Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill, & Spiritual Abuse

In 1984, my freshman year at George Washington University, I joined a social fraternity — Phi Sigma Kappa. The bond that was forged with my fraternity brothers during my four years as an undergraduate continues to this day. That bond is obviously strongest with the brothers from my own chapter, Lambda (which included brothers like Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who probably does not remember me as he was a senior and I a freshman when I joined), but that fraternal bond nevertheless exists as well with brothers from other chapters, some of whom I have never met personally (like actor Chris Sarandon or sportscasters Dan Patrick and Dick Enberg). These bonds allow me to view my brothers in a more favorable and charitable light, even if I don’t always agree with them on political, social, or religious issues.

Ten years later, in the fall of 1994, I began a new journey that would lead me to bond with another group of brothers (and sisters) — lawyers-turned-pastors. This group can’t be too big (some might think even one is too big), but it is probably larger than I realize. One well-known member of the group is Susan Sparks, the Senior Pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City.  Although I have never met Susan personally and, while I suspect we might come down on different sides of certain theological issues, I nevertheless respect her faithfulness to leave the practice of law to serve the Lord in NYC. As she could probably attest, sometimes dealing with legal clients is easier than dealing with church members.

Another member of the group is Paul Petry, a lawyer-turned-elder-turned-former elder of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Mars Hill Church was co-founded by Mark Driscoll. Driscoll, who is no stranger to Southern Baptists (particularly of the Young, Restless, & Reformed variety) also is no stranger to controversy. From cussing in the pulpit to writing an explicit sex marriage book, “Real Marriage,” Driscoll now stands accused of extreme spiritual abuse.

Petry and his wife, Jonna, have started a blog, “Joyful Exiles,” a site where they expose (in great detail) spiritual abuse that they allege occurred to them and former elder, Bent Meyer, beginning on or around October 1, 2007.  Paul, an attorney with a ten-year old practice, was asked by Mark Driscoll in the spring of 2004 to join Mars Hill as a volunteer pastor/elder. A year later, Paul Petry was hired as full-time Pastor of Families and Member Care for Mars Hill, in addition to continuing as an elder of the church. On October 1, 2007, both Paul and Bent were fired as “employees” of the church and were suspended as elders, pending the outcome of a “trial” before the full elder board of Mars Hill. To read the Petry’s account of what transpired is to understand that the “trial” appears to have been nothing more than a poorly designed kangaroo court that lacked not only due process (and violated the church’s own by-laws), but also lacked any semblance of grace. Regardless of where one stands on particular theological issues, graceless responses (in Mayberry or in Seattle) are never Christ-honoring.

Thanks to articles by Wade Burleson (here) and The Wartburg Watch (here), I became aware of Paul and Jonna Petry and their truly sad (and infuriating) story. I have just started reading the detailed documentary evidence on the Petry’s blog. Funny how God sovereignly finds a way for former attorneys to still use their legal training and experience, even in ministry. We might go from law to grace, but that doesn’t mean that we allow our skulls to go back to mush. We still continue to approach problems and situations “thinking like a lawyer,” although our thinking is hopefully Christ-like and Spirit-led (and, no, Christian Attorney is not an oxymoron).

I do not know Paul or Jonna Petry. To be quite frank, I had never heard of them before reading about their story on Tuesday. Whether he knows it or not, Paul and I share a bond. We are both attorneys that God called into ministry. We have gone from law to grace and, in the process, have sometimes witnessed and experienced a side of Christianity and the Church which is less than grace-filled. While there are always at least two sides to every story, I appreciate Paul and Jonna sharing theirs. As to why now, Jonna writes:

If Mark and the organizations he leads do not change, I fear many more will be hurt, Mark and his family included. To not speak is to not love or care and shows no thought or consideration for those who have been wounded and those who will be in the future. We are witnesses. There is a pattern. There is a history. There is an ethos of authoritarianism and abuse. Mark is the unquestioned head of Mars Hill Church and the Acts 29 Network. His elders have no way to hold him accountable. Those under him likely fear him and want to garner his favor so they don’t daresay nor do anything that might anger him. This is tragic. . . .  A Christianity which perpetuates the exaltation of mere men to god-like status, while belittling and wounding so many of God’s children in the process, is completely antithetical to what Jesus taught and is just as harmful to the leaders as it is to those who follow. Sadly, this is not the love of Jesus. (from “My Story,” by Jonna Petry)

The story of spiritual abuse alleged by the Petrys is not something that can be dismissed or swept under the rug, particularly by Southern Baptists. Mars Hill, which is an autonomous church not affiliated with the SBC, can set up church governance anyway they want, even if it appears to be a non-Biblical and non-baptistic ecclesiology. Why should Southern Baptists even care about the Petrys’ story or what happens at Mars Hill? Because Mark Driscoll and the Acts 29 Network he leads have significant influence within Southern Baptist circles, particularly among young seminary students, a few seminary Presidents, and even our own North American Mission Board.

