some thoughts on the rise and fall of mars hill

I finished listening to the final episode of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill today. Over the past few months, I have slowly worked my way through each of the twelve episodes and most bonus material. For those unfamiliar with this podcast, Mike Cosper tells the story of the meteoric growth and eventual death of one of the most influential churches in the United States, Seattle’s Mars Hill. Whether or not you are familiar with Mars Hill or pastor Mark Driscoll, this podcast is well worth the time it takes to listen.

Previously, I have not said much about it, but after listening to “aftermath” today, I wanted to share a few thoughts, perhaps as a part of my healing. I was once on the Mark Driscoll bandwagon–I listened to his sermons and read his books. He drew me in by his brashness and cool exterior. I also had friends who joyfully shared sarcastic Mark Driscoll quotes, aligning themselves with him. Whether we would have said so or not, Driscoll, like many other hypermasculine pastors and pundits, justified being an arrogant asshole. At the time, I was also a part of a denomination whose heroes were often outspoken and narcissistic, though they often talked about how humble they were as they encouraged people to be like them.

The thing is, many of us eventually become like our heroes. I did, at least. I remember leaving a meeting with a church member where I was the “bad cop,” and I felt proud. It was only much later that I was able to look back and see how unhealthy beliefs and behaviors like this began to affect the people I valued the most. As I have previously written, I became what I hate.

What struck me today is that I have had many of the same questions and felt many of the same torments that the staff who left Mars Hill felt. I have felt guilt and shame at the ways I mishandled others, and at the ways I overlooked how we treated people with contempt but called it love. I have felt angry at how I harmed and manipulated people in the name of Jesus. I have felt confused about who I have been and who I am becoming. I often don’t know where I fit. I don’t know if people are trustworthy, myself included. I weep for those who ignore warning signs because they believe they are protecting leaders and systems.

Many people have used the term deconstruction lately. It may describe people who have left the church, people who are trying to go back to the basics, or people who are just taking one step at a time on wobbly legs. I can be any or all of those people on any given day. Regardless, my prayer is that the way of love emerges from the rubble.