KOMO News Features Co-Founder of Mars Hill Church in Report on Charges Filed by 21 Former Pastors

One of the other co-founders of Mars Hill Church, Leif Moi, spoke out to KOMO News late yesterday about the charges recently lodged by 21 former Mars Hill pastors. Watch:

Moi was dismissed as an elder in 2007. I have spoken to him several times this year and have a sense that coming forward was difficult. According to Moi, he has made several efforts to make amends with Driscoll and the church.

Matt Chandler on White Privilege

Writing Tuesday on his church blog about the tragic shooting in Ferguson, MO, Matt Chandler validates the concept of white privilege.  The blog post is an expansion of tweets on the subject. According to the Christian Post, he also talked about the matter in his Sunday sermon.
I am glad to see this and intend to discuss white privilege and stereotyping next week here on the blog.
 

Chief Inspector Clouseau Interrogates the Staff

Subtitle: Great moments in comedy.
We all need a little levity and for me Peter Sellers almost never fails to deliver, especially in his signature role as Chief Inspector Clouseau. In this scene, Professor Fassbinder and his daughter have been kidnapped by former chief inspector Dreyfus to help Dreyfus build a doomsday machine. Dreyfus, who has gone mad because of Clouseau, wants to blackmail the world with the machine for the life of Clouseau. Clouseau is inspecting the crime scene and conducts an interrogation.
[youtube]http://youtu.be/gF2WO-JZ0WY[/youtube]
From the film The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)

Megachurch Bait and Switch: Mars Hill Church and the Jesus Festival

Mars Hill Church occasionally answers the questions of some journalists. The Huffington Post did a feature story on the Jesus Festival that never was. On Monday, I wrote about the once planned but later canceled Jesus Festival which was to be funded by the extra $3 million received by Mars Hill at the end of 2013. Initially, Mars Hill wanted $2 million to help fund extra initiatives outlined on their website. The project was described on several webpages, but on one of them, at the bottom, was this statement:

*All gifts during the Living for a Legacy sermon series are donated to the church’s general fund and can be used for operating purposes.

Prior to this statement, the pitch was delivered with several specific items in mind:

During this season, we as a church will be raising money—above and beyond our normal budget—to help fund a few special projects related to the long-term health of our church legacy:

  • New homes for church families: January 12, 2014, is a huge day! We’ll be opening new buildings for Mars Hill Church in Tacoma, Everett, Olympia, and Huntington Beach, and it’s the grand opening for Mars Hill Phoenix. On that day, we also launch the book of James.
  • Christian education: In the coming year, we’ll be partnering with two universities to offer an accredited undergraduate and graduate education in Bellevue, primarily to equip young men and women heading out into a world where Christians are an increasingly despised minority.
  • Jesus Festival: On August 22, we’ll host our first-ever Jesus Festival at Marymoor Park near Seattle. Everyone at Mars Hill churches far and near is invited for this unique opportunity to grow together and evangelize within the surrounding community. Fun for kids, music, gospel preaching, baptisms, and good times at no charge because it’s always good to practice for the kingdom with a party!
  • Mars Hill Global: In 2014, we plan to support 20 additional church planters in Ethiopia, and 10 additional church planters in India—73 overall, for a legacy that extends beyond our own congregation and country.

We’ll have much more to share about these projects in the coming weeks. Go to marshill.com/give to give online and set up recurring giving for 2014. We are asking the people of Mars Hill to give an additional $2 million above and beyond normal giving by the end of 2013 to make all this happen. Please pray about what your portion is and pray for everyone to do their part.

The pitch reads one way but the statement at the bottom after Mark Driscoll’s name provides the disclaimer necessary to actually mean something else. In that story, Mars Hill deacon Justin Dean is quoted as follows:

During our annual end of year fundraising campaign we often share some of the exciting things that we have planned for the coming year. Last year one thing we shared was the Jesus festival, originally planned to occur this week. In line with the mission of our church, the festival would have been a great evangelistic opportunity to share the gospel and great music with the community. We regret that the festival and other summer events have had to be canceled, and we would love to still be able to host a festival like this in the future.

Contrary to what has been reported, we did not raise money specifically for the Jesus festival. Gifts given during the end of the year campaign, as well as any gifts given to Mars Hill Church, go towards ministry operations, evangelism, and church planting all over the world.

