Tuesday, March 13, 2012

You just didn't try hard enough.

A few months ago, in a different corner of the Internet, a prominent vegan blogger came out with her decision to no longer be a vegan. She had been sick for months and decided the diet was no longer worth the misery she was experiencing. She received a multitude of comments about this decision, some people encouraged her and congratulated her for being honest with herself, and some people threatened to kill her. The most common comment she received was that she had simply not tried hard enough to make it work. Most people responding to her post believed that if she had simply done more research, or added this or that vegetable to her diet she wouldn’t have been sick and the vegan diet would have worked for her. From what I saw of her journey, she had spent years trying everything to make it work. She wanted to believe it was the only way to live, she wanted it to work for her and prove her beliefs, but eventually she had to come to the mindset that it wasn’t right for her, regardless of those beliefs and what people said.
I also hear the, “you didn’t try hard enough” comment quite often, but pertaining to my experience with Mars Hill. It always goes something like this, “You had a bad experience at Mars Hill? Well you probably didn’t try hard enough. Did you join a community group? Did you read his books? Did you become a member? You didn’t, well then that explains it.” Every time I entered those doors I felt my heart and soul dying. I was in complete misery. Why would I join a community group when interactions I had with Mars Hill members left me depressed and bitter? Why would I read Mark Driscoll’s books when his sermons killed all the joy I had previously felt in my faith? Why would I continue down a path that was spiritually killing me? I know this argument will never be enough for those who have said these things to me, and I honestly don’t feel the need to sway them. God has shown me what is healthy for me and what is not. I know this for myself and that is enough.
My goal in writing this is to offer some support to everyone else who is being told they didn’t do enough, or that they needed to just try harder. A lot of you attended community groups, you read Mark’s books, you tried so hard, “to do it right” and somehow it still didn’t work. You believed in everything Mars Hill said, so when it didn’t work for you, you felt that you were to blame. You then gave up everything about yourself to be the perfect "Christians" Mark described and felt your souls die as a result. Some of you were then disciplined and abused for not fitting into the mold. I want to tell you that you tried hard enough, and it is okay to stop. You are not at fault. The misery you are experiencing is not from God, and I would encourage you to question anyone who would tell you that it is. Your experience with church should not be one of enslavement or bondage.
Just like the vegan blogger I mentioned, my own time spent as a vegan made me extremely sick. Hearing her story helped me to realize that a set of morals surrounding food were worthless if they were literally killing me. Her story didn’t change the minds of people who were happy with the vegan diet, except to make some of them more open to the idea that a vegan diet doesn’t work for everyone. What her story did was help people who were suffering and miserable be honest with themselves. That is my goal now. If you attend Mars Hill and are happy there, I have no desire to take that away from you. My only hope is that you would hear these stories and be more open to the fact that the Mars Hill lifestyle doesn’t work for everyone and isn’t the only way to live a Christian Life. 


  1. Kaelee

    What a great insight! How many authoritarian churches pin faith on "trying hard enough to do it their way?" A whole bunch from my vantage point.

  2. You are an inspiration! There is a spiritual awakening happening with the Body of Christ.
    God is really using you to expose spiritual abuse all around.
    You have no idea how much of an blessing you have been to me. God bless you and keep persevering.

    A Believer in Christ!

  3. Kaelee,

    I am dealing with this now...I joined a bible study a while back in an attempt to move forward and for multiple reasons, mostly getting behind and just needing a break, I do not wish to continue. I know people are just trying to encourage me but honestly, the thought of going makes me cringe, and then I feel guilty because I said I would try! Thank you for this post. It is okay to not continue. I give myself permission :)

  4. I sighed in relief at this: "The misery you are experiencing is not from God." Victims of abuse are often blamed for their abuse, often with the logic that "you feel bad so you must be bad." In psychotherapy we call this "emotional reasoning" (I'm scared so something must be threatening, I feel guilty so I must be wrong, etc). It's awful... really awful, that this is used as a means of control.

    And thank you for modeling grace for me by inviting current MH church members into a mutual understanding. I have a good friend at the church who feels loved and safe within that community. I hope to take her experience as seriously as I take yours.

    1. Thank you! That emotional reasoning term is good to know! I am coming from a pretty ignorant place in some regards but I really want to learn in the hopes that any knowledge I gain will serve to help everyone who visits this blog, whether they agree with me or not.

