The cultic activities of Mark Driscoll and The Trinity Church have escalated to a whole new level. As Julie’s guests describe on this edition of The Roys Report, Driscoll is now sending cease and desist letters, threatening to sue whistleblowers. And the threat is not in vain. Driscoll reportedly has amassed a $10 million dollar litigation fund to sue whistleblowers into oblivion.
Despite this, two men cannot remain silent. And on this edition of The Roys Report, they’ll tell you the stories Mark Driscoll doesn’t want you to hear.
You’ll hear about a couple who reported their concerns about a staff member violating child safety protocols, who were then abruptly kicked out of the church the same day. You’ll hear about Mark’s abusive behavior towards his staff behind closed doors—and the “yes men” who take it. And you’ll hear about the paranoid claims Driscoll makes about his days at Mars Hill, claiming people were trying to kill him and members of his family, and that’s why they all have PTSD.
According to my guests, Driscoll is not running a church; he’s running a cult. And they were in a position to know. One guest is Chad Freese, a information systems specialist and retired officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, who served as Driscoll’s head of security. The other is Ben Eneas, who served with Chad on the security detail.
The stories they tell of pastoral entitlement, bullying, and paranoia — observed first-hand — add to the ongoing drama around Mark Driscoll. Not only is this a textbook case of narcissism. His actions are enabling ongoing spiritual abuse, and that’s why we must shine light on his actions
Chad Freese served as head of security at the Trinity Church. Chad also is an advanced information systems and cybersecurity professional. He’s a retired Chief Warrant Officer with the US Marine Corps and he’s happily married with two teenage daughters.
Benjamin Eneas is a Romanian-born immigrant to America. He is a project manager by trade and currently works at a utility company. Benjamin has been happily married for 20 years and has two daughters.
JULIE ROYS, CHAD FREESE, BENJAMIN ENEAS
This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.
JULIE ROYS 00:04
In 2014, Pastor Mark Driscoll abruptly resigned from Mars Hill Church after an investigation found him guilty of arrogance and a pattern of abuse of leadership. Then Driscoll moved south to Arizona to start another church. And as my guests will describe today, it’s Deja vu all over again. Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And joining me today are two men who just recently received cease and desist letters from Mark Driscoll and the Trinity Church. Apparently, Driscoll doesn’t want you to hear what these men are going to say. But both of them say they cannot stay silent. They say Driscoll is not running a church. He’s running a cult. The Driscoll family is treated like royalty with their own private security team. The church too is like a compound with cameras and security everywhere. And if you happen to get on the wrong side of Mark Driscoll and his family, you’re not only kicked out of the church, but in one case, a family was surveilled 24/7 by investigators hired by the church. But it gets worse. My guests say upwards of 100 families have recently left the church and those who haven’t gone quietly, are now being threatened with litigation. According to my guests, Driscoll has threatened to sue and bankrupt former members and he has a litigation fund of approximately $10 million. Well, in just a minute you’ll hear from my guest, Chad Freese and Ben Eneas. Chad was the former head of security at Driscoll’s Trinity Church in Phoenix, Arizona, and Ben served on the security detail. But before I speak with them, I want to take a minute to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. Judson is a top ranked Christian university providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus, the school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson University is shaping lives that shape the world. For more information just go to Judsonu.edu. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. That’s because the owners there, Dan and Kurt Marquardt, are men of integrity. To check them out, just go to buyacar123.com. Well, again, joining me today is Chad Freese, who served as head of security at the Trinity Church. Chad also is an advanced information systems and cyber security professional. He’s also retired Chief Warrant Officer with the US Marine Corps, and he’s happily married with two teenage daughters. So, Chad, welcome, and thanks so much for joining me.
CHAD FREESE 02:50
Thank you, Julie.
JULIE ROYS 02:51
Also, joining me is Ben Eneas. Ben was a member of the security team at Trinity. He’s also a Romanian born American citizen who immigrated to the states in the winter of 1987. And his mother’s godfather was Richard Wurmbrand. You may know Richard from being the founder of Voice of the Martyrs. Ben is currently working at a utility company. He’s happily married as well with two daughters. So, Ben, welcome, and so great to have you joined us.
BENJAMIN ENEAS 03:18
Thank you, Julie.
JULIE ROYS 03:20
So, gentlemen, as I mentioned in the open, both of you have received cease and desist orders from the Trinity Church. Clearly, you’re not being intimidated or backing down from this issue, because you’re doing this podcast. Chad, let me just start with you. Why do you think it’s so important for you to speak out about what’s happening at Trinity?
CHAD FREESE 03:40
Yeah, absolutely. So, I think it’s vitally important that we shine light on the actions that are considered darkness, right? Because I can tell you for the first couple years, that I was just a member of Trinity, I didn’t see any of it. I never really saw any of the actions that were taking place behind the scenes until I started serving in a leadership position as the director of the security team, started partaking in meetings and conversations with the pastors and staff members, and got to see their true behavior and how they talk about people and treat people, starting with Mark Driscoll himself. How he treats his staff and some of the things that he would say to them. So, it’s important to shine the light on that. And oftentimes, you’ll see that concealment, things people don’t want the public to be aware of or even their own church congregation, it’s concealed. And scripture shows us that that is darkness. So, there’s times to bring it to light and there’s times to talk about it in private. And we did. We took the Matthew 18 approach. We talked about things in private with the staff members, with the pastor’s and didn’t get anywhere. So, we just want to equip people with information so they can make their own informed decision.
JULIE ROYS 04:57
Well, and you men in many ways are serving as watchmen on the wall, right? Your warning, yet at the same time, I’ve gotten legal papers. I never got a cease and desist. I just got slapped with a lawsuit when a megachurch pastor was trying to shut me down. But it’s scary still. So, Ben, I mean, it’s got to be scary for you to get a cease-and-desist letter threatening a lawsuit. I mean, how are you feeling right now?