Dean says somebody reported that the money was raised specifically for the Jesus Festival.  I don’t know where that was reported. I did not say that the money was raised for the Jesus Festival only. There were other things mentioned in the appeal and the money could have gone to any one of those. However, there is a takeaway point here. Bottom line for potential donors to Mars Hill Church: it doesn’t appear to matter what the pitch is, the money you donate will go wherever the executive pastors want it to go. Dean told HuffPo: …”as well as any gifts given to Mars Hill Church, go toward ministry operations, evangelism, and church planting all over the world.” So when the church leaders ask for donations “above and beyond our normal budget—to help fund a few special projects,” they apparently don’t mean it.

Twenty-One Former Mars Hill Church Pastors Bring Formal Charges Against Mark Driscoll

On the heels of what was arguably the worst week in the history of Mars Hill Church, twenty-one former Mars Hill Church pastors brought charges late last week against lead pastor Mark Driscoll. Accompanied by a cover letter, briefs on workplace bullying and a summary of the powers of Mars Hill elders, the charges are being leveled by well-respected former pastors and are in the possession of the Mars Hill leadership. These documents greatly expand on charges brought by former pastor Dave Kraft. Those charges were dismissed by the Board of Advisors and Accountability. The cover letter states:

We have submitted to the Mars Hill board of advisors and accountability the attached formal charges of Mark’s disqualification from the pastoral office. We have signed these charges and intend to stand as witnesses. There are additional witnesses whose names have been withheld for their protection, but who also intend to testify in an investigation of these charges.

The link to the charges is above, but I want to point out that the pastors are concentrating on disqualifying actions since 2010. A rumor flying around Mars Hill Church is that Driscoll’s dismissal by the Acts 29 Network was due to offenses prior to the last three years. In this recent letter, the former pastors make a point to stress the current nature of their concerns:

While the primary evidences for these charges are the personal experiences and testimonies of the signers and witnesses, we want to make it clear that these experiences are tied to many concrete events. The following is a small selection of examples that illustrate a pattern of disqualifying behavior. The signers of these charges and the additional witnesses are prepared to provide details for these examples along with many more examples when interviewed as part of the investigation of these charges.

Please note the recency of the events below. We have selected more recent examples to challenge a prevalent impression that while Pastor Mark may have sinned in these ways in the distant past, he has been a changed man in more recent years. To the contrary, we know of recent evidence that strongly indicates disqualifying patterns having continued into recent times. Dave Kraft’s formal charges were submitted in May 2013. At that time, several of the examples listed below were current.

Some of the charges are as follows:

October 2011—Mark said in a meeting that he did not want a certain staff elder (who was not slim) to take on a certain prominent leadership role because “his fat ass is not the image we want for our church.”

May 8, 2012—In a meeting of the Full Council convened to vote on the slate of nominees for the new board of advisors and accountability, Mark was explaining to the elders that under the newly revised bylaws, the Full Council would have the right to review any changes by the board. One elder corrected Mark with his own understanding that the new bylaws, in fact, allow the board to make decisions without running it by the Full Council. Mark’s response to that elder was bullying, with some elders present recalling language to the effect of: “I don’t give a shit what you think. I’m trying to be nice to you guys by asking your opinion. In reality, we don’t need your vote to make this decision. This is what we’re doing.”

Summer 2012—Domineering and arrogant—In an all-MEDCOM [Media & Communications team] meeting discussing his displeasure over the way the team had been marketing R12, Mark said, “You think you’re the Resurgence. But, you’re not the brand. I’m the brand!”

March 2013—Violence: Threatened to tear down a former elder’s church plant, saying “I’ll tear his church down brick by brick.”

July 2013—Mark commanded MEDCOM staff to redirect marketing for R13 with the branding and messaging of his book, “Call to Resurgence.” At least one staff member fought back on the principle of conflict of interest—Mars Hill, being a non-profit org, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to push a book that Mark makes personal profit from.)

May 2014—Mark told elders that he was not aware of the ResultSource agreement but had chosen to admit knowledge of it for the sake of the team in his letter to the church, and that others had made the decision to work with ResultSource. He claimed that another elder and Mark’s publishers made the decision to work with ResultSource without his knowledge. He insinuated that he had learned about the ResultSource agreement only after the story broke on World magazine. In fact, Mark agreed to work with ResultSource on the Best Seller Campaign for Real Marriage as early as July 2011.

