The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill


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.

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Recent Reviews
  • Crative genius
    Everyone just go listen to the MEGA podcast
    So much funnier without all the daddy issues.
  • EEJ19
    Informative and Telling
    As a clergywoman, I find this podcast both enlightening and raising critically important issues about ethical leadership. I also find it draining and depressing to hear white man after white man share about church planting and church vision— clearly revealing the ongoing sidelining of the leadership of women, people of color and LGBTQ+ leadership in the evangelical church. Let’s have that conversation in depth too, please.
  • MDZeb
    Virtue, Not Character
    There is much to commend here in the reporting. For pastors and churches ministering to those who suffered from churches like Mars Hill and other charisma-centered, cult-of-personality, low-public-accountability religious communities, this podcast provides helpful context. It is also insightful in its critique of American evangelical celebrity culture, analyzing the “wrong lessons” that Exvangelicals seem to take with them when they leave the movement, namely: the need to “stay relevant” through proselytizing and monetizing their de-conversion process. I could do without the overuse of this fluffy concept of “character.” Christianity has a tradition and a language around this concept, and it’s called virtue. So I’d like to see deeper analysis on the ways that the evangelical movement has neglected the idea of cultivated virtues when thrusting its celebrity pastors into the limelight. The podcast is straining to get there, but seems to lack the language. So Driscoll started to believe his own press, was granted authority disproportionate to his “character.” Let’s retire “character” and see episodes that delve into an evangelical vision for the cultivation of virtue, if such a thing exists.
  • Jfnfheidj
    What a gripping true drama! It is SO well done! It “reads” like an unbelievable novel, but it’s all true. I appreciate the amount of research and obvious prayer and intentionality that went into it. Great job!!
  • Im 60, 60, 60 years old!!
    Intelligent analysis of a fascinating subject
    I’m not religious and certainly not evangelical if I were, but this is great, thoughtful analysis of a man and a phenomenon. Hope it continues to consider what Driscoll is doing currently.
  • Bryn Bird
    Binge Listened
    I have never just binge listened to anything. Say alone looking ahead listening to every word. I have often looked at the North American church and read my Bible and thought “am I the wrong one?” When it all felt wrong and corrupt and silencing and hurtful more than helpful. This podcast makes me not feel alone and also is still Gospel focused as it doesn’t gossip, it doesn’t slander, it points back to Jesus every step.
  • BKind_Jodi
    Reality check
    I think so many of us that are members or attendees of multi site churches can relate to aspects of this podcast. Who benefits? That is a key question asked and as you listen it should give us pause before we plant sites vs planting independent churches. Thank you for speaking truth.
  • Hutch1060
    Needs tighter editorial control, outsider perspective
    Story was strong for the first five episodes, however, has spinned out of control due to rabbit trails / bonus episodes. This podcast is definitely geared towards those in the evangelical bubble. Some questions about the theology underpinning mega churches that the storyteller (himself evangelical) seems too afraid to ask, but an outsider would ask these questions. We really owe women an episode on the misogyny rooted in modern American evangelical theology.
  • Caddy Compson
    Could be so much more
    There's some good work going on here, and I appreciate that the perspective is consistently, "This is not a Mars Hill-only problem, it's something that affects all of white American evangelicalism." But there are simply not enough interviews with/perspectives of people who suffered horrible abuse in this religious community. We got a glimpse of it in the (one) episode that focused on women and gender roles, but there needs to be so much more. The emphasis is still on one man (and the group of men surrounding and enabling him) instead of the community and its members.
  • Owenmyboy
    Listener responsibility
    This podcast is great AND terrible. It demands listener responsibility and I challenge you to take some responsibility before embarking. If you were a Christian in the 90s and early 2000s and you bought into some of the more bombastic or patriarchal strands of the faith or if you might have been injured by some of the more manipulative tactics the INDUSTRY surrounding the church employed, this podcast offers hope, conviction, exposure of issues and the seeds of some solutions. We of the faith at that time so desperately wanted someone to tell us we were righteous, right and cool. I’m appalled at some of the things these people did in the name of Jesus and church growth, but I have to be honest that I supported at least some of it and followed some of the examples to the harm of myself and others. But honestly, if you weren’t part of that mess or if you aren’t willing to do the self-examination this podcast demands of you, it is—to you—simply gossip. You do well to spend the time doing just about anything else. I know the church is a mess, but it still has a place so long has we do the work to rid the church of the garbage this exposes and that means starting with ourselves.
