KJZZ, Phoenix public radio, today released a feature on Mark Driscoll and the RICO lawsuit. In a move which isn’t likely to sit well with Phoenix media, Driscoll again declined to speak to the Phoenix press.
The audio and article are somewhat different so check out both. You can hear the audio by going to the article. From Jacob McAuliffe’s report:
The Trinity Church is in its early stages of development. All it has is a website, some online supporters and a video message from founder Mark Driscoll and his wife.
Driscoll’s previous venture became a megachurch, which is a protestant congregation with at least 2,000 members. At its height, the now-disbanded Mars Hill Church in Seattle had an average weekly attendance of more than 12,000 people, spread across several different campuses.
Mars Hill fell apart when Driscoll resigned following allegations of emotional abuse and mismanagement of church funds. He now faces a lawsuit from former Mars Hill members.
Recently, writer Becky Garrison spent some time in Phoenix, AZ and looked for Mark Driscoll’s new project, The Trinity Church. In this report, Garrison summarizes Driscoll’s recent moves complete with photos of his church in a P.O. box.
Mark Driscoll’s Ministry Resurfaces in Phoenix
By Becky Garrison
After Mark Driscoll resigned as founder and leader of the multi-campus Seattle based Mars Hill Church, he registered the name Learning for Living before relocating the Driscoll family to Phoenix.
As reported by Warren Throckmorton on the Patheos blog, Mark Driscoll registered Mark Driscoll Ministries and the Trinity Church. Both are located at 21001 North Tatum Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85050. Marks Driscoll’s Ministries is listed as Ste. 1630-527 while the Trinity Church’s address is recorded as Ste. 1630-434.
As noted by the photographs below, these ministries are housed inside a UPS Store situated inside Desert Ridge Marketplace, a sprawling mall locate in Phoenix billed as an interactive shopping, dining and entertainment experience in a vibrant, high-energy outdoor setting. According to Lindsay Struck, Business Partnerships & Partnerships, for the charity watchdog organization Guidestar, “It is not uncommon for charities to have a P.O. box (or UPS mailbox) designated specifically for donations. This set-up is often because the charity’s donation processing is managed off-premise.”
However, one does have to wonder why a minister needs an online ministry established to disseminating his podcasts, sermons and other media, as well as a church especially as according to the articles of incorporation, Trinity Church won’t have any members. Mark Driscoll, Randall Taylor and Jimmy Evans are listed as directors of this church with Steven Goosdspeed, a lawyer with the Church Law Group, who handled the incorporation of these two Phoenix ministries. (Note: Goodspeed also handled the registration of Driscoll’s Learning for Living and the sale of Mars Hill Church’s Resurgence LLC assets to Driscoll. Church. Emails to Mark Driscoll Ministries and Evan’s church, Trinity Fellowship in Texas, inquiring about attending this “church” have yet to be returned. However, Driscoll preached preached on January 3, 2016 at North Valley Community Church which is located in the same vicinity as Driscoll’s “church.”
Also, Driscoll was of the keynote preachers at Trinity Fellowship’s Zion 2016 event held from January 3-6, 2016. When Jimmy Witcher, pastor with Trinity Fellowship, introduced Driscoll, he spun the downfall of Mars Hill as the result of “some internal things that were going on there” which were misreported by the media who only “get about the third of the information right.” Then he elevated Driscoll as “an amazing man of God” citing his appearance at the Texas based Gateway Conference in October 2014 as a sign this New Calvinist preacher could be finding a new audience among the followers within the more Pentecostal and charismatic influenced New Apostolic Reformation.
Moving north to Driscoll’s former stomping ground, according to the Washington Secretary of State’s website, two of Driscoll’s personal LLCs OMCRU Investments and On Mission LLC expired on December 31, 2015 but Driscoll’s MGD Legacy incorporated in Colorado remains in good standing. Even though Mars Hill Church formally dissolved on January 1, 2015, the documents for this church didn’t expired until December 31, 2015. However, the documents for Mars Hill Foundation for Planting Churches remain active until October 31, 2016 with Driscoll and Mars Hill Church executive elder Dave Bruskas listed as officers.
So what is the future for Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church’s assets? God only knows.
Regarding Mars Hill’s assets, the only people who know aren’t talking. Kerry Dodd is the most recent president but has not answered emails or other requests for information. Dave Bruskas is listed as an officer but he tells me he has had no communication with anyone on Mars Hill matters since he left. Apparently, the documents online haven’t been updated.
As promised, here is Driscoll’s new church in a box.
Today, Kathleen Tarrant in the Stranger brings us a beautifully written tour of the Seattle Indie music during and post the Mars Hill Church years. She makes the case that the early Mars Hill era had an influence on Seattle rock which endures today. Some of that persistence isn’t necessarily to be celebrated as many Christian artists were disillusioned by Mars Hill. For those, who want to understand the bigger themes of the Mars Hill story, I highly recommend this article.
