Mars Hill Church to Close Three Locations; Another on Hold (UPDATED)

DowntownMHCAccording to sources last evening and in church this morning, Mars Hill pastors at four locations told their congregations that their church location would be closed or possibly closed in the near future.
Mars Hill Downtown Seattle, and University of Washington District will be closed and asked to join Mars Hill Ballard. Mars Hill Phoenix, AZ will close at the end of September while Huntington Beach, CA will remain open for awhile pending giving increases. If there is a turnaround, the Huntington Beach location might survive.
The church has been facing loss of attenders and a decline in giving. Blaming negative media attention, Mars Hill executive pastors issued a warning last week. Once billed as one of America’s fastest growing churches, Mars Hill has been losing ground rapidly through a tumultuous 2014.
UPDATE: This was just posted on Mars Hill Church’s website:

Mars Hill,

In last week’s Weekly blog post we shared about the tough financial position we find ourselves in. As we have been seeking to operate within our current means, we have come to the regrettable conclusion that we must consolidate some of our church locations, and close or transition others.


Throughout the day today our pastors at Downtown Seattle and U-District are informing those churches that they will be soon be consolidating with Mars Hill Church Ballard. The first Sunday that all three churches will meet together at Mars Hill Ballard will be October 12.


Mars Hill Church Phoenix is announcing today that their last service as a Mars Hill church will be Sunday, September 28th. We are exploring opportunities for Pastor Tim Birdwell to continue the church in a different form and how we can best support that possible effort.


Additionally, our pastors in Huntington Beach are sharing with the church today that they too are in jeopardy of having to close their doors if they are not able to increase giving by the end of the year. We have also ceased any further development of a Los Angeles church plant.

Please pray for the people attending these churches. If you attend one of these churches, we are deeply sorry, and we hope you are able to make one of the services at Mars Hill Ballard work for you and your family, or if you are in Phoenix that we can work together to best support future opportunities. Your pastors love you and want to help make this as easy for you as possible, so please reach out to them with any questions and needs. I also want you to know we take this very seriously, your pastors grieve over this, and we have made these decisions with great care, and after much prayer.


Even as we are forced to make some hard decisions regarding some of our locations, we are dedicated to planting new churches so that we can lead more people to Jesus. We will explore opportunities as they are presented and as sufficient funding is available. We will continue with our plans to plant Mars Hill Church Spokane, which currently has a strong core group, a location that we believe is sustainable, and a fiscally responsible plan for needed improvements.

While it’s with a heavy heart that I have to deliver this news, I am very thankful for a regional network of churches that can work together as a family. I hope you will join me in praying for these churches and all of those affected by these changes.

Pastor Dave

Additional thoughts:
Oh the irony. Hat tip to Wenatchee the Hatchet for pointing out this video of Mark Driscoll less than a year ago driving a hearse up to a once dead church. That church would be U-District which is closing. Watch:
Mars Hill reportedly offered $1.25 million on the old First Covenant Church building in Spokane earlier this year. Apparently Mars Hill Global Fund is helping with the remodeling. Even though, the church is not meeting yet and the sale of the building has not been recorded with the county, the project remains alive.  I don’t know where the purchase is at present but since it has not been recorded, it would be interesting to find out if the church could back out but decided not to do so.
Becky Garrison just posted a summary of Mars Hill Church property holdings.
Wenatchee the Hatchet uses one of Mark Driscoll’s books to identify the stage of church development Mars Hill is in now. The diagnosis is not favorable but treatment is possible. Will Mars do it?