Will Southern Baptist churches be asked to financially support churches who are associated with Driscoll’s Acts 29 Network? Will Cooperative Program contributions and Annie Armstrong funds be given to Acts 29 churches through NAMB? Will certain seminaries continue to endorse — either directly or indirectly — Mark Driscoll and his ministry? Why ask these questions? Because what Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill, and Acts 29 models — both in ecclesiology and in grace — will most certainly be copied by younger pastors in SBC churches across North America. These are questions that some may or may not like asked. Authoritarian pastors usually don’t. Lawyers-turned-Pastors usually do!

48 comments for “Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill, & Spiritual Abuse

  1. March 21, 2012 at 6:46 AM

    While I share your revulsion at the incidents related (I had already read the accounts), it is a bit of a jump to the Driscoll/Acts29/NAMB business.

    I would say that nothing NAMB does will receive more scrutiny than the church plants where they put their redirected millions. But digging down into all the affiliations, affinities, and secondary relationships is problematic.

    NAMB states that they only fund churches that adhere to the Baptist Faith and Message Statement. If you know of a NAMB-funded church plant that does not, then please inform them (and blog about it too, since we all would like to know).

    And if you want to write about spiritual abuse, heavyhanded employment decisions look a little closer to home in the SBC. There are plenty of examples of that among our entities and leaders. We just, finally, had an seminary CEO to leave who ran through an average of one CFO per year. To find that one you don’t have to go all the way to the Pacific coast, just barely across the Mississippi. There are others.

    And BTW, Danny Akin just said that Driscoll hasn’t been an invited guest on his campus for several years. You might, in a lawyerly way, support with facts the invitations of Driscoll to our SBC organizations. I don’t know how many or how recent.

    But on elders, eldership, discipline and spiritual abuse in SBC churches, I suspect that we are in for some increase on that as a result of current calvinistic trends. Not that it is inherent in the theology but that the more prominent models presented lean in that direction.

    • March 21, 2012 at 9:16 AM


      As to your last point first, I do believe that we will see an increase in the elder system and potential spiritual abuse because of current Calvinist trends. Spiritual abuse is by no means limited to or the exclusive providence (pun intended) of Calvinists. When I served as a Deacon in my home church prior to being called into ministry, I was spiritually abused by a pastor that I’m sure was not a Calvinist. I do think that part of this trend can be traced to the Driscoll/Mars Hill/Acts 29 model that is being used by some (not sure how many) new church plants. I’m sure that the ones who are funded and/or supported by NAMB do adhere to the BF&M, but I don’t think such adherence to this confession of faith will prevent abuses and a move to what many would consider a non-baptistic ecclessiology with little, if any, real congregational input.

      Because some of these churches will be affiliated with the Acts 29 Network (I believe that a few of the featured church planters in this year’s Annie Armstrong Week of Pray guide are so affiliated) and because these churches will receive support — either directly or indirectly — from NAMB and from SBC churches, then the questions that I posed in my OP will need to be explored in more detail. Also to be explored in more detail is the relationship of some of our SBC leaders and entities to Acts 29 and Driscoll. While Dr. Akin may not have had Driscoll speak on campus in four years, he has endorsed Driscoll’s recent book, “Real Marriage.” He can now try to distance himself from his previous endorsement, but young seminary students and church planters will still view Dr. Akin as thinking favorably of Acts 29. Same with some other movers and shakers in the SBC, including Matt Chandler, who support and or serve on the board of Acts 29. Digging down into these secondary relationships maybe problematic, but the questions need to be asked so that Southern Baptists are fully aware of all these relationships.

      I think others have already jumped to certain conclusions regarding Acts 29 and NAMB. As more facts surface, such as those the Petrys have revealed, then more solid conclusions can be drawn. I don’t take everything that the Petrys say at face value, but I am making an assumption that Paul Petry,a licensed and still practicing attorney in Washington state, would not have published what he did without being reasonably sure of not only a moral, but a legal, basis for divulging such information. This is no Rick Warren/Muslims story, so I will be curious to see how some SBC leaders, particularly those with close ties to Driscoll/Acts 29, respond. Thanks for taking the time to share this morning. Have a great day and God bless,


  2. Tom Bryant
    March 21, 2012 at 7:37 AM

    This is a sad story.

    My take on a larger issue is that I think this may be one of the big problems with the Baptist edition of elder rule. The Presbyterians use elder rule but it is not just at the church level. The churches in a given area are responsible to another level of, for lack of better term, elders. It brings a check and balance to a pastor stacking his elder deck. But in Baptist life, the elders of a local church are not accountable to any other group. If you have good elders and spiritual leadership, the problems are minimized, but if the condition goes south, there are abuses.

    I know that would be true of a more traditional Baptist structure, but when elder rule is lauded as the safest structure against abuse, it may not be entirely accurate.

