RICO Lawsuit Filed Against Former Leaders of Mars Hill Church; ECFA Named As Co-Conspirator

marshillglobalannualreportclipThe long anticipated suit from a group of former members against former leaders of Mars Hill Church was filed today in the U.S District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle. Attorney Brian Fahling filed suit on behalf of plaintiffs Brian and Connie Jacobsen and Ryan and Arica Kildea.
The plaintiffs accuse defendants Mark Driscoll and Sutton Turner of engaging in

a continuing pattern of racketeering activity by soliciting, through the internet and the mail, contributions for designated purposes, and then fraudulently used significant portions of those designated contributions for other, unauthorized purposes. It was a pattern of racketeering activity that extended through a myriad of MHC projects, including the Global Fund, the Campus Fund, the Jesus Festival, and the promotion of Driscoll’s book Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together (“Real Marriage”).

In a statement, the attorney filing the suit, Brian Fahling said:

A church is not simply a building and programs. Mars Hill Church was a community of individuals—non-member attendees who considered MHC to be their church home, members, elders and pastors—who worked together in pursuit of a common mission—to make disciples and plant churches in the name of Jesus. Needless to say, the four groups are interdependent and the church cannot function without each of them. However, Driscoll and Turner engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity so deeply embedded, pervasive and continuous, that it was effectively institutionalized as a business practice, thereby corrupting the very mission Plaintiffs and other donors believed they were supporting.

On the Global Fund, just today I posted two formerly undisclosed memos on Mars Hill Church’s Board of Advisors and Accountability’s decision to keep secret how the church spent funds on missions (Global Fund) and salaries.
It is interesting to see ECFA named as a co-conspirator in the suit. The memo disclosed earlier today indicates that Dan Busby approved the moves of Mars Hill Church to address the Global Fund and apparently had no problem with the lack of transparency. In contrast, Busby and the ECFA took a turn toward transparency by removing Gospel for Asia from membership in October of 2015.
While it is a sad day to see these matters come to civil court, perhaps this will lead to a settlement and closure.
Read the lawsuit by clicking the link.

New Website is "One-Stop Resource" on Mars Hill Church RICO Lawsuit, Global Fund and Result Source

Marshilllawsuit.com bills itself as a “one-stop resource” for information relating to the planned RICO lawsuit involving Mars Hill Church leaders.
While fund raising is slow going, this site brings together various issues which should help anyone trying to understand why the potential plaintiffs want to bring suit. In addition to the value the site has to those interested in the lawsuit, it summarizes two of the larger controversies (Global Fund and Result Source).
Although these issues have largely faded from public conversation, they are unfinished in that Mars Hill’s major players have been silent on specifics.
Mark Driscoll is now in Phoenix along some former Mars Hill people who are helping with the technical aspects of his website and perhaps to help start a church.

Justin Dean Talks About What Went Wrong at Mars Hill Church

I haven’t watched it all yet but for those who want to get all perspectives, this is a valuable session with Justin Dean. Some of it leaves me scratching my head but if he is serious, it helps give insight into the demise of the church. I’ll add observations throughout the day and evening.
[youtube]http://youtu.be/1GMMjjZO_Xo[/youtube]
Dean talks about Mars Hill Global Fund (42:00) and calls the accusations about it “craziness.”  He says there were “a lot of evil people out there” (42:51) attacking. Dean said there was “evil at work, God at work” that led to the church’s demise. He is still demonizing those who he apparently still considers his opponents.
Let’s remember we are talking about a church that Paul Tripp said was “without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.” Dean doesn’t seem to have a category for that. Is Paul Tripp evil?
As I listen, I get the impression that the whole thing still seems overwhelming and beyond comprehension. I also suspect that he really doesn’t know the shenanigans his superiors were involved in.
Open forum in the comments section. A caution: Keep the conversation respectful of Dean and those on all sides of the Mars Hill fence.

