Memo: Mars Hill Church Staff Worried That Real Marriage Campaign Would Benefit Mark Driscoll More Than Church

According to the charges filed by the 21 former Mars Hill Church elders, Mark Driscoll told current elders in May 2014 that he was unaware of the details of the ResultSource agreement which artificially landed his book Real Marriage on the New York Times bestseller list. The former elders alleged:

May 2014—Mark told elders that he was not aware of the ResultSource agreement but had chosen to admit knowledge of it for the sake of the team in his letter to the church, and that others had made the decision to work with ResultSource. He claimed that another elder and Mark’s publishers made the decision to work with ResultSource without his knowledge. He insinuated that he had learned about the ResultSource agreement only after the story broke on World magazine. In fact, Mark agreed to work with ResultSource on the Best Seller Campaign for Real Marriage as early as July 2011.

What did Driscoll know and when did he know it? The letter to the church mentioned by the elders was sent by Driscoll via The City (Mars Hill’s closed web community) in March 2014. In it, Driscoll said:

First, a marketing company called ResultSource was used in conjunction with the book Real Marriage, which was released in January 2012. My understanding of the ResultSource marketing strategy was to maximize book sales, so that we could reach more people with the message and help grow our church. In retrospect, I no longer see it that way. Instead, I now see it as manipulating a book sales reporting system, which is wrong. I am sorry that I used this strategy, and will never use it again. I have also asked my publisher to not use the “#1 New York Times bestseller” status in future publications, and am working to remove this from past publications as well.

The wording of the statement makes it difficult to know when he became aware that the ResultSource scam was manipulative. Did he become aware of it after the story broke in World? Or sometime before that? Or did he know it all along? According to the former elders, Driscoll implied he didn’t know until after World broke the story. Since Driscoll is not talking to the media now, it is not possible to get his side of that story. However, there is evidence that Driscoll was warned about the nature of the ResultSource strategy before Sutton Turner signed the contract.
Regarding the July 2011 date mentioned by the former elders, I have seen an email which appears to support that date although I am not at liberty to print it. However, I have recently obtained an internal memo which indicates that Mars Hill staff were concerned about the Result Source agreement well before Sutton Turner signed the deal. The memo below provides additional evidence which supports the claim that Mark Driscoll was aware of the ramifications of the ResultSource strategy before the church leaders agreed to the terms of the contract. RMGiving1pager According to sources aware of the situation, the Mars Hill communications staff raised questions with the executive elders (Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas) about the wisdom of the ResultSource agreement prior to October 2011.  The above memo was written in September 2011, prior to the ResultSource contract dated October 13 and signed by Sutton Turner, apparently on October 17. In May 2014, I posted October 18, 2011 invoices from ResultSource which were addressed  to Mark Driscoll.
Driscoll told the church in March that he thought the ResultSource strategy would “reach more people with the message and help grow our church.” However, the memo above raised important questions regarding potential harm and loss which could result. The memo writer raised two important issues to the executive elders. Would the church lose money on the arrangement and is it acceptable for the church to pay retail price for Real Marriage when Driscoll could get them at a substantial discount and allow the church to sell them at a higher price.
The large giving campaign referred to in the memo above was launched on November 22, 2011 with a announcement to the church that Driscolls’ Real Marriage book could be secured via a $25 or more donation:
Give25getRMbook
The pitch to the members is described at the bottom of the page (since removed by Mars Hill Church; this is an archived copy of the page) Give25getRMbookB The links (in tan letters) lead to RealMarriageBook.com. This website was referred to in the Result Contract with Mars Hill: ResultSourceWebsiteRMB   That website is archived (November 19, 2011) and looked like this: ResultSourceRMBlanding
With this foundation, one can understand the concerns expressed in the memo more clearly. Real Marriage was being offered for a minimum price of $25. Since the books had to be purchased from retail outlets at the retail price ($20 or more)  in order for the books to show up in the New York Times sales count, the profit to Mars Hill Church was meager compared to what it would have been if Driscoll had exercised his option to purchase bulk quantities at a vast discount ($7).  Presumably, he made his usual royalty from the books purchased at retail. What is unknown is whether or not Driscoll donated any additional money from his royalties for the books sold in relationship to the entire campaign.
In light of this information, let’s review the worries expressed in the memo: RMMemoIsAcceptI have been told that the giving campaign did not achieve “sales” expectations. Successful or not, the campaign was set up pursuant to the ResultSource contract and managed by them. The campaign was set up to achieve Driscoll’s rise to the top of the NYT bestseller list and may have resulted in significant financial gain. The website said that purchasers were helping the ministry efforts of Mars Hill Church. Unknown to them, they were also helping Mark Driscoll get to #1 on the NYT bestseller list with all of the resulting benefits.
Finally, the memo implies that Driscoll was warned about the problems with running the ResultSource campaign through the church. The church Board of Advisors and Accountability spent money unwisely in order to benefit Mark Driscoll both via elevating his personal status and by purchasing books at retail price when those same books could easily have been secured at a substantial discount. While Driscoll said he was sorry he used the strategy, he has not directly addressed the financial consequences of the deal to the church. If the BOAA desires to repair lost trust now, I believe they need to issue a full accounting of money spent on the entire campaign, along with the resulting royalties, profits and losses.