On the last charge above, I obtained invoices which demonstrates knowledge of Result Source in October, and I have seen an email which indicated Driscoll’s awareness as early as July, 2011. The letter asks Mars Hill leadership questions which contain further concerns and the pastors believe, if investigated, will prove disqualifying. For example:

Is Pastor Mark guilty of plagiarism? If so, what is an appropriate consequence for him?

Is Pastor Mark guilty of sexual harassment in the form of sexual immorality in speech (Eph. 5:3)? We are aware of a number of credible reports of inappropriate sexually-oriented comments that Pastor Mark has made to and about other men’s wives, particularly in casual social settings.

My impression is that these matters have been raised repeatedly and are a part of the concerns which animated Acts 29 Network to take action. Clearly, Rev. Driscoll and Mars Hill leadership are under fire and I will post any response to my request for their side of things if they reply.

Executive Salaries at Mars Hill Church

Do you want to know how much your megachurch pastor makes?
Some current and former members have expressed to me that they want to know what Mark Driscoll and the other executive pastors make. I will disappoint them right up front and say I don’t know the answer to the question but I want to explore it a bit.
Rob Smith at Musings From Under the Bus provided the CEO salaries and annual revenue of  5 large non-profit/parachurch organizations (e.g., Samaritan’s Purse, World Vision). The average annual revenue for the five organizations is nearly $290 million.  Smith reported an average of $309k/year for the CEO’s total compensation.  Driscoll is rumored to get much more than that as lead pastor/CEO of an organization with around $20 million in revenues. But again, those are rumors. Only a handful of people know. His congregation doesn’t know. One fellow asked and he was let go.
I have obtained the compensation study used to calculate the executive elders salaries for Mars Hill executive elders for 2012. The company performing the study, CapinCrouse, provided a range of incomes along with church attendance and annual budget. There wasn’t much of a relationship between compensation and results. The salaries ranged from $265k to $1.1 million yearly (should any church pay a pastor a million dollars?). The minister with the largest church budget made $330k/year. In other words, other factors besides size and budget went into salary decisions. That study did not come to a conclusion about what to pay the Mars Hill executive pastors. The Mars Hill Church Board of Advisors and Accountability is charged with that duty.
Denominations often provide a formula to aid churches in figuring salary. To illustrate, examine the extensive guidance provided by the Church of Christ. There is a formula using years of experience and size of church to help calculate a base salary.
Smith believes the executive pastors salaries eventually will be known.  This is sometimes a touchy subject in churches. I have been in churches where the pastor did not want the details of his compensation package discussed widely and others where it was all transparent. I grew up with my father’s salary printed in the paper because he was a public school administrator. However, many people have hangups about it. My current thinking is to lean toward transparency and the use of a formula to arrive at a figure. I certainly think people in the pews have a right to ask and should get some idea of the range of compensation they are paying for.
Generally people who pay the bills want information to help them decide if the money is being spent well. Mars Hill members have neither information nor input. Such a situation is different than how we relate to our government. In that domain, all salaries are known and we often praise whistleblowers who disclose fraud and abuse of public funds. Most of us want that kind of transparency for our government but the situation seems murkier in church.
Although the ECFA has been reluctant to apply them, the organization’s guidelines require more transparency than seems forthcoming at Mars Hill. When it comes to executive compensation, the ECFA’s guidelines on compensation require specific board actions for pastors making over $150k. Although it has not been possible to verify, Mars Hill’s BOAA claims to follow the ECFA guidelines on the setting of compensation.
Another topic which is germane to executive compensation is the use of Mars Hill Church by the executives for personal enrichment. James Duncan has explored the prospects that the church expends much member dollars on advancing the brand of Mark Driscoll. I think most would agree that the Real Marriage campaign was an illustration of that. Anyone who cares about Mars Hill should read Duncan’s analysis of the Real Marriage campaign. Duncan lays out the money trail and illustrates how being a lead pastor with a product can enrich that pastor at the expense of the church. An unexamined aspect of the Real Marriage debacle is the amount of money expended to pay church employees who worked on promoting the book. The Mars Hill Media and Communications team promoted the book, set up the seminars, and ran Driscoll’s social media (they still do ), all on the church’s dime. Is it all about Jesus for Driscoll to use church resources to acquire and maintain half a million Twitter followers? Sell more of his books? Enlarge his status? While these questions could be asked about many megachurch pastors, they seem particularly relevant in the present case. Using the church to enrich one’s brand seems like a lot of benefit that doesn’t show up in a salary figure.
To be fair, some will respond that anything that advances the pastor’s work also works to the benefit of the church and then ultimately the greater good (expanding the Gospel). I suppose at heart that is what I wonder about – to what degree does the corporatization of the church work to the benefit of the Good News? The Mars Hill situation, and megachurches more generally should cause us to reflect about what is most consistent with the Bible’s teachings on pastors and churches in the context of “the present distress.” There is a tension here and the Mars Hill case should cause us to reflect on what can be learned from it.
 