Mars Hill Military Mission and Mars Hill Global: When Two Became One

When the two became one account, that is.
As Mars Hill Church winds down, I am looking back through my notes and materials to see what other information might be relevant to the big picture. One part of the Mars Hill story that I haven’t spent much time looking at is the Mars Hill Military Mission. I did some research on it months ago but didn’t write about it. However, writing about Global earlier today reminded me of a connection between Mars Hill Global and the Military Mission. The Military Mission was folded into Mars Hill Global in early 2012. Up to that time, people were giving specifically so Mars Hill books and resources could be shipped to service members. Mark Driscoll A Mars Hill staffer* discussed the combination of the Military Mission into what was called “Global Ministries” in a now deleted update on the Mars Hill website.
However, the amazing Wenatchee the Hatchet has a snippet of that deleted update where Mark Driscoll a Mars Hill staffer* talks about the combination of the Military Mission with Global ministries. Here it is:

… Because of the enormous growth of this ministry, we are needing to make some changes that will allow us to keep up with the great number of orders that are flowing in. The Military Mission will now become part of our new Global Ministries department. Because distribution is a large part of what Mars Hill Military Mission does, this strategic move will allow us to send out more resources at a quicker, less expensive, and more efficient rate. We have also combined Global Ministries and Military Mission’s financial contributions to one account. This will not only simplify our accounting processes but it will enable our ministries to have more of a global impact. Those of you who are currently giving specifically to the Military Mission might ask “Will my donations still be funding the Military Mission?” Our answer would be, “Yes—and then some.”

The date on this update is April 14, 2012. The church revealed that donors at one time gave specifically to the Military Mission. It was then disclosed that the donations would go to the new department with a “global impact.” Would the donations to the reconfigured Global Fund fund military missions? “Yes–and then some,” the update said. However, the Military Mission eventually went away in favor of an emphasis on branding Mars Hill Global as international missions work.
While this action was taken before Mars Hill Church became accredited by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, the decision by the church to mix donations designation for military and missions use may not have been proper or in keeping with ECFA guidelines. Donor intent is supposed to guide non-profit spending. If donations were made to provide resources to the military but were then combined into a fund that the church is now saying went mostly to funding U.S. expansion of video locations, then those donations may not have been spent as intended.
Another take away from the Mars Hill update is that the Global ministries had its own account. Earlier today, I presented evidence which seems to confirm that. However, the official position of the church is that the Global Fund wasn’t considered a fund beginning in 2012. Clearly, Driscoll the staffer* said the two mission activities would be combined to one account.
Demise of the Military Mission
The Military Mission was the subject of some negative attention from Sutton Turner in his March 2012 middle of the night memo to Driscoll and Dave Bruskas were he told his fellow executive elders that the church was in a “big mess.” In a long list of financially unsustainable activities, Turner said:

16. Having ministries like Film and Theology and Military Missions is not sustainable.

Eventually, as the Mars Hill update said, the Military mission was folded into Global.
In a Spring 2012 memo about combining the Military Mission into the Global brand, the value of the military work was questioned:
militarymissionROIproblem
Without the photos and stories, apparently the return on investment (ROI) just wasn’t enough for Mars Hill leaders. In time, they agreed with Turner that the Military Mission was not sustainable. The focus on the military waned once Mars Hill Global went into full swing.
As it turned out making a church into a business was not sustainable.
 
*The post originally said that Mark Driscoll authored the update about the Military Mission. However, Wenatchee the Hatchet informed me that a Mars Hill staffer authored the post. At the request of the staffer, the name is being withheld. However, the information was on the Mars Hill website as the position of the church.
 
 
 
 

Mark Driscoll on Mars Hill Global: The Global Mission Effort of Jesus Christ

Recently a couple of commenters have questioned whether or not communications from Mars Hill Church left the impression that Mars Hill Global was the international missions ministry arm of Mars Hill Church.  The following video was made by Mark Driscoll to describe the changing brand of Mars Hill Global. Sutton Turner hoped to appeal to both Mars Hill members and people outside the church by recasting Mars Hill Global as the way the church participated in the world wide mission. Rather than actually put the millions raised into missions, however, the plan was to feature some projects and then funnel the preponderance of the funds into Mars Hill Church’s general fund.
This video is one of the Mars Hill Global videos that was removed from YouTube by the church. When I put clips of the removed video back on You Tube, the church challenged the Fair Use of the videos but backed down when I challenged their claim.

The messaging of Mars Hill Global after 2012 was ambiguous at times. However, Driscoll here and Sutton Turner  in a video that can still be seen on the Mars Hill website made the message very clear that international work was the primary focus of Mars Hill Global. Turner said with an Ethiopian church in the background:

Mars Hill Global is the arm of Mars Hill Church that makes disciples and plant churches all over the world.

