Andrew left his independent fundamentalist church and headed out on his own to grow up and figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He was 20 years old. Andrew landed in Seattle, and on the recommendation of his brother, began attending Mark Driscolls church.
According to Andrew, joining Mars Hill was a good move for him. While he didn’t agree with every theological declaration that came out Mark Driscoll’s mouth, he loved his community, a devoted group of believers who seemed to love, support, and value him the way Jesus commanded. Over the next couple of years, Andrew became well connected. He volunteered. He became active in a community group. He even volunteered on Sundays as church security.
Toward the beginning of 2011, Andrew met and eventually began dating the daughter of a church elder at Mars Hill. The two fell in love quickly. Last fall, they were engaged to be married.
Andrew fooled around one night with a female friend from college. He and his friend did not have sex, but they came close. Andrews conscience took over, he apologized to his fellow student and went to tell his fiancee, who is the daughter of a church elder. She was devastated, and Andrew went to a Mars Hill small group friend and confessed. He was heartbroken and repentant.
What happened next was this churches concept of discipline run amok, legalism, control and authoritarian leadership crushing the work of the Holy Spirit in this young man’s life. The comments under Andrews story are piling up, as would be expected in any discussion of the neo-Calvinist and bombastic world of Mars Hill. His experience is not surprising to many familiar with this sub-culture.
There isn’t much talk about Andrew’s former fiancee.
As so often is the case with church drama like this, the following month was, for Andrew, filled up with meetings. A meeting with his old community group leader (he was forced to join a new community group). A meeting with his new community group leader. A meeting with his fiancée’s step-father. A meeting with his trusted friend who also happened to be the leader of his mens small group. So many meetings. And some of those meetings required second meetings.
Over the course of that month, Andrew also confessed more of his sexual baggage/history.
“I confessed to my mens small group leader–a close friend of mine–that my relationship with my fiancée was physical, too.”
That confession led to more meetings and more than enough long (and sometimes ridiculous) text message conversations with church leadership at Mars Hill.
“On several occasions, I was called a Wolf,” says Andrew, “which at Mars Hill, is like the worst thing you can be called.”
I ask him why.
“Because it means you’re a man who preys on innocent people–nothing more than a predator.”
According to Andrew, at Mars Hill, the cliche “it takes two to tango” isn’t true. Why? Because Pastor Mark teaches that women are “weaker vessels,” and therefore, when a girl and boy engage in consensual sexual activity, it is always assumed that it’s the man’s fault because he failed to lead the woman (or “weaker vessel”) toward righteousness. (And everybody knows that women can’t find righteousness unless a man leads her there. Ugh.)
As group leaders and a pastor made this story public to church members she is publicly named and shamed in the next discipline letter. No word on a disciple contract for her. She has chosen to stay at Mars Hill, she has dutifully chosen her default role as victim. Andrew is given ultimatums from those he turned to for help.
Plan of Discipline
- Andrew will attend XXX’s CG and meet with XXX on a regular basis (define)
- Andrew will not be involved in serving at MH
- Andrew will not pursue or date any woman inside or outside of MH
- Andrew will write out in detail his sexual and emotional attachment history with women and share it with XXX.
- Andrew will write out in detail the chronology of events and sexual/emotional sin with K and share it with XXX and Pastor X.
- Andrew will write out a list of all people he has sinned against during this time frame, either by sexual/emotional sin, lying or deceiving, share it with XXX and develop a plan to confess sin and ask for forgiveness
What happens next is an eye opener, as church members are told exactly how to ‘restore Andrew with Mars Hill ‘love’ toward a remorseful, repentant young man trying to find his way.
There is a post-script, from the brother who introduced Andrew to Mars Hill.
Over the last couple of days, I have followed – with something more than dispassionate interest – the conversations happening on this blog and around the blogosphere about the way Mars Hill handles church discipline and the ways that people find many of their actions indistinguishable from a cult. I’ve read story after story after story, in blog comments, on other blogs, and in e-mails, that all share a common refrain: this is my story, too. Every one of them breaks my heart. But the story Matthew recounted here means more to me than all the rest. Andrew is my brother. He first started going to Mark Driscoll’s church on my recommendation, years ago when I was first stepping outside of the fundamentalism we had grown up in and trying to find out what my faith would look like. I was attracted to Driscoll’s style that so closely resembled the preachers I heard growing up, only with more of an edge and more cussing, and it took several years for me to realize how small of a step I had taken outside of the fundamentalism of my childhood. Walking with Andrew through this now, I am haunted by the fact that, less than ten years ago, I almost certainly would have followed the pastors demands and broken off all contact with anyone they deemed unrepentant or unworthy of grace and love, with no questions asked.
That is why I decided to write this. – Stephen
Update: Mars Hill responds with a brief statement and a chapter from one a Mark Driscoll book.