Mark Driscoll and C.J. could have been twin brothers. They share the same strengths and suffer the same weaknesses. Both are considerable. The main thing distinguishing them is Mark’s crassness. C.J. doesn’t demonstrate the same crudeness in his preaching. Otherwise they have many of the same features. In fact, it’s hard to tell them apart. Their DNA markers are practically the same.
Unfortunately, I’m afraid this comparison will irk C.J. though that is not my goal in making the point. It’s just that C.J. considers himself more godly, humble and gracious than Driscoll and therefore qualified to be his tutor.
On February 1-2, 2007, C.J. travelled to Seattle to meet with Mark to talk about his pride and its effects upon himself, family, elders and church. After returning home, C.J. wrote and offered to help Mark “discern the presence of pride” in his life. Mark took him up on the offer.
Since returning I have been praying for you, reflecting on our time together and thinking about any way I could serve you. At the end of our day together I had the privilege of spending the evening with you and Grace [Mark’s wife] and hearing of her love for you and her concerns about the challenges before you. I would share all those concerns for the numerous and seemingly endless number of responsibilities and opportunities before you. But as I said that evening, my concern for your heart exceeds my concern for your role and responsibilities in Mars Hill and Acts 29. Actually my primary concern for you is no different than the concern I have for my own soul. The primary concern I have for both of us is that we walk humbly before God. And as your friend I think you need someone outside Mars Hill to help you discern the presence of pride in your life and serve you in the cultivation of humility that I’m sure you desire for your life and leadership. (C.J. Mahaney, “Letter to Mark Driscoll,” March 3, 2007)
Seven months later on September 30, 2007, Paul Petry, an elder/pastor at Mars Hill Church, was wrongly fired by Driscoll for attempting to curb Mark’s power by opposing structural changes and new bylaws that were being pushed through by Mark. Having exhausted local options for redress, Paul appealed for help from C.J. No help was provided him. His pleas for justice were denied. As a result, he was sorely abused. C.J. was willing to help and protect Mark but he was unwilling to help and protect Paul. Paul wrote:
After multiple appeals were continually rejected by Mark [Driscoll] and Jamie [Munson], we discreetly implored some local and then national leaders, who Mark said he respected, to help us, including John Piper and C.J. Mahaney. No one was willing to get involved. I was shocked and heartbroken again. You’re kidding? The whole Body of Christ and no one is willing to step in, judge the matter, and attempt to make things right? How can Matthew 18 be carried out if not one Christian leader will stand in to bring peace and reconciliation? (Paul Petry, “To the Elders of Mars Hill Church,” October 25, 2007)
After 4 years of silence, Paul and Jonna are telling their story for the good of Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church, the Acts 29 network of churches, and those who have experienced similar treatment. See http://joyfulexiles.com/. I’d encourage you to visit their website. It was put up two weeks ago.
C.J. last told me about his interactions with Mark Driscoll in November 2007 during my last leadership team retreat when I resigned from the Board of Directors for Sovereign Grace Ministries after 25 years (see A Final Appeal, pp. 90-92). C.J. informed us then that Mark had asked for his input.
This was another classic illustration of C.J.’s hypocrisy. He was going to help Mark discern the presence of pride in his life even though C.J. rejected all our attempts to help him see the fruits of pride in his own life. He was going to cultivate humility in Mark’s heart when he refused to let others cultivate humility in his own heart. I distinctly remember sitting in the meeting with Dave Harvey, Steve Shank and Pat Ennis stunned by the irony and audacity.
That’s one reason it was so disconcerting to read C.J.’s statement to Mark that “Actually my primary concern for you is no different than the concern I have for my own soul. The primary concern I have for both of us is that we walk humbly before God.” That sounded humble in a letter to Driscoll but it was simply untrue. It was an empty boast! For years, C.J. showed no life changing concern for humility. He rejected our input every step of the way starting in December, 2000. He objected to our illustrations, judged our motives, and dismissed our observations for an entire decade (read Response Regarding Friendship and Doctrine).