After touting their translation work, Turner solicited money from both Mars Hill members and people outside the church.

So whether you’re a member of one of our Mars Hill Church locations in the United States or you’re one of 100,000 podcasters every single week, We encourage you to pray about giving above and beyond your tithe to Mars Hill Global.

Even though Turner later in 2014 tried to reframe Mars Hill Global into only people outside the church, the new message was at odds with what was proclaimed before sermons throughout 2013 and early 2014.
Donor intent is signaled by the choices that donors make when they give. Up until May 2014, donors had the ability to select the Global Fund or the Mars Hill general fund for their donations. See again this video demonstration:
[youtube]http://youtu.be/a4EFX3-RXyg[/youtube]
Global Fund
According to recent communications from Justin Dean, Mars Hill spokesman, the Global Fund wasn’t a fund. Even though it was labeled as a fund as distinct from the general fund and had its own accounting code, church leaders have crafted a story that considers the Global Fund a restricted fund before 2012 but not a restricted after 2012. However, they didn’t tell donors that the fund was not restricted in the minds of church leaders until I started writing about the Global Fund in 2014.
I have recently obtained some accounting information which demonstrates again that donors designated money to the Global Fund. This particular donor (name redacted) gave to both the general fund from a campus location and to the Global Fund (GLO).
GlobalGiving
“History” above refers to the location of information about that donation in a prior accounting software package used in early 2012. I have redacted many donations between February and October. The donations in October were made on behalf of U-District (10/21/12) and the Global Fund (10/23, 10/9).  Apparently those funds were designated for those accounts but it can’t be determined from this document if they were spent for those purposes.
Time is running out for current Mars Hill leaders and those involved with them (Soma leaders) to do the right thing and disclose the actual giving to missions. From what Mars Hill leaders have already said, we know that missions did not get funding commensurate with the amount of branding and attention Ethiopian and Indian pastors received in Mars Hill media solicitations throughout 2012 to 2014. Now as the church dissolves, shouldn’t those pastors get some of those funds? Even if they don’t get the money raised through the Global Fund, shouldn’t what is left upon dissolution (possibly in the neighborhood of $20 million) be divided 12 ways, with a portion for the Indian and Ethiopian pastors?
Former and current Mars Hill members and interested parties, can I get a witness?
While you’re thinking about it, please re-read the Global Fund memo which outlined the plan to use mission projects to raise money.
 
MarshillFAQGlobal

Should Washington's Attorney General Hold Up the Dissolution of Mars Hill Church?

I must admit I am unclear about the legal issues here. However, for discussion’s sake, I thought I would make readers aware of this complaint letter lodged with the Washington Attorney General’s office.