GoFundMe Account Set Up For Resigning Mars Hill Pastors

A GofundMe account has been set up for Adam Ramsey, Gary Shavey and Dustin Kensrue.  These three were part of the nine Mars Hill Church pastors who called on Mark Driscoll to submit to an elder directed restoration process.  A group of supporters have now set up a fund to help them with the transition after resigning this week.
The website gives more explanation for the effort:

To date one of the volunteer elders was dismissed from his role at the church. The remaining elders have been given a choice on how to proceed according to the these guidelines: When asked if the letter would be discussed the answer was ‘no’. If the elders wanted to stay they would have to champion change within current leadership structure by voicing concerns/issues through proper chain of command, which also means they are not able to talk with elders from other churches or skip levels of command. This is essentially a siloed format in order to keep control. If the elders would not abide by the current chain of command then they were asked to resign. The elders holding to the convictions in which they put in the August 22nd letter that the leadership structure was dysfunctional and not walking in the light could not in good conscience remain in Mars Hill Church. Three men, so far, have determined that they cannot abide by this request and have elected to resign their jobs, elderships, and memberships at Mars Hill. These men are Adam Ramsey (former student ministries pastor), Dustin Kensrue (former Bellevue Worship Pastor) and Gary Shavey (former Bellevue Biblical Living pastor). We believe that these are only the first and that more will follow—likely more than even the remaining elders from the original nine who signed the letter.

As I post this, the site has raised over $10k. Not bad for an hour.

Mark Dunford Explains Dismissal from Mars Hill Church and Much More

Mark Dunford was one of the nine elders who called on Mars Hill Church lead pastor Mark Driscoll to submit to an elder directed restoration plan. Dunford was relieved of his status as an elder at Mars Hill Portland by Tim Smith, lead pastor at Mars Hill’s Portland franchise. It has been assumed that Dunford was relieved of his elder status (he was an unpaid elder) due to his participation in the letter. Now, the rest of the story from his vantage point is available in a statement he just released with his wife and linked to on Facebook (full statement is at this link).
According to Dunford, he was informed of no problems with his status until after the nine elders sent their letter to the Full Council of Elders on August 22. The reaction of the Portland elders surprised him.

Several of them said that they felt “personally betrayed” by me. It was called “immature.” It was even called a “coup d’etat.” Unlike a coup d’etat however, our aim was to restore the leader currently in place, not permanently remove him. Sunday morning was awkward at best, and of course, that is the morning where Mark Driscoll stepped aside for six weeks. This, after the Executive Elders (of which he is one) added three additional members to the board that would adjudicate his charges and having created/restored the Board of Elders to investigate those charges. I want to be clear that the elders themselves are not involved with selecting who would serve on those boards. Again, it was the EE who made those decisions.

Regarding his dismissal, it came from the local elders at Portland:

On Wednesday, August 27th, I was called to a meeting with Portland Elder Tim Smith and a second Portland elder (who has asked not to have his name used). Tim made it clear that the Portland elders felt betrayed and were unwilling to work with me. In his words, he was able to “choose his team,” and was thus able to dismiss me. He made it clear that I had not disqualified myself and therefore, there were no formal charges. They simply did not trust me.

According to Dunford, rumors were spread that the reason for the dismissal related to his marriage. In this letter, Dunford make it clear that the rumors are false but unfortunately not uncommon in relationship to people who leave the church. Such rumors and insinuations have been used about others to give cover for dismissal. You can read the whole unfortunate experience in his statement.
Like Dustin Kensrue’s resignation letter, this statement pulls back the curtain for stakeholders to get a glimpse of the inner workings from the perspective of one former insider. There is much pertaining to the inside perspective on what externally was portrayed differently.
Full text of Mark Dunford’s statement.

Mark Driscoll No Longer Teaching at Corban University?

The question mark in the title is because I was unable to get anyone from Mars Hill Church or Corban University to confirm the meaning of what is now on Corban’s website regarding the course in Apologetics Mark Driscoll was supposed to teach during this academic year. Classes have started but apparently Mark Driscoll isn’t at the head of the class at Corban. Another executive elder Dave Bruskas has also been removed. The course was slated to be led by Driscoll at Mars Hill Church but now the course has been moved to next semester with (TBA – to be announced) listed where the instructor’s name should be. Before: CorbanUnivScheduleOld Now: CorbanUnivScheduleNew Calls to Mars Hill Schools, and Corban University were not returned. Perhaps Driscoll could still be announced next semester; no one wants to announce anything at present. You can read more about the joint program here. For more on the Mars Hill partnerships with Corban and Western Seminary, see Becky Garrison’s reporting in this post.

