Pastoral Lessons from Mars Hill Church E8: Recovering After Crisis

Join Ryan Williams, Dave Bruskas, and Sutton Turner as they reflect on their time at Mars Hill Church in Seattle and share lessons they have learned that can serve other pastors and ministry leaders.

Listen here: https://amicalled.com/pastoral-lessons-from-mars-hill-church-e8-lessons-on-recovering-after-crisis/

A transcript of the podcast is below.

 

Ryan Williams:

Welcome to the Older Pastor, Younger Pastor Podcast, a discussion through the pastoral epistles, scripture, and ministry in the 21st century. The Older Pastor, Younger Pastor Podcast is part of Am I Called Ministries. Am I Called Ministries helps current and aspiring pastors, ministers, and leaders to live, love, learn, and last in ministry. Visit Am I Called at amicalled.com.

Ryan Williams:

Welcome to a special series of episodes of the Older Pastor, Younger Pastor Podcast. In today’s episodes we’ll be discussing pastoral lessons learned at Mars Hill Church, lessons on recovering after crisis. Many of you know that Mars Hill Church in Seattle closed its doors at the end of 2014, after a year of scandal, complaints, and revelations about what had gone on within the church for many years. Mars Hill Church, at its peak, was around 18,000 people, spread over 15 campuses, and had an operating budget of around $32 million. They had a weekly podcast audience of 300,000 people. Within 24 months of the church’s height, it had closed its doors.

Ryan Williams:

I was a part of Mars Hill Church. I was the lead pastor at the Everett location. Dave Bruskas also served at Mars Hill as an executive elder. And with us today is our guest Sutton Turner, who also served as an executive elder. Guys, how you doing?

Dave Bruskas:

Doing well. Doing well. Good to see you guys.

Sutton Turner:

[crosstalk 00:01:32]. Good to be with you.

Ryan Williams:

Right. So, we’re talking today about recovering after a crisis. This is I think going to wrap up kind of our special series on Mars Hill right now. The passage or scripture we’re going to look at is 1 Peter 5:8-10. And it might not be immediately clear why, but I’m going to read it, and then hopefully convince you listeners as to why this can be a hopeful thing for recovering after a crisis and a failure and deep struggles. So, I’m going to read that from verse eight.

Ryan Williams:

Peter writes, “Be sober minded. Be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world. The God of all grace, who called you to Himself, His eternal glory in Christ will Himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while.”

Ryan Williams:

When we’re talking about recovering after crisis, it can often feel profoundly isolating, firstly, and then it can often feel like you’re too far gone. And what I think that this passage can encourage us in is that when you suffer, even if it’s at your own hands, that there are other believers around the world, suffering in the same way that you are. But there’s also hope, that if you are in Christ, if you believe in Christ. That He has promised you, by the simple fact that in faith, you’re sealed by grace, that there is restoration coming your way.

Ryan Williams:

Now, it might look different than you think it’s going to look. It might look like you’re never going back into ministry again. It might look like you’re getting back into ministry. It all depends on the situation. But there is this promise, that the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you, after you have suffered a little while.

Ryan Williams:

This episode is probably going to be a little bit more personal. I think we’re probably all just going to try and tell the stories of how we have responded to, and what God has done over the last five and a half years since Mars Hill closed. What recovering after crisis has looked like for each and every one of us, and hopefully in our stories there could be some encouragement to you, there could be some awareness for you, especially if you have just been through a crisis, whether that is something that you have done, or you’ve experienced in your church. My hope is this would be a real help to you.

Ryan Williams:

And so, Dave and Sutton, who wants to kind of throw their hand up and say, “You know what? This is what the last five and a half years have looked like for me”?

Sutton Turner:

Gosh, I’ll go first. First of all, I’m not a victim. I was a victimizer. So, I don’t want to come across as a victim of Mars Hill. And I need to own, and I have tried to own all the actions that I participated in, whether they were direct actions by me, or actions that I was a part of. And so, to me, it’s been a process of listening. That’s the most important thing that I can say to people that are in the situation that you find yourself, if you’re like me, is to listen to people, and to learn about yourself from others that are coming to you… Which is really hard. It’s been a very hard process… and then to try to empathize with them. What I mean by that specifically… Because people use that word. But, really understand how someone else was hurt, and try the best that you can to feel what they have felt. That’s my definition.

