A Former Mars Hill Church Pastor Speaks Out About Mark Driscoll

Andrew Lisi was involved at Mars Hill Church from December 2011 to March, 2014. During that time, he was an Executive Pastor, Community Groups Pastor and Biblical Living Pastor at three different campus churches (Downtown, U-District and West Seatte). When Andrew resigned, allegations of pastoral abuse and wrongdoing had started to surface against lead pastor Mark Driscoll.

Andrew recently reached out to me with a letter of concern he wrote to the Executive Elders of Mars Hill Church at the time of his resignation (Dave Bruskas, Sutton Turner, and Mark Driscoll). The letter expressed many of his reasons for leaving. He contacted me in response to the recent reports from former members of The Trinity Church in Phoenix. Andrew sees The Trinity Church reports as history repeating itself. He also hopes to raise awareness about the fact that the investigating board of elders at Mars Hill declared Mark Driscoll to be disqualified from ministry in 2014. Driscoll first agreed to undergo a restoration process but abruptly quit before he started it.

As I read these documents, I am struck by how prophetic Andrew was. I have to remind myself that he is writing in March, months before the church closed down. He saw what was coming and in a way what is happening now.

Several months later, he sent the letter directly to Mark Driscoll with the following cover email:

Pastor Mark,

I wish this was an e-mail under different circumstances. But, I do hope this e-mail and the attached document get to you directly. First, here’s why I’m writing. There are two specific incidents in there I think have personally been involved in regarding your leadership and have as examples of sin against me. The first is the “son-in-law” episode during the LP [Lead Pastor] residency back in May 2013. The second is the Real Marriage/ResultSource stuff. I invite you to read my letter to see the details.

Since I resigned from being on staff and from being an elder at Mars 5 months ago, I have thought long and hard, prayed, and sought counsel as to whether or not I should reach you directly. I never came to a solid conclusion until recently. I decided to trust the Holy Spirit and my gut that’s telling me that the best way to honor you as a brother in Christ and to seek reconciliation is to try to reach you directly.

You might think that I am just now bringing these things up, but that is not a case. Attached you will find the grievance letter I submitted to the Executive Elders and HR when I resigned in March. All of the local elders at West Seattle read it and discussed it with me. I had brief discussions with Pastor Dave and shared it with Bonnie Heather. Much of what is brought up in there has to deal directly with you and while I wanted it to get in your hands then, I’m sure it was never read by you. Perhaps you never received it. While I would add some nuance and deal with the few typos, what I am sending to you is the letter I submitted on March 21, 2014.

I do hope you will read this letter. I expect you will be tempted to get defensive or perhaps dismissive because I was at Mars for a short period of time and we never had a lot of personal interaction. I simply ask that you submit to the Holy Spirit’s fruit of patience and self-control and delay judgment until you’ve read it completely.

Please know that I long to see Jesus glorified in all of this and your joy in Him to be made complete. If you want to address my two examples and would like to talk to me, I will put my number below. Additionally, I am willing to come to Seattle to talk in person.

Your brother in Christ,


The letter is too long to place in the blog post so I have a link to it here:

Read Former Mars Hill Church Pastor Andrew Lisi’s Resignation Letter

I want to pick out just a couple of elements to highlight.

After examining several reasons he decided to leave Mars Hill (many of them involving Mark Driscoll’s leadership), Andrew anticipated various rationalizations for Driscoll’s actions from staff who remained at Mars Hill. One frequently heard rationalization was that Driscoll’s platform brings people in to get saved. Andrew wrote:

I can listen to Pastor Mark’s teaching and even seek to be obedient to what he says. I believe he is an extremely gifted and talented preacher and communicator who gets the gospel out there, calls people to repentance and to turn to Jesus and they do! He has great insight into the human condition and the culture around us. There’s so much about what he says I agree with; but I refuse to do as he does because he doesn’t practice what he preaches. It’s all public. It’s about platform. It’s about influence. It’s about being seen by others. The claim is it’s for the sake of the gospel, but the platform and being seen (Pastor Mark, #1 Best Seller, Founding, Preaching, Vision Pastor, 3rd Fastest Growing Church) is like a megaphone with the name Jesus spoken in plain voice.