The Honorable Bob Ferguson
Attorney General of The State of Washington
1125 Washington Street SE
PO Box 40100
Olympia, WA 98504-0100
Re: Requesting The Attorney General Obtain Injunction Regarding Mars Hill Global Fund Dissolution
5th November, 2014
Dear Mr. Attorney General,
I respectfully request the urgent use of extraordinary measures to preserve funds raised through MHGF [Mars Hill Global Fund] solicitations and protect any future claim against MHGF.
On October 31st Mars Hill Church issued statements related to their impending dissolution:
(1) All of Mars Hill’s existing church properties will either be sold, or the loans on the individual properties will be assumed by the independent churches, subject to approval by the lender; (2) all central staff will be compensated for their work, and then released from their employment; (3) if any funds remain after the winding down and satisfaction of Mars Hill business affairs, they will be gifted as seed money to the newly independent churches,
The following three actions are requested:
First, The Office of the Attorney General view these funds as “commingled funds” that were obtained through false solicitation and not general purpose, unrestricted funds.
Second, an emergency injunction be obtained blocking transfer of all funds obtained by, or co-mingled with the proceeds of solicitations in the name of MHGF, to current and former Officers through severance packages or bonuses, as well as any transfers to the planned Independent Mars Hill Church location 501 C 3’s.
Third, challenge transfer of real estate holdings to Independent Mars hill Locations in which all,or substantial part of purchase cost was provided by MHGF solicitations, or in which MHGF resources were used to make capital improvements resulting in substantial property value changes.
MH raised, by their own statements, over $10 MM on behalf of the charitable efforts in Ethiopia and India, and MH has an obligation under state law to use those resources as originally stated. MHGF solicitations appear to make no mention of severance packages to current or former Officers or transferring MHGF monies to outside 501 C 3’s.
I would strongly argue MH intentions would be in violation of State Law and constitute public display of contempt for the role your Office plays in enforcing applicable laws regarding corporate solicitations. According to the following statement, close to half of MH operating budget appears to have been restricted funds.
Where have past gifts been used?
During fiscal years 2009-2014, over $10MM dollars has been given to Mars Hill Church by the Mars Hill Global Family. During that same time period $22.48MM has been spent on church planting in the US, India and Ethiopia.
October 2nd MH issued this FAQ page:
I gave and thought that my Mars Hill Global gift was solely used for church planting outside of the United States. What do I do?
If you gave previously and were intending that your gifts would be used solely for international efforts, we sincerely apologize for the confusion caused by a lack of clarity on our part. If you still want your previous gift(s) to be directed to our international work, please email giving@marshill.com and we will make sure that your previous gift(s) will be used to support making disciples and planting churches specifically in Ethiopia or in India.
MH appears to be admitting there never was a MHGF, they knew their solicitations had confused the public,and waited over five years to change the name of MHGF after public complaints began to surface.
What happened to the Global Fund?
Since 2009, we have used the term “Global” to help us distinguish between donors who attend our churches and donors around the world who follow us online. In the past we used the name “Global Fund,” which was originally intended to “start new Mars Hill campuses, plant new Acts 29 churches, and equip leaders at the Resurgence Training Center” (as noted in the Global Newsletter from 7/7/2009). As our efforts increased we continued to refer to the fund when specifying our local and international church planting efforts. To reduce confusion we have consolidated the naming into “General Fund (Local & Global)” as we continue raising all funds to make disciples and plant churches, here in the US, and around the world under the “General” heading. If you are part of the Global Family, and would like to make a donation to Mars Hill Church online, please choose the “General Fund (Local & Global).”
It appears MH is now stating MHGF was an attempt to distinguish the physical location of the donors, not a distinguishment of the funds purpose.
Mars’s Hills Staff said it best.
“What happened to the Global Fund?”
Respectfully yours
Nathan Priddis

 

Washington State Attorney General May Examine Complaints from Mars Hill Global Donors

According to this report at the blog Sola Sisters, the Washington state Attorney General may investigate the questionable practices associated with Mars Hill Global.

According to former Mars Hill attendee Dean Watkins:

I just got off the phone with someone from the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. They have spent some time trying to figure out how to have accountability for the Global Fund issue. As a church, Mars Hill is exempt from filing with the Secretary of State. But under RCW 19.09 “Charitable Solicitations,” whether or not an organization is exempt from filing with the Secretary of State, they must still comply with the law.

The chain of procedure is for Global Fund contributors to first go to the Attorney General’s office, who would then forward to the IRS, if upon examination they felt there was enough evidence to warrant doing so.

For Mars Hill attendees, both former and present, if you at one time contributed to the Global Fund, and you are concerned that the money might have been used incorrectly, please follow the link and file a complaint online. Also, if you do file a complaint please be aware that it will become public record. In the complaint you may even want to mention some of the desired outcomes.

A complaint form can be found at the AG’s website according to the blog post:

If you are a Mars Hill attendee or former Mars Hill attendee who contributed tithe money to the Global Fund, and you would like to request that this fund be examined, please follow this link – General Consumer Complaint Form. Please also feel free to forward this link to those you know who might have also contributed to the Global Fund.

 

Mars Hill Global Fund: Help the Helpless or Use the Helpless?