Sutton Turner:

And so, I’ve been to Panera Bread, up there in, what was that? Shoreline area, and met with many, many, many people before I left and came to Texas. Some people that I had never even met with before, or never even met before, having that meeting, and listened to their hurts, and owned as much as I could, and answered as many questions as I could. And so, the first step is listening and empathizing, and then praying, and allowing the Lord to reveal to you the things that you have sinned and that you need to own. That’s kind of like the second part. It’s learning what you did.

Sutton Turner:

Then the third part was, how can you… In your current position, how can you help others? It’s kind of what we’re doing here today, to learn from our mistakes, to learn from our sins, to not commit the same thing and do the same thing that we did. To avoid what happened at Mars Hill. And so, that’s the hard part. You know? I mean, what, we’re six years, and it’s still fresh like yesterday. And by the way, this is an ongoing… I mean, I’ve had meetings with somebody here this last month, that I hurt back in… Oh, gosh. What was that? 2012. So, that was like eight years ago. So I mean, this isn’t like a one shot thing and you’re done.

Sutton Turner:

Then lastly, I would say… And it’s hard, but you’re not going to reconcile with everyone. There’s some people, like Mark Driscoll, that won’t meet with me, and won’t reconcile. Blocks me from all social media. And I know that that might never… There might never be reconciliation there. I can’t worry about that. I give that up to the Lord. But I can reach out to every person I can. And there’s other people that have said that I have hurt them when we are at Mars Hill that won’t speak to me. It doesn’t mean that they won’t speak to me. It just means they’re not ready right now. And that’s okay.

Sutton Turner:

And so, I think it’s a process. It’s a stinking hard process. But I think it’s a healing process for both people. It’s helped… I know this is going to sound weird, but it’s actually helpful to me, for me to be able to see my sin from a perspective of someone else. It makes me realize how bad I need Jesus, and how much I’m not Jesus, and how much I need Him, and how much I need the Holy Spirit, and how much I need to repent of my sins. So, it’s actually a process to me that draws me closer to Christ, and closer to the cross, and more dependent upon Him, and less reliant upon myself, when I see my own sin and the way that I have hurt others.

Sutton Turner:

And so, it’s hard. It’s not awesome. But I encourage people to do it, after you’ve walked through that. And it doesn’t mean that… If you’re a current pastor of a church, you can still go through the same process. You don’t have to wait until you leave the church, and then look back and try to… I mean, it can be an ongoing process. If you understand that we’re all sinners, and we fall short of Christ, and we all have the opportunity to repent of our sin, and we all have the opportunity to reconcile with our brothers and sisters and grow, I think it’s just that opportunity. So, you don’t have to wait until the end of your career or the end of your term at serving at that church or whatever.

Sutton Turner:

And so, I would just encourage the things that I wish I had done as a pastor, which was sitting down and listening to people, empathizing with them, learning from my mistakes, and then turning around and helping others learn from my mistakes. I wish I would have done that in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, the whole time I was at Mars Hill Church. And so, I didn’t, and so my recommendation to everybody would be learn from me, and what I didn’t do during the time, and what I’m now trying to do. But do it now.

Ryan Williams:

Sutton, personally, what has that awareness… Where does that come from, the awareness of sin, the awareness of how you are built and structured, and just some of those things? Just kind of that knowledge of what you did at Mars Hill, where did that come from? Was there a process in having to develop a self-awareness, or did it just kind of all hit at one moment? What was the catalyst there?

Sutton Turner:

No. I mean, it goes back to the early days, when I first got to Mars Hill. Pastor Dave and I were kind of learning… We kind of arrived on the scene at the same time as executive elders, and I started reading blog posts about Bent Meyers and Paul Petrie. And I remember Dave and I talking to the other executive elder, and said, “Hey, we really want to sit down and understand this, because gosh, there’s a lot of hurt there.” And it was clearly told to me that I could not.