    • March 21, 2012 at 9:27 AM


      I do not think that an elder system, in and of itself, is contrary to Baptist principles of congregational polity and ecclesiology. However, I do believe that certain eldery structures which are employed currently, like Mars Hill, will serve as a bad model for some SBC churches, particularly new church plants. Of course, every SBC church is autonomous and can set up their church governance as they see fit. But, when NAMB and CP funds are supporting — either directly or indirectly — such churches, then we have a right to question how money contributed by the churches of the SBC is being spent. Driscoll/Mars Hill/Acts 29 has made great inroads among Southern Baptists, particularly those who are younger and some of our church planters. If what is alleged by the Petrys is true (and it is consistent with other incidents relating to Driscoll and Mars Hill), then we have a serious problem. The connection between the SBC and Acts 29 cannot be ignored. Questions will continue to surface and our leaders will have to answer and give an account. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day and God bless,


    • steve
      March 21, 2012 at 10:32 AM

      In my experience Presbyterian-type polity also gives far more checks and balances than something like what Driscoll has set up. Procedures, trials, appeals, etc.

      So for abuse to happen it either needs to be “off the record” (and thus reasonably easy to escape – just leave) or the in-depth process needs to be undertaken thoroughly, which will generally not be done on a whim. Whereas with Driscoll-type churches, constitutions will say things like “members can be dismissed with the agreement of 2 elders” and “there is no appeal process”.

  3. March 21, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    When I hear people lament the numbers of pastors who leave the ministry and go into other work, I want to point them to stories like this:

    I do not want to be associated with these types of behaviors. If “pastoral ministry” is what Driscoll and some of the others mentioned in the connected reports are, I’d rather be something else.

    And any other place, I’d probably make a lawyer joke here about sinking to that, but I wouldn’t want to insult you 🙂 So, I’ll think of something else.

    But stuff like this and the fact that everyday pastors of SBC churches like you or me cannot get the great powers to listen and do something about just drives me nuts. Makes me want to either leave the SBC in general just to avoid the connection.

    • March 21, 2012 at 10:20 PM


      I appreciate you not stooping to the level of anti-lawyer jokes. Of course, if you want to use pro-lawyer jokes, go ahead 🙂 The issue that will need to be addressed is whether or not our SBC leaders and institutions, particularly NAMB, want to be associated with Mark Driscoll and the Acts 29 Network. The questions surrounding this association are just beginning to be asked. More on the way. Thanks and God bless,


  4. Max
    March 21, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    Acts 29 and NAMB church plants in my area have congregations comprised principally of folks in their 20s-30s, with young pastors just beginning their ministry. “Elder” leadership may not be the proper word for such works. I know that age doesn’t always equal wisdom, but it helps.

    • March 21, 2012 at 10:23 PM


      I think that Mark Driscoll/Acts 29 has great influence among the 20 and 30-something younger pastors who have looked to Driscoll’s Mars Hill model as something to emulate. I’m not necessarily opposed to an “elder” system, but if such a system is used in such a way to run roughshod over the sheep, then we have a problem. Thanks and God bless,


      • Max
        March 22, 2012 at 8:58 AM

        My “elder” comment was not directed at this leadership model, but at the spiritual immaturity which Driscollism attracts. You can measure that by the lack of discernment when it comes to their affection for men like Driscoll. There is no doubt that Driscoll is a principal influencer on “how to do church” among the young, restless and reformed. As one YRR pastor replied to my “Why Driscoll?” inquiry to him … “It’s working isn’t it?!”. And if you look only at the numbers, you would have to respond “Yes, it’s working”. This movement is attracting large numbers of 20s-30s back to church following an exit from traditional SBC works. NAMB sees that, too. My concern is the long-term potential of this ministry model after icons and heroes fall … Driscollism is an accident waiting to happen.

        • March 22, 2012 at 11:50 AM


          I think you are correct in your observation (and firsthand account) of the spiritual immaturity among some who follow Driscoll. Driscoll himself seems to evince a certain spiritual arrogance/immaturity that is unbecoming in a pastor. None of us are perfect, but the authoritarian elder model that Mars Hill employs seems to decrease checks and balances (i.e., accountability) and increas the potential for the type of spiritual abuse that has been alleged by the Petrys. If SBC leaders, including those at NAMB, are aware of this, then they need to take steps to distance themselves from it. If we know that “Driscollism is an accident waiting to happen,” then let’s do our best to avoid it at all costs. Thanks and God bless,


  5. Milton Robins
    March 21, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    “The story of spiritual abuse alleged by the Petrys is not something that can be dismissed or swept under the rug…”

    Wow, another excellent blog. This story hits close to home. As a person who has experienced spiritual abuse myself, I can tell you that it can be absolutely debilitating.

    Obviously, like you said, there are two sides to every story, but spiritual abuse unfortunately does happen. By God’s grace, it needs to be confronted, repented of by the perpetrators, and stopped.

    Thank you for raising awareness to what is a serious issue today.

