Seven Years Ago, Paul Tripp Resigned from the Board of Advisors and Accountability of Mars Hill Church

Seven years ago today, popular Christian Bible teacher and counselor Paul David Tripp resigned from the Mars Hill Church Board of Advisors and Accountability. Based in Seattle with Mark Driscoll at the helm, the church’s history has gotten renewed interest recently due to vocal former members at Driscoll’s current church in Phoenix and a Christianity Today podcast series examing the rise and fall (in 2014) of the church. Here is the brief post from that day on this blog:

Paul Tripp has resigned from the Mars Hill Church Board of Advisors and Accountability.

Tripp, one of the newest board members and popular conference speaker, was unavailable this morning, but in response to my question about Tripp’s membership on the Mars Hill Church BOAA, Steve Sarkisian, Vice President of Paul Tripp Ministries, told me, “Paul resigned from the board.”

No reason was given for the departure.

Paul Tripp was appointed to the Board in November, 2013.

I will add more information as it becomes available.

More information did become available.

On August 1, the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability came out with a statement saying Tripp agreed to work as a consultant with no indication of trouble between Tripp and the board. However, later on August 12, Tripp disclosed that he did not believe the church structure of having a board of non-local advisors (such as exists now at Mark Driscoll’s The Trinity Church) is workable or helpful. He believed then that local oversight is needed.

The church at the time did not have true elder rule in that there was an executive board of elders made up of Driscoll, Sutton Turner, and Dave Bruskas. The other governing board was made up of advisors, such as Tripp, who did not attend Mars Hill and met infrequently.

Then later that month, we learned that Tripp believed that Mars Hill Church was

the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.

This statement came in a conversation with nine elders who still worked at Mars Hill and were getting advice from Tripp about how to effect change at the church. The elders decided to take what they called then “a bold stand” and call on Mark Driscoll to take time off and enter an elder directed plan of restoration. This was before the investigation into the formal charges against Driscoll came to the same conclusion. Eventually, Driscoll resigned instead of entering that process.

To read the Postcards from Phoenix series, click here

To read all Mars Hill Church posts, click here

 

And Then There Were 41: Two Additional Mars Hill Elders Sign the Statement Calling on Mark Driscoll to Resign from The Trinity Church

On Monday, Christianity Today posted a statement from 39 former Mars Hill Church elders who served from 2011 to 2014 which called for Mark Driscoll to step down as pastor of The Trinity Church in Phoenix. I followed that with an inside look at the development of the statement.

Today, I can report that two more elders have added their names to the list: Will Little and Phil Poirier. Since there are nearly 40 more who could add their name, there may be others who join the list. When you think even a little about this, it is a stunning occasion to have this many former staff take this kind of public stance.

Here is the current statement and list:

Statement from Former Mars Hill Church Elders:

We are saddened to learn that Mark Driscoll has continued in a pattern of sinful actions towards staff members and congregants as he pastors. The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. These sinful leadership behaviors appear similar to what he exhibited in his leadership role at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. We are troubled that he continues to be unrepentant despite the fact that these sins have been previously investigated(1), verified, and brought to his attention by his fellow Elders,prior to his abrupt resignation. Accordingly, we believe that Mark is presently unfit for serving the church in the office of pastor. Knowing that we have no formal authority in this current matter, we hope that Mark will voluntarily
resign his position immediately. We also hope that those who have influence over Mark would encourage him to do so.

We sympathize with those who have been wounded by Mark and pray for their healing. We have engaged and heard from many former Mars Hill Church staff and members who were hurt by domineering leadership, harsh speech, and angry outbursts and are sobered by the devastation victims
have suffered. We realize that Mark left deep pain in the lives of many by being unwilling to seek restoration and reconciliation with those he has sinned against. We grieve the harm that has come to The Trinity Church as well as the damage to the reputation of Jesus among unbelievers through Mark’s words and actions.

We plead with Mark to participate in and submit to Christian conciliation(2), in the important work of pursuing repentance, reconciliation, and restoration with those he has harmed and sinned against. We are disappointed in the leaders who affirmed Mark’s role in planting The Trinity Church. They provided a ministry endorsement from a distance, rather than investigating carefully the charges against him and leading him in a process of repentance and reconciliation. This “translocal” advisory structure has allowed Mark to avoid the accountability he needs.

We hope and pray, by the grace of God, that Mark will submit himself to a prolonged season under the Godly leadership and direction of a local church body and Elder team. Many of us stand willing and ready to pursue reconciliation with Mark and assist others who also would like to do the same. Our hope is that after being restored in the future, Mark will find an appropriate place to serve and be served in the Body of Christ. However, we don’t believe that it would be prudent or healthy for him to be in a position of spiritual authority in a church or ministry setting for the foreseeable future.