Sutton Turner:

And that took on the way that I handled criticism, and the way that I handled claims against me, or any disputes with me, is I avoided them and didn’t sit down with them, which is absolutely the wrong thing. When you’re sitting across the table from a brother or sister of Jesus Christ, and they communicate to you how they have been hurt… To me, that’s all you need. You need to be right there with that person, and immediately, I believe that the Holy Spirit convicts you of that sin, and allows you to empathize with that brother and sister. But if it’s all on email, and you never sit across the table from someone, I think that you can build up a fortress around you, an insulation around you, to where you don’t feel that.

Sutton Turner:

But when you’re sitting right across the table… And right now, unfortunately, I live in Texas, so the people now, it’s on Zoom, but to me it’s still just as good as sitting across the table. But you’re on Zoom with somebody, hearing how you’ve hurt them and how they were affected, or how their family was affected by the ministry, or all of that, and there’s tears that come across. To me, it’s the listening and the being empathetic. That’s how you break, and that’s how it starts. And so, as soon as I started doing that, it just broke me and made me so aware of my sin, and then also made me so wanting to help others that I had hurt. So it kind of flipped the switch, if that makes sense.

Ryan Williams:

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Dave, what was your journey look like in recovering from the Mars Hill crisis?

Dave Bruskas:

As I look at it today, Ryan, it feels like a death. It feels like a death of a close family member. I’ll be real careful saying that. I have lost a son who was two months and four days when he passed, but… Not exactly like that, but it does feel like the death of a family member. And the way I processed it and am processing it feels similar to that.

Dave Bruskas:

So, my experience was I was one of the last people fired by Mars Hill, on December 31st, 2014, the last day that Mars Hill existed as an entity. That’s kind of my pink slip day. And on January 4th, 2015, so just three days later, I was in the pulpit at North Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. And so, my response was probably like it would be if I lost a close family member, and that is just get busy. Just get to work. Just put your head down and go, and the pain in time will minimize. And if you stay busy, you don’t have to sit around and think about it all day.

Dave Bruskas:

And so, in hindsight that was a big error, to just jump right in and force myself through things. And after about a year or two, I really began to see the effect of the death of Mars Hill. I happened to be… This is an embarrassing story, but my family had gone from Albuquerque to Texas on a Christmas break, and I had my wife and two of my daughters in the car with me. We were driving back home. It was the middle of a snowstorm. There are snowstorms, for people who aren’t familiar with New Mexico and Texas. My one daughter had a serious boyfriend in one of the towns on the way back, and she wanted to see him. And the snow drifts were so high, we couldn’t get into that town. And so, she was disappointed she couldn’t see her boyfriend. I was frustrated with all the pressure I was feeling, of trying to get the family home.

Dave Bruskas:

And man, I just lost it. I yelled. I went into a tirade. I did the whole, “Poor is me. You don’t know what it’s like to be a dad in a family. You don’t know what it’s like to carry the load. You don’t know what it’s like to disappoint the people that are counting on you.” And in the middle of that I realized, “This is not really about this experience. This is not really about what’s going on in this moment.” And my wife and my two daughters just looked stunned. They just looked at me with mouth wide open, like, “Man, you’ve lost it, Dad.” And I realized that there was something more going on, and it probably had to do with Mars Hill. It was very clear to my wife and kids, too. Like, “Hey, I need to talk to somebody about it.”

Dave Bruskas:

Reached out to a dear friend who is a counselor, and we began to process things. So for me it was like a death, in that as time as has passed, and where I’m at today, I feel sad. I genuinely feel sad, and I feel sad about a very specific thing. I feel sad about the relationships, and the opportunity that was lost. Mars Hill wasn’t all bad, and there were some amazing people there, and the Lord was doing some amazing work. And to think about the opportunity that we had to continue to do that together, with some of the people that I just loved dearly, as much as anybody on the face of the Earth… And now that those relationships are distant… I think they’re all reconciled, but we’re just not together in the same way we were before… that’s sad to me. And then, yeah. The opportunity we had to really further the Gospel in Seattle and beyond, is tough. It’s sad to think about the opportunity that was lost there.