League of the South President: Relish Being a White Supremacist

In what is probably one of the clearest statements of the white supremacist views of the League of the South, organization president Michael Hill penned an article calling on League members to relish the white supremacist views of their Southern heroes. Anne Arundel County Council candidate and proud League of the South member Michael Peroutka told a news conference audience that he repudiated racists in the League and would pray for them. Well, he does know Michael Hill so he has some repudiating and praying to do. After reading the essay, I think Hill would just laugh at Peroutka’s prayers.
Hill reminds his readers that historically Confederates and their sympathizers saw the South as “white man’s country.”

1n 1928, historian Ulrich B. Phillips called the South “a white man’s country.” [“The Central Theme of Southern History,” American Historical Review 34 (October 1928), p. 31.] From the beginning of their history in the early 17th century, Southerners had taken this statement as an unchallenged fact, and the presence of an alien race in their midst drove it home with added emphasis. Few if any Southerners, or for that matter Northerners, believed in racial equality at the time of the War for Southern Independence nor in the decades to follow. That Phillips made his non-controversial (at the time) statement more than six decades after the end of that war speaks volumes about the stubbornness of what is now vilified as “white supremacy.” Thus, I think it is safe to say that our Confederate ancestors and their descendants for at least two generations would qualify as “racists” and “white supremacists” by today’s definitions of the terms.

That is just fine with Hill, and as it should be.
Hill cites the racist statements of Southern heroes such as Jefferson Davis, Robert Dabney and Alexander Stephens to demonstrate that the Confederate cause was to advance white people as superior to blacks. Dabney is an interesting case. Hill quote Dabney, a Presbyterian minister, as follows:

The offspring of an amalgamation must be a hybrid race incapable of the career of civilization and glory as an independent race. And this apparently is the destiny which our conquerors have in view. If indeed they can mix the blood of the heroes of Manassas with this vile stream from the fens of Africa, then they will never again have occasion to tremble before the righteous resistance of Virginia freemen; but will have a race supple and vile enough to fill that position of political subjugation, which they desire to fix on the South.

Dabney should be familiar to Peroutka supporters. He is a hero on the Institute of the Constitution website. In fact, Peroutka hosts an article on the IOTC website authored by Dabney which justifies unequal treatment based on the supposed inferiority of the African. From the IOTC website, Dabney is quoted as follows:

Hence, the general equality of nature will by no means produce a literal and universal equality of civil condition; for the simple reason that the different classes of citizens have very different specific rights; and this grows out of their differences of sex, virtue, intelligence, civilization, etc., and the demands of the common welfare. Thus, if the low grade of intelligence, virtue and civilization of the African in America, disqualified him for being his own guardian, and if his own true welfare (taking the “general run” of cases) and that of the community, would be plainly marred by this freedom; then the law decided correctly, that the African here has no natural right to his self–control, as to his own labour and locomotion. 

Just to be clear, this passage is not from the League’s website, but from Michael Peroutka’s IOTC site. There is also this gem, which justifies discrimination based on race and religion. Peroutka needs to decide what side he is on.
Perhaps, Hill is talking to Peroutka when he closes:

So when they call you a “racist” or a “white supremacist,” remember that they would have called your Southern ancestors that as well. Thus you are in good company with Lee, Davis, Stephens, and a host of other honorable men. Laugh in your accuser’s face and relish that good company!