In all my coverage of the Mars Hill Church Global Fund, two questions have not been fully answered: What was the purpose of the Global Fund? and How much was spent on missions from the money donated to the Global Fund? I have recently obtained a Mars Hill memo that addresses those questions. Although complete answers are not provided, an examination of this memo allows some insight into how the Global Fund functioned at Mars Hill. Apparently, at least during some of the time when the Global Fund was an option for member giving, church leaders used the Fund to offset accusations that Mars Hill Church did not sponsor international missions. Even though very little was planned for missions, the branding of Mars Hill Global was used to burnish the church’s reputation.
The purpose statement in the November 2011 memo below is almost identical to another November 2011 memo I posted in early May of this year which signaled a change of focus for Mars Hill Global. Previously, Mars Hill Global supported Acts 29, The Resurgence and Mars Hill church planting. However, in November 2011, Mars Hill Global was transitioned into a platform for international outreach. In this way, Mars Hill Church could wake the giving potential of a “sleeping giant” of donors around the world (e.g., visitors to the website and people who listened to Mark Driscoll’s sermons via podcast). The memo below discusses the Global Fund and how donations to it would be used. In that sense, this memo is a companion to the one I obtained in May.
From mid-2012 to May 2014, Mars Hill Global emerged as Mars Hill Church’s international mission outreach with concentrated efforts in Ethiopia and India. I have contended that the marketing created the perception that donations would be spent in those countries. Earlier this year, Mars Hill Church admitted that confusion existed and agreed to spend donations on international missions if Global donors contacted the church with that specific request. The memo below suggests that there was a plan to brand Global as an international outreach but spend most of the money elsewhere.
GlobalFundMemo2011
 
There are several portions of the memo I want to highlight.

Global Focus
The vision and activities connected to the Global Fund must focus on reaching the worldwide church. As a person sits in front of his computer in Qatar, London, Cape Town, or Sydney, he does not care about Mars Hill planting in Everett. As an international citizen, however, he cares greatly about global evangelism, global missions, global causes for Jesus, global church-planting, etc. Though the sentiment is rare among Americans, people abroad feel a sense belonging and kinship with the global community.

This statement appears to vindicate the perception that the church was aware that global donors wanted to support global projects. However, “the preponderance” of the funds (to quote the Mars Hill Global FAQs) went to Mars Hill Church locations in the U.S. In fact, some of those donations went to Everett.

Flagship Projects
Of the money that comes into the Global Fund, designate a fixed percentage internally for highly visible, marketable projects such as mission trips, orphan care, support for pastors and missionaries in the third world, etc. (ten to fifteen strategic operations in locations where Mars Hill wants to be long term). This percentage should be flexible (not a “tithe”), and not communicated to the public. Support for Mars Hill Global would be support for Mars Hill Church in general, but the difference and the draw would be that a portion of Global gifts would also benefit projects that spread the gospel and serve the needs of people around the world.

It appears that Mars Hill leaders planned to market Mars Hill Global as a mission outreach as a means of raising money for other projects. However, the plan did not include public disclosure of how much money would actually be spent on “highly visible, marketable projects.” We get a little insight into this later in the memo. Two examples of those “highly visible” projects include the Amharic Bibles donated to church planters in Ethiopia and the Ethiopian pastors’ conference in August 2013.

Podcast Commercials
Every podcast would begin with a 10-second spot from Pastor Mark, inviting people to come on mission with Mars Hill Global to spread the gospel and help the helpless. This message would promote the Mars Hill Global giving website.

Eventually, these commercials featured Sutton Turner in Ethiopia at the beginning of the sermons and a narrated commercial at the end of the sermon video (e.g., this sermon: watch the first 1:49 and then the last 22 seconds of the sermon). Mars Hill Church has much content on their Global site and You Tube where Indian and Ethiopian people are shown as recipients of Global funds. However, we now know that very little of the money donated was sent to “help the helpless.”
Under the heading of “Benefits,” the memo outlined how “the helpless” could help Mars Hill Church:

The Global Fund could be beneficial in a number of ways, besides the obvious gain of increased funding:
• For a relatively low cost (e.g. $10K/month), supporting a few missionaries and benevolence projects would serve to deflect criticism, increase goodwill, and create opportunities to influence and learn from other ministries.
• Many small churches who may consider joining Mars Hill hesitate because they do not believe we support “missions.” While we need to continue to challenge the assumptions underlying a claim, the Global Fund would serve as a simple, easy way to deflate such criticism and help lead change in these congregations.
• The ability to communicate and interact with supporters of Mars Hill Global provides an avenue for promoting events, recruiting leaders, and developing Mars Hill core groups in strategic cities.

This cost-benefit analysis strikes me as an illustration of exploiting the helpless rather than helping them. Look at the benefits to the church; for a low cost (about $12o,000/year), the church can look like they strongly (“highly visible”) support international missions. The leaders hoped to deflect criticism that Mars Hill did not support missions, even though the amount actually envisioned for international projects was trivial compared to the amount raised (over $2 million in FY 2013).
As we now know, most Global Fund money went to support Mars Hill expansion — which was the plan all along — without any plans to tell donors how their funds were being spent.
I contend that Mars Hill Church owes the public an explanation and Ethiopian and Indian church planters a lot of money.
 

