Mark Driscoll and the Mars Hill Company: Master Architects of Arbitrariness

In the new Mars Hill Church Bylaws, Mark Driscoll and the elders approved a section on church discipline. It is a magnificent example of the Art of Arbitrariness. PH is sparing the reader all of the boring bylaw detail, and has included only the silliest parts for your reading pleasure. (Complete with comments that were in part ripped off from Gregg Neilson’s much fuller documentation and commentary, found HERE.)

Article VIII, Sec C – Church Discipline…

  1. Those who are members of the church or who regularly participate in church activities may be dismissed from the church by the agreement of at least two elders…

    Note: There is no mention here of what violations may result in such dis-fellowshipping (aka dis-membering J ). There may be a scriptural basis or there may not be. It may be for reasons that are mere opinions, false accusation, general violations, sinfulness, divisiveness, disagreement, or other unspecified conduct…

  2. A person dismissed from Mars Hill Church for disciplinary reasons may be reinstated to full membership if the person’s repentance is accepted as genuine by the elders that oversaw the person’s discipline.

    A brother offended is harder to win than an enemy. The elders who are judging the sincerity of the repentance may well have been personally pissed off offended by something the dismissed member did or said…easily making them biased. Repentance is a change of mind, heart and direction. These are verifiable and observable, and may be determined by any of the elders in church leadership.

  3. Each member of this church, and every other professing Christian who regularly attends or fellowships with this church, agrees that there shall be no appeal to any court because of a discipline process or dismissal. …

    Okay… This is goofy. MH members must give up their legal rights? What if there was criminal activity? Still no recourse?

    Making it even more ridiculous: In the MH discipline document, it was clearly stated that person removed from fellowship by two or more elders has NO appeal without repentance. PH is assuming that the elders were not suggesting that THEY might be the ones in need of repentance, so this does beg the question: what if the removed member did not sin? Over the past months, MH elders have taken the position that if THEY declare something a sin, it is. (eg unhealthy distrust) . There is NO appealing the decision of two or more elders. This has been a HUGE part of the recent controversy regarding the fired pastors and other disciplined members.

Mark Driscoll and the Execs have orchestrated the quintessential”heads we win, tails you lose” situation.


12 Responses to Mark Driscoll and the Mars Hill Company: Master Architects of Arbitrariness

  1. Sober says:

    Even worse is that the executive elders, in their discipline document, state that there is no appeal to the civil court because that would be sinful. They cite 1 Cor 6.

    At the same time, the deny any appeal through the church to its members. The clear teaching of 1 Cor 6 is that it should be unnecessary and foolish to go to court and have non-Christians adjudicate BECAUSE this should be facilitated and available to members through the church.

    So the elders of Mars Hill say that if you have a case where you feel they have been wrong there is no appeal available. This is a clear violation of 1 Cor 6. Then at the same time they say that to then appeal to the civil court is a violation of 1 Cor 6.

    These men want to have their cake and eat it too. They violate 1 Cor 6 and then tell members who now have no other recourse except to be wronged that they cannot sue in a civil court because 1 Cor 6 prohibits this.

    Of course many Christians consider it sinful to go to civil court against a brother. This is true only because the instruction that the church provide the avenue for justice. How can the elders prohibit both? If they are the perpetrators of abuse, (as appears to be the case with the two fired elders), they are essentially say that they can abuse you without you having any recourse at all. This is most sinful.

    The elders and most Christians would be quick to say that if a crime had been committed then going to the civil authorities is appropriate. Well, in some states there is such a thing as criminal slander. So the line between it being appropriate to sue for slander, libel and the harm it created civilly may not be that far from criminally. In both cases it is sin. In some cases a crime.

    I would therefore suggest that the elders are inviting a lawsuit if they are violating the clear teaching of 1 Cor 6 instructing that an appeal process be created within the church. It is authoritarian and pompous to prohibit an appeal through the church and then on the heels of that declare that it is sinful to sue for justice in the civil arena.

    And also rather risky…

  2. Sober says:

    It is also extremely proud and pompous. They are suggesting that they cannot make a mistake. Every decision they make, though they are sinners, is correct. Therefore, there is no need for an appeal of any kind.

    They answer to nobody.

    This kind of this mule-headedness is perhaps why so many churches get sued. Only then do they have to give an answer for their actions. Increasingly courts are taking cases to adjudicate abuse. Increasingly hurt ex-members are finding justice in the only place that they can – in civil court.

    It seems like a no-brainer. You do not avoid civil suits by banning them or declaring them sinful. You avoid civil suits by providing the adjudication within the safety and sensibility of the church.

    When talking about church discipline in 2006 Mark Driscoll told Acts 29 pastors to be sure to have substantial insurance to cover the legal costs when they get sued. Perhaps he has the foresight to see that if you block justice within the church you are likely to have to face the judge and jury in the civil arena sooner or later.

  3. Army81 says:

    Sober said in his/her first post: “This is most sinful”

    Some might even go so far as to call it “utterly sinful.” As opposed to “totally sinful” or even “totally depraved.” Seems that there is a good Calvinist word study waiting to be had.

  4. SeenItB4 says:

    Mark Driscoll was involved in the prosecution of at least one very Godly man at another well known local church. After Mark had been gone for a year or two, documents were found that completely exonerated the man that Driscoll and his buddy deemed guilty. Fortunately, the well known local Pastor was humble enough to completely restore the innocent man.

    Mark Driscoll never did apologize to the falsely accused man. Of course, once the bodies fall in his wake, he likely doesn’t look back.

    How many other innocent bodies has Driscoll left behind? Are we seeing more being laid out?