    • March 21, 2012 at 10:26 PM


      I know that you know firsthand that spiritual abuse takes place in churches. This is not limited to Calvinistic churches such as Mars Hill, but it happens at all kinds of churches where pastors simply do not want to follow the Biblical model of servant-leadership that Jesus showed us. The Driscoll/Mars Hill/Acts 29 influence on the SBC cannot be ignored, particularly with how new church plants are being supported — either directly or indirectly — through NAMB and CP. More on this connection on Friday. Thanks and God bless,


  6. Debbie Kaufman
    March 21, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    William: Did or did not Danny Akin endorse Mark Driscoll’s book?

    • Debbie Kaufman
      March 21, 2012 at 1:54 PM

      I found out in the past that just because someone is not up front physically where we can see it a part of the SBC, SBC entities or people do hang out, buy, or even visit Mark Driscoll’s church. We just don’t always know it.

      • March 21, 2012 at 10:27 PM


        I think that the “unofficial” connections and relationships between SBC leaders/churches and Mark Driscoll/Mars Hill/Acts 29 will become more evident in the days ahead. This is an issue that will not go away and it can no longer be ignored. Thanks and God bless,


  7. Lydia
    March 21, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    I would like to gently point out that very few in leadership/ministry positions believed the many spiritual abuse stories that have come out from former members of Mars Hill. It was the same with the hundreds of spiritual abuse stories from members of many SGM churches documented on sgmsurvivors for the last four years.

    When the Brent Detwiler sgmwikileaks documents came out and Mahaney stepped down, Al Mohler gave a statement to the secular press (Courier Journal) that people simply did not like his “strong leadership”. I was aghast knowing the horror stories of sexual molestation and spiritual abuse that came out of SGM.

    SBC should not be funding Acts29 churches. Yes, churches are autonomous but we should be circumspect about what we are funding no matter how much Akin and others like him. Seems Driscoll’s book was not enough. Nor was his porno divination talk enough for us to question the wisdom of partnering with “his creation and bootcamp that trains young pastors who adore Driscoll”.

    I am afraid our leaders have ceased to be wise concerning those they are protecting and associating with.

    • March 21, 2012 at 10:33 PM


      While there have been spiritual abuse stories about Mars Hill, the curtain is now being pulled back from a former insider. And, this former elder, who also happens to be an attorney, is backing up his claims with documentary evidence and a strong narrative. SBC leaders who have been enamored with Mark Driscoll and Acts 29 (Mohler and Akin among them) will be hardpressed to sweep this under the rug or ignore it. The associations with Acts 29 and Driscoll, both formal and informal, will need to be explained. Is Driscoll someone that our SBC leaders want our young seminarians and church planters to emulate? If not, then they need to put distance between themselves, our SBC institutions and Mark Driscoll. And, you are exactly right about “authoritarianism.” I do not really care what the BF&M says. Let’s look at practices. These practices, for good and bad, will be followed by church planters, particularly those who “love” Mark Driscoll and what “he” has done in building “his” church in Seattle. This is a potential powder keg that is about to blow. Thanks for your insight on this and on SGM. Same type of issues with Mahaney. If SBC leaders enable this type of “leadership,” then they need to be held accountable. Thanks and God bless,


  8. Lydia
    March 21, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    “NAMB states that they only fund churches that adhere to the Baptist Faith and Message Statement. If you know of a NAMB-funded church plant that does not, then please inform them (and blog about it too, since we all would like to know). ”

    I am confused. How would the BFM prevent spiritual abuse like we have seen at Mars Hill and SGM?

    • William
      March 21, 2012 at 6:37 PM

      Lydia, my reading was that Howell was making the Driscoll/Acts29/NAMB/NAMB church plants connection. He hasn’t quite made the case that a particular church governance structure utilized by Driscoll is contrary to the BFM. Spiritual abuse occurs regularly in SBC churches without elders and which churches dot every “i” and cross every “t” in the BFM.

      NAMB is responsible to ensure that its plants adhere to our common faith statement. If they go beyond that, then someone in Alpharetta is making it up as they go along.

      Debbie, it seems to me that SBC leaders have been holding Driscoll at arms length for some time now. Even Akin did some walk back on his book recommendation.

      To both of you, I think the greater issue is what has been happening that goes under the euphemistic complementarian/egalitarian rubric.

      • March 21, 2012 at 10:41 PM


        I am not really that concerned about the BF&M regarding the church polity of Mars Hill. They are not even Southern Baptist, so they are free to come up with a governance structure as they see fit. The problem lies with how Southern Baptist institutions, particularly NAMB, are giving support — both direct and indirect — to church plants associated with Driscoll and Acts 29. If NAMB and other SBC leaders do not begin to distance themselves from Driscoll, we will begin to see the battle heat up in earnest. This is not so much about Calvinist theology as it is about an apparent misogynistic theology that has a warped view of women and of Jesus. The associations and affiliations, even if secondary, will come into play especially when NAMB and other SBC entities are “connected” to Driscoll. I agree with Lydia that it appears there are some SBC leaders that seem to prefer a more authoritarian (different from authoritative) leadership style. Of course, this is at odds with how the Bible says leaders should lead. Thanks and God bless,


  9. March 21, 2012 at 4:18 PM

    Thanks to all for your comments. I am in El Paso with the family and have not been able to get to a place with wireless until now. Typing responses on an IPad is not very fast. I will try to answer everyone’s specific comments later this evening. Go Tebow and Go Jets! Thanks and God bless,


  10. Lydia
    March 21, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    “To both of you, I think the greater issue is what has been happening that goes under the euphemistic complementarian/egalitarian rubric.”