Dave Bruskas:

It was a death in a different way, too. I feel like a part of me died there. And I’ll be real specific, too. Probably the part of me that genuinely gets rightfully excited about good things. It took me a while to be appropriately sad. It took me a while to weep for those who weep. I just felt deadpan in my emotions, and it’s probably just because I locked them up in a vault to try to protect myself. So, it took me a season. But that came back first, and now it’s beginning to come back, are some healthy feelings in a relationship. Okay. It’s okay, it’s really okay to be happy today, and some good things are going on in the lives of people. It’s good to rejoice. So, kind of the weep with those who weep is back. The rejoice with those who rejoice is coming back. It’s not entirely there. It’s still in process.

Dave Bruskas:

And so, as I look back to this day and where I’m at today, probably the ongoing thing that I have to combat the most from a spiritual perspective, from a deep heart level place, is just shame. Because it was like a death of a family member. It is like a death of a family member, in which you were complicit. Right? Almost… Forgive me, because this is going to be probably painful for some people to hear who’ve experienced this personally. I haven’t… But almost like you were recklessly driving the car that a loved one was killed in the accident, and now you have kind of the, “Okay. Not only did I lose somebody I love, but I was complicit in that person’s death.” And so, there’s shame in that. There’s deep shame in that.

Dave Bruskas:

And daily, just appropriating and preaching the Gospel to my own heart, and realizing that Jesus is who Jesus is, and He forgives, and my righteousness is not in my works. It’s not based on my ability to be a good leader. It’s not based on my ability to navigate a church through a crisis. It’s totally based on His perfection, His perfect record of obedience before the Father, is helpful.

Dave Bruskas:

And then, just to let go of things I didn’t need to take on in the first place. Like you had mentioned in a previous podcast, Ryan, you’re the guy who takes on responsibility for more things than you should. I did that some, and I’m also open to the fact and aware of the fact that maybe I haven’t taken enough responsibility for some of the things I can. So, still want to make sure that I’m right with the people that I served with and worked with, and there’s been some great conversations over the years. I want to continue to do that, and be available to that.

Dave Bruskas:

It certainly isn’t as painful today as it was a few years ago, and every day, every day I think about it a little bit less. Every day I feel a little less intensive, intensively. But yeah, it stays with me, and I think it shapes the way I look at the future. I think it shapes the way I do ministry today. But yeah, I really look at Mars Hill as a death of a dear, loved, close family member, and processing all that that means, and what does it mean to heal from that?

Dave Bruskas:

I think the point that Sutton made was really helpful, and I don’t want to gloss over that. That is, in the early days, it was really easy for me to think that in a short order, Mark’s going to come to his senses. He’s going to feel broken over what happened, and he’s going to do some things to help make this situation better, make it right. And I just want to release him from that. I want to release that expectation. Not that it wouldn’t be a good thing. I think it would be a great thing. But if my well-being and my being whole is dependent upon what somebody else does, and the realm of what I think they should do, then I’m going to be in a helpless place. So, yeah. Just kind of where I’m at.

Sutton Turner:

And Ryan, I just want to hit on what Pastor Dave was just saying, to emphasize that the people that I talk to… And I would include myself in that… yearn for the opportunity to speak to Mark, and to have some type of reconciling event with him. And that’s a deep desire, especially with the people that helped start the church back in the late ’90s, that I’ve met with and talked with. A lot of them had left the church in ’06, and so I never really met them, but since that time have. They have that deep, deep… And it’s something that, even though I have sat down and talked to them, they still have a hole that they want to have filled by that meeting with him.

