Caved, Endured, Benefited from The Rise & Fall of Mars Hill

I completed a journey today I didn’t want to take for two reasons: a little bit of pride and a little bit of anger mixed with fear. I caved, mostly from the encouragement of two friends. I’m glad I did.

At my pace, the journey took almost two months. Necessary stops and starts to digest, to breathe, to clear, to process. The journey took me to expected and unexpected places; some I knew I needed, some I surprisingly didn’t know I needed. I’m glad I endured.

The journey was listening to the main twelve episodes of The Rise & Fall of Mars Hill podcast. One description of the podcast reads:

Hosted by Mike Cosper, this Christianity Today podcast takes you inside the story of Mars Hill Church in Seattle-from its founding as part of one of the largest church planting movements in American history to its very public dissolution-and the aftermath that followed. You’ll hear from people who lived this story, experiencing the triumphs and losses of Mars Hill, knowing it as both an amazing, life-transforming work of God and as a dangerous, abusive environment. The issues that plague Mars Hill and its founder…aren’t unique, and only by looking closely at what happened in Seattle will we be able to see ourselves.

There would be no point in retelling the story. There’s plenty of that available. Rather, I wish to encourage those like me resistant to giving the podcast a chance to consider these thoughts:

  • We can learn from failure. Along with learning, we can also grow. In order for both to happen, we have to set our minds for them. We can listen to this story, pass judgment, shake our heads, drop our jaws, defend, sweep, have any of all the possible reactions. But if all we do is emotionally react, CT’s work has been in vain. If the message is received like a Netflix binge, we have missed the opportunity to learn and grow. If you are a person who doesn’t want to miss the opportunity, it’s time to cave.
  • There is such a thing as church trauma. If you’ve spent any time in the church, you know it. But what you probably don’t realize is trauma’s impact, subtleties, layers, history, and power. Under so many holy labels, trauma is happening right now. And the danger is we don’t even realize it. Wolves are feasting. If you are a church leader, paid or volunteer, who feels powerless to speak about what’s troubling your spirit, it’s time to endure.
  • Stories are sacred and deserve dignity. Our desire to avoid pain inhibits healing. Our wish to consider it “not my problem” disregards the wounded’s sacredness. Facing our fears, weeping with the discarded, listening to the angry, offering safety, and naming evil must be available in the church. If your church makes these things unavailable, it’s time to listen and restore.

Several moments in the hours of these twelve episodes I felt these words by Mike Cosper:

Part of what drew me to this project was my own history. The fact that even from a distance, I heard echoes of my experience and the stories coming out of Mars Hill. The more time I spent with that story and especially the more time I spent with these people, the louder those echoes got. Now, having seen the story go back out into the world, I’ve genuinely wept at how many others are hearing their experience reflected here too.

Aftermath, December 4 episode

I’m better for having caved and endured. I’ve benefited from meditating, weeping, discussing, and repenting. If someone has encouraged you to listen and you’re resisting, odds are you will also benefit. It’s time.

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Hope Rising (book review)

Many years ago while working on a personal values exercise, the word hope surfaced as a personal guide. So it’s no wonder that two connections (work and church) I’ve made in the last year carry that same guide.

And it goes to reason that the book I just finished reading stands out as meaningful. Hope Rising by Casey Gwinn and Chan Hellman hits the mark in explaining much of the challenges our country wrestles with daily. Many people have low hope, and therefore their lives follow down the road to hopelessness.

Hope is a verb involving action and the ability to change the future.

The crust of their objective is to help readers grasp the importance of goals, pathways, and willpower in what they call the science of hope. They recite many research results (there are over 2,000 published studies on hope) that indicate how the concepts move people from low hope to high hope, thus hope rising. The book contains numerous stories of people with low hope working on rising their hope.

We act based on what we believe not based on what we know.

In order to know where you are on the hope scale, they share several examples of domains (academic, health/fitness, family, romantic relationships) where you can assess your hope level. Quite insightful. To take the general evaluation, follow this link to hopescore.org.

They make a believable argument that hope impacts education, work, and health, which certainly impact families and personal growth. This has led them to focus on providing support for children and adults who have experienced trauma in their lives and struggle with hope.

Hope is not a step in life; it is a stance.

Who should read this book?

  • It wouldn’t hurt anyone to read it
  • Anyone who has had any hint of trauma in their life
  • Anyone who works with children
  • Anyone who works with trauma victims
  • Coaches
  • Ministers
  • Counselors/Psychologists
  • Anyone desiring hope to rise

A Grace Lesson from “Walking with Elephants”

Last night I caught the replay of Animal Planet’s “Walking with Elephants.” This 3-episode documentary follows Levison Wood’s 650-mile journey across Botswana to observe the annual migration of elephants to the Okavango Delta.


In the first episode, he is allowed to visit an elephant orphanage before heading off on his journey. The young elephants there had been rescued from various traumas-bush fires, death and separation from herds, poaching traps. The philosophy of the orphanage was to prepare the elephants to go back into the wild by not trying to control them as much as let them learn on their own. 

When asked how long the elephants would be there, I was a little surprised at the answer. The director said it usually takes 8-10 years. But as he explained his approach, it made sense. Before they are declared rehabilitated, they need to be able to survive on their own in a harsh world of predators. Outside of their herd, they are very vulnerable up until they are roughly ten years old (they live to an average age of 65). 

I see many applications from this reality for our lives. Here are the main two:

  1. Children of trauma have a long road ahead of them. It’s important their trauma is understood, their work through it is supervised, and their recovery be thorough. Whatever role we play in that work, it’s vital we understand this and give the grace and patience for that work to be completed.
  2. Trauma recovery or rehabilitation of any kind takes time. A quick-fix mindset sabotages the goal of full recovery. The body and the mind have to reset, reprogram, and strengthen. For some reason, the midlife of Moses’ story comes to my mind. After finding out his true identity and then losing control of his emotions and committing murder, God graciously gave him 40 years to recover before lighting up that bush. Moses needed full recovery.

Whether we are on the receiving or giving end of this kind of work, grace is key. That grace will empower the work to be completed, and the new life to start well. May we embrace that grace.