      I also know some people at Mars Hill who feel very safe there. I definitely don't want to tell them that they can't continue to feel that. I do want to question any and all one-size-fits-all mentalities about life. This includes the ones I have seen inside Mars Hill and the ones I sometimes see in myself in moments of anger towards Mars Hill.

  5. Queen Momma wrote:

    Trust God, trust the Holy Spirit is alive and well with you, it's always a good idea to examine your heart and motivation, and have a few voices in your life that have shown themselves to be trustworthy and will carry the burden WITH you, BUT always know that God will be with you where you are at! Be encouraged that God sees you as the Bride of Christ, always and forever! God made you specifically to be who are and needs you to be who you are; rest in that! These are things that I've been learning. I know my time away from organized church has been healing and actually has rejuvenated my relationship with Jesus and his Word, but it's been a couple of years to get to this place...

    (I accidentally deleted)

  6. Kaelee & Christine,

    I am pretty sure I am the queen of emotional reasoning! That is how I work :(

  7. Our emotions can be messy when they seem more truer than God's Word.
    Maybe this may help. It's called the R.E.E.D.

    Recognize our emotions. We need to acknowledge them, not ignore them. We need to verbalized how we feel. I hade to develop a vocabulary to express how I feel.

    Express our emotions to God. Many people are afraid they may offend God if they tell Him how they feel, especially if it is about Him. However, He knows about our feelings and is not offended by them. Our feelings do not change the character of God! When I read the Psalms, i realize that He has heard everything many times before.

    Evaluate what our emotions are telling us. We need to reflect on how our emotions, behavior, and thinking are related. Just like David asked himself. "why are you despair O my soul?" We need to ask God to show us what wrong believes or thoughts are feeding our emotions.

    Decide to replace our thinking and behavior with God's Truth. Questions we can ask ourselves:
    How does I think and how I behave compare to with God's Word? What needs to be change?

    Remember we have a new identity and destiny. We do not have to stay stuck in old patterns of living. We can choose to act and react according to our new Biblical thinking. This adjustment of thoughts and beliefs in the light of God's truth is the "renewing of the mind" process that is commanded in Romans 12.

    Praying for you and Mars Hills people.

    1. "Remember we have a new identity and destiny. We do not have to stay stuck in old patterns of living. We can choose to act and react according to our new Biblical thinking. This adjustment of thoughts and beliefs in the light of God's truth is the "renewing of the mind" process that is commanded in Romans 12."

      Romans 12:1-2 - "1.Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2.Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

      Who renews the mind? It is the Holy Spirit. We are called to submit to His lead, yes. That does not necessarily mean conforming to the constructs of religious zeal and structure for the sake of the structure and so-called "community".

      The reason I'm responding is that you seem to be questioning the emotional hurt that is being spoken of in the opening post - As if, because the OP felt hurt and frustrated, she was not conforming to the renewing of her mind. It is very possible, however, that she was responding to the renewing of her mind - By recognizing the pattern of the world being adopted by the Mars Hill insular mentality - and that caused her the discomfort and frustration. I think the grace she is showing is the right attitude - That many people are not in the same place as she in regards to their stand on the MH community philosophy, and that God is present in all believers, regardless of their practices, though blatant or unintentional sin in those practices should be addressed and dealt with if encountered.

      Perhaps I misread the intention of your post, which I admit seems very gracious in tone, so forgive me if I am not understanding your intention, Chris Blog. You bring up thoughtful points; AND there seems to be an undercurrent of incredulity, though only hinted at. Perhaps you can clarify your point in regards to the opening post?

  8. My intention was to share a tool (R.E.E.D) was for emotional comfort. I am aware of the pain MH has inflicted on many of God's people. Many wounded soldiers are coming out due to spiritual abuse.
    When renewing the mind one of the greatest obstacles we may encounter is our emotions. It is often easier to believe the lies about God and ourselves because of how we feel. For example, we may find it difficult to believe that God has forgiven us or unconditionally loves us because we do not "feel" forgiven or unconditionally loved.

    Our societal highly values "positive" emotions such as happiness and peace, yet it ignores or despises the "negative" emotions of depression, anger, and fear. However, the Bible is filled with example of both pleasant and unpleasant or "less acceptable" feelings.