In faith, hope, and love through Jesus,
Former Mars Hill Church Elders

Jerry Austin, Kyle Firstenberg, Will Little, Miles Rohde, Sutton Turner, Joel Brown, Carlos Garcia, Dick A McKinley, Paul Rohrbaugh, Matt Wallace, Dave Bruskas, Tim Gaydos, Ryan Mount, James Rose, Ryan Welsh, Ed Choi, Aaron Gray, Steven Mulkey, Gary Shavey, Ryan Williams, Josh Clayton, Bubba Jennings, Bob Paulsen, Tim Smith, Steve Zietlow, Gabe Davis, Matt Johnson, Tim Patton, Joe Stengele, Rich Downen, Brian Jonkman, Andy Phipps, Brian Stoddard, Cliff Ellis, Dave Kraft, Phil Poirier, Jim Tomisser, David Fairchild, Ryan Kearns, Adam Ramsey, Steve Tompkins

………………………………….

1 The Board of Elders of Mars Hill Church investigated the formal charges against Mark Driscoll and issued the attached findings on Monday, October 13, 2014
2 Christian conciliation is a Biblically based method of peacemaking in order to resolve conflict and restore relationships.

 

Inside the Former Mars Hill Church Elders Call for Mark Driscoll to Resign from The Trinity Church

In a stunning statement posted this morning at Christianity Today, 39 former Mars Hill Church elders call on Mars Hill co-founder and current The Trinity Church pastor Mark Driscoll to resign from his current post. Their message is simple: Driscoll was disqualified from pastoring at his former church and never completed a restoration process to become qualified. He now is repeating past mistakes and should step down.

This message follows months of revelations here on this blog, at Julie Roys’ website, and elsewhere from former The Trinity Church members of actions which sounded like the Mars Hill Church charges which were investigated in 2014. As former Mars Hill colleagues and executive committee members Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas detailed in this interview with me last year, Driscoll resigned before he was restored to pastoral ministry at Mars Hill.

Inside the Statement

The elder statement dropped today has been in the works for several weeks. The CT article about the statement chronicles the interaction of some of those former Mars Hill leaders and members and recent Trinity Church leavers. There is a community of people from Seattle and Phoenix who now have Mark Driscoll in common. No doubt more than one person has said, ‘nice to meet you, sorry it is under these circumstances.’

The formal charges against Driscoll covered the years 2011-2014. The elders who were contacted to sign the statement served during that time frame. Thirty-nine elders signed the statement but there are 26 who agreed with it but declined to sign for various reasons. According to an elder close to the process, the main reasons elders who agreed with the statement declined to sign it was fear of legal or other kind of retaliation from Driscoll or fear of jeopardy to their current ministry or other job. Some worried about the emotional toll of public involvement. Very few, less than a dozen, disagreed with the action.

This statement comes during the “Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” podcast series which is shining a light on the Seattle megachurch. The cognitive dissonance must be extreme for people continuing to attend The Trinity Church.

The interviews with former executive elders at Mars Hill Church Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas are below:

Part One

Part Two (Much of the discussion of the end of Mars Hill and Driscoll’s resignation is in this part)

Postcards from Phoenix: When Family Ties are Tested

In an earlier postcard, we heard from a young man who felt his family loyalties were tested by his employment at The Trinity Church. He felt he had to choose between his parents and loyalty to the leadership of the church. He chose his parents.

In this Postcard from Phoenix, Jolie Monea describes a similar situation. She feels estranged from her daughter (married to Zac Driscoll) because Jolie maintains relationships with people who have left The Trinity Church and have expressed their views publicly.

Church should not divide families. In fact, it seems like one of those red flags Julie describes when a church influences members to cut off family members when they aren’t sufficiently loyal or deferential to the leaders. I hope that the upshot of this situation is a restoration of family relationships and that all can get into a church which facilitates family ties rather than weakens them.

Warren-

I have been thinking about writing out my story for a while now but every time I sit down to organize my words, I am flooded with memories both good and bad from the last 8 years.  This postcard gives me the opportunity to pull back the curtain a little bit and look at my time at Mars Hill and Trinity.  Although there are many example’s I could give I am just going to recount one experience for this postcard.  Hopefully it will help me begin to untangle all the other things I have experienced and witnessed over the years. I also hope it will shine some light on the bigger issue of the continued patterns of abuse that happened behind the scenes at Mars Hill and are now happening a bit more openly at Trinity.

It would probably help for context to give a little background.  Our family began attending Mars Hill at the end of 2012 during a difficult season for us.  Our kids weren’t connecting at the church we had been attending and our marriage was struggling.  Eventually we made the decision to transition, as a family, to Mars Hill Bellevue and Shoreline.  We quickly got connected and began serving.  Our children also attended the same school as the Driscoll kids and became fast friends.  We cherished the friends we met at Mars Hill and loved serving as a family.  We enjoyed the music and the preaching, but the shift and transformation that God had made in our family was what we were most thankful for during this time.

