First Rule of Acquisition: "Once you have their money, you never give it back." -The Ferengi link
1. The multi site model is dead, for now, at Mars Hill.
Most of our links today will be from Warren Throckmorton's blog. I want to take a moment to thank Warren for his diligent work in exposing the issues at Mars Hill.
On October 31, Warren posted Dramatic Changes at Mars Hill Church: Multi-Site Model Out; Local Autonomous Churches In which included letter from Dave Bruskas which can be found on the Mars Hill Website.
Here are some excerpts:
…Following much prayer and lengthy discussion with Mars Hill’s leadership, the board of Mars Hill has concluded that rather than remaining a centralized multi-site church with video-led teaching distributed to multiple locations, the best future for each of our existing local churches is for them to become autonomous self-governed entities. This means that each of our locations has an opportunity to become a new church, rooted in the best of what Mars Hill has been in the past, and independently led and run by its own local elder teams.
…Please be in prayer for your local elder teams as they contemplate the following options in the next few weeks: (1) becoming an independent, self-governed church; (2) merging with an existing church to create one independent, self-governed church; or (3) disbanding as a church and shepherding current members to find other local church homes. This decision will be made by your local church’s Lead Pastor and elder team.
Bruskas also answers some (not all, mind you,) questions about buildings, staff, etc.
…(1) All of Mars Hill’s existing church properties will either be sold, or the loans on the individual properties will be assumed by the independent churches, subject to approval by the lender; (2) all central staff will be compensated for their work, and then released from their employment; (3) if any funds remain after the winding down and satisfaction of Mars Hill business affairs, they will be gifted as seed money to the newly independent churches, then, (4) the existing Mars Hill Church organization will be dissolved.
And, of course, there was the ever present plea for money.
…Give generously, as your gifts in November and December of this year will make a critically important difference in our desire for 13 churches being healthy and sustainable from launch-day and thereafter.
Dr Throckmorton raises some interesting questions about all of this.
- Why the abrupt about face on their Mars Hill model which, until the past month or so, was predicated on more buildings, more staff, and more money from a global giving base, mimicking the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition.
- Where's the money going?
2. Why should people continue to give to Mars Hill Church? Shouldn’t the giving now go to the separate entities? In my opinion, any appeal to giving should also include full disclosure of what will happen to the funds. Are the severance packages of departed executives dependent on this continued giving? While the future is getting clearer, the leaders still at Mars Hill should provide an accounting of how funds have been spent in the past.
2. The Mars Hill name will not be allowed to be used by the churches link.
I believe this may be a significant act.
Church spokesman Justin Dean said congregations won’t continue under the Mars Hill name.
“They must become their own churches, create their own 501(c)(3), governance, leadership, etc.,” Dean said. “We will provide seed money if we have it, but they are free to start independent and cannot use the Mars Hill name.”
3. Two new churches formed immediately.
Say Hello to Two New Post-Mars Hill Churches: Bellevue Church and Redemption Church (Spokane). Note that the Bellevue Church is the former site of Driscoll's mother ship. Interestingly, it was given to Matt Rogers, one of the guys who supported Driscoll throughout this morass. Here is a comment from Warren's site. Also, this just in. Dave Bruskas will be the interim preaching pastor at Bellevue. Yep-Bellevue is the new mother ship for The Church Formerly Known as Mars Hill.
4. Folks have been expressing relief that Driscoll and the Mars Hill bureaucracy is gone. They are being chastised by the more *godly.*
Both Janet Mefferd and I received some critique on Twitter for expressing relief that the truth is now out and Mark Driscoll has stepped away from the pulpit. However, there are some folks who actually believe a church has died and that we should be in mourning. Julie Anne Smith wrote Is anyone celebrating the demise of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill churches? Is it really over? Should current Mars Hill pastors be leading new churches? Here is what she had to say.
I’ve noticed when something very negative happens in the church, Response Referees come out advising us what we can and cannot say, how we can and cannot feel or express ourselves. I have not seen one comment “salivating” about the demise of Mark Driscoll or the Mars Hill churches.
I have, however, seen rejoicing that the wolf who was freely roaming in a pen of thousands of beloved sheep and devouring some of them, no longer has the ability to do so.
People, is that not something worth rejoicing? Don’t you think God is rejoicing when His people are freed?