Like with C.J., Mark intimidated his local elders. Like with C.J., the elders showed Mark favoritism, craved his approval, and allowed him to play by a different set of rules. Like with C.J., an employee could easily lose their job or be demoted if you confronted or offended Mark. Like with C.J., Mark set up a puppet board and changed the bylaws (used the bylaws in C.J.’s case) to secure his power. Like with C.J., you could be excommunicated or shunned if you didn’t comply with authoritarian demands. These boys are birds of a feather.
I think this individual would need to be theologically informed, discerning about issues of the heart, someone who is not afraid of you and doesn’t work for you. They would have no official role or formal authority. And they wouldn’t in any way substitute for the relationships you have with your local elders. But this individual would have a unique role as he met with you, cared for you and was available to you. Obviously this would have to be someone you trust and respect and you would need to initiate this. But I think you would benefit immeasurably from the care, counsel and correction this leader would provide. (C.J. Mahaney, “Letter to Mark Driscoll,” March 3, 2007)
In reality, this person would act as a substitute for the elders in his “unique role.” That is so often the problem. There is no true plurality of leadership. The founder, President, or senior pastor is functionally unaccountable. The elders are afraid to be honest and fear losing their jobs. For instance, they will not confront such men for neglecting their wives and children as they pour 70-80 hours into their ministries each week.
In fact, this kind of person was necessary for Driscoll because the elders were not doing their job. They were afraid of Mark like we were afraid of C.J. Crossing Mark could get you in a lot of trouble. This person had to be an outsider (i.e., C.J.) who wasn’t afraid of Mark and whose job was beyond his reach. He also had a lot of clout. This plan was worked out in conjunction with John MacArthur and John Piper. First, MacArthur wrote Driscoll regarding his pride and worldliness. Second, C.J. got involved. Third, Piper would follow up after C.J. if necessary.
I don’t know the details beyond this point. I do know the results. C.J.’s involvement didn’t produce changes in Mark’s life. C.J. may have provided “care, counsel and correction” but it didn’t translate into repentance, confession or restitution. Like twins, Mark and C.J. responses to correction were identical. Little fruit and no concern for people like Paul and Jonna Petry who were figuratively left to die in a roadside ravine after being blindsided by a Mack Truck. Here is Paul’s appeal hours after his termination by Mark and the Executive Elders (EE).
Monday, October 1, 2007 2:11 AM
As I said when I left the meeting tonight. I am in shock. I do not understand what I have done to warrant my termination. Please submit to me in writing how you believe I have sinned, that I might consider this before God.
In the same way, C.J.‘s sins were covered up, so too were Mark’s. The scenario at Mars Hills Church with Mark is almost identical to our dealings with C.J. in Sovereign Grace Ministries. Like C.J., Mark took control of the process. Like C.J., he silenced dissent. Like C.J., he removed people he didn’t like any longer because they challenged him. Like C.J., he surrounded himself with devotees.
Nationally recognized leaders know there are serious issues with C.J. and Mark but will not risk their own reputations, ministries or revenue streams in order to address them or don’t want to draw attention to themselves realizing they suffer from the same maladies. In the former case, they fear losing favor (i.e., national recognition) over a falling out with Driscoll or Mahaney or whomever. You don’t get invitations to speak at Conferences, preach at churches, teach in seminaries, sign book deals or benefit from name recognition by offending the powerful. Young men like David Platt, Kevin DeYoung, and Matt Chandler are not going to correct or challenge Dever, Duncan, Mahaney or Mohler.
As a result, guys like C.J. and Mark fly beneath the radar screen undetected. Inside their organizations, people are afraid to speak up for fear of consequences. Outside their organizations, peers withhold critique in order to secure their favor and avoid offense. Instead they build alliances of mutual benefit which are a key to advancing and promoting their ministries. A lot of money, growth, and recognition comes in the aftermath. On those occasions when conflicts arise, they are concealed and truces are secured.
