Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra’s Horrific Article at The Gospel Coalition About How Acts 29 Thrived After Mars Hill Ignores Many of the Issues in the Troubled Network

Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra wrote a troubling article for The Gospel Coalition last December. She talks about how Acts 29 thrives and grew out of the Mars Hill implosion. In the article Sarah conveniently forgets a lot of issues about both Mark Driscoll and Acts 29. From forgetting that Driscoll stated that women are penis homes to Matt Chandler’s The Village Church attempting to a place a  women her annulled her marriage to a child pornography addict under church discipline.  Sarah is an example of what is possible when one ingests large sums of Kool Aid. 

“In a bubble, anyone who argues pessimistically is seen as crazy.”

Kenneth Fisher 

“During this whole season since the firing and the months that followed, I was emotionally and spiritually devastated. I was often tormented by fear. I had nightmares and imaginations of someone trying to physically harm Paul, me, and the children. If Mark had had ecclesiastical power to burn Paul at the stake I believe he would have. I literally slept in the fetal position for months. I stayed in bed a lot, bringing the children in bed with me to do their schoolwork. I became severely depressed and could hardly bring myself to leave the house except when absolutely necessary. I cried nearly every day for well over a year thinking I must soon cry it out, right? But, the sorrow was bottomless. My faith was gravely shaken. How could a loving God allow this? Later it became clear that I had typical symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression and that these reactions were common in someone who has experienced spiritual abuse.”

Joanna Petry describes spiritual abuse from Mark Driscoll and how she believed that Driscoll could have murdered her husband if possible. 

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23:24 NIV

Mark Driscoll 

This is an article that I saw in The Gospel Coalition back in December. I put it aside and planned to write about it when I wrote about Remnant. This a deeply troubling article. If this is how The Gospel Coalition is going to function then there is really no hope for the organization as I consider this piece. 


Who is Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra?

Sarah is a senior writer from The Gospel Coalition. She also is a contributing editor at Christianity Today and has been there since February of 2006. Sarah has also been a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown from October 2010 until March of 2014. The Southtown is a newspaper covering issues in the south suburbs of Chicago. In that role she covered local government and neighborhood issues. Sarah also was an Adjunct Instructor at Trinity Christian College from August 2006 until June 2011. At Trinity she taught freshman composition and introduction to journalism. Before starting her professional career she attended college at Dordt and picked up a BA in communication and English. Sarah graduated in 2001. Four years later she enrolled in Northwestern University and earned a Masters in Science in Journalism. 


An Exceedingly Bad Article at The Gospel Coalition

On December 5, 2017 Sarah wrote an article for The Gospel Coalition about the Acts 29 network and how it survived the Mars Hill implosion and thrives and is doing well today. The article is very much a pollyanna view of Neo-Calvinism. The article traces and gives a history of the Acts 29 network. It goes over the origins with Dr. David Nichols and talks about the role that Mark Driscoll played on the organization. In the narrative it talks about how Matt Chandler became involved and how the network grew. It also goes into the “details” of what happened inside Mars Hill. I put “details” into quotes because Sarah leaves out a lot of information and its really warped. I will get into this in the next section. Sarah continues and talks about an Acts 29 2.0 that is more holy, humble, and ethnically diverse. Then the article gets into the Mars Hill implosion. Steve Temmis recounts how it is a miracle that Acts 29 survived the situation. Mark Driscoll stepped down and there was a financial crunch that came about. As Acts 29 pulled through it began to grow internationally into places such as Europe and beyond. To read the entire article you can do so in, “How Acts 29 Survived—and Thrived—After the Collapse of Mars Hill.” 


