Postcards from Phoenix: When Church Divides a Family

This is the second Postcard from Phoenix and it comes from former The Trinity Church worship staff member Luke Chase. Young Mr. Chase describes a difficult situation where he felt he had to choose between loyalty to his family and loyalty to The Trinity Church.

When a child is torn between loyalty to a pastor and loyalty to parents, the psychological dissonance is incredibly intense and disruptive. The pastor claims to speak for God, while your parents are, of course, your only parents. It is simply wrong for a pastor to usurp these relationships. If anything, church should attempt to build and rebuild family relationships.  It should be noted that Luke’s brother Landon is married to Mark Driscoll’s daughter, Ashley.

The other disturbing feature of Luke’s postcard is his description of how he felt he had to demonstrate loyalty to the church over his friends. He said his associations and friendships were monitored with angry confrontations from leaders when he associated with non-approved people. This is quite troubling and something that I am hearing from others at The Trinity Church. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this in another postcard or two.


Dear Warren:

I recently learned the reason why my family no longer attends The Trinity Church. As you now know, The Trinity Church is, until just recently, where I worked as a worship assistant, and acted as the interim worship director, and where my brother Landon is a pastor. My parents did not tell me the reasons they stopped attending in order to allow me to stay at the church so I could, as they said, “walk in my gifting.”

I had no idea why they stopped coming to church with us about 18 months ago. If something had happened they surely would have told me, right? I mean they never talked about the church, and for the most part I stopped talking to them about my work life. At the same time they went silent, I did too. I couldn’t tell them they had been deemed as “toxic” by the leadership, could I? Also, my 50+ hours work weeks resulted in us not having real conversations for far too long.

While I learned a lot and did have some buffer of protection from Pastor Dustin Blatnik who was my mentor and I consider to be a friend, my time on staff had its challenges. This problem was amplified once Pastor Dustin was let go and I was discouraged by the other pastors from continuing to associate with him.

The church leaders dictated who I was allowed to be friends with. There were some employees I was allowed to spend time with outside of work, probably because of their trust rating. Other employees I was told would be fired soon, and that if I were to hang out with them I might also be fired. Ironically a friend who respected my decision when I ultimately decided to resign and allowed me time to process on my schedule paid a price for being seen with me. He was seen hanging out with me the next week, and he was promptly fired and told that he was not a good fit.

On several occasions I was pulled into private rooms for disciplinary conversations. The infractions ranged from parking in the wrong lot to not being active with other workers when I had more important tasks to do. My supervisors Tyler Johnson, Galen Balenski, and even the campus Pastor Brandon Anderson resorted to cursing and intimidating me. Surprisingly enough, those motivational talks didn’t earn my trust or motivate me to please them more.

During my parent’s absence I had to listen to staff repeatedly tell me that my mom and dad were toxic. It struck me as odd since this is what is said of the other in-laws of the Driscoll kids and even of Pastor Brandon Anderson’s in-laws. In fact, their continued presence in my life was viewed as such a threat to my development as a REAL MAN that I was offered a pay raise simply for moving out of that “toxic” environment by Pastor Eden, Pastor Landon, and John Welnick. It was even implied that if I didn’t move out soon enough I could be fired. As a result I had to pretend like I agreed in order to save my job but in reality I would just day dream about getting out of the church.

An important note here is that my parents adopted me at 9 months old and have loved, parented and invested in me well to this day. They have led large growing integrity filled ministries in Seattle and Arizona for more than 15 years and clearly are not toxic people – I mean google their names and you will not find a bunch of dead bodies behind their bus! They love their kids and were willing to suffer in order to avoid causing any further division between them.

When I finally did ask them what happened I was angered to learn that Pastor Mark Driscoll yelled at and wounded my mom emotionally. My dad had tried to restore the relationship, but Pastor Mark did not feel like he had done anything wrong. It was after this incident that they were declared toxic in an attempt to explain why the church was no longer in fellowship with them.

That is when I resigned. When it became clear that the abuse I had experienced wasn’t an isolated thing that was normal in the workplace, but a pattern of behavior that I keep discovering goes far beyond what I first knew. While I love my brother and am sorry that I don’t get to see him as much now that we are not working together, I just couldn’t continue to work for an organization that required its employees to live in fear of being fired and was actively speaking poorly of my parents.

With sadness from Phoenix,

Luke Chase


Read all of the Postcards from Phoenix

For more on The Trinity Church, click here

For a summary of recent controversies surrounding The Trinity Church, click here

17 thoughts on “Postcards from Phoenix: When Church Divides a Family”

  1. This is incredibly painful to watch unfold. I grew up in an unhealthy and moderately authoritarian church and Christian school with a couple of leaders who, if given the chance, would have become Mark Driscoll. It really is like watching people needlessly endure an abusive marriage.