Furthermore, if one of them is exposed from within or without their organizations, these alliances defend against attacks and silence the opposition. As a result, people like the Petry’s are oppressed, mistreated, and forgotten like Old Testament widows, orphans or sojourners in distress. They receive no help, no protection, and no care. While nationally known leaders should be addressing Driscoll (or C.J.) the work is left to the weak, broken, and despised.
While C.J. and Mark are twin brothers, they also have cousins, some of whom will be meeting at the Family Reunion next week called “Together for the Gospel.” The kind of problems articulated in my writings and blogs like Joyful Exiles are all too common among men that lead large churches and ministries. There are exceptions in this group of men, but celebrity status brings grave temptations. Speaking of which, I did not find this advertisement amusing given all the concerns that have been voiced for celebrity Christianity at T4G. Normally, I would laugh but this time I grieved under the circumstances.
And knowing C.J., he volunteered to be blotted out of this photo (and got plenty of laughs) and chose “00” to depict his humble nothingness. I wish that were a family trait. C.J. loves to deflect attention and thereby get attention. Anyway, here are your all-stars for next week. The NCAA finals are over but not the Madness at Mars Hill Church/Acts 29 or Sovereign Grace Ministries. By the way, I expect to see C.J. voted the T4G Naismith College Player of the Year for his spectacular performance over the past nine months. He will be honored for his humble and courageous play having endured flagrant fouls and malicious injuries according to the T4G referees. He’s got game in their eyes.
Back to reality. Here are a few excerpts from Paul and Jonna Petry at Joyful Exiles. I’d encourage you to read these articles in entirely on their website. You will quickly notice Paul’s careful documentation in order to make a factual and fair argument. He is a lawyer who gave up his practice in order to become a pastor at Mars Hill Church. There is much to learn from their experience.
In particular, I hope every pastor in SGM takes note of Paul’s “great sins before God and His church” in article 3, paragraph 3, below. One day, I pray hundreds of leaders in SGM will follow his example. And as you read excerpts from “My Story” by his wife, Jonna; you can think of my dear wife, Jenny. It is well with her soul but she and the family have suffered much. We don’t know the Petry’s but we share a lot in common. So do many others who are, or were, a part of Sovereign Grace Ministries.
Fired Mars Hill Church Pastor Releases History
March 19, 2012
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Those who do not remember the past will have it rewritten for them.
Well, not in this case. Not anymore. Four and half years ago, I was fired from Mars Hill Church because I refused to resign under pressure. I was a pastor on staff, an elder, and an officer of the corporation along with a group of other men. I spent months seeking formal reconciliation and years hoping for a better course. I have not spoken about these matters publicly until now. With the mounting stories and “histories” coming out regarding Mars Hill Church, it no longer seems right or beneficial to remain silent.
This website serves as a depository, a historical record of the events I and others experienced at that time - including documents, written correspondence, and personal narrative - with the hope that greater love and reformation will emerge and transcend our weaknesses and failures.
In addition to the straight history, my wife, Jonna, has written a personal narrative describing these events. It is an important story and I am thankful she had the courage to write it. Our journey with Mars Hill Church began as a wonderful season God used to grow and strengthen our marriage, our children, and me – then came a very dark time, but by God’s grace, our marriage, our family, our faith (and our noses) remain intact, though forever changed.
For my part, what was written in these letters and documents speaks volumes and is enough for now. Perhaps at a later date I will have the time and inclination to contribute more. There are many fellow sojourners with their own stories yet untold. Though we are “joyful exiles,” we do not take joy in sharing this sad history. It is much like uncovering “hidden abuse” the family was unwilling to talk about for years, yet is necessary for healing and freedom.
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” — Ephesians 4:14-16
March 19, 2012
This past summer I saw the movie, “The Help,” and a seed of courage was planted in my soul. One of the last lines of the movie:
God says we need to love our enemies. It hard to do. But it can start by telling the truth. No one had ever asked me what it feel like to be me. Once I told the truth about that, I felt free.
This story is an earnest attempt to speak the truth in love that freedom and new life may flourish.
