Former Mars Hill Church Women's Ministry Leader Discusses Her Time at the Church

Becky Garrison has a solid interview of Wendy Alsup posted at Faithstreet.
Alsup discusses Mars Hill as a cult of personality and provides insight into the 2007-2008 period when she decided to leave.
Go check out the entire interview.
 

Citing Church Finances and Personal Attacks, Sutton Turner Resigns Position at Mars Hill Church (UPDATED)

Recently, Sutton Turner deleted the Mars Hill Church information from his Twitter profile as well as most of his past tweets. His Linked In profile went private.
An announcement may be coming yet today. Reportedly, an announcement has been made internally. Reports are that Turner will no longer be an executive elder or staff.
If the reports are accurate, it will be interesting to learn if the severance situation is like the other pastors.
In 2012, Turner offered a blunt assessment of the church’s financial situation and called for greater transparency:

It is my belief that the reason we have such poor giving by our Church is the lack of stewardship in the Church staff. Churches with excellent stewardship see greater giving because people know that every dollar they give will go towards the mission of the Church. It is very clear this has not been the case at Mars Hill Church.

Unfortunately, Turner’s 2012 assessment appears to be true in 2014.
UPDATE: In the church’s weekly communication on the Mars Hill website, Michael Van Skaik, chairman of the Board of Advisors and Accountability announced Turner’s resignation:

UPDATE FROM THE BOAA

Dear Mars Hill,
Earlier this month Pastor Sutton Turner informed our board of his intention to resign from his current staff and elder position. His personal decision is a sober acknowledgement that it would not be financially feasible for him to stay on staff as the church rightsizes itself, and secondly, not emotionally prudent to subject his family to what has been an ongoing season of personal attacks. We want to be clear: there are no disqualifying factors related to his decision.
Sutton put it this way: “Since 2007, Pastor Mark has impacted my life in a significant way. I am thankful to call him my brother, my pastor, and my friend. When I came to Mars Hill in 2011, my plan was to be here for a year, get theologically trained, and focus on the adoption of my son before entering back into the business world. Three and a half years later, I have been able to serve a church that I love as a staff member, but it is now time that I transition off of staff and return to the business world.”
We believe one of the greatest legacies Sutton has established at Mars Hill is a passion for international church planting. He has lit a powerful fire for this at Mars Hill that will last, for what I hope, will be generations. Sutton’s tireless work in this area will have an eternal impact on hundreds of people who he may never meet, but one day in heaven will get to share the part he played in their story.
We, as a board, are very thankful and grateful for Sutton’s gifting, expertise, and commitment in leading and guiding our church operations in the role of executive pastor and executive elder. We fully support his decision and will as a board be assisting the staff leadership teams in the transition of day-to-day responsibilities with Sutton through September 30th. Please join me in praying for the Turners as they seek direction and the next assignment that God has for them.
Michael Van Skaik
Chairman, Board of Advisors and Accountability

And he used the word season again.
Wenatchee the Hatchet analyzes this statement in light of Sutton Turner’s Resurgence article on “How to Leave Well.”

Mars Hill Church Pastor Asks and Answers: Should I Continue to Tithe?

Right now, I suspect the remaining Mars Hill Church pastors are living in tension. One tension is how to ask people to give money when there are obvious problems and lack of transparency. I wouldn’t want to be in that position. One such pastor is Brian Stoddard, a non-staff pastor at Mars Hill Sammamish. I have obtained a message he posted September 16th on Mars Hill’s social media website, The City where Stoddard asks and answers the question: Should I Continue to Tithe?