BENJAMIN ENEAS 05:22
I’m honestly, I’m actually more upset by it, then. I’m scared by it. I think it has something to do with being raised under a communist regime. I really don’t like being bullied or accused of things that I clearly didn’t do. It doesn’t really scare me. It just actually upsets me and it kind of helps. There’s been so many times when I want to just move on because I just don’t care enough about him or the stuff he’s doing personally, to keep going. And then something like this happens where I’m like, okay, God, I hear you. I’ll continue to tell the truth and move forward with this because this isn’t right. This isn’t what the church should be or the way that as Christians, we’re just men in general, we should be conducting ourselves. So, game on, I guess.
JULIE ROYS 06:06
And I think Driscoll may have messed with the two wrong men. And I hear you though. I mean, that’s kind of my thing. Like when I come up against bullies, it just makes me mad. It makes me want to fight. And I just, I don’t like people bullying people. But let me just ask you this, because this is not the first time that Mark Driscoll, you know, this isn’t his first rodeo. He had a horrible experience at Mars Hill Church, up in Seattle. He was found to be guilty of a pattern of bullying there and abusive behavior. He resigns abruptly and comes down to Arizona. Starts the Trinity Church. I mean, did you guys not know about what happened at Mars Hill? Or were you like, I think that was blown out of proportion. What did you make of that? Let me throw that to you, Ben.
BENJAMIN ENEAS 06:57
So, I’m actually embarrassed to admit that I didn’t look into the prior scandals at all. I let pride and overconfidence in my ability to read a situation and people to put my family in an unsafe environment. And for that, I’ve had to apologize to them. And my wife. We’ve even gone as far as apologizing to some of the people from Mars Hill that were brave enough to share their experiences and hopes of helping people avoid experiencing these stories firsthand, as opposed to being able to read about him. So, for our part, again, I’m pretty embarrassed to admit that I didn’t do any research into Mark and any of his antics up in Seattle. I just assumed the fact that he had a church meant that he had elders and the fact that he must be restored because well, he has a church. Shame on me.
JULIE ROYS 07:43
Well, a lot of people think that way. Because as believers we tend to trust and if you’ve had an experience of knowing godly people being raised by godly people, I know that was my experience. So, I naturally trust. I don’t anymore. I’ve seen so much that I investigate everything. When we go to a church now, we ask for financial statements. We ask for who’s on the board, we ask for how it’s run. We want to know the history, but it’s tough for the average Christian, that’s just not something we necessarily do. And Chad, my understanding is that your wife, Mary, she had a positive experience at Mars Hill and kind of left before the church imploded because she lived up in Seattle for a while. Is that right?
CHAD FREESE 08:23
That’s absolutely correct. Yeah. So, my wife served in the in the US Navy for a little over a decade. And during her time, she was actually stationed up in Seattle. She attended Mars Hill, I want to say, like, 2007-2008 timeframe for a couple of years. And, of course, you know, that was before the fall of Mars Hill. And during her time there, she did have a positive experience, you know, because again, she was just the type of individual that attended. A normal congregant wasn’t someone who was actively involved or part of conversations behind the scenes. My wife and I met in 2012. And at that time, I didn’t even know who Mark Driscoll was. I didn’t follow him. I didn’t follow Mars Hill or any of that. And then I was coming up on my retirement in the Marines in 2018. So, she said, Well, let’s look and move to the Phoenix area. And she knew that Mark Driscoll was here in the valley, and we started listening to the Trinity Church online. So, we move here in November 2018. And started attending Trinity in person the first week we were here. So, we were here for, I’d say, a little over two and a half years total, but the first almost two years at Trinity, it wasn’t like what it is now. I mean, Mark after the sermons will come out and talk to people shaking hands with people go around the sanctuary go out to the lobby. Total opposite now. Actively avoids people.
JULIE ROYS 09:49
Something interesting to me because I investigated James McDonald before. I mean, I knew about Mark Driscoll, but I’ve learned a lot more through my own investigation since then, mostly with what he’s doing now. But I do know that they were very good friends and James McDonald was very much a bully, just like Mark Driscoll appears to be. And I remember listening to James McDonald sermons, and I was at Moody Radio Network at the time, I had a radio show there. And he was one of the programs that we broadcast on Moody Radio. And I remember just saying at the time, to my friends, I don’t like him, he mocks people. You know, even if you disagree with people, you don’t have to mock them. That’s just not Christian, but there’s just something in the way that he behaved that bothered me. And I’ve seen with Driscoll, you know, the same sort of thing. And this is coming out is, is now he’s being you know, sort of the history of Mars Church is being unveiled. Christianity Today is doing a really interesting podcast series on the rise and fall of Mars Hill. And there’s this hyper masculinity in Driscoll’s preaching that you hear a lot of, and I’ve heard this from guys who have left the church in Arizona, in the Trinity Church, and they said, Yeah, I’d listen to Mark, and I’d say, Oh, he’s kind of an A hole, you know, but I kind of liked that he’s like that. Like, I mean, Chad, you’re a former Marine, and I both of you are on security. So, you’re kind of men’s men kind of thing. I mean, was there a part of his appeal, kind of this hyper masculinity macho guy?
CHAD FREESE 11:22
Yes. That does appeal to a lot of people. Being a marine, I appreciate truth and honesty, sometimes abrasiveness if you’re just straightforward, instead of kind of beating around the bush and being too sensitive about certain things. And Mark is not that whatsoever. He’s, like you said to have hyper masculinity does come out, mock certain types of people on stage, even in his sermons, real men on Wednesday nights, that’s his men’s ministry. It’s all about being, I guess, a macho man or this is what a real man is like. And this is what the scripture says, how you should be as a man as a husband, as a father, etc. But the way that he delivers that message, a lot of people, especially here in this area, received that well. And I think that’s something that Mark has been gifted in. He studies the demographics of the area. He’s all about numbers. It’s all Mark talks about his numbers. So, talking about Scottsdale, or Maricopa County, being the fastest growing county in the nation, and that everyone here is gun toting whiskey drinking people. And so, he talks about that on stage. And people feel that and they’re like, Yes, I love it, gung-ho all about it, and especially the men. The men get sucked into it, and it’s hard to get out of it. Because you have that mentality that this is what a real man is like, and this is what I need to follow, and this is who I need to be. And this is how I need to treat my wife. And this is how I need to treat my children. People are drawn to that.