Acts 29 Network Removes Co-founder Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church From Membership (UPDATED)

In a stunning move, the Acts 29 Network leadership has removed network co-founder and Mars Hill Church lead pastor Mark Driscoll from the organization’s membership. I obtained a letter from several Acts 29 pastors which was sent to Driscoll and Mars Hill Church removing Driscoll and the church as members of the network, as well as calling on Driscoll to step down due to a pattern of complaints from Acts 29 pastors. Mark Driscoll was instrumental in founding the Acts 29 Network and has been president of the group. According to the letter, the information will soon be posted on the Acts 29 website. The letter is below:

Mark,
As the Board of Acts 29, we are grateful to God for the leadership, courage, and generosity of both you and Mars Hill in not only founding the network but also sustaining it through the transition to this board three years ago. The very act of giving away your authority over the network was one of humility and grace, and for that we are grateful.
Over the past three years, our board and network have been the recipients of countless shots and dozens of fires directly linked to you and what we consider ungodly and disqualifying behavior. We have both publicly and internally tried to support and give you the benefit of the doubt, even when multiple pastors in our network confirmed this behavior. In response, we leaned on the Mars Hill Board of Advisors & Accountability to take the lead in dealing with this matter. But we no longer believe the BoAA is able to execute the plan of reconciliation originally laid out. Ample time has been given for repentance, change, and restitution, with none forthcoming.
We now have to take another course of action. Based on the totality of the circumstances, we are now asking you to please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help. Consequently, we also feel that we have no alternative but to remove you and Mars Hill from membership in Acts 29. Because you are the founder of Acts 29 and a member, we are naturally associated with you and feel that this association discredits the network and is a major distraction.
We tell you this out of love for you, Mars Hill, Acts 29, and most significantly, the cause of Christ, and we would be irresponsible and deeply unloving not to do so in a clear and unequivocal manner. Again, we want you to know that we are eternally thankful for what you as a man and Mars Hill as a church have meant to our network. However, that cannot dissuade us from action. Instead, it gives added significance and importance to our decision.
We hope and pray that you see this decision as the action of men who love you deeply and want you to walk in the light—for your good, the good of your family, and the honor of your Savior. Shortly after sending this, we will be informing the members of Acts 29, your Board of Advisors and Accountability, and your elders, as well as putting out a public statement on the Acts 29 website. It brings us no joy to move forward in this direction, and we trust that the Lord will be at work in all of this.
In sorrow and with hope, The Board of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network
Matt Chandler
Darrin Patrick
Steve Timmis
Eric Mason
John Bryson
Bruce Wesley
Leonce Crump

All Mars Hill Church locations have been removed from the Acts 29 website. The news has been added to the organization’s website:

A Message from the Board of Acts 29 concerning Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church
It is with deep sorrow that the Acts 29 Network announces its decision to remove Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from membership in the network. Mark and the Elders of Mars Hill have been informed of the decision, along with the reasons for removal. It is our conviction that the nature of the accusations against Mark, most of which have been confirmed by him, make it untenable and unhelpful to keep Mark and Mars Hill in our network. In taking this action, our prayer is that it will encourage the leadership of Mars Hill to respond in a distinctive and godly manner so that the name of Christ will not continue to be dishonored. Matt Chandler Darrin Patrick Steve Timmis Eric Mason John Bryson Bruce Wesley Leonce Crump

According to the organization’s website, the network includes over 500 churches and focuses on church planting:

Over the last ten years Acts 29 has emerged from a small band of brothers to over 500 churches around the world. We want to allow a unifying, uncommon movement of God to happen through Acts 29. Centered on the Gospel, we desire to advance the mission of Jesus through obediently planting church-planting churches. It is our hope to see this leading to millions of lives changed by the power of the Spirit for the glory of God.

Acts 29 is not a model or a style. We have churches with live preaching and others with video-delivered sermons. We have independent church plants, replants, and existing churches that want to focus on planting new churches out of their existing congregations. Simply, we seek to be a movement of church-planting churches.

