Mars Hill Accountability Board Responds to Recent Controversies

Mars Hill Church’s Board of Advisors and Accountability issued a statement tonight addressing several recent controversies, including the use of Result Source in promoting Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage. Here is the statement in full:

Mars Hill Church and Pastor Mark Driscoll have always been passionate about teaching the Bible and spreading the gospel by making disciples and planting churches. Immense growth in the size and complexity of the church has highlighted areas for, and has resulted in, several improvements.

This statement has been developed by the Board of Advisors and Accountability to update the members and friends of Mars Hill Church on the changes that have been made, and areas where we believe this church has learned and grown:


For many years Mars Hill Church was led by a board of Elders, most of whom were in a vocational relationship with the church and thus not able to provide optimal objectivity. To eliminate conflicts of interest and set the church’s future on the best possible model of governance, a Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) was established to set compensation, conduct performance reviews, approve the annual budget, and hold the newly formed Executive Elders accountable in all areas of local church leadership. This model is consistent with the best practices for governance established in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability standards. Mars Hill Church joined and has been a member in good standing with the ECFA since September of 2012.


In a 2 year period ending in the fall of 2013, Mars Hill Church endured significant turnover of key staff members that made many wonderful contributions to the development of Mars Hill Church during their tenure. A number of these staff transitions were acrimonious. Pastor Mark and the other executive Elders own their part in any discord that could have been avoided with a better process or a more patient interaction.

During the Spring of 2013 the BOAA mandated that a thorough review be conducted with all former staff from that period, soliciting their feedback so that no needed lessons for a healthier future would be neglected. In the summer of 2013 the BOAA reviewed that report, and needed corrections to policy and detrimental management patterns had been made. A former staff elder, Dave Kraft, whose disagreements with Mars Hill policies have recently been made public, had previously communicated with the BOAA numerous times that he was satisfied with the steps we have taken to address his concerns.

The BOAA supports the policy of requiring staff to commit their signatures to a mutual agreement, such as a separation agreement, that private matters of the church learned during a season of employment not be divulged outside the organization. We have seen this practice as wise for stewarding the resources entrusted to the church while engaging in common human resources practices.


In 2011, outside counsel advised our marketing team to use Result Source to market the Real Marriage book and attain placement on the New York Times Bestseller list. While not uncommon or illegal, this unwise strategy is not one we had used before or since, and not one we will use again. The true cost of this endeavor was much less than what has been reported, and to be clear, all of the books purchased through this campaign have been given away or sold through normal channels. All monies from the sale of Pastor Mark’s books at Mars Hill bookstores have always gone to the church and Pastor Mark did not profit from the Real Marriage books sold either at the church or through the Result Source marketing campaign.

To correct a statement in a recent article, Pastor Sutton Turner was the General Manager, not the Executive Pastor or Executive Elder as reported, at the time he signed with the referenced agreement with Result Source. In the time since this campaign we have established a new Executive Elder team, new Board of Advisors and Accountability, as well as a new marketing team.


We take stewardship at Mars Hill very seriously, and thus we pay very close attention when accusations are made claiming that we are mishandling the money received by our congregations’ tithes and gifts. We voluntarily undergo an annual external audit, and public disclosure of our audited financial statements is part of our commitment to accountability. Much more information is available online:

The BOAA stands unreservedly behind Pastors Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas as the Executive Elders of Mars Hill Church. We deeply appreciate their endurance through false accusation, their submission to authority, and their humility where regrettable decisions from the past have come to light. We are thankful to God for His grace, which is evident in all that he allows for our good and his glory. We are confident that God is preparing Pastor Mark and the ministry of Mars Hill Church for a great harvest of souls in the days ahead.

– Mars Hill Church Board of Advisors and Accountability

In addition, local Seattle station KOMO came out with a story which included statements from this story.
There is a lot to examine in this statement, some of which doesn’t ring true. I will react more to this over the next several days along with commentary from former Mars Hill staffers.
As far as I can determine the members of this board include Paul Tripp, John Phelps, Michael Van Skaik, James MacDonald, Larry Osborne, Mark Driscoll, Dave Bruskas, and Sutton Turner. It seems like a conflict of interest to have the executive pastors of MHC be on the board that is supposed to hold them accountable.
I wonder who the “outside counsel” is? Thomas Nelson’s Casey Harrell told Christianity Today that they did not advise Mars Hill to use ResultSource.

