18 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 • 9.8K 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.

    Aftermath

    Aftermath

    Five days after resigning as lead pastor of Mars Hill Church, Mark Driscoll was once again in front of a crowd—this time, a packed conference of pastors who offered him a standing ovation in support. It only took 474 days for him to announce he was planting a new church in Scottsdale, Arizona.
    But while Driscoll wielded his own force of personality to get as much distance from Mars Hill as possible, life in Seattle was a different story. A confused and hurting church was displaced, hundreds of people were out of their jobs, and the fiercest critics of the church practically threw a party.
    In our series finale, we follow a few of those threads, which led some people to new ministries, others to new careers, and still others out of the church altogether. We’ll revisit the legacy of Driscoll’s teaching on gender, and we’ll ask whether or not he really preached good news and freedom.
    We’ll also look for the presence of Christ, working in surprising and unseen ways to bring beauty out of the ashes of what was once Mars Hill Church.
    As we end 2021, we’d love to invite you to join us as we continue to try to tell stories like this. Subscriptions are a great way to do that, and we’d love if you considered us with your end-of-year giving.
    “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” is a production of Christianity Today
    Executive produced by Erik Petrik
    Produced, written, and edited by Mike Cosper
    Joy Beth Smith is our associate producer.
    Music and sound design by Kate Siefker and Mike Cosper
    Our theme song for this finale is “Resplendent” by Bill Mallonee and the Vigilantes of Love.
    The closing song this week is “All My Favorite People” by Over the Rhine.
    Special thanks to Ben Vandermeer
    Graphic design by Bryan Todd
    Social media by Kara Bettis and Morgan Lee
    Editorial consulting by Andrea Palpant Dilley
    CT’s Editor in Chief is Timothy Dalrymple.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 2 hr 36 min
    The Tempest

    The Tempest

    Mars Hill grew dramatically in 2012, and it seemed like nothing could stop the church’s ever-widening expansion. Pastor Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage released that January, hit The New York Times Best Seller list, and launched a book tour and a series of television appearances that brought him into countless new homes and churches. But in the next two years, the church would experience endless controversy, turn over almost all of their staff, and discover that no efforts at PR or spin could hide the rot of a deeply dysfunctional culture of leadership.
    The second-to-last episode of this series is a two-and-a-half-hour look at those final two years, especially between October 2013 and October 2014, to look at exactly what brought down one of America’s fastest-growing churches, and how some of the characters whose lives we’ve followed in this series weathered the turmoil.
    The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill is a production of Christianity Today
    It’s executive produced by Erik Petrik
    It’s produced, written, and edited by Mike Cosper
    Joy Beth Smith is our associate producer
    Music and sound design by Kate Siefker
    Mixed by Mike Cosper
    Our theme song is “Sticks and Stones” by King’s Kaleidoscope
    The closing song this week is “O How the Mighty Have Fallen” by The Choir
    Special thanks to Ben Vandermeer
    Graphic design by Bryan Todd
    Editorial Consulting by Online Managing Editor, Andrea Palpant Dilley
    CT's Editor in Chief is Timothy Dalrymple.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 2 hr 37 min
    Bonus Episode: Boca Raton's Church Planting O.G.

    Bonus Episode: Boca Raton's Church Planting O.G.

    Contrary to Mars Hill lore, Mark Driscoll didn’t plant his church alone. Though he prized the image of a solo, entrepreneurial pastor, Driscoll found early success thanks to two co-planters, a sending church, and a network of support. And three thousand miles away in Boca Raton, Florida, the concept of the Acts 29 church network was already taking shape as an offshoot of the Spanish River Church Planting Network.
    Church planting requires a certain audacity, and in the early 1970’s nobody had more than David Nicholas. Founder of Spanish River Church, David’s burden for evangelism took shape in mentoring relationships with pastors starting congregations of their own. A planter himself, David empathized with those who felt lonely in that particular calling, and he sought to encourage and empower leaders by offering them community -- a network in which they could receive the care, training and accountability to do their jobs well. 
    In this episode of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, host Mike Cosper invites us into the room with David Nicholas and Mark Driscoll -- two church planters with widely divergent visions for what constituted successful church growth. Tracing the Acts 29 network from its beginnings, Cosper asks whether any leadership potential is worth overlooking red flags, and whether the broader church actually has what it takes to mentor young leaders with issues of character. 