So, when Mark stepped down and we realized that they would be moving we began to pray about making the move with them.  Fast forward to God bringing us to Arizona the summer of 2015.  It was never our intention to be employed by the church or even to have any large role in their ministry.  We simply felt called to move and be supportive of people that we considered friends.  Although, I was never employed by the church, I spent countless hours volunteering with the creative team and women’s ministry.  My husband volunteered with managing the offerings and my children volunteered in kid’s ministry.  As a family, Trinity was like our second home.  As time went on, I became more involved in leadership with women’s ministry, even to the point of doing some writing and a small amount of teaching.  One of our older daughters became part time staff in the children’s ministries department, and our younger two daughters became Junior interns.

Looking back over the years, there were many things that gave us pause. However, because of our close ties with the Driscoll family we ignored many red flags.  During the summer of 2020, God began to open our eyes wider to these red flags. One big concern was the fact that there are no local elders. That same summer I made the decision to follow an opportunity to attend and lead in women’s ministry at another local church where a close friend was teaching a class.  Although, this is a story for another time, I bring it up because it is when I first noticed a definite shift in how I was treated at Trinity especially by Mark’s wife, Grace.  We also started noticing a slight change in how our families interacted.

By December of 2020, there were just too many red flags that my husband, myself and our two younger daughters were seeing to continue serving and attending Trinity.  We told our older daughter, who was and is on staff, a few of our main concerns and decided to quietly leave with our younger two girls and start attending the church I had been getting involved with over the past fall.  All of this seemed fairly simple to us.  Our intention was to express some concerns but not to cause any sort of a vocal problem.  You might be thinking to yourself, no big deal, people switch churches all the time.  It is true people feel called to switch churches for many different reasons, and it’s not a big deal.  In my ignorance of how much the situation had escalated, I thought we could make the quiet transition without too much of an issue.

Before I share the event in February that lead to this postcard, I need to give you a critical piece of the puzzle.  Our daughter has been in a relationship with one of the Driscoll’s sons for the past seven years, and they were married this past March.  During the months of January and February, I had been in the church parking lot on several occasions to pick up my daughter or drop wedding related things off.  I never ventured past the parking lot, but I also never got the impression that I wasn’t welcome.  A dear friend of mine hosted a bridal shower that Grace, her girls and many other Trinity people and staff attended.  It was clear at this time that there was tension, but at no time was I told that I was considered “unsafe” or a problem.
The only message we received after leaving Trinity was a simple text from Mark letting us know that he approved of our new church.  So, when I decided to go to Trinity on a Wednesday morning two weeks before the wedding, I had no idea what would come next.   The flower girl for the wedding is the daughter of a close friend of mine.  Since my friend was a table lead for women’s ministry, her daughter attended kid’s ministry, and my daughter worked on Wednesdays, it was the perfect opportunity for the flower girl to try on her dress so we could all see it.

My plan was to bring the dress and meet them at church early so I would not disrupt anything going on in women’s ministry that morning.  I thought maybe I would get the chance to say hello to a few friends but leave before things got started.  I think most people would describe me as non-conflict oriented and harmless, but for some reason that morning I was viewed as a threat.  I met my friend and daughter in the parking lot and began walking towards the main building to use the bathroom.  I started noticing that I was being watched.  I dismissed it as people being surprised to see me.  As soon as I walked in the door, I was asked by campus pastor Brandon Anderson to step outside so he could talk to me.  It might be important to note here that I have known Brandon’s family since I was in high school.  We attended the same church growing up and I had dated his cousin.  I genuinely thought Brandon wanted to catch up and see how we were doing at our new church.  I was completely taken off guard when he was dismissive and rude.  He asked why I was there and how long I planned on staying.  I let him know I was only there for the flower girl to try on her dress and maybe say hello to a few people.  It was at that point that he told me it would be better if I left because they were taping, and he didn’t want a problem.  I was completely shocked and speechless, trying to figure out what was happening.  I went back inside, made sure the dress fit, hugged my friend and said good-bye to my daughter.  It was at that point I noticed John Welnick (Mark’s assistant) watching me during these interactions.  As I walked out the door, completely rattled, I noticed John follow me out and watch me walk to my car and drive off campus.  I quickly called my husband to tell him what had happened.  By the time I returned home I was in tears and confused on many levels. Questions were flooding my thoughts. Why had I been asked to leave?  Why didn’t anyone stop it or say something? What had I done that was so offensive?

Later, one of my older daughter’s saw my face and knew something was wrong.  As I relayed the story, she texted her sister on Trinity church staff to find out what had happened and was met with an unwillingness to discuss the situation.  Moments later my husband received a phone call from our future son-in-law to inform him that there had been a situation.  He informed my husband that they were just taking precautions since they didn’t know why I was at church.  My husband questioned the church by-line of “opening our Bibles to learn and our lives to love” if they were going to only allow certain people to attend on a Wednesday morning or even be on the church campus.  He then said that he would like both John and Brandon to call him with an explanation and apology.  No phone call was made by John, however, Brandon did call a day later with a confusing explanation of it being a mistake because he was stressed and overwhelmed. At that point, he did offer an apology.  My husband questioned why I would be considered a threat or problem, and he received no explanation.

