May 31, 2017 by Will Maule

What Happened After Mark Driscoll's Church Collapsed?

When Seattle Megachurch Mars Hill was in full swing, it had an average weekly attendance of over 12,000 people. It planted 53 Churches across India, released 50 new worship songs, and took nearly $25 million in offerings. But in 2014, it all came to a grinding halt, when Senior Pastor Mark Driscoll became the centre of accusations of bullying and financial mismanagement. 

Mars Hill quickly shut its doors, releasing a final statement: “With her final breath, Mars Hill gave birth to 11 newly independent churches where, by God’s grace, the gospel will continue to be preached, his name will be glorified, and thousands will be saved by Jesus.”

But what happened next?

"The collapse of Mars Hill released a tidal wave of hurt, disillusioned people," writes Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra at The Gospel Coalition. "Many quit Mars Hill; some quit church or Christianity altogether. Hundreds limped into other area churches, asking about church bylaws and pastoral pay structures before even introducing themselves."

“We had some serious trust issues,” said Neil Huck, who started attending Mars Hill in 2004. He spent a decade growing from “a baby Christian to a less baby Christian” under Driscoll’s leadership.

“It’s like your dad left, and your family is broken,” he said. “There is nothing healthy about that. You get through it, and your faith strengthens, and good has come from it. But it wasn’t healthy.”

When Mars Hill shut up shop, former members flooded the surrounding local Churches. 

Adam Sinnett’s 250-member Downtown Cornerstone Church saw nearly 100 visitors on one Sunday.

“I had never been asked by so many people I don’t know—before I even heard their name—about bylaws and pastoral pay structures in my life,” Sinnett said. The next week, another crowd showed up, “but they weren’t the same people,” he said.

Sinnett and his co-planter David Parker had to work overtime to try and pick up the pieces of many hurt former Mars Hill attendees. Last year, they installed two additional pastors and then both took a much-needed sabbatical, “feeling the weight of everything that had taken place surpassed the bounds of our relational and emotional capacity," writes Zylstra.

Downtown Cornerstone moved into the role of a foster family, explained Sinnett. “We knew the Lord was calling us to pause and care for our brothers and sisters who were hurting. We told them, ‘We know this is hard. We aren’t expecting anything from you. Whether you want to run with us for a month, or for ten years, that’s awesome. We just want you to feel grace and to feel loved.’”

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