The Signed Contract That Helped Get Mark Driscoll's Real Marriage on the New York Times Best Seller List

Yesterday, World Magazine published an article by Warren Cole Smith which described a contract between Mars Hill Church (MHC) and ResultSource, Inc. (RSI) for the purpose of elevating Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage to various best seller lists.  The arrangement was successful, leading to a week atop the New York Time’s best seller list for advice books. Mars Hill Church does not deny this but spun the arrangement as a means to spread the gospel.
I have a copy of the contract signed by Mars Hill executive pastor Sutton Turner and Mat Miller at RSI. In 2013, Jeffrey Tractenberg investigated RSI for the Wall Street Journal and interviewed various people who had worked with RSI. In that article,  author Melissa Wilson described the RSI strategy as “the secret sauce.” With World’s reporting, the sauce isn’t so secret anymore.
Initially, the contract spells out the numbers of copies needed for individual and bulk sales.

Note that RSI uses “over a thousand different payment types” to evade detection. Somehow RSI knows that the NYT bestseller list “requires a minimum of 90 geographically disperse (sic) addresses.”
Apparently, the publisher must be on board with this arrangement as well since the contract requires the publisher to supply the proper number of books. I have asked Harper Collins Christian for comment but they have not replied as yet.

The names and addresses are apparently very important in making sure that these purchases escape detection by those who compile the best seller lists.

This method seems consistent with my speculation from yesterday. MHC got donation and addresses from people who wanted a “free” copy of the book. I suspect that some of the people at those addresses then got books from Amazon or some other book seller.  Via the pre-release solicitation or by some other manner, those names and addresses were given to RSI to use with their payment methods to purchase books via online or other sellers.
I spoke to a former Mars Hill pastor last night who told me that some MHC locations had hundreds of books just gathering dust. Some of those bulk orders might still be sitting in MHC storage room.
At least one former ally of Driscoll has denounced the practice of buying one’s way on to a best seller list. Justin Taylor at Crossway Books and the Gospel Coalition tweeted a link to an article by Jared Wilson on the Gospel Coalition website titled:

With some private information excluded here is the entire contract.
For all posts on this topic, go here.

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 (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 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.

Becky Garrison: Mark Driscoll’s Revisionist History

The following is a guest post by Becky Garrison. Garrison is the author of seven books, including Roger Williams’ Little Book of Virtues, and Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church. She has contributed to a range of outlets including The GuardianReligion DispatchesKilling the Buddha, and The Humanist.
Mark Driscoll’s Revisionist History
by Becky Garrison
Who founded Mars Hill Church? Seems like a simple question and one which Mark Driscoll should be able to answer. However, recently, it appears that Driscoll has crafted a narrative which eliminates at least two early figures from view. In his current sermon campaign titled “James: Jesus’ Bold Little Brother” (January 16, 2014), Driscoll used the illustration of the Apostle Paul submitting to the authority of James, Peter and John to exemplify Driscoll’s role in founding MHC:

When I felt called to plant, I went through a full assessment. Pastors oversaw me, a team interviewed me, a church sent me. An overseer had authority over me.