More Mars Hill Pastor Resignations: Adam Ramsey and Gary Shavey

Two more of the nine pastors who directed Mark Driscoll to step down and enter a restoration plan have resigned from Mars Hill Church. Adam Ramsey, director of student ministries for Mars Hill (youth ministries), and Gary Shavey, biblical living pastor at Bellevue have resigned and issued brief statements. Both signed the letter which expressed dismay over the ministry culture at Mars Hill and called for significant changes in the executive leadership.
On his Facebook page, and in an email to me last evening, Shavey said:

Many have asked if it is true that I resigned from Mars Hill Church. The short answer is yes I have. But going to MH the last 18 years and being a pastor for over 14 years it is hard to put all my thoughts together. I will post more soon, appreciate your patience and have loved all those I have worked with, ministered to and have been ministered by.

Ramsey issued a statement on his website (click through to read the entire post):

We love the people who make up Mars Hill Church and wouldn’t trade the past couple of years we’ve had serving them and Jesus for anything. It has become clear to us over the past month however, that we will no longer be able to continue forward in good conscience under the current leadership structure and ministry culture.  So it was with a sad heart but a clear conscience that I handed in my resignation to Mars Hill yesterday morning, far earlier than we had ever hoped or anticipated. Because of the current work visa that I am on, that also means we will be required to leave the country by the end of this month.

One effect of Ramsey’s departure is the reduction of youth ministries.  Yesterday, the pastor of Mars Hill Sammamish, Alex Ghioni announced the closing of the student ministry there.

Update on Mars Hill Sammamish Student Ministry
Pastor Alex Ghioni
Dear Parents of our RED Students,
Tonight at the close of our Student Ministry I had to communicate some difficult news. We have just learned that Pastor Adam Ramsey has decided to transition out of his role as the Director and Teaching Pastor for Mars Hill student ministries. He has been a dear friend and great pastor that has blessed so many in his ministry here. He has plans to return to Australia with his family and plant a church there. There’s a second bit of news that hits us even deeper here at Mars Hill Sammamish. Deacon Josiah Diener has decided to step down from his leadership position here at our church. He shared with me that he has some personal convictions that would prevent him from continuing to lead in student ministry in good conscience. He intends to stay and worship with us but cannot lead in the way that is best for our students. I have appreciated Josiah’s willingness to serve Jesus and our students with passion and conviction. He too has been a great blessing that the Holy Spirit brought and used at our church.

Ghioni did not mention the fact that Ramsey’s departure was due to his disagreements with the leadership and culture at Mars Hill.
Even as Ghioni put the best face on Ramsey’s decision, he acknowledged that the church is “contracting.” Apparently, at this time, the student ministry position will not be filled due to lack of funds.

At a time where our church is contracting and we struggle to find godly ways to move forward we are faced with diminishing resources, leaders, and helpers in every one of our ministries. These circumstances leave us without a leader to shepherd our students or resources to hire additional staff. It is with great sorrow that I have to let you know that it was with a heavy heart that I announced to your students tonight that this would be our last student ministry meeting here at Mars Hill Sammamish for the short term. It is my fervent hope that we can and are dealing with the larger issues that have brought us to this point. I believe that what emerges will be a more godly, helpful, and healthy church that will bring glory to God and bless his people.

Sources tell me Josh Clayton, community groups pastor, can also be added to the list. Clayton was an unpaid, volunteer elder who stepped down from that position. However, I have not gotten direct confirmation from Clayton, although his Mars Hill profile now omits any mention of his role as an elder.

