Four Myths Regarding the Current Public Discussion of Mars Hill

This week my Facebook feed exploded with discussions about Mars Hill Church and its senior leadership, which quickly turned into a debate on several threads over the nature of such discussions happening on Facebook (or anywhere public, for that matter).

As I read through it all like a gawker who can’t look away from a highway pile-up, I noticed four myths about conflict in the church that I’d like to debunk.

1) It’s wrong to talk about this in public, and Facebook isn’t the right venue.

We live in an era in which the use of technology is growing at a faster rate than policy about the use of technology.

For example, if a fourteen year old girl texts a booby picture to her boyfriend, she can be prosecuted under distribution of child pornography laws and will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life. This is because there’s currently no law in the murky middle between foolish girl and sinister pervert.

The ambiguity of this murky middle makes people nervous about things like social media. We like it for sharing our lunch and cat photos. We like it for expressing joy in the weather, quoting a book passage or sermon, and posting quiz results for which Game of Thrones character we are.

But when someone uses social media to shine light into the darkness, we get uncomfortable. We wonder, is this gossip? Is this public shaming?

I’m not saying anybody’s showing their boobies, but we are trying to figure out how to be the body of Christ in this age and how to be a Gospel community.

In Matthew 18, Jesus outlines clear direction regarding the public discussion of sin. He says:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

So the step I suppose we’re all unclear about is, “tell it to the church.” In this day and age when content marketing and social media strategies abound, who or what is “the church,” and where should this discussion take place?

First of all, the church is described in the Bible as a group of people, not a building. The bride of Christ, the people of God, and so forth. By this definition, we’re not confined to having this discussion within the four walls of a building.

Great, so who are the people of this church?

Mars Hill would define its local church body by its membership, which is defined on their site as members of the family who “participate as the church: sacrificing time, talents, and treasure; committing to the care and community of their fellow members; and submitting to the authority God has established to lead our congregation.”

The tricky thing is, there’s currently is no forum for public discussion of the hard things that have surfaced over the years within the body of Mars Hill that I know of, and there hasn’t been for many many years. Church wide meetings are tightly controlled with scripted information going out and no opportunity to ask questions or dialogue.

In general, community discussion is not encouraged, and questions are not welcomed. Quite the opposite, actually, as those who ask tough questions are frequently labeled as dissenters.

So when it comes to the step Jesus describes in Matthew 18, “tell it to the church,” it’s still unclear how we are to Biblically address a grievance within the body when the first two steps have failed.

Well shit. Now what?

Mars Hill is a church that 1) utilizes technology to broadcast its message around the world, 2) uses social media tools like twitter, Facebook, blogs, and Instagram to communicate its values and mission, and 3) recognizes that a high percentage of “followers” are by those who don’t physically attend a local Mars Hill campus.

By embracing technology and social media to broadcast worldwide, and by shutting down public discourse within the membership, it stands to reason that people online can be considered part of the church, and that Facebook is a reasonable vehicle for asking questions, pursuing accountability, and seeking reconciliation.

2) You’re just bitter and out to get Pastor Mark.

I’m sure there are many people who fit into this category, so how can you tell whether someone is acting out of love or bitterness? Technically you can’t, because only God knows the motive of our hearts. But the way we talk about conflict can offer up some clues as to how our heart is leaning.

First of all, the point of Matthew 18 is to confront a friend who has sinned against you so that he or she can repent and the two of you can be reconciled. It’s an act of grace the offended friend offers the offender so the conflict doesn’t ruin the friendship or further divide the larger body through gossip.

Confronting a friend who sinned against you is an act of love. Watching that friend continue in unrepentance is sad. And the broken relationship is painful.

Chances are, the words and actions that come from a person who loves the friend who offended, is sad they won’t repent, and is in pain over a broken relationship, won’t focus on retribution or revenge, but on rescuing that friend from his or her own destruction.

Secondly, look for folks who skip steps one and two — the private confrontation alone and with witnesses — and go straight for a public soapbox to air their grievances. This is gossip and public shaming done by folks who don’t love someone enough to speak directly to them but merely have a bone to pick.

I’ve heard some say that people should just be quiet and let God take care of his church. But I wonder why we’re to assume that this current public discussion is not God taking care of his church!

People are hurting, and they’ve hit a brick wall in the system that Jesus himself gave us to bring about healing, repentance, and reconciliation.

If Mars Hill chooses to prevent any opportunity for “telling it to the church,” then technology and social media have provided a valid work-around for bringing to truth into the light.