And then later in his letter, Andrew looks at the growth of Mars Hill realistically. While they were baptizing people, many were coming from other churches. That echoes what is happening at The Trinity Church. Driscoll’s enterprise grew rapidly when many churches were closed during the pandemic and Driscoll stayed open in defiance of mitigation efforts.

The argument from success is overplayed. The argument is “we are baptizing a ton of people.” In this I say – Amen! I am so thrilled to see people get saved and be baptized. But does it tell the full story? 50 churches, 50,000 people. Phoenix was planted with over 600 people on launch day and over 1,700 when Mark preached live. To what end? The majority were most likely Christians from other churches who were gone the next week. On launch day, with 668 adults and 75 children present (743 total), 10 people were baptized. To knock the small church of 75 people who has one baptism, is to point the finger back on ourselves. First, I implore Pastor Mark to stop taking tactless hacks at small churches and consider them lesser because we are “bigger, stronger, faster, better” and have “a ton of baptisms.” Many small churches are just as missional as Mars Hill and God is choosing to use them in a different way. Second, many Christians from those small churches and other larger churches are just transferring to the new, cool church in town. Third, Mars Hill is not seeing the non-Christians come out in droves to be saved. By ratio, we are seeing the same kind of fruit as many small churches.

Another common one for excusing his actions was “Mark is making progress.” Andrew wrote:

…a general disposition of repentance is severely missing with Pastor Mark. “Progress” is downplaying the issue “But you don’t know Mark at all, Andrew” is what I’m told. That’s right. I don’t have any kind of personal relationship with him. I know this may just get dismissed because of that. However, I think that just feeds the problem. It’s not that I don’t know Mark; it’s also that he doesn’t make himself known. He does not pursue more opportunities to walk in the light with his elders, the men entrusted to lead the mission at the local level. He may very well be a leader in repentance in his home and with his family, perhaps even those closest to him. But I know enough to know that we expect more from those who become members of our church than we do Mark. Some leaders in the church I have talked to say they “see progress” and that’s enough for them, but as I see it, it’s like an abused woman saying, “well he’s only hit me three times this year instead of like five last year – that’s progress.” I fear that because of his savvy way of communicating, forceful language, and bully tactics (name calling, caricaturing, etc.) along with success in ministry Mark got a free pass for his actions long ago and those who knew him then say “he’s so much better than 10 years ago!” When it’s the kind of progress an abusive boyfriend makes, I’m not telling the girl “well that’s great, I’m sure it will get better.” I’m saying, “get out and get out fast.”

Near the end, Andrew recommended.

I believe Mars Hill is at a crossroads and Pastor Mark has to make a decision. Our church and the people live under a false sense of security because we see more money coming in, more churches being established, higher attendance numbers, and people getting saved. But I don’t think it’s only the Holy Spirit working through us; rather, it’s God working despite us. He is patient, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. TThe church has only existed for just over 17 years. That span of time is often just a paragraph in the bible. So, perhaps it can stay this way for decades. I saw God answer the prayer of men being raised up in leadership at West Seattle, but I don’t know for what purpose. Maybe the growth will continue. But the growth we see is a false sense of security. The massive staff turnover and resignation from elders shows that “you reap what you sow.” The labor is in vain. Mars Hill has boasted “the only constant at Mars Hill is change” for at least as long as I’ve lived here. I want that to be true, but it’s not, at least not where it matters most. The call is not merely for a further resurgence forward, but a call to repentance now and it begins with the Founding, Preaching & Vision Pastor, the President of the Board of Elders: Pastor Mark. I recommend Pastor Mark take a sabbatical (not a summer vacation) and entrust Jesus’ church to others and the Holy Spirit. What can be lost by that? I believe that will set a trajectory that will work all the way down in such powerful ways through Sutton & Dave, the LPs, XPs, other staff and elders, leaders in the church, members, attendees, and even many outside the church to God’s glory. This is what I long for and I know I don’t have to be here in order to witness it. I will rejoice wherever the Lord leads as I hear about repentance in Mark for his leadership and a greater desire for him to walk in the light with his brothers and elders and I will be filled with sorrow if that day never comes.

Eventually, Driscoll did take time off and in August 2014, formal charges were filed with the church against him by 21 former elders. After they were thoroughly investigated, the board of elders who did the investigation recommended that Driscoll be disqualified until he could be restored by the elders. Another decision making body at the church – the Board of Overseers (outside advisors) – didn’t want to do that. While these two boards were deliberating, Driscoll resigned.

