An Open Letter to Pastor Brian Houston, The Hillsong Church Elders and Members

From Doug Murren and Jim Henderson

We recently wrote a book titled Question Markwhy the church welcomes bullies and how to stop it, about the negative influence Mark Driscoll has had on the church in Seattle, the United States and around the world. We were pushed to write this book to give voice to the significant number of people who have been spiritually abused by him over the past 15 years. If Driscoll had truly apologized and repented those of us who have lived through this debacle would have been the first to know. Being a thoughtful person and a sincere follower of Jesus no doubt by this point you have carefully researched the plethora of reports provided not only from first hand accounts which you can find at  but also the very public journalistic work of Professor Warren Throckmorten. We would like you to Un-invite Driscoll from your conference and withdraw your tacit endorsement of him. Consider instead the concerns and pain of these three groups of stakeholders in the Driscoll Debacle.

Driscolls closest friends and colleagues.

Sad to say but you would be hard pressed to find one person who actually knows Driscoll who is willing to come to his defense. The only people speaking up for him are pastors of large churches who have had very little personal contact with him. His former friends, co-workers, have been shunned, belittled, castigated in private and had their ministry reputations threatened by Driscoll. They have persistently attempted to reconcile with him to no avail. Since he has stubbornly refused to “listen to the church” they have been forced to take the issue public and are suing him for racketeering charges.

Young believers 

Young people possess the one thing Driscoll needed to control them – idealism, but lacked the one thing they needed to protect themselves – life experience. Driscoll is well on his way to producing more Atheists than Christians. Many of the young people he misled and essentially abandoned will not only walk away from Mars Hill Church, many of them will walk away from Jesus. No one deserves that kind of power not even the guy with the fastest growing church.

People who’ve seen this all before

Brian, I doubt that you’ve heard of me (Doug Murren). I planted and pastored a church of 8,000 in Seattle for 18 years called Eastside Foursquare. Because of my hard earned concern for the people of Seattle, when I heard about Driscolls abuse, I knew I had to say something. I had no idea that when some elders in the church world spoke up, Driscoll would be gone in six months.

I was a young leader when the Shepherding movement came on the scene. I remember Dennis Bennett warning the leaders that at its core this movement would end in abuse. Almost everyone else opted for tolerance. You know how that turned out

Brian in the US it’s estimated that sixty million people (1/5 the population) have been hurt enough that they say they will never come back to church. Mark Driscoll and his stream of churches are adding to this number daily. Any time a leader has 20 former staff publicly state that a leader has abused them you have pay attention.

Driscoll has harmed an an entire city. There are thousands wounded by his leadership era. Repentance as you know does not mean remorse, it means to turn around and clear up the issues. Our concerns are for the victims. Driscoll can take care of himself. By providing Driscoll legitimacy you’re sending a message to our nation and the city of Seattle that their injury is of second concern to you over making a spot for another celebrity pastor.

We beg you to think of the wounded saints. Encourage Driscoll to rectify things and take a break before he receives any further honors. Jim and I will be the first to invest in whatever his next phase is if he goes thorough the process.

Brian, If you choose to ignore our request please exercise the courage to ask Driscoll the following questions in your interview

Mark, why am I unable to find anyone who worked with you for years who is willing to come to your defense? I’m talking about leaders you ordained and who helped you establish Mars Hill as the fastest growing church in America. I’m talking about Paul Petry and Rob Smith and others.

Mark people think I invited you here to either “defend one of my own” or to “burnish my credentials as being merciful” they think the fact that I’m interviewing instead of giving you the “pulpit” is so I can “keep you on message”. Why are people so suspicious of MY motives? What does that tell you about the perception of Christian leaders? Is the media really to blame for all of that?

Why are your ex friends threatening to bring a lawsuit against you for above all things a “racketeering charge”? Did you or didn’t you use $210,000 of church funds to “game” the New York Times Bestseller list? What is all the fuss about the Global Fund? Did you guys raise money for orphans in India and Ethiopia and then divert them to local church planting efforts in Seattle?

Have you ever personally spoken with and apologized to Paul Petry or Rob Smith? Did you personally threaten to tarnish their ministry reputations? Did you or Mars Hill church actually “shun” them?

Thank you Mark, it’s been delightful





Small Church Big Footprint

One of my favorite pastors is Bruce Logue. Bruce pastors Life Spring church in Merced California. The church is about 50 people when everyone shows up. I visited them a number of years ago and was impressed by the love Bruce exhibited not only for the people in his very diverse little church but also for the people who do not attend. Bruce is not only active in the Rotary he takes the lead on civic groups who are trying to help his city make a comeback. After spending a few days with him it became evident that many people who did not attend his church consider him to be their pastor and Bruce considers himself to be their pastor. Bruce’s wife works full time so Bruce can practice his ministry fulltime.