3) You’re just jumping on a bandwagon or joining a crusade.

Don’t be fooled by my silence up to this point, lest you think I’m simply joining a drunken conga line. I’ve been praying for years for truth to overcome fear – not only for those who have been sinned against, but for those who are unrepentant (because I love them).

I was not personally sinned against by Mark or anyone at Mars Hill. But I know people who were sinned against — painfully, and with lifelong consequences — and have walked with them for years through the struggle to understand why repentance and reconciliation is so elusive.

I’ve been extremely impatient at the slowness of God to respond, and it’s very tempting almost every day to write about what I know.

I have a T-shirt that says, “Writing Well Is the Best Revenge.” It’s faded and worn where it rubs against my belt buckle, but I can’t bear to part with it because writing is my super power.

And yet, Christ called me to silence for a season because it’s not my story to tell.

But now that folks are “telling it to the church,” I support a healthy exposure of the truth for the purpose of reconciliation.

If all of this blows up, it will be a beautiful, glorious, mess, and God will be glorified because this is his church, and he takes care of her. If we look to the circumstances at face value, we fear and cry “gossip!” But if we lock eyes with “the one who sees our injustice” as Hagar did, we’re empowered to speak and live in the light without fear.

4) You shouldn’t talk bad about my church — Mars Hill changed my life!

I hear you. Mars Hill changed my life, too!

I was there for sixteen years – all of which I spent as a dedicated member who supported the vision and mission, and even spent some time on staff.

In the late 90’s, I came of age as a believer at Mars Hill. I am a smarter, more thoughtful, less cultural Christian because of things I learned at Mars Hill. I make friends with my neighbors, send my kids to public school, and moved into the city because of things I learned Mars Hill.

But as my friend, Wendy, says here, we’re all called to something much bigger than Mars Hill, so we need to be wise about our allegiance.

In that post she also provides a great analogy for something I’ve thought as well:

“During the years since I left the church, I’ve watched the branches of the Mars Hill tree grow even heavier with new believers as the root system of mature Christians desperately needed to disciple these converts continues to erode. It is only a matter of time before a wind rushes through and causes the entire tree to crash down. I perceive that these current controversies might finally be that wind, and I do not rejoice in that AT ALL.”

If you’re part of the body of Christ at Mars Hill and you haven’t experienced broken relationships because of unrepentant sin, rejoice!

But know that there are some among you who are experiencing broken relationships because of unrepentant sin. The correct response for you is to grieve with those friends, to encourage repentance, and to facilitate reconciliation.

There’s no need to be defensive or beat someone up because you think they talked smack about your sister. Truth transcends all earthly loyalties!

In conclusion…

I write this post — possibly my longest post ever — because I love my brothers and sisters in Christ, I love the Church, and I love sorting out the messy nuances of living as one who is rescued.

I welcome your comments and further discussion.

**If you have a negative comment, please be sure to give the benefit of the doubt on motive or tone to the blog author or readers who comment.

Anonymous comments are welcomed ONLY if you need a safe place to be honest about a burden or concern that you don’t feel free to share with your name. Anonymous critical comments will be deleted immediately. If you need to respond critically, please use your name.**

(I borrowed that comment policy from my friend, Wendy.)

Peace to you.

Why It’s a Good Idea to Re-Write the Bible.

By day, I write other people’s stories. I consult with startups, small businesses, and enterprise companies about what problem they’re solving in the world, and I help them tell a story that other people can see themselves in — because when people can see themselves in your story, they’re more invested in you.

This is what Jesus sent his followers out in the world to do – to tell the story of how God rescues us, so that no matter what we’ve done to ourselves or others, we can see ourselves in God’s rescue plan.

But sometimes I forget to tell myself this story.

Not too long ago I spent a few days wallowing (shocking!) about what a rotten person I am. I definitely said and did some things that were legitimately rotten, but I soon discovered I was also believing a very dangerous lie.

I believed I would always be rotten, that there was no point trying to NOT be rotten, so I moped and grouched about and snapped at everyone because OBVIOUSLY I’M A ROTTEN PERSON.

Then one night as I as wrote in my journal about the stinking decay of my rottenness, I started to gross myself out with all the whining.

So I opened my Bible (finally!).

I went straight for Romans 3:23

…”for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…”

As a lifelong follower of Jesus, it’s easy for me to let his words fade into just… words. Even though I was tiring of my own despair, I still wasn’t able to see myself in God’s rescue story.

