24 episodes

Hosted by Mike Cosper, this 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, Mark Driscoll — dangers like money, celebrity, youth, scandal, and power—aren’t unique, and only by looking closely at what happened in Seattle will we be able to see ourselves.

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill Christianity Today

    • Religion & Spirituality
    • 4.8 • 370 Ratings

Hosted by Mike Cosper, this 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, Mark Driscoll — dangers like money, celebrity, youth, scandal, and power—aren’t unique, and only by looking closely at what happened in Seattle will we be able to see ourselves.

    Who Killed Mars Hill?

    Who Killed Mars Hill?

    In 2014, after more than a decade of tremendous growth and ministry, Mars Hill Church imploded with the resignation of its lead pastor, Mark Driscoll. Once a hub for those disenfranchised with cultural Christianity, Mars Hill’s characteristic “punk rock spirit” became its downfall as power, fame and spiritual trauma invaded the ministry. But how did things fall apart? Where did Mark Driscoll take a wrong turn? Who could be held responsible for the hurt and disillusionment that resulted?
    In this inaugural episode of “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill,” host Mike Cosper begins at the end, investigating the rubble of Mars Hill’s fall for answers. Meet Mark, the firebrand “cussing pastor” whose ministry of breaking conventions called men and women to transformation and whose rebellion touched a nerve with those inside and outside the church. Meet a church culture that considered relational fallout as simply part of the job. And, take a look in the mirror to ask why we keep doing this -- elevating leaders whose charisma outpaces their character.
    Loaded with piercing and poignant interviews, this episode invites you to release preconceived notions about this familiar story and listen afresh to a narrative that feels painfully relevant more than a decade later.
    Wonder why Christianity Today features stories like these? Stick around at the end of the episode as Kate Shellnut and Daniel Silliman discuss why talking about church culture and leadership matters. Read more at “If You See Something, Say Something” and Why We Report Bad News About Leaders.
    Here is the letter presenting formal charges against Mark Driscoll from 21 former Mars Hill pastors.
    Here is the letter from nine pastors who were serving in August of 2014, asking Mark Driscoll to step down from ministry and enter a restoration process.
    “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” is a production of Christianity Today
    Executive Producer: Erik Petrik
    Producer, Writer, Editor, and Host: Mike Cosper
    Associate Producer: Joy Beth Smith
    Music, Sound Design, and Mix Engineer: Kate Siefker
    Graphic Design: Bryan Todd
    Social Media: Nicole Shanks
    Editorial Consultant: Andrea Palpant Dilley
    Editor in Chief: Timothy Dalrymple
    Theme song: “Sticks and Stones” by Kings Kaleidoscope
    Closing song: "Slow and Steady Wins the Race" by Pedro the Lion
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    • 54 min
    Boomers, The Big Sort, and Really, Really Big Churches

    Boomers, The Big Sort, and Really, Really Big Churches

    In the mid-1950s, Rev. Robert Schuller began preaching in a drive-in movie theater in Southern California. He melded traditions like vestments with a theology of post-war optimism and self-esteem. As his ministry grew, guest preaching in his pulpit became a mark of celebrity achievement. Three decades after his drive-in movie days, Schuller would welcome a young Mark Driscoll to the microphone to speak.
    To understand the Mars Hill phenomenon, you have to understand how big churches developed in the boomer and Gen X years, how the franchising of churches led to homogenized congregational culture, and how pastors became spokesmen and CEOs. When Mark Driscoll arrived to preach at the Crystal Cathedral, he had already walked a ministry path paved by the likes of Schuller, Bill Hybels, and Rick Warren—leaders who dedicated significant time to demographic research as well as expository study.
    In this episode of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, host Mike Cosper flips the tapestry of the Mars Hill story to expose the weaving of threads beneath. He explores how the identity of a church can become wrapped around one man and why a host of leaders might fall in step to protect him in order to save the institution.
    Here, you can read an interview with David Di Sabatino, director of Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher.
    “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” is a production of Christianity Today
    Executive Producer: Erik Petrik
    Producer, Writer, Editor, and Host: Mike Cosper
    Associate Producer: Joy Beth Smith
    Music, Sound Design, and Mix Engineer: Kate Siefker
    Graphic Design: Bryan Todd
    Social Media: Nicole Shanks
    Editorial Consultant: Andrea Palpant Dilley
    Editor in Chief: Timothy Dalrymple
    Theme song: “Sticks and Stones” by Kings Kaleidoscope
    Closing song: “Crush” by The Violet Burning
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 56 min
    "You Read the Bible, Ringo?"