    “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” is a production of Christianity Today 
    Executive Producer: Erik Petrik
    Produced, written, edited, and hosted by: Mike Cosper
    Additional editing by Resonate Recordings and Matt Linder
    Associate produced by Joy Beth Smith 
    Music, sound design, and mixing: Kate Siefker
    Theme song: “Sticks and Stones” by King’s Kaleidescope
    Closing song: “Citizens” by Jon Guerra
    Graphic Design: Bryan Todd
    Social Media: Nicole Shanks
    Editorial consulting: Andrea Palpant Dilley, Online Managing Editor
    Christianity Today Editor in Chief: Timothy Dalrymple
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 48 min
    Red Sky at Morning

    Red Sky at Morning

    As success grew at Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll’s ministry dreams expanded. With the advent of the multi-site church and advances in technology, a leader could move beyond the mundanity of local place and community to spread his message far afield, fulfilling his own great commission literally to the ends of the earth. With a talented team and generous budget at his fingertips, Mark dreamed big. 50,000 church members. A New York Times bestseller. The most prominent media distribution channel on the Internet.
    But when you undermine the foundations of a church, you shouldn’t be surprised when the building comes tumbling down around you. When technology removes the limits to access, you shouldn’t be surprised when it also sings the alluring call of worldly success. When you call others to deep sacrifice for your own ambitions, you begin to count the bodies under the bus.
    In this episode of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, host Mike Cosper explores Mars Hill’s “mission accomplished” cultural moment when Mark shifted his gaze from Seattle to cities and success benchmarks beyond. With incisive journalism and compassionate engagement, Cosper paints the picture of a wounded church—sheep dispersed and isolated by technology, expendable to the mission of a shepherd gone wayward. And he asks us to consider whether our adoption of gospel-amplifying tactics has clouded our vision of its good, true and beautiful message.
    “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” is a production of Christianity Today
    Executive Producer: Erik Petrik
    Produced, written, edited, and hosted by: Mike Cosper
    Additional editing by Resonate Recordings and Matt Linder
    Associate produced by Joy Beth Smith
    Music, sound design, and mixing: Kate Siefker
    Theme song: “Sticks and Stones” by King’s Kaleidescope
    Closing song: “The Bridge” by Taylor Leonhardt
    Graphic Design: Bryan Todd
    Social Media: Nicole Shanks
    Editorial consulting: Andrea Palpant Dilley, Online Managing Editor
    Christianity Today Editor in Chief: Timothy Dalrymple
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 56 min
    The Bobby Knight Problem

    The Bobby Knight Problem

    In 2006, Mark Driscoll met with a group of Seattle pastors who were worried about Mars Hill’s public witness. Mark had risen to prominence with pugilistic bravado, and local leaders expressed concern that his tone and language about women and, in this particular instance, pastors’ wives hurt the perception of the church in their largely unchurched city. Despite their best efforts to connect on common ground, the meeting’s leaders counted the event a failure. Remarkable success had isolated Mark from the average person on whom his words fell. His institution had insulated him from critique. The meeting revealed clearly that power protected Mark from accountability.  
    Your pastor doesn’t need outsized fame and acclaim to fall prey to the seduction of power, and neither do you. In this episode of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, host Mike Cosper looks to the world of sports to illustrate how power corrupts and how, when we abdicate our roles as gatekeepers for one another, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Step onto the basketball courts at Indiana University and behind the pulpit at Mars Hill to see how power becomes a strong drug that justifies abuse, keeps truth from speaking, and distances us from our shared humanity.

    “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” is a production of Christianity Today 
    Executive Producer: Erik Petrik
    Produced, written, edited, and hosted by: Mike Cosper
    Additional editing by Resonate Recordings and Matt Linder
    Associate produced by Joy Beth Smith 
    Music, sound design, and mixing: Kate Siefker
    Theme song: “Sticks and Stones” by King’s Kaleidescope
    Closing song: “Anger” by Treva Blomquist
    Graphic Design: Bryan Todd
    Social Media: Nicole Shanks
    Editorial consulting: Andrea Palpant Dilley, Online Managing Editor
    Christianity Today Editor in Chief: Timothy Dalrymple
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 58 min
    Demon Hunting