From Pastor Brian Stoddard:
Should I Continue to Tithe?
This is a question I and other Pastors have been asked frequently as of late. I appreciate this question greatly. It is very encouraging to hear a sincere heart, a heart that wants to do the right thing but is wrestling for answers in a confusing time.
I know this is a question of fiduciary responsibility but this is really a matter of worship. Yes scripture addresses and promotes responsibility, being wary of debt (Proverbs 22:7), being content (Hebrews 13:5), saving (Proverbs 21:20), and more. This is great wisdom from a loving Father but while these verses have many applications for personal responsibility they have no application for tithing. We tend to move quickly into making Scripture a personal application but forget that it was personally applied by a loving God, we need to always view these “rules” from God as ways to maintain a relationship with Him and not make it about us and how we can live more successfully. He wants to be our first love and knows how quickly money can take His place so these are ways to avoid that trap.
I get it, trust has been broken. Communication has been poor. You are not sure your money has been used wisely. But this is where you need to ask yourself why you give in the first place. Take a moment, or two, or as long as you need and examine your heart motives for giving in the past and see how they line up with any objection to giving now. Do not hear me incorrectly here, I am not saying there is not a problem but giving is about our relationship with God, where the money ends up is secondary. Look for example at how Jesus deals with the rich young ruler in Luke 18, he knows that money had become this man’s first love and goes right for the heart as He always does by telling him to have a fire sale and give it all to the poor. The idea is the man to remove his idol, giving to the poor is merely logistics.
Giving is an expression of worship which is why we are told that it must be done willingly and without compulsion (2 Corinthians 9:7). It is a reminder to keep God first and to fear and love Him above all else (Deuteronomy 14:23).The reason for my writing is not that the church needs money right now, although we are told to support those who proclaim the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14), my desire is that you worship well and do not react wrongly to what is happening in our church. God desires your steadfast love more than sacrifice (Hosea 6:6) but our giving is one of the physical manifestations of our heart.
Consider that what God proposed to be a good sacrifice originally was a burnt offering. As a foreshadowing of Jesus He asked for an unblemished animal and for it to be sacrificed willingly. What a waste! Take a perfectly good animal and set it on fire! This is an act of worship. When we are tempted to control the end use of our giving we are worshiping God conditionally.
I love when my little kids (and big kids) give me gifts. The first time I met our foster son I got a kick in the shin but it did not take long for him to see that I loved him and was giving him new life. He wanted to respond, giving me a present was something tangible he could do. Usually it’s something found around the house that is personalized and then given back to me, a paper airplane, a popsicle stick with a drawing, or one of the many robot drawings. This is why we give, this is why we CAN give – because He first loved us and gave His only son as propitiation for our sins. We have become children of God by faith in Jesus-Christ, who was given by God out of love for us. Now, the Bible invites us to OFFER SOMETHING and GIVE out of love for Him.
Much like my kids giving me back things they find around the house, all we have belongs to God…
Therefore David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 13 And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. 14 “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. 1 Chronicles 29:10 – 14
Finally, we need to remind ourselves that God is sovereign over our church. Perhaps that truth has been overstated to the point of numbness but reconcile that to any attempt to force change with your giving. God is going to bring His desire about in His time and we ought to be wary of forcing His hand. This reminds me of 1 Samuel 24, David was told he was to be the next king and he finds himself in a very convenient situation to make that happen right away by taking Saul’s life but he refused to presume Gods will or His timing but waited patiently.
A great book about Gods generosity and our response through giving is Jamie Munson’s book “Money”
Please know that my intention here is to not cause you to give under compulsion but to help you examine your heart in a difficult time, my passion is for God and for you to know Him more.

Stoddard does a pretty good job of trying to do the impossible. He agrees that the church has broken trust but he attempts to make a case that the people should give anyway. Since they are really giving to God, they apparently should not exercise discretion. In my opinion, he is telling people not to give under compulsion but applies a bit of pressure to them anyway.
On that discussion thread, another leader commented that many people are giving money to other ministries while not tithing to the church:

Brian, most of the people that have told me they are withholding their donations from Mars Hill are continuing to give, but to other ministries and special funds (GoFundMe for laid-off pastors, missionaries, etc).

Stoddard’s reply stresses that leaders should encourage giving:

From Pastor Brian Stoddard:
I have had several people ask me this as well, its a great question but I thought if I wrote any more, eyes would glaze over.
There are many practical things to think about which we also see in the Bible.
I think people often consider any discussion about giving from the Old Testament to be legalistic or outdated but they had the same issues as those in later times and us as well. The Church does not go on without being supported financially. The tithe was itself intended for specific purposes, there was a tithe for festivals, for the poor, etc. but God called for a tenth which would be given to the Levites to support them as they served the tabernacle and the congregation (Numbers:18:21). Beyond that there was a freewill offering for people to be generous above and beyond the tithe.
In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul tells us that those who proclaim the Gospel should be taken care of by those who hear that proclamation…
11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. 1 Co
Yes there are issues which need to be dealt with but our church is proclaiming the Gospel and training people to proclaim the Gospel to unbelievers and mature Christians alike. We have all benefited from our Church and likewise we should want to support it.
One thing I hear from many people is that they feel like MH Sammamish is their family and their home. I feel that way as well, I have been fed and grown spiritually through the care of those more mature than myself (spiritual fathers) and I am in community and accountable to my brothers and sisters. I want to be generous to others but support my family first. In the same way, it would be incredibly odd if I were to start supporting another woman and not my wife or kids.
Its painful that many of the pastors who I love and benefited from were laid off and I want them to be supported. I want them to be blessed by those who they blessed. I think we can do both to some degree. I think if we are honest, some of us can afford to be very generous to both, some not as much. I am not suggesting that this is the case but we need to make sure we are not using anything as an excuse to avoid supporting our church – we all need to examine our own hearts here.
Its great to be a part of some great conversations in CG’s – please remember that as spiritual leaders we can allow honest conversations about our church but we can not leave people where they are at. Like our Father, we need to pursue their hearts and prod them on to maturity.