BENJAMIN ENEAS 12:46
Nobody doubts the fact that Mark is incredibly gifted. He’s super smart, wicked quick with his wit, his CPU just works faster than most people. And I’ll give him that. He’s a very talented observer of the human condition. In fact, I think what he’s best at is just reading the zeitgeist. He’s able to detect the mood of a room and really pander to that. He’s gifted at it. And I fell for it. Coming out of the Northwest, you’re asking about the brashness and kind of bully tactics from the pulpit. It was appealing coming out of the Northwest, where being a little bit more conservative, I was the outcast. I had to be quiet. I wasn’t allowed to share my beliefs, because then I’d be labeled. And all of a sudden here he is preaching the same things that I believe and confirmation bias kind of took over. Like it didn’t really matter if the tone of it was biblical. If it was a good Christian thing to do. It just felt good to have somebody kind of confirm the fact that Yeah, that’s right. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that. I mean, Phoenix is the fastest growing market in the country from what I know. And we’re all a bunch of transplants from predominantly more liberal areas. And it felt good to be told that we’re not crazy. And he panders to that.
CHAD FREESE 14:06
JULIE ROYS 14:08
Let me move to the cease-and-desist letter that you both recently got. It appears that I mean, you’ve said a lot of things, Chad, especially you have a whole website, DearDriscoll.com. And if you haven’t seen that, folks, you need to go there and take a look. There’s so much documented. But it seems like what the church was most upset about were some concerns that you raised about child safety and how a report was handled by the church and how the person who reported what was a concerning child safety how that person was treated. So, Chad, you were again in the room with those discussions. What happened?
CHAD FREESE 14:47
Everything that they accused me of in that cease-and-desist letter is false. They accused me of defamatory statements against a certain individual and accused actions with children. I never claimed that. My concern was how the church staff, specifically pastor Brandon Anderson, how he treated the situation, how he mishandled the situation. You know, we had a former security member bring forth concerns that a staff member was having inappropriate relationships with and around children, you know, and I’ll just leave it at that. And people twisted that and changed the topic and changed the narrative. But the biggest concern is that when this individual brought forward his concerns and his wife’s concerns, within an hour, the decision was made to kick him and his whole family out of the church. Before they looked into it, before they brought him in for questioning in person that night. They’d already made the decision, let’s just kick him and his whole family out of here. And there were text messages going around and conversations happening. And a lot of that, again, I linked the screenshots on my blog there just to show people this is not just hearsay, this is how the situation was handled. So, a few hours later that evening, they pulled the individual in, went into a meeting with Brandon Anderson. And then Mark Driscoll’s personal security detail, which is Marc Stirton and Caleb Glennie. So, the three of them pulled the other guy in and questioned him about what his concerns were.
JULIE ROYS 16:18
This is the reporter, right? He’s just trying to blow the whistle.
CHAD FREESE 16:22
It was. It was the reporter. That’s all he was trying to do. All he wanted was the church to look into it. And immediately, you know, he was kicked out. So, they pull him in that night, questioned him and tell him, Hey, you’re not allowed to be here anymore. You’re formally trespassed, you’re being kicked off the property, you and your family. But all three of them, Caleb, Mark, and even the reporter, talked to me that night and shared the same story. They said, you know, his concern was this this and this. And we told him, he’s lying. He said he’s not. I think Brandon even told him. I know, this isn’t true. I know, for a fact. Okay. How do you know? Well, because he’s babysat my kids before. Okay, that doesn’t mean that you know for a fact. So oftentimes, in situations like this, it’s people that are closest to you that are hurting kids in any way, any type of abuse. So, let’s not just dismiss it, let’s actually look into it. So that was the question I have, why would you immediately go to kicking someone out? To me that looks very suspicious. Again, not accusing, not saying that anyone did anything inappropriate. What I’m saying is, why immediately kick someone out. And then when an individual types an incident report, which was Mark Certain, who is Driscoll’s personal family security lead, he writes an incident report and emails it to me. Ben and I had both just created official formats of incident reports. And I’d asked Brandon, hey, you want me to transpose this information that this individual sent to my Gmail to the official format? And his response was no, absolutely not. I want nothing in writing. You need to delete it. I want no evidence of it. Anything in writing with their names? Absolutely not. And I kind of questioned that and his responses. Could you imagine how damaging that would be? To Driscoll’s name, or the Trinity Church if that information got out? Well, yes, I do understand that. But the fact of the matter is, it shouldn’t be deleted. It needs to be on the official incident report format. We need to formally investigate it with a third party not investigating your own friends. That’s all they’re doing – friends looking out for each other.
JULIE ROYS 18:39
I mean, I know in Illinois pastors are mandated reporters. Are they not in Arizona?
CHAD FREESE 18:45
I’m sure they are if they do have concerns, but again, their immediate concern was, or their immediate response is he’s making all this up. It’s not credible. It’s not a credible report. I think any report is credible, first of all, and it needs to be looked into. After I resigned and moved on from the church. I called Scottsdale police department and I made a report myself and even the detective on the phone was okay, why are you waiting? While you’re waiting five weeks later to report this? or Why are you waiting a couple months later, whatever the time frame was? You know, that’s a great question, because, well, one, I didn’t have serious concern that the child situation was a true danger. My concern is how the church didn’t handle it properly. If they don’t handle that properly, what else are they not handling properly? If they’re trying to, yeah, delete evidence of that or asked me to destroy reports, what else are they trying to destroy? And the other piece of that is that I told the detective is look, you know, I sat in a meeting where Mark Driscoll looked me straight in the face and said, We have millions of dollars. $10-11 million set aside, we’re going to bankrupt people and bleed them dry in court, if anyone ever crosses me, Chad. It’s just a numbers game. I guarantee you people run out of money before we do. I knew and yeah, I knew he had made those threats and sent cease and desist letters and who knows what other legal threats from his Mars Hill’s days. So, I made note of that I made a mental note, he looked me dead in the face and told me that, and so people are a little hesitant to come forward and report things and report abuse and report how he treats them. Even staff members. Even pastors that have recently been fired and left are afraid to speak out. I pray that they share their story. And when time is right.