My husband Paul and I started visiting Mars Hill Church back in the summer of 2001. I had recently read and loved J.I. Packer’s classic, Knowing God, and was finding great solace and security in a deeper understanding of God’s sovereignty. In those days, Mars Hill Church was about 400 members. There were not many families with children. And we came with five – our oldest 12 and our baby just turned one. We were very warmly embraced. Our family was rather ooo’ed and ahh’ed over. We seemed to have found a place where we were wanted and where we could lovingly serve (even if the music was completely unfamiliar to our ears.) And, what we didn’t realize, where our pride would be amply fed as well…
So we started attending regularly, heard a number of the pastors preach (because in those days they took turns preaching), listened carefully to what was said and mostly delighted in what we experienced. Mark Driscoll stood out then, as a persuasive speaker with a strong attitude but, we had confidence the leadership team, Mark included, was committed to the distinctive of biblical eldership. Though Mark was young, he was surrounded by a group of godly older men - Bent Meyer being one who also had years of pastoral experience behind him. This was very reassuring to us….
After a year serving as a volunteer pastor, Paul was offered a full-time position as Pastor of Families and Member Care. It would mean walking away from his private law practice and taking a pay cut in his annual income, but after more prayer and consideration, Paul signed an employment contract and gradually shut down his law practice. The church was growing, many newly married and young families were attending and we relished the work of providing encouragement and teaching to strengthen all these dear ones. It felt so fulfilling to be used for the Kingdom of God.
It wasn’t long though, till the bubble started to leak and our eyes began opening a little...
What we had thought and hoped would be an entrance into deeper fellowship with godly leadership and with the Lord turned into a heavy burden of unspoken pressure along with the realization that things were not all they appeared to be.
Shortly before Paul was confirmed as a pastor/elder, I was invited to a dinner to celebrate Grace’s (Mark’s wife and my friend) birthday. There were a dozen or so women in attendance and I ended up sitting next to Karen Schaeffer, who was Mark’s administrative assistant - a lovely, older, godly woman whom I greatly respected. Sitting next to us was an elder’s wife who was close in age and who also had quite a bit of previous ministry experience. The three of us enjoyed great conversation – alive, encouraging, as iron sharpens iron. We ended up being the last three to leave the restaurant and as we walked to the car decided we should pray together for some of the things that had been shared. We got in the car and ended our time together praying for many things, including the elders, our families and the church.
The next morning I heard from the elder’s wife, the one Karen and I had so enjoyed - that she had shared our conversation with her husband and he felt that it showed “disloyalty” on Karen’s part, was gossip, and that it needed to be brought to Mark, which he did. Karen was fired. The gist of what she shared that was branded “disloyal” was a heart of thankfulness that my husband, Paul, was being made an elder because Mark needed strong men around him who could handle and stand up to push-back. When I found out what this elder and his wife had done, I called Mark immediately in tears and asked him to forgive me for my part in that conversation. Looking back, I’m not sure that Karen or I really did anything wrong, but I was sure afraid.
Regretfully, I treated my friend, Karen, horribly. After she was fired I stopped seeing her altogether. I was afraid of what it might mean for me if I continued as her friend. It was never spoken but rather understood that to remain in contact with her would be unwise. So with fear and pride in tow I conformed to the toxic system in order to show respect and loyalty. I chose to believe that God put us there for a reason – thinking now perhaps so we could encourage and strengthen the things that were weak…
We had been there long enough to see how growth, power, and money, were influencing decisions. We were not surprised to see how power tempts and corrupts. We knew that leadership was in the throes of testing. My husband took very seriously his role as an elder knowing his responsibility was first to the Lord and then to the sheep for the health of the church. The proposed new bylaws gave Mark control without any secure mechanism for accountability. Though Mark and Jamie thought otherwise, this wasn’t good for them either. And no doubt, they have both greatly suffered because of it.
The deadline arrived for commenting on the new bylaws. Paul responded as asked, in writing, making suggested changes and politely proposing some edits and wording which would put in place an appeals process for church members who might find themselves under “church discipline.”