To Christianity Today in January, Driscoll said he planted Mars Hill and that he was the only pastor until there was 800 people in the church. Nowhere in these retellings does Driscoll reference the late Rev. Ken Hutcherson who pastored Antioch Church, the entity largely responsible for shepherding Mars Hill Church into existence. Also, by presenting himself as the founder of Mars Hill Church, Driscoll fails to mention Lief Moi or Mike Gunn, who were the other two co-founders of Mars Hill. These names have all but disappeared from Mars Hill’s website. Christian publishers continue to play into Driscoll’s myth-making by allowing Driscoll’s bio to now list him as the sole founder of Mars Hill Church (e.g., his bio at Harper Collins Christian).
This is not the first instance where Driscoll presented a revisionist history. The author of the Wenatchee the Hatchet blog points out how Driscoll incorrectly takes credit for founding The Paradox Theatre, an all-ages club in Seattle. On her blog, Wendy Alsup along with her husband cite numerous examples in Real Marriage where Driscoll presented a detailed history of his wife’s sexual sins while obscuring his own sexual history.
More recently, during the Malachi sermon series which ended on January 5, 2014, Driscoll claimed there was no children’s ministry when he started Mars Hill Church 17 years ago because they had no children present. This contradicts earlier commentary in his book Confessions of a Reformission Rev (Zondervan, 2006) were Driscoll said his co-founders were good fathers, and that the way they parented their children was a reason why he shared the idea of planting Mars Hill Church with them (page 54).
Also, as Mars Hill Church grew from a home church to a megachurch model with multiple campuses, their governance structure moved from Alexander Strauch’s model presented in Biblical Eldership (Lewis and Roth Publishers, 1995) that advocates for a plurality of shared leadership to Driscoll’s current  “prophet, priest and king” model. Executive elders Driscoll, Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas assume these respective roles as though by divine appointment. Executive Pastor Turner expounds on Driscoll’s metaphor of kingly gifts in Invest (Resurgence Publishing, 2013), Turner’s first book written to aid other executive pastors serving as administrators of megachurches. Nowhere in this conversation will one find references to the work of theologians John Frame or Cornelius Van Til, the men scholars credit with what is called “Tri-perspectivalism”, which in theory is a way of analyzing the effectiveness of church ministry in comparison to the attributes of “prophet, priest, and, king” embodied in Jesus Christ. Although using some of the same words and comparisons, a reader of Driscoll’s and Mars Hill’s materials would never get the idea that the terminology is not originally Driscoll’s. Nevertheless, his application is a deviation from and an extreme application of Frame’s theories.
Driscoll’s problems with rewriting have become well known. As documented in earlier postings, Driscoll’s books contain numerous acts of plagiarism and other citation errors. At Patheos, Warren Throckmorton provides a chart highlighting all instances of Driscolls’ use others’ work without proper attribution that has been documented so far.
According to an email statement issued by Harper Collins Christian, the parent company of Thomas Nelson, “We are aware of the issues that have been raised about Mark and Grace Driscoll’s Real Marriage, and we are working with the authors to address them as efficiently and effectively as possible in all formats.” However, they refuse to discuss what steps, if any, they will take to compensate those authors whose work was used without their permission or even proper sourcing. Nav Press will not comment publicly about this issue any further while Crossway has yet to respond to email inquiries.
The Shrinking Best Seller
The one event scheduled in 2014 to promote Real Marriage, a #1 New York Times bestselling book for one week, generated almost no publicity outside of the Mars Hill Church PR machine. But not even their Valentine’s Day giveaway seemed to generate any significant social media buzz.
Despite over 12,000 average attendance at Mars Hill churches, the February 21-22 event to promote Real Marriage (which drew an overflow crowd of  2,000 people to the live event), only saw 180 individuals, groups and churches tap in nationwide through the simulcast, according to The Hub Bible Study Solutions, the group who hosted the event. At a cost of $40 for an individual ticket and reasonably priced simulcast fees, this conference is easily within many people’s budgets. So ticket prices did not appear to be a consideration in keeping people from coming to this event.
Along those lines, there’s been no response from Harper Collins Christian (was Thomas Nelson) regarding why they are no longer promoting one of their bestselling authors. Perhaps their time is being taken up having to revise the revisions.