Thus far, Peroutka has relished the company of the League, and has pledged his family and business resources to their aims.  Maybe he saves his laughter for when the cameras are off.

Mars Hill Church Full Council of Elders Meeting Today

According to sources close to the church, the full council of Mars Hill Church elders began meeting for a regularly scheduled retreat last evening. They should have lots of current events to discuss. Four pressing issues:
Attendance and membership declines – A current member of Mars Hill told me that his campus pastor disclosed that one out of five members have left the church in 2014. Others in a position to know have indicated that attendance is likewise down (even taking into account the summer months). Furthermore, additional resignations are coming.
Acts 29 Network – There really is no way to spin this as a positive. The fallout from this action includes the cancellation of The Resurgence conference and Driscoll’s removal from two other conferences. Lifeway Christian Stores removed his books from their shelves.
Board of Advisors and Accountability – There were discrepancies in the accounts of their resignations and questions about the viability of the BOAA by departed member Paul Tripp. Provided the BOAA stays in place, who would really want to step into that position now?
Charges raised by former and current members – They aren’t out yet but a group of former and current members planned to bring charges against the executive elders the day that Acts 29 Network dropped the church from membership. Those are on the horizon.
 
 
 
 
 

Mars Hill Church Pastor Grapples with Being Removed from Acts 29 Network Membership

Since the Acts 29 Network removed Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church as members, Mars Hill members have had questions about the reasons for the action. It may be that the campus pastors have as many questions as the congregants have. Ryan Kearns is the Director of Community Groups at Mars Hill and is a pastor at the Bellevue campus. In this posting to the Community Group leaders, Kearns attempts to explain the Acts 29 action to questioners. In the image, two questioners are redacted but I can tell you that they asked about the reasons for the Acts 29 action: Kearns replied:

My apologies for leaving that part of what I shared with Bellevue leaders last week. Here it is below: Because we did not know this was coming we did not have a chance to prepare answers to many of the questions you likely have yourselves and might come up in your group this week. Our Chairman of the BoAA has released a statement that we shared with all our members on Friday. Please encourage people to read that first if they have not. We have asked Pastor Matt Chandler for clarification on his letter and rather than speculate on what he meant we would like to wait for him to respond. In the meantime your Bellevue elder team is in communication with all parties to further understand the situation and hear all the facts. I will come back to you later when I have more information. Again I know it is frustrating to have to wait for clarification and I appreciate your patience and understanding. It is vital for you to know that your Elders love you and Jesus. We take our roles seriously and aim to serve you all. We will continue to do that and be worthy of your trust.

The BOAA response is posted here and took a defensive tone. I hope Matt Chandler replies and outlines the reasons for their action; the executive elders knows what they are and could share that with the rest of the elders. Perhaps they will do that at the full council of elders’ retreat which got underway on Monday evening.

Whatever Happened to the Mars Hill Church Jesus Festival? And the $3 Million?

Wenatchee the Hatchet asked the question on August 1, but I don’t see an official answer anywhere. Asking around, a former member who was in training to become a Community Group leader told me the Jesus Festival (slated for August 22) was canceled in the Spring after the news broke about Mark Driscoll’s New York Times scandal.  I can find no official announcement but there has been no publicity about the event since Spring. The Jesus Festival was one of the reasons why Mars Hill needed to raise $2 million “over and above” tithes at the end of 2013. According to Mars Hill website:

During these 40 days of prayer and 5 days of fasting, we are praying for $2 million over and above our donors’ tithes to fund these endeavors in 2014. We believe Jesus has given the vision, so we trust that he will graciously provide the means to do it through his people. If the Holy Spirit leads you to give during these focused days of prayer, please visit marshill.com/give.

What were the endeavors?

1) MARS HILL GLOBAL

Pastor Mark first met church planter Pastor Arjuna Chiguluri in 1998, and Mars Hill Church has been working with and supporting Pastor Arjuna and Vision Nationals in India since 1999. In the last couple of years, we have expanded our Global efforts and are privileged to support church planters and evangelists in Ethiopia who have shared the gospel with over 11,000 people, of which 890 people have been saved. Over the next decades, we want to see Mars Hill Church grow into a worldwide movement and see 1,000 churches planted throughout India and Ethiopia. This is an ambitious goal, but as Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). For more information, go to Marshill.com/global.