Three days later on a Sunday evening at 8:30, after Mark’s last sermon on Nehemiah in which he ranted about men “who don’t follow the chain of command…even in leadership of this church.” Paul and Bent Meyer were angrily threatened by Mark in a small private meeting that if they didn’t resign from staff and as elders immediately would both be fired and put through “very personal and painful” trials to have them removed as elders, that their “files were full and growing.” No other reasons for dismissal were given. Neither of them resigned. The meeting lasted maybe five minutes. And then the hell really began…
Even after a few days I thought to myself, “There is no way the other elders are going to let this stand. They know Mark’s proclivity to anger and impulsiveness and they love us too much to let this continue.” Yes, some of the younger men would be scared to speak up, but we had confidence that if it came to a trial the seasoned older men who loved Christ and who knew Paul and his character and who knew Mark and his character would see what was truly going on: that Paul had done nothing wrong - certainly nothing that would disqualify him as an elder, and that his convictions about the bylaws in no way warranted this kind of treatment.
I remember thinking, “This can’t be happening. God, you won’t let this stand. You know the truth. Lord, set this right. Please, God…”
After two weeks of “investigation” and “fact-finding,” a “trial” was convened. Twenty-two elders and all the elder candidates filled a large room where Paul was permitted to read his prepared statement regarding accusations he wasn’t even sure of and was then called upon to answer any and all elder questions. His accusers presided over the trial. Paul had no advocate, no friend, no witnesses to support him. After the questioning he was asked to leave the room so the elders could “deliberate.” Paul was found guilty at his “trial” of: “lack of trust and respect for spiritual authority and improper use of confidential information” (for discussing the proposed bylaws with a MHC deacon/friend to get input regarding an appeals process for members under church discipline). The elders then voted to remove Paul as an elder. We were stunned.
What was going on? Why had Mark and Jamie so turned against Paul? Why had the rest of the elders gone along with such horrendous behavior? The only thing that now made any sense to us was this: that underneath all the spin and hysteria and Jamie’s blatant denial to the contrary, this was about power and control (authority and submission), this was about getting the proposed bylaws passed, and Mark would have no dissent. Mark was apparently willing to do almost anything to ensure he would get total compliance. And he did.
With this realization came the awareness that the life and health of the church was hanging in the balance. Mark’s behavior was frightening - angry, accusing, “beating and battering” his coshepherds, his closest friend, and any who showed even a slight resistance or question to his desired plans. This didn’t look like Jesus but more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Who was going to protect the sheep and the church? Lief Moi (Mars Hill co-founder and Mark’s so-called best friend – the one who would go toe-to-toe with him) had been demoted, diminished, and basically cast aside. Five elected executive elders had resigned under pressure.
Mark and Jamie fired the men who were willing to disagree with them. Now what men would be willing to stand up or even suggest that at least they take more time to consider this complete change to the leadership structure of the church? If the elders voted for the new proposed bylaws they would be giving up all authority to govern the church forever. In essence they would no longer be elders. Mark with his handpicked one or two would basically be able to do whatever he wanted with millions of dollars at his disposal.
These circumstances called for men of integrity and courage. Those days may well have been my husband’s finest hour. No longer “officially” an elder yet still very much a man with a deep love and concern for the well-being of the church, Paul appealed to every elder in a heart wrenching letter pleading with them to pause, pay attention, and realize the gravity of what voting for the new proposed governing structure would mean and instead find another way. Please read his document entitled: My Confession and Request for a Redress of Grievances.
My husband’s letter did not affect the outcome. The bylaws passed. New “elders” were added to the now impotent group and Mark had unquestioned control. It did not change the outcome, but I cannot imagine it didn’t convict some hearts as my husband attempted to save the church. (My husband doesn’t like that last sentence as he thinks it sounds too dramatic, but that is the way I saw it.) The men who were called to shepherd God’s flock bowed under the pressure of abusive manipulative power and the church has greatly suffered because of it.
After the trial we were “restored as members” and our access to the church’s members-only website was re-activated. We were still attending services, though the family class we were scheduled to teach had been taken over by other elders. But, once the new bylaws passed at the end of October, we knew we could not remain at the church under the top-down leadership authoritarianism. Not a hint of biblical eldership remained even though it was talked about as though it was adhered to.