Sutton Turner:

And I keep on trying to encourage them, just like Pastor Dave was saying. “That day is probably never going to happen, and you need to be okay with that, and let, and just… ” Dave used the word release. They need to be released of that, just to release that expectation. Let it go. I think it’s a freeing thing that people can participate in. I know it was hard for me, because so much of when I was at Mars Hill was trying to win his favor, and trying to do well, and trying to get a atta boy, and trying to prove myself, and all of those types of things that were… And I think a lot of people were swept up into that. And then just to be done with that, and to be over with that, and let that go. Like Pastor Dave said, just let it go, and I think you’re going to be free from that.

Sutton Turner:

But I think it’s too, though, meeting with me and meeting with Pastor Dave, it’s the next best thing, kind of. And so, I’m okay with doing that. Sitting down with people and talking with them, and being the next best person to talk to. Because they can’t talk to Mark, so they talk to me, and that’s fine. I’ll stand in that, and try to help them as much as I can.

Sutton Turner:

And I’ll ask… You know, as it relates to me, when I got to San Antonio after Mars Hill, I had a whole bunch of junk that I needed to work through. I met with this… Our whole family did. And that’s the thing that I don’t think that many people realize, is that yes, I was affected, but my family was affected a lot more, especially when my two girls, that grew up in Mars Hill. And so, not only the healing process of me, but really, a Christian counselor that met with all of us individually. Because each one of our experiences, and each one of our hurts and loss was different, and needed to be worked through with a Christian counselor. And so, if there’s people out there that have never done that, and that are still hurting from some type of losing a church, whether it’s Mars Hill or any church, man, I would go to someone and let them help you work through these pains.

Ryan Williams:

Yeah. I mean, this loss that we keep talking about needs to be grieved, and it needs to be lamented, and it needs to be processed. That’s one thing that I think I really failed to do in those early days after Mars Hill. I was a mess. I mean, just for context, I was 29 years old when Mars Hill died, and had pastored there for just a little under two years. So I mean, I became a lead pastor, lead campus pastor at Mars Hill at 27. I’d been a Christian for four years-ish, and so I mean, I was immature in every sense of the word immature. Had a deep passion for the Word, had a deep sense of calling, really wanted to love Jesus, His people, and see that happen. But, I mean, I didn’t even know myself. Just kind of like you were talking about, Sutton. I didn’t know myself well enough coming out of it.

Ryan Williams:

And so, the single biggest mistake I made was just jumping straight into Foundation Church, and expecting that it was going to be easy, good, just straight back into a great day of ministry. It was probably the opposite of that. Not that the people of Foundation Church were bad, but it was ridiculously difficult taking on a church plant, in the just broken spiritual and emotional state that I was in when I took it on. I hadn’t processed any trauma. I hadn’t grieved anything personally and with the church. And I just jumped straight in and said, “Okay, let’s start this church. Let’s go. This is going to be great. This is going to be fun. I mean, we’re just going to see the numbers jump straight back up. We’ll be baptizing 30 people at Easter, and it’s just going to be just excellent.” And it was not that.

Ryan Williams:

Because when I became the lead preaching guy… I think I preached five times, and then I became the lead guy. And you know, people were leaving in droves. I mean, we saw about 200 people leave the church in the first year, because I wasn’t as good a communicator as Mark. And that makes sense, when I’d preached five times. You’re not going to be great at doing something like preaching when you’ve done it five times, and this guy’s been doing it for the better part of two decades.

Ryan Williams:

And so, for me, I started to develop some anxiety in 2015. I remember I had started having panic attacks. You know, driving just down the freeway, and would just feel this huge rush of adrenaline, and really just go tunnel vision, and just need to… All I could do is just focus on breathing, and focus on staying on the road. And I remember talking to a pastor friend of mine. I said… And I didn’t even know it was a panic attack. I didn’t know that’s what you’d call it. But he was just saying, “Man, that’s your body screaming out, saying you need to process what’s going on.” And for me, I just ignored that, and just kept pushing, kept pushing.