  2. Wow. I live in the Pacific Northwest so followed the rise and fall of Mars Hill Church, even buying serveral books and going to a few satellite services in Olympia, WA. This is so troubling to hear. It’s also damaging to the adult children and their marriages. In Seattle the downfall was about money, lack of transparency and power. No doubt, many relationships suffered. I’ve never heard of a pastor acting like this to his congregation. Sounds like a new but repeating pattern. All that real man, real woman stuff becomes a bit personal and in bad taste; possibly a big hang-up there. I hope Mark Driscoll is able to get the help he needs.

  3. And the saga continues even while I am realizing that a “worship service” is just letting out down in the Valley. Driscoll is among the worst of the worst if you judge that at the end of Mars Hill there were many former members showing up to picket the church each Sunday. I know of no one else who has managed to accomplish this and I suspect that others will join Mirele on the picket line sooner than later. I thought him to be the worst until I read that his buddy in Chicago was looking for hitmen to hire twice to kill his enemies. This is a reason of concern to me. And this news getting out will just make Pastor Narcissist that much more angry and paranoid. I expect things to get worse, even to the point that people in his church will have to bend over backward to ignore the Elephant that is now and has been for years plainly in the churches Mark has lead. I would not be surprised if Driscoll ends up arrested and charged with something as he is clearly getting worse with time.

    1. I don’t think they liked me out there verbally telling people that Driscoll’s in-laws aren’t allowed on the property.

      1. Nice strategy there Mirele! While it is not uncommon to have friction with in-laws, having them banned from setting foot on your business property is quite over the top. Cockroaches run from the light which is why we are instructed to walk in the light. It is a shame that so many professed Christians cannot tell the difference between light and darkness in their own church they attend. How are they suppose to recognize it in The World, when they cannot recognize it in their own preferred religious institution?

  4. Mark Driscoll is pretty clearly making the same mistakes he made at Mars Hill, but there’s no one at Trinity who can tell him to stop it. This will not end well; but I hope it ends quickly, for the sake of his congregation. They deserve better.

      1. Yes, you’re right. Driscoll’s actions would be more accurately called choices, not mistakes.

    1. There’s nothing holding the congregants to Driscoll’s church.

      (Or is there? With the NDAs, did they also forfeit their firstborn?)

      1. True, though people at Mars Hill got caught up in Driscoll’s psychological manipulation, workplace bullying, and spiritual abuse. So we are seeing it again at Driscoll’s current church.

  5. It is beyond my comprehension why anyone would stay in such a “church.’ I realize that it would be difficult for me to understand, given my own faith background, but even so – I am able to read the Bible, and can see how churches should be. This “church” would be unrecognizable by any early church fathers and mothers. I am sorry for those who are taken in my a cult like this and applaud those who are able to escape.

    1. I’d say for the same reason people stay with abusive spouses, because the relationship doesn’t start out as abusive, it just builds up to it. So by the time the relationship becomes abusive, it may be very hard for someone to break free. Think of the case of the slowly boiled frog.

      What I find shocking is Luke’s parents didn’t warn their sons about the danger Driscoll posed as soon as they realized it.

      1. The boiling frog story is a myth; frogs have a better survival instinct than do humans, I guess. However, I do understand your point, and I share your shock.

  6. Folks, what Luke Chase is describing here is “disconnection.” It’s something practiced by the gold standard of cults, Scientology. In Scientology, people are told that if you associate with certain family members or friends who have left Scientology and/or become hostile to Scn (if they never joined up), that you have to disconnect from them, otherwise you’re “threatening your eternity.” What it practically means is that Scientology will not allow to continue up the “Bridge to Total Freedom.” And if you’ve been told for years and decades that your eternal future (Scientology believes in a kind of reincarnation) depends on being able to take these courses and get this auditing to get up the Bridge, yeah, you are going to see this as a mortal threat to your eternity.

    I dunno if Driscoll is actually threatening people’s salvation, but I could see it. In any case, it’s loyalty to the leader as opposed to loyalty to family and friends. That just screams CULT! to me.

    1. I had a similar experience when I left Fellowship Church in DFW (the home of Ed “The Bed” Young). After I left, when I visited a few months later one person spoke to me to inform me about the sad passing of one of the associate pastor’s sons (both had MD and were in end stages). Otherwise, nearly two decades later I’ve only had dealing with TWO people from there: a former friend who had turned on me (but later on he repented and admitted his actions were wrong, tragically he died two years ago) and my domestic partner. I’ve lived in the same house with the same address and phone number for over two decades so it’s not like I’m hard to find if someone from there wanted to find me.

    2. That’s why I’m considering a new nickname for Driscoll: Mark Dris-cavige.

      Mind you, only those in the know about the Co$ will get it…

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