Completely dismayed and devastated, we withdrew as members. We could not support the church’s new bylaws, which was a requirement for church membership. We resigned our membership, in writing, in an email we sent in early November to both Mark and Jamie. They accepted our resignations responding back by email with empty condolences. We never heard from Mark again…
In shock and heartbroken, Paul and I tried desperately that first half-year to bring about some level of reconciliation. We so longed to be restored to our friends, to have our name and reputation exonerated, and to have peace in our relationships. This had become our family that we loved and served and ministered to as our own dear children and as brothers and sisters. These were our dear friends. How could they do this to us? Words do not adequately describe the shock, horror, betrayal, and rejection we felt. The weight of the loss was excruciating…
In January 2008, we made another strong appeal to Mark and Jamie, demanding this time that they take down the shunning letter (which had remained posted on the members website for almost 2 months), and retract the lies about Paul that had been written and published to members, or face possible legal ramifications. We implored them to face the reality of the cruelty they had unleashed on us, our children, and our family. We pleaded with them to bring in a mediator to help resolve the gross injustice. Jamie’s response in a nutshell was this: “Though we still believe we have done nothing wrong, we are willing to meet with you and anyone you choose.” They did, however, remove the shunning letter from the church’s website.
This offer to meet felt completely disingenuous. Likely they knew they were in a legal bind and were willing to discuss a possible legal/financial settlement hoping we might agree to some sum with a requirement to sign a “gag order” or non-disclosure contract, as has been reported by other Mars Hill pastors and employees who have resigned. (Signing a non-disclosure contract appears to now be a requirement for receiving any severance package.)…
After multiple appeals were continually rejected by Mark and Jamie, we discreetly implored some local and then national leaders, who Mark said he respected, to help us, including John Piper and C.J. Mahaney. No one was willing to get involved. I was shocked and heartbroken again. You’re kidding? The whole Body of Christ and no one is willing to step in, judge the matter, and attempt to make things right? How can Matthew 18 be carried out if not one Christian leader will stand in to bring peace and reconciliation?
Months passed as we exhausted every avenue we could think of to reconcile with leadership. We were still hoping to salvage some of our relationships with people we loved and respected in the church. Now we felt free to pursue some of them (about 30 families we hoped to remain in friendship with) to explain what really happened to us. We wrote a short letter expressing our love and desire for continued friendship and sent copies of the documents that clearly told the story (asking that the documents be kept confidential), trusting they would see the horrible injustice we endured. This was naïve on our part. The assault on our reputation and the spin from the elders had been extremely effective. Only about a third of those we pursued in love were willing to remain in friendship with us – another heart wrenching reality.
During this whole season since the firing and the months that followed, I was emotionally and spiritually devastated. I was often tormented by fear. I had nightmares and imaginations of someone trying to physically harm Paul, me, and the children. If Mark had had ecclesiastical power to burn Paul at the stake I believe he would have. I literally slept in the fetal position for months. I stayed in bed a lot, bringing the children in bed with me to do their schoolwork. I became severely depressed and could hardly bring myself to leave the house except when absolutely necessary. I cried nearly every day for well over a year thinking I must soon cry it out, right? But, the sorrow was bottomless. My faith was gravely shaken. How could a loving God allow this? Later it became clear that I had typical symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression and that these reactions were common in someone who has experienced spiritual abuse…
Our son gave huge amounts of his time, energy, and heart to the church, volunteering for building and painting projects and as a youth sound technician. Our oldest daughter regularly babysat for the Driscolls and for other elders’ families. One day we were in loving safe community (we thought) and the next day completely cut off and scorned. I have never experienced such cruelty or rejection in all my life. Seeing your loved ones abused, their hearts broken, their emotions heavy and dark, and their faith nearly destroyed, is the greatest pain of all…
As a result of my experience, I have come to know and depend on Jesus and his love more deeply. My faith, though crushed initially, has been greatly strengthened. I am grateful to be able to say, “What was intended to harm me, God intended for good...” And, I do pray that even as more painful stories come to light that ultimately, this will turn out for Mark’s good, too. I believe there are many things he is blind to and many things he adamantly resists. I pray God will open his eyes and give him the courage to face them. Whereas, I used to believe the most loving, gracious, faithful thing to do was to keep these matters private. I do not believe that anymore. The spiritual abuse must be exposed and, with God’s help, eradicated, so lives can be healed (victims and perpetrators) and the damage that has been done to the reputation of the Gospel repaired…
On the surface, so many factors look great at Mars Hill Church. Who wants to be a critic when in many ways this ministry appears blessed and is so popular? As the thinking goes, “God must be pleased. Look how the church is growing!” Like a lot of others, we were willing to overlook Mark’s immaturity, his character weakness and wrong-doing for all kinds of reasons: because he was young, because he was talented, because we really didn’t know all the facts, because we trusted, because it wasn’t our place, in order to extend him grace, so as not to offend him or lose his good favor, in order to protect the reputation of the gospel, because we were afraid. Just writing these excuses makes me sick at my stomach.
