Features Jul 30, 2014 at 4:00 am

What Happened Over the Last Decade with Seattle’s Most Popular Church and Its Firebrand Pastor Mark Driscoll?

Robert Ullman


Copy edit: Should be 1 Timothy 3:7.
You are correct! Thanks for catching that.
Question mark. I see what you did there
Mars Hill is not, and never was, "Seattle's most popular church". They have a handful of congregations (I refuse to call them campuses) that are splashy and trashy. On the other hand, there are dozens of Catholic parishes, Jewish temples, mainstream Protestant churches, etc. Just because a church has an internet feed, that doesn't make it popular.

As far as "shunning" goes, that's a Baptist thing. Both my cousin and sister-in-law are in Baptist mega-churches like Mars Hill, and they shun ex-members.

Excellent article Brendan, thank you.
This is a work of art, Seattle's own reporting Going Clear. A warning to us all not to trust any authority that gives off such obviously creepy vibes. And nice to see it when snickering, swaggering nags and finks finally fail.
A gofundme page has been set up for Eleanor. Please consider
It's great to finally see some neofascist idiot-ologist pigs get dethroned.
My wife and I attended MHC from 2009-2011 and this article is absolutely spot on. After leaving, we felt the coldness of being shunned.

Shunning a believer simply for leaving a church is beyond hypocritical - it's blasphemy to me. It is like saying that a different part of Christ's body is lesser than another.
Yes, yes, yes... Mars Hill is a cult run by an obnoxious hypocritical misogynist.

But guess what?

His core followers will never "see the light" and disavow him. Over time, these ex-followers will go back to their real life, and Dricoll will keep on doing what he's doing until the IRS comes to him for financial malfeasance, or the cops pick him up for diddling under-age young parishioners.
EXODUS 5:1 - Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh...."Let my people go..."
I am a Baptist Minister and don't know about this shunning thing. Never really been a part of this. I do know that Matthew 18:15-20 shows how to deal with sin in a Biblical manner. Many people need to read this. Is this shunning? I don't think so. I do think that a point that was touched upon in this article is regarding the qualifications of an elder. Does Mark Driscoll meet these qualifications? As the pastor I am not in charge of the church - Jesus Christ is. He is the head of the church and I submit to His leadership as well as the team of elders that God has placed to be around me. So much more to say but this situation is truly sad. Power Corrupts!
A secretive, authoritarian church is right in line with Seattle's secret, authoritarian municipality Sound Transit. Ask about the financing plan, you will be shunned and punished. Challenge the appointive board of that oligarchy and you will be shamed and punished. It's what we do here.
@20, are you suggesting that Mark Driscoll runs Seattle Transit as well as Storybook Coffee?
Reverend NCPastor, I shouldn't have painted all Baptists in that light. I know there are many different varieties. Interstingly enough, these mega-churches that I am familar with from my relatives don't refer to themselves as Baptists, and list no affiliation, but when you dig into their theological foundations they both cite Southern Baptist as their belief system. In both cases the churches are run by truly terrible people. There's a kind of toxic mix of gun and property rights, and a lot of anti-governement rhetoric mixed in with the usual literal biblical stuff.
Arthur: Heh! It's run by others, with an eye to the same megalomaniacal ends: vast, unaccountable wealth accumulated from low-information believers. The big difference? The government heads here spread the gospel.
Ever notice how MH sets up so many of its churches in affluent and/or trendy areas bellevue, sammamish, belltown , ballard etc? You think that might be because driscoll cares most about image and money? How is that consistent with what Jesus said? On another matter I have often wondered whether driscolls macho man attention seeking front is a cover for insecurity or some experience with abuse or childhood trauma. Don't know of any specific supporting facts and this is a personal opinion only, but the conduct you read about in the press seems so extreme that it makes me wonder whether there are some serious psychological issues going on with him. On the other hand he might just be a pompous gasbag bully and it doesn't go any deeper than that. To be fair to the guy there may be a lot of positive things he has done that you just don't see in the press. Nonetheless the negative stuff is there and as ye sow so ye shall reap.
I am a Baptist, have worked in Baptist churches since the 70's and have NEVER heard of shunning in ANY of the churches I have been associated with. They may be "Baptist" in their name, but most of these are INDEPENDENT churches who do what they want even though there is not a scriptural background for such abhorrent practices.
This sex-on-my-mind-24/7 Driscoll character should not be allowed NEAR a church, any church; he's not fit to teach or preach.
Uh-huh, Jim Jones II. Praise the Lord and pass the Koolaide.
Hey Mark Driscoll, consider yourself shunned! And don't ever come to me for a reference.
One thing that many of Mar's Hill Church former employees may have just learned is that they are not eligible to collect unemployment, no matter how unwarranted and unjust their firing. You see, as religious institutions, churches are exempt from contributing to unemployment insurance and therefore their employees are unable to collect. Something to think considerif you work for a church, church-run child care, or any of the multitude of sidelines that churches engage in.
Does sound like Jim Jones, doesn't it?
Thank you, THANK you, Brendan, for a truly thoughtful article. You addressed the facts, yet didn't stoop to the level of ridiculing individuals who choose to be part of a community of religious faith. I get the feeling you actually like and respect the people you interviewed. A mature approach like this will have much more positive consequences and be taken much more seriously by the thousands of good, however duped, folks who are members of that institution. Driscoll will do whatever it takes to keep his stranglehold on power, I presume, but I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up getting dethroned sooner than later, thanks to this excellent reporting. Bravo.
Narcissists hold unreasonable expectations of particularly favorable treatment and automatic compliance because they consider themselves special. Failure to comply is considered an attack on their superiority, and the perpetrator is considered an "awkward" or "difficult" person. Defiance of their will is a narcissistic injury that can trigger narcissistic rage.
This is so useful. Thank you for the hard work and thorough approach. I sat on a panel with Mark back around 2000. When we got onto the topic of women in leadership, he became so angry he nearly exploded. They guy's a bully, not a godly leader. He misunderstands the scripture and the meaning of Jesus. And honestly, he was disgusting. His behaviour during the panel discussion was a tantrum, not a rational engagement -- just nasty, hopeless, and utterly self-centred. He presents as though he has a significant personality disorder -- he needs help, not latitude, and accountability, not fame. I'll be praying for his repentance and healing, both of which are necessary. I hope the Mars Hill community can find a fresh path and a healthier leader.
As always, Sinclair Lewis nailed it first and best. Driscoll is Elmer Gantry, through and through. (All these fuckwits are, really. It's a type.)
Sounds cultish to me. I'm surprised the smart people of Seattle fell for his BS. The guy should join the Mormon church - they like to run things this way.
Great article. Groups such as Mars Hill can be quite dangerous. My two daughters (ages 10 and 12) were victims of a religious hijacking by a fundamentalist Christianity gone awry. They were completely alienated from me for six and ten years, respectively. Fortunately, against all odds, and everything the experts said about such severe alienation, we are now reunited and very close. I've written a novel about my experience with references in the back for people struggling with toxic faith. My heart goes out to anyone who is dealing with excommunication and the kind of corruption and abuse of power described in the article. It can be devastating to lose every friend and relative you've ever known when they feel there is no choice but to turn their backs on you and stick with the church.
It's so easy to believe whatever you read isn't it! This has never been our experience, with all the attacks on Christianity and the bible all these lies don't surprise me!
Machiavelli's definition of a narcissist defines my ex husband not my pastor.
What a great article. Thank you for all of this wonderful research, I Love The Stranger!!