But God’s word is living and active, not stale and obsolete. If I couldn’t see myself in God’s story, I needed to re-tell it so I could:


I made it to this version in three drafts, and the exercise pulled me out of the dark hole I was in.

This experience not only helped me, but it reminded me of how easy it is for Christians to alienate other people with our jargon and pat answers.

Oh, you did that really shitty thing? No worries! You’re justified in Christ!

Yes, it’s Truth, but if it’s so easy to disconnect ourselves from the Truth of the story, how much easier is it for those who don’t even know the story?

I’ve been struggling to find my way back into journaling. Maybe the best thing I can do is practice re-telling the story of God’s rescue plan to myself, my kids, and my friends.

My Easy & Automated Monthly Meal Plan

I once heard that Steve Jobs wore a black turtleneck every day so he didn’t spend any decision-making or creative energy choosing an outfit. I don’t know if that’s true, but it explains why I got tired of figuring out what to make for dinner every night.

When I started working again four years ago, I needed a way to simplify meal planning and shorten dinner prep time, because figuring out what to make each night and what to buy every week was draining me.

Meal planning recently came up in several different conversations, so I thought I’d share the system I created. Here it is, step by step:

1) I made a list of all the quick and easy meals my family likes.

Bryan and the kids helped make this list. We came up shy of a month’s worth of meals, so I filled in the rest with easy weeknight meals I found around the web. I’m slowly adding all these recipes to my blog and Pinterest page if you want to follow along there.

I completely revamp this list when the seasons change so we don’t end up eating beef stew in July, and I have a few dinners in my arsenal that take some effort for the weekends, or when I get a whim, or when company comes.

2) I organized all the meals using Google Calendar.

All the calendars for my family are in Google, so it made sense to incorporate our meal plan there. I organized the meals in a way that made sense for our family schedule. For instance, Tuesdays and Thursdays are crockpot meals because Ruthie used to have soccer practice from 5-6pm, and I didn’t have time for any dinner prep.

Monthly Meal Plan

3) I numbered the weeks 1-4.

This isn’t necessary, but it made it easier for me to do step #4.

4) I created a template grocery list.

I use the Shopper App for iPhone, which has a feature for creating template lists. I made a template for all the grocery items I need for Week 1, another list for Week 2, and so on. I also made a template for Weekly Staples we always have on hand, like milk, lunch & breakfast items, and wine.

5) On shopping day…

I double check the family calendar to see if I need to make any adjustments to the pre-set meal plan, then I copy the template items for that week over to my current shopping list, omitting anything I already have on hand.

6) I go shopping.

I know this sounds OCD, but it’s completely changed my life. On busy weeks, this is a no-brainer task I can fall back on. But if I’m feeling more adventurous or less busy or I have more time to think about it, I change it up with different meals and make a custom grocery list.

After about a year of doing this, I feel like it’s the best of both worlds: automated when I need it, flexible when I want it.

Do you plan your menu or make it up as you go?

Do You Journal?


Last summer I tried to pick up journalling again.

It’s something I’ve done since childhood, but after I started blogging in 2005, I put more of my thoughts here than in a private little book.

Journalling allows me to be more raw; I can let the crazy out and not worry about lasting implications on the internet.

But even in that freedom, I still feel stuck.

Which brings me to you.

Do you journal? With paper and pen or an online app? Do you freeform your thoughts or follow a structure?

If you care to share, I’d love to hear from you.

It Doesn’t Take a Brain Surgeon To Set Me Straight


I found this post in my drafts folder from last Fall & decided it was ready to post.

The other day I heard a RadioLab podcast about a guy who had brain surgery to relieve him of seizures. A portion his brain was removed that acts like a “lid” on top of the desire center in his brain. This lid helps people filter and control their deep desires and impulses, like a conscience, or impulse control. Without this “lid,” he entertained and acted on every desire that came to him, and he did so with gusto.

As you can imagine, this eventually got him into hot water.

In some ways, I related to the story.

When I’m in a difficult moment, or in a difficult season, I have a hard time seeing my way out of it. I indulge that feeling of despair and just go with it, feeling like things will never change and I will always feel this way. It’s like I don’t have a lid that controls or filters my deepest despair.

And then I talk to a friend.

My friends are one of the many lids that filter my deepest despairing moments and remind me that I’m not alone, and that it won’t always be this way.

For instance, in the tough parenting moments (like now, for instance, when my kid won’t stop singing DO-DO-DO-DO despite my asking him to stop, like, A THOUSAND times) the floodgates of despair open and I lament the day I ever had kids.