Until the leadership of Mars Hill Church follows the advice of the 2012 version of Sutton Turner, I don’t think verbal gymnastics will turn the tide. Turner said in 2012:

It is my belief that the reason we have such poor giving by our Church is the lack of stewardship in the Church staff. Churches with excellent stewardship see greater giving because people know that every dollar they give will go towards the mission of the Church. It is very clear this has not been the case at Mars Hill Church.

Instead of reframing the Bible, the pastors of Mars Hill could remind the executive elders about this wisdom. There is much hidden at Mars Hill Church; many people are giving to causes they understand and trust. People don’t need excuses (to use Stoddard’s term in his second post above) not to give to Mars Hill. Church leadership has given them ample reasons to exercise reasonable stewardship. Perhaps current pastors need to write City messages to the EEs and not the congregation.

Megachurch Methods: Mark Driscoll’s Content Management System

Subtitle: Pastor Mark is a Spurgeon for our time.

Most people realize by now that Mark Driscoll and perhaps most megachurch pastors use research help in order to write their books, blogs and columns. Even though the celebrity pastor’s name is on the label, several other writers have been involved in the finished product. When Driscoll issued a statement about plagiarism in his study guide on I & II Peter, he faulted his “content development process.” To many, the statement, which included the famous phrase “mistakes were made,” appeared to pass the buck to those unnamed researchers and writers employed in the development of content.

I have obtained a 2013 proposal for an expansion of the content management system at Mars Hill. I am pretty sure that very little of this is in place now after the recent round of layoffs. In fact, internal sources tell me that Mars Hill Music and The Resurgence is essentially unstaffed. Since it is a proposal, it is not clear how much of this came into being, but it provides an interesting insight into some of the stories which have emerged over the past year.  Here is the front page which provides the rationale for spending time and money promoting Mark Driscoll’s written works.
MarkDriscollCMS2013

Some content would be written by Driscoll but some content would mainly have his thoughts and voice.
Driscollcontentmgtcolumns

I can imagine that having a person dedicated to your publishing business and advancing a personal brand would be a worthy undertaking for an individual who makes his/her living from speaking, writing, and commenting. In other words, if your personal business is growing, surely you need a person who can help manage various projects. What is interesting and may be specific to the megachurch environment is that the church donations and tithes pay for this. Here is the financial aspect of the proposal.
driscollcontentmgtbudget
Budget appears to call for well over $100k once the producer is hired. Some of these expenses were already in place. When the plagiarism scandal first broke in November 2013, Docent Research was in the spotlight for awhile because Driscoll initially implied the researchers were responsible. Thus, Mars Hill members were paying for research which ended up in Mark Driscoll’s books. The royalties from those books eventually ended up with Driscoll.

This information raises questions about how much church funds should help to establish an individual’s ministry. I am not saying I have the answer; perhaps $120k+ is fine given Mars Hill Church’s size. However, even on executive elder — Sutton Turner — expressed reservations. In his 2012 memo to his fellow executive elders, Sutton Turner complained about pastors using the church to do this. It is hard to see the content management system as anything but an advancement of Driscoll’s “communications ministry.” I’ll close with two quotes from Sutton Turner in 2012:

Many times these personal ministries are done during staff time and using church resources. This actually encouraged when I first came on staff as it was explained to me that staff was able to take MHC time to do consulting work to supplement their income. At the very highest levels of the organization this was taking place and reproduced throughout the organization. So as a result, all staff members saw this as acceptable and now the established culture within Mars Hill Church.

and

It is my belief that the reason we have such poor giving by our Church is the lack of stewardship in the Church staff. Churches with excellent stewardship see greater giving because people know that every dollar they give will go towards the mission of the Church. It is very clear this has not been the case at Mars Hill Church.