    I would take that thought to the conclusion there is a very strong emphasis on authoritarianism. Period. From church governance, to proof texting to comp/pat issues.

    “ydia, my reading was that Howell was making the Driscoll/Acts29/NAMB/NAMB church plants connection. He hasn’t quite made the case that a particular church governance structure utilized by Driscoll is contrary to the BFM. Spiritual abuse occurs regularly in SBC churches without elders and which churches dot every “i” and cross every “t” in the BFM.”

    Personally, I do not think that is the issue. The issue is why are we funding ACts29 churches that have Driscoll DNA all over them from his boot camp?

    Why is the president of our flagship seminary so comfortable defending CJ Mahaney, who stepped down and is now moving to Louisville, to the secular press saying that those who have problems with him simply do not like “strong leadership”. The man built a shepherding cult….from People of Destiny to SGM.

    I think Mohler and others like this authoritarian style. I think they admire it. I think we are being groomed to accept it in several ways.

  11. March 22, 2012 at 7:57 AM

    Let me throw out a crazy idea, Howell, and see what sticks.
    I don’t think Driscoll’s current problem is having an elder system or his Calvinism, but rather the mistake of surrounding himself with large church pastors and their influence more than those within his own theological tribe. (see the ER2 debacle) I am familiar with a few Acts29 guys and situations like these would be way off from how they conduct themselves and their ministry. Their president Scott Thomas seems like a solid guy and a couple of their VP’s are very solid. Most of the local church planters have very little contact, if any, with Driscoll. I know Mars Hill has been involved in several of these stories (or the infamous trademark infringement story) in recent days; I did see that they were making some staffing changes in light of them, but I think their leadership will have to intentionally give away some of the authority they’ve amassed over the years in order to see actual change (rather than just a shuffling of the control room chairs).
    Authoritarianism is unfortunately all over the SBC even in circles far removed from Mark Driscoll. As often happens, there was a congregational impulse in our churches that led to a lot of pastors of a previous generation being kicked around and abused; many have overcorrected and attempted to consolidate decision making in the hands of a few.

    • March 22, 2012 at 12:00 PM


      I think a lot of what you say “sticks.” I certainly don’t think that an authoritarian leadership style is exlusive to churches with an elder system or churches that are Calvinistic/Reformed. I have know non-Calvinistic pastors who have been at the top of the list in terms of practicing spiritual abuse. I do think that the large church/CEO mentality that has taken root within the megachurch movement has contributed to a lack of accountability and an attitude that “the people in the pews don’t really know anything and the leaders are the only ones that God can speak through.” I understand that larger chuches cannot have the congregation vote on every decision. However, I believe that a congregational model of church governance — whether pastor-led or elder-led — must have real congregational oversight (at some level) for some of these abuses to be prevented. But, when you become so big that you have a board of directors made up of other megachurch pastors or you employ an elder model that lacks true accountability, these types of abuses will continue. There are SBC churches where this occurs, but Mark Driscoll and Acts 29 have significant influence on a younger generation of SBC pastors and church planters. I’m not sure that this influence, in the long run, will be healthy. I appreciate your take on this and your non-crazy ideas as it relates to the problems 🙂 Have a great day and God bless,


    • WenatcheeTheHatchet
      May 2, 2012 at 1:47 AM

      Josh, Thomas may seem like a solid guy but a thorough review of Joyful Exiles will show Scott Thomas was overseeing every stage of the kangaroo court. If you haven’t visited Joyful Exiles recently there’s new material posted that demonstrates Scott Thomas lied to a MH member about a conciliatory process having been completed days before he, as part of the EIT, presented Munson’s charges as credible. Since Joyful Exiles went up Scott Thomas has stepped down from Acts 29 and is no longer even listed as a pastor in any capacity in Mars Hill.

      Now it’s possible that Munson and/or Driscoll appointed Scott Thomas to the EIT without being aware of Thomas’ deceit or railroading but since there’s been no effort by either to publicly address that topic and it would appear only “bloggers” are even aware the question exists it’s not likely to get any attention. It’s understandable the vast majority of people wouldn’t be aware of this. I myself was not aware of Scott Thomas’ deception in relationship to the EIT of 2007 until this year.

  12. Pam Day
    March 22, 2012 at 1:14 PM


    You said (11:50 am):

    … but the authoritarian elder model that Mars Hill employs seems to decrease checks and balances (i.e., accountability) and increas the potential for the type of spiritual abuse that has been alleged by the Petrys. If SBC leaders, including those at NAMB, are aware of this, then they need to take steps to distance themselves from it. If we know that “Driscollism is an accident waiting to happen,” then let’s do our best to avoid it at all costs…”

    I realize you were referring to an organizational model to avoid. But in light of the “accident waiting to happen”, seems much more should be done besides avoiding the model.

