About That Resurgence Auction Mark Driscoll Won

Earlier this week, Mark Driscoll sent an email to a mailing list that he won at a Mars Hill Church auction. He said it this way:

The Mars Hill Church board also very recently approved the sale of the assets of The Resurgence ministries through an independent auction conducted by a law firm. Having now gained first access to these resources, it will be some time before we catalogue and decide what will happen with the content.

However, if you are newly receiving this email it is likely because you were part of The Resurgence mailing list.

These assets were valued at $100,000 last year and were being offered to the public for sale via attorney Steven Goodspeed, the same attorney who registered Mark Driscoll’s short-lived Learning for Living non-profit trademark. The pitch ran like this:

You are being contacted because it is my understanding you have inquired about purchasing select assets related to the resurgence.com website and domain name.  We appreciate your expression of interest and are reaching out to interested parties and soliciting offers for this website content, technology, accounts, etc.
The asking price is $100,000 and the Resurgence content will be sold to the best offer subject to an undisclosed reserve.  Your offer may be more or less than the asking price.
  • We will be taking offers until 1/05/2015
  • We will choose an offer on or before 01/15/2015
  • Please direct any questions and offers to me, Steven Goodspeed
This could be the auction Driscoll is referring to. Emails to Mars Hill and Steven Goodspeed attempting to verify it were not returned.
Mars Hill did get some offers but turned them down. In March, the Resurgence mailing list resurfaced as the main product offered by an anonymous entity called “Church Leaders List.” Actually, former Mars Hill Church spokesperson Justin Dean illegally sold the list to Craig Gross. Dean later apologized to Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church and everybody else. I confirmed with sources that the list was still owned by Mars Hill as of late March.
Sometime between April and this month, Driscoll apparently purchased The Resurgence assets from what he says was the “Mars Hill Church board” (who is still on that board?). I cannot verify if there was a renewed push to offer the assets on the market as Driscoll’s description implies. I am aware of individuals who expressed interest or made offers who were not contacted to offer a bid or make a counteroffer. This may have been a backroom deal or it may all be fine. I am skeptical that anyone who knows will ever say.

The Mars Hill Church Mailing List Was Being Distributed By…John Doe?

Not really, but that was the name given to register Churchleaderslist.com. You’ll remember that churchleaderslist.com was the website used to offer Mars Hill Church’s The Resurgence mailing list to the public. Churchleaderslist.com was pulled from the web and from twitter after it was learned that the list still belonged to Mars Hill Church. Craig Gross who purchased and used the list told Christianity Today that former Mars Hill Church spokesperson Justin Dean had sold him the list and then refunded the money after it became public knowledge that the list was still the property of Mars Hill Church.
After being offline for about a week, Justin Dean resurfaced and issued a vague apology about the mailing list. In his apology, he did not take churchleaderslist.com or say that he was responsible for offering the list to the public. I asked Dean several times if he was behind churchleaderslist.com from the beginning without any answer.
The identity of the registrant of churchleaderslist.com was hidden via privacy shield supplied by a Whoisproxy.com Ltd. This is a common manner of shielding addresses and phone numbers from the public. However, such shielding is not supposed to be done for unethical or illegal purposes. Last week, I wrote the privacy company about the matter. I was informed that the privacy shield would be removed which it was earlier today. Here is the registration information now:

Domain Name: churchleaderslist.com
Registry Domain ID: 1906809784_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN
Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.rrpproxy.net
Registrar URL: https://domains.google.com/
Updated Date: 2015-03-24T03:11:45.0Z
Creation Date: 2015-03-03T17:54:03.0Z
Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2016-03-03T17:54:03.0Z
Registrar: Google Inc.
Registrar IANA ID: 895
Registrar Abuse Contact Email: registrar-abuse[at]google.com
Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +1.877-237-6466
Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited
Registry Registrant ID: 
Registrant Name: John Doe
Registrant Organization: Doe
Registrant Street: 1234 Doe
Registrant City: Beverly Hills
Registrant State/Province: CA
Registrant Postal Code: 90210
Registrant Country: US
Registrant Phone: +1.7145551212
Registrant Phone Ext: 
Registrant Fax: 
Registrant Fax Ext: 
Registrant Email: domainguy99@gmail.com

John Doe? By law, information provided in the registration of a domain is supposed to be factual. However, I doubt John Doe residing at 1234 Doe in Beverly Hills is the real owner. According to a contact at Google, there is no additional underlying information available. A search of the domain history turns up nothing more of interest. From the beginning of March, when the domain was registered, the owner was protecting the identity of John Doe.
As it turns out, domainguy99@gmail.com may actually be a working email. A search for this email on Google reveals the email attached to a domain owned by Justin Dean since 2013 — churchcomm.com. If you place this address in the address line of your browser, you will be redirected to the website of Ministry Communicators Association, a non-profit founded by Dean. Dean has apparently changed the registration information since March 28 because one needs to go to the Google cache to find the domainguy99@gmail.com address.