Citing Church Finances and Personal Attacks, Sutton Turner Resigns Position at Mars Hill Church (UPDATED)

Recently, Sutton Turner deleted the Mars Hill Church information from his Twitter profile as well as most of his past tweets. His Linked In profile went private.
An announcement may be coming yet today. Reportedly, an announcement has been made internally. Reports are that Turner will no longer be an executive elder or staff.
If the reports are accurate, it will be interesting to learn if the severance situation is like the other pastors.
In 2012, Turner offered a blunt assessment of the church’s financial situation and called for greater transparency:

It is my belief that the reason we have such poor giving by our Church is the lack of stewardship in the Church staff. Churches with excellent stewardship see greater giving because people know that every dollar they give will go towards the mission of the Church. It is very clear this has not been the case at Mars Hill Church.

Unfortunately, Turner’s 2012 assessment appears to be true in 2014.
UPDATE: In the church’s weekly communication on the Mars Hill website, Michael Van Skaik, chairman of the Board of Advisors and Accountability announced Turner’s resignation:

UPDATE FROM THE BOAA

Dear Mars Hill,
Earlier this month Pastor Sutton Turner informed our board of his intention to resign from his current staff and elder position. His personal decision is a sober acknowledgement that it would not be financially feasible for him to stay on staff as the church rightsizes itself, and secondly, not emotionally prudent to subject his family to what has been an ongoing season of personal attacks. We want to be clear: there are no disqualifying factors related to his decision.
Sutton put it this way: “Since 2007, Pastor Mark has impacted my life in a significant way. I am thankful to call him my brother, my pastor, and my friend. When I came to Mars Hill in 2011, my plan was to be here for a year, get theologically trained, and focus on the adoption of my son before entering back into the business world. Three and a half years later, I have been able to serve a church that I love as a staff member, but it is now time that I transition off of staff and return to the business world.”
We believe one of the greatest legacies Sutton has established at Mars Hill is a passion for international church planting. He has lit a powerful fire for this at Mars Hill that will last, for what I hope, will be generations. Sutton’s tireless work in this area will have an eternal impact on hundreds of people who he may never meet, but one day in heaven will get to share the part he played in their story.
We, as a board, are very thankful and grateful for Sutton’s gifting, expertise, and commitment in leading and guiding our church operations in the role of executive pastor and executive elder. We fully support his decision and will as a board be assisting the staff leadership teams in the transition of day-to-day responsibilities with Sutton through September 30th. Please join me in praying for the Turners as they seek direction and the next assignment that God has for them.
Michael Van Skaik
Chairman, Board of Advisors and Accountability

And he used the word season again.
Wenatchee the Hatchet analyzes this statement in light of Sutton Turner’s Resurgence article on “How to Leave Well.”

Megachurch Methods: Mark Driscoll's Content Management System

Subtitle: Pastor Mark is a Spurgeon for our time.
Most people realize by now that Mark Driscoll and perhaps most megachurch pastors use research help in order to write their books, blogs and columns. Even though the celebrity pastor’s name is on the label, several other writers have been involved in the finished product. When Driscoll issued a statement about plagiarism in his study guide on I & II Peter, he faulted his “content development process.” To many, the statement, which included the famous phrase “mistakes were made,” appeared to pass the buck to those unnamed researchers and writers employed in the development of content.
I have obtained a 2013 proposal for an expansion of the content management system at Mars Hill. I am pretty sure that very little of this is in place now after the recent round of layoffs. In fact, internal sources tell me that Mars Hill Music and The Resurgence is essentially unstaffed. Since it is a proposal, it is not clear how much of this came into being, but it provides an interesting insight into some of the stories which have emerged over the past year.  Here is the front page which provides the rationale for spending time and money promoting Mark Driscoll’s written works.
MarkDriscollCMS2013
 
