There isn’t much left to say that hasn’t been said about the recent Mars Hill church discipline story that surfaced this last week. I do feel the need to address it for a couple of reasons; 1) I know that some of my readers are not blog readers and so this could be the only place they hear of the story – and the story must be heard, 2) I feel for Andrew. I want him to know that he is loved not only by Christ, but by the church. I want him to know he is surrounded in grace and peace, and is being prayed for daily.
If you are unaware of the story please take time to read it, it is worth it to know the happenings at one of the largest churches in the country. Matthew Paul Turner wrote about the story in two parts on his blog; you can read those here – Part One and Part Two.
I was grateful for the blog posts that followed in regards to Turner’s posts. The two that I thought were the most thoughtful were Kurt Willems post from The Pangea Blog entitled Treat Them Like a Tax Collector; Reflections on Matthew 18, Church Discipline, and Andrew and Roger Wolsey’s post from Sojourners Why Mark Driscoll Needs An Elephant.
I can only imagine the internal struggle Andrew must have went through in order to decide to speak out. I commend him for his courage. As Christ’s church, we have chosen to divide among ourselves for menial doctrinal issues, and this divide has broken the body of Christ into a scattered people in small groups among the world. We define ourselves not as Christians, but as Evangelicals, Baptist, Lutherans, or Catholics. Although I believe these divisions do more harm then good – I can understand them, I can respect them. However, a time must come where we recognize that the only label we are under is ‘Christ follower’. I believe this is one of those times.
Spiritual abuse is unacceptable. This ‘church discipline’ reeks of control, shame, and misuse of power. More stories are coming out about this same type of abuse from Mars Hill Seattle, and I imagine there is still more to come. I must admit my view of Mars Hill Seattle has changed tremendously over the last three years. I paid good money to see Mark’s conference on Song of Solomon. I have listened to the majority of his podcasts, read his books, and recommended his teachings to others. I can observe two things about Mark since following his teaching over the last few years … 1) He knows the Spirit of God, and 2) He has lost touch with that Spirit.
We must pray. We must pray for the elders and leaders of this church to repent (and when they do – as difficult as it might be – we won’t ask that they succumb to our demands until we decide enough is enough, and repentance has been achieved.) We must pray for others in this church, and churches like it, who are experiencing spiritual abuse of this nature or another. We have far too much evil in this world to worry about those who claim to know Christ as followers. We must pray for Andrew, as he has been removed from his community, and suffering for speaking out against what he knows is wrong.
If you are suffering spiritual abuse please know that you have been given the gift of the Spirit by Christ himself, and you do have the ability to discern right from wrong (1 John 2:20). The overwhelming desires to please the leaders of church, or to assume that what they say/demand is right is understandable – but you have Christ, and He should ultimately be the person leading you. Stand up and speak out if you are enduring this.
Living in a community of Christ should not bring you shame, but freedom. Being part of a church body should not hold you back from repentance, but instead gently guide you to where it is needed. Elders are to be respected; if their hearts are pure, your soul is their main concern (Hebrews 13:17). But do not be subjected to a life that is unworthy of Christ’s teachings.
As I said when I started, I am praying for Andrew. I am praying for the members of Mars Hill. I am praying for their leaders; including Mark. This is such a sad story. This church has the size, numbers, and resources to make a huge difference for Christ; they have the ability to bring peace and teach grace. Instead they are being blinded of their true calling by the need to control and desire to be in power … not to mention their inaccuracy of woman’s roles in the church, male aggression, and sexual obsession … but those are for another time.
Grace and Peace to Andrew – I believe God has wonderful things planned in your journey apart from Mars Hill.
I found this article to be one sided. It is clear to me that MH did write a letter to the congregation. I am sure based on this fact, with a copy in hand, that the church elder or pastor would have spoken to the blogger. Their is no attempt to interview or represent the other side. All we have is Andrew’s assertion of the facts as written by a third party blogger. We have to be very careful in this matter. If Andrew had truly confessed and was repentant, his heart would not have been in rebellion towards his pastor and home group leaders. Even in the interview with Andrew I hear a hint of that rebellious nature.
The bent of the blogger was apparent and against Mars Hill. He has written other things against Mars Hill. He also writes:
“But what is church discipline in 2012 really about? Seriously. Why would anybody subject themselves to the antics of somebody like Mark or somebody working under somebody like Mark?”
It is clear that the blogger is coming from a standpoint of being against church discipline and against someone like Mark. He comes from a place of hatred towards this person and this church. The year and culture has no bearing on the validity of the scriptures and so this really shows an immaturity from the blogger and a failure to even recognize church discipline in 2012. After all, in 2012 certainly we should be able to decide for ourselves what parts of the bible we will adhere to, not some pastor! This is also written in a very narrative fashion. He is not actually quoting Andrew here, but rather paraphrasing what happened to him.
I am not sure that we are hearing the whole story in this blog and would not be quick to judge the situation without actually knowing the facts. I have heard other people talk about getting kicked out of their churches for nothing, only to find that their actually was something, but the person telling the story just doesn’t want you to know about that little detail.
It is very possible, in fact likely, that Andrew simply was rebellious every time someone suggested some accountability for Andrew. As a pastor, I would want Andrew meeting with a regular accountability partner. We should all do this regularly so I would not have a time limit where this accountability is over. That being said, when the accountability partner and Andrew both felt like he was in a place to be back in leadership, then I would accept that.
Mars Hill has a policy of that to be done in writing when there is a church discipline matter. He should know that as he is a MEMBER, or was at the time. He also agreed to a higher level of accountability when he became a MEMBER and for sure when he started SERVING IN LEADERSHIP.
