Jeannie Yandel speaks with former Mars Hill Church Pastor and Elder Jeff Bettger about what he loved about the church and why he finally made the hard decision to leave in the wake of recent scandals.
Bettger used to play in a punk rock band that was, he said, over the top about sex and drugs. In the late 1990s, before he joined Mars Hill, he found that he was too Christian for the lay crowds, but not conservative enough for Christians.
But when he played at Mars Hill, no one questioned the music.
“It was a solidifying moment – this is my family,” he said. He was hired by the church as a pastor but was laid off when Mars Hill bought a church in Ballard. That’s when he started questioning whether the church was truly his family.
Bettger said he stayed because of the friends.
“When we had our first daughter, we had about two months’ worth of dinners every night that people cooked and brought over to us,” he said. “We were being loved by a community of people who really authentically cared for us. It had nothing to do with the leadership that kept us around – it was that.”
He said he started thinking about leaving in August 2013. That’s when he learned that church leadership had paid a marketing firm to push a book that founder Mark Driscoll had written onto The New York Times bestseller list.
“We were asked to pray that it would get on The New York Times bestseller – we were being asked to pray! – and yet they had plans already to buy their way on,” Bettger said.
When he asked about this, he was told that it was regular business practice.
“I was asked to question the way that I was talking about it, whether or not it was gossip,” he said.
Bettger stayed at Mars Hill for 16 years. He said that even in hindsight, he would have joined the church.
“For those years of my life, I would – the people I met, the opportunities I had – I wouldn’t trade it for anything else,” he said.