JULIE ROYS 20:29
The actual email that you did get from Mark Sturton is posted. There are some names redacted. You have not posted names, and naming who the person who allegedly violated, as I understand violated church protocol for how to deal with children. That was part of it. But you’ve redacted that name, but it does say on here, what some of the accusations were. And then it says resolution, it was made clear to again, the person who reported he and his family are no longer welcome at the Trinity Church, based on the false accusations. Again, no investigation, but the church determines they are false accusations and slander on the character of a member of the Trinity Church staff. That’s concerning, in and of itself. If there’s any suspicion or report of anything inappropriate with a child, you do need to report that to you know, Department of Children and Family Services, police, somebody, the authorities. Let them do an investigation. And then you also say when you requested because again, this is part of the thing with Trinity, right? There’s like hardly a place on the entire campus, where there’s not a camera, am I right?
CHAD FREESE 20:37
Yeah, there are cameras everywhere.
JULIE ROYS 21:43
Okay. And you asked specifically, access to those video cameras you wanted to see, because it would be documented if there were a violation of protocol, it would be right there on the cameras. And you were told what?
CHAD FREESE 21:58
I was never told Yes. I was never told no. There were a handful of times I asked for copies of that video. And again, keep in mind I was taking over as their lead cybersecurity guy, as a volunteer. That’s what I do professionally. So, I think Ben and I both asked for a copy of the video. We were making the evidence form, we were making the incident report form. And we said we need to look into this. And I couldn’t access any of the cameras at all, even though I was helping the tech team.
JULIE ROYS 22:24
So, Ben, as I understand, you’re kind of Chad’s right-hand man during this whole thing. So, you weren’t necessarily in all of the meetings. But you knew the whistleblower, you knew all the parties involved? What did you observe?
BENJAMIN ENEAS 22:38
So, I did know the whistleblower. Chad was sharing information with me, you know, in the moment, and together, we were formulating a plan, like how do we proceed? What do we do next? What documentation do we need to gather? Even at the time when this allegation was made, we didn’t think it was credible as in we didn’t think what was accused actually happened. But we felt like it was important to exonerate the actual staff member by doing the full investigation. That’s not something I would ever want a question mark to just hang out there. If it was me, I would want clear evidence stored forever, so that even my great grandkids would be able to pull it up and say, No, he never did that. So, I felt like they were doing him a disservice by just kind of brushing it aside, like it was something that doesn’t even matter.
CHAD FREESE 23:22
A few weeks after this incident, I set another security meeting with all the pastors were in Mark’s office, and this individual was at the table. And he admitted he said, You know, I did mess up. I learned a lot of lessons from this. I did not always abide by our policies and procedures. You know, I did violate them on more than one occasion. But Mark and the rest of the staff, you know, they’re laughing about it. Yes, this is just an absurdity that anyone would accuse him of that. And that’s when he shared with me, Well, you know, I did not stick to our policies and procedures 100%. Well, in the newsletter that Trinity sent out, they claim in there that, you know, they have policies and procedures in place for the safety and protection of the children. And we’ve never had a credible report. I think this is a credible report. Any report is credible, and it needs to be looked into. And then they further they go on and they say, well, we have not had anyone violate these policies and procedures, when in fact they did. The person in question and being accused admitted to violating policies and procedures on this specific topic about what we were discussing, and what is in that cease and desist. So, where I’m going with this is one, they lied in their newsletter, two, the cease and desist is full of lies. So, the day that we were served the cease-and-desist letter was the day that Mark Driscoll had RT Kendall, come preach at Trinity about total forgiveness, all about total forgiveness. We need to forgive those that have wronged us and totally forget about it, let it go. You know it the same day that he had that guest speaker come preach about this was the same day that we all got served our cease-and-desist letter. The impact to add to my wife and kids is we’re sitting at home, and the guy comes to the door that serves us the cease-and-desist letter. And something that’s important note about my wife is she does suffer from severe anxiety. And when were served those papers, she immediately had a breakdown. My kids are scared here at my house. Yeah, kids are terrified. My wife’s terrified, because we knew that Mark had threatened to bankrupt people, bleed them dry in court, take them for everything they have. Again, back to that conversation, Chad, it’s just a numbers game. I will destroy their lives; I guarantee people run out of money before we do. So that’s the first thing that pops in my wife’s mind is we’re going to lose our house, we’re going to lose everything over a bunch of lies. But even knowing all of that, I prayed with my family through it. My wife on many occasions has asked me maybe we just take down DearDriscoll.com, maybe we just stopped speaking out. And the more and more that we pray about it, and Ben mentioned this earlier too, the more that we feel like well, maybe we should just step away from us, something else pops up. and God reveals something else. Like this is why you all need to share the truth. But when you bring something up before Mark Driscoll or the Trinity Church, you’re kicked out, as we see happen with this individual here. And this isn’t an isolated incident. This happened to several people. I mean, their official trespass list and Scottsdale PD is linked. I guarantee you. So yeah, they kick people out of church, and then they start slandering them. This person is toxic, they’re demonic. They’re liars. Everything that they’re saying is false. I mean, even to this day, Pastor Darian Bennett, who leads the men’s ministry, is telling people, everything on Dear Driscoll is false. It’s all fabricated. It’s all lies. Chad and Ben are toxic. They’re demonic. They’re liars. And it’s important to note we were in Darian’s chaplaincy program. And to this date, they’re lying. They’re slandering us. They’re saying things that are in the cease-and-desist letter. I mean, they’re even saying things about you, Julie, that shouldn’t be said.
JULIE ROYS 27:05
I have heard that. I’m a lesbian feminist, isn’t it?