    "You Read the Bible, Ringo?"

    Church planting, even under the best of circumstances, always requires grit and determination. Planting in one of the most progressive cities in the US at the turn of the millennium required even more. But if Mark Driscoll struggled with anything in his ministry, it wasn’t a lack of will. 

    The earliest days of Mars Hill were a whirlwind of activity – launching new campuses, preaching as many as seven times a Sunday, assimilating new people, and developing new ministries all at once. The church quickly proved to be a magnet for spiritual seekers of all kinds – eager Christians looking to build, apathetic Christians needing renewal, and non-Christians hearing the gospel in a new context. 
    On this episode of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, we take you inside that hive of activity to examine up close the ways God was at work. You’ll see Mark Driscoll not only as a preacher and a movement leader, but as a caring pastor. 
    You’ll also see signs of volatility in Mark’s ministry. Tensions in the Young Leaders Network start to build and a pivot in Mark’s own convictions pushes them to their limits. Meanwhile, inside Mars Hill, a throwaway remark at a friendly dinner becomes the catalyst for intense, life-altering conflict.

    “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” is a production of Christianity Today
    Executive Producer: Erik Petrik
    Producer, Writer, Editor, and Host: Mike Cosper
    Associate Producer: Joy Beth Smith
    Music, Sound Design, and Mix Engineer: Kate Siefker
    Graphic Design: Bryan Todd
    Social Media: Nicole Shanks
    Editorial Consultant: Andrea Palpant Dilley
    Editor in Chief: Timothy Dalrymple
    Theme song: “Sticks and Stones” by Kings Kaleidoscope
    Closing song: “Did I Tell You the Bullet’s Still There” by Bill Mallonee
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 53 min
    ‘I am Jack's Raging Bile Duct'

    ‘I am Jack's Raging Bile Duct'

    Mark Driscoll’s vision of manhood indelibly shaped Mars Hill culture. Drawing from his own difficult childhood story, Mark created an ideal for those searching for meaning and direction. Men responded enthusiastically. From “dad talks” about issues about sex, career and family to “holy anger” over a feminized church culture, he invited men into a stirring narrative where manning up meant passionately loving God and their families. 
    In this episode of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, host Mike Cosper digs deep into the mythic origin story that shaped Mark Driscoll’s ministry to men. He reveals Mark as far more than just an agent of chaos but a man deeply concerned for the health and spirituality of other men, intent on pastoring them toward flourishing. And as Driscoll’s particular brand of masculinity grew toxic, Cosper asks the poignant question, “Why do you stay when things get bad?” How do you reckon with the movement of the Spirit in your midst when your community begins to shatter? 

    “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” is a production of Christianity Today
    Executive Producer: Erik Petrik
    Producer, Writer, Editor, and Host: Mike Cosper
    Associate Producer: Joy Beth Smith
    Music, Sound Design, and Mix Engineer: Kate Siefker
    Graphic Design: Bryan Todd
    Social Media: Nicole Shanks
    Editorial Consultant: Andrea Palpant Dilley
    Editor in Chief: Timothy Dalrymple
    Theme song: “Sticks and Stones” by Kings Kaleidoscope
    Closing song: "Dynamite" by Sandra McCracken
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 53 min
    The Things We Do To Women

    The Things We Do To Women

    Sex sells. It might be hard to imagine a church harnessing this popular marketing technique for church growth, but that’s exactly what Mark Driscoll did in Seattle in the early 2000s. Whether condemning the Western erosion of manhood or elevating women as Christian pornographic ideals, preaching from the Mars Hill pulpit mixed toxic cultural messages with biblical theology in the name of forming men, women, and families for God. And, like Mark’s campaign against diminished manhood, when sex sold in church, both men and women came up short.