A couple of short segment will give a taste:
The expansion continued in the years that followed. Mars Hill would nearly triple in size between 2006 and 2014, with 15 satellite franchise churches in five states. Driscoll’s fame and influence were expanding, too, and the cracks began to show. He doubled down on his anti-feminist, anti-gay agenda and was soon called out for spiritual abuse, bullying, plagiarism, and generally being a fraud. He was caught leaving abusive comments on internet message boards under a pseudonym. Church funds that had been designated for global outreach and a music festival disappeared. In 2012, a company called ResultSource was paid a reported $200,000 to bulk-buy copies of Driscoll’s book Real Marriage in 2012 to send it to the top of the best-seller list. Acts 29, the “church planting” network that Driscoll cofounded, removed his name from their materials. Members left in droves. A group of 21 former Mars Hill pastors filed formal charges of workplace abuse against Driscoll with the church’s elders.
The rise and fall of MHC has left a, um, mark.
Butcher, a former member of Mars Hill, plays drums in the band Copeland. While a member of the church, he was the drummer for the local Christian indie folk band Ivan & Alyosha, and worked as a designer at Tooth & Nail (his design of the band Underoath’s box set was nominated for a Grammy in 2010). His exit from the church lined up with his exit from the band, and he remembers the stigma of association with the church that followed. People rescinded offers for drumming gigs and cast uncomfortable glances at each other when they found out about his former membership.
“I get it,” he says now. “What happened at Mars Hill hurt so many people, including me. There’s a lot of healing to do, and the more transparent I can be and the more I can listen to people who have concerns about the church and what it did—the same concerns that I have—the better it will turn out.”
I was trying to make sense of everything that was going on and what I was to learn from it and I was sitting in a pastors conference with a bunch of charismatics and pentecostals because they tend to be the most encouraging and loving I’ve found. And so they invited me just to come and observe and learn and not teach but just to learn and so I was there at this large pastors conference and I’m sitting, you know, near the front row, and I’m just kinda on the verge of losing it all the time, emotional still, and this pastor gets up and says, well before I speak, I have a word for Mark Driscoll, and I was like, aw man, I do not want a word. I just want to sit here and be anonymous and not get the prophetic word. And so, he got up and gave a word that was a word from the Lord and it just cut me to the heart. And what he, the basic gist of what he said was, you left ministry as an angry older brother and you’ll return as a loving father.
And then he pulled me aside afterword in his Ford truck cause that’s where the Shekinah Glory dwells and the good stuff goes down. So we sat in his truck and he said, you started off as a guy who was angry with some bitterness and you attracted a lot of angry bitter young men with father wounds and they picked up on your tone of anger and bitterness.
The prophecy is different in this telling, no doubt influenced by the conversation with Evans in the Ford truck. If this is indeed the Gateway conference word from God, then Evans is helping to bring about his prophecy by partnering with Driscoll with this new venture in Phoenix.
The word of prophecy last October is important now that Driscoll has incorporated a new church apparently with the author of the prophecy. The tone and character of this church will probably be more charismatic and apostolic than Mars Hill. The fulfilling of this “prophetic word” appears to be on the horizon with Driscoll set to return as a spiritual father figure.
In fact, the narrative Driscoll has cultivated is that God has spoken specially to him to get him to this place. Just over a year ago, he was prepared to enter into his elders’ plan for restoration but left that behind because he said God spoke to him and released him from Mars Hill. Now, he returns to ministry as the fulfillment of additional revelation given to Jimmy Evans.
The rest of this audio provides some eyebrow raising commentary by Driscoll on what he perceives to be a massive father wound among young men in America. Driscoll refers to himself as a spiritual father and his wife Grace as a spiritual mother. At 45, he seems to view himself as old.
At 6:21, Driscoll said that he believes
…part of the gifting of apostolic ministry is spiritual parenting. It’s younger leaders looking up and saying that’s like a mom and a dad that I look to and learn from, and I find health and comfort and love under their leadership and in this family of people and churches we look to them in a parental way.
He added that such language can sound cultic if imposed on people. However, because of what he believes is a “massive father wound” in the culture, people learn to look to the pastor and his wife and as parental figures. The rest of his speech dwells on why young men follow “dead guys” like Wesley and Spurgeon. They want distant father figures who do not hold them accountable.
I think some Mars Hill elders might wonder if Driscoll is preaching to himself in the remaining minutes of that speech.
My reaction is that reparenting one’s congregation seems like a prescription for disaster. We have just about put behind us the notion that counselors should reparent clients, I don’t think such a stance should be encouraged among ministers.