  • ProfPerry
    Asking important questions, telling stories well, noticing key characters
    Mike Casper and his team of researchers, story-tellers, and musicians are pouring their hearts, talents, intellects, faith and faults into this important study of a church and a cultural moment. Don’t miss an episode, but especially this one on David Nicholas!
  • yawecar
    Well put together, but outlines the problem today
    This piece is well put together but inherently one sided. If you believe that our faith should be fuzzy and tell you how good you are no matter what you do this will be spot on for you. It outlines the problem that “church” faces because people want the grace part of Jesus but not the truth side, they come as a package. As soon as a pastor gets up and tells men and women what the Bible has designed for their life they don’t like it. We need more truth in our lives, we need to have the divine fear but also the grace that comes with both hands of God. I am proud their are pastors out there speaking the whole Word and not cherry picking the Bible to make you feel better and get ratings on Sunday morning. I am glad their are pastors speaking on the hard versus that tell us how we are designed to function as men and not neuter the word to make us all warm and cozy in ourselves. I am sad to see that their are journalists under the guise of Christians that would perform hit pieces like this to make sure to they get ratings from the weak to make them feel like they are wronged for hearing what God has handed down. Shame on you CT, please realign yourselves with the Word of God and not the word of the new snowflake world.
  • 1212lodge
    Exceptional! Well worth the listening
    This series is so well done. It explores such hard topics with finesse and clarity without ever being judgmental. It has helped me process some church &/or leader hurt. Thank you CT team.
  • Energy Project Coach
    Exceptionally well done and valuable
    A graduate-level cautionary tale in church leadership and church growth. Exceptionally well done and valuable.
  • zekiewon
    Wisdom for Young Pastors
    Are you walking toward sainthood or celebrity? Not only is this podcast interesting, fascinating even, but it is a challenging listen. Walking with Mark Driscoll and his church from the time that he was in his 20s rings serious for a young pastor such as myself. I am brought face to face with my own pride, self-seeking, and unlove, and I am reminded to lead in the model of Jesus: humbly, sacrificially, and focused on the flourishing of others, not myself. For the Church to change in America, we all must understand how our ego and pride hurts others. And we must allow the Holy Spirit to transform that in each one of us. Thanks for this crucial podcast.
  • AmandaMilw
    Another pathetic example of Cancel Culture
    How many episodes do you need to try and smear a man for his past? How Christian-like to monetize off of another pastor that made mistakes years ago. Good thing the man above gets to make the final judgment on Pastor Mark Driscoll. I cannot believe anyone would sit here for hours listening to other men tear apart another person. Honestly, I recommend getting a hobby, perhaps you could be reading your Bible or lifting people UP rather than smearing their faces in you know what. This podcast speaks louder of the people that made it and leave 1 star reviews on Mark’s church, yet have never stepped foot in it, than it does of Mark today. People make mistakes and yes, people CAN and DO change, and everyone deserves a second chance. Anyone that says otherwise is certainly not a Christian.
  • Misssharon3
    …do yourself a favor especially women
    This is a breath of fresh air! Especially women…because I am one but for men too, being raised in the church and affected by all the “fads” and having put trust in all the wrong places. We as Christians should point others towards Jesus, but unfortunately…many of us don’t and we even lead believers astray. The truth, the Word, God’s Love. Period. Help each other towards the truth.
  • middletown
    Fair, balanced
    I cannot stress enough how important this podcast is to anyone who works in ministry. There are so many good things to reflect on and consider in western American Christianity. This podcast gives us several of those items. Not one episode is wasted.
  • David Fernow
    Very worthwhile listening for any in a church
  • squaredeal
    Interesting but assumes the listener is a evangelical Christian
    This is interesting, but I have to keep pausing to google people since they just assume the listener is from an evangelical background and knows all these different preachers and books and blogs are and don't provide much context. The interview with the guy who wrote the book about giving up dating was deeply confusing since they didn't even say what book he had written or what it was about at first. Who is this person? Why was his book so upsetting for some people? Why did anyone care he deconverted? You won't find out from this podcast because it assumes you already know.
