An Analysis of Chris Hilken’s Apology For Past Misconduct Inside North Coast Church and Why It Falls Short

Chris Hilken both the teaching pastor and leader of the young adult program at North Coast Church in the San Diego, California area recorded a seventeen minute apology that was sent out to 37 individuals on July 24, 2020. This is an analysis of his apology and how it comes up short. A bad apology makes things worse and that is exactly what happened. True humility puts others above themself especially when they have made a serious mistake, which is what transpired under Chris Hilken’s watch at North Coast Church. 

“True humility—the basis of the Christian system—is the low but deep and firm foundation of all virtues.

Edmund Burke

“Some persons are always ready to level those above them down to themselves, while they are never willing to level those below them up to their own position. But he that is under the influence of true humility will avoid both these extremes. On the the one hand, he will be willing that all should rise just so far as their diligence and worth of character entitle them to; and on the other hand, he will be willing that his superiors should be known and acknowledged in their place, and have rendered to them all the honors that are their due.

Jonathan Edwards

I will never forget your commandments,  for by them you give me life.

Psalm 119:93 NLT

Larry Osborne has a policy apparently that states that people from North Coast Church aren’t to engage the Instagram page of abuse survivors. Instead people are disassociating from it as I understand in this situation. So what Chris Hilken did was put together a seventeen minute video and had his brother Hayden Hilken send a video to 37 people who once were involved in North Coast Church. This blog lacks information as to why those 37 people were selected. Hilken in this apology also addresses not just the past issues issues in 11/12 from what I can discern. But also for the cult like behavior at the North Coast School of Ministry. Hilken in the video said that North Coast Church took away his social media privileges and re-iterated that the church under Larry Osborne’s plans not to engage with anonymous posters. 


Summary of What Chris Hilken Said 

You can watch the video by Chris Hilken in, “Chris Hilken’s Apology to Those Formerly Involved in North Coast Church.” Chris says that he is sorry for what happened at North Coast Church. He starts out explaining that he was insecure, too young, had doubts and lacked confidence when he was in ministry. He was affected by his mentor leaving North Coast. And he was trying to keep the numbers up because he was afraid of losing his job. He stated that he expressed his opinion strongly and that people who disagreed couldn’t approach him. Chris later admitted that he was unapproachable to talking.  He was too obsessed with numbers and he pressured people to do ministry at the North Coast School of Ministry. He created a culture that was cliquish when he said he did not try to do that at all. And that he pressured people in North Coast because that is what he was used to doing. 11/12 grew while the church at Vista shrunk. He stated that he was been receiving death threats and a threat to have his daughter molested. He said that he owned his mistake and that he loved people and had the best of intentions. Chris also said that 11/12 did work for a number of people and seemed to be a little defensive of the program toward the end. But that he approaches humbly on his knees to say that he is sorry for the culture of marginalization that existed. 


Regarding Death Threats and Threats of Molestation 

Before I proceed further let me address the allegations of death threats and the threat of having his daughter molested.  This blog categorically rebukes and rejects such behavior. Such a response is uncalled for and this blog does not sanction or condone that kind of response. Threats of that nature backfire and rightfully open up individuals for criticism. People get emotional and angry but that does not justify making such a threat. And this blog believes such threats should be reported to law enforcement. However, can those threats be assessed as coming from the Instagram survivors account? Anyone can pop up on the internet and fire away something totally inappropriate and callous. 

Also when it comes to threatening to molest his daughter that is also uncalled for. Chris’s daughter should be left out of the controversy. Why would an infant or young toddler be dragged into this? This blog has written about sex abuse issues inside the EFCA, it also covered the Paxton Singer sexting situation in the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal in Chicago, and lastly this blog wrote about some of the sex abuse issues inside C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries here on the East Coast.  I don’t take sex abuse lightly and that should not be threatened on the Hilken family. So this blog is asking for any kind of behavior to be stopped. Now another issue that Chris Hilken avoided talking about is that its my understanding that a number of North Coast Church employees have sent threats to the Instagram page. Threats that bullied, frightened and also crossed a line. This blog is going to publish any threats that North Coast Church staff has made against the Instrgram account. While I take no pleasure they are fair game to be published. So if anyone from North Coast Church reads this post and is thinking of firing another threat to the Instagram page. Consider yourself warned if you don’t like it being published or think you can get away with such activity. 


Only 37 People Got This Video? 

Now here is what stuns me and it reveals that this apology is flawed. Chris only had this  video sent to 37 people. North Coast Church is the largest EFCA church in California according to my research. How many thousands went through such a place over the years. And yet you are going to focus on only 37?  What about all the other people who attended North Coast Church over the years who also faced abuse or shaming? Do they deserve to get an apology? How do you think they will feel when they see that video floating around on the internet and they knew that Chris Hilken did not reach out to them? I would be disgusted in all honesty. I would feel excluded once again. 

This apology is also an effort of practicing damage control. The only time Chris Hilken decided to do an apology is after the Instagram page stood up. Beforehand Chris really didn’t care about an apology. The Instagram page created issues and caught him flat footed. Chris in his ministry at North Coast Church has always been one  to control the situation. This is a pastor who is a control freak. And then on July 15, 2020 that control was stripped from his hands when something was born that he could not influence. All he could do is watch it grow. And in addition to the Instagram page these blog posts no doubt probably also trouble him further. Many evangelical pastors in my view build up platforms and feel entitled. There are a million Chris Hilkens inside evangelical churches across the United States. I have come across personalities like Chris as I have traveled (in normal times before the COVID-19 pandemic) and seen people be cocky, arrogant, and condescending. But if Chris was sincere he could have gone a lot farther. This blog gives him a D for effort and an F+ for his apology. Its also became clear to me as I watched the video that Chris Hilken does not understand the psychological pain and the issues at hand. 


