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

Mars Hill Church Posts 2014 Annual Report; No Resolution of Global Fund

Maintaining certain fictions until the end, Mars Hill leaders posted the 2014 annual report today.
The section on Mars Hill Global and Mars Hill Go reflects what happened to Mars Hill Global after I reported on the tactics to promote missions but use Global Fund money to fund U.S. expansion.
MHCAnnualReport2014MHGoGlobal
Between 2012 and May 2014, the Global Family was called the “Mars Hill Extended Family” and Mars Hill Go was marketed as the Mars Hill Global and the Global Fund.
The annual report maintains an upbeat reframing of the church closing and includes a brief accounting of finances for the year. No word in the report about the fate of those 73 church planters in Ethiopia and India.

Washington Attorney General's Office Responds to Complaints About Mars Hill Church

An unknown number of people have filed complaints with the Washington Attorney General’s office regarding various aspects of Mars Hill Church’s financial dealings. Two of them forwarded the responses received from the office. The first one describes an informal and voluntary process to bring together the consumer and the church. The second response gives no hint about the existence of an investigation.

The first response describes a time frame for Mars Hill to reply to the AG’s office.

Bob Ferguson

ATTORNEY GENERAL OF WASHINGTON

Consumer Protection Division

800 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2000 Seattle, WA 98104 (206) 464-6686

November 18, 2014

RE:   Mars Hill Church

File #:

Dear

Thank you for contacting the Consumer Protection Division of the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. Consumer complaints provide valuable information that our office uses to identify patterns of unfair or deceptive practices that may warrant enforcement of the Consumer Protection Act.

The complaint you submitted to our office regarding Mars Hill Church was reviewed and determined to be appropriate for the informal complaint resolution services offered by our Consumer Resource Center and has been assigned to me for processing. This is an informal, voluntary process. Our office acts as a neutral party to facilitate communication between consumers and businesses to assist in resolving the complaint. We are prohibited by Washington State law from providing legal advice or representing either party.

Following is information about our informal complaint resolution process.

Informal Complaint Resolution Process

The process takes approximately 4-6 weeks to complete. A copy of your complaint is sent to the business(es) with a request to provide our office with a response within 21 calendar days. If a response is received, you will be notified and a copy of the response will be provided to you. If our office has not received a response from the business(es) within 14 calendar days, a courtesy reminder will be sent to the business(es) reminding them that their response is due within the next 7 calendar days. If the business(es) do not respond to our request, our office cannot compel the business(es) to respond.

If the business does not respond or does not resolve your complaint to your satisfaction

If the business(es) do not respond, or your complaint is not resolved through our informal complaint resolution service, your complaint will be closed. However, you will be notified of additional options and resources that may be available to assist you in the event you wish to pursue the matter further.

If you contact our office regarding your complaint, please reference the assigned complaint number referenced above.

Again, thank you for contacting our office.

 ELENA GARCIA HUIZAR

CP Public Outreach Specialist
Consumer Protection Division
(206) 442-4497
Fax: (206) 587-5636

CRCComplaints@ATG.WA.GOV

Another individual received this response:

I am in receipt of your email to AG Ferguson (dated November 5, 2014).  Thank you for providing us the additional information regarding Mars Hill Church; it is clear that you care deeply about this issue.  Please be aware that we can neither confirm nor deny whether our office is investigating or the status of any investigation.
 
Regards,
Sarah
______________________________________________________
Sarah S. Shifley | Assistant Attorney General
Consumer Protection Division | 800 Fifth Ave, Ste. 2000 | Seattle, WA 98104
If other readers receive responses, please feel free to forward them to me.

Legal Fund Created to Address Grievances Against Mars Hill Church

Former Mars Hill Church deacon Rob Smith has created a GoFundMe account to fund legal action, if necessary, to address grievances against Mars Hill Church.  The grievances primarily involve the Global Fund and non-disclosure clauses signed by former employees.

Despite many appeals to Mars Hill Church leadership to address several grievances, it now appears that it will be necessary to take legal action to see that these greivances are addressed. Donors, ex-members and members are preparing to pursue this alternative. This fund would be used to pay for the legal costs of such a pursuit.

