Blog Theme: Mars Hill Church – Interview with Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas, Part Two

In this concluding video, former Mars Hill Church executive elders Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas talk about incidents not discussed publicly before. They also describe more personally their feelings about their actions at the church and their hopes for the future.

In this portion of the interview, we cover Mars Hill Global Fund, how public relations were handled at the church, their perspective on Mark Driscoll’s leadership style, James MacDonald’s and Paul Tripp’s resignation, being evicted from the Acts 29 Network, the findings of the investigation of formal charges against Driscoll, his resignation and move to Phoenix. They also weigh in on whether or not they ever saw Driscoll wear a bulletproof vest. There’s a special Easter egg for those interested in James MacDonald.

For those who are interested in Mars Hill because you lived it, or because you want to know how to prevent it, these are important discussions. Here is part two.

Watch part one here.

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Blog Theme: Mars Hill Church – Interview with Dave Bruskas and Sutton Turner, Part One

In the category of unlikely interviews, this one is near the top of the list. Today, I publish the first part of an interview with Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas. Turner, Bruskas and Mark Driscoll made up the three executive elders of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. Driscoll was also the president of the corporation and clearly in charge. Turner was the financial guy and Bruskas occupied the number two spot. Given amount of leaked information I was reporting on Mars Hill, I imagine I was public enemy number one for this trio in 2014.

Nonetheless, after the church closed, neither Turner nor Bruskas were hostile when I contacted them. Over the years, they have talked more about how they have reached out to Mars Hill people and tried to mend fences. I don’t know all about it, but I don’t need to.

I do know that they have a perspective that I never was able to get while I reported on Mars Hill. Almost everything they have told me vindicated the reporting I did. But with that out of the way, I wanted to know how it was to try to function in what Paul Tripp called, “…without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.” They did not evade their own responsibility as you will hear.

So I hope you will hear them out in both parts of the interview (part two coming Thursday). In part one, we discuss Dave Kraft’s first charges, the Strange Fire Conference, “big brother” James MacDonald, the Janet Mefferd interview, the Result Source Bestseller scheme, Driscoll’s content management system and Driscoll as “The Brand.”:

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Coming This Week: An Unlikely Conversation with Dave Bruskas and Sutton Turner

On Tuesday (7/28) and Thursday (7/30) of this week, I will publish parts one and two respectively of an interview with former Mars Hill Church executive elders Dave Bruskas and Sutton Turner. Sutton and Dave were the executive elders in charge of Mars Hill along with Mark Driscoll.

Six years ago, such a conversation could not be imagined. I was writing several times a week about Mars Hill Church. Exactly six years ago, I examined media coverage of Mars Hill’s critics and their finances. On July 30, 2014 I reported that noted biblical counselor Paul Tripp resigned from the church’s Board of Advisor’s and Accountability. As Turner and Bruskas describe in our interview, the following month of August in 2014 was a terrible month for the church.

Recently, Sutton and Dave approached me with a desire to set some things straight. The result is this interview where we examine key events from 2013 through October 2014 culminating in a discussion of Mark Driscoll’s resignation. We also take on a few residual issues relating to the church.

Here are some excerpts of part one:

In part one, we discuss John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference, James MacDonald as Mark’s big brother, the Janet Mefferd Interview where she accused Mark Driscoll of plagiarism, Mars Hill’s content management system, Mark Driscoll as “The Brand,” and the Result Source New York Times Bestseller List scandal. Watch for this on Tuesday, July 28.

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From the Past: The Mars Hill Church Board of Elders Wanted Mark Driscoll Out of Ministry

James MacDonald (left); Mark Driscoll (right)

In 2014 during the final days of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church, 21 former elders of the church lodged charges of pastoral misconduct against Mark Driscoll. In line with church bylaws*, a committee of elders investigated those charges by interviewing numerous church members and related witnesses. A report of that investigation was never released to the church or public. Instead, the Board of Elders provided results to a decision making board at Mars Hill called the Board of Overseers.* This was communicated in a conference call and via a brief summary.

Recently, an anonymous source provided me with a summary of these results which were intended to be shared with members after Driscoll resigned. I checked this summary with several sources who were at Mars Hill at the time who confirmed the accuracy of information in the report. These sources were in a position to know if the material was true. I have also seen information shared with various members of the Board of Overseers which make it clear that the Board of Elders did not want Driscoll to be in a teaching or administrative role at Mars Hill without first going through a restoration process.

As you will see when you read the summary, the elders recommended to the Board of Overseers that Mark Driscoll be removed from ministry pending his participation in a plan of restoration. The BoAA (the ruling board of Mars Hill)* did not accept this recommendation in full. At the time, this board acknowledged that Driscoll was guilty of many of the charges, but they did not believe him to be disqualified from ministry. As we now see from this report, the investigating elders disagreed. They believed he should not continue without first being restored.