Two weeks later at the wedding the shift in how people from Trinity treated us was almost comical.  Hugs and “we love you and your family” coming from everyone including the Driscolls. It felt completely fake and done for show.  Again, there was no mention of us being unsafe or dangerous people.  I have asked for an explanation on what I could have possibly done that lead to me being asked to leave campus and have still not received any valid reason to why I was asked to leave.

Since then, I have taken the time to invite people into our home, listen to their stories of hurt and abuse and do my best to love them and stand with them.  Because of our choice to publicly stand with the hurting and open up our home to people, our home is now considered unsafe by The Trinity Church. Just for being seen with a person who left the church, I was told I was unsafe by one of the Driscolls. This has had a damaging effect on our relationship with our daughter and son-in-law. Now they seem unwilling to come to our home or even meet with us at this point.  Unfortunately, this has also had an effect on their relationship with our 5 other daughters.  I still struggle to understand how opening our home to love people and walk in obedience to Jesus leads to this type of treatment.  I want to be the type of person that walks alongside people in love and stands up for truth especially in cases of abuse and hurt. I believe this is the role of the local church and in turn our role as the body of Christ.   I believe forgiveness is essential, but I don’t believe that means we stay silent about injustice.  Sadly, in listening to people share their stories we also learned of the hurtful and untrue things that Mark and Grace have been telling people about us over the years-also a story for another time.  Pulling back the curtain to see that the teaching (although not always biblically based) doesn’t match the personal life or true character of Mark and Grace.

Although, I have much to still untangle and share about the past eight years, I think it’s these true stories of people’s experiences that show the character, exclusivity and pattern of abuse that begin to paint a picture of a toxic church culture instead of a loving church culture.  I hope others will also have the courage to come forward and share their experiences.  Together we help others feel heard and less alone.  I heard a couple of comments from the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast from Daniel Silliman and Kate Shellnut that really resonated with me.  “The silence [to victims] feels like church wide consent” Kate Shellnut took it a bit further with a quote from Ted Olsen, “When someone does something wrong that hurts, when you find out that people knew and didn’t say anything that hurts worse.”

I am aware that sharing this story, continuing to stand with others, and continuing to share more parts of my story will invite criticism and further family conflict.  However, it is important to me to stand up to bullies, focus on what God is asking of me, and trust Him to work the rest out.  My heart and prayers are for healing and restoration for those that are hurt and broken.  I desire for people to learn the truth and understand that this is not how a healthy Jesus centered church treats people.  My hope is for people to move forward in a healthy church that shines the light and love of Jesus to those in and outside of the Church.  The Church should be a place where people feel loved and welcomed, not controlled, abused and shunned.  We are to be the example of supernatural unity and what it looks like to truly love our neighbor.  There should be no difference between what happens behind closed doors and what is preached from the pulpit.

I would also like to take this opportunity to ask a few questions of all those that have said we should be quiet; that calling out the “flaws” of pastors isn’t biblical.  Is it Christ-like to stand with the hurting?  Is it Christ-like to call out religious abuse?  Would you come forward and speak against physical abuse or abuse against a woman or child?  I want to be clear that I believe it is biblical and Christ-like to forgive, love, pray for and call out abusive behavior in the church. We are to shine light in the darkness.  We are to stand with and love the broken and hurting.  No one should have to show their bruises to prove that they’ve been abused.  Psychological, emotional and spiritual abuse are just as damaging as physical abuse.  This type of abuse from the church causes deep soul damage.  The Church should not be silent on these issues especially when it is happening at the hands of those in leadership.  When we are honest about what happens in the church and don’t cover up abuse but instead stand up for the hurting, we send a powerful message to the world.  We are all broken people in need of a Savior and together with Jesus we can find healing that leads to a life filled with hope, love and unity.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples: if you have love for one another.”  John 13:34-35

Sincerely,

Jolie

Click here to read all of the Postcards from Phoenix

 

A Former Mars Hill Church Pastor Speaks Out About Mark Driscoll

Andrew Lisi was involved at Mars Hill Church from December 2011 to March, 2014. During that time, he was an Executive Pastor, Community Groups Pastor and Biblical Living Pastor at three different campus churches (Downtown, U-District and West Seatte). When Andrew resigned, allegations of pastoral abuse and wrongdoing had started to surface against lead pastor Mark Driscoll.

Andrew recently reached out to me with a letter of concern he wrote to the Executive Elders of Mars Hill Church at the time of his resignation (Dave Bruskas, Sutton Turner, and Mark Driscoll). The letter expressed many of his reasons for leaving. He contacted me in response to the recent reports from former members of The Trinity Church in Phoenix. Andrew sees The Trinity Church reports as history repeating itself. He also hopes to raise awareness about the fact that the investigating board of elders at Mars Hill declared Mark Driscoll to be disqualified from ministry in 2014. Driscoll first agreed to undergo a restoration process but abruptly quit before he started it.