Mars Hill Church has also used non-disclosure agreements to silence ex-employees with valid grievances. This fund would be used to defend any ex-employee that is sued by Mars Hill Church for violating the terms of their non-disclosure agreement.

Once all matters are settled, the balance of this fund, if any, will be shared between the advertised recipients of the Mars Hill Global Fund (Ethiopian and Indian pastors) and with Agathos International. That portion of any donor’s gift to this legal fund will be tax-deductible.

 We are attempting to schedule a meeting with  Mars Hill representatives in an effort to avoid litigation, and it appears that this meeting may take place.

According to Smith, the church has avoided questions regarding the Global Fund and how much was raised based on appeals to fund Ethiopian and Indian church planters. In contrast to claims from the church made just today, Global Fund appeals were made consistently to pay for outreach in Africa and India but most funds were spent on Mars Hill Church expansion.

Mars Hill Church Posts Financial Audit and Information About Salaries and Global Fund

Just a bit ago, Mars Hill Church posted their financial audit and a blog post about various financial questions. Probably the most interesting post is the one which provides the church’s view of salaries and Global Fund. Here it is:

Today we posted our most recent Financial Audit. As we have done for years, this information is available for you to review at the bottom of our stewardship page.

As questions have arisen this past year around executive compensation and what we have traditionally called ‘Global’ donations, we wanted to provide some additional financial clarity in these areas.

EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION

Ministry is done by people, and churches typically have the largest amount of their ministry expenses allocated to caring for staff. Mars Hill Church utilizes external salary surveys for large churches from two sources for determining it’s staff salaries, and an independent compensation study for our executives. Executive salaries also undergo a separate, additional independent third party review of appropriate salary setting procedures, accuracy and internal payroll controls.

As it says on our stewardship page, “the independent members of the Board of Advisors and Accountability set executive elders’ compensation. Additionally, an independent compensation study is done for our executive elders by an external accounting firm.”

Mars Hill Church has made many efforts over the years to provide accountability in the process of establishing salaries. There are also specific IRS and ECFA guidelines that have been in place and followed with regards to compensation for Pastor Mark Driscoll. These included an independent compensation study conducted on all three Executive Elders, updated every three years and reviewed by outside Board Members. None of the Executive Elders set their own salaries, and compensations were both informed and reviewed by outside entities. This effort was used to set compensation levels comparable to similar sized churches for congregational attendees and annual revenue of the church.

GLOBAL FUND

Mission at Mars Hill Church has always had both a local and global focus–believing that our mission is to serve our neighbors down the street as well as around the globe. This has equated to investments in local church plants across the U.S. and support for evangelists and churches in Ethiopia and India as well. Hundreds of thousands of people from over 230 different countries in the past year alone have participated in the ministry of Mars Hill Church through accessing content and listening to sermons online, and many of them have also provided financial support.

Initiation of “Global Fund” at Mars Hill. In 2009, Mars Hill Church began to use the term “Global Fund” to solicit gifts restricted for “capital development and expansion”.  As communicated in the Global Newsletter on July 7, 2009, the Global Fund was used to raise resources for the following purposes:  “start new Mars Hill campuses, plant new Acts 29 churches, and equip leaders at the Resurgence Training Center.” In the 2009-2011 time frame, over 80% of the funds given to the “Global Fund” went to Acts 29 church planting, with additional funds used for the Resurgence Training Center and church planting in India.

Mars Hill “Global Fund” 2012 and later. During this time period, Mars Hill Church changed its view of the Global Fund—not viewing the Global Fund as separate from the overall mission of the church of making disciples and planting churches. In the 2012 and later time frame, Mars Hill Church began reaching more givers through video bumpers before sermon podcasts, blog posts, and YouTube videos. Some of these ministry communications were totally about U.S. church planting, some were totally about Ethiopia, but most of these communications highlighted church planting in the U.S., Ethiopia, and India.

Communication sent by Mars Hill Church to donors to the “Global Fund.” To be abundantly clear about the use of gifts to the Global Fund subsequent to June 1, 2012, in early July 2014, Mars Hill Church sent approximately 6,000 letters and 3,765 emails to individuals who had made gifts as a global donor subsequent to June 1, 2012. In these communications, Mars Hill Church offered to redirect the donor’s gifts, made as a global donor during this time period, specifically for planting churches in Ethiopia or India. To date, 36 donors have responded to these communications, resulting in the redirection of approximately $40,000 of funds from Mars Hill Church’s charitable purpose to Ethiopia/India church planting.