Rose Swetman pastors Vineyard Community Church in Shoreline Washington, She and I planted this church a number of years ago along with a group of other unsung heroes. After failing (under my leadership) to grow a mega church I handed the church over to Rose who along with her husband Rich (another life long friend) has led Vineyard Community Church to become one of the most influential churches in Seattle. Rather than focusing on growing a Big church she’s grown a church Big. Big reach in a small area, big influence with local leaders (same as Bruce) and big heart for hurting people by starting a non-profit called Turning Point. Rose also plays poker every Monday night and has a forthcoming book that talks about what she’s learned about God around the poker table. It’s titled appropriately enough, Poker Pastor.

Edmonds is a comfortable suburb north of Seattle. Barry Crane is the pastor of a vibrant little (well it’s not so little anymore) church in downtown Edmonds. Barry cannot walk around Edmonds without being accosted by someone who wants to talk with him and most of those people have never attended Barry’s church North Sound Church. Recently Barry and his team decided they should start planting more churches. After looking around the area and not wanting to join the project a pastor club they decided to start an Anglican Church right inside their own (non denominational but we really used to be Baptists or Charismatics) church. That’s right. Instead of planting another version of themselves down the block they asked around and discovered that what people really wanted was an Anglican version of themselves. So a few months ago Holy Trinity Anglican Church began services in the same building as North Sound Church under the leadership of Father Ryan Brotherton.

In our new book Question Mark – why the church welcomes bullies and how to stop it. Doug Murren and I offer several suggestions for how the church could not only stop bad actors from getting behind the pulpit but also turn the current situation of church decline around. One of those ideas is that we need twenty new models of church planting. One size no longer fits all. These pastors and churches paint a picture of the future of a vibrant church. Small churches with a big footprint.

Question Mark Book Launch Party


I’ve been part of a group who for the past ten years worked to remove a religious bully named Mark Driscoll from a position of influence in Seattle and beyond.

My new book written with Doug Murren, Question Mark – why the church welcomes bullies and how to stop it, recounts the process but more importantly clarifies the causes and offers solutions.

The book will be published as an ebook and available on all platforms soon


You can get a pre release copy by purchasing a ticket to the book release party on Feb 27th in Seattle.

The tickets are only $10 and not only include the download of the book but also wine and appetizers, live jazz and an opportunity to hear from some of the people who led the process.

Jim Wellman Professor of American Religion at UW
Stephanie Drury – Religious satirist and creator of #fakedrsicoll
Rob Smith – Former Mars Hill Deacon and Provocateur
Rose Swetman – First pastor in Seattle to publicly call Driscoll out

Unbroken Unfaithful

I’m a fan of women. We need more women leading everything and everywhere. Men need to take a break from leading so much. Men have worn out their welcome and generally messed things up sufficiently enough to legitimize my suggestion.

Which explains my reluctance to criticize one of only two women in to achieve major league director status in Hollywood this year, Angelina Jolie.

I’m a WWII history junkie. To call me a student would not be too far off. Unbroken was a great read. I consumed the book. Angies movie version (IMHO) was derivative, predictable and typical. Nothing really special artistically or technically.

They don’t say it out loud but “Angie” is a poster child for social justice issues and revered by millions of millennial Christians as representing the “real thing” of what it means to follow Jesus in this broken world. You may not like knowing that but it’s true.

Here’s where she missed the boat.Here’s where Angie  was unfaithful with Unbroken. Here’s where she took the money and ditched the truth about Louis Zamperini.

“Zamp” got saved at the historic Billy Graham crusade in LA in 1949. That’s what turned Zamp around. It was his encounter with Jesus that enabled him to forgive his enemies. That’s what set him on a new path of openly proclaiming his love for Jesus up until his death earlier this year. And that’s the story Angie skipped telling.

Instead she pitched the safe, generic Orpah (whom I adore) version of spirituality.

Forget Boomer Christians, most of us are hard set, conservative and never met a celebrity non Christian we couldn’t find a way to minimize, dismiss or send to Hell regardless of how exemplary a life they lived. Forget us… were dying and about to disappear (finally many would say) from the world stage.

Millennials are open minded but still stuck on Jesus. Angie could have simply told the truth about Zamp (Billy G and all). It would have been an historic opening between Hollywood and Millennial Christians. People don’t like it when you call their Grandpa names even if they agree with you. People don’t like it when you ignore their history and ask them to pay $15 for the privilege or watching you do it. Even Millennials have brains.

In Unbroken, Angie (whom I respect) was artistically and spiritually unfaithful. She chickened out. She should have checked with her Baptist in laws before making the final cut.