Parenting would be easier without the kids, I joke with Bryan. But then I act on those thoughts by getting snippy with them just for walking into the room.

Friends remind me that all kids can be annoying, disobedient, whiners, not just mine, and then they point me to Jesus and tell me their own stories of bad parenting moments.

Through the “lid” of community, I can filter those moments as irritating, but not despairing. They’re normal. But when I’m isolated and avoid community, my own thoughts are the only reality check I have, and they quickly lead me to despair.

Photo Essay of 2012

Since 2013 is nearly over, I thought it was fitting that I post my unfinished year end photo essay from 2012. It was a really great idea that I spent one evening working on, but apparently taking TWO evenings to work on it was asking too much.

I hated that it was sitting unappreciated in my drafts folder, so in the spirit of “perfect is the enemy of done,” here is a five month photo essay from 2012:







Thanksgiving Break(down)

This kids were out of school for the entire week of Thanksgiving to accommodate parent/teacher conferences. Even though my brain understood it was only three extra days off, my survival mechanism kicked it in as OH MAH GAH IT’S SUMMER VACATION ALL OVER AGAIN.

On Wednesday there was a mutiny over my refusal to pull out the Christmas decorations while also prepping a meal that involved 20 pounds of meat and more side dishes than I make in a week. The mutiny consisted of everyone in the house under forty years old chanting messages that were not a coordinated effort, but just before I lost my mind, Thomas suggested making snowflakes.


During the snowflake frenzy, I noticed that Thomas made a paper snowman and suggested they create a paper mural for our blank, dining room wall.

This very popular idea triggered a violent disagreement over who would be Creative Director, and I thought to myself… WHY DID YOU OPEN YOUR MOUTH YOU INSANE TURKEY.

But I quickly had them sitting down to sketch out their own designs…



… and they chose the winning design in an epic two-out-of-three rock/paper/scissor battle.


And the best part is, no children were harmed in the making of this mural. I was able to just go with it and release the kids into their own creativity while giving them suggestions for problem solving,

A good time was had by all!

Envelope Budgeting for Kids


This week I did a little overhaul on helping the kids learn to manage their money.

Several years ago we got each of the kids a bank like this one (similar banks sold on Amazon). Bryan and I liked these banks because they had a section for spending, saving, and giving – three important money values we teach the kids.

A couple years ago they quit using them (they’re not really in to pirates and ballerinas anymore), and now Thomas stashes all his money in a desk drawer and Ruthie carries hers around in a wallet. Add to that a little dash of lazy parenting, and there hasn’t been much saving or giving happening lately.

But in anticipation of Christmas and an upcoming trip, I decided to whip everybody’s budget back into place.


I found this free printable online for envelope budgeting, and printed out three for each kid to cover spending, saving, and giving. They each cut and folded their own, and tallied up the money they put in each envelope.

Time will tell if this works out, but I really like how simple it is.

They can carry their Spending envelope around with them and use the lines to keep track of how much they spend, and right now they’re both using the Saving envelope to set aside money for buying Christmas presents. I also love that at the end of the month, they can just drop the Giving envelope into the offering bucket at church if that’s how they choose to give.

If you have kids, what do you do to help them manage their money?

red yellow yellow

Follow the lighted dots on the floor. Your color code is red yellow yellow—whenever you’re assigned a path to follow, it will be red yellow yellow, three dots side by side—go where those lights indicate. What’s your color code, boys?”

“Red, yellow, yellow.”

“Very good. My name is Dap. I’m your mom for the next few months.”

The boys laughed.

“Laugh all you like, but keep it in mind. If you get lost in the school, which is quite possible, don’t go opening doors. Some of them lead outside.” More laughter. “Instead just tell someone that your mom is Dap, and they’ll call me. Or tell them your color, and they’ll light up a path for you to get home.”

— excerpt from Ender’s Game

I think Jesus could learn a few things from Ender’s battle school.

For one thing, a well-lit path telling me where to go would be nice – preferably one in different colors than everyone else’s path so I could tell which path is mine to follow.

Dinner Tonight: Party Wings with Thai Peanut Sauce


One way to make everyone in my family happy at dinner time is to grill or broil a hunk of meat seasoned with salt and pepper. Steak, pork chops, any part of a chicken, you name it… if it’s crispy and salted, they will love it.

On loosey-goosey dinner nights when we don’t have the time or desire to set the table and all that jazz, I like to broil party wings.

I can usually fit an entire frozen package on one broiler pan. Simply salt and pepper the wings, broil from frozen for about 20 minutes; flip them over, salt and pepper again, and broil for another 15-20 minutes or until done.