The emotional and spiritual chaos has been going on at Mars Hill for nearly two decades. The pain and suffering have been horrible. Many have abandoned their faith. It has torn friends and family apart. This is no light matter. Shouldn’t we be glad that this corrupt leader can’t wreak havoc on spiritual lives anymore?
I don’t see anyone throwing celebratory parties. I see this as a scenario where there are mixed feelings: sadness and grieving for what was lost, happiness that this abuse no longer has to continue. People need the opportunity to freely express their thoughts and feelings about this. Will some people sin in doing so? Maybe. Is that our business? Probably not.
6. However Mars Hill Tacoma will need bank approval to do so link.
Basically, there is a loan on the building and the bank will see if the congregation can meet the payments. If not, the church will have to move. Warren raises pertinent questions about this that I address later. The following is an excerpt from the post.
First, Jennings doesn’t know how much money the loan will be. He is talking about placing the congregation on the hook for a large amount of money to maintain their building without knowing the terms. Second, there is only one fund to give money to now at Mars Hill – The General Fund.
7. "Seven Years Later: 18 Mars Hill Elders Issue Letter of Confession to Bent Meyer, Paul Petry, and the Church"
The Wartburg Watch posted the stories of the unjust treatment and firings of Petry and Meyer a couple of years ago. Please read their stories to understand the background. This letter is very important in the overall scheme of things. This letter was posted today on Joyful Exiles which is a blog written by the Petrys..
We want to publicly confess our sin against you regarding events that took place at Mars Hill Church back in 2007. We were wrong. We harmed you. You have lived with the pain of that for many years. As some of us have come to each of you privately, you have extended grace and forgiveness, and for that we thank you. Because our sin against you happened in a public way and with public consequences, we want to make our confession public as well with this letter.
On September 30th 2007, you were both terminated from your employment as pastors at Mars Hill Church. Your status as elders of the church was suspended, according to the church’s bylaws at the time, pending an investigation of your qualification for eldership. It’s hard to imagine just how disorienting and painful this experience must have been for you. That night, Bent, you called Mike Wilkerson, your direct supervisor, to let him know that you’d been terminated. Within hours, Paul, you emailed all of the elders to notify us of what had happened to you that night. We had the opportunity and the responsibility to intervene, to care, to listen to you, and to make sure that any harmful treatment against you was corrected. Instead, we allowed the process of your investigation and trial to continue unimpeded and we participated in it. By failing to intervene and by participating in that process without protest, we implied to the members of Mars Hill Church, to each other, and to you and your families that your termination was above reproach. We stood by as it happened, and that was wrong.
We now believe that you were grievously sinned against in that termination.
…Paul, On October 15, 2007, all twenty-three elders at the time—including most of us signers of this letter—voted that you were in violation of the biblical qualifications of eldership. The alleged violations included a “lack of trust and respect for spiritual authority”. All but two of the elders then voted to remove you from eldership based on these perceived violations.
We now believe our decisions were invalid and wrong.
…Bent, On October 29, 2007, all twenty-three elders at the time—including most of us signers of this letter—agreed that you were guilty of “displaying an unhealthy lack of trust in, and respect for, the senior leadership of Mars Hill Church”. We also unanimously approved that, based on your repentance, you would remain an elder of the church on probation.
Bent, we were wrong to have called you guilty of lacking trust and respect for the senior leadership of the church when you had good reasons for challenging the church’s senior leadership. We were wrong to have insisted that you repent of this lacking trust as a condition of your continued eldership, because it was not sinful on your part in the first place.
…Paul and Bent, we are sorry for our sinful behavior toward you, for harming you, and for bringing shame to Christ’s church. We hope that you will forgive us. May the peace and grace of our Lord heal our hearts.
Mars Hill Elders as of October, 2007
Additional Mars Hill Elders as of December 5th, 2007
My musings and concerns
The men who defended him.
Mars Hill, under the leadership of Mark Driscoll, has been dysfunctional for many years. The rantings of William Wallace II should have been a red flag years ago. Instead, a number of self styled Christian leaders exposed their own lack of qualifications for their positions and had a good laugh over the antics of a man who should never have been allowed near the pulpit. This is not only directed at Mars Hill but at seminary leaders who promoted him and men like John Piper who defended him as well as Christian publishers who pushed him while studiously overlooking issue after issue after issue. Money and size appear to be the criteria for unfettered support so long as they give lip service to Reformed theology.
Multisite Mars Hill is dead for now but churches cannot use the Mars Hill name.