    In this episode of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, host Mike Cosper addresses the femininity, fear, and fantasy that fueled conversations around gender and womanhood at Mars Hill. With delicate care, he unpacks the reactionary stream of sexuality that emerged at Mars Hill and exposes the struggle for authority and power beneath Mark Driscoll’s classic sermons on womanhood and sex. Cosper explores what happens when words meant to protect women end up hurting them and how theology about headship and submission can create fear and shame when wielded by the wrong hands. If you’ve seen Mark’s famous viral videos or heard the sermon sound bytes, tune in to this episode for the fuller story. 
     
    “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” is a production of Christianity Today
    Executive Producer: Erik Petrik
    Producer, Writer, Editor, and Host: Mike Cosper
    Associate Producer: Joy Beth Smith
    Music, Sound Design, and Mix Engineer: Kate Siefker
    Graphic Design: Bryan Todd
    Social Media: Nicole Shanks
    Editorial Consultant: Andrea Palpant Dilley
    Editor in Chief: Timothy Dalrymple
    Theme song: “Sticks and Stones” by Kings Kaleidoscope
    Closing song: “Woman” by Jackie Hill Perry
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 59 min
    The Brand

    The Brand

    Mark Driscoll rose to prominence in the early days of the Internet. Unlike his megapastor predecessors like Robert Schuller and Bill Hybels, Driscoll harnessed technology to build his brand and bypass cultural gatekeepers who might hinder or influence his success. He formed a talented media team that would expand his reach and, inadvertently, reinforce his ego through an online presence. Quickly though, his star rose too far, keeping him at arm’s length from the collaboration and counsel of those who could lend wisdom to his youthful, combustive pastoral ministry.

    In this episode of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, host Mike Cosper breaks down how technology shaped the messaging and marketing of Mark Driscoll and how personal brand can isolate a leader even as it fuels a ministry’s growth. Cosper interviews broadly, from Mars Hill media team members to Collin Hansen of The Gospel Coalition, to investigate how narcissism grows, how theological movements birth new leaders, and why the church’s love affair with charisma and certainty demands we develop a better moral imagination. Rethink your admiration for celebrity pastors. Reevaluate your attraction to religious trends. And, reflect on your own willingness to stand “sola” when church becomes about something other than the Gospel.

    “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” is a production of Christianity Today
    Executive Producer: Erik Petrik
    Producer, Writer, Editor, and Host: Mike Cosper
    Associate Producer: Joy Beth Smith
    Music, Sound Design, and Mix Engineer: Kate Siefker
    Graphic Design: Bryan Todd
    Social Media: Nicole Shanks
    Editorial Consultant: Andrea Palpant Dilley
    Editor in Chief: Timothy Dalrymple
    Theme song: “Sticks and Stones” by Kings Kaleidoscope
    Closing song: “Bang” by Moda Spira
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 1 hr 3 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
370 Ratings

370 Ratings

Jo James x pentecostal ,

Excellent

I loved this podcast! The research and storytelling was captivating.
I grew up in churches like this and had a similar experience. This was really healing to listen and process along with those on the podcast.
Thank you for your great work!

Kettlebell Guy ,

Seemed biased and one sided

Very well crafted and put together to create an engaging, enjoyable, and entertaining listen. However, if you listen analytically and carefully, you will notice that it was completely one sided. There were no voices representing the opposite perspective of the events this podcast communicates. This lack of balance lead to a frustrating listen.

beezy7013 ,

Binge listened (cautionary tale)

I really enjoyed this podcast, it was so compelling I completely binge listened over the course of a week. In reflection, I am wondering if it brought out the best in me. I’ve listened in judgement of these people, these events… does this make me more Christ like? Did the world need to know the ins and outs of this story, are we Godly enough to not feel a sense of superiority like this could never happen to or or BE us. I had a lot of examining of myself to do after this, was it worth it to spend hours in this podcast and come out disillusioned, disappointed in Mark and afraid for the state of churches.

The major positive was the voice given to all the people who were so damaged by this toxic culture. How cathartic it must be to feel heard and vindicated. How desperately sad it is, that the one person who should have heard them and repented has so unjustly denied them of that.

Listen with caution, and unlike me, leave the judgement to our Creator.

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