Mars Hill Church Posts Bylaws

Apparently Dustin Kensrue’s resignation letter (and perhaps this post today) sparked enough concern at Mars Hill Church to add a line to the Governance page of the church website. Earlier today, I noted Kensrue’s call for transparency and noted that the state of Washington and the ECFA require disclosure of bylaws to members. For Mars Hill Church, members refers to elders and not church members. The posting of this link, especially if they somehow let members know they can now see them, is an improvement. Here is what the Mars Hill Church governance page looked like on September 2 (via Google cache): Governancenobylaws090214cache Here is what it looks like today: Governancebylaws090414 Note the orange arrow. This line was added since September 2 (some sources tell me it was added today), complete with links to the Mars Hill Church bylaws and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. The link leads to the copy of the bylaws which I have been using to discuss governance at Mars Hill. Now maybe we’ll get some Mars Hill Global numbers…

Citation Error in Sutton Turner's Book Invest? (UPDATED with reply from Mars Hill Church)

While Mark Driscoll has garnered much attention regarding his citation errors (e.g., plagiarism, factual errors, inadequate citations), Driscoll’s assistant and fellow executive elder may also need to do some correcting. In chapter four of his book, Invest, Turner lists differences between a job and a ministry:

  • If you want praise and recognition for what you do, it’s a job. If no one else besides Jesus needs to commend your work, it’s ministry.
  • If you do the job as long as it does not cut into other things (such as hobbies, family activities, etc.), it’s a job. If you are willing to make sacrifices in your personal schedule, it’s ministry.
  • If you compare your lot with others who have more free time, more money, and more possessions, it’s a job. If you pray for others rather than compete with them, it’s ministry.
  • If it bothers you when the phone rings on evenings and weekends, it’s a job. If you see random calls at odd hours as opportunities to serve with joy, it’s ministry.
  • If you want to quit because the work is too hard, the pressure is too great, or your performance is criticized, it’s a job. If you stick it out—until Jesus clearly tells you that it’s time to move on—it’s ministry.
  • If you use the church as a stepping-stone, a payday, or a gold star on your résumé, it’s a job. If you’re working for the church because you love Jesus and you want more people to meet him, get saved, and be transformed, then it’s ministry.
  • Turner, Sutton (2013-12-16). Invest: Your Gifts for His Mission (Kindle Location 673). Resurgence Publishing, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Compare Turner’s list in his 2013 book with this list from a 1999 sermon by Mickey Anders.

Someone has said there is a huge difference between having a job at church and having a ministry at church.
… If you are doing it because no one else will, it’s a job. If you are doing it to serve the Lord, it’s a ministry.
… If you’re doing it just well enough to get by, it’s a job. If you’re doing it to the best of your ability, it’s a ministry.
… If you’ll do it only so long as it doesn’t interfere with other activities, it’s a job. If you’re committed to staying with it even when it means letting go of other things, it’s a ministry.
… It’s hard to get excited about a job. It’s almost impossible not to get excited about a ministry.
An average church is filled with people doing jobs. A great church is filled with people involved in ministry.
Dr. Mickey Anders,
Sermon: “The Beginning of Ministry,” First Christian Church, Pikeville, Kentucky January 24, 1999

There are other lists attributed to Anders and very nearly the same list also attributed to a Melody Blevins.  Anders was, until recently, affiliated with the South Elkhorn Christian Church in Lexington, KY. Many lists like this are printed without attribution and often add something to Anders list (although I have no way of knowing what was in Anders original list). Take this one for instance:

Is it a Job or a Ministry?
Some people have a job in the church. Others get involved in a ministry.
What’s The Difference?
If you’re doing it because no one else will, it’s a job.
If you’re doing it to serve the Lord, it’s a ministry.
If you’ll do it so long as it doesn’t interfere with other activities it’s a job.
If you’re committed to staying with it even when it means letting go of other things, it’s a ministry.
If you quit because no one praised or thanked you, it was a job.
If you stayed with it even though no one seems to notice, it’s a ministry.
It is hard to get excited about a job.
It is almost impossible not to be excited about a ministry.
If your concern is “success”, it’s a job.
If your concern is “faithfulness”, it’s a ministry.
An average church is filled with people doing jobs.
A great church is filled with people who are involved in ministries!