Seattle Times Reports on the Troubles of Mark Driscoll's Doctor John Catanzaro

Seattle Times health reporter Carol Ostrom filed a report today regarding suspended Seattle naturopath John Catanzaro. Regular readers here will recognize similar themes in this report but see some important new information as well.
The article leads with his suspension and notes that he has until March 14th to appeal. Originally, Catanzaro had 20 days to appeal but he filed a motion for an extension of time to prepare his appeal which was granted by a Seattle judge last week. According to Department of Health spokeswoman, Kelly Stowe, Catanzaro is not supposed to engage in the practice of naturopathic medicine while his license is suspended. However, according to his website, he appears to be continuing his practice.
The article also confirmed the reporting here and at Wartburg Watch that Catanzaro once claimed a relationship with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, but in fact, has no relationship with the clinic and that DFCI has asked Catanzaro to stop using the name in his materials.
According to Ostrom’s reporting, Mark Driscoll praised Catanzaro’s treatments which led to others in the church to seek out his services. Some former MHC members have related to me that Driscoll has stated publicly that the IV vitamin treatments cost over $1,000 each.
The Times article also delves into Catanzaro’s fundraising methods a bit. As the Times notes, patients have set up accounts to solicit funds for their individual care. While this is permitted, the donations may not be tax deductible as IRS rules (see page 6) appear to disallow donations which are earmarked for one person’s care.

Dana Farber Cancer Institute Issues Warning To John Catanzaro

As is also being reported at Wartburg Watch, Dana Farber Cancer Institute issued a strong warning regarding Seattle naturopath John Catanzaro.

Warren and Dee:
We have investigated the matter and taken steps to request that Dr. Catanzaro cease all unauthorized use of our name.
Sincerely, Teresa Herbert
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Communications Department

Previously, DFCI disclosed that oncologist Ken Anderson was not collaborating with Catanzaro to develop cancer vaccines.
There are other open questions that I hope DFCI will address next week but for now, this seems to be an indication that claims such as made on the HWIFC website will need to be removed:

We are developing individual treatment strategies that will enhance each patient’s ability to fight and win the cancer battle; effectively blending medical science and integrative treatment to reach the cure. To accomplish this we are collaborating with Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard as well as University of Washington in the development of personalized cancer defense vaccines.

Catanzaro’s Linked In page has been changed to remove reference to DFCI but this reference remains.
The folks behind Wartburg Watch have reported that they have been threatened since writing about Mr. Catanzaro’s cancer operation. I have as well. I do think Mr. Catanzaro should publicly condemn threats made with regard to coverage of his situation. I have emailed him and asked him several questions with no response.
I have also asked Mars Hill Church what prompted them to remove John Catanzaro’s articles from the Resurgence website with no reply.
Catanzaro is medical director of the HWIFC Cancer Research Group.  It is in this setting that the State of Washington’s naturopath board found the unauthorized use of cancer vaccines. The research group is registered with the IRS as a non-profit. You can review the 2011 990 form here. The form does not indicate that Catanzaro is medical director but it does show a substantial transaction of just over $344,000 between the non-profit and Catanzaro’s naturopath business.
Regarding the State of Washington complaint against Catanzaro, it appears that the board of naturopathy has already interviewed Catanzaro who, according to the board, was unable to verify Institutional Review Board approval or a Federalwide Assurance number. It is important to note that former patients brought the complaints which were then investigated by fellow naturopaths.
Prior posts on this topic:
Claims Of Resurgence Ex-Author And Naturopath Questioned By Esteemed Cancer Institute
John Catanzaro Speaks Out About His Cancer Vaccines; Mars Hill Church Is Silent
Naturopathic Doctor Touted By Mark Driscoll Suspended Over Experimental Cancer Vaccine