Instead of entering a plan of restoration, Driscoll resigned. He later started a church in the Phoenix, AZ area. Despite the verdict of his elder board, Driscoll continues in the pulpit to this day.

Here is the summary of Board of Elders investigation. This was a version of results which was intended to go to members of the church.

Members of Mars Hill Church,

This report is given to you from the Board of Elders with permission from the Board of Overseers.* These two boards are working together for the good of Mars Hill Church.

Below are the findings and recommendations from the Board of Elders and our investigation into the charges against Pastor Mark Driscoll. Though Mark has resigned from his role of pastor and elder we believe these findings should be explained to the people Jesus has entrusted to us. In this matter we stand before God, Christ Jesus and the elect angels (1 Timothy 5:21) to give an account.

Summary of BoE Findings

Proverbs 27:6 “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”

1 Timothy 5:19-20 says, “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.”

We conducted an examination of the charges against Mark by interviewing more than 40 eyewitnesses and Mark himself. The charges below we find to be true are supported by testimony of those currently close to Mark, and was not limited to the former staff and elders who signed the formal charges. Based on eyewitness testimony and our own direct experiences we find the following allegations of sin in Mark to be true:

Quick-tempered, including harsh speech
Arrogant
Domineering in his leadership of the elders and staff

While no members of the Board of Elders expect Mark Driscoll to be perfect, the scriptures hold those who serve in the office of elder to a high standard of character and godliness. Throughout the history of Mars Hill Church, Mark has demonstrated these patterns of sin. Former elders have shared their concerns on this with Mark privately, and friends and advisors outside the church have shared this feedback with him as well. On many occasions Mark has acknowledged these sins himself. Sadly we see Mark continuing in these patterns to the present day.

It is with a heavy heart that we believe the church should follow 1 Timothy 5:20 which says that an elder persisting in sin should be rebuked before the body. It is our prayer that through the church following scripture, and the work of the Holy Spirit, Mark can more clearly see his sin, repent and be reconciled with those whom he has sinned against.

Recommendations
It was our recommendation to the Board of Overseers that Mark be rebuked for his sin and a restoration process be developed to shepherd Mark towards godliness. This process would have involved:

Removal from eldership and all church leadership for reflection, repentance, and healing

Repentance and reconciliation with those who have been sinned against

A team of pastors and counselors inside and outside of Mars Hill that would care for Mark throughout the process

Loving restoration of Mark to ministry and leadership when the above pastors unanimously agree that Mark is in a place of repentance and godliness

All of the members of this board love Mark Driscoll deeply. We hoped to see him restored and are grieved that Mark chose to leave before we were able to walk alongside him through this process.

Repentance as Leaders
As we walked through this investigation the Holy Spirit impressed upon us that we too have been sinful and that He is calling us to confession and repentance of our own sins. Before God we confess: we are guilty of arrogance, being quick-tempered, we have led in a domineering manner.

It is our hope to lovingly lead the church in a season of reflection, confession, and repentance. May the love of Jesus Christ we show towards one another and his redemption of our brokenness be what Mars Hill Church is known for in the future. Glory be to Jesus Christ!

Board of Elders
Ed Choi
Alex Ghioni
Aaron Gray
AJ Hamilton
Bubba Jennings
Miles Rohde
Tim Smith

Winners of Mars Hill Church trivia contests might recognize some of this as being similar to a statement read to congregations by elders shortly after Driscoll resigned in October 2014. It was during a church service after Driscoll’s resignation that elders revealed Driscoll resigned instead of entering a restoration plan. However, at that time, the elders were silent about whether or not Driscoll was disqualified. The more complete statement above indicates that the Board of Elders wanted Driscoll to move out of eldership and leadership (in contrast to this report last year).

Of course, none of this changes the past. However, for historical purposes, it does provide a bit more clarity to the narrative. The Board of Elders conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with over 40 witnesses and came to the conclusions you read above. Although there were hints, it was never clear if the group of elders who did the investigation considered Driscoll to be disqualified pending restoration. Apparently, they did.

*The Board of Overseers was a subcommittee of the Board of Advisors and Accountability. The BoAA included people who were not members of Mars Hill and those who were officers, including Mark Driscoll and Dave Bruskas and was the final decision making body for the church. However, according to the bylaws, only the independent members of the BoAA could investigate any formal charges against Mark Driscoll. In this case, the Board of Overseers (Michael Van Skaik, Larry Osborne, Matt Rogers, Jon Phelps) assigned the task of investigating the charges to the ad hoc Board of Elders listed above. Thus, when the Board of Elders completed their work, they presented the report to the Board of Overseers who were a part of the BoAA.