CHAD FREESE 27:09
They say that, yes, you’re a lesbian, feminist atheist. They’re talking about you in the chaplain program, like where you’re supposed to be training and developing men to be godly men and chaplains. That’s what they’re saying about you, about others, about me. And that’s what they tried to do, though. And that’s one of Mark’s tactics. And if you look up his study on cults. That’s why there’s a comparison between Trinity Church being a cult and lead as a cult, cult leader. And because those traits are there, and they’re almost identical, if you look at them and talking bad about people that have been kicked out, and making the people that are still there, think that they’re just a bunch of liars and toxic demonic people, when we’re the ones coming with evidence, we got emails, we got text message, we have things that we haven’t even shared yet, that if they really want to pursue this legally in court, that’ll be the day that we get to reveal everything. So that’s why I’m not afraid.
JULIE ROYS 28:07
I’m looking forward to the extra revelations. But just to set the record straight. For what was said about me, I am not a lesbian. I’ve actually been married 35 years; I have two grandkids. I love Jesus, and I’m not even a feminist. So those things are not true. But again, that’s what happens when you’ve got a system that has to protect itself, it begins telling lies about other people. One of the first red flags that I understand that you experienced was on February 27th. There was this incident, where I understand a man got up on stage. Ben, I believe you were on stage, or you were the first to come up on stage. This man, I think was inebriated. Talk about what happened there. And then how Mark handled it and kind of what that revealed to you.
BENJAMIN ENEAS 28:55
This gentleman rushes the stage, and I was kind of looking over my shoulder to the left, and he came from the right. And so as soon as that happened, I jumped up on stage just to kind of protect Mark and make sure that nothing bad happened. And it was clear that the man was inebriated. He was just asking for prayer. He wasn’t threatening in his demeanor and his language. And he wanted somebody to pray for him, which I think is a good thing in a church. Maybe poor timing, but it wasn’t anything hostile or threatening. And so, we escorted him off the stage went out front with him. We call the police. But after that, everything kind of spiraled. Security got ramped way up. I went out to dinner with my wife after church service. And Chad actually came in and was serving as security during the youth group, the kids high school group, and I’ll let him carry the story forward from that point.
CHAD FREESE 29:51
Brandon had pulled me out front and said, Hey, I want to talk to you out front. Do you have a minute? Sure, you know. So, we walk out front of the church again, we step outside, and he said Hey, just you know, the last guy that was the director of security, and I’m purposely leaving his name out, but I decided to let him go. He’s fired as of tonight, because of what happened. And we want to hire you full time to take over as the director of security in a full-time paid position. And I clarified, so you want me to leave my current job to come work here full time? And he said, Yeah, absolutely. Well, I’m gonna have to pray about this and think about this, because that’s a big commitment. But something just didn’t sit right with me when they were offering me this position. So, I told Brandon, let me pray about it. Let me talk to my family about and we’ll see where it goes from there.
JULIE ROYS 30:37
Wasn’t one of the things that one of the leaders of the church communicated to you was that Mark was upset that nobody drew their weapon on this guy. Is that true?
CHAD FREESE 30:47
Yes. So that that was that conversation took place like, probably 20 minutes after mine and Brandon’s conversation ended. So, John Wellnick, he comes out the door that leads up to Mark’s office, and he came down, I could tell he was really stressed out and said, yo, John, what’s going on? You okay? Yeah, I’m just really stressed out. It’s what he told me. So, what, why, what, why? Why are you stressed? I mean, I know that this incident occurred. I know what happened. But I could tell he was really beating himself up about it. You know, this guy’s former military member as well. He served in the army, and so him having that type of demeanor, it really caught my attention. Like, why are you acting this way? You normally are way more composed than this. Something is not right. He goes, Well, you know, Pastor Mark’s really upset with me. Why is he upset with you? Well, he’s, he’s mad because I didn’t draw my weapon. He said, I didn’t pull my gun. And I put him in his family in danger. And I, I should have drawn my weapon and I kind of frozen the moment. He said, Whoa, Whoa Whoa. Hold on. Pastor Mark Driscoll told you that you should have drawn your weapon on that guy? And he said, yeah. And he goes, I probably should have you know, if this happens again, next time, I won’t hesitate. And that’s when he started asking me about training options and running fire drills and going to the gun range. And I said, John, just stop. Like, I don’t care what Mark told you. He’s wrong. And I mean that respectfully, as a professional who’s handled countless amounts of firearms over the years and you always want to aim to deescalate the situation. Not escalate, no matter what situation you’re in. So had you drawn your firearm on stage, you would have immediately escalated it through the roof. It’s Arizona. Most people in the audience in the sanctuary in the congregation are carrying on their own, not even part of security. I’d say probably 50-75% of people in the crowd had their weapon on and if you’re a random dude, they don’t know you. Most people don’t know you. You pull weapon. That guy had no weapon. Yeah, he was intoxicated. He was only wanting prayer. He wasn’t attacking you. He was 15-20 feet away from Mark. No, absolutely not. You should not have drawn your weapon. And then like Ben said that day was the pivotal moment that they cranked security from like a zero or a one to a 100. It was not just money and support, like fiscal support. It was, Let’s crank the paranoia up to a whole other level. And started sitting in meetings was that discussion man got on stage. Oh, God. Now I have PTSD from my flashback days at Mars Hill. People trying to kill me. And it’s like.
BENJAMIN ENEAS 33:24
That wasn’t the end of that conversation with John Wellnick. John Wellnick, Chad, and I ended up having two separate conversations after that fact. Ranging over the next couple of weeks. One was during the chaplaincy class that we were all in together. And another one was at the gun range, where he was still questioning whether or not he did the right thing in not pulling his weapon. That’s how you set a culture. One that is full of fear. And it creates this environment where if something were to happen, bad things would happen because people are on edge and they’re trying to please their master rather than actually use their God given good sense. And we’re not going to draw weapons just willy nilly, because it’s a Western movie. Just because we’re in Arizona, we don’t have to act like we’re in a John Wayne movie.
JULIE ROYS 34:09
Wow. And had the weapons been drawn, again, with people carrying in the service. I mean, it could have been a very dangerous situation. But what you’re describing what I’m hearing you describe is, as you say, some paranoia began to set in with Mark. PTSD from Mars Hill, who knows. Although, I’ve heard some descriptions that Mark has given of Mars Hill that I then talked to the executive elders, and they’re like, That never happened. Like he makes it out like he became this target because he was speaking out against, you know, LGBT or something. And they’re like, that wasn’t what was happening. He became a target because he was bullying people in the church. He was abusing people and the internal investigation showed that he was doing these things and he’s made it into something totally different. And so, talk to me, though about this paranoia that you began to see with Mark, that very first meeting that you had Chad, behind closed doors where he’s with his staff. I think it was eye opening, not just there’s language used. There’s treatment of staff members in front of you. Can you describe what that was like?