Whois Record:
Domain Name: CHURCHCOMM.COM
Registry Domain ID: 1824012583_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN
Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.enom.com
Registrar URL: www.enom.com
Updated Date: 2014-07-30T00:16:13.00Z
Creation Date: 2013-08-28T15:39:00.00Z
Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2015-08-28T15:39:47.00Z
Registrar: ENOM, INC.
Registrar IANA ID: 48
Registrar Abuse Contact Email: abuse@enom.com
Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +1.4252982646
Reseller: NAMECHEAP.COM
Domain Status: ok
Registry Registrant ID:
Registrant Name: DOMAIN GUY
Registrant Organization: DOMAIN GUY
Registrant Street: 123 DOMAIN WAY
Registrant City: DOMAIN
Registrant State/Province: IA
Registrant Postal Code: 50126
Registrant Country: US
Registrant Phone: +1.1234567
Registrant Phone Ext:
Registrant Fax:
Registrant Fax Ext:
Registrant Email: DOMAINGUY99@GMAIL.COM

Since Dean is also registrant for several Mars Hill Church websites (including marshill.com), this information does not prove that Dean operated on his own or that Mars Hill or former officer of Mars Hill wasn’t involved. According to the Church Leaders List website, several Christian leaders helped maintain the list. It is plausible to wonder about the possibility that others (either at the church or formerly with the church) were also involved in order to derive some benefit from the mailing list.
The practical significance of this is that Mars Hill continues to operate as a non-profit entity with even less transparency than before the church stopped having public services. Millions of dollars of assets are in play paid for by former members, some of whom were forced out because they asked too many questions. I asked the current president of Mars Hill Church, Kerry Dodd, for comment but have received no reply.

Apparently, Justin Dean Apologizes for Using Mars Hill Church's Mailing List

Former Mars Hill Church’s public relations spokesperson Justin Dean has apparently apologized for selling Mars Hill Church’s mailing list. I say apparently, because he doesn’t say exactly what he did.

Because there has been much speculation about this online, and people I love have been hurt because of my actions, I wanted to provide some further clarity regarding my earlier blog post about the list of church leaders.

I want to be clear that what I did was wrong, and that I did not work in concert with or in cooperation with anyone else, including current or past employees of Mars Hill or Pastor Mark Driscoll. I operated on my own accord, without their knowledge, and without their authority. I exercised terrible judgment and I regret my decisions. I am hoping that by posting this the speculation around them will stop.

I neglected to think how my actions would affect the outstanding men and women who stayed behind at Mars Hill, some of them volunteers, who manage and protect the remaining assets as they wind down the organization. Nor did I realize how my actions would harm their families or their reputation. This was certainly not my intention, and I am deeply sorry for the trouble I have caused them.

Under no compulsion other than my conscience and the Holy Spirit, I have admitted in detail my wrong doing and repented to current Mars Hill leadership, and by God’s grace I have received their unconditional forgiveness. I am also very sorry to everyone on the email list and I please ask for your forgiveness as well. Please note that any further use of this list is forbidden and would be illegal without the permission of Mars Hill Church.

From the context, it appears that he is admitting selling the list. However, if this is not what he is admitting, I hope he will contact me with the details.

His twitter account is also back up.

For the background on this story, see this post and this post.

This apology doesn’t address who was actually selling the list or how they got it. According to the Church Leaders List website, the list was maintained by a group of unnamed Christian leaders.

This website is managed by a group of Christian leaders, however we are not able to provide support at this time. If you have questions you can contact us on Twitter @listchurch.

We still don’t know who they are. The owners of the churchleaderslist.com are hidden behind a domain privacy service and Dean doesn’t make it clear whether or not he is one of the leaders or if he just referred buyers (e.g., Craig Gross) to the leaders.