As I read these documents, I am struck by how prophetic Andrew was. I have to remind myself that he is writing in March, months before the church closed down. He saw what was coming and in a way what is happening now.

Several months later, he sent the letter directly to Mark Driscoll with the following cover email:

Pastor Mark,

I wish this was an e-mail under different circumstances. But, I do hope this e-mail and the attached document get to you directly. First, here’s why I’m writing. There are two specific incidents in there I think have personally been involved in regarding your leadership and have as examples of sin against me. The first is the “son-in-law” episode during the LP [Lead Pastor] residency back in May 2013. The second is the Real Marriage/ResultSource stuff. I invite you to read my letter to see the details.

Since I resigned from being on staff and from being an elder at Mars 5 months ago, I have thought long and hard, prayed, and sought counsel as to whether or not I should reach you directly. I never came to a solid conclusion until recently. I decided to trust the Holy Spirit and my gut that’s telling me that the best way to honor you as a brother in Christ and to seek reconciliation is to try to reach you directly.

You might think that I am just now bringing these things up, but that is not a case. Attached you will find the grievance letter I submitted to the Executive Elders and HR when I resigned in March. All of the local elders at West Seattle read it and discussed it with me. I had brief discussions with Pastor Dave and shared it with Bonnie Heather. Much of what is brought up in there has to deal directly with you and while I wanted it to get in your hands then, I’m sure it was never read by you. Perhaps you never received it. While I would add some nuance and deal with the few typos, what I am sending to you is the letter I submitted on March 21, 2014.

I do hope you will read this letter. I expect you will be tempted to get defensive or perhaps dismissive because I was at Mars for a short period of time and we never had a lot of personal interaction. I simply ask that you submit to the Holy Spirit’s fruit of patience and self-control and delay judgment until you’ve read it completely.

Please know that I long to see Jesus glorified in all of this and your joy in Him to be made complete. If you want to address my two examples and would like to talk to me, I will put my number below. Additionally, I am willing to come to Seattle to talk in person.

Your brother in Christ,

Andrew

The letter is too long to place in the blog post so I have a link to it here:

Read Former Mars Hill Church Pastor Andrew Lisi’s Resignation Letter

I want to pick out just a couple of elements to highlight.

After examining several reasons he decided to leave Mars Hill (many of them involving Mark Driscoll’s leadership), Andrew anticipated various rationalizations for Driscoll’s actions from staff who remained at Mars Hill. One frequently heard rationalization was that Driscoll’s platform brings people in to get saved. Andrew wrote:

I can listen to Pastor Mark’s teaching and even seek to be obedient to what he says. I believe he is an extremely gifted and talented preacher and communicator who gets the gospel out there, calls people to repentance and to turn to Jesus and they do! He has great insight into the human condition and the culture around us. There’s so much about what he says I agree with; but I refuse to do as he does because he doesn’t practice what he preaches. It’s all public. It’s about platform. It’s about influence. It’s about being seen by others. The claim is it’s for the sake of the gospel, but the platform and being seen (Pastor Mark, #1 Best Seller, Founding, Preaching, Vision Pastor, 3rd Fastest Growing Church) is like a megaphone with the name Jesus spoken in plain voice.

And then later in his letter, Andrew looks at the growth of Mars Hill realistically. While they were baptizing people, many were coming from other churches. That echoes what is happening at The Trinity Church. Driscoll’s enterprise grew rapidly when many churches were closed during the pandemic and Driscoll stayed open in defiance of mitigation efforts.

The argument from success is overplayed. The argument is “we are baptizing a ton of people.” In this I say – Amen! I am so thrilled to see people get saved and be baptized. But does it tell the full story? 50 churches, 50,000 people. Phoenix was planted with over 600 people on launch day and over 1,700 when Mark preached live. To what end? The majority were most likely Christians from other churches who were gone the next week. On launch day, with 668 adults and 75 children present (743 total), 10 people were baptized. To knock the small church of 75 people who has one baptism, is to point the finger back on ourselves. First, I implore Pastor Mark to stop taking tactless hacks at small churches and consider them lesser because we are “bigger, stronger, faster, better” and have “a ton of baptisms.” Many small churches are just as missional as Mars Hill and God is choosing to use them in a different way. Second, many Christians from those small churches and other larger churches are just transferring to the new, cool church in town. Third, Mars Hill is not seeing the non-Christians come out in droves to be saved. By ratio, we are seeing the same kind of fruit as many small churches.