I think there is a backlash against pastors that has occurred in our culture. People are so quick to throw them under the bus without really knowing the truth about them or the calling that they are trying to walk out themselves. I am not saying that this did not happen, I am just suggesting that there is possibly more going on here then what the blogger is saying. He clearly comes from the “anti-mars hill” group. How about we focus our energy on the real enemy of Jesus and stop attacking his servants?
Hey Jeremy, Thank you for taking the time to read and respond. The blogger, Matthew Paul Turner, is a writer who mainly aims his posts around the humorous – they center around how we often miss the mark as the body of Christ; there is no doubt he doesn’t think highly of the state of the church in America today. Although, I have the utmost reverence for the church, I also highly respect Turner and think he brings to light many shortcomings of the church that we need to open our eyes to. But I digress … You are correct, Turner, along with many many others in the larger Christian community, have come to have a bad taste for Driscoll’s ongoing behaviors and teachings which appear to be getting worse and less biblical. Turner did request a response from Mars Hill, and this was what was given:
“In recent days, there has been some discussion surrounding Mars Hill Church and our process of church discipline. We do not wish to comment on the specific scenario in question, as this is a private matter between church leadership and members, all of whom have voluntarily agreed to this prior to becoming members. We do want to be as clear and forthright as possible in presenting our theology of repentance, forgiveness, and church discipline and make clear that our convictions on this come from our study of Scripture and our deep love for our members and a desire for them to enjoy the freedom that comes from walking by the Spirit in response to Christ’s work on the Cross on our behalf. At the heart of the process is our deep belief that church discipline is about the grace of God, not penance.” -Pastor Justin Holcomb
I am by no means saying this article isn’t biased. But based on only these two pieces of knowledge; 1) The letter requesting no one from a 5000+ person church continue a friendship with this man and 2) This response from Pastor Holcomb, I can safely conclude that the discipline here has taken a step away from Galatians 6:1 My friends, “If anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.”
I see no gentleness going on here. Even if we take Andrew’s story, call him a liar, and multiple his transgressions for arguments sake, and then add to that a supposed continued push back [from Andrew] against the church leaders; does that give the leaders the ‘right’ to back down from a teaching of gentleness because his case was ‘worse’ or he ‘was being difficult’? In my opinion, the answer should be no. Determining another’s heart condition (whether or not they are truly repentant) is not our role.
I understand the Biblical foundations for church discipline, and if a church must do so I am okay with that as long as the disciple is done Biblical and loving manner that glorifies God; I think Mars Hill has doing neither. Which is why I refer to it as ‘spiritual abuse’ and not church discipline. I have seen enough stories, like this one, come out of Mars Hill in the last 5 years to know this has very little to do with church discipline and far more to do with power and control of their church leaders and pastor. That is the reason for my hurting heart – the people who are going away from the church because a person (not the body of Christ) has hurt them, and they are now left alone in their Christianity. It’s heartbreaking, and unacceptable, but it happens all the time.
Again, thank you for your opinion. I actually agree with a lot of what you said in regards to the tone of Turner, his one sided-ness, and biblical importance of church discipline — I do believe, however, that this goes deeper than those issues. Grace and Peace, Pastor.
I agree with Stephanie. The issue is spiritual abuse combined with power and control of the pastor and the leaders. This situation if far more prevalent than you may suspect or believe it to be. The book “Quitting Church” by Julia Duin is an excellent read regarding why people leave church. For example, chapter 5 of the book deals with singles and their experiences of spiritual abuse in church. The spiritual abuse discussed are not isolated instances (such as with Andrew), but rather the abuse that is created by the general atmosphere and attitude towards singles in the church. Basically, if you are not married (say by your late 20’s) you are not welcome in the church unless you are willing to admit that you are some type of failure. Thank you for your comments.
wow….this is the kind of stuff that keeps my husband from stepping foot into church. so sad.
Just to be clear…this is not Mars Hill in Michigan is it?
Hi Jaclyn – Not Mars Hill in MI, it is Mars Hill Seattle – there is no affiliation between the two. I would encourage you to take a different perspective. To say you would never attend any church because spiritual abuse has happened at a church is like saying you would never eat at a restaurant because someone once got food poisoning at a Perkins in Chicago … or you would never take your child to a daycare because a child got sexually abused at a KidCare Center in Bolder.
Christianity – as an institution – is far from perfect, just like every other institution … and why? Because it’s full of people – imperfect people. There are many churches that are amazing communities people would be lucky to call home. If you ever want help finding one in your area, I could certainly ask around and do some research if you wanted – connect you with some real people.
Thank you though, for stepping out and saying something. Although I don’t believe it is reason to not work to find a church – it is a issue that can keep people (even me for a time in my life) away and must be addressed. Hearing from people who aren’t now part of communities is imperative to taking that first step of recognition.
Thanks for your reply! I am actually much more open to church then my husband. I would say that he came from an abusive church background and he is very uncomfortable in church. It is something I have wanted our family to do together for a long time, but he has such a hard time with it. Stories like this just validate his negative feelings about the whole thing. I hope one day church is something we can share, but he is just not there….and really hasn’t been for 12 years or so.
I have really opened my eyes a lot over the last couple years, and have finally expanded the view of Christ I took from my bible church upbringing. (by the way, i love “the embrace of unknowing” video you posted.) My husband and I both really agree and resignate with a lot of Rob Bells teachings…my husband is open to growth and learning, just has a hard time swallowing the whole church thing.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this blog…I am so enjoying it and your faith is inspiring!