CHAD FREESE 35:22
It was truly an eye opener. Again, I’d been the director for a week and a half. This meeting was Wednesday, March 10. We went up to Mark’s office and pretty much every pastor and paid staff member in a leadership position at least was in that meeting. In his family, Grace was in there. Ashley is the director of real faith and his daughter, and her husband Landon Chase was in there. And those people were at the table with me, as well as Caleb Linney, and Mark Sturton, who were the personal security detail for Mark Driscoll and his family. We call that the Driscoll detail. Mark Sturton is the head of that. And on an org chart, you would see that Mark reported to me as the director of security, but that never truly happened. And even there, my initial meeting with Brandon when I was taking over, he’s you know, Mark’s gonna report to you Mark Sturton. Well, he’s leading the family personal security detail, because he’s a close family friend that knew them from the Mars Hills days.
JULIE ROYS 36:25
This is a church of 2000. And you what you’re describing is you have a personal security detail just for the Driscoll family. And then you’ve got another security detail of how many people were on the security team?
BENJAMIN ENEAS 36:38
It was 30 people large. We added about 25 people in the seven weeks that we were running things. And I don’t know what it’s at currently. The minimum numbers that we wanted for every service was 12. And so, we’d have anywhere from eight to 18 people serving during any one service.
JULIE ROYS 36:57
Okay, so we’re talking dozens on security, a private detail for just the Driscoll family. This is a church of 2000. I mean, that is a tremendous amount of security,
CHAD FREESE 37:10
A church of 2000 spread over several services. Just sitting in that meeting with everyone involved as Mark had prepared, I don’t know, 10 pages or so of a detailed security plan, outline and present to him. And he asked me he said, okay, Chad, this meeting is yours as the head of security, kick it off and run with it. So, I pass out the handouts to everyone in the room, and I started speaking, and not even 30 seconds, in Mark says, he goes to Chad, let me interrupt you. Sorry, I, you know, I, I told you I asked you to run the meeting, just let me set the stage so you understand where I come from, and my background, which I already knew most his background, but he starts off by, again, just all about numbers. And he said, Chad, just you know, you know, I’m, I’m the largest pastor in the western United States, one of the biggest ministry presence in southwest United States. I’ve got millions and millions of people viewing my content online. They say my episode on my pray.com was downloaded 10 million times in December. He goes on and on with statements like that. It’s all I, I, I, me, me, me. And that’s the very first couple minutes of my meeting with him and my eyes were truly opened to where he preaches on stage, it’s all about Jesus. But in reality, the actions behind the scenes are it’s all about Driscoll. And I didn’t know that that phrase was coined or used during the Mars Hill’s days. And so, I started Googling it. But that’s what I started to see right here in this meeting. He’s telling me all about him; how great he is, how wonderful he is, how big his presence online is, and how wonderful his ministry is, and how that needs to be protected above everything else. And not once did he say, you know, I’m so thankful that millions of people view my content, because I have a great production team. I have a great social media team. I have this, all these people that support it. I brought that up. I mentioned that to him, like, yes, you do have a great presence because of all these volunteers and a few paid staff that are helping you get to that point. But again, it was all about him and all about numbers from the very beginning. Then he shifts it and he said okay, so from a security perspective, now that you need know, like, how big I am and how great I am, and my ministry is and what we need to protect. Let me give you a little behind the scenes of what I’ve had to go through at Mars Hill. And he says, you know, my family suffers from PTSD. Chad, there were times that helicopters were hovering over my house, countless hours of the night which I’ve since verified that. Yeah, there were helicopters over his house, but not because of him. It’s because there was a hospital across the freeway from him. They had a trauma center with multiple helipads. You start listening to what he says, and you can start picking out the lies and how he twists it. You know, he’s telling me stories about his former head of security, who I recently have made contact with, tried to kill him. Tried to have his family murdered. Tried to have his kids kidnapped in the streets right in front of their house. Yeah, his kids are playing in the yard or in the woods. And people try to attack them and stone them and throw stones at them. And he’s telling all this stuff to me and my former head to security put my address online. I had to move five times. He tried to have people come to our house and break in and hurt my family.
JULIE ROYS 40:26
When you talk to the former head of security from Mars Hill, I’m suspecting here, did he verify these stories?
CHAD FREESE 40:31
No, they’re not true. It’s all fabricated or twisted based off of another story that may have had some truth to it. So, no one was out to kill him and have him and his family murdered. But what was something that was funny was, while he’s telling me this story, I noticed Ashley kept looking at me. And she and Landon were both sitting there kind of squirming in their chairs. They didn’t seem very comfortable at all. And Mark’s looking at Grace, he looks at Ashley after he gets done telling me all these stories, and Ashley looks at me and she goes, Chad. It’s like this. Everyone wants to be a celebrity, you know, until they are, and you just don’t know what it’s like to be a celebrity, and to live this celebrity lifestyle. And once you’re a celebrity, everyone’s just out to get you and lie about you online and make all these stories up. And I guess that’s just the life of a celebrity. And in my mind, I’m thinking well, when you’re not a celebrity, most people Ben and I, Ben can attest to this, we interviewed countless people who join the security team. And hardly anyone even knew who Mark was. Most people there don’t know his history. And they’ve worked very hard to conceal it. So, Mark sitting there. So back to the story. I just thought that was funny. Like, okay, we’re such celebrities. And this is how big and important we are. That was really the driving factor of the conversation was Let’s protect our status and understand what my family’s been through. We’ve been through such traumatic experiences. And then Mark shifted, and he was very soft spoken the first I don’t know, 20-30 minutes, then he got really angry. And he’s like, he said, Chad, I do not trust a single man on my staff. I don’t trust them. Not a single one of them. And sprinkling a few curse words in there. So, he’s going on and on. Chad, I don’t effing trust any of them. Who knows what could happen next? He’s one thing after another he turns around looks at Brandon. Now mind you, pastor Brandon Anderson sitting on the couch behind him not even at the table with us. He’s behind them. So, Mark turns around, and he points in Brandon face, and he yells at him. He’s like, you know, this is your effing problem, and you better effing fix it. And just cursing him and yell and Brandon’s face turns blood red. And he turns over, looks at me and looks back at Mark. And he says Yes, sir. You know, I’ve got it. We’ll fix it. Yes, sir. We’ll fix it. He said that goes for all the men on my staff. Like you all need to get your (expletive) in order. And all the men in the room are, Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Whatever you say, sir. Absolutely. And that’s the type of behavior and I can see that culture in that environment. Again, this is my first meeting, but Wow! Everyone’s a yes, man. They’re literally bowing down doing whatever this guy says.