In any case, this appeal in September to how he sees his return to ministry might give some clues about the tone and ministry of The Trinity Church. Perhaps, it should have been called My Father’s House or something like that.
Marshilllawsuit.com bills itself as a “one-stop resource” for information relating to the planned RICO lawsuit involving Mars Hill Church leaders.
While fund raising is slow going, this site brings together various issues which should help anyone trying to understand why the potential plaintiffs want to bring suit. In addition to the value the site has to those interested in the lawsuit, it summarizes two of the larger controversies (Global Fund and Result Source).
Although these issues have largely faded from public conversation, they are unfinished in that Mars Hill’s major players have been silent on specifics.
Mark Driscoll is now in Phoenix along some former Mars Hill people who are helping with the technical aspects of his website and perhaps to help start a church.
The transcript of the interview to be shown at the London conference is posted at the ChurchwatchCentral blog.
Driscoll’s next moves are unknown to him according to this interview with Houston. However, the Driscolls did enjoy a farewell party about 10 days ago in Seattle. Where could they be going? Some say Phoenix. In fact, several people say the Driscolls have been seen frequently around the Phoenix area this summer. I understand North Scottsdale is a beautiful part of Maricopa County in the Phoenix area.
In any case, much unfinished business remains at Mars Hill including how Global Fund dollars were spent and the results of the elders’ investigations.
After his return to the stage at the Thrive 2015 Leadership Conference at Bayside Church in CA, it seems reasonable to suspect that Mark Driscoll is poised to return to ministry. If so, where and doing what?
In recent weeks, several individuals have contacted me with tips that Driscoll is preparing to plant a church in Phoenix, AZ. In recent days, the buzz has intensified from several independent sources which leads me to believe the information is credible.
The moves appear to be at the exploratory stage at this point which means that a plant may not materialize.
The reaction of people who reach out with information has been interesting. Almost all are hoping the plant doesn’t happen. However, other people would welcome a return of Driscoll to active ministry. One can tell that from the reaction of some pastors at the Thrive 2015 conference.
Driscoll has become a polarizing figure in the broader church which unfortunately may follow him to wherever he lands. I think he could probably overcome this to some degree by taking his comeback trail through Seattle. I am pretty sure there are some folks there who would like to talk over his recent speech in CA.
According to sources last evening and in church this morning, Mars Hill pastors at four locations told their congregations that their church location would be closed or possibly closed in the near future.
Mars Hill Downtown Seattle, and University of Washington District will be closed and asked to join Mars Hill Ballard. Mars Hill Phoenix, AZ will close at the end of September while Huntington Beach, CA will remain open for awhile pending giving increases. If there is a turnaround, the Huntington Beach location might survive.
The church has been facing loss of attenders and a decline in giving. Blaming negative media attention, Mars Hill executive pastors issued a warning last week. Once billed as one of America’s fastest growing churches, Mars Hill has been losing ground rapidly through a tumultuous 2014.
UPDATE: This was just posted on Mars Hill Church’s website:
In last week’s Weekly blog post we shared about the tough financial position we find ourselves in. As we have been seeking to operate within our current means, we have come to the regrettable conclusion that we must consolidate some of our church locations, and close or transition others.
DOWNTOWN SEATTLE & U-DISTRICT
Throughout the day today our pastors at Downtown Seattle and U-District are informing those churches that they will be soon be consolidating with Mars Hill Church Ballard. The first Sunday that all three churches will meet together at Mars Hill Ballard will be October 12.
Mars Hill Church Phoenix is announcing today that their last service as a Mars Hill church will be Sunday, September 28th. We are exploring opportunities for Pastor Tim Birdwell to continue the church in a different form and how we can best support that possible effort.
Additionally, our pastors in Huntington Beach are sharing with the church today that they too are in jeopardy of having to close their doors if they are not able to increase giving by the end of the year. We have also ceased any further development of a Los Angeles church plant.
Please pray for the people attending these churches. If you attend one of these churches, we are deeply sorry, and we hope you are able to make one of the services at Mars Hill Ballard work for you and your family, or if you are in Phoenix that we can work together to best support future opportunities. Your pastors love you and want to help make this as easy for you as possible, so please reach out to them with any questions and needs. I also want you to know we take this very seriously, your pastors grieve over this, and we have made these decisions with great care, and after much prayer.
Even as we are forced to make some hard decisions regarding some of our locations, we are dedicated to planting new churches so that we can lead more people to Jesus. We will explore opportunities as they are presented and as sufficient funding is available. We will continue with our plans to plant Mars Hill Church Spokane, which currently has a strong core group, a location that we believe is sustainable, and a fiscally responsible plan for needed improvements.
While it’s with a heavy heart that I have to deliver this news, I am very thankful for a regional network of churches that can work together as a family. I hope you will join me in praying for these churches and all of those affected by these changes.