Chris Hilken Became a Pastor When He was Too Young, Plus He Needs Some Outside Experience 

In watching the video there is also this aspect that needs to be said. Chris Hilken became a pastor when he was too young. He got drunk off the power and liked the ability to control. Like I said, this is a control freak from my perspective. Just as Jonathan Edwards used imagery of people being dangled over the flames of hell on a thread; here is Chris Hilken on an autocratic emotional high dangling people’s futures and more in North Coast Church ministry. Chris in his apology came across as cocky. He was not as reflective or as remorseful. A seventeen minute video does not erase years of pain and misconduct. 

Chris as I looked at his employment history apparently feels entitled. He really hasn’t had a lot of outside experience. In his history has he ever had a boss that gave him an unfavorable performance review? Or had a manager pull him aside and tell him that he needed to improve in an area? Many people have that and have to deal with that issue in a career.  From the private sector to the military in the San Diego area where there is a large presence. Many people have had to deal with that in their life. Has Chris Hilken? Its an honest question because I have had friends over the years tell me of difficult conversations they had with their boss and how it humbled them. Or checked their attitude. I think part of the reason Chris is like this is because he grew up a pastors’ kid and was entitled and felt like he cold get away with what ever he wanted. The tragedy in this situation is that his behavior could backfire and sadly affect his family and also his brothers. The North Coast Church abuse situation will test the EFCA. This blog is going to write about all the reasons and ways that will happen. And by the way did anyone notice that in the seventeen minute video Chris Hilken said nothing about Jacob Cutler or David “Chancho” Garcia? Is that an oops or is that someone being in denial about sexual abuse and grooming by a predator?  A person in a ministry position who allegedly has a relationship with a teenager while his wife Shara is pregnant is an issue.  Don’t you think? Why in that apology was that not mentioned? 


Why This Apology Falls Short 

This apology in my view falls short. I am going to do another post directed to Chris Hilken that will reveal how an apology should be done. I will draw upon a situation that I did years ago. But if you have over a decade of pain and trauma, a seventeen minute video does not cover for it at all. What Chris should have done is put it out for the entire community to see. It should be all out on the table. He should have made himself willing to meet with people and to listen to their pain. Not speak, or give a defense but silently listen and process what people are telling him. The key to an apology is humility. Humility goes a long way and its presence inside evangelicalism is largely absent. This blog has beat the drum and stated that one of the reasons why evangelicalism is so sick and cancerous as a movement is because Christians don’t seek forgiveness. They never atone for mistakes. They never own them. They may give an apology in words or writing but never have anything of substance to back it up. What this seventeen minute video is for many is an exercise in futility. Instead of trying to bring peace and a healing balm to people who were hurt he tried to contain the damage and prevent this from growing.  That is the issue at play. Many who are hurt can see through the facade. And while there will be a remote possibility that some will never forgive, when I write about dark experiences in evangelicalism I can’t tell you how many families or people told me over the years that, “all they wanted was a sincere apology” and an honest effort. This video doesn’t cut it. 

And this blog doesn’t see an apology coming from North Coast Church either. Why? Larry Osborne is the pastor who trampled on many people who were hurt by Mars Hill Seattle. He didn’t give a damn. He helped re-launch someone in Arizona when he should have turned around and kicked Mark Driscoll in the ass and told him to go back to Seattle and seek out forgiveness and work things out with people. There are people in Seattle today that are still stuck who are hoping that Driscoll would have repented or owned his mistakes. I mean consider the Mars Hill scandal. Its six years out from its implosion in Seattle in 2014 and Warren Throckmorton had an interview with key people in the scandal just today. Does Larry Osborne understand Christianity? This blog would say no..he does not. Which makes him teaching at the biennial EFCA One which is one of the key conferences in the EFCA a total tragedy. The next EFCA One is scheduled to take place at the Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton which is north of Vista, California in Orange County in 2021. What are the odds that Larry Osborne is going to headline the conference and speak there? I would bet my 401K that he is already in negotiations with the national EFCA to do so.

But getting back to Chris Hilken this apology falls short. And a bad apology only makes it harder to get to the goal you desire. If your intention of an apology is to try and preserve your job, and not bring peace and closure to the other person. This blog would tell Chris Hilken don’t even try an apology. 

Also one last point to make if you wont reach out to people from the Instagram account because their anonymous. The same can not be said about me. I blog in my actual name. The EFCA knows who I am because I write this blog in my own name and I write about the EFCA all around the United States. So you can engage with me if you want. Be forewarned however, that my intention and goal is to see those from the Instagram account find peace and closure.  In my spiritual abuse situation from 2013 I never found peace and closure and this blog is committed to helping others find theirs if that is possible. . 


3 thoughts on “An Analysis of Chris Hilken’s Apology For Past Misconduct Inside North Coast Church and Why It Falls Short

  1. Lots of good points in this post. If you’re apologizing, don’t try to make excuses for yourself. If you’re apologizing, don’t do it via a video.

    When someone experiences a bad situation and renounces Christianity, it’s not surprising that they might later behave in non-Christian ways (like making threats).


  2. Pingback: An Open Letter to Chris Hilken (Pastor at North Coast Church in Vista, California on Owning Mistakes and Seeking Forgiveness) | Wondering Eagle

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