Andrew Lisi wasn’t around for that. He was gone by then but he had seen the trouble coming and issued a warning. His letter stands as a warning today. Who will heed it?

Podcastalooza: Three podcasts I can recommend today

Steve Hassan – Freedom of Mind

First, let me introduce Steve Hassan’s interview with me regarding Christian nationalism, mind control groups, the Trump years, and, at the end, The Trinity Church in Phoenix. Hassan crafted a blog around the interview which you can read here. A warning to my readers who support Donald Trump, Steve wrote a book called the Cult of Trump about QAnon and Trump’s followers who can see no wrong in anything Trump does. By discussing people who can’t see Trump critically, I am not implying that everyone who supports some of Trump’s policy ideas is in a cult.

Veterans of the Culture War Podcast

Second, I appear today on the Veterans of the Culture War podcast hosted by Zach Malm and Dave Lester. Both men were formerly associated with Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Here is their tweet about the podcast:

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill – Christianity Today

Third, today is the beginning of Christianity Today’s podcast series, “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.” You can hear the first episode “Who Killed Mars Hill?” here.

I like where Mike Cosper is going with this. Rather than tell the whole story of Mars Hill, he focuses on why fallen celebrity pastors keep getting a platform among evangelicals. He hopes to understand better why certain types of people gravitate toward the role of pastor and why Christians keep accepting them.

Mike and guest Ed Stetzer establish the epidemic of celebrity pastors who fall from their perch for various reasons. Stetzer seems to float the possibility that gifted people are elevated to celebrity status before their character can catch up. As I listened, I framed this question to myself: Does pastoring in a megachurch create narcissism or are narcissists attracted to leading a such a church?

The Different Stories of the End of Mars Hill

There is a helpful section near the end where Cosper interviews former elders Aaron Gray and Tim Smith about the investigation of the formal charges in 2014. Driscoll has told people that God told him there was a trap set for him and that he was released from Mars Hill. Gray said he has never understood what that meant. Smith said Driscoll told him that Driscoll came to believe the Board of Elders who investigated the charges against him wanted to gather dirt to force him out. Instead of restoring him, according to Driscoll, they wanted to take over the church from him. Smith seemed dumbfounded by that suspiciousness.

Dave Bruskas, who witnessed the entire process, responded that there was no such “trap.” The plan was for Driscoll to submit to his elders, as he always preached a pastor should do, and return to the role of pastor at Mars Hill.

I will have more to say about future episodes but I will end this post by saying it was a nice touch to have Mars Hill Band King’s Kaleidescope provide the theme song and I liked the choice of Pedro the Lion for a closing song.

Does Anything Sound Familiar Here?

In recent weeks, former members of The Trinity Church have come forward with various stories of being surveiled and being subjected to loyalty tests. Recently, the church threatened legal action against former members. These are concerning tactics and have brought some comparisons to Scientology.

I thought of that comparison when reading this article in Daily Beast about Scientology and surveillance of a former member. Check out this description of “Fair Game” from the article:

“For decades, Scientology has been known to hire private investigators to surveil and harass former members and other people it considers enemies. It even has a name for the policy, which founder L. Ron Hubbard called ‘Fair Game.’ Hubbard said that people identified as targets for ‘Fair Game’ could be ‘tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed,'” said the report. “Critics of Scientology’s tax-exempt status have long pointed to the church’s ‘Fair Game’ policy and use of private investigators as a prime example of the way that the organization is misusing its favored status with the government, and largesse from taxpayers. Remini often decries that Scientology not only harasses and surveils former members, but that it does it with tax-free funds.”

While the allegations from former members don’t include the term “Fair Game,” they do include similar sounding tactics. Chad Freese, former director of security said this about internal deliberations at The Trinity Church:

In another Angelo security meeting, you [Mark Driscoll] and Brandon discussed how you had tripled your litigation fund to approximately $10 million. You said something along the lines of

If Angelo crosses me, I will just bankrupt him and bleed him dry in court. It is a numbers game. I guarantee you he runs out of money before I do.

You followed that up with, “In fact, that goes for anyone.” You continued to talk horribly about Angelo and said,

Hell, he’s a broke-ass dad that could not financially take care of his son. He only tithes $25 per month. He doesn’t have much money so bankrupting him will be easy.