The list attributed to Melody Blevins has similar points:

A JOB OR A MINISTRY – by Melody Blevins
Some people have a JOB in the church; others involve themselves in a MINISTRY. What’s the difference? If you are doing it just because no one else will, it’s a JOB. If you are doing it to serve the Lord, it’s a MINISTRY. If you quit because someone criticized you, it was a JOB. If you keep on serving, it’s a MINISTRY. If you’ll do it only so long as it does not interfere with your other activities, it’s a JOB. If you are committed to staying with it even when it means letting go of other things, it’s a MINISTRY. If you quit because no one praised you or thanked you, it is a JOB. If you stay with it even though nobody recognizes your efforts, it’s a MINISTRY. It’s hard to get excited about a JOB. It’s almost impossible not to be excited about a MINISTRY. If our concern is success, it’s a JOB. If our concern is faithfulness, it’s a MINISTRY. An average church is filled with people doing JOBS. A great and growing church is filled with people involved in MINISTRY. Where do we fit in? What about us? If God calls you to a MINISTRY, don’t treat it like a JOB. If you have a JOB, give it up and find a MINISTRY. God does not want us feeling stuck with a JOB, but excited and faithful to Him in MINISTRY.

The lists are not identical but they seem similar enough that attribution certainly would be appropriate. At least one reviewer of the book took the list to be original with Turner.
This list or construction might not be original with either Anders or Blevins, but the point is that it does not appear to be original with Turner. Various lists like this have gotten passed around the web since the early days. It didn’t take me long to find two possible authors but no one is cited in Invest. When in doubt, an author should footnote and describe where the material was discovered. An author can adapt material but this should be noted in a footnote.
I have asked Sutton Turner for comment and will report if he replies. Perhaps this is a rare coincidence. However, the Blevins/Anders lists clearly predate Invest, and unless another explanation is offered appear to be the basis for this section of Turner’s book.
UPDATE: Both Sutton Turner and Communications Director Justin Dean responded to my request for comment. Turner took the request seriously and replied that he would correct the problems identified when the book was reprinted. Justin Dean also wrote to say:

We are looking into the best way to cite this in the footnotes and will update the book upon reprint. I don’t have any other information about this right now but we will look into it and make any changes necessary.

His answer was in response to my question about the nature of the error. Did Turner use material he knew wasn’t his or was it an oversight? I am still not clear on this but I can say that it was refreshing to get a serious respectful reply.

Washington Law and Dustin Kensrue to Mars Hill Church: Release the Bylaws

Former Mars Hill Church Director of Worship Dustin Kensrue resigned on Monday. His letter of resignation was posted yesterday. In it, Kensrue offered several suggestions to current members. I want to focus on his suggestion about church bylaws: Kensrue wrote:

What Else Can You Do?
• Ask questions and share your concerns with your pastors, especially your lead pastor.
 Ask to see the bylaws and study them yourself. If any church will not share it’s bylaws, it’s probably not safe to trust that church. MH has gone so far as to deny the current bylaws to elder candidates (myself included) on the explicit order of Sutton Turner, and when I wanted to see them as an elder, I had to look online where they had been “leaked.” (emphasis added)

This blog is one such place where one can review the Mars Hill bylaws (click the link).
Consistent with Kensrue’s report, I have been told by current and former members that requests to see the bylaws have been denied by Mars Hill pastors. However, keeping people (see below, Mars Hill elders) away from the bylaws may violate Washington law. According to the Washington Nonprofit Corporation Act, members must have access to organization bylaws:

