heart felt like it was in the right place. With Mars Hill I just felt sick. The messages didn't move me like the messages at  my previous church had. The final straw for me was the sermon Mark delivered after going to Haiti for Earthquake relief. It really bothered me that he only focused on other churches during his trip. So many people were affected by that earthquake and he preached as though only other Christians there were worth his time. Then at the end of the sermon he yelled for 5-10 minutes about how people were not giving enough money to Mars Hill and if I remember correctly, stormed off the stage. The church I had spent most of my life in so far had never asked anyone for money. They didn't even pass around an offering bucket. We had a love box in the back and I never heard my pastor ask for money once. He would speak about projects they were hoping to undertake and how they were praying that God would provide the means, and God always did. After that sermon I talked to my husband (FiancĂ© at the time) and we both decided that Mars Hill wasn't the place for us.
       I wish that was the end of my story, but unfortunately it is not. At that time my husband's best friend and his wife were becoming more and more involved in the church. They were becoming members but we were still hanging out with them and everything seemed fine. Fast forward a month or so and this friend of my husband asks him out to coffee. My husband goes and comes back visibly upset. We go out for dinner where he tells me that his best friend had said that my husband loved me too much, was idolizing me, that I had gone off the deep end, and then started bad-mouthing everything Jeffrey had learned from a previous mentor in our old church. This was very hard for me to believe. I told my husband I thought his friend was just confused and even though his words were incorrect they were most likely spoken out of love. I told my husband he should listen to his own heart and tell his friend that he disagreed but not to let it ruin their friendship. They both loved and respected each other very much, I believed they could both move past this.
       Unfortunately that wasn't what happened. Weeks and months went by where we saw less and less of this couple, which is rather extraordinary since we lived in the same building and frequented the same coffee shop a couple of blocks down the road. Before this event the couple had named us the Godparents of their first child. They had helped us find our apartment. My husband got the job he has now with the help of his friend, and they still work together. The wife had designed and made my wedding dress. This wasn't a shallow relationship. We would text them and ask them to hang out and receive no response. I would see either of them in the halls of our apartment building and wave and they would awkwardly wave back and walk away with no attempt at conversation. I remember the Fourth of July last year we all stood on our roof to watch the fireworks. They were up there with their community group and ignored us when we walked past. At some point the husband did come over and talk to Jeffrey a bit, but I felt he did his best to ignore my presence, even when I spoke directly to him. After about five minutes his wife walked over and pulled him away without saying a word to my husband or myself. It was that night I realized it was actually over. They had cut us out because we didn't want to be a part of their church. I went onto Facebook to write a message to his wife only to realize she had removed me from her Facebook friends. I went onto Twitter and saw they had both unfollowed me.
       I don't want to act like I was a perfect saint during this time frame. I was at times a flakey friend, I would forget to call when I said I would or cancel plans last second. I completely forgot to ever write the wife a thank you card for my wedding dress, but had expressed my gratitude verbally numerous times. I looked at all of these things hoping to find something I had done wrong that would explain their actions, but it still never made sense. My value in myself was already dangerously low and I do believe these events helped the onset of my eating disorder. I am in no way blaming them, my eating disorder is my own personal responsibility, but when they looked at me and found me worthless it confirmed everything I had always believed about myself. I was worthless and I needed to find a way to become worthy. I shifted all of my focus in life to becoming thin. Thinking about anything else hurt too much.
       I am currently in recovery and it is going really well. I am happy now and no longer believe I have to hide my true self and feelings from people. I still have some anger for Mars Hill, but I am working on it. I am working on forgiveness. I don't know if I should try and talk to those friends ever again. I don't know if that would be helpful or harmful since it seems they have just gotten deeper and deeper in the church. I hope that someday there will be resolution or closure, but right now I just can't imagine how that would even happen.


