Exclusive: 'Mars Hill is shell-shocked and in crisis, but we may still see revival break out' says former deacon
A former leader of Mars Hill Church has told Christian Today he believes there is still hope that the church will recover, but only if the leadership "rise up and be broken" for past mistakes.
After lead pastor Mark Driscoll resigned last week, former deacon Rob Smith wrote a blog encouraging those who have left or been removed from the church to return and help "rebuild the crumbling walls".
He told Christian Today: "I have no interest in seeing it collapse now that Mark Driscoll has gone. What's the Christian thing to do? It's a church on its knees...so I want to go back and help. Whether or not they accept my help is entirely different, but my prayer is that they are willing to see me as a brother.
"Mark Driscoll left Mars Hill in a shamble, he is such a strong leader and so I'm willing to accept that the men under him, who were really co-conspirators in the abuse that has come to light, were themselves carrying out orders."
Smith, who was asked to be an elder before he left, returned to Mars Hill on Sunday, despite having been "shunned" by the church in the past. He was embroiled in a 2007 controversy after demanding that Paul Petry, an elder who was fired after suggesting that church bylaws should be rewritten so as not to give Driscoll and his right-hand men so much power, be given a fair trial.
"They were very pleasant to me," Smith says of the weekend visit. "One elder did warn me that if I created a distraction they would take action, but I said 'Why would I want to do that? This is my church,' which surprised them.
"Hundreds of members left [Mars Hill], not because they wanted to, but because they had no choice; that was Mark's legacy...We're talking about a church that is shell-shocked and in crisis, and I do have people who are looking at what I'm saying, and I think the right message to give is that we need to help."
Smith leads a group of 75 members and ex-members of Mars Hill, and has been vocal in calling for church leaders to take responsibility for their actions.
He says his call for people to return to the church has not been met with much enthusiasm, but nevertheless he thinks it's the right thing to do.
"We need to put the past behind us and move forward in newness of life, or the lions will keep on raging and Mars Hill won't survive."
Of Driscoll himself, Smith said: "I think he has demonstrated that in all his years of calling 'men to be men', he's not willing himself to be a man."
Driscoll has not apologised to those he's hurt, and believes he is still qualified for ministry, so now has a "get out of jail pass," Smith added. "He's not been disqualified, so he'll go on."
"I'm praying my leadership makes a difference. I'm saying we can continue to fight the fight that Mark Driscoll drew the template for, or we can completely walk away from that and be reconciled as brothers and figure out what went wrong in a healthy, Gospel directed way, where Christ is exalted and men rise up from the shadows," he said.
"You couldn't be a man at Mars Hill Church, as soon as you stood up and exercised Godly manhood, you were expunged by Mark because he saw you as a threat.
"Closure needs to come and will never come from Mark Driscoll. It will come when the current elders reflect the remorse and heart for reconciliation that we all long that Mark would have. If they can rise up and be broken for how they treated men, and show that they understand the depths of what they did to one family [Petry's], it gives me hope that they may see the depths of what they did to hundreds of families."
Smith firmly believes that Mars Hill could still recover from its current controversy, but "every day they do not openly and with genuine sorrow address those who are hurting gives me less hope.
"We may still see a revival break out if they would simply do the gospel thing."
Having left Mars Hill in 2007, Rob Smith now runs a blog entitled 'Musings from under the bus'. The name comes in reference to a sermon given by former lead pastor Mark Driscoll, in which he said: "There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus, and by God's grace, it'll be a mountain by the time we're done. You either get on the bus or you get run over by the bus."
Driscoll resigned from ministry last week, confessing to "pride, anger and a domineering spirit". His surprise announcement followed a six-week break during which 20 misconduct charges brought by former elders of Mars Hill were investigated.