Required documents in the form of a record — Inspection — Copying.
Each corporation shall keep at its registered office, its principal office in this state, or at its secretary’s office if in this state, the following documents in the form of a record:
(1) Current articles and bylaws;
(2) A list of members, including names, addresses, and classes of membership, if any;
(3) Correct and adequate statements of accounts and finances;
(4) A list of officers’ and directors’ names and addresses;
(5) Minutes of the proceedings of the members, if any, the board, and any minutes which may be maintained by committees of the board.
The corporate records shall be open at any reasonable time to inspection by any member of more than three months standing or a representative of more than five percent of the membership.
Cost of inspecting or copying shall be borne by such member except for costs for copies of articles or bylaws. Any such member must have a purpose for inspection reasonably related to membership interests. Use or sale of members’ lists by such member if obtained by inspection is prohibited.
The superior court of the corporation’s or such member’s residence may order inspection and may appoint independent inspectors. Such member shall pay inspection costs unless the court orders otherwise.
[2004 c 265 § 14; 1986 c 240 § 24; 1967 c 235 § 28.] (emphasis added)

Most churches have their bylaws readily available for review. Mars Hill Church leaders keep them under cover. This should be a huge red flag.
About a week ago, I asked Dan Busby, the president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, if member organizations were allowed to keep bylaws from members but he did not reply. Guidance for churches on the ECFA website appears to require disclosure of bylaws:

Standard 5 – Transparency – Every member shall provide a copy of its current financial statements upon written request and shall provide other disclosures as the law may require. The financial statements required to comply with Standard 3 must be disclosed under this Standard. (emphasis added)

Washington law requires bylaws be available for review. Unless there are special exemptions for churches, it appears that Mars Hill Church is at odds with state law and out of compliance with ECFA guidelines. I should also point out that the seven member self-perpetuating Board of Advisors and Accountability can change the bylaws without approval of the Full Council of Elders or the congregation.
Additional Information: In re-reading the post, there is a component of the story that I should have included the first time around. While it does not change the general thrust of the post, I need to add some information to this call to release the bylaws.
It seems apparent that the authors of the Mars Hill Church bylaws were familiar with WA state law. In Article 4, the bylaws distinguish between “spiritual” members and members for the purpose of state law.
Mars Hill Church calls people who take the membership covenant “members” but not “members for state law purposes.” Even though the people who agree to the membership covenant are supposed to tithe, give money beyond their tithes, volunteer, support the pastors, etc., they are not “members for state laws purposes.” In other words, they are not entitled to get bylaws and other information that the actual members are supposed to get. In this case, the bylaws labels elder as being “members for state law purposes.” I wonder how many “members” not “for state law purposes” know that they aren’t really legal members of the church? Give time, talents and tithes, support the pastors but members can’t vote or even have access to the rules which govern the body to which they pledge a covenant.
As noted in Kensrue’s resignation letter, the leadership of Mars Hill Church has kept the bylaws even from the legal members which appears to be a violation of state law and ECFA guidance. It seems to me that congregation members could challenge the viability of their membership covenant since they really aren’t joining an organization where they have any participation in governance.
Kensrue also discussed how the bylaws inform the examination of charges against Mark Driscoll. In a related post, later today, I will look at what Kensrue has to say about that in comparison with the bylaws.

Mars Hill Church Director of Worship Dustin Kensrue Resigns

One of the nine elders who called on Mark Driscoll to enter an elder directed restoration process has resigned from Mars Hill Church. Director of Worship Dustin Kensrue resigned on Monday and issued a statement today. Reportedly, two other signers of the letter addressed to their peers at Mars Hill have also resigned. Sources in a position to know tell me that Gary Shavey and Adam Ramsey have also resigned. With these resignations, four of the original nine have now either resigned or been relieved of their position.
Kensrue was the leader of the band Thrice and also led worship at Mars Hill Orange County until he moved to Seattle in 2012 to take on the job of leading Mars Hill Music. Kensrue’s artist profile remains up on the Mars Hill website but his pastor profile has been removed (see it via Google cache).
The statement is at the link and provides an explanation for why Kensrue is resigning now. Rather than take parts of it here or reproduce the whole thing, I recommend that you click through and read it for yourself.