We also created a new category for describing our international work under the title of Mars Hill Go. If you were a global donor who wished to redirect your gift please reach out to giving@marshill.com so that we can verify and allocate the appropriate amount of funds to our international church planting partners in Ethiopia and India.

Additionally, in 2015 we expect to make a final donation to Vision Nationals in India, and New Covenant Foundation in Ethiopia, prior to distributing net assets to the new independent churches, and some of the new local churches hope to continue the legacy of supporting these missions.

We are so thankful for everyone who has ever donated to Mars Hill Church and taken part in our mission to make disciples and plant churches in the name of Jesus Christ. Hundreds of thousands of people around the globe have been impacted by the message of the gospel because of your gifts and we pray the legacy continues as we move into the new year and see many new churches take root in their local communities.

The salary information is nothing new and they failed to actually address the issues often raised — how much money did you spend on Ethiopia and India?  The verbiage about Global solicitations being about the U.S. and international expenses is just incredible. Remember BoAA, the videos have been preserved.  Please in your next blog post, produce the videos that said the Global Fund was about giving money to churches in the U.S.

Churches can’t just change restricted funds to open funds without telling donors. Mars Hill continued to allow people to give to the Global Fund but without telling anyone that the money was just another gift to the general fund.

Bellevue Church to Establish Controls for Accountability in Governance

A little while ago, Pastor Jason Skelton posted this update on the City:

Follow Up from the Eastside Vision Meeting

Pastor Jason Skelton Shared

Eastside Family,

We had a great day yesterday at our Eastside Vision Meeting, where we joined in partnership with our friends from Sammamish about what the Lord is laying on our hearts for the future of this church. For those who were unable to attend, we want to provide a brief synopsis of what we covered.

First, we desire for this new church to function from a place of shared leadership, deference, and trust. We are working hard, and seeking wise counsel from godly leaders, to understand how we can best structure the church in such a manner that would encourage trust, mutual submission, and deference among the elder team and ultimately among the whole church family. We’re sorry that, particularly in recent months, significant conflict has resulted in an inability to trust the leadership of the church. We have played a part in that, and ask for your forgiveness and also your prayers, as we seek to establish a new church moving forward.

Second, we are actively and prayerfully searching for a new Lead Pastor for this new church. We have some options that we are excited to share with you soon, as right now we are prayerfully assessing character and reviewing references in order to ensure that the man that we would bring before you is not only competent in his skill, but is a man who is marked by godly character. We are seeking to find someone who would help us to retain the best of our previous church (strong preaching, great worship services, etc) while helping us to grow in areas where we have been weaker in recent years, particularly in discipleship and missional engagement.

Third, the new church structure that we will establish will include controls for accountability. While we are still prayerfully considering how this will be written into our governance, we desire that the members of the church would have an active voice into the future by allowing them to affirm elements such as the slate of elders, and the implementation of new budgets. We hold to the conviction that the church, according to Scriptures, should be led by qualified elders who would appoint qualified elders. But we also desire to have accountability to the members of the church in such a manner that would allow their voices to be more readily heard. In addition, we are prayerfully considering how we can best partner with other networks or churches.

Fourth, we are presently working from some values as a church, as interim values while searching for our new Lead Pastor. Becauset we have been loved by Jesus:

  • We love one another

  • We grow together

  • We celebrate redemption

  • We serve joyfully

  • We never lose hope

Many have asked: how can I help during this time? You can help in several ways:

  • Pray. We are planting a new church on a very expedited timeline. We need your prayers and great favor from Jesus as we attempt to move forward.

  • Attend Interest meetings. We will be hosting interest meetings every Sunday in the cafe between now and the end of the year at 12:30p on Sundays. These meetings will be an opportunity to meet the elders, ask questions, and learn more about the future.

  • Ask Questions. We not only are open to your feedback, but we truly desire it. Please let us know your hopes, dreams, and questions about how this new church will come together.

