Four years ago I received an email from a covenant member of The Journey in St. Louis, Missouri. It was a personal reflection on being inside The Journey as the Mars Hill scandal in Seattle dragged on. This member explained to me the similarities in church governance between Mars Hill Seattle and The Journey in St. Louis. This email was in response to a post that was written about The Journey.
“Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons.”
If your brother or sister[a] sins,[b] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
Matthew 18:15 NIV
In light of Darrin Patrick’s death and The Journey in St. Louis being high profile this blog is going to publish an email it received four years ago about The Journey. It was from a member of The Journey who became nervous as he saw Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill implode in Seattle with abuse, anger and more. He wrote this in response to a post I composed, “Darrin Patrick is Removed from The Journey in St. Louis Amidst Questions; My Main Question…Will One of the Key Charges Also Be Applied to Matt Chandler?” If there are others who want to tell of their own personal experiences within The Journey you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
As you know, I attended The Journey from ~2006 (for ~8 years) and I was a member. When I started it was smaller but in the middle of a rapid growth phase. I was a member but am not a Calvinist and certainly not a neo-Calvinist. I suppose around 2009, Driscoll really came on my radar for a short time and I followed and listened to him. Before I could be run over by Driscoll’s bus (Driscoll joke, sorry), I bailed. After a couple of his tirades at people who didn’t agree with his MMA, non-manly men, etc. comments he lost all teaching credibility with me.
When Mar(k’)s Hill was going down, I wasn’t surprised at all and saw it as God’s rebuke of the leadership. As that was unfolding, I began to analyze The Journey. There are some obvious similarities between The Journey’s structure and Mar(k’)s Hill’s that caused me some angst.
The first is the elder structure. There is no accountability of the elders by the members and members have no say as to who the current or next elders will be. Like Mar(k’)s Hill, The Journey’s elders are self perpetuating. When I read of the account of Driscoll voiding all memberships and making everyone reapply, I was appalled. I realized the same could happen at The Journey (though doubted it would). I don’t believe this structure is Biblical and I believe it is dangerous for the elders and church. My opinion now is that there is no point in becoming a member of a church with this structure and I will never again regularly attend one. It gives the members no rights or say, yet subjects them to whatever the elders decide.
The second has to do with the celebrity pastor, proud and egotistical, who seeks limelight and fame. I believe there are a lot of globally-known pastors (currently) who are gifted and blessed by God as teachers who are preaching without going down the celebrity path (and can name some who are). Darrin and Mark no doubt used their well-known status to further their own egos and “church-pastor” brands. God has removed them from their thrones. We can only hope and pray that others will be humbled and repent if in the same sin or temptation.
The third is the desire for rapid and large growth of a bundled “church-pastor brand”. The bigger the church is – the more business-like, more impersonal, less godly, more controlling. When you attend a church and never hear your “local pastor” preach, but instead watch a video of a pastor who you rarely see or visit with and you feel you want his autograph when you do, well it’s time to step back and ask yourself, “Who am I here to hear from and follow? Is it okay to disagree with my pastor?” This setup is literally tempting people to follow an idol.
There are others but these are some of the major flaws I have where The Journey and Mars Hill paralleled.
You’re article is very well written. I agree with several of the points you make. I think the biggest thing out of this is – the disqualifying issues ongoing “for several years”. That statement burns and I’ve asked, “Why, God?” At the same time, “Please redeem this situation.” And, “Thank you that more damage wasn’t done and more people weren’t hurt, please help those who were Mars Hill.”
One aspect I know you are digging for and trying to uncover is further scandal and abuse of the elders towards members and attenders or those who have been burned in any way. I will honestly say I never saw or heard of anything like that which came out of Mars Hill. I have no sympathy for abusers and no reason to stick up for or hide anything wrong like that I saw at The Journey. I just had never heard of anything and with all the alarms, bells and flags going off about Acts 29 during/after the Mar(k)s Hill, I was very sensitive about it at the end. The only issues I really see need to be changed/addressed now are the first and third from.
I agree that the letter the elders put out was somewhat sanitized because they knew it would go global with Darrin’s recognition. However, I didn’t feel like I or anyone else needed to know the minute details of the circumstances about what the sin entailed. For those at The Journey, what was laid out “makes sense” and was probably not any surprise in light of Darrin’s personality – they weren’t for me. Any more in a public letter I feel would have been sensational and pouring out unnecessary details to people who were not or did not need to know. I do feel that would gossip.
Who is owed a deep explanation? It’s hard because Darrin and Mark were very public and their presence extended far beyond their church attenders. I guess attenders of both Mar(k’)s Hill and The Journey know the only accountability lies with the council of the elders and it’s the members choice to be under that structure. Maybe now some members will find themselves at a crossroads. I will say we had been contemplating leaving before moving to a different state over a year ago.