Mars Hill must be 'faithfully rebuilt' or close for good, says pastor Thomas Hurst

The pastor of Mars Hill Bellevue has said Mars Hill must either change its culture to become more gracious, or "turn off the lights and lock the doors".

In the letter by pastor Thomas Hurst, which has been posted on Reddit, he says Mars Hill is currently in a "very hard season".

Its lead pastor Mark Driscoll recently announced that he is stepping down from ministry while allegations including plagiarism and manipulating book sales are investigated.

Driscoll has long also been accused of fostering an unhealthy church culture through his leadership, leading to calls for greater accountability and transparency.

Hurst does not wade into the 'Driscoll debate' in his letter, but instead suggests ways in which the church can move forward and progress in light of its recent controversies.

He urges his congregation not to lose hope, insisting that God can be glorified through the uncomfortable process of reconciliation and change.

"If this is what it takes for all of us to grow closer to Jesus, heal, and bring healing – then this cannot be bad or evil and we should stop fighting against it and embrace it," he writes.

"It may make us uncomfortable, it may cause us to fear, and it may very well hurt, for others, and us. However, we are Christians – loved by God and saved by grace! There is nothing we need to fear losing – not our status as a church, not our cool church pride, not our brand or our reputation – let all of that go."

Hurst does however, acknowledge that Mars Hill "had a very unhealthy beginning", and highlights the importance of church leaders taking "individual and collective responsibility for where we are today".

"We must own our sin, seek repentance and reconciliation. We must do this not so it will allow us to leave the storm, but because the storm will not leave us until we repent and change.

"We must move forward, clothed only in the Gospel we teach, confident in forgiveness and fighting to not repeat the same sins in our future. And because we are sinners, when we do repeat the sins of our past in some way, shape or form, we must commit to confession, repentance, and reconciliation far quicker and far more directly than we have."

He finishes his letter by advocating for a "new foundation" upon which Mars Hill can be rebuilt. 

"If we are going to rebuild this church into a healthy one – if that's our mission and the responsibility of all the elders in this church – then everything we do from this day forward must be done on the new foundation we are trying to build upon," he urges, adding that a failure to do so would mean the rightful demise of Mars Hill.

"In the end there are only two outcomes I will continue to partake in – seeing our church faithfully rebuilt, with love and grace from the top down, or turning off the lights and locking the doors if God brings our church to an end.

"As a Christian who has experienced God's ability to move mountains in the hearts of men, I do not think it is very wise for us to look at yesterday and then presume we know what tomorrow will bring. God will show us what tomorrow will be and we will make our decisions then," Hurst finishes.

"In the meantime we are family and I have hope for our family because I have hope for our God."