Ryan Williams:

Then at the end of 2015, I was done. I was ready to go. I was ready to quit, be done with ministry. Move my family back to Australia and get a job. You know, working at a butcher shop, which is my fallback career. The church and the elders were gracious. They gave me a three-month sabbatical. Got some counseling and some care in that time. But really, I mean it was… It was a time where it took two months for me to even begin to become normal again, and to learn what it was to not be running at such a high capacity of crisis mode. Because your body, in those trauma situations, just takes on a fight and flight response, and I’d been in it for the better part of two years at that point.

Ryan Williams:

And so I began to get some counseling and some care, eased back into ministry, and things began to feel like, “Okay, the Lord met me in that.” I began to grieve and process. But honestly, even two years after that, I still had an anxiety attack. You know, and was under care, and in a great church network with great support. I’m still processing the expectations and the pains of my experience at Mars Hill.

Ryan Williams:

And the weird part was, I’m in this middle area where I felt used and I felt abused, but at the same time, I perpetuated that on to other people. And so, I had both been sinned against, and had sinned against others. And there was this shame that came with that, this guilt that came with that. There was also a sense of, like, “Well, what do I do with… Because I don’t want to play the victim card, but I have been treated poorly.” And so, trying to navigate through that, and just try and work out, okay. How do I figure out what it is to first, just be a follower of Jesus? And if I can just first figure out what it is to be a follower of Jesus, then I can begin to figure out what it is to be a pastor again.

Ryan Williams:

And in Zack Eswine’s work, The Imperfect Pastor, I think was probably above all the books that I’ve ever read on pastoral ministry. That probably stands as the reason I’m still a pastor, because it was saying everything that my heart desired. That Jesus doesn’t demand perfect pastors. He takes imperfect men, and uses them for His glory and our joy, and it helped reframe what ministry looked like for me. And so, that was just a super, super helpful book.

Ryan Williams:

And then from that, I got outside help. Talked to another pastor friend who had been experiencing panic attacks and anxiety attacks, and said, “Hey, man. Who are you talking to?” And he put me on to a ministry group that counsels pastors and cares for pastors. That was transformative, and it began to unlock other issues of pain and suffering in my life that I hadn’t processed. And so, through that, to this day, five and a half years after Mars Hill, I am feeling in the healthiest spot that I’ve ever been. But I still know there’s just a huge, huge amount of work that still needs to be done. But I think that in many ways, even the awareness to know there’s still work to be done is a huge marker of recovery for me, in my walk out of Mars Hill Church.

Ryan Williams:

Well, guys, let’s maybe talk to some of the realities that our listeners are going to be experiencing, especially if they’ve been through a church split, been through the failure of a pastor, if they themselves have failed. From Mars Hill, what I saw in a lot of different people was that there were a few different categories of what happened when Mars Hill failed, as far as where people landed in terms of their ministry, in terms of where they’re landing in churches and things like that.

Ryan Williams:

And so, it kind of is split into two categories. The ministry philosophy of Mars Hill, and the theology of Mars Hill. And what I saw was that some people rejected the theology of Mars Hill, and said, “Hey, the theology is the problem. The reform theology, the neo-Calvinism, whatever you want to call it, that’s the issue. And the philosophy… There’s nothing wrong with that, the hard ministry pragmatics.” And so, they went and they found churches that weren’t theologically aligned, but were practically and philosophically aligned. Others rejected the philosophy of Mars Hill, and said, “Hey, this hard business style, this domineering, powerful approach, this kind of having the one celebrity pastor, is the issue. There’s nothing actually wrong with the theology.” And so, they kind of put aside the philosophy, and grasped onto the theology, and said, “You know what? I still believe this to be true.”

Ryan Williams:

And then I saw some others who said, “Hey, there was nothing wrong with the philosophy or the theology of Mars Hill. Let’s just go and try and find a church that’s exactly the same, and see how that’s going to go.” It was just one of those, “Oh, man. Strike one. Let’s go find strike two, and see what would happen.” What do you guys see coming out of Mars Hill, as far as kind of some of the recovery after the crisis, and just kind of where people landed, how people processed that, and that you think would be helpful for our listeners?

