Friday, April 13, 2012

"Mars Hill Departed" Story, Part 2

This part starts with my email response to "Mars Hill Departed", and ends with his reply. ~ Sophia

Dear Mars Hill Departed,

Wow, wow, and wow.  First let me say that I have the utmost respect for you.  You were there much longer than we were, but it is eerie to me how similar the reaction, including the accusations, demands for reasons, and handling of the situation by the leader.  It makes me wonder if the CCEF training for leaders includes this?

Have you been able to maintain any of your friendships with your community group?  I tried the same thing and my community group leader removed me from the city and as far as he was concerned put us under church discipline.  He forbid his wife from ever having contact with me.

How are you and your wife now?  Are you attending a church?  Has there been fallout? many questions.

I wasn't clear from your email if you were okay with me posting this as a blog post or if you were sharing with me privately.  I could send you my emails and I think you would find it creepy just how similar the wording and our replies are.  Thanks for sharing!



Hi Sophia,

Thanks, yes, the similarities are shocking. My wife and I have been amazed at how the same exact phrases we've heard in our experiences with MH leadership are also common in the stories of others. I think it definitely is a top-down style, or even teaching, that is producing this.

We've been able to start to repair some of the friendships in our group, but honestly there weren't many to repair as our group leader's immature and controlling style eroded a 25something group down to 3 couples (the leaders). This leadership style continuously made new visitors feel belittled, condescended, and straight up attacked. Most never returned. Right now we're on speaking terms with most of them.

I'm sorry to hear that your leader treated you that way! That's definitely not how someone pursuing relationships and unity through love and truth would behave, rather it's the classic M.O. of tyrants and cult leaders. Scary stuff.

My wife and I are doing fantastic now. We feel like a dark oppressiveness has been lifted and we're rediscovering God's grace and how simply loving God is a much more effective catalyst for change in our lives. We still have many friends and family members who are very involved and connected at MH, but we're working hard not to "poison the well" or be divisive. At the same time though, we feel truth is important, and just as we would want to bring individual sin into the light, so we also want the same to happen for corporate sin. Looking back on our experiences, we do now feel that there is some serious idolatry and sin going on at MH. I think that the main idol is growth in church attendance and fame, which is a classic example of "a good thing becoming a god thing".

Yes, we're attending a new church that we had some existing connections to and we're really loving it. It's a smaller church body which has really allowed us to connect on a more genuine and natural level with others. It's sad that we were actually SURPRISED to see the gospel being preached and lives changing outside of MH... how did we ever get such prideful tunnel vision? We even have time now to further pursue real relationships with non-believers, something we really enjoy and feel called to do.

As far as fallout, we had a very hard month surrounding our departure from MH. But things have quickly gotten better as we've embraced new community and activities and have distanced ourselves from MH. Any initial questioning about our decision quickly disappeared once we were on the other side. Now we just can't believe we didn't see it this clearly before! Right now we feel concerned for our friends and family who are still there, and for those leaving who don't immediately have somewhere else to go!

Yes, you can post our letter and emails if you like and if you would post them in their entirety, that would be great. We hope that maybe they will help people see the wrong things that are going on at MH, but at the same time, we hope people will also remember all of the wonderful good that God has done through them! God uses sinners, but we should still address and repent of our sins. Our hope and prayers are that MH will change and continue to point to our wonderful savior Jesus!

Thanks for what you're doing Sophia. It's great to find a place where people can have some connections, post-MH. All our best!

[Mars Hill Departed]


  1. Thanks Mars Hill Departed, for sharing your story. Back in the day when I was hearing teachings from Driscoll and was concerned over some of his content and attitude, I kept looking for people who were a part of it and got out to share their stories.

    Back then, very few would. And the Driscoll supporters would use that as evidence that I was a deceived, alarmist who didn't respect God's divine order or appreciate God's chosen leadership etc...

    I'm not a person who likes to say, "I told you so," to the Driscoll supporters. I'm the kind to say to the survivors, "As many as can escape from MH with their faith in God and fellow believers intact, I count them all a blessing, every one."

    (And to the ones who escaped without their faith intact, I'm still glad you escaped however you could. May your recovery from the abuse be speedy.)

  2. Thank you so, so, so much for sharing this. I remember years ago (2005-2006-ish?) when I was well into into my 4 year membership at MH, Mark announced from the pulpit that he is an "Apostle" in the same vein as Paul. It was a red flag to many of us, and questions were flying about on the membership site. I don't remember specifics, but I do remember the issue being duly squashed somehow. A few fellow members left the church. It was my first hint that maybe, just maybe, things weren't right. But it took a long time for me to leave even still.

    Tunnel vision.. I SO relate to this. There have been times in my life when I have been deceived by the Enemy, and when the Lord has brought me back to Him, I've had that experience of being stunned that I'd stumbled so far down bizarre and dark paths. This is exactly how I felt after leaving MH. "WHAT was I thinking? Did I not find it problematic that I couldn't read my Bible anymore without Mark's interpretations?" Yeah, tunnel vision for sure. Thank you again so much for your concise and balanced representation--it gave me a lot of clarity that I still, these many years later, do seek. Some concrete examples, all completely accurate, of what went wrong at MH. I have so much emotion around my time there, it is hard for me to think clearly about it. You really helped elucidate things I couldn't put voice to.

    btw, I have not been able to attend church since leaving MH. I am terrified to trust again. I don't want tunnel vision again. Can you (or anyone else who loved MH in the old days) share where you are now going to church or where in Seattle you have found biblically conservative teachings but without the heresy/craziness/corporation model/mass marketing/hipster/emphasis on branding/dictatorship? (May be a tall order.)

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      I will work on getting a list of churches together. Not sure I can meet all of those but I will ask around and see what I come up with.

      Have you considered participating in the process group? Or private counseling? I understand having a hard time attending and being afraid to trust again.

    2. What is the process group and who is the leader? Thanks!

    3. It is a support group for people who have left Mars Hill. Please email Kaelee at for more information.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this story. I also have had a difficult time plugging back into a church in the 2 years since I left Mars Hill. I concur that there is an unnervingly consistent phraseology used by MH leadership that connects your interactions, the Petrys' nightmare, my own discussions and many others' accounts.

  5. East lake bothell. I left MH and I can't believe the come as you are attitude and that they want you to celebrate God together. There's no condemnation or superiority complex.

  6. Listen to "The Chief End of Man" - Ben Stuart - Breakaway Ministries Texas A&M, April 20th and April 27, 2010. Can also be found on i-tunes.