My thoughts go out to Paul's daughter as well.
It does no good to whine, snivel and complain-I know, I used to be a master sniveler-that Driscoll or who ever isn't behaving like you think they should. You can't change people. If a person isn't good for you to be around leave. In this case find another church. The UW Daily did an article on churches a few years back and said there are 935 churches with in a 10 mile radius of the UW. I suppose if you are member you could sue for theft of church funds. But I talked to attorney once about this and was told the Pastors and Board legally can do whatever they want with the funds. Giving to a church is like giving a gift to the pastor. he could legally go buy crack with if he wants.
Lived through similar politically charged power-control from church deacons / pastor myself ... Thought our church was the only one like this ... Smith's last comment in this article -- agree 100% ... We came to realize that we were not "hurting the cause of Christ" and "causing division amongst the brethren" by speaking out against blind obedience to tyranny. No wonder our churches are labeled a cult by those outside of her walls.
I'm just amazed that all this means so much to people. He's just a jerk who wanted money and power and chose the religion business model to get those goodies.
Anybody else want to start a pool on how long until the rentboys start coming out of the woodwork (see: George Reckers, Ted Haggard, Bob Moorehead...)?
Nobody's perfect. Let's start there. Though your article was well-written, there are a few things that stand out to me. First of all, the love of The Saints who offered refreshments to the protesters. Isn't that the heart of the church. I don't mean the individual congregations. Isn't it what eminates from one who has come to the knowledge of the saving grace of a loving God? I see grace in your aritcl too. Maybe there was a temptation to help turn things upside down with a slided reporting. But, you didn't do that. You did a great job stating just how Mark's persecutors brought in unbelieves for the asault (paraphrasing here), you showed the response too, of the chuch to its members, great. What I see is pretty darn good journalism that allows the reader, quite frankly, to arrive at their own conclusions, based on their personal conviction and "walk with Jesus", if you will. What I can't help but ask myself is: Could any of us have done any better than Mr. Driscoll? Of course he is not God Himself, so what I like about the man is he does let loose and share an opionion. What's better is he does confess to such and what the church, not The Church, but some of his own, have failed to announce forgiveness, or maybe they have and I missed it. It might go something like this: Dear Jesus, thanks for sending us Mark, though imperfect as all humans are, we know persuasive characters/personalities don't always come from you know, loving- backgrounds.. like Saul who by your hand and grace brought him into a purpose of who we know best from the scriptures- the one called Paul. No doubt, Paul's character grew with the chuch and that fellas history included off-ing some believes. Anyway LORD, thanks that we get The Good News from all kinds and I kind of appreciate Mark's wit and humor to bring home a message that's from God, even if Mars Hill, or it's pastor isn't perfect. They certainly have the heart of God in their midst and mean well and hope well like all the rest of us and may THE LORD stengthen them in this time of tribulation and give them peace. Thanks Jesus for friends like those I find at Mars Hill, because they're a pretty kool bunch to hang out with and get to know The LORD better with, so thanks for all those folk and BLESS THEM Big Time :) .. and oh yeah, AMEN
Mark Driscoll, if left to his own directions will lead Mars Hill in the same direction as that organization in Burien twenty some years ago - supposedly a church, bible school, etc - that started out much as Mars Hill did - this man is dangerous, some of these 'pastors' turn into little 'Hitlers' and become gods unto themselves - which is happening in this case - Seattle and the people who want to serve Christ are much better off without him !!
It's always the same story.. People are quick to forget the good you have done and they will amplify your mistakes as a big crime.. I salute Mark for his great achievements.. Congrats Mark. For building such a wonderful church.. We are praying for Mark and his church. God will bring justice. These guys who are opposing Mark are demonized, they are not Christians , so they will never understand the Spirit of Christianity. God is with you Mark. He will restore everything back to you and you will rise up with double strength, stay focused on jesus not on these jokers..
The Mark Driscoll issue is really quite simple. There is no reason on earth, or in heaven for that matter, to go back and forth in discussion. Like so many men who have risen to a position of control through psychological abuse over time, he is immature, even as he flails to somehow come to terms with what he himself has created. Mr. Driscoll has not ‘grown up’ over a number of trying months of forced self-reflection. He has merely shut up. He remains as narcissistic as always. His claim to fame is really nothing more than having the talent to hide behind a theology. In this case the bible; to strengthen a sociopathic mindset, clearly out of control. Under the umbrella of a church he has stolen, he has lied, he has emotionally beaten people close to him, he has belittled women. He has disparaged those who are disenfranchised. It is important to note that he is not going through a SEASON. He is not being challenged by Jesus. The Mark Driscolls of the world have been here before. They pop up about once every decade. Most likely, Mark Driscoll will go about his life and never deeply be able to come to terms with change. His best-case scenario will be that of quiet manipulation. His manner is generally pathological, ask any renowned psychotherapist. Yes, he should be forgiven. But to be in the position of ‘teaching’ should not be in the cards. For anyone to put their trust in him over the long term can only lead to confusion and pain. Mr. Driscoll is not, and never has been, a man of Jesus. He is a man who has used Jesus. If you are a member of Mars Hill be thankful you didn’t get closer to your pastor, as his need for control, even as he repents and apologizes, would eventually caused you anguish. Let’s hope that any of you who still find yourselves searching for peace after all of this… find your way. Your love for Mark is just the simple fact that you are able to love. That you have that love inside of you. And you don’t need Mark Driscoll to feel it.
Many thanks, Brendan Kiley, for an excellent overview of this messy controversy. It's perhaps the best summary of events I've read.