Unfortunately, as money gets tight, the easiest thing to do is to rent a movie theater and beam in *Mr. Gospel™ Rainmaker.* Many churches are abandoning the idea of buying buildings and hiring lots of experienced pastors due to the cost involved. I think we will see a Mars Hill franchise in the future and that is why they are holding onto the name. Mark Driscoll could be resurrected. I really hope I am wrong.
The Mars Hill conglomerate was not the church.
A church did not die when they decided to spin of the various Mars Hill church sites. The church is the people. Whether the people stay in one of the old Mars Hill facilities or attend another church, the church sill exists. Mark Driscoll was not Jesus. Jesus is still the head of the church and it really can survive without Driscoll's leadership.
Reformed theology (Mars Hill was Neo-Calvinist) stresses that God is sovereign. If He wanted this group of buildings along with the people who sat in those seats to continue, He would have made it happen. He didn't. I think it is time for people who claim to be Reformed to trust Him to do what He is capable of doing-being the preserver of the church. (It is rather amusing for this nonCalvinist to lecture Calvinists on how to hold onto their theology!)
It is good that people express their relief that Mark Driscoll is no longer in the pulpit.
The people who are upset by those expressing relief are those who based their theological lifestyle around the Driscoll worldview. They are unable to see, for example, that plagiarism is wrong. I have never heard so many excuses for plagiarism like I have heard from Driscoll fans over the last year! In fact, it was those who exposed the plagiarism that were considered the bad guys. One day, Janet Mefferd will tell the full story of what happened behind the scenes when she confronted Driscoll about his sin.
And Justin Taylor still has not apologized for telling authors not to go on Mefferd's show. Why? Is he afraid more plagiarizers will be exposed or is he embarrassed by his silly tweet?
Many questions about Mars Hill finances have not been answered and that is troubling. I would not give a penny until those questions have been answered.
Without full disclosure, how would anyone know that the donations are not going to pay executive pastors’ (Driscoll, Turner, and Bruskas) severance pay? In the past, church leaders have told the congregation that donations would go to Ethiopian and India church planters, yet very little money ended up there. Also, the leaders used a “Jesus Festival” to bring in dollars but no such festival was ever held.
Bottom line, unless current church leaders come glean on the Driscoll’s investigation, the Global Fund, Jesus Festival, year end giving campaigns, and pastors’ compensation and severance packages, I don’t think the current leaders have earned trust. Failing to address these issues is deliberate. Too many public calls have gone out to open the books for the leaders to say they are unaware of the need for disclosure.
Does repentance mean to forget the past and give former leaders unbridled power once again?
I am so glad to hear these stories of repentance from pastors and church leaders. We are commanded to forgive 70×7. However, we are not commanded to place our trust in those men, either now or in the future. We are discussing a church culture that was allowed to fester for years. For some of these leaders, Mars Hill is the only church in which they have actively participated. Habits and response patterns do not disappear overnight. A repentant authoritarian may still be an authoritarian. It can take years to overcome a power addiction.
Basically, the salaries of Driscoll, Bruskas and *King* Turner have never been revealed. There has not been full disclosure on perks, travel and housing *allowances.* There has been no accountability for how the money was spent from the Global Fund or the Jesus Festival. Folks, we are talking about a lot of money. Gone! Unaccounted for. Money that ECFA appears to think is irrelevant. Well, I don't. Where is that money? Do these guys know? Has it all been spent on nice houses and first class airline seats?
Why I believe that there is much left to accomplish in the hearts of the leaders of the Church Formerly Known as Mars Hill.
The Sunday after Mark Driscoll's resignation, Rob Smith, a former elder and friend to Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, urged former members to go to Mars Hill. Folks, this should have been a time of bending over backwards to those who decided to return. I have had the pleasure of meeting Rob. He is a gentleman. He described his return as pleasant but something else was said that gave me pause.
"They were very pleasant to me," Smith says of the weekend visit. "One elder did warn me that if I created a distraction they would take action, but I said 'Why would I want to do that? This is my church,' which surprised them.
The paranoid, threatening authoritarian culture should be on the way out. Is it? That statement is concerning. I think that most people should hold onto their wallets and adopt a wait and see attitude. Sometimes, old dogs hunt long past the time they should be snoozing in front of a fire.
Lydia's Corner: Genesis 8:1-10:32 Matthew 4:12-25 Psalm 4:1-8 Proverbs 1:20-23