  1. Kaylee
    Thank you for posting your story your willingness to be vulnerable will help many people.
    Great blog!

  2. I am loving this blog.... Keep writing and posting. The readers and stories will continue to come.

    Kalee-- What a heartbreaking story. I, too, have experienced that same pain and lost all of my friends in a church very similar to Mars Hill. I appreciate your honesty and how you took a huge risk to tell us your story. It's very moving. There are so many people in this walk with you. You aren't alone.

    Much peace and comfort to you.


  3. Kaelee - I'm sorry you went through this but glad that you were spared from more intense involvement with the church. Your "friends" are wrong - you are valuable and worthwhile no matter what church you go to! Thanks for speaking up about what happened to you.

  4. I found this story heart breaking, but I am curious. Are you absolutely sure that your friend cut you out of their live simply because you didn't want to be a part of Mars Hill? Are there any more details you'd be willing to share that would perhaps make that more clear? I'm not trying to defend Mars Hill because I think they're terribly screwed up and need to change things. I'm just trying to see the correlation to MH.

    And, even if your friends did push you away b/c you didn't want to join MH, I see that as a failure on your friends' part and not so much the fault of Mars Hill. Are they any details that MH was a part of their decision to screw you? Like a community group leader told them to stop being friends because you didn't want to join Mars Hill? That sounds odd but totally possible. Just a thought.

    1. Jeremy, I honestly have no idea why. It was never explained. The events just seemed like too much of a coincidence. In fact I tried very hard not to believe it was the influence of Mars Hill until all of these other stories about Mars Hill came to the light. I might find out it was something completely different at some point and I truly hope it is. I don't want to believe that is why, but I see no other explanation at this point.

  5. Kaelee, I know you said that you were having self esteem issues even to the point of having an eating disorder that was triggered by your friends shunning. I appreciate you owning your own issues, but I wanted to make sure you understand something.
    In spite of your self depreciation, you and your husband are strong and wise beyond your years. I know what you went through has hurt your souls, and even you body, Kaelee. But your spirits were strong through it all.
    You could tell, deep in your heart, that things weren't right. You were guided by your spirit. And Jeffrey... I'm proud of him that he didn't fall into the trap so many young men are susceptible to. He didn't let male ego or male superiority pressure him into things when his friend tried to shame him into 'manning up' and to stop 'listening to his wife'.
    I'm sorry for your pain.
    But I'm proud of your strength and ability to be guided by the deep places of your born again heart.

    1. Thank you so much for this. It's exactly what I needed to hear.

    2. I just want to second this. The one who walks away from a controlling group is the one who takes the emotional beating; but the ones who stay, stay because they are too unaware, too tempted by power, or too scared. The one who walks away is the strong one, in the true meaning of strength, but everyone else works hard to make it seem otherwise.

  6. Kaelee,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I hope it is an inspiration to others and that you and your husband can grow in love for each other, and grow in Christ.

    These stories are scaring me because it seems that some members have ceased to think for themselves, they are losing touch with reality and seem to act more like the Pharisees than Christ's church.

    God created you with a mind to question and made you to be free from authority you do not choose. Seek him, he knows your heart!

    Someone who left MH in 2007.

  7. here is a path to a true forgiveness.

  8. That was difficult to read...I'm sorry. Fundagelicalism can be a distressing and confusing place. Been there and done that!! I hope things improve for you. You might also take comfort in reading the following blogs as well, Rachel Held Evans, Christian Monist, and the Internet Monk. The Christian Monist blogged regualry about leaving an abusive church, and the Internet Monk explores issues that throws people into the wilderness. Hope things get better!

  9. Be encouraged. God is amazing and does not miraculous things. We've had similar situation, and God worked on our friend's heart. It broke my heart that they ended up going through exactly what we KNOW they were going through. Sadly, it also made us feel like we were not taking crazy pills at the expense of their pain. But, we suffer in Christ to also be there for others that suffer. It's an honor to be there for that friend as they try to heal as well. I encourage you to keep bringing your pain to Jesus and work through the reconciliation (healing) process with Him; I know how hard it is when you can't reconcile with a friend and have to go through it with just the Lord.