What is Going on at Acts 29?

By now, it is common knowledge that Acts 29’s CEO Steve Timmis was fired. According a report in Christianity Today, he was let go “amid accusations of abusive leadership.” The ripple effects are significant. His church in the UK is investigating and his publisher stopped selling his books. All of this is in the CT article.

The essence of the charges against Timmis involve micromanaging and defensiveness when challenged. According to the CT piece, Acts 29 staff members brought this to Acts 29 president Matt Chandler’s attention in 2015. However, Chandler led the dismissal of those staffers and required them to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to get their severance packages.

It is worth noting that Steve Timmis was on Acts 29’s board when Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church was removed from the Acts 29 Network in August 2014. Now we learn that within a year of that act, Timmis was accused of nearly the same actions and protected by Chandler and the Acts 29 board. What changed?

Another name on the list of board members who removed Driscoll was Darrin Patrick. In 2016, Patrick was removed from The Journey in St. Louis for “pastoral misconduct.” Steve Timmis was on Patrick’s restoration team. Now Patrick is back in business.

While none of this may influence how to plant a church, those who are in the market for such services should be aware of what they are getting into.

 

 

 

Mark Driscoll is Touched by an Angel

Mark Driscoll’s transformation from “young, restless, and reformed” icon to charismatic teacher has been fascinating to observe. He recently said Calvinism is “garbage” and just wrapped up a featured gig at Gateway Church’s pastor’s conference where he talked about his views of spiritual warfare. In that talk, Driscoll told a story about encountering an angel at a park. Watch:

I’m trying to imagine driving into the mountains for seclusion and finding a park full of kids but anyway, that is the story. An angel in the form of a disabled middle school girl gave him a piece of paper with a Bible verse and told him God loves him.

In a way, this isn’t such a departure from the old Driscoll. He also believes he can see the sins of others in the past. He described demon trials while at Mars Hill Church. However, with this sermon (the rest of it was a critique of naturalistic Christianity) and his new books, it appears that the leading edge of his work will be to appeal to the charismatic wing of the church.

Update: Mark Driscoll told this same story in a sermon of about the same content to his church recently. Here it is.

Mark Driscoll: The Five Points of Calvinism are Garbage

James MacDonald (left), Mark Driscoll (right)

On the Debrief Show video blog with Matt Brown, Mark Driscoll told bloggers to blog so of course, I must. About what, you ask? Calvinism and the garbage that it is, according to Driscoll. Watch:

After saying Time magazine dubbed him one of the thought leaders of the “young, restless, and reformed” (YRR) movement, Driscoll added:

I don’t hold to the five points of Calvinism. I think it’s garbage, so blog about that, but anyways, because it’s not biblical.

It is my impression that Driscoll restated Calvinism in several ways over the years (e.g. here) to try to make it more acceptable so I don’t think this is a tremendous departure from the past. I will defer to Driscoll watchers to comment about Driscoll’s devotion to the five points. However, what is notable now is his dismissal of the system as “garbage.”

Even more interesting is Driscoll’s psychological analysis of his former YRR mates as “little boys with father wounds.” Calvin and Luther are father figures as is God. Calvin and Luther are “dead guys” who are distant like their earthly fathers. In a way, he provided an armchair explanation for why conversion could be viewed as a psychological experience rather than a spiritual experience. I wonder if he realizes he did that.

In any case, Driscoll left Mars Hill and told many people that he was ready to be a spiritual father — who we should revere apparently.

The rest of the program before and after the Calvinism disclosure is a rehearsal of the need for fathers and how one’s father image effects one’s God image. I might take it apart at a later time, but for now I have done my blogging duty.

Here in another life Driscoll discusses Calvinism and Arminianism. He named one of his sons after Calvin so at that time he was on team Calvin. In this sermon, he certainly didn’t think the five points were garbage. He agreed with them, albeit with a caveat on limited atonement.

Given that one’s view of God is related to one’s view of one’s earthly father, I can only guess that his view of his earthly father has changed.

Want Mark Driscoll’s Autographed Sermon Notes? Sign UP!

Mark Driscoll (right); James MacDonald (left)

You know you want them. Pastor Mark’s signed notes are essential evangelical merch. All you have to do is add your email to Pastor Mark’s email list and you can have a chance to own these authentic notes the research for which may or may not have been paid for by Mars Hill Church.

No deadline is given, but don’t delay for as Driscoll 3:16 says, “I am the brand, and thou art not the brand.”

UPDATE: Rev. Driscoll removed the tweet sometime on 7/8 but never fear, it is screen captured below.

 

Was Mark Driscoll Disqualified or Not?