Not as an excuse, but the fact is, while we were at Mars Hill Church there was a lot we did not see. Many things were kept secret. And we did not have clear vision then. We were in the ether, under a kind of “delusion.” I have come to believe that when idolatry is at play, it often creates and allows for an unreality to take hold of those who participate, as if under a spell, unable to see or hear the truth because it is all filtered through a projected “reality.” But it is a false reality - a delusion. I believe this dynamic is often true in cults where there is one dominant, charismatic, controlling leader.
As I look back, this “delusion” aspect makes sense to me and helps to explain why the abuse is allowed and continues, while so many people are unaware and/or unwilling to confront. At some point though, a circumstance with leadership arises that invariably places you in the fray. You either bow and submit, or resist and face searing retribution…
I have my own sin in all this. I contributed to the dysfunctional system. I acted in pride, idolatry, fear of man, people pleasing, cowardice, and favoritism. I am truly sorry for all the ways I personally hurt people by my words, my actions or inactions, directly or indirectly, during my time at Mars Hill Church from 2001-2007, especially as a part of leadership. And now, I am also very sorry for how my years of silence regarding the spiritual abuse that I suffered have indirectly contributed to the abuse of other precious people. Though truthfully, I don’t think I could have written about it any sooner…
We remained quiet for over four years hoping there would be evidence of self-correction and maturity and that we might be able to cover over the gross injustice we experienced with love. But it appears things have only grown worse.
In Acts, Chapter 20, the Apostle Paul pleaded with the Ephesian elders to pay attention and guard the flock. This admonition, along with the mounting stories of abuse and misconduct coming out of Mars Hill Church, has added to our conviction. We believe that to remain quiet now would be unloving and disobedient to God…
What happened to us was very wrong. The way it was publicly described by Mark and the elders at the time was completely exaggerated and deceptive. The way the media and blogs have since reported on it has many holes and errors. Now it is open and plain to everyone.
If Mark and the organizations he leads do not change, I fear many more will be hurt, Mark and his family included. To not speak is to not love or care and shows no thought or consideration for those who have been wounded and those who will be in the future. We are witnesses. There is a pattern. There is a history. There is an ethos of authoritarianism and abuse. Mark is the unquestioned head of Mars Hill Church and the Acts 29 Network. His elders have no way to hold him accountable. Those under him likely fear him and want to garner his favor so they don’t dare say nor do anything that might anger him. This is tragic.
Perhaps at some point, with enough outcry and exposure, Mark will come to his senses, own his harmful behavior, and get the help he needs to change. I hope so. Our common Enemy can make terrible use of our weaknesses and blind spots. Our Lord’s harshest words were for leaders who used their status, power, the Scriptures, and God’s people for their own self-aggrandizement. Surely this is not what Mark meant to do.
