These days I interact with many current and former Mars Hill Church members. Often these current and former members express their aspirations for Mars Hill and wish that change would take place. Many of them are ambivalent about the church; they enjoy the relationships there and often believe the teaching is helpful to their lives, but they also are exasperated with the financial problems, emphasis on the Driscoll brand and lack of transparency from the leaders. They often believe big business somehow invaded their church and not for the betterment of the ministry. Some have rejected the church due to doctrinal reasons, but others believe the church should survive if trust could be reestablished with members.
The following letter was written by a current Mars Hill Church member. For a variety of reasons, including concerns about retaliation, this person did not want to be named in publication. However, I know the person and decided to publish this because the recommendations give expression to the many conversations I have had with current, on the fence, and former Mars Hill members. Many of them, such as this person, believe they are fighting for their church when they speak out.
“Dear Pastor Mark: Grow A Pair.”
(Or 12 Steps You Can Take To Rebuild Trust With Your Mars Hill Church Members)
Dear Pastor Mark,
Campuses closing, staff laid off. Front page headlines in the Seattle Times (for the wrong reasons). Elders quitting. Community groups down in attendance every week. Giving way down. Attendance overall way down. Hope for Mars Hill members is at an all time low.
Kind of a mess, agreed?
How about we put a stop to all this?
I am writing as no one special; not a pastor or elder, just an average Mars Hill member who has finally reached the breaking point. Over the past 9 months I’ve spoken directly with 40+ members and heard second hand about the thoughts of dozens more. We are not the folks who protested, or casual attendees; we are or have been official Mars Hill members. Some of us have now left Mars Hill; others are hanging on by a thread. After that many conversations, some common sense ideas begin to emerge, which I will share here. Of course not all members will agree with what I have to say here, but enough will that it’s worth the effort to speak up.
Those of us in average Mars Hill member land have waited for months, thinking “surely the Mars Hill Executive Elders will see what we all see”, but as each day passes, it seems clear that something is broken…you just aren’t getting it.
So let me lay it out clearly: in a nutshell, this is about trust. Executive elders, you once had our trust. Now, we’re just not sure if you deserve it or not.
So in a spirit that wants Mars Hill to move past all the insanity as quickly as possible, not dwell on the negative, and rebuild that trust, here are “12 Steps You Can Take To Rebuild Trust With Your Mars Hill Members”:
1. Fire the PR firm. Churches need to tell the truth, not spin it. Please tell us that members aren’t paying for the PR firm?
2. Hire an independent CPA firm. They should be experienced with churches/non profits; have them thoroughly audit Mars Hill financial records for the past 5 years. Then publish their findings in plain English so we can all read them. Forget about the ECFA endorsement; that doesn’t seem to provide much real accountability. At this point, we don’t know what to believe about the money; however there’s enough funny sounding stuff to make us feel pretty uncomfortable and not be very excited to give more money. Time to put all speculation to rest and just lay out the facts to us.
3. Let Sutton Turner go. Paul Tripp seems to think that you and he are not a great combination and that he may be in over his head. Sutton should be thanked and allowed to move on to another job gracefully.
4. Scrap the current governance system. Come up with a new governance system; pretty obvious to everyone but you that this one ain’t working.
5. Report All Progress Through The Patheos Blog. You’ve made us all daily readers of the Patheos blog. Why? Because we feel ‘spun’ when we read much of the Mars Hill official stuff. Patheos may not be 100% Mars Hill friendly; however it does seem to give us more of the straight scoop on what’s going on than the official Mars Hill information channels.
6. Report monthly on the progress with the 21 former pastors/elders on Patheos. It appears that you have an independent arbitrator handling the process with the 21 former pastors/elders, which is great. Now have each of the 21 report back directly through Patheos as each case is resolved. We just want to hear it directly in their own words that “things are fixed”. We want to see progress.