Dave Bruskas:

Yeah. I’ll share my perspective, which you know, Ryan, comes from coming back and leading one of the Mars Hill satellites in Albuquerque, and returning. And it was the toughest thing I’ve ever done, because people within that very community were coming from different places. You had some that just wanted to pause and say, “Let’s spend an extended season mourning and grieving together. I don’t want to talk about anything else until we can come together and kind of hash out what happened, work through our pain and suffering through that.” There were people that, if I were to bring up anything from the pulpit, any form of apology, any form of my own struggle and my own dealing with my complicity in the brokenness of Mars Hill, would be, after the service respectful, but, “Hey, man. We don’t want to hear that anymore. We’ve moved on. Let’s just go.”

Dave Bruskas:

And in that category that you mentioned, that was probably the most painful group to watch, and to hurt for and hurt with, was the group that just began to deconstruct their faith. Just, “Man, I’m done. I’m not only walking away from this specific local church. I’m walking away from Christianity entirely, both in orthodoxy and ortho-praxy.” To watch that happen was just brutal. And there wasn’t a small group of people there was a significant group of people, even that had held significant places of leadership within Mars Hill. So, that was tough.

Dave Bruskas:

So, I think what can you take away from that is, number one, people process things differently. And if we really want to uphold being loving and gracious towards others, we need to give them the space and the time to grieve in their own way. Which means if you’re devastated today by what happened, and you’re still struggling with it, and you can’t see a way forward, don’t begrudge the person that’s not. Right? Don’t begrudge the person that this, for whatever reason, just didn’t hit as hard. Everybody jumped into the Mars Hill stream at a different point in time, and the longer you were in the church, the more you were a part of the foundation of building the church, the more you were relationally connected within the church. When all of that crumbles down, you’re going to hurt a lot worse than a person who is relatively new. So, I wouldn’t begrudge the person that moved seemingly past it in a quick way. Likewise, if you were able to move on quickly, don’t judge the person who hasn’t been.

Dave Bruskas:

So, I think it’s important that we are gracious and kind and patient with everyone around us who’s coming from a different place. The other thing I would say, though, is if you are still hurting, and there’s many of us out there that are, I have found it to be incredibly helpful to get outside help. That there’s only so much that we can do for each other, and it’s very easy to get in echo chambers. It’s very easy to build community around some things that might be healthy, like the desire to heal. That’s wonderful. But to form a community, an identity around let’s just perpetually grieve, and bring up and stay stuck with the things that were hurting over at Mars Hill, and let’s let that form our identity… I just don’t think that’s longterm healthy, and I think you probably need some outside help.

Dave Bruskas:

It helped me, more than anything else, to be able to talk to counselors and pastors and leaders and family members who were outside of Mars Hill, and could listen to me and hear me out, and offer a perspective that transcended kind of my own personal experience. And so, that would be my take. I am super sympathetic, probably more than I’ve ever been in this whole experience, today, to the person who is just wrecked, still. My heart is with you. My heart goes out to you. I want good for you. I want healing for you. And if I can help you in any way, I’d be happy to. I’m not sure that I can, but if I could, I’d be more than happy to, and want to do that.

Dave Bruskas:

And then my heart really goes out to those who… In my opinion, although I understand why they did it… just kind of threw the baby out with the bath water, that have walked away from some things that were absolutely beautiful in the person work of Jesus.

Sutton Turner:

Yeah. So, when I think of the folks that I have met with… i’m going to turn this just a little bit. The folks that I have met with, I think there’s four categories of folks that I have met with. So, when you’re meeting and you’re going through these different meetings with people, you need to understand there’s going to be different responses to you, and you need to be prepared for that as a pastor when sitting down with people.

Sutton Turner:

First, there’s the person that you reach out to, and they say, “Brother, we’re good. We’re good. We don’t need to meet. We’re good. I forgive you. We’re good. There’s some things that I did, et cetera, et cetera. We’re good. But I appreciate your phone call, or I appreciate you’re willing to meet, but we’re good.” Then there’s the next person, to me, that you meet with maybe one or two times. They want to explain your pain, but then they’re good. You offer your apology. You repent. They forgive you, and you are able to move on in a reconciled relationship.

