If you have been anywhere near Western Christian media for the last few months, you’ll know there’s been a podcast telling the story of the now defunct Mars Hill Church in Seattle. If you look a little closer you’ll also know there’s no shortage of opinions.
Well, I too have an opinion about what happened at Mars Hill, but won’t share much here, though I’m sure some of you clicked on this post to read another take. I have an opinion about Mars Hill because I lived it: I pastored a local Mars Hill church, was a part of its ministry, and I experienced first-hand the nuclear explosion, over the course of nine months in 2014, of years of hidden sin, mistakes, and brokenness.
But this post is not about 2014. It’s about what happened after, it’s about what those who were near the inside have experienced in the years following. No matter if you were pro-Driscoll, unsure of Driscoll, or anti-Driscoll, at the end, you carried a mark with you and still do to this day.
A Polarizing Experience
If you were near the inside, you know what it’s like to have an introductory conversation with someone when the subject of Mars Hill comes up. People’s responses are either intense curiosity, like someone slowing down to see the wreckage of a car accident or awkward distancing like you just pooped your pants in front of them. Very rarely have I found an in-between response, a caring response, or the asking of further questions to understand rather than out of morbid curiosity.
On the final episode of the podcast series, one of the former staff members recounts how difficult it was for people who had worked at Mars Hill to find employment after the very public explosion. I would add that it has been even more difficult to find acceptance in the wider community of faith after Mars Hill.
Though most of the individual Mars Hill campuses became independent churches, groups of what became known as “Mars Hill refugees” flocked to neighboring churches. Some staff members were actively recruited by wannabe mega churches only to find that the secret sauce of Mars Hill didn’t travel well. When I interacted in groups of pastors from other churches, I felt like my time, work, and responsibilities at Mars Hill painted a giant radioactive glowing M on me that meant I was untouchable.
It seemed like I had evangelical leprosy, and honestly I still feel that way. This podcast deepened this feeling, but in the midst of wandering around feeling like every time I share that I worked at Mars Hill, I am in a way yelling, “Unclean! Unclean! Unclean!”, there have been many who have entered into my life in grace, kindness, and care. To all of those, thank you.
A Reckoning Like No Other
For those of you who feel like all of the sins and the sins of everyone who served at Mars Hill must be held to account, I agree, they do. I don’t know of a leader at Mars Hill who hasn’t searched their soul and worked through complicity and responsibility – I have.
But I also know that all of my sin was held to account by another. The blood sacrifice so many want for Mars Hill was given, the disgust toward what happened there was bore, and the terrible realities of what sin does to people in God’s world atoned for. Because at the end of the day, there will be a reckoning, and on that day all I can do is plead the merits of another’s work on my behalf:
“Lo! The Incarnate God, ascended;
Pleads the merit of His blood.
Venture on Him; venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude.
None but Jesus, none but Jesus
Can do helpless sinners good.” – Joseph Hart (Come Ye Sinners, 1712-1768)
There is much more to be said, but in the end, what can wash away the scarlet, radioactive M? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.