Matt Chandler has Never Left Puberty How Could Sarah Forget the Following Acts 29 Situations 

In the article Matt Chandler is quoted as saying the following. “It was time for us to leave puberty and grow up to the things the Lord has called us to.” I am here to state that Matt Chandler and the Acts 29 network never really left puberty. Sarah’s article had very selective memory. In thinking about the situation and how that process could come about in several ways. One is that she operated so much in a bubble that she is removed from reality. In this picture she is out of touch with the problems in the Acts 29 network and that she is not aware of them. The other possibility is that Sarah greedily reaches for the Kool-Aid in being a member of The Gospel Coalition. In this case she quaffs the Kool Aid in generous amounts and tows the line and projects the image that must be maintained. Image is everything in Neo-Calvinism. Whatever her reasoning Sarah left out quite a bit in that article about Acts 29. This blog post at The Wondering Eagle will tell more about the problems in the network and fill in what Sarah Zylestra left out.

First of all Sarah in talking about Mars Hill left out many of the controversies that took place. For example at Jonna Petry’s blog Paul’s wife writes about how severe the spiritual abuse was that took place. She recalls how if Mark Driscoll had the power to murder her husband he would have done so. She also recalls how her father who was a Vietnam veteran was shunned. It was after Jonna had prayed all her life that her father would become a Christian and trust the Christian church again. He was away for 40 years, but even he was shunned. You can read Jonna’s story here.  That is not something you downplay. There are other issues as well. For example Sarah totally ignores all the plagiarism that Mark Driscoll did as well as Result Source Inc scandal. Sarah also ignores the other issues such as as the fact that Mark Driscoll talked about how we are a pussified nation.  And also downplayed under the “controversial language”  is the fact that Mark Driscoll taught that women are penis homes. That must have been very interesting for Sarah Zylestra, especially as a female. To write an article that flows with a lot of praise and to also gloss over the fact that your subject believes that you exist for someone’s penis. Hey, don’t blame me, Mark Driscoll is the one who taught this material and Sarah is The Gospel Coalition fanboy as well. 

The other thing that was telling is that Sarah left out all the stories and scandals inside Acts 29 churches. There are a number of stories to tell and below is but a sampling of them. 

  1. You had the story of Karen Hinkley at The Village Church. Karen annulled her marriage to her husband Jordan Root. Jordan was allegedly addicted to child pornography. Karen was shunned and the church tried to place her under church discipline. They even chased her from Flower Mound, Texas off to North Carolina. You can read the story in, ““The Explicit Gospel” at Matt Chandler’s “The Village” Includes Child Pornography, Church Discipline and Membership Covenants.” Plus you can also read, “Has Matt Chandler’s The Village Church Recovered from the Karen Hinkley/Jordan Root Scandal?
  2. Next you had a very disturbing story out of Acts 29’s Riverside Community Church in Columbia, South Carolina. Matthew Boedy dealt with a crumbling marriage and went through some counseling that was paid by his Acts 29 church. His senior pastor James Walden violated counseling ethics and laws by trying to contact his counselor. It became a legal issue where Matt sued his church and Riverside tried to impose church discipline on him. This mess came about because an Acts 29 church refused to follow the law. You can read about it in, “Disturbing Allegations of Spiritual Abuse at James Walden’s Acts 29 Riverside Community Church in Columbia, South Carolina.”
  3. Then there is the story of Bryan Laughlin’s Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia. This Acts 29 is creating spiritual refugees who allegedly have shown up at nearby churches burned out and fried. This Acts 29 church was so controlling that it tried to get someone to turn down a job with a starting salary of $50,000. Many other churches around Remnant in Richmond consider it to be a cult or cult-like.  You can read about this church in “The Disturbing and Cult-Like Behavior of Acts 29 Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia is Adversely Affecting Lives.” 
  4. In the Washington, D.C. area you have the story of Acts 29 Redeemer Arlington as led by Eric Simmons and Jordan Kauflin. This blog was born out of an incident from Redeemer. I was invited to there saw the stories hemorrhaging out of its predecessor Sovereign Grace and refused. In the course of time I endured a false accusation from an Air Force Captain that taught me why rape and sexual assault is a problem in the United States military. You can read that in, “How I Managed a False Accusation Given Birth to by a USAF Captain and Care Group Leader from Redeemer Arlington for 408 Days.” The situation dragged on for several years and even popped up in my Mom’s hospital room a couple of months before her death. “Sound doctrine” from Acts 29 apparently must also interfere with the dying process. You can read about that in, “Was Redeemer Arlington Removed From McLean Bible’s New City Network? The Wondering Eagle Asks Why? Plus how Spiritual Abuse from Redeemer Affected My Mother and Popped up in Her Hospital Room When She was Ill.” 
  5. Also left out by The Gospel Coalition editor is the disturbing story at Fellowship Memphis. This Acts 29 church as led by John Bryson is the model of multi-ethnic church planting in the Acts 29 network. At Fellowship Memphis the worship pastor Rick Trotter was allegedly into voyeurism. He recorded over 100 women in the church restroom including two underage girls, which means that child pornography was created. The church had the women forgive him and encouraged them not to contact police. The attorney advised them to “throw the evidence into the Mississippi River.” You can read the entire story in , “The Sordid Tale of Rick Trotter, Bryan Loritts, John Bryson and Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Presbyterian Church.