Sutton Turner:

Then there’s the third group of folks, that it’s the… And I’ve actually heard a person say this to me. It’s the seven times 70, or 77 times. I mean, it’s not once, it’s not twice. It’s every single time you meet with them, you are expected to repent of that sin, and we’re going to live that over and over again, and every single time, and there’s going to be many times, and it’s going to go on and on and on and on. You need to be prepared for that, because there’s folks out there that are like that.

Sutton Turner:

And then there’s the last folks, that just aren’t going to meet with you. They’re not going to take your call. They’re not going to respond to your email. They’re just not going to respond. And so, as someone from my vantage point, you need to be prepared for all four of those, and you need to be okay with all four of those reactions. They’re not going to end up in the first… Not everybody’s going to end up in those first two categories. But what I am urging you to do, as someone like me, is you try. You give the effort out. And even if some of the people end in the fourth category, where they won’t respond to you at all, that’s okay. You tried. And it doesn’t mean that you try one time and it’s over. No, no, no. Maybe you got to come back around in a year or two, or whatever. But you just come back around to that, and maybe it’s time to have more of that discussion.

Sutton Turner:

So, I just wanted to kind of set that. That it’s not easy when you’re going through this, and there’s different folks that you’re going to talk to, and you’re going to get different reactions, and you need to be prepared for that.

Ryan Williams:

Dave, would you have anything kind of final to add, to just kind of… As somebody is looking to recover from crisis, that they just need to be really aware of as they’re navigating?

Dave Bruskas:

Yeah. I think you have to be aware of two persons. One is more important than the other. You really need to be aware of all that God is for us in Jesus. He’s every bit everything He says He is. He’s present. He’s kind. He has good for us. Even in the midst of discipline, He’s good. And then you need to be self-aware. I think that’s probably where I’ve struggled the most in my experience, Ryan, is not even knowing what I’m feeling. Not feeling good, but not even being able to understand what I’m experiencing, why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling.

Dave Bruskas:

And so, just get help with that, I would encourage you. God has definitely wired us to be in community. God has made us in a way that it’s okay to find people that are safe, and pour your heart out, and let people hear you, and get a sense of who you are. And here’s some things in response that might be tough to hear. So, those two things I think are absolutely critical. If you’ve been through crisis, lean into Jesus. If you’ve been through crisis, learn more about who you are, and go from there.

Ryan Williams:

I’ll just add, I think, that you are not the worst thing that you’ve ever done, or the worst thing that’s ever been done to you. That in Christ, there is forgiveness for the great sinner, and there’s healing for those who have been greatly sinned against. That that’s what the Gospel offers. It offers hope for both the victim and the abuser, that there is the hope for grace and mercy for all, and that remains on offer this very moment, this very day. It remains on offer for you in Christ. Simply seek the Lord in that, and it is there, and it’s abundant and free for you. It might not be easy. It might not be simple. But it’s there. And that’s the God we worship, and that’s why we worship Him, is because He is slow to anger, and He’s abounding and steadfast love, and He is merciful and He is gracious, and He is one who can redeem and restore even the most corrupt and broken from Him. And that’s the hope we have in Christ, that none of us are too far from the redemption and the mercy of God. And so, just believe that today. I want to encourage you all.

Ryan Williams:

I want to thank you also, for listening to the Older Pastor, Younger Pastor Podcast. We hope that this episode and this series on lessons from Mars Hill Church was beneficial for you in your ministry. Please tune into the Older Pastor, Younger Pastor Podcast next time. The Older Pastor, Younger Pastor Podcast is a part of Am I Called Ministries. If you’d like to support the work of Am I Called, hit amicalled.com and do so.

Ryan Williams:

Dave, Sutton, thank you so much for being a part of not just this episode, but this whole series.

Sutton Turner:

Thank you, brothers. Appreciate your friendships.

Dave Bruskas:

Thank you, guys.

 

 

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