Subtitle: Gerry Breshears finally speaks
Ben Tertin at the Leadership Journal has a long article out today online which hopes to examine some “painful lessons” from the demise of Mars Hill Church. One aspect of the article which makes it necessary reading for Mars Hill watchers is the on the record statements from former pastors Bill Clem and Tim Gaydos. Both former pastors had much to say about the corporatization of church under Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner, and Dave Bruskas.
I recommend reading the full article, but I will provide some snippets first. Then I want to address the comments made by Driscoll’s co-author Gerry Breshears. First from Tim Gaydos:
Centralization consolidated power and finances efficiently. And as Driscoll’s celebrity brand infiltrated the Internet, plainly put, the church expanded enormously.
Gaydos says, “Mark made it no secret that he wanted to become the biggest church in America.” Push further. Grow faster. Give more cash to fund “The Front.”
Clem has a way with words:
“The growth was uncontrollable,” Clem says. “On one Sunday in January, we launched four campuses. The problem is that this is only possible if you scale the campus pastor position way back. If being a lead pastor requires a skill set or maturity, then your pool to draw from gets smaller, and you cannot multiply fast enough.
“The only way to create scalable multiplication is to somehow dumb down that position so that a dog with a note in its mouth can do it.”
Interesting way to describe a lead pastor under the Mars Hill regime.
“It got to the point where I’d get a weekly printout that would tell me I had one minute and 40 seconds to make an announcement,” says Clem. “I’d get a memo telling me to quit standing up in front and praying with people after the service because those hurting people are already regular attenders. The visitors are out in the lobby, so you need to be out in the lobby to get Velcro on the visitor to get them to stick so they come back.
“As the campus pastor, I’m being managed on where I stand, who I talk to—and I’m going, Are you kidding me? When I was 25 years old, I had more freedom to figure out how to do ministry than this.”
Clem isolated the arrival of Sutton Turner as the turning point:
“A significant turning point came when we brought Sutton Turner on,” Clem says, referring to the April 2011 hire of Turner as the church’s General Manager, eventually stepping into oversight of Central Operations. Not that Turner was malicious or corrupt, says Clem, but his business savvy began to dominate the church’s strategy and organizational structure.
“He had an MBA from Harvard and had just worked for the Prince of Qatar’s royal family on a major real estate development where he oversaw 1,500 people. We were thinking, OK, we don’t know what we’re doing; Sutton knows what to do.
One correction: Turner does not have a MBA from Harvard. He attended a summer program for executives at Harvard but his MBA is from Southern Methodist University. Clem can be forgiven for thinking that because Mars Hill Church leaders told the congregation he did.
I was surprised to see Gerry Breshears quoted in this article. Back in December of 2013, when I asked Breshears about plagiarism in a book he authored with Driscoll, he told me Driscoll had addressed the matter and he had nothing else to say.
I don’t think I’ll say anything in these issues. Mark’s statement seems well thought out and more than adequate to address the specific issues involved. His clear admission of error and taking responsibility and action as a result seems commendable. I hope it gets as much attention and appreciation as the plagiarism charges did.
The problem with the “taking responsibility” narrative was that Driscoll didn’t exactly do that. He said “mistakes were made” and did not address all of the books with documented plagiarism. Breshears not only was a co-author with Driscoll, but he served Mars Hill Church as a theological consultant to Driscoll.
Just recently, Breshears wrote about lessons from Mars Hill and in doing so blasted unnamed bloggers who brought many aspects of the Mars Hill culture to light.
However, to the Leadership Journal, Breshears said:
A compromising church culture dominated by a celebrity leader leads to corrosive chemistry. “Every church has its own culture,” continues Breshears, “and every church culture can go toxic.”
Yes, things can get toxic, especially when bystanders enable those who are making it toxic.