Some content would be written by Driscoll but some content would mainly have his thoughts and voice.
Driscollcontentmgtcolumns
 
 
I can imagine that having a person dedicated to your publishing business and advancing a personal brand would be a worthy undertaking for an individual who makes his/her living from speaking, writing, and commenting. In other words, if your personal business is growing, surely you need a person who can help manage various projects. What is interesting and may be specific to the megachurch environment is that the church donations and tithes pay for this. Here is the financial aspect of the proposal.
driscollcontentmgtbudget
Budget appears to call for well over $100k once the producer is hired. Some of these expenses were already in place. When the plagiarism scandal first broke in November 2013, Docent Research was in the spotlight for awhile because Driscoll initially implied the researchers were responsible. Thus, Mars Hill members were paying for research which ended up in Mark Driscoll’s books. The royalties from those books eventually ended up with Driscoll.
This information raises questions about how much church funds should help to establish an individual’s ministry. I am not saying I have the answer; perhaps $120k+ is fine given Mars Hill Church’s size. However, even on executive elder — Sutton Turner — expressed reservations. In his 2012 memo to his fellow executive elders, Sutton Turner complained about pastors using the church to do this. It is hard to see the content management system as anything but an advancement of Driscoll’s “communications ministry.” I’ll close with two quotes from Sutton Turner in 2012:

Many times these personal ministries are done during staff time and using church resources. This actually encouraged when I first came on staff as it was explained to me that staff was able to take MHC time to do consulting work to supplement their income. At the very highest levels of the organization this was taking place and reproduced throughout the organization. So as a result, all staff members saw this as acceptable and now the established culture within Mars Hill Church.

and

It is my belief that the reason we have such poor giving by our Church is the lack of stewardship in the Church staff. Churches with excellent stewardship see greater giving because people know that every dollar they give will go towards the mission of the Church. It is very clear this has not been the case at Mars Hill Church.

Sutton Turner in 2012 on Mars Hill Church's Financial Situation: "We are in a big mess"

It is my belief that the reason we have such poor giving by our Church is the lack of stewardship in the Church staff. Churches with excellent stewardship see greater giving because people know that every dollar they give will go towards the mission of the Church. It is very clear this has not been the case at Mars Hill Church.
Sutton Turner

On Monday, Mars Hill Church leaders told the congregation that the church is “now facing the most serious budget challenge in our history.” However, according to a 2012 Mars Hill Church memo from Sutton Turner to his fellow executive elders, the church has been operating from crisis to crisis for quite some time.  At the time, he wrote: “we are in a big mess. It is much worse that I could have ever imagined.” Perhaps, this assessment in 2012 provides perspective on the severity of the current “most serious budget challenge” the church history. 
Turner’s March 17, 2012 memo outlines his perception of Mars Hill Church as “a very broken and fundamentally financially unsustainable organization.” Turner identifies numerous problems including a culture “that is plagued by poor stewardship, entitlement, December’s Hail Mary strategy, and using of the Church to build a personal ministry.”
Turner delineates reasons for his opinions throughout the memo. For now, I want to focus on two issues, the Result Source campaign and what Turner called the “December hail Mary strategy.”
On the Result Source expense to rig the New York Times count of book sales, Turner notes that the church spent heavily on that campaign along with launching six new locations.

Then you put on top of these 6 churches launches a RM campaign and you basically have a company going to World War III. It is all hands on deck, spend whenever is needed and let’s win the War.

The decision to “spend whatever is needed” is an unexamined aspect of the Real Marriage campaign. Mars Hill Church had finished 2011 strong because of the 2011 “December hail Mary strategy.” Over the next 3 months, the church burned through that money to the point that in March Sutton Turner woke up in the middle of the night and wrote a doomsday memo to his colleagues. Media and communications staff were given the tasks of promoting the Real Marriage book, including scheduling and servicing speaking engagements, all on church time. In the memo, Turner complains about this aspect of Mars Hill culture:

Many times these personal ministries are done during staff time and using church resources. This actually encouraged when I first came on staff as it was explained to me that staff was able to take MHC time to do consulting work to supplement their income. At the very highest levels of the organization this was taking place and reproduced throughout the organization. So as a result, all staff members saw this as acceptable and now the established culture within Mars Hill Church.

