Lief Moi remembers the idea of Mars Hill long before it was a church. It was meant to be a safe place for college students to ask tough questions about God and life.
"Discuss theology openly and honestly," Moi said. "If God is really in control of everything, why is everything the way it is?"
While the young Mark Driscoll was a college pastor, he ran into Moi. The two hit it off immediately, and Driscoll soon joined Moi on his Christian radio show.
With only about 35 people in 1996, Moi says, they started Mars Hill in a small church classroom across from the Woodland Park Zoo.
"Very different and counterculture," Moi said. "We took a position that was completely opposite of liberal Seattle."
They preached orthodoxy and absolute truth in a world moving toward ideological relativity, along with unpopular gender roles that banned women from being lead pastors.
Yet, within years, the 35 people of the tiny classroom grew to nearly 14,000, and today, 15 locations across the West. A location in Spokane is expected to open in 2015.
According to Moi, Sunday offerings grew from a couple hundred bucks to hundreds of thousands of dollars raised in a day.
"We were overwhelmed," he remembers. "We were overwhelmed with the numbers."
The church reorganized in 2006 to consolidate leadership amid the growth. It placed Driscoll in an even more powerful role, with fewer checks and balances.
Moi says his salary was cut as the recession hit, and he didn't pay his car registration. After his arrest for driving on a suspended license, he resigned as a Mars Hill pastor.
"We are broken people. We are flawed people. We all have egos," Moi said.
For Moi, the ongoing divisiveness embroiling the church in public controversy is heartbreaking.
A couple weeks ago, former pastors sent a letter, asking Driscoll to resign, saying, "We were hurt. Others have been hurt. The abuse must end."
Wednesday, an unpaid pastor in Portland was terminated after sources tell KING 5 he joined 8 others with another letter, accusing Driscoll of creating a "culture of fear".
They also demanded Driscoll's resignation.
Moi no longer attends Mars Hill, but hopes to return someday. He believes Driscoll must step down for the church to begin healing.
Even still, he says, he loves his old friend.
"God is bringing about the very change that is necessary for that to not continue," Moi said. "My heart was there at the beginning and it will be there til the end."