Dreamweaver: The Visions of Mark Driscoll

Although cooling off some, the controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll’s publications is not over. Over the last 10 days, two more publishers disclosed that reviews of Driscoll’s books are in progress. I’ll have more to say about another Driscoll book soon.
Late last week, Driscoll was briefly in the news for another reason. The New York Times ran a story identifying him as one of a new breed of megachurch leaders who embrace the teachings of John Calvin.  While I understand that Driscoll’s teachings on redemption appear to be consistent with Calvinist doctrine, I was surprised to see him in the list of exemplars for two reasons. One, the Gospel Coalition seemed to declare him to be outside their camp via Jared Wilson’s December call to repentance. And two, Driscoll’s teaching on demons and spiritual gifts seems outside the Calvinism mainstream (and as I will show below, his stories don’t always match up).  I think he could be called a Calvismatic.
I should mention that I don’t consider myself a student of religious movements and don’t know that much about who is on what Christian team. I am not making a scholarly statement here. Rather, as an evangelical for just over 40 years, I speak from my experience with those who proudly wear the label Calvinist. I can’t think of anyone, other than Driscoll, that embraces both Calvinism and what appear to me to be apostolic spiritual warfare teachings at the same time. There may be many, but in my narrow experience, I can’t think of others. I feel sure my readers will educate me if I am incorrect.
With that said, I will introduce a video that really bothered me when I first saw it last week. Still bothers me. This is Driscoll teaching on spiritual warfare (you can review the transcript at this link):
This video was posted to You Tube by Phillip Johnson in August, 2011. The teaching was originally recorded at Mars Hill in early 2008 as a part of a series on spiritual warfare and as far as I can tell first discussed critically at Here I Blog on August 4, 2011.
In the video, Driscoll says he tells people that they have been abused. The people may have no memory of any such event but Driscoll says he can see it happening. Furthermore, he says that, at times, he sees the sins, specifically sins involving sex and aggression, of his congregation and others who cross his path. In this clip and elsewhere, Driscoll doesn’t claim to always be correct but is clear about his belief that his visions are from God and therefore true.  He said he sees the actual acts of others as if on a screen in front of him that others can’t see.
On many levels, I find this problematic and more troubling than the plagiarism controversy. The potential for error, trauma and false reports of assault is great. He even tells his audience that some of them can do the same things he can do. As a psychology prof, I cringe at this video as well as the other similar material I have found on the Mars Hill website.
In my experience, intuitive people do seem to have insight into feelings of others. However, when making interpretations, they respond to non-verbal cues and make inferences from little bits of material presented by clients. It is a natural process, even if not well understood. When pressed, intuitive therapists can tell you what they saw and heard which led to amazing guesses about the actions and feelings of another person. Such experiences happen with Christians and non-Christians alike; one does not need to invoke angels or demons as explanation.
The skeptic in me really wants to meet some of the people Driscoll describes.  In his sermons, there are several other illustrations of what Driscoll sometimes calls the gift of discernment, sometimes the gift of prophetic dreams. In November 2013, the blogger Wenatchee the Hatchet described two of Driscoll’s prophetic dreams,  both involving worship leaders at Mars Hill. The post raises questions about how both dreams could be true.
Sometimes the accounts differ significantly. For instance, in 2005, Driscoll said that in the early days of Mars Hill, an Asian family drove all night to visit Mars Hill Church because God told them to ask Driscoll what they should do about their current church. Here is the account from the 2005 sermon:

I had one occasion where I actually did interpret a guy’s dream. It was the strangest dream. It was at the old building. We had six services, and I was between services. And this guy drove – he came into the church. And he was an Asian guy from Canada. He had his wife and a few kids. They all looked very, very tired. He came up to me. He said, “I really need to meet with you right now.” I said, “Man, I just preached three. I gotta get a bite to eat. I gotta preach three more. I really can’t leave right now.” He said, “No, we just drove all the way from northern Canada. We haven’t slept all night.” Apparently God’s not in Canada. God has to come down.
So, I tell this guy. I’m like, “All right, cool. We’ll do that. Now tell me your story.” So, he tells me his dream. And his wife’s literally falling asleep. His kids are exhausted. They’ve been up all night driving. It was the weirdest thing cause I don’t know how or why. I just told him. “Well, here’s what it means, and here’s what God’s gonna do. And you need to quit working at this church. God’s gonna have you hired at this church. And these people are hard hearted. And God doesn’t want you to serve them anymore because he’s gonna judge them, but he wants to take care of you and your family. So he wants to move you on before he judges.”
And I just talked for about 10, 15 minutes. And he’s like, “How do you know that?” I was like, “I have no idea.” I never met this guy. I don’t know this guy. I don’t know anything about him. And he says, “Well, then that’s the interpretation.” His wife gave me a big hug. She’s crying. She says, “You know, that’s what we needed to hear.” They get in the car and leave. They go back to Canada. I never heard from them again.

In a 2006 sermon, Driscoll tells the story again, but this time he knows how things turned out.