 

Who Runs Mars Hill Church? An Update

When Mars Hill Church closed the doors for the last service, the corporation Mars Hill Church did not cease. However, it has never been clear who remained in charge of the organization on a day to day basis. By by-law, the church’s Board of Advisors and Accountability has the power to create a plan of dissolution but the church has not disclosed who remained on that board. While I don’t know all involved in that capacity, I do know now who is the president of the church. Also, one person often speculated to still be involved is not.
According to documents filed last week in the King County court house, Chief Financial Officer Kerry Dodd is referred to as the president of the corporation. Dodd was hired by Sutton Turner early in Turner’s tenure as executive pastor. According to a 2012 memo to fellow executive elders, Turner considered Dodd to be a capable CFO. As president of Mars Hill, he signed documents recently in the sale of the Mars Hill Ballard building to Quest church.
The other update involves former executive pastor Dave Bruskas. Yesterday, Bruskas informed me via email that he resigned all of his roles and duties at Mars Hill Church, including his corporate role, on December 31, 2014. Under the Mars Hill bylaws, executive pastors have a position on the BoAA. As of the end of last year, there were no publicly named executive pastors.
At the time of the last service, remaining BoAA members were Matt Rogers, Larry Osborne, Michael VanSkaik, and Jon Phelps.
Who runs Mars Hill has become relevant again due to the ongoing questions surrounding the use of Mars Hill email lists by a shadowy group/individual doing business as “Church Leaders List.” After xxxchurch director Craig Gross purchased what former Mars Hill public relations spokesperson Justin Dean called The Resurgence mailing list, Church Leaders List essentially left public view by shutting down its website and twitter account. Now there are concerns that Mars Hill had not sold the list to anyone, raising questions about how Church Leaders List secured it. Efforts to get comment from the attorney who is responsible for selling The Resurgence assets have not yielded direct comment. No one from Mars Hill Church has offered comment as well.
Meanwhile, Justin Dean’s website has gone into maintenance mode and is unavailable; his twitter account has been removed.
Craig Gross summarized his involvement and what he believes about the situation in a new post today.

How Did Church Leaders List Get Mars Hill Church's Email List?

Initially, the story of Craig Gross buying an email list from Church Leaders List seemed like a marketing story gone sideways. However, there appears to be much more to the matter.
At the end of Christianity Today’s article on this, Bob Smietana wrote:

On Tuesday, Dean apologized for his part in the drama over the list. He admitted that he’d been involved the initial sale of the list to churchleaderlist.com (screen cap of page now removed from the web).

Now Justin Dean’s website is down (and his Twitter page has been removed) and so that statement is not available (except via Google cache) and screen cap below.
DeanApologyCLL
 
According to Craig Gross’ explanation, Dean’s involvement may have been that Dean was churchleaderlist.com. I asked Dean yesterday and today about his dealings with Church Leaders List but have not heard back from him. Gross wrote:

I found  it interesting that as soon as I posted this that Justin Dean posted a blog on his website that he somewhat apologized for distributing the list to me. Lets be clear, he sold the list to me. He didn’t broker a transaction. He sold me the list along with several other people who paid $1350-$1500 for the list.

I asked the lawyer that was in charge selling the assets for 100k earlier in 2014 and he said that no one has purchased the rights to sell these assets yet.

I have seen communications which indicate to me that Mars Hill Church has not sold The Resurgence email lists. Thus, if the lists have not been sold by Mars Hill Church, then how did Church Leaders List get them?
From my conversations with former Mars Hill staff, I believe there is a limited group of people who have access to the lists.
Mars Hill Church is still a viable entity but has not responded to repeated requests for information or comment. Given the non-profit status of the church, the public and former members still have an interest in their operations. If the church is selling member emails without permission, then they should come forward and acknowledge this. If not, then the question remains, how did Church Leaders List get that information?
 
 

Craig Gross and Justin Dean Speak about The Mars Hill/Resurgence Mailing List Story

UPDATE: Just a bit ago, Craig Gross updated his post with the following information:

I asked the lawyer that was in charge selling the assets for 100k earlier in 2014 and he said that no one has purchased the rights to sell these assets yet

That lawyer is Steven Goodspeed and Gross is referring to this information about the sale of The Resurgence website and MCACLLAdvertisementrelated email lists. If these assets have not been purchased, then how did Church Leaders List get the email list?
UPDATE 2: Wenatchee the Hatchet just posted a screen cap of Justin Dean’s Ministry Communicators Association with an ad for Church Leaders List on his MCA Facebook page.
————————————-
Last night, I noted that Craig Gross, director of xxxchurch.com, sent out an email to a mailing list he purchased from a now missing-in-action website called Church Leaders List. The email included former Mars Hill Church members and those who had signed up for information from Mars Hill’s training ministry, The Resurgence. Gross received a backlash from supporters of Mark Driscoll because the email included critical remarks about Driscoll. Read the entire email here.
Now Craig Gross has provided his perspective on the matter at his blog and Justin Dean has done the same on his website.
Dean’s statement to me in full is as follows:

I issued an apology here: http://justinjdean.com/craig-gross-the-real-story/. I regret my involvement in distributing the list and am deeply sorry. While I was not involved in Craig’s email, I’m equally at fault. Although I think it’s a shame that your story isn’t about Craig Gross’s misuse of the list to spread gossip, and his unapologetic attitude towards doing so.