UPDATE: After having read the letter, I want to punctuate it with several segments. Kensrue essentially validates the concerns I have expressed repeatedly as have others. The Mars Hill Church Full Council of Elders has almost no authority and cannot bring accountability to the situation. Kensrue wrote:

So, what’s the answer to the question “what can your elders do?” Simply put, sadly not much. This is why we’ve looked pained when you’ve have asked us what we are going to do about all of this. There is nothing we’ve been able to do except bring the issue to our lead pastor. He in turn can bring it to his lead pastor coach. The coach in turn can bring it to the EE. As far as I’ve seen, if it ever reaches this point the concern is generally ignored and floats away into the ether. At other times recently, we have been told that certain subjects (e.g. the church’s
polity in general) were off the table completely.
This should concern you. Your pastors, who are on the ground with you, who know you, who care for you, who pray with you, and in whom you trust – these men have essentially no voice and no vote in what happens with your church as a whole, and the leadership is actively trying to limit the voice that they do have. If your pastors had a voice and a vote, do not think that the last year would have looked a bit different? Do you not think they would have done something? While the problem with the lack of transparency is huge, the problems with our broken view of eldership and our broken bylaws are more foundational problems.

The clear message from Kensrue is that nothing has changed and the process is rigged. I didn’t say it, he did.

Former Mars Hill Church Members Speak Out About Church Finances

I recently talked with a couple who were members and leaders at Mars Hill Church from 2003 to 2012.* The couple was involved in leading Community Groups and the wife served as a Deacon in the counseling ministry. While there, they donated to the both the Global Fund and the General Fund and assumed that much of the money given to the Global Fund was going to support international mission efforts. The wife told me:

We definitely had an expectation that our gifts were going to global missions. My husband and I have always had a heart for missions. We have adopted from Uganda and for years tried to encourage the church to start an adoption or orphan care ministry. I started my career in international development and now work in social enterprise. We were always trying to encourage the church to do more in the area of mercy and justice. So when they announced the global fund we were hopeful it was the beginning of something.

When Sutton Turner introduced the Ethiopian ministry to the church in 2012, many assumed the Global Fund was going to be the international mission outreach of the church (just as the church said on its website). And as I have demonstrated with Mars Hill’s own video promotions, the leaders told the members that Mars Hill Global was the church’s ministry for international missions. It is no surprise that the members took that at face value. One former staffer in the finance department went on the record to say that the fund was a restricted fund. However, the church has not made an accounting of those funds available to donors or the media.
The couple had other concerns as well. The wife said they had questions about transparency around the church’s finances:

When we joined Mars Hill, there was an open book policy regarding church finances. We felt comfortable giving both because we trusted the Elders at the time and because we knew we could see how money was being spent if we had questions. This all changed. By the time we left the church in 2012, we felt upset about the secrecy surrounding Executive Elder salaries and spending on music videos, world travel, music and video production equipment, not to mention the promotion of Mark Driscoll’s books. We were frustrated that the church was cutting support for programs that were meeting real needs in our community, such as coat drives for the homeless.
At Mars Hill, we were taught that everything we have belongs to God and we are called to be stewards. This is how we try to live our lives, and we assumed our church would be doing the same. We feel both sad and discouraged as we discover more about how church has spent money from both the General Fund and the Global Fund.

The couple referred to a story I continue to explore. Multiple sources have told me that one Seattle campus was discouraged from holding a drive to donate coats to homeless individuals because other core functions were insufficiently met in the eyes of the executive pastors. Of course, Mars Hill won’t comment and those who have first hand knowledge prefer not to go on the record. However, the story is one I frequently hear.
Currently, members are being asked to give more to help make up for a financial short fall. The church is blaming the decline on “negative media attention.” However, in addition to problems which are now documented, I suspect giving is suffering because some members wonder where their donations are being used. In addition, I recently spoke to three current members who simply asked their pastors for a copy of the church by-laws. According to these members who remain anonymous because they fear retaliation, their request was refused. This is difficult to understand, and probably does not inspire confidence or enthusiastic support financial or otherwise.

*Due to concerns about a conflict of interest involving a current employer, the couple prefers to remain unnamed.