There is no higher level of the organization than Mark Driscoll and Sutton Turner had already participated in that culture by signing the contract with Result Source in October 2011 to rig the bestseller lists. On one hand, Turner is correct that ministers should not use the church to benefit them financially, but on the other hand, he had gone along with just such a scheme on a massive scale. At the end of the memo, he returns to the launch of six churches and the Real Marriage campaign as being a prime factor for the hole they were in.

The hole we are in today was set in course when we decided to plant 6 churches in 5 months on top of the Real Marriage campaign. Too much work for an 8,000 in weekly attendance church to undertake when there was a culture within the church staff of poor stewardship and a church body that did not financially support the church.

Another aspect of this memo that really stands out is the admission that the December end-of-the-year giving campaigns were designed to make up for giving shortfalls. Turner wrote:

From what I can tell by this past year’s budget, we have had a strategy of completing a Hail Mary every December with a big giving campaign. This has allowed the negative monthly financial performance to continue while we count on a Hail Mary giving push in December to make up for the annual deficit. Givers are giving to grow the body and plant more churches, but given our spending habits, their gifts just help us catch up. With the growth of the church, the 2011 version only allows for enough cash to run through June 2012 and is not a sustainable plan for December 2012.

Even though the church told the congregation that the December offerings were to be over and above tithes in order to fund extra projects, the money was not used in that manner.  Even though Turner complained about this fundraising style, the church maintained the “December hail Mary strategy” during the end of the 2013 with glowing descriptions of a Jesus Festival to be held in August. That idea was discarded without notice very early in 2014.
Closer to the time of Turner’s memo was the 2011 end of the year appeal for $6.4 million for, among other things, the planting of four churches (happened), and to fund an animated children’s series (never happened). However, by March 2012, Turner was sounding the alarm that the church was in serious financial shape. He summarized the predicament with the following image:
financialchallenge2011
If Mars Hill Church is now in “the most serious budget challenge in our history” then things now must be much worse than anyone has stated publicly. Given the rapid acquisition of properties, Mars Hill could be very low on cash and be in danger of the same kind of problems that existed in 2012. My guess is October is a deadline of sorts along the lines of point #3 above.
My suspicion is that the past is prologue to the current situation. Turner predicted that the situation was unsustainable and it appears he was correct.
I will probably revisit this memo in a future post but for now, let me end where I began. I believe Turner was correct when wrote:

It is my belief that the reason we have such poor giving by our Church is the lack of stewardship in the Church staff. Churches with excellent stewardship see greater giving because people know that every dollar they give will go towards the mission of the Church. It is very clear this has not been the case at Mars Hill Church.

However, very little has changed since he wrote those words. The church has steadfastly refused to disclose Global Fund spending, the church attempted to keep information about the Global Fund hidden, executive personnel costs are closely guarded secrets, and up until recently, members and some elders could not get a look at bylaws. It is still true that “churches with excellent stewardship see greater giving because people know that every dollar they give will go towards the mission of the Church.” Perhaps even Turner would agree that, even in the present season, “this has not been the case at Mars Hill Church.”
Read the memo here.

Citation Error in Sutton Turner's Book Invest? (UPDATED with reply from Mars Hill Church)

While Mark Driscoll has garnered much attention regarding his citation errors (e.g., plagiarism, factual errors, inadequate citations), Driscoll’s assistant and fellow executive elder may also need to do some correcting. In chapter four of his book, Invest, Turner lists differences between a job and a ministry:

  • If you want praise and recognition for what you do, it’s a job. If no one else besides Jesus needs to commend your work, it’s ministry.
  • If you do the job as long as it does not cut into other things (such as hobbies, family activities, etc.), it’s a job. If you are willing to make sacrifices in your personal schedule, it’s ministry.
  • If you compare your lot with others who have more free time, more money, and more possessions, it’s a job. If you pray for others rather than compete with them, it’s ministry.
  • If it bothers you when the phone rings on evenings and weekends, it’s a job. If you see random calls at odd hours as opportunities to serve with joy, it’s ministry.
  • If you want to quit because the work is too hard, the pressure is too great, or your performance is criticized, it’s a job. If you stick it out—until Jesus clearly tells you that it’s time to move on—it’s ministry.
  • If you use the church as a stepping-stone, a payday, or a gold star on your résumé, it’s a job. If you’re working for the church because you love Jesus and you want more people to meet him, get saved, and be transformed, then it’s ministry.
  • Turner, Sutton (2013-12-16). Invest: Your Gifts for His Mission (Kindle Location 673). Resurgence Publishing, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Compare Turner’s list in his 2013 book with this list from a 1999 sermon by Mickey Anders.