Craig Gross sent a link to his website as well.
From start to finish, here is how I see it.
Someone took out Churchleaderslist.com as a domain on March 3, 2015. A twitter account was established at about the same time. Not long after that, the website was live and twitter activity began advertising the sale of a mailing list of Christians and church leaders. See screen caps below. First the twitter account:
churchleaderslisttwitter
 
The website is no longer available but a screen capture of the cache is below:
churchleaderslistwebsitecache
 
Justin Dean said he believed the mailing list would be used for spreading the gospel. The website recommended by Dean indicates that the list can be used to promote books, events or products.
The pitch for the website says the lists were compiled from churches, websites and conferences. Apparently, some or many of those addresses have been used without permission.
According to Craig Gross, Justin Dean pitched the mailing list (Gross says Dean pitched The Resurgence list) to Gross’ staff on March 15 (see his post for a screen cap of the text). Dean says in his post that he was “involved in distributing a list of church leaders to a couple of people who I assumed would only use it to spread the gospel and bible teaching.” 
Gross then purchased the list and sent the email which stirred intense reaction from Mark Driscoll supporters yesterday afternoon. Sometime afterwards, the Church Leaders List website and twitter accounts were pulled. Gross received a refund for his purchase from Church Leaders List.
Gross then asked Dean if Dean sold the list. Gross noted that the media templates for Dean’s new Doxa Media company and Church Leaders List phone # is 678-829-4458, Dean’s phone # is 678-829-4455 (also uses 678-829-4450). A call to the Church Leaders List doesn’t get an answer.
According to Gross, Dean denied owning the list, saying instead that he was “involved” in distributing it.
This may blow over quickly but there are some important issues raised. Why did Church Leaders List close down as soon as former Mars Hill people started to complain? Who was/is behind Church Leaders List and where did they get those email addresses? Are the current leaders of Mars Hill Church selling emails of former members? If so, I wonder how Mars Hill Church members feel about this use without permission.
Additional information: It is curious that Marshill.com, Theresurgence.com, and a bunch of other related websites are registered to Justin Dean. Did Mars Hill Church sell them to him? Did they give them to him?
 

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.

Former Mars Hill Church Spokesman Justin Dean Gives Advice About Dealing with the Press

Former Mars Hill Church spokesperson offers advice to churches on how to handle the press in his new gig with Ministry Communications Association.
He certainly has had experience doing so and it appears he has taken some valuable observations away from his time at Mars Hill.
When I read this tip, I thought of the ResultSource New York Times Best Seller list fiasco.

If you know press may start poking around about a certain topic, gather your team and come up with approved messaging and basic principles ahead of time. That way your spokesperson can be prepared. It’s a good idea to write down approved answers to common questions about your church’s beliefs, and have those well prepared in advance as well.

Mars Hill had three messages in response to inquiries about Mars Hill Church’s financing a book buying scheme, all offered in the space of about a week. In March, I wrote:

This is the third reaction from Driscoll/Mars Hill to the ResultSource scheme. First, Justin Dean told World Magazine that the RSI-Mars Hill relationship was an “investment” and an “opportunity.” Then the Board of Advisors and Accountability said the scheme was “unwise.” Now Driscoll says he first saw it as a way to maximize book sales, but now sees it as manipulative and “wrong.” The vacillation about whether gaming the system is a good opportunity, unwise or wrong is confusing and won’t do much to convince people that Mars Hill and Driscoll can be candid.

It appears that there was an internal struggle about how to message the revelation to the public. I have asked Justin about the discrepancies and will add any information from him to this post.
The bottom line advice is to have a pastoral staff that doesn’t place the PR person in a position to defend the indefensible.