The page linked here is the Mars Hill Global page. In this description of Mars Hill Global, there is no mention of church plants in the United States, just India and Ethiopia. In fact, mention of Mars Hill expansion comes later in the appeal. If the money was always supposed to go to Mars Hill expansion in the U.S., then why not mention it here?

2) JESUS FESTIVAL

In the summer of 2014, Mars Hill will be hosting an evangelistic, outdoor outreach, aptly titled The Jesus Festival, at Marymoor Park in Seattle. This will be a family friendly event with activities for the kids, music, and amazing gospel preachers. This will be a great opportunity for outreach in the community and to build unity among the Bible-teaching churches in the Seattle area.

Apparently, the money came in (closer to $3 million), but the festival is off, called off months ago. Shouldn’t the people have been consulted? They gave toward a festival but didn’t get one. As late as February, Mark Driscoll was still promoting the festival as a free event. In a February 5 email to the church, Driscoll wrote:

From Pastor Mark Driscoll: Heaven is going to be a party and we need to practice for that party. Over the next few months, you’ll be hearing a lot more about our first-ever Jesus Festival, August 22 at Marymoor Park near Seattle. Everyone at Mars Hill churches far and near is invited for this unique opportunity to grow together and evangelize within the surrounding community. We’ve never done anything quite like this event, but picture a huge outdoor celebration with live bands, food trucks, fun stuff for the kids, open-air gospel preaching, baptisms, and a summer night filled with the worship of thousands of brothers and sisters praising Jesus together. Pastor Dustin Kensrue will be leading us in worship, and as the date gets closer we’ll announce some special guests who will be joining us as well. Thanks to your generosity as a church, the whole thing will be free, which will make it very easy to invite non-Christian family and friends.

Keep on picturing.

3) LEADERSHIP TRAINING The two key missional distinctives of Mars Hill Church are planting churches and making disciples. In order to reach the world with the good news of Jesus, we need biblically literate, gifted leaders. In order to train these leaders, we need a school. In the fall of 2014, we are hoping to offer a 1-year Bible certificate program. Eventually, it will be a fully accredited Bible seminary to help train future leaders and to grow existing leaders in knowledge of the Bible and sound theology

This apparently is going to get underway this Fall. Nonetheless, this is a puzzle. Why does the church need money for this since the schools are supplying the professors and Mars Hill has the space. Presumably they are getting rent. If anything, this should be a money maker for Mars Hill Church.

4) 5 MARS HILL CHURCH PLANTS/REPLANTS

In the new year, our Mars Hill family will be replanting churches in Olympia, Tacoma, Everett, and Huntington Beach to move them into bigger and better buildings, and we are planting a brand new location in Phoenix. Our hope is that thousands will come to meet Jesus at these churches and become disciples.

According to the Mars Hill website, Mars Hill Global Fund helped pay for these campus expansions. Everett and Tacoma have sent “thank you notes” to the Global Fund, and the Fund FAQs also mention funding for Phoenix, Bellevue, and Spokane. So the $2 million went to these churches too?

5) OUR MOST EVANGELISTIC CAMPAIGN

As the Western World becomes more secularized, the Church is becoming more ostracized. Simply put, Christianity is a threat to many of the sacred cows in American culture. Pastor Mark is currently working on a sermon series and book that will tackle many of these issues, including gay marriage, the exclusivity of Jesus, the authority of scripture, etc. This series springboards from an extensive sociological study on thousands of Americans’ opinions on Christianity that was conducted by a top research firm, and will focus on the objections that real people really have.

This must be a reference to the now-postponed book, The Problem with Christianity. The book was slated to be released in the Spring, then it was pushed back to the Fall and now there is no date for release while Tyndale is waiting for “the best season.” The research for this book was done in Spring 2013 and already paid for by the time of this appeal so it is unclear to me how this campaign would require additional donor funding. If anything, according to the messaging about Mark Driscoll and his books, the sales of the books should provide additional income to the church. Unless they don’t.  In any case, this isn’t happening this year either. All in all, I suspect the main beneficiary of these donations (as with the Global Fund) was U.S. expansion of video franchises.