Someone has said there is a huge difference between having a job at church and having a ministry at church.
… If you are doing it because no one else will, it’s a job. If you are doing it to serve the Lord, it’s a ministry.
… If you’re doing it just well enough to get by, it’s a job. If you’re doing it to the best of your ability, it’s a ministry.
… If you’ll do it only so long as it doesn’t interfere with other activities, it’s a job. If you’re committed to staying with it even when it means letting go of other things, it’s a ministry.
… It’s hard to get excited about a job. It’s almost impossible not to get excited about a ministry.
An average church is filled with people doing jobs. A great church is filled with people involved in ministry.
Dr. Mickey Anders,
Sermon: “The Beginning of Ministry,” First Christian Church, Pikeville, Kentucky January 24, 1999

There are other lists attributed to Anders and very nearly the same list also attributed to a Melody Blevins.  Anders was, until recently, affiliated with the South Elkhorn Christian Church in Lexington, KY. Many lists like this are printed without attribution and often add something to Anders list (although I have no way of knowing what was in Anders original list). Take this one for instance:

Is it a Job or a Ministry?
Some people have a job in the church. Others get involved in a ministry.
What’s The Difference?
If you’re doing it because no one else will, it’s a job.
If you’re doing it to serve the Lord, it’s a ministry.
If you’ll do it so long as it doesn’t interfere with other activities it’s a job.
If you’re committed to staying with it even when it means letting go of other things, it’s a ministry.
If you quit because no one praised or thanked you, it was a job.
If you stayed with it even though no one seems to notice, it’s a ministry.
It is hard to get excited about a job.
It is almost impossible not to be excited about a ministry.
If your concern is “success”, it’s a job.
If your concern is “faithfulness”, it’s a ministry.
An average church is filled with people doing jobs.
A great church is filled with people who are involved in ministries!

The list attributed to Melody Blevins has similar points:

A JOB OR A MINISTRY – by Melody Blevins
Some people have a JOB in the church; others involve themselves in a MINISTRY. What’s the difference? If you are doing it just because no one else will, it’s a JOB. If you are doing it to serve the Lord, it’s a MINISTRY. If you quit because someone criticized you, it was a JOB. If you keep on serving, it’s a MINISTRY. If you’ll do it only so long as it does not interfere with your other activities, it’s a JOB. If you are committed to staying with it even when it means letting go of other things, it’s a MINISTRY. If you quit because no one praised you or thanked you, it is a JOB. If you stay with it even though nobody recognizes your efforts, it’s a MINISTRY. It’s hard to get excited about a JOB. It’s almost impossible not to be excited about a MINISTRY. If our concern is success, it’s a JOB. If our concern is faithfulness, it’s a MINISTRY. An average church is filled with people doing JOBS. A great and growing church is filled with people involved in MINISTRY. Where do we fit in? What about us? If God calls you to a MINISTRY, don’t treat it like a JOB. If you have a JOB, give it up and find a MINISTRY. God does not want us feeling stuck with a JOB, but excited and faithful to Him in MINISTRY.

The lists are not identical but they seem similar enough that attribution certainly would be appropriate. At least one reviewer of the book took the list to be original with Turner.
This list or construction might not be original with either Anders or Blevins, but the point is that it does not appear to be original with Turner. Various lists like this have gotten passed around the web since the early days. It didn’t take me long to find two possible authors but no one is cited in Invest. When in doubt, an author should footnote and describe where the material was discovered. An author can adapt material but this should be noted in a footnote.
I have asked Sutton Turner for comment and will report if he replies. Perhaps this is a rare coincidence. However, the Blevins/Anders lists clearly predate Invest, and unless another explanation is offered appear to be the basis for this section of Turner’s book.
UPDATE: Both Sutton Turner and Communications Director Justin Dean responded to my request for comment. Turner took the request seriously and replied that he would correct the problems identified when the book was reprinted. Justin Dean also wrote to say:

We are looking into the best way to cite this in the footnotes and will update the book upon reprint. I don’t have any other information about this right now but we will look into it and make any changes necessary.

His answer was in response to my question about the nature of the error. Did Turner use material he knew wasn’t his or was it an oversight? I am still not clear on this but I can say that it was refreshing to get a serious respectful reply.

Mars Hill Church Leaders Respond to the Concerns and Critical Information Letter

Earlier this afternoon, current lead pastors and the newly formed Board of Elders (more about that later) sent a response to the congregation. The subject was the document released yesterday titled “Concerns and Critical Information for the Elders of Mars Hill Church” and signed by nine current Mars Hill elders.