Markdriscoll.org is a Copy of Marshill.com

UPDATE: markdriscoll.org is down, and has been unavailable since the evening of 12/27, just a few hours after this post went live. There is an interesting message for visitors:
markdriscollsomethingwrong
At least he is sorry about something.
………………………..
(Original post starts here)
So says Justin Dean, recently departed spokesman for Mars Hill Church.*
There is a reason why Markdricoll.org looks like Marshill.com: Driscoll’s new site is a copy of the church website. In addition to the obvious similar appearance, several readers alerted me that the source code for Markdriscoll.org contains many links to marshill.com (see a pdf of the code here). Initially, I wondered if Mars Hill Church was hosting the content for markdriscoll.org. When I asked Justin Dean about it, he said via email:

Concerning the website, MarkDriscoll.org – nothing on that site is being hosted or paid for by Mars Hill. If there’s anything in the source code that indicates otherwise, it’s because the site is a copy of marshill.com with most of the functionality and code stripped away. The site is on its own servers and was handed over to Pastor Mark.
The domain is also registered to Learning for Living, not Mars Hill Fellowship. Mars Hill originally purchased that domain many years ago and has now turned it over to Pastor Mark. It takes time for the Whois information to update, which I believe it is now.

In answer to a follow up request for clarification about the links in markdricoll.org’s source code, Dean replied:

Since Mark’s site is just a copy of marshill.com there a probably a lot of links to Marshill.com that remain, but it doesn’t mean the church is hosting content for him. After 12/31 those links will be broken if he doesn’t change them.

I then asked if Driscoll had paid for the code (assuming it is all proprietary information which is an asset of the church). I also asked who at the church had given Driscoll permission to copy the code. Dean replied:

As for who approved or what was paid, I have no idea. That would be private information. I no longer represent Mars Hill as my last day was 12/24/14.

To illustrate the copied source code, below is an image of the code for the header of markdriscoll.org which displays Mark Driscoll’s name but maintains some Mars Hill’s content:
MarkdriscollMHCcode

The “Welcome Pastor Mark Driscoll” shows up on the page but the content not displayed is in the black borders above and is from the Mars Hill Church website. As noted above, Dean did not know who, if anyone, had given permission. In any case, it appears that Mark Driscoll has derived additional benefit from a church he no longer serves.

Earlier Dean told the Huffington Post that there is no relationship between Mark Driscoll and the church websites:

That domain is one that Mars Hill has had registered for quite some time but we never used. It has now been transferred to Mark Driscoll, and the domain registration to Mars Hill Fellowship is outdated (I believe it is now updated). The site is in no way affiliated with Mars Hill Church or Mars Hill Fellowship.

It is not affiliated but it was copied.
In light of the terms of use on Driscoll’s new site, the use of Mars Hill assets seems ironic.
Update: I should also have mentioned the terms of use on the Mars Hill website:

All sermons, articles, blog posts, text, graphics, user interfaces, visual interfaces, photographs, trademarks, logos, sounds, music, artwork and computer code (collectively, “Content”), including but not limited to the design, structure, selection, coordination, expression, “look and feel” and arrangement of such Content, contained on the Site is owned, controlled or licensed by or to Mars Hill Church, and is protected by trade dress, copyright, patent and trademark laws, and various other intellectual property rights and unfair competition laws.
Except as expressly provided in these Terms of Use, no part of the Site and no Content may be copied, reproduced, republished, uploaded, posted, publicly displayed, encoded, translated, transmitted or distributed in any way (including “mirroring”) to any other computer, server, Web site, television, video projector or other medium for publication or distribution or for any religious use or commercial enterprise, without Mars Hill’s express prior written consent.

 
*I originally called Justin Dean a spokesman for markdriscoll.org but that is not correct. I am sorry for the misunderstanding and incorrect information.

Mars Hill Church Denies Bankruptcy Rumors

A commenter going by “former mars hill elder” posted a claim that Mars Hill Church would soon declare bankruptcy.

I heard yesterday that Mars Hill will for sure be filing bankruptcy. Every church will either close their doors or become independent.
Dave is planning on resigning once the transition is complete. Mark will not be receiving his full severance package.

The Dave referenced above is Dave Bruskas, lone remaining executive elder at Mars Hill. There is support from the church for the comment that the Mars Hill locations will move toward localized governance. Also, Bruskas has told the church he won’t function in a similar role as Driscoll. The bankruptcy claim caught the attention of commenters on the blog and on Facebook so I felt I should ask Mars Hill about it.
Earlier today, church spokesman Justin Dean wrote to say:

We have not and are not planning to file for bankruptcy protection.

Mr. Dean is also the same person who said the Global Fund was not a fund, so I am not sure this statement completely clears up the questions. However, I did want the church to have the chance to comment.
If others have evidence or want to speak on the record, please let me know.