  • Sarahmackkk
    Well done and sobering
    This is a very well done program.Well researched, balanced, fair to all parties involved. It’s also a very disturbing story, But it’s a story I believe we all need to hear
  • cbmccalla
    Started ok. Further in to it just seemed like a hit job. Once actual people who attended Mars Hill being interviewed were replaced by people selling books about Mars Hill I lost interest.
  • Soliloquy72
    Patronising and refusing to name what's really wrong
    Blaming the people in the pews? NO. Blaming quick fame Driscoll gained through the Internet? No. Refusing to call out the misogynistic teachings of conservative evangelicalism? No. This whole podcast probably meant well but they were so afraid of offending any conservative evangelicals that they refused to name the elephant in the room. Mark Driscoll shows every symptoms of suffering from narcissitic personality disorder. He is abusive. His book on marriage promotes abuse. His new church in AZ is more cultish than ever. Stop whitewashing the evagelical culture and industrial complex that will support any man who makes them a lot of money and promtoes their political agendas.
  • Pastor T Squared
    Necessary Listening
    This is a must listen for everyone who cares about the church, especially those in church leadership.
    Thought Provoking
    As someone who grew up in an Evangelical church, it’s interesting to hear the experiences of others. Sad story, but the host does a great job of giving a balanced, insightful narrative and listening .
  • Ape-Real
    Well Produced buuutttt …
    The quality of the production of this is very good, but I feel 10+ episodes soley about Mark Driscoll is a bit excessive. The first few episodes were insightful but after a while I started asking myself, “why so many episodes about this? What’s the point?” Yes, Mark’s behavior lines up with that of a narcissist and maybe even an unbeliever, but do we really need this many episodes to get to that point? It almost seems like a smear campaign or cancel culture seeking to utterly destroy him. I feel the Christian response should be “yes, here are some things that happened … they were not good … let’s pray God does a mighty work of redemption in his life.” I feel this podcast is missing the mark. Episodes 4,5, and 8 and some of the people consultant for commentary made me also question how aligned with the Gospel this podcast is (liberalism and feminism). I gave it 2 stars because of the quality of the production. But I feel like wasted a lot of time basically listening to people excessively focus on the shortcomings of others when a one-episode podcast to SUMMARIZE would have sufficed.
  • jovenflaco
    Story telling as a check on power
    I’m very impressed with this podcast. I personally had no involvement with the Mars Hill Church and having lived out of the country during most of the 2000s I had very little knowledge of Mars Hill. From my perspective the recent and multiple high profile examples of evangelical leaders abusing their power and other people and often getting away with it within the institutions where they work, along with larger forces in American society of alignment between evangelicals and far right wing politics, are valid reasons which are causing a growing number of evangelicals to become critical that community. The way that power is used in any kind of institution faith based or otherwise is enormously important but it’s rarely explored in an honest way- especially in faith based communities. This podcast in my opinion is mostly about that exploration and does so with a deft hand seeking to tell the truth, recognizing that some will be hurt, but keeping present that so many have already been hurt by the misuse of power.
  • DanaTeru
    Thank you CT
    This podcast was well done. Love the hosts voice and I’m listening to it for the second time. I hadn’t heard of Mark Driscoll before this. He wasn’t my style of preaching and can’t stand his arrogance. I am so thankful you are deep diving these narcissists. I see that Mark Driscoll paved the way for Trump to be accepted by Evangelicals. Joshua Harris was interesting to listen to but feel you went really light on him. All he did was rebrand himself to what culture wants. He made a fortune and a name for himself on a sham book. Hopefully next you go after that Love & Respect book that has done more damage to Christian marriages!
  • cflowertealady
    As someone who was once captivated by the tale of Mars Hill Church, Seattle, and as a former participant in the young and reformed movement of the early 2000’s, I highly recommend this podcast. It recounts the spellbinding hold Mark Driscoll had on his followers coupled with the increasing emergence of red flags in his character. It is a heart-breaking and unfortunately real cautionary tale for all Christians and church leaders about our susceptibility to the addiction of power that comes with increasing influence and celebrity, two popular facets of our society and of the American church.
  • Leahreallyrox
    Overall a great podcast. Episode 9 is skippable.
    This podcast is thoughtfully designed and well produced. It can be a challenging one for those of us who are “deconstructing” or have gone through that process. I felt it was worthwhile and raised some great questions and stories to share among evangelical survivors. Feel free to skip episode 9 about Bobby Knight, this one was an obvious filler episode that had one short anecdote relevant to the narrative and a much longer story drawing an unnecessary parallel about power, abuse and enabling that had already been well established in previous episodes.