JULIE ROYS 43:10
As he’s abusing them. I mean, he’s using foul language. He’s saying he doesn’t trust any of them. I mean, did he even degrade their manhood somewhat?
CHAD FREESE 43:19
He did. Again, putting them down. He doesn’t trust them, just basically challenging their manhood, which is what he does on Wednesdays at Real Men, you know, and the rest of that meeting was just getting into the details of security planning and his concerns about, we’re out to get him and his family. I mean, that was a running theme throughout the next two hours of conversation.
JULIE ROYS 43:39
That’s just a glimpse into the world of Mark Driscoll and the Trinity Church. But in part two of my interview with Chad and Ben, you’ll hear more about the cultive personality at Trinity and the paranoia of Mark Driscoll. You’ll also hear about the spectrum of trust, where church members and staff are actually rated on a scale from 0 to 10.
CHAD FREESE 43:59
Mark briefed the staff on what is called the spectrum of trust from a 0 to a 10. The higher you are on the spectrum, the more access you get. Access to what? He said access to the Driscoll’s. The Driscoll’s are level 10. Then he said, so Chad, you’re like an 8. And he’s like, you know, your wife may be like a six. Ben is even lower than you Chad because he can’t get his wife under control.
JULIE ROYS 44:24
In part two of this series, you’ll also hear about the web of celebrity pastors that continue to run cover for Driscoll and platform his ministry. You’ll also begin to understand why the problem of Mark Driscoll is not an isolated story of a single abusive and self-serving pastor. It’s a story that exposes once again the evangelical industrial complex. Part Two will release in just a few days, so please be watching for that. Thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And to find me online just go to Julieroys.com. Also, please subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcasts or Google podcasts. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help spread the word about this podcast by leaving a review, and then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you have a great day and God bless.
26 thoughts on “Inside the Driscoll “Cult””
He is a legend in his own mind. Narcissist. Paranoid. Bully. What’s not to like?
Exactly – Mark never crucified the old man but rather deified it…:=(
This sounds so much like David Miscavage and Scientology. I truly wish you good success, but the IRS and FBI have not been able to shut down Scientology in the US and Clearwater, FL has been struggling with it for years. If there are believers–I assume there are many–in Trinity Church, may the Holy Spirit lead them away. Without the donations the church can’t continue too long. The other thing is to try to remove the IRS tax exemption.
Armed security? At a church? This Canadian finds that bizarre.
The entire saga of Driscoll is bizarre. I don’t understand how anyone can take him seriously at this point.
There have been church shootings here, so it’s not as unusual as you’d think here in the U.S. Sad for sure, but not unusual.
As an agnostic ex evangelical, I wonder if X’ty isn’t in fact a magnet for the Mark Driscolls and James MacDonalds of the world. The idea that your life is part of a cosmic battle between God and Satan, seems tailor made for men (it’s always men) who need constant drama in their life to feel important. If there isn’t any, they’ll create some out of thin air.
I’m not saying that’s all X’ty is, but it does serve that egoistic purpose for many.
What if our little lives are just about trying to add value to our little corner of the world, to do good work, to love our families, to find some meaning, beauty, and understanding of this mystery called life, during our brief time on Earth. Why isn’t that enough ?
Does God really NEED us to help fight His battles ? What sort of God is that ? What sort of people think that’s their job ?
I don’t know where you found the idea that God is asking men to help fighting His battles. But the scripture talks about God helping us fight our battles, or putting it more accurately, God fighting our battles for us.
I often find that atheist and agnostics do us a service by telling the unvarnished truth about modern Christianity’s faults and failings.
I hear what you’re saying, Cody. You’re right here.
I am a Christian. Still, despite the stuff like this. The reason I am a Christian is because I love Jesus.
It’s easy to get caught up in the war/battle language and it’s easy to misunderstand it. Almost all of evangelicals have. I know. I’ve been inside and I’ve misunderstood too. No longer, though.
God’s “battles” are fought differently. They’re not against people. No one is an enemy. God’s battles are fought with truth, love, justice, faithfulness, peace, and prayer. That’s what the spiritual armor is about in Ephesians 6. And that’s what the cross is about. Jesus refused the temptation to strike back at “enemies” but instead understood them (they know not what they do), forgave them, loved them, and didn’t stop even all the way to and through death. We “fight” the devil by refusing to become like him and by being like Jesus.
That’s what Christianity is about. Any approach that makes it about branding anyone else as any enemy and fighting them, attempting to destroy them, is just plain not it. It’s being the devil’s henchman in religious clothing.
He also fights battles with love, as in Speaking the truth, in love.
I have two thoughts on this. First, any pastor who is pugnacious and not gentle (1 Timothy 3:3) is not qualified for ministry. Second, Mark Driscoll sounds like he genuinely suffers from some kind of delusional paranoia. I am not saying that to be demeaning, but such irrational words, behavior, and expectations from others are indicative of an unsound and unhealthy mind.