From Mars Hill Church:
Dear Mars Hill,
Yesterday, a private document and conversation between all the elders of Mars Hill Church was leaked to the media. Because we, your 16 lead pastors and the Board of Elders, love and care about you, we want to provide you with some information and context so that you can be in prayer for your church.
We know that this letter has raised concerns and questions that will be examined and taken very seriously.
Last week, some current elders brought forward their concerns about the integrity of Pastor Sutton Turner and Michael Van Skaik (our BoAA chairman) as well as Pastor Mark Driscoll. There was some discussion of these concerns privately, but then last week these elders brought forward their questions/concerns on our Full Council of Elders group on The City that remain unresolved. Unfortunately, in recent months it has been proven almost everything that goes on that City group is leaked publicly to online media. We simply do not know who is passing these private conversations along to the media, but the fact is, it keeps happening.
Your elders are deeply grieved over the manner in which this has happened. In particular, we are grieved because 1 Corinthians 6:1–8 gives us a very clear (and even stern) command that when we have grievances against one another, we are to work them out in such a way that non-believers are not invited into the discussion. This passage shows us that even in cases of serious wrong or disagreement, God wants us to exercise appropriate discretion. We are terribly sorry because this is incredibly distracting and harmful to the cause of the gospel. Please forgive us for our division and lack of unity. We know this hurts all of you deeply and we are eagerly working toward the unity that we have in Jesus.
We know that in recent months there have been questions, concerns, accusations, and charges brought against the senior leadership of Mars Hill Church. To address these allegations and concerns, a newly formed Board of Elders, made up of trusted lead pastors, has been appointed to examine these charges. These men have already met for many hours this week to begin this important process.
Regarding the letter, it is extremely regrettable that it has gone public, for four reasons:
Whoever is passing these documents along to the media is in clear, defiant violation of 1 Corinthians 6.
It puts what should be spoken of as “questions” or “concerns” or even “opinions” about Pastor Sutton and Michael van Skaik as “fact” in the mind of the watching world. There are important verses that speak to due process (Matt. 18:15–17), fact-checking (Prov. 18:17), and investigating claims before rendering judgement (Deut. 17:8–9).
It has caused harm to the body. “When one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor. 12:26).
Those elders who wrote the document clearly stated that this conversation was for the elders of the church, not the general public.
Despite the way the letter was sent out, please know we take its contents very seriously and will be taking the appropriate actions to honor Jesus, address the allegations and concerns, and work toward becoming a healthy church.
If you haven’t yet seen the letter, you will more than likely see it online. Some of you, if you see the letter, will be unsure as to how to feel or respond. We would like to shepherd you away from some ungodly responses and toward some godly responses.
Please do not:
React in fear or anxiety. Even as Christians we may be tempted to give place to fear. Remember, no matter what does or doesn’t happen with our church, you will still be a Christian, you are still loved by Jesus, and you will still spend eternity in the loving presence of God. The words of Romans 8:35–39 are so valuable to us in a time like this.
Pronounce judgement before the time. We must allow God to bring to light everything that he wants to have brought to the light. Just because someone brings forward allegations and concerns about a leader does not mean we should presume guilt. Any and all allegations and charges must be treated seriously, with impartiality, and without jumping to conclusions. Your elders will seek to honor Jesus as we proceed forward.
Slander, gossip, or pick sides. Our “team” is Jesus, not one group of elders or another. We must control our tongues, including our “digital/online” tongues. “I said, ‘I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence’” (Ps. 39:1). Scripture has many warnings about engaging in controversies, quarrels and other’s disagreements because of the intense hurt that comes for all those involved.
Please do:
Pray. Pray that the elders will seek the Lord, be led by the Spirit, and proceed forward in confession, repentance, love, and godliness. Pray that the watching non-Christian world would not be given opportunity to discredit not only our church but the very gospel of Jesus. Pray that Jesus will be glorified through all of this.
Seek wisdom. The book of James speaks a lot about wisdom. James 3:17says, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” Seek this type of wisdom from God.
Walk in godliness. Our prayer is that wisdom, love, truth, kindness, reasonableness, patience, and a myriad of other godly characteristics would be what marks all of our lives in the middle of continual, difficult, and challenging circumstances.
Trust. Mars Hill belongs to Jesus (Col. 1:18). Let us trust Jesus with our lives and his church.
We love you, Mars Hill, and we are here to love, serve, and care for you. At the end of the day, our only hope is in Jesus, and our only job is to point you to Jesus.
In Christ,
Your Lead Pastors and Board of Elders
Pastor Tim Birdwell
Pastor Ed Choi (Board of Elders)
Pastor David Fairchild
Pastor Aaron Gray (Board of Elders)
Pastor Bubba Jennings (Board of Elders)
Pastor Alex Ghioni (Board of Elders)
Pastor Matthias Haeusel
Pastor AJ Hamilton (Board of Elders)
Pastor Scott Harris
Pastor Drew Hensley
Pastor Thomas Hurst
Pastor Donovan Medina
Pastor Matt Rogers (Board of Elders)
Pastor Miles Rohde (Board of Elders)
Pastor Tim Smith (Board of Elders)
Pastor Matt Wallace
Pastor Ryan Williams
Pastor Seth Winterhalter