7. Give up your current 6 week “stepping down” review process. Most of us average members don’t really think this review process is that independent, even the newly announced BoE (Board of Elders). Both the BOAA and the BoE are hand picked boards judging those that picked them. What happens to those who disagree in this process? Of the nine men who signed the now infamous letter, eight are gone. Eight very good men. It’s tough to trust a process where dissenters seem to just disappear. Time is too precious; stop this process so we can focus on real solutions.
8. Tell us what the Executive Elders earn. We all saw the outside of your house on KOMO TV news recently Pastor Mark. Million dollar house KOMO said, which was new information to many of us. Looking at your million dollar home, it does raise questions in our minds. You are telling us to contribute more since giving is down. That’s fine; however first show us the money trail, including all EE salaries, book deals, everything. No hiding money in special trusts or backdoor channels. Complete transparency.
9. Show us a current up to date Mars Hill balance sheet. We want to know what assets Mars Hill owns and what it owes. People are being let go and campuses closed to live inside budget. Fine. You are asking us to give more, fine. But if we have assets that can be tapped into or sold, we would like to know what they are. Sources on the internet say that Mars Hill owns real estate valued at over $10 million. If you want shared sacrifice, we need to understand the full picture of what we have to work with. Publish this on the Patheos blog for all to see; if we are walking in the light, what do we have to be afraid of?
10. Make Pastor Dave Bruskas lead/preaching pastor of the church for the near future. Make him the interim lead pastor and preaching pastor, if he’ll accept the job (he would be subject of course to the new governance system).
11. Hire Paul Tripp. Let him set up a process to fix the ministry culture at Mars Hill. When Mars Hill sent us the email recently saying how angry the elders were that the 9 pastors’
letter was leaked, it kind of missed the point that we all saw plain as day: Paul Tripp thinks our church is the sickest he has ever seen and we are hung up on how the letter got leaked? Doesn’t that kind of prove Tripp’s point a bit? Don’t we all just want the truth here? Paul Tripp needs to have a secure role in partnership with a new elder board of some type to do what he and they think needs to be done, and then report back to us about progress independently.
12. Voluntarily Step Down Pastor Mark. For as long as Paul Tripp and whatever new elder board that is created think you need to. You don’t get to decide your fate at Mars Hill, they do. In your own Pastor Mark like terms, “time to grow a pair”. You’ve said you want to be at Mars Hill the rest of your life; now prove it. Have the stones to voluntarily step down now and submit to Paul Tripp and a new elder governance system so you have the time to get your own internal house in order. We don’t know what’s wrong with you Pastor Mark, but you and the Executive Elders seem to be the only ones who are not seeing the obvious: you need some help. No more hiding behind the skirt of self appointed internal review boards and governance rules you wrote yourself. No more PR firms. No more videos. No more explanations about how detractors are anonymous or blaming ‘negative media attention’ for our woes. We’ve had enough of that; it sounds like unmanly whining.
Pastor Mark, we don’t hate you; we LOVE you. It’s no shame that you need some help; we all do. You have helped us. This church has been our HOME. We love the people here; they are our FRIENDS. Our lives have been TRANSFORMED by Mars Hill. Much good ministry is happening even today at Mars Hill in spite of this mess. We have hope for the future of Mars Hill. Good people are still here and if this gets turned around, many people will return. We can forgive. We want Mars Hill to get back on track. Make us proud to
be Mars Hill members again.
You have taught us, correctly, that it’s all about Jesus. It feels that for some time now, it’s been too much about Mars Hill. Let’s repent of that and get back on track. Trust with us that Jesus will lead a reborn Mars Hill to a new season of Kingdom fruitfulness. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Who for the joy set before him, endured the cross. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” Hebrews 12:2, 7, 10-12
We know you like Braveheart Pastor Mark; here is a quote from the movie to consider:
“Men don’t follow titles, they follow courage.”
Forget your title Pastor Mark; show us your courage. With love and hope,
Some Mars Hill Members