I was a Mars Hill member from about 2006 until May/June 2012, mostly working with small children. I left under conditions similar to but much milder than those experienced by many of the church's elders and pastors. I believe what they say happened because it happened to me.

I would ask that all those involved not focus exclusively on Mark Driscoll

1. My clash wasn't with Mark Driscoll or the church's senior leaders. It was with an intern running the children's program at the Ballard branch. He's a good, decent guy, but unfortunately he was doing as he'd be taught. That matters because, while some elders and pastors have rejected Driscoll's ways, there are many interns who passed through Mars Hill and swallowed those ideas whole. Sidelining Driscoll won't keep them from doing similar harm in the years ahead.

2. Keep in mind that Driscoll has a family, including a smart teen-age daughter. They're caught up in a controversy that they did not create and are not responsible for. This was not their doing. Pray for them.

--Michael W. Perry

While reading these things, I can never decide whether Mark Driscoll is evil or just delusional. Either way, it seems obvious that he fits the definition of "false prophet" perfectly. Here's a guy allegedly teaching the bible, and the bible in his hand explicitly warns you to watch out for people like him. The end had to come eventually.
'I might shun a man if he were sleeping with goats or something, but not because he’s doing due diligence.”Rob Smith. I like that.
'I might shun a man if he were sleeping with goats or something, but not because he’s doing due diligence.”Rob Smith. I like that attitude!
we are on track to calm the view has not improved then,




Has anyone thought to question the people that had created much of this fuss? I just did a little research out of curiosity, and the ring leader Rob Smith is a bad dude. He just had another tax lien filed against him for stealing his employees FICA. Now he is trying to settle with various lawsuits to help payoff his IRS bill. This is just beyond strange that frauds like this have a voice and that anyone would listen to them about anything. You don't have to like mars hill (or what it was) or like Mark Driscoll, but taking statements from a fraud as facts, is intellectually dishonest. Maybe there is more to the story with the "afflicted" at Mars Hill? Maybe Rob and others have a history of long standing unrepentant sin? Maybe Mars Hill didn't choose to air Rob's grievances, even if there are many. I did a little research on Rob Smith and there is no question in my mind that he is a fraud. Without a ton f narration, just consider some of the simple black and white facts outlined in this blog. www.robsmithohmy.wordpress.com/

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