    Demon Hunting

    We are people built for wonder, spiritual creatures looking for spiritual footholds in a culture often devoid of belief in the supernatural. We long for miracles -- the defeat of sin and shame, displays of God’s power transforming our deepest pain. For some who attended Mars Hill, the instinct toward astonishment led them to Mark Driscoll’s charismatic deliverance ministry. In a world where belief is so often hard to come by, Mark claimed to have faith strong enough to move mountains and, literally, to cast out demons. 
    In this episode of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, host Mike Cosper asks the piercing question, “Where’s the line between the hand of God and a charismatic leader?” How do we know when our craving for astonishment is being manipulated? When do we accept the claims of someone speaking on God’s behalf? Using the lesser known Mars Hill “demon trials” as a backdrop, Cosper explores the Pentecostal origins of Driscoll’s deliverance ministry, examines the extra biblical rules that governed Mars Hill spiritual warfare, and considers our longing to hear from God and see him move in our midst.

    “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” is a production of Christianity Today 
    Executive Producer: Erik Petrik
    Produced, written, edited, and hosted by: Mike Cosper
    Associate produced by Joy Beth Smith 
    Music, sound design, and mixing: Kate Siefker
    Theme song: “Sticks and Stones” by King’s Kaleidescope
    Closing song: “Time is a Lion” by Joe Henry
    Special Thanks to Ben Vandemeer
    Graphic Design: Bryan Todd
    Social Media: Nicole Shanks
    Editorial consulting: Andrea Palpant Dilley, Online Managing Editor
    Christianity Today Editor in Chief: Timothy Dalrymple
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 1 hr 6 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
9.8K Ratings

9.8K Ratings

ex mars hillian ,

Wonderful, and overdue!

I am one of the many people who left this church and left the faith altogether because the experience was so confusing, and so traumatizing. I also left the marriage I was in, (met my ex husband at Mars hill) a marriage that very much reflected the misogyny being taught from the pulpit. There were so many abuses that I and other women accepted on account of thinking we were doing what god wanted for us. In the end, I concluded that I didn’t only dislike Mars hill, I also disliked my husband and the Christian god. Life has been much better ever since. It’s painful to listen to these episodes and to be reminded of those dark days, but it also reminds me how much I escaped from and how grateful I am for a life that is free from abuse. Thank you for creating this content and for being so detailed and methodical in your presentation of this complicated story. Very good work!! The only frustration I have with it is that all the people interviewed were MH leaders. I am hearing all these people talking about how victimized they felt, and maybe that is true, but for us, the members, they were also the abusers. Hearing more members’ voices would help bring some balance.

BreWilhelm ,

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill

In the last episode the host says that through this pod cast he was able to see a lot of his own life experiences. That is what I felt. This pod cast evoked so much emotion because I have been there too in my own life experiences. My heart breaks for the ones that were wounded enough to run away and have yet to be found again. One could listen and say that this is the problem with organized religion, we the church have hurt so many and deserve that, but I hope that people listen and truly see that it is and always is man that fails and not Jesus. We need to hear the truth about what happens so we do not repeat the same destruction. I love the church and hope and pray that this reminds and refocuses us on the work of Jesus and not ourselves.

dmaasen ,

Excellent, if Dyssynchronous

First of all, as a producer myself, the production value of this podcast alone is excellent. Some microphone “hiss” notwithstanding, the level of excellence of this show is amazing. CT did a great job. Mike Cosper is a great voice for it.
Episodes 1-3 will hook you for the journalistic component, and it keeps enough of a draw to get you through the true-crime genre that pervades the rest of the show. The stories are engaging, the perspectives of the guests are gripping, and really give a good outlet for those who have been hurt by MH (and some who did the hurting) to seek reconciliation - not just between each other, but with their feelings towards their experience in general.
The dyssynchronous part for this listener is hard to put a finger on exactly, but something in the tone, structure, slant, or combination of factors ended up feeling more like a difficult counseling session than the journalistic, wholistic effort that it started out as being. Possibly the popularity of the podcast changed its form as the show went on, and while it’s understandable and the product ended up good enough, there was something about the show’s later-half that felt possibly disjointed from the show’s original intent at best, and at worst lended itself to the “results-before-methodology” approach towards healing that it so often critiques Driscoll for.
Thank you for all the time and effort put into this show, I learned a lot and enjoyed the journey.

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