    I’m thinking of the only 2 responses I’m aware of from Driscoll’s professional peer group: promotion or silence. Especially in light of Jonna Petry’s statement that she & Paul asked for help from the likes of Jon Piper (nothing happened).

    Please comment on a kind of reponse from the evangelical sphere of power and influence (that is more direct than avoiding the model) to mitigate this accident waiting to happen.

    • March 22, 2012 at 1:55 PM


      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment today. I agree that “much more should be done besides avoiding the model.” I’ll have much more to say about the CEO/Authoritarian model in subsequent posts, but let me try to address at least the one issue you brought up, namely the “promotion or silence” from other Evangelical leaders. In my opinion, promotion of this model — particularly the model employed by Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll — is not a Biblical option. If what the Petrys allege is true (and I tend to believe that it is), then this is about as far away from the “servant-leader” model that Jesus emulated and that the Bible is clear we should employ within the church. Evangelical leaders who come to Mark’s “defense” should expect that their defenses will be critiqued in light of Scripture. Just because they maybe a “big name” does not make them immune from legitimate criticism.

      Secondly, when the Petrys’ compelling inside account (and documentary evidence) is now public and it is consistent with other stories of similar tactics being used at Mars Hill (i.e., the shunning and authoritarian leadership style), silence by prominent Evangelical and Southern Baptist leaders is no longer an option, either. To be silent in the face of mounting and credible evidence of a pattern of spiritual abuse is to given tacit approval to such abuse. Leaders need to distance themselves from what is happening at Mars Hill and with Driscoll or else open themselves up for legitimate criticism for their apparent approval of what has taken place. It’s one thing to try to sweep this under the rug because a few disgruntled former members are speaking out. It’s easy to paint them as wackadoodles who were “unrepentant sinners” who needed to be shunned. The Petrys’ account cannot be so easily dismissed, although I am sure there are Evangelical and Southern Baptist leaders who will try to ignore the story in the hopes that it goes away or, even worse, will try to defend what appears to me to be indefensible.

      I think it has been a well-known secret that Mark Driscoll has the tendencies that the Petrys described in their account. Following the Petrys’ shining a light on this, it will be intesting to see how Piper, Mohler, Akin, Stetzer, et. al, respond. If it is by silence, that silence will be deafening. Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. God bless,


  13. Pam Day
    March 22, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    Hi, Howell.

    I appreciate the quick response! I was hoping for more, though. You say,
    “Evangelical leaders who come to Mark’s “defense” should expect that their defenses will be critiqued in light of Scripture. Just because they maybe a “big name” does not make them immune from legitimate criticism.”
    “Leaders need to distance themselves from what is happening at Mars Hill and with Driscoll or else open themselves up for legitimate criticism for their apparent approval of what has taken place.”
    “…it will be intesting to see how Piper, Mohler, Akin, Stetzer, et. al, respond. If it is by silence, that silence will be deafening.”
    Big Name evangelical leaders are critiqued plenty. My impression is that they could care less — sort of responding the way one does flicking a pesky fly off their arm. I’m guessing the main source of critique is done on blgos (& they obviously disdain and ridicule blogs which intelligently critique them). So, so much for that. While the better blogs have an increasing influence, it only seems to go so far.
    I am observing in befuddled amazement at the great void of critique from the true sources of influence — the evangelical powerbrokers. The Leaders, the “Big Names”, I suppose.
    Said Leaders and Big Names need to do far more than distance themselves.
    You obviously do not endorse “silence”. If you were in a room with these powerbrokers, how would you advise them?
    Dangerous question? I’m fast reaching my tolerance for principle in the form of pontificating rather than in the form of action. The evangelical powerbrokers are a self-established men only club. With all the talk of “masculine”, where o where are the balls??

    • March 22, 2012 at 2:51 PM

      “If you were in a room with these powerbrokers, how would you advise them?”


      You’re not kidding that this is a dangerous question 🙂 I don’t blame you for reaching your tolerance point for type of behavior and silence that we are witnessing in the Evangelical world and in the SBC. One of the reasons that I got into blogging was what I saw as an elitist (mostly male) attitude at the highest levels of SBC life that has permeated throughout the churches. This elitist mentality is not limited to the SBC, but it has become such a poison within the bloodstream of American Christianity that we will continue to witness the likes of Driscoll, Ed Young, Jr., T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen (and the list goes on) negatively influence and impact the Church.

      Were I to be in a room with such powerbrokers, I would hope that I would be willing to stand on principle and to “advise” them that what they are doing is antithetical to Biblical Christianity. To treat the church as just another business and to view yourself as a CEO instead of as the undershepherd who cares for the flock is completely contrary to Jesus’ model and to the Scripture which most of these men say they believe is inerrant. But, when numbers and money become the be all and end all of American Christianity, then we are in real trouble. When pastors can build a bedroom on top of the church in order to promote a sex book and no one in a position of authority or leadership speaks up, then we have become like the world. It’s all about influence access, and money. To speak out or to even question — as Paul Petry did — is to be accused of insubordination and rebellion and to be kicked off the gravy train. It’s past time that the church speak out against the spiritual bullies in our midst.