According to several current members, the Board of Elders listed above are slated to examine the charges against Mark Driscoll, and possibly now Sutton Turner and Michael Van Skaik. This newly constituted Board of Elders is not mentioned in the bylaws and appears to be a outside-the-bylaws creation of the independent members of the Board of Advisors and Accountability. In a separate post, I will examine this move. From my reading of Article 12 of the bylaws, the independent members of the BOAA may develop procedures for investigating charges but they are charged with conducting the investigation.
I think the use of I Corinthians 6 is a stretch. That section of Paul’s letter refers to lawsuits not some nebulous “court of public opinion.”

Now I Understand Why Charisma Magazine Blocked Me

Must be nice for Mars Hill to have a media outlet that will run their slant on things. Everyone else was willing to run Todd Starowitz’s email verifying that I only used his quotes. Not Charisma. In fact, when I wanted to comment on their website, I was blocked. Now I get it…

Facing Financial Pressures, Mars Hill Steps Up Solicitations, Lays Off Staff

In the face of financial concerns, Seattle mega church Mars Hill Church has laid off staff and stepped up efforts to collect donations as the end of the fiscal year passed yesterday. According to ex-staff and sources inside Mars Hill church, on June 20, nine staff were let go amid concern about a sudden “budget crunch” from the church’s executive elders.
Mars Hill wrote about the action yesterday in their weekly communication to members:

Last week we had to make the very tough decision to transition a number of people off of staff from our ministry support departments, as well as some staff at a few of our local churches. These are all faithful people who served and worked hard for the church, and we regret that we had to make these changes. If you know any of them, please reach out to offer your prayers and support during this transition, and please continue to pray for the church as we navigate through a tough season.
At this week’s Staff Chapel, we had the opportunity to invite these friends back so that we could honor them and pray over them. It was a meaningful time of worship and reflection as a church family. We are so thankful to have had the opportunity to show these staff members how deeply we care about them and appreciate the contribution they have made toward Jesus’ mission at Mars Hill. While they may no longer be on staff, we love them and they are still a part of our church family.

One staff who was laid off told me that the budget crunch caught the executive elders by surprise and was related to a dramatic decline in attendance and giving.
A current member told me that he received 5 solicitations within the space of three days requesting year end donations. Ex-members and those who have not attended in many years have also received multiple requests for gifts to assist the church raise giving levels. Internal documents supplied to me showed that per member giving was down at all but one of the 15 Mars Hill campus locations.
In one solicitation, executive pastor Sutton Turner said about the church’s situation, “We are ending our fiscal year at one of the most trying times for our church in recent memory.”
Meanwhile, Mars Hill leaders continue to be under pressure over their use of moneys designated the Global Fund over the last two years. A petition at change.org calling for Mars Hill to disclose how much of the Global Fund was spent on international missions has now reached 342 signatures.

Mars Hill Fundraising Solicitation: Signs of Struggle or Just a Normal Emergency?

This tweet was directed my way this morning:


Many organizations issue urgent sounding end of the year appeals. It is hard to know if Mr. Lee is correct about Mars Hill or if this is just one of those formula letters sent at a strategic time to get people to give when they otherwise wouldn’t think to do so. However, if former community coach Dalton Roraback is correct and attendance is way down, then this email could be the sign of cutbacks at the Seattle megachurch.

