One Way Mars Hill Church Might Have Helped Put Mark Driscoll on the NYT Best Seller List

World Magazine today dropped a bomb by revealing that Mars Hill Church entered into an agreement with ResultSource to arrange purchases of his book Real Marriage in order to land on various prestigious best seller lists. The methods described in the World article seem designed to game the system, and make it appear that a book is broadly popular when in fact the sales are being arranged to give a false appearance. According to World, Mars Hill Executive pastor Sutton Turner signed the agreement.
Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage was on the New York Time best seller list for exactly one week during the week of Jan. 22, 2012.
Besides paying ResultSource’s fee, one way Mars Hill may have helped Driscoll is to provide the information needed by RSI. One aspect of the scheme described by World is the use of individual purchasers who do not actually pay for the book directly but are used by Result Source to simulate individual purchases. From Warren Cole Smith’s article:

“RSI [ResultSource] will be purchasing at least 11,000 total orders in one-week.” The contract called for the “author” to “provide a minimum of 6,000 names and addresses for the individual orders and at least 90 names and address [sic] for the remaining 5,000 bulk orders. Please note that it is important that the make up of the 6,000 individual orders include at least 1,000 different addresses with no more than 350 per state.”

Where could all those addresses come from? While I can’t prove this, I can speculate that they were collected on Mars Hill website via a Real Marriage donation promotion in December, 2011.  Visitors to the website were asked to give a $25 or more donation to Mars Hill and in exchange the donor would get a copy of Real Marriage.  The purchase was made through realmarriagebook.com (a site no longer in operation). However, via the Internet Archive, we can get a look at it. Presumably, the individual would make a donation and enter an address where the book could be mailed. The $25 would provide enough money to cover the $18-20 needed to purchase the book with some left over for either Mars Hill or to help pay ResultSource. If I am speculating correctly, the addresses would be used by ResultSource’s nationwide network of buyers (RSI bragged that they have such a network with multiple payment sources – credit cards, gift cards, etc.) to purchase the books and deliver them to the donors.
I could be wrong but it appears that Mars Hill had to supply these names within the parameters specified by RSI in order to make the purchases effective for the purposes of securing the right kind of reportable sales. If this is correct, then at least some of those books went to people who wanted them. It is hard to say where all of the bulk orders ended up. They may still be in a Mars Hill store room somewhere. In any case, the whole episode pulls back the curtain on a practice that may make the term “best selling book” a less stellar designation.

World Magazine: Mars Hill Church Bought Mark Driscoll a Spot on NYT Best Seller's List

Now this is a blockbuster.
Warren Cole Smith at World Magazine is reporting today that Mars Hill Church helped their controversial pastor get a spot for his book Real Marriage on the New York Time best sellers list in 2012. According to a document obtained by World, Driscoll and Mars Hill used Result Source to get the job done. Result Source was the subject of a 2013 WSJ story with a focus on getting authors on best seller lists.
The process used to game the system is complex and is the subject of much of the World article.
The book was #1 on the list for one week, Jan. 22, 2012. Around Valentine’s Day it was #12 for two weeks in a row.
The book has received mixed reviews and contains numerous citation errors which I have documented here. The publisher acknowledged the issues and is in process of correcting them. A couple of issues have already been addressed.
Let’s put two and two together. Yesterday, World reported that Mars Hill Church requires employees to sign a non-disclosure agreement, meaning they cannot discuss information gained during their employment at MHC.  Today, we learn that Mars Hill Church entered an agreement to arrange sales in such a way to secure spots on various best seller lists for Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage. I imagine those who thought gaming the system was a good idea would not want such information widely known. Regarding my supposition, I can say that many people I have talked to have expressed a fear to talk, citing their non-disclosure agreement.
See all article relating the Mark Driscoll controversy here.
 
 
 

Mars Hill Church to Former Employees: Don't Talk

According to a brief report at WorldMag.com last night, Mars Hill Church and Elevation Church (NC) require staff to sign non-disclosure agreements. Warren Cole Smith has seen one and indicates that it even covers the employee’s spouse. Former elder Dave Kraft said the agreement was like “a gag order.”
I have heard former MHC people talk about these agreements but they were afraid to talk on the record because they feared being sued by their former church. Mars Hill watchers: Has anyone ever been sued over a perceived violation? It seems hard to believe that a Christian church would actually sue someone over discussing factual matters during employment.

How to Revise History the Mark Driscoll Way.

“Thanks to Lief Moi and Mike Gunn for helping me plant Mars Hill Church.” (Mark Driscoll, 2004. The Radical Reformission, page 9).
Last Friday, I posted an article by Becky Garrison on Driscoll’s exclusion of two of the founders from the history of Mars Hill Church in his recent materials.
However, in 2004, Mark Driscoll gave credit where credit was due. Now, on the Mars Hill website, one would not be able to discern Moi’s or Gunn’s role.  I can find no mention of Moi or Gunn as founders.  Before Moi and Gunn left the church, they had prominent profiles on the church website (Moi, Gunn). In 2001, Moi’s said:

How you became with Mars Hill: Joined with Mark (Driscoll) and Mike (Gunn) to plant a church

Now, a site search turns up a couple of references but nothing about them as founders.
Wenatchee the Hatchet (colorful image, yes?) has chronicled much of Mars Hill Church’s history. For more on the departure of Moi and Gunn and others, see that blog (e.g., this post). As far back as 2008, Wenatchee asked this question:

Here’s the question, given that Driscoll’s 2005 book Confessions of a Reformission Rev (Zondervan) established that Leif Moi was one of the three founding pastors, why has Leif Moi’s name all but vanished from Mars Hill websites?