The rest of Freese’s document describes surveillance of a family and regular monitoring of members’ social media postings.

I invite readers to draw your own conclusions.


Faithtalk 1360 Radio Puts Fox in Charge of Investigating Crime at the Henhouse

Mark Driscoll and his religious business The Trinity Church has a show on Salem Broadcasting Network. In essence, it is a replay of him speaking to his congregation.

Some of the former members and staff of The Trinity Church are bothered that their former pastor is promoted by this show and so they wrote to Salem Broadcasting’s affiliate Faithtalk 1360 in Phoenix to complain. They were represented by Chad Freese who was director of security at the Driscoll church until he quit a few weeks ago.

This in itself is noteworthy because The Trinity Church exiles are following a similar pattern as the former Mars Hill Church members who felt harmed by their experience at the Seattle church. However, what I want to focus on is the reply of Marc Lucas Local Ministry Director at the station. Chad gave me the following email reply:

Hi Chad,
We at FaithTalk 1360 have been investigating the claims filed against Mark Driscoll.  We are working closely with Dunham Agency to review the information against Mark Driscoll.  We appreciate your email to the radio station.

Marc Lucas

While it sounds good that the claims are being investigated, check out who is doing the investigating. Lucas says “The Dunham Agency” is working with them. In this story, the claims and former members are in the henhouse, and the Dunham Agency is the fox who is in charge of investigating a mysterious disappearance of some chickens.

One of Mark Driscoll’s long time associates and damage control guru — Randal Taylor — just happens to work for the Dunham Agency. Taylor is also on the board of both Real Faith and The Trinity Church.

Prior to joining Dunham, Taylor worked with Driscoll and Mars Hill Church on video production and public relations messaging. According to former Mars Hill elders I spoke with, Taylor was involved in crafting the videos of Driscoll attempting to do damage control as Mars Hill slipped into crisis mode throughout 2014 (e.g., the “anonymous” video). Gradually, he became a trusted advisor for Driscoll.

Thus, Taylor was involved in damage control at the former church and may be involved in the same activity now. While I can’t prove this (since nobody sees financial statements at The Trinity Church), it is quite possible that The Trinity Church and Real Faith are clients of the Dunham Agency. I asked Marc Lucas about the conflict interest but heard no reply from him.

(Well, scratch the above because it appears the Dunham & Company is a “partner” with Mark Driscoll. In other words, they work or worked for him getting his Real Faith rebrand off the ground.) Watch:

The fix is in.

In any case, if the radio stations maintains this stance, it is clear they have no intention of taking the listener and former member complaints seriously. To my way of thinking, dismissing these concerns would be a mistake. I suspect these complaints could escalate and find more supporters, especially from the Northwest.

UPDATE: Here is another indication of Dunham’s work for Driscoll.

And Driscoll’s testimonial…


Mark Driscoll: The Trinity What?

Far be it from me to tell Mark Driscoll how to run his religious businesses.  But I have to say if I was a tither or someone who gave an offering to The Trinity Church, I would feel a bit slighted.

Take for instance the production studio recently purchased by The Trinity Church religious business. That nonprofit paid $740,000 for a nifty studio to serve as an office for his other religious nonprofit business, Real Faith.  I’m not a megachurch pastor, but $740,000 is a lot of coin. But The Trinity Church had that laying around and Driscoll used it (since he alone decides those kind of things) to get himself a studio.

But you know what? He didn’t even give the givers at The Trinity Church a shout out. Witness this June 3rd email to his supporter list.

Real Faith “has acquired a studio space.” No tip of the cap to The Trinity Church. Just a passive voice.

He says here on June 3rd that God “just put something in front of us [Real Faith].” Strange. The Trinity Church bought the space back in March. Former director of security Chad Freese told me that Real Faith director and Driscoll’s oldest daughter Ashley Chase told the former owner that none of the old furniture would be needed since she had already ordered new everything for the space. I wonder who paid for that? And why is Driscoll still fund raising as if he just “acquired” it?

So many questions. It probably is all legal and such, but I can’t escape the impression that The Trinity Church functions as the warm up act for The Real Faith, which is The Real Show. What kind of sweet deal do you have to have to have your church shell out $750,000 in tithes and offerings so you can have a custom studio for you to run your other religious business and not give them any credit?