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My aim in working through these episodes is to help folks think through the church they attend, the leadership culture of their church, and, potentially, identify things that might not be apparent. I will not provide a “Monday morning play-by-play” critique. I hope you will gain personal insight through this review as well as applications to your teachers and the church you attend.
This episode is two hours and thirty minutes. It’s a marathon retelling of the final two years of Mars Hill Church. Mike Cosper interviews many of the participants, sharing their versions of the story that led to the end.
The episode describes what happened like a documentary. If you’re interested in the various storylines of the individuals involved, you will learn the historical facts that led to the demise of the church. It’s like watching a sad movie.
There is no new information in this episode about why Mars Hill failed. There are new facts, but it’s the same nail that CT has gone over ad infinitum, i.e., Mark Driscoll is selfishly ambitious, has no real accountability, is a narcissist, deeply insecure, toxic, and anyone who gets close to him falls apart.
I posted a video earlier in this series explaining why I do not recommend this series or caution those who do view it. Two general camps have responded to the video—those who agree with my perspective and have turned it off and those who believe it’s beneficial to watch. You may view that video here if you’re interested in the three cautions I gave about this series.
There is a historical narrative here that has some benefits for the body of Christ.
Christianity Today could have told the story in two episodes or less. One of the primary problems with this series is it is a descriptive trash novel that does not help the abused work through what happened to them.
In counseling, we call it descriptive psychology, which describes the problem but does not provide practical, step-by-step, applicable solutions. Mike Cosper is giving a play-by-play of what happened at Mars Hill. It begs the question, Is there any merit in storytelling?
There is an unarguable need for a competent individual to listen to and understand a victim. Understanding a hurt person is absolutely crucial if you’re going to help them. Victims need someone to listen to their stories. You cannot help someone well if you do not listen well. —Rick Thomas
Because it’s a descriptive retelling, the narrative is informational but not so much transformational for the victims. Does it help victims of abuse? If understanding their story is all they need. But in soul care, victims need more than someone retelling the events of their abuse.
It’s myopic to think that this series helps victims. Yes, I’m glad the story is out there—up to a point, but I’m concerned that some folks who are not familiar with how working through abuse happens are not discerning a vital missing aspect of what these victims need.
The reason I’m saying these things is that some folks have argued that this series helps folks understand abuse and authoritarianism in the church. To a degree, it does. It’s like watching a war movie. You learn about war, generally speaking, but not your war, specifically speaking.
If someone is abusing you or if you’re in an authoritarian culture, this story from CT is not good resource material. You need more specificity than a historical narrative from Seattle, Washington. I’m sure the victims of Mars Hill feel some vindication, but there is a similar concern; after CT tells the story, who is coming in to do the specific triage to help them in a customizable way.
This story is informational but not transformational, even regarding the most guilty of them all. Ironically, in the case of Mark Driscoll, it has resolved little; he continues to do in Arizona what he was doing in Washington. I do hope the victims of Mark Driscoll are receiving help that is unique to them.
Also, I trust that if abuse is happening to you, people are coming alongside you to help you work through it. This series does not provide the unique insight you need, other than letting you know it happens and how it happened at Mars Hill. Your story is different, and you need unique care.
Our most vital need is for financial supporters. If you can help us, will you? We are doing more, and people are asking for more. To keep up, we must hire more while developing the resources to meet the demand.
Rick launched this training network in 2008 to provide life-changing resources that equip Christians to help others. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and in 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).