This post is some inside baseball for those who remember the end of Mars Hill Church. If you know nothing of that story, you might want to do some catching up.

So here is a little background for the post. Mars Hill Church was co-founded by Mark Driscoll. Driscoll was a lightning rod for controversy and attracted a large social media following and many detractors. Near the end of 2013, he did a radio interview with Janet Mefferd during which she credibly accused him of plagiarism. Driscoll was dismissive of Mefferd and it started a war which I entered. I thought Mefferd might be wrong but soon agreed with her and found citation errors of various sorts in more of Driscoll’s books. All of that led to various disclosures to me by Mars Hill insiders of problems heaped to the Seattle sky. Eventually, the church planting network co-founded by Driscoll — Acts 29 Network — removed Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from membership. Finally, Driscoll resigned while being investigated by his elders, and then the church closed, splintering into several smaller churches.

At the end when Driscoll resigned,  a committee of then current elders were investigating formal charges filed by around 20 former elders. After conducting many interviews, the elders wanted to place Driscoll into a plan of restoration but he resigned. When he resigned, the governing board of Mars Hill (a super board including some non-member leaders) said Driscoll was not disqualified from ministry but did not release a report from the investigating team. In fact, the report of that team was one of the most carefully guarded secrets I have ever seen. There were more leaks about the Mueller report. I tried to get that report as did others, but no one would even discuss what was in it. Given how leaky Mars Hill Church had become, it was a surprise that the report didn’t slip out.

Well, yesterday someone who said he read the report (pretty good chance he’s right), disclosed at least one key fact. Here is what former Mars Hill Church Communications Director Justin Dean said in a tweet.

Mark Driscoll has given several narratives about the end of his time at Mars Hill. He rarely mentions the name of the church but has mentioned his previous “two decades of ministry.” Blogger Wenatchee the Hatchet has a detailed look at six different narratives of how the end went down.

At the time, the governing board said he was qualified but gave no explanation about their assessment in light of what Acts 29 had said. Also, after Driscoll abruptly resigned, the elders investigation committee read a statement which said Driscoll resigned instead of entering a restoration plan he had previously agreed to follow.

Now Dean tells me that the church leadership was going to let Driscoll keep preaching but step away from management. He would no longer run the show and make decisions. At that point, he resigned. He said God told him a trap had been set and that he was released to leave. He said God told him and his wife this. Odd that God didn’t tell any of the elders or other leaders about this.

Since Driscoll didn’t go through his restoration plan, I have no idea what that signifies for his ministry after Mars Hill. He planted a church in Phoenix and rarely mentions Mars Hill.

Wenatchee the Hatchet put together 8000+ words on this last night so if you want the long version, you can go check that out. Let me give you the digest from WtH:

If in Driscoll’s understanding of church governance and ecclesiology leadership is from the throne down and not the pew up, and if Justin Dean’s account is accurate that the Mars Hill Church governing board offered Mark Driscoll a restoration plan in which he would stop being in a managerial role and would preach, then the most plausible explanation for why Mark Driscoll resigned that takes all of his accounts as factual, face-value accounts is this: he decided that a church as a corporate entity in which he was not seated on the throne (as president and CEO) was not a church in which he would be a member.

WtH provides the receipts but Justin Dean opened the door to consider this. Remember, Driscoll once told his communications staff that he was the brand. If the brand doesn’t control the brand, then is the brand really the brand?

Image: James MacDonald (left) Mark Driscoll (right)

Mark Driscoll’s Church to Host Church Governance Seminar

Yes, that Mark Driscoll.

In the comments, feel free to suggest other workshops which should follow that one. James MacDonald on transparent, controversy-free church leadership should get you started.

Here’s what you will learn on Feb. 28 in Scottsdale, AZ:

HOSTED BY PASTOR MARK DRISCOLL, THE TRINITY CHURCH

SESSIONS TOPICS INCLUDE

How the Church and pastors’ families both suffer under bad governance
A survey of Church governmental models
The biblical standard of singular headship and plural leadership
Theocratic government: a “kingdom-down” not “pew-up” unity focused model
How to embrace apostolic influence
How to implement a God-centered theocratic Church government

They aren’t hiding it. Megachurches in the Driscoll and Gateway image are little theocracies and kingdoms. They are definitely not “pew-up.” There is a lot of confusion about who the gods are.

The description of need for the workshop is priceless:

In an age of multi-site church planting, bad press for Bible-teaching churches, negative social media, lawsuits, disgruntled former leaders, and board conflicts, being a pastor is perhaps more complicated than ever. And too many times, church health is on the backburner, until a crisis happens.

It is so complicated in this age where everybody is wrong but the pastor. If only there was a right form of church government which could rescue a pastor from these disgruntled people and negative outsiders.