In 2005, when Driscoll headed the group, charges were filed against him by Ron Wheeler. Wheeler planted the first Acts 29 Network church in Mt. Vernon, WA and was an early protege of Driscoll’s. However, Wheeler later became disillusioned with his former mentor and asked Acts 29 to discipline Driscoll. Yesterday, Wheeler posted a lengthy open letter to Driscoll asking him to resign based on his experience with the Mars Hill pastor. The Acts 29 action comes on the heels of the resignations of Paul Tripp and James McDonald as members of the church governing board and a recent protest primarily by ex-members. Update: One of the Mars Hill ex-pastors who has been initiating mediation with the church, Kyle Firstenberg, had this reaction to Acts 29’s announcement.

I have been greatly discouraged with the response from the BOAA in the charges that both I and others have brought. Years have gone by with what appears as only damage control and not any clear act of love for Mark in holding him accountable as brothers in the faith should.

This action from Matt Chandler and the other members of the board of A29 is one of the most loving acts I have seen in leadership in the Church world in recent years.

I do believe that these men love Mark and Mars Hill just as I and countless others do. I agree with their findings and pray that Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskus would repent and step down. I believe this would be the most God honoring thing to do as it would show their love for Jesus and the Gospel is greater then their position, authority and influence.

Update 2: A group of 75 ex-members were set to present over 50 new charges against the executive elders of Mars Hill Church today, but have decided to delay their action in light of the removal of Mars Hill by Acts 29 Network. For the press release, click here. Update 3: Ron Wheeler, who pastored the first Acts 29 church plant in Mt. Vernon, WA, reacted to the Acts 29 decision:

To Matt Chandler and the Board of Acts 29: Thank you for finally taking a position. I know it’s not easy. I know there were existing relationships between members of the board and Driscoll, but ultimately you prioritized obedience and faithfulness to Christ, above friendships and allegiance to a founder. For this, you are to be commended. Not only did you recognize the credibility damage to the network due to the continuing association with Mark Driscoll, but more importantly, you recognized that the cause of Christ was truly more important than Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill, Acts29 or anything else. The message for all of us here – individual, organization, church, or otherwise- is that silent passivity in the face of obvious sin and destruction, only gives birth to more sin and destruction in the end. Integrity was well served today. Also, thank you for taking action that only an organization such as yours could take. There are thousands of hurting individuals, both inside and outside of Mars Hill, who lacked a voice or any kind of real influence in this situation. They feel like cogs in the machine as they desperately long to see the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability, Acts29, somebody… step up and take difficult action and call for true Biblical repentance.

UPDATE 4: Mars Hill Church Board of Advisors and Accountability responds to the removal of the church from the Acts 29 Network. For all posts on Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church, click the links.

With Questions Unanswered, Mars Hill Church Keeps On Pushing Mars Hill Global

Last week, Mars Hill Church admitted that they had caused confusion regarding donations to the Mars Hill Global Fund. While answering some questions, they left some unanswered. One big question: How much money was actually spent on Ethiopian and Indian evangelists between 2012 and 2014? Mars Hill offered to direct donations made to the Global Fund to mission purposes if requested. However, I wonder how most donors will ever know they are doing that. How many former/current members who donated to Global are going to be cruising the Mars Hill website and stumble on the Global FAQs? If ever donors find out, they could trigger a windfall for Ethiopian and Indian missions if they request the money go where they thought it was going to go.
Shouldn’t Mars Hill Church alert the donors to the Global Fund about how the money was used? ECFA guidelines require it.
As if we need any more confirmation that Mars Hill portrayed Mars Hill Global as a means to help the international missions, I present this You Tube video of a former Mars Hill member who looked up a Looney Tune segment and got a Mars Hill ad before the cartoon started. The ad was for Mars Hill Global and was filmed in Ethiopia with no mention of any application to the United States. Watch:
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60mm4GOwGZ8[/youtube]
In fact, the ad was this video which asked Mars Hill members to give more than their tithe to Mars Hill Global:
[youtube]http://youtu.be/XcseC6KpSBk[/youtube]
I recently learned of an older lady who donated a substantial sum to Mars Hill Global thinking it would go to Ethiopian missions who is now bewildered by the recent message from the church. She doesn’t want to give her name but she used to attend Mars Hill and sat through many of the videos filmed in Ethiopia before giving her gift. Another individual who doesn’t want to be named also gave in 2012 thinking his money was going to missions. The several donors I have spoken with are afraid to go public.