Lastly, and most importantly, it is our utmost desire that this would be a church that loves Jesus, preaches the Word of God, and is a place that families would desire to attend – yours, mine, and others. We believe that the way for this to become a reality is to live our lives as one of an outpouring of love, as described in 1 Corinthians 13. This would mean that our church would be marked by patience, kindness, humility, truth, trust, and perseverance, among a host of other characteristics. We understand that we have at times operated in a manner that has not encouraged these characteristics, and in so doing, have brought much strife on the inside and criticism from the outside. On behalf of the elders at Bellevue, we extend to you our repentance and our genuine desire to move forward as a church that would be marked by authentic love, as rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is our commitment to you to continue to pour ourselves out in sacrificial service—the Gospel demands no less.

On Behalf of the Bellevue Elders,

Pastor Jason

This is actually a refreshing message. I still don’t know how you extend repentance to an entire group of people but it seems like progress that the note contains that sentiment without any obvious messages to give money.

I hope some of the people attending the vision meeting will ask questions, as invited, about the amount of money the church plans to give to the Ethiopian and Indian church planters when the church folds.

More Evidence That Mars Hill Global Was Ministry of Mars Hill Church

UPDATE: That was fast (around two hours). The video evidence has been removed from Vimeo; it seems clear that Mars Hill Church does not want this information in front of the public. I intend to repost it in keeping with fair use of material for commentary. In the mean time, the transcript is below.
Video is now below.
……………………………..
Recently, Justin Dean told me that Mars Hill Church’s Global Fund was not a fund after 2012. Even though he admitted the Global Fund was a designated fund before 2012, he said the church did not consider it a fund after 2012. Furthermore, Dean added:

Beginning in 2012 the term “Global Fund” was used on our website to distinguish between global donors and local church donors. Receipts for donations from people who selected that designation would indicate “Global Fund” but it was not a fund and hasn’t been since before 2012.

As I have pointed out, members also gave to the Global Fund and so the term did more than distinguish between members and non-members. Throughout 2012-2014, the leaders of the church referred to Mars Hill Global as something the church members were doing via donations to the Global Fund.
The following video describing a pastors conference funded by Mars Hill is a case in point (the video has been removed from Vimeo, below I have it on YouTube).
[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/82847540#t=5s[/vimeo]
[youtube]http://youtu.be/mUGGcVxhimM[/youtube]

(33 seconds) For the last three years there was no funding; there was no way to gather the pastors back together from 1600 kilometers all the way down to Dilla, Ethiopia, and there was just no way of funding that. And I really felt like at that point in time that it was the opportunity that Mars Hill Church had to fund this pastors’ conference. It was amazing that the additional funding that we had, they needed.(1:00)
(2:49) This pastors’ conference affected literally 400 hundred churches and in their Bible college education they had never received discipleship training so this equipping allowed them to go back to their young, young churches and their new believers and transfer that new training to their churches.
And so Mars Hill Church when you gave to provide the funding for them to have this pastors’ conference. Without the Lord sending funds through us, this event would never have happened. (3:25)

It can’t be much clearer. Sutton Turner does not thank podcasters or non-members. He thanks Mars Hill Church members for the funding for the conference. Global here is clearly a ministry of Mars Hill church. While he doesn’t use the words “Global Fund,” the Global Fund was the means that members could use to route their donations to pay for activities in India and Ethiopia. Members were routinely asked to give above and beyond their tithes and offerings to help support Mars Hill Global. Tithes were to be given to the General Fund and “above and beyond” to the Global Fund.

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 Church Leaders Have Records of Donations to a Fund They Now Say Didn't Exist

Via spokesman Justin Dean, Mars Hill Church is now claiming that the Global Fund was not a fund after 2012. If that is true, then how is this letter from former executive pastor Sutton Turner to be understood?
MARSHill Letter Global
Sutton Turner wrote:

Our records indicate that you have donated to the “Global Fund” since ____ 2012.

According to the church, six thousand of these letters were sent to people who donated money to the Global Fund. However, if, as Justin Dean said, there was no Global Fund after 2012, then why did Sutton Turner say church records indicate that gifts were given to the fund? The church clearly has record of who gave to the fund and could disclose the amount given and spent if desired.