  • greatfuldebb
    Shocked, mesmerized and renewed….
    Having gone through a serious incident at a large mega church in Louisville, KY that involved cover up, minimization and misogynistic treatment, I know firsthand that the message of this podcast is true. I appreciate the writers and participants of this podcast and their honesty and bravery to tell the truth. Initially I wasn’t sure if I could even listen to something from Christianity Today as I usually feel more disillusioned when I hear Christian podcasts. When you are a victim of clergy abuse, you are forced into silence and re-victimized each time leaders and congregants do not want to hear the truth. The term “systemic gaslighting” really hit me in this podcast. That is exactly what occurs for victims when they try to report clergy sexual misconduct. Then victims are re-victimized by the very place that is supposed to be about love and truth. I also thought that adding the show about Bobby Knight was really effective to help people understand that this is about power and the abuse of power. It occurs in closed systems such as churches, schools and universities. The documentary “The hHunting Ground” (ironically produced by Harvey Weinstein…but then he was an expert) does a very good job of depicting the abuse of power at universities when women try to report rape. It’s the same thing because they are closed systems that have their own authorities and rules for handling “incidents” and victims who report a rape by a star athlete or anyone are often re-victimized because they don’t want the image of the school tarnished.which is after all a business that depends on good enrollment. Thank you so much again for transparency and bringing this to light so we can educate others about what occurs in abusive power situations.
  • Christin Anna
    SO important
    I cannot recommend this podcast enough. This is an important story for EVERY Christian to listen to. Ones who have been hurt by the church, ones who have been the one that hurt others, and ones who don’t know what that feels like at all.
  • Megan D. :)
    Excellent Reporting
    Very well done podcast. Critical of the church (and others similarly) while still trying to really understand and implore religious institutions to be more thoughtful and to do better. Plus, the host has a very pleasant and soothing voice. Voices can be make-or-break on a podcast, and this one is great!
  • Tf8976
    The End Is The Beginning
    The Last 20-30 minutes of episode 12 should be the first 20-30 minutes of the whole series. Then Episodes 1-12 in order, leaving in the last 20-30 minutes of episode 12 in to repeat its message.
  • Ruth in CA
    Is the misogyny in complementarianism a bug or a feature?
    The podcast was interesting and well done (I liked the Bobby Knight episode!) but after listening to the horrors of eps 4, 5 and 8 I think listeners —especially female listeners— deserved an episode taking an honest look at misogyny in Christianity in general and complementarianism in particular. Driscoll was a very enthusiastic and influential complementarian who promoted the spread of complementarianism through the complementarian Acts 29 network that he helped found… and his contempt for women is just an incredible coincidence?
  • blondie at the beach
    Drops off after fourth episode
    First four episodes were riveting. After that, it chases tangents and gets confusing.
  • krittyrm
    Can’t get enough
    Binge listening to this right now and just can’t get enough! Such a good listen
  • JOelle3
    Great journalism
    Impressed and surprised that Christianity Today took a hard look at this pastor and church. This is a must-listen for any pastor and every christian.
  • Cinmar76
    Heartbreaking story
    The Mars Hill story is necessary to share, as sad as it is. Tragic, is the only way for me to describe it. We are all vulnerable to these devilish influences in our own families and churches, and must stay in the Word and Prayer constantly, or we will end up repeating this heartbreaking story! My prayers for all the casualties that were part of Mars Hill…..
  • jsjdvegd
    Started Beautifully
    It started so well. But after CT builds the foundation that says “don’t look at the fruit” it gives them the space to say unbalanced, biased, and misleading information. I’m saddened by this podcasts desire to cause division in the Church.
  • hike_8150
    Mike Cosper
    A friend recommended this podcast. I’m someone who left the faith, but appreciate Mike and his colleagues work on this series. I appreciate this honest work as well as Christianity Today’s willingness to examine how the modern church and the Republican Party have joined forces at the expense of love and compassion. Thank you Mike!