Another common one for excusing his actions was “Mark is making progress.” Andrew wrote:

…a general disposition of repentance is severely missing with Pastor Mark. “Progress” is downplaying the issue “But you don’t know Mark at all, Andrew” is what I’m told. That’s right. I don’t have any kind of personal relationship with him. I know this may just get dismissed because of that. However, I think that just feeds the problem. It’s not that I don’t know Mark; it’s also that he doesn’t make himself known. He does not pursue more opportunities to walk in the light with his elders, the men entrusted to lead the mission at the local level. He may very well be a leader in repentance in his home and with his family, perhaps even those closest to him. But I know enough to know that we expect more from those who become members of our church than we do Mark. Some leaders in the church I have talked to say they “see progress” and that’s enough for them, but as I see it, it’s like an abused woman saying, “well he’s only hit me three times this year instead of like five last year – that’s progress.” I fear that because of his savvy way of communicating, forceful language, and bully tactics (name calling, caricaturing, etc.) along with success in ministry Mark got a free pass for his actions long ago and those who knew him then say “he’s so much better than 10 years ago!” When it’s the kind of progress an abusive boyfriend makes, I’m not telling the girl “well that’s great, I’m sure it will get better.” I’m saying, “get out and get out fast.”

Near the end, Andrew recommended.

I believe Mars Hill is at a crossroads and Pastor Mark has to make a decision. Our church and the people live under a false sense of security because we see more money coming in, more churches being established, higher attendance numbers, and people getting saved. But I don’t think it’s only the Holy Spirit working through us; rather, it’s God working despite us. He is patient, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. TThe church has only existed for just over 17 years. That span of time is often just a paragraph in the bible. So, perhaps it can stay this way for decades. I saw God answer the prayer of men being raised up in leadership at West Seattle, but I don’t know for what purpose. Maybe the growth will continue. But the growth we see is a false sense of security. The massive staff turnover and resignation from elders shows that “you reap what you sow.” The labor is in vain. Mars Hill has boasted “the only constant at Mars Hill is change” for at least as long as I’ve lived here. I want that to be true, but it’s not, at least not where it matters most. The call is not merely for a further resurgence forward, but a call to repentance now and it begins with the Founding, Preaching & Vision Pastor, the President of the Board of Elders: Pastor Mark. I recommend Pastor Mark take a sabbatical (not a summer vacation) and entrust Jesus’ church to others and the Holy Spirit. What can be lost by that? I believe that will set a trajectory that will work all the way down in such powerful ways through Sutton & Dave, the LPs, XPs, other staff and elders, leaders in the church, members, attendees, and even many outside the church to God’s glory. This is what I long for and I know I don’t have to be here in order to witness it. I will rejoice wherever the Lord leads as I hear about repentance in Mark for his leadership and a greater desire for him to walk in the light with his brothers and elders and I will be filled with sorrow if that day never comes.

Eventually, Driscoll did take time off and in August 2014, formal charges were filed with the church against him by 21 former elders. After they were thoroughly investigated, the board of elders who did the investigation recommended that Driscoll be disqualified until he could be restored by the elders. Another decision making body at the church – the Board of Overseers (outside advisors) – didn’t want to do that. While these two boards were deliberating, Driscoll resigned.

Andrew Lisi wasn’t around for that. He was gone by then but he had seen the trouble coming and issued a warning. His letter stands as a warning today. Who will heed it?

Podcastalooza: Three podcasts I can recommend today

Steve Hassan – Freedom of Mind

First, let me introduce Steve Hassan’s interview with me regarding Christian nationalism, mind control groups, the Trump years, and, at the end, The Trinity Church in Phoenix. Hassan crafted a blog around the interview which you can read here. A warning to my readers who support Donald Trump, Steve wrote a book called the Cult of Trump about QAnon and Trump’s followers who can see no wrong in anything Trump does. By discussing people who can’t see Trump critically, I am not implying that everyone who supports some of Trump’s policy ideas is in a cult.

Veterans of the Culture War Podcast

Second, I appear today on the Veterans of the Culture War podcast hosted by Zach Malm and Dave Lester. Both men were formerly associated with Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Here is their tweet about the podcast:

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill – Christianity Today

Third, today is the beginning of Christianity Today’s podcast series, “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.” You can hear the first episode “Who Killed Mars Hill?” here.

I like where Mike Cosper is going with this. Rather than tell the whole story of Mars Hill, he focuses on why fallen celebrity pastors keep getting a platform among evangelicals. He hopes to understand better why certain types of people gravitate toward the role of pastor and why Christians keep accepting them.

Mike and guest Ed Stetzer establish the epidemic of celebrity pastors who fall from their perch for various reasons. Stetzer seems to float the possibility that gifted people are elevated to celebrity status before their character can catch up. As I listened, I framed this question to myself: Does pastoring in a megachurch create narcissism or are narcissists attracted to leading a such a church?

The Different Stories of the End of Mars Hill

There is a helpful section near the end where Cosper interviews former elders Aaron Gray and Tim Smith about the investigation of the formal charges in 2014. Driscoll has told people that God told him there was a trap set for him and that he was released from Mars Hill. Gray said he has never understood what that meant. Smith said Driscoll told him that Driscoll came to believe the Board of Elders who investigated the charges against him wanted to gather dirt to force him out. Instead of restoring him, according to Driscoll, they wanted to take over the church from him. Smith seemed dumbfounded by that suspiciousness.