Sutton Turner and the Tale of Two Mars Hill Globals

With each new publication about Mars Hill Global, it seems that church leaders verify my suspicion that much of the money donated for international outreach over the past couple of years has been spent on expanding Mars Hill United States franchises.
In a new video, executive pastor Sutton Turner defines Mars Hill Global as a family connected to Mars Hill Church through Mark Driscoll. In this video, Turner reveals that Mars Hill Global is helping Spokane get off the ground, and in the past helped the Phoenix franchise launch. In a prior post, I noted that Mars Hill Everett’s pastor Ryan Williams thanked Mars Hill Global for helping buy their building. He was almost two years late with his thanks but better late than never I guess.
In this new video, Turner makes sure we know that Mars Hill Global is a bunch of people who give to support church planting locally and internationally. Watch:
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D88NBSgOb4I[/youtube]
Transcript:

Mars Hill Global is a family; a family that is connected to Mars Hill Church through Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Bible preaching. Each week there are almost 250,000 people from all over the world that download, watch, and listen to sermons and other content from Mars Hill Church.
In 2007, I began listening to Mars Hill podcasts while living in Texas and continued as a podcaster when I moved to the Middle East. My family and I were amazed at the work that Jesus was doing through Mars Hill and the number of people that were meeting Jesus and growing in Jesus each week. It was amazing. I wanted to be more than just a podcaster, I wanted to participate with prayers and financial support as part of the global family of Mars Hill Church so that more people would meet Jesus and more churches would be planted.
Together you and I are both a part the global family of Mars Hill Church. Mars Hill Global mission is the same as Mars Hill Church, making disciples and planting churches all over the world. Currently,your gifts support our 15 Mars Hill Church locations in the United States, evangelists in Ethiopia in church planters in India. It’s a blessing to have a global family who supports what Jesus is doing around the world.
As I mentioned, I’m here in Spokane Washington where we hope to plant our 16th Mars Hill Church location. It’s our prayer that this church building originally constructed in 1926 will be the new home of Mars Hill Spokane. I want to ask you to begin praying about this opportunity; an opportunity for a new Gospel work in an old vintage building, a building that will be home for a new family of believers to meet, worship, and fellowship in Jesus’s name. This new work doesn’t happen without your financial support. You help plant Mars Hill Phoenix earlier this year. Now we’re praying about this opportunity to plant Mars Hill Spokane.
I invite you to continue to pray and give, so more people can be saved by Jesus, more people can grow in Jesus, and more people can be on Jesus’s mission in Seattle, Albuquerque, Spokane, the United States, Ethiopia, India, and the ends of the Earth.

All of that is fine. If people who don’t go to Mars Hill want to donate money to Mars Hill’s General Fund, then, of course, that is up to them. However, what about the people who donated money to the Mars Hill Global Fund when it existed? Shouldn’t they know where their donation went? As some commenters on my blog have expressed, they are surprised that their money went to building in the U.S. One commenter who claimed to donate to the Global Fund wrote:

I have no words! So, we not so rich east europeans give money for poor Ethiopia and India, but surprise, they go for rich americans!!! This is some kind a joke!

Up to May, a donor could donate to something called the Global Fund. And as the next video shows, the source of the donations could be from Mars Hill members in the U.S. as well as from people who didn’t attend Mars Hill. According to this video published in January, Mars Hill Global was the arm of Mars Hill Church which developed resources for international efforts. Watch:
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcseC6KpSBk[/youtube]
Transcript:

Howdy Mars Hill Church, pastor Sutton Turner here and I’m in Ethiopia, and I just want to thank Jesus for continuing to use Mars Hill Church to make disciples and plant churches. Mars Hill Global is the arm of Mars Hill Church that makes disciples and plant churches all over the world. We not only do church planting, but we help better equip church planters. Most recently, we shipped and now distributed a thousand Bibles into Amharic which is the language here in Ethiopia, and we launched a project to translate Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Doctrine book into Spanish. We have people from over 29 different countries that are giving on a monthly basis to Mars Hill Global.
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. Thank you and let’s see more materials translated, more pastors sent out, more churches planted, and more people saved by Jesus Christ.

Turner’s January 2014 video sounds much more like the way Mars Hill Global was described in the 2013 Annual Report. Prior to May, as noted by Turner in the second video above, a donor, including a member of Mars Hill Church, could designate money separately from one’s tithe (General Fund giving) for international efforts. That was called the Global Fund. In all of the revising of Mars Hill Global’s history which has been going on lately, nothing has been said about where the Global Fund has gone or where that money was spent. Apparently, some of it was spent on Everett’s down payment, and now we learn that some of it was spent on Mars Hill Phoenix and is about to be spent on Mars Hill Spokane. But how much of it went to Ethiopia and India? If I had donated to Mars Hill Global Fund in FY 2013 and/or 2014, I would want to know.