Just today, I set foot inside a worship service after a 2 year hiatus. The last time I sat in a pew, I could not stop crying the wounds of spiritual abuse were so raw. We raised our family in the Bill Gothard cult and have paid a huge price for the privileges’ of 16 years of homeschooling through his ATI cult. We had to sign contracts every year, no worldly music, no outsider friends, no tv, no pets, etc all things that would take our time, energy, and money away from bill. yes, I have waves of regret as I see how my children have paid the price and walked away from God, who was never to blame, but the distorted, sick views of a narcissist named Bill Gothard. It has been a long painful road back. Driscoll sounds like Gothard, all to please himself and build his kingdom. Thank you for telling this story, but do you have any resources for the thousands of families trying to find their way back to a healthy church?
Wow I wasn’t aware of the scope of rules for ATI families, no outside friends for the kids. I always I wondered why the TV ATI families’ kids never did any activities like sports or scouting and rarely seemed to socialize with any other kids except their siblings.
I’m so sorry for you and your family. I know you were trying to do the best for your family and were misled and abused by Bill Gothard.
Mr. Driscoll would do well to familiarize himself with Arizona revised statutute 12 752, the state anti-slap law. The whole ” we have a 10 million dollar litigation fund and we will bankrupt you before us bla bla ” just doesn’t hold credibility. The gentlemen in this podcast would not have a hard time getting a summary judgement for dismissal pretty quickly. In that case under Arizona’s above referenced anti-slap law Mr. Driscoll and his Trinity Church would be paying the legal fees of the defendant. This exact senerio played out in the case of Beaverton Grace Bible Church Vs Julie Ann Smith et al. The church ended up covering a six figure legal bill for the defendants they sued and their own legal fees as well . Julie Anne would be a nice person to talk with if Mr. Driscoll really pursues litigation. Bless you guys for taking a stand and appearing on this podcast.
Pretty disappointing to hear you so quickly claim you are not a feminist. I hope you take the time to research what feminists actually believe before taking the word of men like Driscoll. I think you’ll find our ideals and morals align.
Thank you for saying this… What a disappointment. What is the opposite of Mark’s misogyny? What are we fighting for? Equal representation? Ending abuse? Hmmm what’s the word for that, I wonder? So disappointing and severely discredits Julie Roys in my mind. Gross!
I have researched feminism at length and written about it in my book, “Redeeming the Feminine Soul.” While I share some of the ideals of feminism (for example, that men and women are of equal worth) there are some I cannot affirm. At the root of feminism as an ideology is the notion that men’s and women’s roles are interchangeable. While I am not rigid about sex roles–and ultimately think focusing on them is misguided–I think there are roles women can fill that men can’t and vice versa.
I think there are two ditches we can fall into. One is Driscoll’s misogynist brand of hyper-masculinity, which devalues feminine contributions and exalts masculine ones. The other ditch, however, is flattening gender altogether and saying there is no difference between male and female. This is equally reductionist and ultimately misogynist because it fails to celebrate what women uniquely bring to the table.
That said, trying to explain my position in a comment thread is pretty impossible too. Before passing judgment, I would appreciate you reading what I’ve written on the topic.
Your podcast is buffering endlessly….the audio will not resume itself. I really wanted to hear it; I like Julie Roys. Oh well. :) I sent a previous comment that I thought was a balanced and well-reasoned statement, but I used my initials instead of my full name, because I didn’t realize you require a full name.
Thank you for your comment. I have forwarded it to the person who handles our technical issues and he is looking into it.
A standout of this interview was the security person at Trinity who was fired and banned because he was reporting potential sexual grooming at the hands of a staff person. Its not to say they were abusing kids, but they were doing something that raised red flags. Chad said he wanted to see the video that would have at least exhonerated the staff person and his request was denied. At face value this was putting the public image of the church as more important than the safety of the parent’s children. I heard that Mark later said, there was no safety concerns there, but that is not what is important. What is important is that the reporting of what was seen was not wanted. They didn’t want to deal with it so they quickly got rid of the reporter. Security was told to tear up the incident report. That is what is most important here….not if there was actual abuse or not. If reporting of a red flag with Trinity children isn’t wanted by the pastors (as what this appears to be) then the children of parents at Trinity are not safe there. This is why reporting of potential abuse goes unreported so often. People are afraid of what will happen to them if they do. If I was a parent with kids at Trinity I would be out of there so fast.
My comment is similar to Rachel’s and Emily’s above. I enjoyed the podcast and Julie’s reporting, but felt very uncomfortable with Julie’s response to the allegations that she is a lesbian feminist atheist.
Julie was quick to deny these identities, saying, “I’m not a lesbian, I’ve been married for 35 years, I actually have grandkids, I love Jesus, and I’m not even a feminist…” This response is problematic because it is complicit with the system of othering and oppression that the patriarchal evangelical church has set up. A system which judges and despises and denigrates those with identities that this church has decided are undeserving of being heard or respected or believed.
Julie had an opportunity to say, “And what is wrong with being a lesbian or a feminist or an atheist? Why would that mean that I am also a liar and deserving of slander?” Or she could have said, “I’m not any of those things, but even if I was, I wouldn’t deserve that kind of treatment.” Or she could have just let the second-hand accusations pass unanswered. But she immediately clarified for listeners and distanced herself from those “problematic” identities. And that, to me, is what is truly problematic.
Also, just for the record, it’s possible to be gay and married, and gay and married and a grandparent.
Jessica, Yours is a valid point. Certainly, there are journalists who are lesbian, feminist, and/or atheist who still do their job with integrity. However, The Roys Report is an explicitly Christian media outlet that reports from a biblical perspective, so I would be lying if were secretly these things. I have pretty consistently been branded these identities and more simply because I take on alleged Christian conservatives. It gets a bit tiring after a while.
Your point is valid. There are certainly good journalists who are lesbian, feminist, and/or atheist. And it would have been good for me to affirm that.
At the same time, The Roys Report is an explicitly Christian media outlet that reports from a biblical worldview. I also hold to an orthodox Christian view of sexuality. I’m very open about that. So for me to be a closeted lesbian or atheist would mean I’m lying about who I am. So, I felt it was important for the record to state who I am.
Homosexuals, atheists, and feminists need to repent of their sin and rebellion to God, and Julie is quite right to want to defend herself against such perverse accusations.
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