  • JFreakM71
    Eye-Opening but needs exit strategy
    This is a tremendously valuable podcast that pretty much everyone looking to head into ministry needs to consider. According to Romans 1, God’s judgment often comes in the form of handing us over to our desires. Driscoll and Mars Hill seem to be a case study in that. Want to use ministry to validate yourself and gain an audience? Consider this podcast a warning. I’m a Reformed Presbyterian minister and graduate of Westminster Seminary myself. At times it has seemed like this podcast has been slanted in a more theologically liberal direction, seemingly painting Mars Hill as the inevitable consequence of more traditional theology. But I don’t think that’s actually the case here. The podcast aims for an eclectic array of voices, which includes people like Joshua Harris and friends of the late Rachel Held Evans. But the podcast also includes input from more theologically conservative voices like Rachel Denhollander, Diane Langberg, and Sam Storms. With that in mind, I’ve realized if one interprets this as a horribly slanted slam piece against conservative theology, then one likely struggles to find nuance (particularly in more narrative style journalism), and might be predisposed to interpret all criticism from one side that way. Regardless, while I’ve found the input here incredibly valuable despite certain weaknesses (the criticism of Mars Hill is often anthropocentric, more to do with how people were harmed and less to do with how it did not glorify God), it does need an exit strategy. In an effort to tell the story of the rise and fall of Mars Hill, it can be tempting to try and tell EVERY story. In which case, it will run the risk of truly becoming a slanted slam piece, something more harmful to the Church than helpful. Hopefully the producers will have the wisdom to plan how to bring it to a close long before jumping the shark.
  • Graceylowe
    Thank you😭
    Having just walked through a similar situation, this gives me handles, and understanding and most importantly healing. Thank you for this podcast! God is faithful ♥️ he will get the glory!
  • User join cddscnogx jf
    Everything checks out.
    As a former deacon of Mars Hill Church and later a deacon of a church planted by one of your guests (a former Mars Hill pastor) I can safely and emphatically say that this an accurate depiction of what we experienced. Mike, you’ve always had a gift for finding the true thing under the facade, and you’ve done a tremendous job with this endeavor. We’ll done. I’ve had many valuable conversations with other former members about this podcast. It’s been a source of healing and has helped my own journey of finding a new church home.
  • JonneyGee
    Good overall, but missing a lot
    This podcast is a very interesting take on what went wrong at Mars Hill. A lot of good information is covered, but the podcast fails to adequately assess the role the theology of Mars Hill played in the toxic environment they created. Perhaps that’s because the host shares this theology and is a little too close to be able to provide a fair assessment from the outside. Otherwise, the podcast is excellent. Here’s hoping Mike takes a harder look at Calvinism and complementarianism in future episodes.
  • MichaelandTaylor
    Why the James Dobson slander?
  • Sychofarm
    The Mars Hill podcast is a professionally done podcast with great insight and wisdom about what happened there but also what is happening in evangelical Christianity. I really value the honest exploration and the integrity of that journalism. We need this kind of courage as we learn about how to be followers of Jesus with integrity and love.
  • Foolishness Podcast!
    Reality check!
    This series has been great, a necessary tool for anyone getting into ministry to understand the dangers, but the sad parts have been the more hyper progressive bias, or the fact that we are now ten episodes in continuing on in the rant against a man. Is this in itself not a problem that as the show has grown and CT gets it’s likes, shares and hype that this is exactly the bubble that Mars Hill chased? Mark Driscol has to wake up weekly knowing that thousands of Christians are hearing of his downfalls. I get it. But imagine his wife, hos kids, if if he felt so hurt he took his life? Why are we ten episodes in? If these people are really using this and their gifts to be used to encourage and strengthen the body of christ, why not do an episode on reconciliation where all the people still wounded aim to reconcile years later rather than calling him an a@&? Is this just for the hype now?
  • lovebarre3
    Grounding…let’s get humble
    Always been curious about the story and never went to Mars Hill myself. Being a believer and been apart of many church bodies (some mega), a great perspective and opportunity to learn. Let Jesus be on the throne snd not our earthly pastors.
  • alive and making
    Excellent podcasts
    Very well done, entertaining, disturbing and thought provoking. If you’ve ever wondered how a charismatic performer could possibly mesmerize and seduce good people into abandoning their beliefs, getting them to accept his ( or hers) instead, whether that occurs in church, politics or on a used car lot, this is the playbook. Matthew 7:16 makes it pretty clear, if someone is a jerk and selling that philosophy to make other jerks, ‘watch out’ you’re being bamboozled. This is the story of that process.
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