If I serve Thai Peanut sauce with these wings, the kids will dip all sorts of raw vegetables into it: carrots, celery, snap peas, even chunks of lettuce leaves. It’s a health food miracle (wrapped in a peanut butter and brown sugar disguise).

Here’s the recipe (source unknown):

Thai Peanut Sauce

1/3 c soy sauce
1/3 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c lime juice
3 cloves garlic
Mix together
Add peanut butter until desired taste/consistency, at least 1/3 cup.

What’s your fast and easy people-pleasing dish?

Peace Over Pieces


The other day I learned (from Tim Keller!) that the Greek word for anxiety – marimna – means “to be in pieces” or to have a divided mind with too many goals.

One example of its use is in the Mary and Martha story. I always hear this passage preached with the warning to not be too busy to enjoy Jesus. These sermons irritate me because I wonder: Who’s going to do All The Things if everyone’s sitting around appreciating the presence of Jesus?!

People like to focus on Mary and Martha’s behavior, but in the context of “marimna,” Jesus is addressing their hearts. It’s not about all the things Martha is doing; he’s saying she has too many priorities – her heart is divided.

If anxiousness is to have a divided heart and mind, then peace, the opposite of anxiety, is to be single-minded.

But peace doesn’t come merely in choosing one goal to chase over all the others; true peace comes when we are single-minded toward Jesus and let everything else gravitate around him.

According to the passage, Mary is single-minded toward Jesus. This doesn’t mean she neglects all the work – it just means she finds peace in Jesus, not in her to-do list.

Two years ago I wrote about this same thing in a post called, Restful Worship. Here’s an excerpt…

Whatever circumstances I find myself in – whether emotional turmoil, financial hardship, or even just a busy schedule – God will not only sustain me in the midst of it, but he will provide a season of peace.

But it’s not the sort of peace where I catch up on laundry, sleep, and 30Rock episodes, but a peace that’s intended to remind me of who God is and how he sustained me through the day (or week, or month, or however long I’ve been slogging along).

He provides an opportunity for restful worship.

This Fall I was feeling very anxious again and, quite frankly, a little cray-cray. My heart was in pieces, divided. I was worrying about all the circumstances around me, which led me to be controlling and argumentative, then despairing when I couldn’t control or argue my desires into existence.

Thankfully, my heart and mind are at peace again – single-minded toward Jesus.

How do you struggle with marimna? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

That’s Not My Name, Dammit.


Lately I’ve been struggling to sort out in my head what is Truth and what is a Lie. It’s been a deep, debilitating struggle, actually, in which I feel like I’m going insane.

This is obviously putting stress on my family relationships. After all, if I assume you’re lying to me, then it stands to reason I should crush you with my anger.

I am thankful for a patient husband and friends who come to the rescue with chicken pot pie and conversation at 10:00pm.

This morning I interrupted a death spiral of lies and went for a walk to clear my head in the fresh air and bright sun. As I walked briskly with music in my ears, The Ting Tings shuffled into my mix.

They call me Elle
They call me Stacey
They call me her
They call me Jane

That’s not my name
That’s not my name
That’s not my name
That’s not my…name

I’m known around the office for getting lost in my music and accidentally singing out loud while co-workers are on a conference call, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that as I hiked through the Seattle Center I shouted, “THAT’S NOT MY NAME” over and over again.

It felt good to get it out: to shout THAT’S NOT MY NAME at Satan, or my brain, or my heart, or whatever it is that’s trying to separate me from reality.

My name is Daughter, and I belong to Jesus. Everything else is a lie.

Keeping Our Kids Safe Online – Part 1

One evening a couple weeks ago, Ruthie’s friend called and said, “Go on your Google hangout!”

Ruthie didn’t know what that was, so Bryan set up her own account on the family computer in the living room, and within a few minutes we were flies on the wall to a pre-teen conversation.


The timing couldn’t have been more perfect: I had just heard Katie Greer speak about keeping our kids safe online, and I felt ready for this moment.

I didn’t know what to expect from the event, since I’d never heard of Katie Greer before. I thought – worst case scenario – that it might be a fear-inducing call to ban all technology from the home, but I was so pleasantly surprised.

I don’t know how the other parents felt, but I came away completely at peace about our family’s use of technology, and armed with helpful information about keeping them safe online.

Over the next few posts I’ll share my main take-aways from the event.

In the meantime, I definitely recommend checking out her site for helpful tips and information on where she might be speaking near you.