I had another one, when we were over at the old building. The church was just starting to grow. We had a couple services and I remember I did one of the morning services and I was getting ready to do the other one and this Asian family walks in and they all look exhausted and they’re all tired and the kids are kinda falling asleep on mom and she looks tired and dad’s there and he says, “I – we need to meet with you right now.” I said, “I can’t meet right now, dude. I just got done with one service. I’m doing another service. I don’t do meetings right now. I just got, like, a little bit of time between the services.” He says, “God told us to come to you. We need the word from a prophet.” I was like, “Well, if you find one, you know, tell him I said ‘Hi!’ and send him over. I got stuff I wanna ask him, too. I don’t got anything for you, man. I’m not the prophet.” He says, “No, God said you’re the prophet and you have the word for us.” I said, “Well, where are you from?” He said, “We drove all night from Canada.” Apparently there are no prophets in Canada, so they had to come down. I said, “Okay.” I said, “You drove all night?” He said, “We drove all night,” from somewhere up in central Canada. I said, “Okay, so that explains why you all look so tired. You’ve been in the car all night.” So I didn’t know anything about this guy. I said, “Well, I’ll meet with you for a few minutes, pray for you. I mean, least I could do, you drove all night with your family.
Sat them on the couch. Prayed. Looked at them. Then went off on this whole rant. I said, “Look, the church you’re in is a Godless church. They have a hard heart. Some of the leaders have hidden, unconfessed, unrepentant sin. They are just not participating with God. God needs to judge those leaders, remove them, cleanse and purify the church, then if they are repentant, he will grow it. If not, he will shut it down. You’re in the same situation as Revelation 2 and 3. You, however, keep holding on to the church, trying to salvage it and save it and make it work because you’re being proud and you think that it’s a reflection of you. It’s not a reflection of you, it’s a reflection of Jesus. You need to get out of the way. Quit your job. Jesus has another job for you at this other church. You take that job. He’ll bless you there. Get out of the way. Let him deal with this church. That’s what his word is to you. You’re a pastor, right?” I mean, I didn’t know. I gave him this whole thing and I’m like, “Are you a pastor?” He’s like, “Yeah.” I was like, “Then that’s what it is.” So – and he gives me a big hug. He says, “Okay. That’s what we’ve been wrestling with. We didn’t – I want to leave but I didn’t know if it was me or the Lord that was moving me on and I needed confirmation.” His wife’s crying. Gives me a big hug. She says, “In my heart, I knew that’s what God had for us, but I didn’t wanna tell my husband because I wanted him to hear from God. Thank you so much.” I pray for them.
They go home and I see them a few years later at a conference. He said, “Everything happened just like you said. I’m at the other church. We’re happy. It’s growing. God’s blessing it. Massive sin came out in the leadership of the other church. They now are in the process of either repenting or not and the church is gonna live or die. It’s teetering on the edge, just like you said.” I’m like, “Okey dokie. Okay.” You know, I don’t understand this all the time.

In the first account, the man has a dream which Driscoll interprets. In second, Driscoll doesn’t mention the dream but instead provides a prophetic word. More significantly, in the first account, Driscoll says he never heard from them again. In the second, he says he saw them “a few years later” and got confirmation that his prophecy was correct. Which account is true?
Perhaps there is an innocent explanation for the differences. Perhaps, Driscoll’s memory failed him in 2005 but he remembered more of the details when he retold the story the second time. It seems unlikely that one would forget such a thing but I can’t take any position on motive or accuracy. However, I can point out that memory is subject to bias and misinformation and Driscoll’s differing stories provides a caution about relying on the dreams and visions of others. How does one know when he is getting it right or not?
During the controversy over repressed memories during the 1990s, many therapists told clients that the depression, anxiety or other symptoms were probably related to and could be explained by experiences of child abuse. Even though clients had no memory of such events, therapists pressed on confidently with the narrative. Some clients “remembered” horrible abuse and some had great confidence in their “memories.” Some, like the woman in the video below, lost families over faulty narratives derived from a therapist’s efforts to read their minds.
Even though bloggers and others have raised these concerns previously, I can’t see where they were ever addressed by Driscoll or Mars Hill Church. The sermon material remains live on the Mars Hill website so it seems fair to believe Driscoll and the church still approves it. It is hard for me to see how this teaching can be considered mainstream.
For all posts on Driscoll and Mars Hill, click here.