Ken Ham's Organization Denies Facts About Conference Sponsors

Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis is misinforming questioners about Michael Peroutka who is sponsoring of next month’s creationism speech at a church in Severn, MD. According to AiG representative Troy Lacey, Michael Peroutka never was a part of the League of the South. Acting on a tip from a reader who first wrote AiG earlier in the day, I wrote the organization and asked:

I understand that Ken Ham is speaking at an event in Severn, MD sponsored by Michael Peroutka. Mr. Peroutka is a member and former board member of the League of the South, a Southern nationalist secession group. 

Is Mr. Ham aware of Mr. Peroutka’s affiliation with the League of the South?

Mr. Lacey answered on behalf of AiG:

Hello Warren thank you for contacting Answers in Genesis. Ken Ham is speaking at Severn Christian Church in Severn, MD on October 18th; not to an organization. He was invited by the church leadership to speak there on Creation evangelism topics. The group that is sponsoring the conference appears to be a conservative constitutional reform party, but nothing more that I can see. As an organization we do not involve ourselves in politics.
To answer your question, to our knowledge Michael Peroutka was not a member of nor ever a former board member of the League of the South organization.
I hope this has been helpful,
Troy Lacey

The ad for the event lists the Institute on the Constitution as the sponsors, not the church. I wrote the church to ask for comment with no response.
kenhamdebate
 
The church may be doing more than providing the venue, but it is clear that Ham is being featured by the IOTC which is a DBA label for Michael Peroutka.
There can be no doubt that Michael Peroutka is a member and defender of the League of the South. He refused to distance himself from them at his news conference last month, he wrote the League’s president Michael Hill and asked for support from them, he proudly served as a board member for nearly a year, and he pledged the resources of the IOTC and his family to the aims of the League.
Clearly, AiG is misinformed or hoping to mislead questioners. Ham is speaking at an organization sponsored event and Michael Peroutka was and is a member of the League of the South.
The question now is what will Ham do about it? The denial of Peroutka’s membership seems to imply that the League of the South connection could be a problem for Ham and AiG (as it was for General Jerry Boykin).  We shall see.

Happy Constitution Day 2014!

A bit late but nonetheless, I want to post this link to the government’s site observing the event.

On September 17, 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met for the last time to sign the document they had created. The National Archives and Records Administration celebrates this important day in our nation’s history by presenting the following activities, lesson plans, and information. We encourage teachers and students at all levels to learn more about our Constitution and government.

The U.S. Senate’s page on Constitution Day is here.
Here is a link to the Constitution. I urge you to read it.
Finally, this page is a great resource with the founding documents available for review.
 
 

Seattle Weekly on The Reckoning of Mars Hill Church

Nina Shapiro, writing for Seattle Weekly, has penned an intriguing article filled with interviews of former Mars Hill members.  Shapiro was invited to a Wednesday night meeting where many ex-Mars Hill members and attenders gather to find community.
Here is a taste:

For those here tonight, the downfall has been long coming. Many left years ago, some voluntarily, others after being ousted. And yet the scars seem fresh, the effect lasting.

“Some of us were abused and ostracized,” Thoen continues. “So for some of us, it’s not safe to walk into a building with ‘church’ on the front door.” Thoen himself isn’t one of them. Warily, after leaving Mars Hill two years ago, he and his wife soon joined a new church. Yet his reference to these weekly gatherings as analogous to “church” hints at an unwillingness to devote himself wholly again to a religious organization—an attitude shared by Dwayne Forehand, owner of this backyard.

“I think it’s hard for me to trust the church I’m at, and I’ve been there for five years,” Forehand says. He attempts to explain: “Mars Hill was one of the only places in my whole life where I was . . . ” Forehand casts about for words.

“Vulnerable?” asks Rob Smith, a generation older than many of these men and the instigating force behind these gatherings.

“Yeah, extremely vulnerable,” Forehand says. “Since then, I haven’t been that vulnerable with anyone.”

Go read much more at the Seattle Weekly.

Lots of Similar Retweets on the Mars Hill Letter to the Editor

A letter to the editor was published in the Seattle Times in defense of Mars Hill today. My point now is not to discuss or debate the contents of the letter; regular readers should be able to see the factual problems. I am glad the Times prints letter with a variety of opinions. Discuss it if you want in the comments.
What seems odd is what was happening on Twitter with the link. Many of the accounts don’t appear to be legit or at least they seem suspicious. Note the repetitive nature of them in this screen cap. TwitterLetterEditor Take this one for instance: twitterbedjy The account follows no one, only has 16 followers but 103k tweets.  A search for witch hunt and mars hill finds a lot of accounts like this. I don’t know what to make of it, but like a lot of issues surrounding this story, it is interesting, and you never know where something will lead. Does anyone have any ideas? Can retweets be purchased? And if so, what good would it do?