Concluding Thoughts 

When I read Sarah’s article I was troubled by her take on events. The Kool Aid is strong with this one. How could she miss all these Acts 29 scandals and issues that keep happening?  From The Village Church in 2015 to Fellowship Memphis scandal from 2010 which broke a couple of years back and drags out to today, how could she miss all these problems? By the way if I can ask, what is it with Acts 29 and “Gospel Centered” child pornography? From the situation with Jordan Root to Fellowship Memphis what is it with scandals that allegedly involve child pornography?  Is that part of authentic manhood? If I ever make it to Memphis I will ask John Bryson that question. Acts 29 is not a healthy organization. To the contrary it is quite toxic and dangerous. The stories I keep hearing from this troubled network disturb me. Yet some people think its healthy because it is growing. Cancer operates in the same way, uncontrolled tumor growth. Acts 29 has many issues and I would invite those who are considering the organization to check out the stories that this blog is compiling about the church planting network. The healthiest thing one can do is to avoid it. Well with that I will let you go, if you have any Acts 29 stories please feel free to contact me as I will be happy to compile and write about them. Take care and know that you are loved! 


3 thoughts on “Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra’s Horrific Article at The Gospel Coalition About How Acts 29 Thrived After Mars Hill Ignores Many of the Issues in the Troubled Network

  1. Jesus warned us of false believers like these. These people loves the darkness more than the light (v19).
    Some flat out rejects the church so they can continue to enjoy their evil deeds. These people we feel sorry for, but at least they are honorable.

    Others, the worst kind of snakes, hide inside churches but then pretend they are so sinless, so they can CONTINUE their sins in secret! And they pump themselves up as superior to all others, that no one else is good enough for God except themselves.

    Why won’t they admit their mistakes? Because in their opinion they AREN’T mistakes. They enjoy that evil darkness. They literally believe that all women ARE penis homes. They literally believe that men have the AUTHORITY to punch their wives in the face and even point a loaded gun at their wives, and the wives cannot do jack about it. They literally believe that a pastor has the AUTHORITY to ask someone to quit their job or refuse a job offer. They believe that! So of course they won’t come into the light and repent, else their deeds will be exposed (v20). So they cover their sinful and evil actions under “loving discipline”. Hence now they define sins as “love”. So sins are now “holy” and “good”.

    Sounds crazy I know. But to them pointing a loaded gun at your wife’s face is “love”, “holy” and “good”. Calling all women penis home is now “love”, “holy” and “good”. They claim that JESUS would have done the SAME. Why? Because they LOVE THE DARKNESS instead of THE LIGHT. They love abusive authority, so abusive authority must be “love”, “holy” and “good”. That’s why they hate the light and does not come to the light, because he don’t want his deeds to be exposed (v20).

    John 3:19-21.
    19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds (after the light’s arrival still) were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”


  2. Pingback: The EFCA and Acts 29, Looking at Ryan Kwon of Resonate Church in Fremont, California; Plus the Issues with James Walden’s Riverside Community Church | Wondering Eagle

  3. Pingback: An Open Letter to Ryan Kwon (Acts 29 Pastor at Resonate Regarding Comments Made in a Gospel Coalition Article) | Wondering Eagle

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