Capstone Article 2 – Some Words for Discernment by Those from Mars Hill

Introduction to Capstone 2

The purposes of my “Capstone” series of articles on Mars Hill Church are to synthesize what I have learned in the last 4+ months of research on relevant subjects, and, as best I can, summarize my findings without re-documenting all the resources I used to reach those conclusions. (For my assumptions and theories about toxic systems, see the Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse series, and if you want details on Mars Hill, see my Research Guide on Mars Hill series.)

I posted Capstone Article 1 on November 2nd. I wrote most of Capstone 2 by 10 days later, but decided not to post it then. Now, another 10 days on since starting this series, it seems the right time to complete some of these and start posting them. Unfortunately, not much has changed in 10 days. It’s all been about Mars Hill splitting into independent entities, and nothing about resolving the same remaining questions about potentially unethical and/or illegal actions. So, I expect challenges to and/or consequences for Mars Hill leaders to become amplified in days to come. I doubt the dissolution of this $20 million plus enterprise to go unchallenged.

Here, then, is the first segment of Capstone 2, which I completed on November 13. I have two other segments to post shortly that were substantially done around the same time. And then I will plan to add other segments for various target audiences in days to come.

Will Mars Hill Spin-Offs Be any More “Safe” than the Mother Ship?

As I was finishing this Capstone 2 article this morning [i.e., November 13th], a friend sent a link to a summary bit of news posted on Mars Hill’s website yesterday: Local Churches Update. I find their update quite sad and discouraging, actually. Much of the past two weeks seems to have been spent in a furious twister of activity on figuring out what to do with the multiple Mars Hill campuses. But, meanwhile, nothing came forth or even appears forthcoming about the many remaining questions and issues.

  • No publication of the promised report or findings about Mark Driscoll’s disqualification from ministry by reason of character issues and behaviors.
  • No word on exonerating Paul Petry and Bent Meyer for being disciplined and expelled for supposed “insubordination” in 2007 over the issue of changing the corporate by-laws.
  • No substantive clearing up of reputations of any individuals still in roles as leaders, by them taking responsibility for directly and indirectly supporting a toxic system rife with abuses of spiritual authority.

Instead, it just seems to be an explosion of transplanting toxicity to these newly independent and/or merged entities from the implosion of Mars Hill and some of its campuses. In other words, the public has been given no reasons to believe that the new and renamed not-Mars-Hill spin-offs will be any more “safe” than was the old. (For what I mean by “safe” and “healthy” ministries, see my post on What do “safe” versus “abusive” environments for personal and social transformation include?)

The executive and rank-and-file leaders still seem to be in a rush to get to the future without first resolving their past. So, sadly, I no longer hold out much hope for most of these leaders to learn the lessons I’ve been suggesting in the entire Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse and Research Guide on Mars Hill. At least, not learning them without probable increases in pressure on their consciences and their consequences. On that score, time will tell.

Meanwhile, I have a series of challenging thoughts to suggest that various groups from Mars Hill consider, whether they have been leaders, members, attenders, or concerned outsiders.

Introducing This Series of Thoughts for Discipleship and Discernment

I’ve been journeying with Jesus, basically for all of my life – nearly 60 years. (In fact, I find it providential that my very earliest memory is as a toddler in the church nursery room, with light streaming in through the windows and my peeking through the grids of bars at babies in their cribs.) The first 20 years were within the framework of moderate to liberal mainline denominations, the last 40 in theologically conservative, emerging, and missional settings. I’ve learned important lessons from both realms – some positive from what each did well, and some negative from what each did poorly. One thing I’ve found is this:

There are times as disciples when we’re led by the Holy Spirit to do some surprising things that turn out to be hard to carry out. These situations may or may not end up with the results we initially sense the Lord wanted, and there often are unexpected consequences for us to deal with afterwards. But we obey and follow through faithfully anyway. Hopefully we do this in response to the Father’s love for us and others, with compassion and a deep drive to make a positive difference, and despite any fears we may harbor about what might happen to us.

We recently went through three significant celebration days in a row: Reformation Day, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day (October 31 through November 2). Over those days, I was drawn to get to the essence of implications from all the research I’ve done on the situation at Mars Hill Church, and start sharing thoughts and suggestions for various groups related to Mars Hill. These include: Mars Hill Leaders (current and recent); Mars Hill members and attenders; ex-Hillites; those outside individuals and entities who’ve propped up the Mars Hill system; and concerned outside Mars Hill podcast listeners, book and blog readers, and researchers/observers. I won’t address all of these in each post, but will have something to say to each group at some point in my remaining Capstone 2 segments.

Meanwhile, as anticipated, I felt that there would be a lot of helpful questions and points brought up in the comments section of the Capstone 1 article, which I won’t repeat here but I believe they’re worth reading and reflecting on. (That article critiques the three official options put forth for Mars Hill campuses.) Also, from feedback I got through other social media, that article seemed to be hitting a nerve – mostly in a good way. But I was somewhat surprised that the comments and questions in all those sources drew out more details from me about my own personal experiences. I didn’t share them all in the comment thread, but wanted to do some of that now. I’m including a lot of personal illustrations in Capstone 2, since I sensed you need to know my heart for truth, justice, and compassion as the context for the messages I’m feeling under compulsion to share in the rest of this series.

Boil it all down and, really, much of what I write about – especially about surviving spiritual abuse – is based primarily on processing my own experiences. I’ve sought to understand what happened in them, learn from them, do what I needed to do to make things right from what happened in the past, and do things better as I go forward. Put another way, I’ve tried to preach what I’ve practiced … (and yes, that was intentional switch-up, not wordlexia) … and hopefully that will be of some practical help to people on various sides of the Mars Hill situation.

Next segment: Thought #1, for current and recent Mars Hill leaders – Consequences: You may only think a new race is beginning. Finish the old one well, or its consequences will continue to follow you.