My Confession and Request for Redress of Grievances
October 25, 2007
October 25, 2007
To the Elders of Mars Hill Church:
…I love this church. I love Pastor Mark. But if you men don’t see the glaring shift of authority and accountability that is represented by the proposed new bylaws and you choose to pass them, you are giving Pastor Mark the power to do basically anything, including the power to destroy himself and this church with no checks, no brakes, nothing to stop him from making gross mistakes. Is not the way Pastor Bent and I have been treated, the church harmed, all this turmoil, a confirmation of what will continue with this kind of destructive abusive authority?
I am guilty of distrusting the leadership model that was thrust upon us as if the proposed new by-laws had already passed. I have been operating under the current by-laws that provide for limited but shared leadership and accountability. I wouldn’t trust myself or any man with the proposed new by-laws because so much power over wealth and property without an adequate checks and balances system in place is dangerous to any man or organization. We are all sinful men. We all have blindspots. That is why the church is to have shared leadership and a solid mechanism for accountability. Things should not just be left open to someone’s “discretion” in the future. There should be openness about these issues with the elders and the congregation so trust is built - not demanded. The new by-laws have no such solid mechanism. The board that is being proposed appears as nothing more than a puppet board that will still be controlled by the EE [Executive Elder] team. Is it not a classic case of “smoke and mirrors” to give the illusion there is accountability when in actuality there is not? Any attorney worth his salt will tell you these new by-laws do not contain a valid mechanism to hold the EE team accountable. Period…
These are my great sins before God and His church. I failed in my duties because I was afraid of men rather than God (John 12:42 & 43 ), because I cared more about men’s approval rather than God’s, because I craved the glory men can bestow, rather than loving His glory. I have been a fearful cowardly man. I should have spoken up sooner. So God, in His mercy, has seen fit to have me stripped, fired, deeldered and my reputation trashed so now I have nothing more to lose from men who I wrongly elevated to an exalted place. Now, I am speaking the truth for His approval alone. May God forgive me. May this church forgive me. May you men forgive me for my dereliction in my sacred duty to the Lord and to you by not resisting the spiritually abusive power that has taken hold of this leadership. And, now, unless you men rise up with courage in this last hour and defend Christ’s church, resist the power that is out of control and deny passage of the proposed new by-laws, and straighten out the sickness of this authoritarian power structure, it will be too late. When the members discover we no longer adhere to a biblical eldership model that provides strong accountability, will they trust this leadership? I would not. If you do nothing, the church will likely limp along in this sick dysfunctional manner for sometime - not unlike Saul, who remained king for years even though God’s anointing had left him.
You have grievously sinned against us by:
The un-godly manner in which I was terminated, threatened, my name and character maligned and the malice that has been carried out against me and my family in the way my unjust trial was handled…
Passive submission of the other elders in the face of great abuse of authority. I am also guilty of this. No checks on Pastor Mark’s emotions or decisions. Being easily persuaded to go-along. I understand how this is possible. We love Pastor Mark and I understand the deep desire we all have to receive his approval and be taken into his confidence – and the fear of his rejection…
Injustice – My trial was a “witch- hunt” conducted in malice because I refused to resign and Pastor Mark was determined to have me off the eldership. The Investigative task force was led by Pastor Scott who was one of the executive elders who consented to my mistreatment, firing and threatening. There is much more that could be said about this…
Gross hypocrisy and Pharisee-ism..
Biblical procedures of church discipline certainly include fairness, justice, graciousness, humility and love. Jesus scolded the Pharisees: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-25)…
Scripture has not been followed in how my family and I have been treated. The elders did not submit to Scripture in the way this whole process was conducted, although they may consider it all very “legal.”
This oberservation was just sent to me from a friend. It is a good one.
Sent: Wednesday, April 04, 2012 1:14 PM
To: Brent Detwiler
Subject: Re: The Twin Brothers Driscoll and Mahaney
I actually think Mark is a better man, as he was more honest during his power grab. In regards to opposition by elders during the change, Mark publicly stated, “In the Greek, that means ‘shut up and do what you’re told.’” He also said that if he wouldn't end up on CNN, he would go “Old Testament” on a couple of elders.
He’s obviously wrong, but at least he doesn’t hide behind a nauseating CJ-like false humility.