If you search for Moi and Gunn on WtH’s blog, you can read for a long time about them. What I want to do with this post is to illustrate how far Mars Hill and Driscoll have gone to obscure the co-founders of the church.
First, in Driscoll’s MHC bio*, he is listed as “the founding pastor.” No mention of Moi and Gunn. Then near the end of the bio, MHC claims:

In 1996, at the age of 25, Pastor Mark and Grace started a small Bible study at their home in Seattle, the least churched city in the US at the time. By God’s grace, Mars Hill Church grew beyond all expectations to 13,000 people (and counting), gathered weekly across 15 locations in five states: Washington, Oregon, California, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Again, no mention of Moi and Gunn.
On the Mars Hill documentary, God’s Work, Our Witness (transcript), you won’t find them by name. Moi’s theatre, The Paradox is mentioned as a vital part of MHC’s ministry in the early days but Moi is not mentioned by name as the owner or visionary. He is referred to unceremoniously as “an elder.” This is quite an oversight given that Moi was a co-founder and, according to the documentary, Moi’s theatre was a large part of MHC’s outreach and conversion growth.
A very deliberate effort to purge the website of Moi can be illustrated by the elimination of Moi’s name from transcripts of sermons where Mark Driscoll mentions Moi’s name. For instance, in 2006, Driscoll preached a sermon on Corinthians in which he discussed the history of the church. On the Mars Hill website, the transcript reads:

We had all the meetings in my house. Gospel class was in my house. Premarital class was in my house. Everything was in my house except for Sunday church. And we had it there for two years and it was really hard, and what happened then, we bought the Paradox – a theater in the University District on the Ave. It had rat poop all over it. It was destroyed, homeless kids living in it. We finally cleaned it up, opened it up as a all-ages venue, and started evening service with 40 people. Within a year it went to two services.

Actually, Lief Moi bought The Paradox Theatre but it is true that Mars Hill ran it as an all-ages venue. The audio of the sermon is also on the website and if you listen to this segment at 43:54, you will hear a truer version of the story because he mentions Moi:

We had all the meetings in my house. Gospel class was in my house. Premarital class was in my house. Everything was in my house except for Sunday church. And we had it there for two years and it was really hard, and what happened then, we bought the Paradox – a theater in the University District on the Ave., Pastor Lief did. It had rat poop all over it. It was destroyed, homeless kids living in it. We finally cleaned it up, opened it up as a all-ages venue, and started evening service with 40 people. Within a year it went to two services.

Although Driscoll barely mentions him, he does acknowledge two things. One, Moi bought The Paradox, and two, Moi was addressed as pastor. Driscoll told Christianity Today in January that he was the only pastor until the church had 800 people. However, Moi and Gunn were both considered pastors at that time.
One more example. I wrote about this one in an earlier post on Driscoll’s visions. In 2005, Driscoll preached a sermon on Christ as an example to believers. He spoke about a time when he said God revealed something to him about a radio show caller. The transcript on the Mars Hill website reads:

The first time it happened it freaked me out. I was guest hosting a national radio show. . This guy calls in, I think it was from Cleveland, complaining about his church. His church stinks. Christianity stinks. Everything stinks, dah-dah-dah-dah-dah. And I told him, I said, “Look you’ve got a wife and a girlfriend. You’re committing adultery. The reason you don’t like going to church is because you feel under conviction because you’re unrepentant. It’s your hard heart, not your church, that’s the problem. Confess your sin to your wife, dump your girlfriend, or God’s gonna deal severely with you.”

The radio show was Lief Moi’s Street Talk show but you would have to listen the audio to know that. At 34:37 into the sermon, Driscoll says:

The first time it happened it freaked me out. Pastor Lief had a national radio show. I was hosting it for him because he was out of town. This guy calls in, I think it was from Cleveland, complaining about his church. His church stinks. Christianity stinks. Everything stinks, dah-dah-dah-dah-dah. And I told him, I said, “Look you’ve got a wife and a girlfriend. You’re committing adultery. The reason you don’t like going to church is because you feel under conviction because you’re unrepentant. It’s your hard heart, not your church, that’s the problem. Confess your sin to your wife, dump your girlfriend, or God’s gonna deal severely with you.”

The same story is told in a 2006 sermon where he mentions Moi (at 37:00) and says he took over the show because Moi was on vacation. In the transcript, Moi’s name is omitted and he is called the “usual host.”
This seems like an extensive effort to purge Moi’s existence from the written part of the website. Why do that?
*As an aside, the bio also claims: “his online audience accesses about 15 million of his sermons each year.” He has 15 million sermons? I suspect they mean something else by that statement.