    We are emotional beings. God is a spiritual being...although, the Bible clearly states that God is Spirit, He does express emotionally. He expresses emotions of grief (genesis 6:6) anger (psalms 104:40), joy and excitement (zephaniah 3:17) and love and compassion from the temple. He showed compassion toward the multitude who had been with food for three days. Because we were made in His image, we also have the ability to feel a wide range of emotions.

    Now sin has affected us emotionally....before man experienced sin, his emotions expressed the heart of his Creator. As Adam received revelation from God, his thoughts and emotions reflected the love, joy, and the peace of God. When man became disconnected from God , his mind became darkened and thoughts no longer reflected the truth of God. This gave rise to the renegade emotions such as fear, anger, guilt, and sadness. Living independently of God's truth man reason and emotions became his final authority for what he/she believe. Because we have all been affected by sin, we often allow emotions to control our beliefs and behavior.

    One factors that affects our emotions is...

    Wrong teaching or poor modeling about our emotions.

    I am one that have been wounded in the house of friends.....Expressing my emotions to God be it anger, frustration, betrayal, bitterness, expectations, joy, Love, peace has allowed to feel accepted by God, safe and secure in Him. He has taught me to see myself as He sees me.

    He will NEVER leave nor FORSAKE you....the enemy would want you to believe his lies.

    I am praying for God's restoration and strength....and continue to run this race. God is deeply in love with each of His redeemed children.
    And I see the jewel in Mars Hill Refugees.

    1. http://www.amazon.com/Cry-Soul-Emotions-Deepest-Questions/dp/1576831809

      This has been an interesting book to read in my struggle with church. Another thing for me was to identify my feelings and perspectives and see if they were colored by emotions and hurts (not to devalue or dismiss - just to learn and be aware); are they internal or external expectations? Also, identifying who you feel hurt by, evaluate what they did and how it affected your life, and understand and accept that you may never reconcile with identified person, but only with God, and then (but probably, not finally) start living the rhythm of forgiveness...

  9. Wow. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, there are currently about 39000 different Christian denominations. Why so many? Apparently there is not a standard method that Christians can follow that will give them all the same result, so we have denominations.

    Were not the scribes, pharisees and sadducees (more denominations, lol, do you see a trend?) of Jesus time dogmatic about their beliefs? Didn't they base their beliefs on their take of the written "the word of God?" Yet Jesus (according to the bible) quoted those very words of God to them and told them they were wrong ("... you have heard it said, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you...."). Really? Here's this guy going against the authority of the "word of God." And so they asked him "... by what authority to you do...." Good question to ask, no?

    Jesus words were reportedly backed up with signs and wonders from the ONE he claimed he spoke for. Before he even started teaching, he got baptized and a voice from heaven and a descending dove kinda authorized him. Raising the dead, replacing missing limbs, these are pretty good miracles. We're not talking curing headaches here. Gee, miracles and signs were good enough for Moses, Elijah, Jesus, Paul (just to name a few), why aren't they good enough for Mark Driscoll? Who authorized Mark Driscoll? Himself? Other flawed people? History is replete with examples of people who used the bible and God's name ("in vain") to authorize their words and actions. You can look at these people and see their error and utter vanity. What makes Mark Driscoll (or similar people), any different?

    In the absence of God backing their words up, such people establish complex coercive structures to control people and use God's name to establish their own authority, not Gods. If Mark Driscoll really speaks for God, let him prepare his sacrifice, soak it with water and then call on the God he claims to serve to consume it with fire. Until that happens, Mark only has his own authority backing him up (anyone can quote the bible, the Pharisees did and were apparently wrong). That's not good enough to establish that you speak for God and that others should follow your lead.

    OK, beating a dead horse. Oddly, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Mark is completely sincere. That's part of what gives such people so much power, their obvious sincerity and belief... in their self (yes, it is belief in their self, in their own particular ability to 'discern God" over another's ability to do so). But one can be 'sincerely' wrong, and can also be inadvertently evil.

    1. Good points Paul. I honestly have no doubt that Mark Driscoll and many of the people attending Mars Hill are completely sincere. This quote from C.S. Lewis often comes to mind when I think of Mars Hill, "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience"

      They believe it is for our own good, but it doesn't stop it from being a tyranny, or oppression.