  5. grieved says:

    Praying Heart,
    You have posted a link to Phoenix Preacher which as you know is running several threads with hundreds of reader comments concerning the turmoil at Mars Hill. I would encourage you to invite the readers at Phoenix Preacher who are now reading your site to post their own comments here. After reading many of their comments myself I have been greatly encouraged and believe that they can now bring insights to us because many of them have also suffered injustice and abuse at the hands of their own church leaders. Of course you will have to accept that not everyone will agree with you, but thats what this site is about….people having to the freedom to say how they feel, regardless of the position they are coming from. I do believe there are many that have much to add to what has been said here already. At the very least their active participation will help to bring these matters to the Christian community at large. Perhaps MH elders will see this, take serious note and begin to address this matter to Mars Hill instead of ignoring it as they have been doing. From the way that you have set this site up, anyone is welcome to comment, but most will not because they will feel they are intruding on a church matter that they are not personally part of. If you welcome their comments (and I believe you do welcome them) then please INVITE THEM to do so. We need all the help we can get!

  6. Rachel says:

    i want my first post here to be this: my love and prayers go out to all of you. this is a desperate time, and i pray that in it, you will individually and corporately, by the power of the one and only Son of God – Jesus, find in this situation all the riches God intends, and none of the bankruptcy and poison that the enemy intends.

    more later i’m sure, but i want you to know that someone in texas is loving you. be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.

  7. Rachel says:

    oh, and p.s. i found my way here through PP. hurt before, probably will be hurt again until the Lord comes and we all lose some dead weight. praise God, i can pray for you with a heart that knows a struggle that might be somewhat like your own, and pray that God would offer you the comfort He offered me.

  8. Stan says:


    Thank you… lessons are being learned, even by the agrieved in this situation. One lesson is to hold firmly to your relationship with Christ and somewhat more lightly your affection for a church. In this situation I see many members that hold too fast to “a church” or “leadership” rather than to their first love – Christ – and brothers and sisters in community.

    Granted, the two pastors were betrayed by their close community (other elders and “leadership”) and for them I grieve and pray. For them there is the balm of God’s Grace and a closer walk with Him and other brothers and sisters in Christ who love them and new community.

    So, God is great and His tender mercies are manifest – He has brought another soul across our paths to encourage us – I thank God for your presence here Rachel and thank you…

  9. Rachel says:

    stan, i’ve learnd that lesson the hard way. it has a way of sneaking up on you. i didn’t worship my church and her leaders, but i trusted them in a way that was a set up for disaster. instead of trusting God and then trusting them, i trusted God and them. seems like a subtle distinction, but for me it was a big one. if i just trust them, then i am completely exposed when they fail (which they will!!). but, if i trust God, then them, my primary point of trust remains untouched, no matter what.

    now i focus first on the fact that i trust the Lord, no. matter. what. only because i trust Him can i trust those in authority over me, knowing that this is what God asks, for better or for worse. of course, any trust has to be tempered and cannot be blind. God calls us to trust and respect our leaders, but He doesn’t call us to be stupid.

    anyway – i’m still walking cautiously after my experience, but there is a balm in Gilead. i’ve had it, and it works. thank you, sweet Jesus!

  10. reapwhatissown says:

    Bottom line with ALL this controversy is that Mars Hill is a cult of personality, where Jesus is worshipped second to Mark Driscoll. That is why the outcry over this is not particularly widespread within the church, even among those aware of the facts. No one wants to give up on their real god, Mark Driscoll. Mark has encouraged this worshipfulness and discouraged anyone from finding Jesus in their own way or finding Jesus without him. Thus his refusal to let others preach – that would require acknowledging that it is not all about him. And for Mark, it is all about him. And for far too many at Mars Hill, it is all about Mark as well. He may say the words it is all about Jesus and put them all over his website. But actions speak infinitely louder than words, and the actions of Driscoll are clear as day. Unfortunately, personalities like Mark’s are often successful at building mega-churches, often filled to the rafters with people who want to be led and told what to think because of the sense of certainty and security it gives them. Such personality types are not likely to question authority. So while I fully support these efforts to expose Mark for who he really is, I highly doubt they will lead to any real change at Mars Hill. In the end, those whose eyes have been opened will move on. Those who refuse to open their eyes will stay on. Mark will not change. And more will be hurt as time goes on and good people come under his sway. I pray for all of you involved and wish you clear vision to find your way past this and onward to a purer and happier relationship with Christ.

  11. Outsider says:

    You keep on trying to “expose Mark for who he really is” and you’ll continue to find that he is a man whom God has used to do amazing things to advance His kingdom instead of spending their time creating websites and slinging mud trying to bring a godly man down. Is it Jealousy? Is that it? God has caused MH to flourish and all you can do is try and find things to complain about. Every church has groups of people like you folks. You’re nothing new. Do you think your efforts will be able to derail the work God is doing in and through MH? That is the pompous message you convey.

  12. Stan says:


    You have accused people here of sin in a cowardly, general way without any specific facts – why?

    Complaints and criticisms posted here are based on facts, events and documents – verifiable and specific. The spirit is one of justice and correction, and fervent desire for the good work God is doing to continue in love and understanding. PH has expressed christian love for Mark and recognized the good work of Marshill in several posts. The desire is for reconciliation and redemption – that christians can dialogue, disagree and correct with love.

    You just “threw “, attacked, without any specifics. If your goal is correction and redemption – then show us where there is error. Vague charges are easy – but not profitable, for you, or those who post here.

    Who here has tried to “derail the work God is doing…”? (Indeed, how could any person derail God’s work?) I think you’ve missed the point here but if you would like to try again and give some specifics that show error that would be helpful.

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