Seattle-based Mars Hill Church and its founder, Mark Driscoll, have gotten plenty of bad press lately from protests by former members to a decision to kick Mars Hill out of a nationwide network of churches Driscoll founded.
We've heard plenty from critics and church leaders. But what about the average member?
Karmen Frisvold and her husband joined Mars Hill seven years ago. She tells KIRO Radio's Jason Rantz she rarely discussed the church with outsiders because she didn't want to get embroiled in religious debates. And while she emphasizes she has no official role, she decided to "come out of the closet" and speak out because the controversy pains her.
"I love the people there. They are amazing," she says. "It bums us out that people feel like they've been hurt. Our number one desire is to see that hurt reconciled, to have everyone back."
Driscoll has come under fire for allegedly bullying and shunning church members, and spending church money to buy his own books and boost sales.
Frisvold says with all of the controversy and recent reports, she doesn't know what to believe.
"I don't like having to argue with people and I'm certainly not here to defend anyone, not even Mark Driscoll, who I love and admire, but my job is not to defend him and he wouldn't want me to defend him," she says.
"I'm just tired of really beautiful people, who I love, being kind of dragged through the mud, which I don't think they deserve."
Frisvold scoffs at criticism Mars Hill is more a cult and says it is unfairly characterized by many who've never been to a service.
"We are just not different from any other church. We are so incredibly boring," she laughs. "There's nothing 'cultie' or weird. These are normal people. These are people you work with."
Frisvold says while she hopes disgruntled church members return, she acknowledges many won't. Her message to them?
"Even if you don't want to be a part of Mars Hill, just find a church you love and start serving people and loving on people."
And as for those who've criticized the church without ever attending service, she invites them to join her on a Sunday.
"Come get to know us. If you don't like it, that's great. Just come check us out, listen to podcasts and decide for yourself," she says.
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