      I don’t know what influence I have, but I will continue to speak up and to put action to my words where I can within the SBC. Our leaders should do what is right on their own, but if it takes bloggers and others to light a fire under them, then so be it. But, we are fast approaching a tipping point in the Evangelical and SBC worlds. I hope that gives you a bit more. I appreciate the dialogue, even if you did put me in a dangerous spot 😉 Thanks and God bless,


  14. Pam Day
    March 22, 2012 at 3:58 PM

    Sorry. I’m past the point of safety, really.

    Although it’s really a nonissue for me, & I realize, (HA) with ironic humor, that I am in complete safety as I observe these things from afar, doing laundry and folding my children’s clothes. I’m not even remotely connected to the SBC or Mars Hill or T4G or any other such acronym.

    But I know that these powerbrokers are able to control the ideological weather, so to speak, and at some point it will reach my particular subculture. And I’m wary of what it might be. So that is why I observe. And vicariously enter the fray — & make “suggestions” to people in positions of influence (like yourself, perhaps?) for a possible preemptive strike or 2.

  15. Lydia
    March 22, 2012 at 5:32 PM

    If you read the documents….stop and think what Petry’s “crime” was that got him fired and in church discipline. Does anyone know what it was listed as? It is telling as to the REAL problem.

    I think what bothered me the most in these docs and in the sgmwikileaks docs is the fake Christianity. The “I love you as a brother” after sticking the knife in and ruining him financially and his reputation. The “I want to reconcile” as a brother in Christ after firing, long time with no response to charges, lying about him for so long and having them shunned by others. The “you are my brother in Christ” after trying to set his father in law (a new Christian) against him and his own daughter. That sort of thing chills me to the bone. God is NEVER to be mocked like that. Ever.

    As to what to say: It is simple. Get out of ministry. You are no longer qualified and I will make it my business to warn others about the dangers involved and what is not biblical.

    • March 22, 2012 at 6:19 PM


      I will have more on this sordid tale tomorrow, but it appears to me that the “crime” was for an elder to dare ask questions about yet another revision of the by-laws, ones which were just revised with the input of Mr. Petry, an attorney-turned-pastor. This kind of authoritarian leadership must not be tolerated or swept under the rug. The curtain has been pulled back on this charade and it’s time for SBC leaders and others to step up and publicly rebuke this kind of behavior. As I shared with Pam, silence is no longer an option. To remain silent in the face of mounting, credible evidence is to acquiese to the spiritual abuse that is taking place all around us. It’s not just Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill, but he has a prominent “conservative” minsitry that has significant influence on younger pastors, including many younger pastors in the SBC. He also has made inroads into the institutions and entities of the SBC. It’s time for our leaders to go on the record and stop the spin. This is not going away. No more turning a blind eye to the abuses that are being perpetrated by the megachurch, celebrity pastors in our midst.

      Thanks for being willing to speak out. Some will not like it because you are a woman. I hope those people who don’t will be brazen enough to put it on the record. It helps to know where people are coming from so that their inane “kings, prophets, and priests” theology can be Biblically rebutted. This “no immunizations” nonsense must not go unchallenged, either. This is a warped theology that too many powerbrokers have bought into and allowed to flourish. Time to start naming names. Much more to come starting (but not finishing) with tomorrow’s Mega Friday post. Thanks and God bless,


      • April 2, 2012 at 5:16 PM

        Wait a minute–“no immunizations”?

        Who got that stupid? As to make that a church matter? I know we’ve had some SBC folks cross the “birth control” line and say you shouldn’t use that (I think they’re wrong) but I didn’t realize we had anyone that has gone that completely insane.

        Next you thing we’ll be mailing out tin-foil hats with the SBCLife subscriptions.

        • April 2, 2012 at 6:08 PM


          If the Petrys are to be believed (and I think they are credible), then this is another issue
          of power and control over people. This is not limited to MH, but has become all too
          commonplace in the church at-large. The dogmatism on the use of birth control is another
          example where this type of thinking can be seen. When a rigid complementarianism is adhered
          to, these kind of abuses will be widespread. I’m with you — the “no immunizations” stuff
          is for birds and wackadoodles! Thanks and God bless,


          • April 2, 2012 at 6:22 PM

            I don’t doubt their credibility, either. I haven’t taken the time to read through all of the info, so I didn’t know that was part of this current issue.

            There are times to ask questions about medicine, but those should go between people and their doctors–not a place for their pastor to tell them what they can’t do.

  16. Lydia
    March 22, 2012 at 6:48 PM

    Thanks Howell. “In Christ”, I often forget I am a girl. :o)

  17. Pam Day
    March 22, 2012 at 7:15 PM

    That’s it.