Dave Bruskas, who witnessed the entire process, responded that there was no such “trap.” The plan was for Driscoll to submit to his elders, as he always preached a pastor should do, and return to the role of pastor at Mars Hill.

I will have more to say about future episodes but I will end this post by saying it was a nice touch to have Mars Hill Band King’s Kaleidescope provide the theme song and I liked the choice of Pedro the Lion for a closing song.

Gospel for Asia in Canadian Court Hearing: Once You Find Out the Truth About Your Donation, Stop Giving If You Don’t Like It

Today, a Canadian court held a hearing to decide whether or not a lawsuit would be certified as a class action suit. Attorney Paul Guy represented plaintiff Greg Zentner in the effort to certify the case as a class action suit representing all donors to Gospel for Asia – Canada.

Attorney Jeffrey Leon represented GFA – Canada and argued that the suit should not be certified as a class action suit. Leon also made an argument that donors have no standing to sue since they suffer no loss when they donate, even to a fraudulent organization. Leon told Justice Cavanaugh that Canadian authorities could weigh in and prosecute fraud if it exists. However, individual donors don’t have a loss to sue over, according to Leon.

It was curious to me that Leon sought to cast doubt on the identity of GFA in India during the recent raids on Believers’ Church. Even though the funds sent to Believers’ Church came from GFA, he sought to distance K.P. Yohannan’s organization in India from GFA-Canada. Overall, it appears to be a large part GFA-Canada’s defense to pretend there is no connection between GFA-Canada, GFA-World, Believers’ Church and the various trusts in India.

Yohannan’s organizations are controlled by him and his family. Various national groups send their money to Believers’ Church in India (or at least did when Believers’ Church was allowed to accept those funds). Money was donated in Canada with the intention of sending it to India for use by Believers’ Church. If donors checked one box for use of their funds (e.g., poor people), but those funds went for building for profit hospitals and schools or a purpose other than checked by the donor, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the charity misled the donor.

Read the briefs (“facta” in Canada) associated with the case thus far.

Factum for Greg Zentner (plaintiff)

Respondents Factum Pat Emerick and GFA World

Factum of the  United States Defendants, Gospel for Asia, Kadappiliaril Punnose Yohannan, Daniel Punnose, and David Carroll

Reply Factum of Greg Zentner

Observations

Jeffrey Leon said K.P. Yohannan doesn’t have control over the GFA/Believers Church organizations. Historically, Yohannan has been in control, but I can see claiming he isn’t or hasn’t been in charge is an ongoing part of GFA’s defense. However, I have shown in numerous blog posts that Yohannan is involved in nearly all of the GFA organizations around the world. He has said in the past he doesn’t sit on the boards in India; however, I showed that he does (or at least did in 2015).

It is stunning that GFA’s lawyers cast doubt on the charities raided by India authorities. As a legal strategy, one can claim that hearsay can’t be admitted, but this is deceptive. Of course, the Indian government raided Believers’ Church, the same church that is run by K.P. Yohannan and takes funds from GFA-Canada and GFA affiliated organizations around the world. What do all of the donations go for? They are sent to India. Since 2017, those funds have been received illegally. Who knew about that? Who approved it? Who used those funds despite them being accepted from Canada against Indian law? Is anybody really going to try to make a case that K.P. Yohannan didn’t authorize all of those actions?

GFA’s case summed up by attorney Jeffrey Leon is this: If you don’t like how we used your donations, then don’t give us any more money. And if you want to claim we used it fraudulently, then tell it to the regulatory agencies. Don’t sue us for fraud.

What a smug, dismissive line of thinking. How are donors supposed to know what they are donating to if GFA doesn’t tell them? When donors find out that funds are used for purposes other than specified, it is too late.

 

Does Anything Sound Familiar Here?

In recent weeks, former members of The Trinity Church have come forward with various stories of being surveiled and being subjected to loyalty tests. Recently, the church threatened legal action against former members. These are concerning tactics and have brought some comparisons to Scientology.

I thought of that comparison when reading this article in Daily Beast about Scientology and surveillance of a former member. Check out this description of “Fair Game” from the article:

“For decades, Scientology has been known to hire private investigators to surveil and harass former members and other people it considers enemies. It even has a name for the policy, which founder L. Ron Hubbard called ‘Fair Game.’ Hubbard said that people identified as targets for ‘Fair Game’ could be ‘tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed,'” said the report. “Critics of Scientology’s tax-exempt status have long pointed to the church’s ‘Fair Game’ policy and use of private investigators as a prime example of the way that the organization is misusing its favored status with the government, and largesse from taxpayers. Remini often decries that Scientology not only harasses and surveils former members, but that it does it with tax-free funds.”