    1. God does do the miraculous, just not my typing skills when I am so amazed at not feeling alone in my struggles of still trying to make heads or tails of MH and my Acts 29 experience...

  10. Kaelee, you are not worthless and your body shape is not a symbol of your worth. Thank you for sharing. These things are so hard. Everyone who desires to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. The sad thing is the worst persecution these days seems to come from within the church.

    I would encourage you to listen to Tullian Tchividjian's sermon series on Coral Ridge's website, from Colossians, entitled, "Jesus plus nothing equals everything" which truly shows us how sanctification works -- by grace, just like justification... not by law. It may also help you in dealing with your eating disorder.

    I am "messed up" enough to know I'd never make it through one service in a church like that, so I totally sympathize.

  11. Dear Kaelee, thank you for sharing some of your experiences.
    I know how painful it is to have people you considered "friends" turn their backs on you because you refused to be a part of -their church-.

    My husband & I were members of a very judgmental church (cult)& the pastor uses similar tactics as Mars Hills. When we decided that "church=cult" was no longer something we wanted to be a part of, all of the sudden..things changed. People began to treat us...differently. We started seeing things that we didn't see before. We began to realize that there were too many key issues that we no longer agreed with that were being taught. How could we stay & be hypocrites, so we went to the pastor with some of our concerns & he did not take it well. Matter of fact, he was quite pissed that we had the audacity to doubt & question the "man a gawd".

    So, we quietly left that church, only to be excommunicated/ church disciplined. Christian "friends" abandoned us, as the pastor told them to shun us. We became anathema & it HURT.

    Just wanting you to know that you are not alone. Keep moving forward, sometimes it's not easy. I totally understand the unresolved pain because when you've never gotten an "I'm sorry" or any acknowledgement of how they hurt you...that is hard to take & not something easy to get over. I can say it's been almost 5 years since we left & I still have a lot of unresolved feelings. I deal with them, but it HURTS.

    ((HUGS)) Be glad you never joined because it would have been way worse if you would have been a member! ;) Also, it is taking me a while to heal because we spent almost 2 decades in the church cult, so it's a LOT of toxicity to heal from.
    Take CARE. :)
    April Galamin

  12. Kaelee, "Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith." -Hebrews 13:7
    Remember who loves you, and those who will always love you. They are shepherds.

  13. We left a culty church, and we left a healthy church that was moving in a church-growth direction we didn't agree with. With the culty church, there was fear, rejection, danger and constant self-judging. Had to detox in order to read the Bible again. With the healthier church, no one has cut us off, we still are happy to see former members and they seem genuinely happy to run into us. No one tries to pressure us to "make things right" or to rejoin. No blame, no shunning, no guilt-trips or power trips. That is the difference. Thanks for sharing your story.

  14. Love is unconditional, as GOD loves all of us. They are not of GOD. They are of hate and shame.
    Thanks for sharing your story! All you need in life is to love yourself and Jesus. You are an amazing person, remember that.

  15. I understand a lot of what you share here- it can be very difficult to put your finger on the reasons behind the treatment you feel at an unhealthy church or in an unhealthy relationship. You have made yourself vulnerable here by being honest, and that takes more guts than covering up the truth would take. We need more people like you.

  16. This is the 2nd post I've read, having just found this site within the hour as a result of a national headline that prompted me to query the whole situation. Either way...

    Hey, no disrespect, but I feel you would have had the same concerns/issues in probably over 90% of the churches in America. I don't know, but I think that 90% may even be a conservative #.

    Look, bottom line is this...if you don't LIKE something, then LEAVE! Don't read hate into this post or anything, but either get on, get off, or get gone.

    If someone is serving peas for dinner and you don't care for them, then DON'T EAT THEM, RIGHT?! Same thing here folks.

    A person is not married to their church like they are their spouse, so if you have to part ways, then do so. If a pastor is involved with heresy or some moral sin, then hey...that's TOTALLY DIFFERENT, but when you simply don't agree with leadership or "like" leadership, then move on folks.

    It aint nuthin' personal, right? Itz bizzness!