    These are the words that need to be spoken by a person of influence. If the mentors first and foremost won’t do it, then some other leader with influence, with the backing of other influencers, all willing to put their names and voices behind it. And now, once again, the words:

    “Mark Driscoll and (etc.), get out of ministry. You are no longer qualified and I will make it my business to warn others about the dangers involved and what is not biblical.”

    Now, the problem becomes who of the leaders and Big Names are able to make such a statement with a clear conscience? Who of the elite powerbrokers are able to make such a statement without a conflict of interests?

    (I’m not optimistic) (what a sorry state of affairs)

  18. April 1, 2012 at 9:33 PM

    The root cause of the problem is the “Doctrine and Deeds of the Nicolaitans”, the thing Jesus said he hated. Anyone remember that? When the church returns to the first principles of church leadership/servant model, the issues of spiritual abuse and church disciple will resolve.

    • Max
      April 2, 2012 at 3:43 PM

      “So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” (Revelation 2:15,16)

      The warning is clear … repent or else.

  19. Rawel
    April 25, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    “The associations with Acts 29 and Driscoll, both formal and informal, will need to be explained.”

    This fellow manages to do just that, in detail:

    Follow the money.

    • April 25, 2012 at 10:45 AM


      Thanks for the link and for stopping by. God bless,


  20. WenatcheeTheHatchet
    May 23, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    I know this is late to the party, but for anyone curious about the history of specific campus acquisitions I’ve got a new post documenting what I could learn about the acquisition of the West Seattle campus.

  21. Yvette
    August 3, 2012 at 8:12 PM

    I’m sorry to say that what I’m not hearing is that what you will find in a lot of these leaders is symptoms of classic narcissism. They are drawn to these positions where they get to lord over people. Like I have said in the past is that what we see at Mars Hill/Mark Driscoll is a large system of co-dependency. They attract lots of newbies who are clueless but in need of being told what to do/how to view scripture and “what every christian should believe” and Mark Driscoll needs to have followers who worship his theology. I’ve spent a lot of years in the ministry ranging from SBC,Pentacostal,Catholic, and the places with Pastors who were held accountable did not have this kind of drama. The spiritual abuse we see here is for the purposes of maintaining total control. And now that bloggers tell all, Mark has been back pedaling to make all the little neat corrections, enough so it appears that change is in the air. But look at this video and a person who understands manipulation and spiritual abuse can see right through this video. He’s using manipulation to charge any “critic” (basically any of those who leave due to spiritual abuse would be in the camp of “critic”), of course this lends to the spiritual newbies the fear of appearing like a “critic”…total manipulation, that’s classic narcissism, right out of a psych book. It amazes me. I’ve lost good wonderful loving friends to MHC and they tried their spiritual abuse with me, and after 10 years of great friendship I had to move on for my emotional health.

    Here’s the youtube:

    Seems like another red flag is reading all of his church members attempts to continue to make excuses and his own sermons defending and explaining himself. Where is Jesus exalted in this process?

    Amen for humble servants of God! Clearly one can pray for this “pastor” to be humbled but my hunch is this isn’t one that’s going to be humbled that easily…as a kid I use to love Jim and Tammy, Jimmy Swaggart seeing them fall was hard and no one ever wants to see that, but God is just. I don’t believe God allows his people to continue to be harmed. People need to stand up and I hope the SBC pull away from MD.

    • August 3, 2012 at 8:47 PM


      Thanks for reading and taking the time to share this comment with me and my readers. I also appreciate the link, which appears to have been relatively recently. I took a look at it and I would have to agree that I don’t see much (if any) change in attitude toward those Mark Driscoll labels as “critics.” There is no question that every pastor will have critics. However, it is how we typically respond to those critics — both those who may have fair criticisms as well as those who may have unfair criticisms. I wish I could say I always get my response right when I am on the receiving end of what I think is unfair criticism, but I don’t.

      I think the problem that we see with Mark Driscoll and some (many?) other megachurch pastors is a lack of true accountability from folks who are objective. That doesn’t mean that they have to dislike the pastor, but they cannot be “yes men” or “yes women.” I welcome the Deacons at the church I pastor and the members-at-large to dialogue about any issue. We also have business meetings where we report on the life of the church, including a detailed financial accounting that all members see.

      To have the attitude that only critics (i.e., those who have unfairly attacked Driscoll) are leaving Mars Hill is insulting at best. One of the ways that our church members help me to be accountable is through their own reading, studying, interpreting, and applying of God’s Word to their lives and the life of the church. I don’t want a congregation where I have to spoon-feed them everything nor do I desire to have that kind of power or control over the lives of my flock that Driscoll seems to want for his. There are certainly many red flags that continue to be exposed. In the end, perhaps what is happening at Mars Hill and other churches will help all pastors to guard against those sins like pride which can so easily entangle any of us. And, you are right. God will not allow His people to be harmed. Thanks for speaking out and taking the time to stop by. God bless,


  22. December 8, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    It seems like an attorney would know better than to simply take the word of a disgruntled person as if it were fact.

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