While the allegations from former members don’t include the term “Fair Game,” they do include similar sounding tactics. Chad Freese, former director of security said this about internal deliberations at The Trinity Church:

In another Angelo security meeting, you [Mark Driscoll] and Brandon discussed how you had tripled your litigation fund to approximately $10 million. You said something along the lines of

If Angelo crosses me, I will just bankrupt him and bleed him dry in court. It is a numbers game. I guarantee you he runs out of money before I do.

You followed that up with, “In fact, that goes for anyone.” You continued to talk horribly about Angelo and said,

Hell, he’s a broke-ass dad that could not financially take care of his son. He only tithes $25 per month. He doesn’t have much money so bankrupting him will be easy.

The rest of Freese’s document describes surveillance of a family and regular monitoring of members’ social media postings.

I invite readers to draw your own conclusions.

 

Faithtalk 1360 Radio Puts Fox in Charge of Investigating Crime at the Henhouse

Mark Driscoll and his religious business The Trinity Church has a show on Salem Broadcasting Network. In essence, it is a replay of him speaking to his congregation.

Some of the former members and staff of The Trinity Church are bothered that their former pastor is promoted by this show and so they wrote to Salem Broadcasting’s affiliate Faithtalk 1360 in Phoenix to complain. They were represented by Chad Freese who was director of security at the Driscoll church until he quit a few weeks ago.

This in itself is noteworthy because The Trinity Church exiles are following a similar pattern as the former Mars Hill Church members who felt harmed by their experience at the Seattle church. However, what I want to focus on is the reply of Marc Lucas Local Ministry Director at the station. Chad gave me the following email reply:

Hi Chad,
We at FaithTalk 1360 have been investigating the claims filed against Mark Driscoll.  We are working closely with Dunham Agency to review the information against Mark Driscoll.  We appreciate your email to the radio station.

Thanks,
Marc Lucas

While it sounds good that the claims are being investigated, check out who is doing the investigating. Lucas says “The Dunham Agency” is working with them. In this story, the claims and former members are in the henhouse, and the Dunham Agency is the fox who is in charge of investigating a mysterious disappearance of some chickens.

One of Mark Driscoll’s long time associates and damage control guru — Randal Taylor — just happens to work for the Dunham Agency. Taylor is also on the board of both Real Faith and The Trinity Church.

Prior to joining Dunham, Taylor worked with Driscoll and Mars Hill Church on video production and public relations messaging. According to former Mars Hill elders I spoke with, Taylor was involved in crafting the videos of Driscoll attempting to do damage control as Mars Hill slipped into crisis mode throughout 2014 (e.g., the “anonymous” video). Gradually, he became a trusted advisor for Driscoll.

Thus, Taylor was involved in damage control at the former church and may be involved in the same activity now. While I can’t prove this (since nobody sees financial statements at The Trinity Church), it is quite possible that The Trinity Church and Real Faith are clients of the Dunham Agency. I asked Marc Lucas about the conflict interest but heard no reply from him.

(Well, scratch the above because it appears the Dunham & Company is a “partner” with Mark Driscoll. In other words, they work or worked for him getting his Real Faith rebrand off the ground.) Watch:

The fix is in.

In any case, if the radio stations maintains this stance, it is clear they have no intention of taking the listener and former member complaints seriously. To my way of thinking, dismissing these concerns would be a mistake. I suspect these complaints could escalate and find more supporters, especially from the Northwest.

UPDATE: Here is another indication of Dunham’s work for Driscoll.

And Driscoll’s testimonial…

 

Mark Driscoll: The Trinity What?

Far be it from me to tell Mark Driscoll how to run his religious businesses.  But I have to say if I was a tither or someone who gave an offering to The Trinity Church, I would feel a bit slighted.

Take for instance the production studio recently purchased by The Trinity Church religious business. That nonprofit paid $740,000 for a nifty studio to serve as an office for his other religious nonprofit business, Real Faith.  I’m not a megachurch pastor, but $740,000 is a lot of coin. But The Trinity Church had that laying around and Driscoll used it (since he alone decides those kind of things) to get himself a studio.

But you know what? He didn’t even give the givers at The Trinity Church a shout out. Witness this June 3rd email to his supporter list.

Real Faith “has acquired a studio space.” No tip of the cap to The Trinity Church. Just a passive voice.

He says here on June 3rd that God “just put something in front of us [Real Faith].” Strange. The Trinity Church bought the space back in March. Former director of security Chad Freese told me that Real Faith director and Driscoll’s oldest daughter Ashley Chase told the former owner that none of the old furniture would be needed since she had already ordered new everything for the space. I wonder who paid for that? And why is Driscoll still fund raising as if he just “acquired” it?

So many questions. It probably is all legal and such, but I can’t escape the impression that The Trinity Church functions as the warm up act for The Real Faith, which is The Real Show. What kind of sweet deal do you have to have to have your church shell out $750,000 in tithes and offerings so you can have a custom studio for you to run your other religious business and not give them any credit?