HILLS CHURCH ONLINE REVIEWS

A collection of online reviews gathered from Google, Yelp, and other social media sites

Lead pastor Ern Menocal teaching at Hills Church in Pullman, WA

ONLINE REVIEWS FOR HILLS CHURCH IN PULLMAN, WASHINGTON

BACKGROUND

Network churches heavily control their public image, going to great lengths to control information about their methods and practices. Leaders encourage church members to flood sites like Google Reviews with positive reviews for Network Churches (and, in some cases, for churches other than the one the reviewer attends). This practice of having members leave positive reviews on social media has had the effect of burying legitimate public criticism.

For an in-depth analysis and specific examples of how Network churches encourage leaders and members to flood review sites with positive reviews, read this article on NotOvercome.org.

WHY DO THESE REVIEWS MATTER?

These reviews matter because they corroborate the manipulative, abusive, and harmful practices which are documented throughout this site. We have chosen to surface these reviews because they give further voice to victims and provide additional reassurance to anyone who has experienced abuse within these high control groups that they are not alone.

NOTE: We are not surfacing all negative reviews which have been posted to crowdsourced review sites. Rather, we have selected entries which bear witness to a pattern of the behaviors outlined in our article "8 Signs of a Dysfunctional Church".

WHO WAS THE LEAD PASTOR OF HILLS CHURCH WHEN THESE REVIEWS WERE WRITTEN?

  • Ern Menocal: lead pastor from 2012 - present

CHURCH DETAILS:

 


 

THIS IS A HIGH-DEMAND, HIGH CONTROL GROUP

Source: Hills Church Google Review, January 2024

Full text of review (view screenshot of full review):

It pains me to write this review because there are many lovely people at Hills who are doing their best to follow Jesus, but it has been on my conscience to share my experience. This is a high-demand, high-control group. I was one of the original church plant members and devoted 10 years of my life to Hills until my eyes were opened to the subtle yet strong control tactics and extra-Biblical “values” that are engrained in the church’s culture, as well as some very disturbing information about the head of the network that Hills is a part of (Google “leaving the network” if you are interested).

It’s not just from the pastoral staff, but members are taught to love-bomb new people who fit the mold of members they are trying to attract, to help new people learn and believe the “values” of the church so that there is “unity in all things”, to not question but to blindly trust their small group leaders and pastoral staff, and to always seek the advice (i.e. gain permission) from leaders when making decisions about their own life. These things are all taught as being in your best interest and for the best interest of Jesus’ church.

I wanted to spend my life for Jesus and I was so happy to find a group of people who were on the same train. I gave so much of my life to this church thinking that I was doing good work for the Kingdom. I had a deep sense of community and purpose and had so many friends who I called family. But I also lost so much of my own agency, gave up so many relationships outside of Hills, bought into the “value” that time spent on endeavors outside of Hills (including energy devoted to serving underprivileged groups or combatting racism) would take away from the mission we were called to as a church, for-goed holiday travel and time with extended family because I was taught not to miss Sundays or small group nights, and regrettably led others to do the same. It has been over a year since I left and I am still trying to sort out what was actually Biblical truth, and what was extra-Biblical teachings/control tactics. It is an incredibly confusing, disorienting, and painful process that I earnestly hope to spare others from.

While there are so many beautifully loving people at Hills who truly want to follow Jesus well, I must caution anyone against getting sucked into this seemingly wonderful community. It will feel like you have purpose and family, but that is achievable in much less controlling and abusive church environments and I strongly urge you to seek that elsewhere.

 


MY RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD WAS IRREVERSIBLY DAMAGED

Source: Hills Church Google Review, October 2020

A NOTE ON THIS REVIEW:

Pastors within The Network rarely make public comments, however, this 2020 review includes a public response from Ern Menocal, lead pastor of Hills Church. In his response Ern calls the authenticity of this post into question, accusing the reviewer of falsifying their experience.

While Ern's allegation could be true, the reviewer's story—and Ern's response—all fit a well-documented pattern of denial, attack, and reversal of victim and offender, consistent with several stories submitted to LeavingTheNetowork.org and elsewhere. Ern's response also reveals how closely attendance is monitored for small groups, events, and serving teams (a Network practice we list under the "Demand for Purity" section of our "8 Signs of a Dysfunctional Church" article).

If you have information regarding the incidents described in this review please email [email protected].

REVIEW:

Full text of review (view screenshot of full review):

Reviewer:

My relationship with God was irreversibly damaged due to pastors at this church acting from a God-complex, deciding who is and is not worthy of the love of God based on their own judgements. I would warn young students to stay away from this community if they're in need of faith exploration and not just indoctrination.

Ern Menocal (lead pastor of Hills Church) response:

Lead pastor Ern here. Grieved that I or any staff pastor would ever have that effect on a member or visitor of Hills enough for them to leave as hurt as you appear. I hope my reputation, and the reputation of our staff pastors of the overall treatment of our members, visitors, friends, and very public bible preaching over the last 8 years at Hills speaks to the extreme contrary of your experience or judgment.

I do not want to minimize your hurt though. If there is any way to reconcile I'm more than willing to sit down and talk, and if necessary, repent for wrongdoing to you. It seems like you know where and how we can be reached if thats desired. I've not had any of my overseers, fellow pastors, members, or anyone tell me anything like this personally as I've tried to lead faithfully over the last 16 years as a pastor, and I am willing to be corrected if appropriate.

I trust Jesus would bring truth to light if there was anything in darkness about my or our conduct or character. Yours respectfully, Ern Menocal

Reviewer Response:

After starting mental health therapy for the first time, to try to heal from the harmful things done to me at Hills, I met with the offending pastor to try to reach reconciliation. Instead of acting in compassion and humility, he denied that he had ever done anything and instead tried to tell me that I must have "misheard" and ignored the painful truth that I was sharing - I was told that God's love is not for me.

I feel no need to continue exposing myself to your harmful rhetoric by engaging in conversation. My intention was to put up a warning that I wish were here when I was looking to explore churches in Pullman.

You can stand on years of no one saying anything to you directly because you’re a spiritually powerful man who works in a position of power over people. But “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?" I want a pastor who cares for all and doesn't feel the need to insert his ego before extending compassion.

Ern Menocal response 10/13/20:

Ern again; After considering the reviewers second response, I've looked through names in Hills Church database (which has records of members and attendees that have registered for various events over the past 8 years, or have attended small groups, or served in the church) and have no record of an <name redacted> which any of our pastors or overseers have had difficult conversations with as you’ve described. Neither do our board members and non-staff overseers have knowledge of or recollection of anyone else within the church where conversations like this have occurred.

I assume this is either an alias name (unless there is somehow zero record of ever signing up for events, serving anywhere, or attended groups), or this is a fake review meant to cause harm. I did not say what I am being accused of saying, neither in word or implied. This reviewer clearly does not have relationship or knowledge of me, our leadership values, or beliefs at Hills Church. Furthermore, they have given no description of the nature of their grievance, dates of attendance, group leaders’ names, or specific accusations.

I will not respond further on a public platform, and stand by my endorsement of Hills Church, our leaders, and our values. - Ern Menocal

 


 

 

BACK TO STORIES:

STORIES: Read the stories of those who have left and who have consented to share their experiences from their time in Steve Morgan's Network of Churches