While ECFA looks away, Mars Hill’s deceptively marketed “Global Fund” is certainly getting attention.

 

Ethiopian children

23 out of 25  Mars Hill videos promoting the Global Fund are about Ethiopia and India. This was a designated fund when started, but now, Executive Elder, Sutton Turner, has redefined the Global Fund. It has been redefined to mean “Global Donor” as opposed to Global Fund.

Sutton Turner is now saying that the way Mars Hill has been soliciting support for the fund (as a designated fund for what appears to be missions to the third world) is not what the “fund” ever was, and that it is simply the money given from the rest of the globe to the General Fund of Mars Hill Church.

However, as mentioned, if you go to the Mars Hill Church website and look at their own video selections that draw the donor to the “fund” you will find 25 videos. 23 of these videos are of either Ethiopia or India.

Sutton Turner pitching from Ethiopia

The clear message seems to be that your money will go to Ethiopia or India.  It is not clear that the purpose of the solicitation is to get the global Mars Hill community to give to the General Fund of the church. The strong pitch, with all the photos of Ethiopian children and huts in the background, is that the gift is for international missions, and most likely missions efforts to Ethiopia and India.

Donors have no clear idea that the money they donate will go into the same fund that pays for the three Executive Elders’ large salaries (rumored to be a combined seven figures – no member knows), or the same pool of funds that paid Result Source to deceptively purchase books in a way that ensured a spot on the NYT Bestseller list. The exception is the new June 7th video where Turner is giving donors the new pitch where Global Fund means “Global donor” and not a specific fund at all. The money goes into the General Fund, period!

This new video appears to be the only one that does not have an African or Indian setting. Once again, we are seeing Mars Hill leadership remaking the story. Your money that you thought was going to support Ethiopia or India, is going to the General Fund of Mars Hill Church.

This video is taken with Spokane in the background, and Mars Hill Global is now the larger family of Mars Hill participants. It is no longer the “Global Fund”.  “Currently your gift supports our 15 Mars Hill Church locations…,” says Sutton Turner. Yet the rest of the videos soliciting money were shot in Ethiopia or India as you can see.

Youtube VIdeos Mars Hill GLobal

 

Why the need to redefine the fund? Surely it is because, as happened when members found out about the church spending $210,000 to deceptively purchase a way onto the NYT bestseller list, this way of raising money appears as deceptive and has raised new questions about transparency at Mars Hill Church.

It is clear that at one time the fund was a designated fund. This appears to be before Sutton Turner arrived at Mars Hill Church. See note #5 on the income statement below.

Report Showing Global Fund restricted in 2010

 

Mark Driscoll, in a video dated 2012, after talking about local (US) church plants and new Mars Hill campuses, continued… “In addition, I want to tell you about Mars Hill Global. We’ve been working in partnership with churches in India…… in Ethiopia….”. He adds “Our goal is to continue, through Mars Hill Global, to take the resources and to get the news of Jesus to the nations, cause He said ‘We should be His witnesses where? The ends of the earth.’ ”

So the clear emphasis was a fund that was intended to support church planting internationally… to the ends of the earth. This hardly sounds like you are contributing to the general fund that pays for local salaries and buildings. Here is a video that clearly delineates a separate fund.

So the question is this. How much of  the millions raised from donors who thought their gifts went to missions efforts in Ethiopia and India actually went to these places?  If most of the money (by far) is spent buying buildings and paying U.S. salaries then is this not simple exploitation by any measure?

Surely transparency is reasonable and fair for a church with respect to its donors and friends?

As one that spends a lot of time in Africa, I have witnessed exploitative practices where money is raised showing poor African children being supported when in fact it was all staged. People are moved and give to the shenanigans of tricksters all over Africa. I have personally intervened when donors have realized that they were giving to orphanages that simply didn’t exist. This is exploitation of both the African children and of the donor.

So this raises some tough questions.

Is it true that very little, perhaps as little as two or three percent or less, actually went to serve pastors and church plants in these countries? Is it true that more money has been spent sending Mars Hill elders along with media teams (air flights, hotel, and food) to Ethiopia and India than has been sent to actually support pastors and church plants in these communities?

As one who travels frequently to Africa, I know the general cost to Mars Hill to send 12 pastors and a media team to Ethiopia. Tickets would cost about $54,000 (economy class) plus another $7,200 or so for hotels. Drivers, cars, and food would all cost more. Perhaps as much as $90,000 to $100,000 was likely spent on this trip. Has the “Global Fund” spent that much supporting the Ethiopian pastors themselves?

Did not Mars Hill Church raise over $2.3 million via the Global Fund in one year alone?

Surely rather than come up with a revised definition of what Mars Hill Global and the no longer referenced “Global Fund” actually are, why not be open and transparent with donors and members?

Until Mars Hill Church comes clean, this just appears to be yet another deceptive use of marketing. From plagiarism, to rewriting the history of the founding of the church, to evading questions and removing members who question from the church, to the blatant misuse of funds to buy a spot on the NYT best seller list, it seems that the current Executive Elders have a clear problem with truth-telling.

Not to mention the dishonest way that the bylaws were changed in 2007 and two elders’ lives and reputations smeared. The Petry family are still being shunned by Mars Hill leadership which is having a difficult time just telling us the truth.

“If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we will have fellowship with one another”. Until then, we just see more and more darkness as time goes on.

Persecuting truth-seekers…Persecuting Jesus. (The conversion of Saul in Acts 9)

ConversionStPaul

“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest…” (Acts 9:1)

Saul was on a mission. He passionately believed in church as he knew it: a highly organized system, very biblically based, with a strong focus on the future coming of a messiah. You could say that Saul’s church pointed to the messiah.

But when Jesus showed up on the scene, he shook that highly organized system to its core. He said things that were earth-shattering. He challenged the church leaders about almost everything. He repeatedly told them that they had things all wrong. They had added tradition upon tradition, law upon law, program upon program – completely losing sight of what God had actually said. And on top of that, Jesus claimed to be the Messiah.

The church pointed to the messiah, but when the Messiah came and dwelt among them, they didn’t recognize him. In fact, they despised him. Saw him as an enemy. A terrible threat.

The church leaders hated how right Jesus was all the time. Over and over they were left speechless and fuming, unable to respond to the charges he brought against them without losing face in front of the crowds. And they were quickly losing credibility. They grew more and more angry with Jesus, to the point of plotting to kill him. And they succeeded.

But Jesus had followers. The truth that he had shared grew and spread, and more and more people came to see that he was the Messiah that the prophets had foretold long ago. He was the one Israel was waiting for. More and more of the flock began to hear the voice of the true shepherd. And now they were living different lives. No longer were they bringing sacrifices to the priests. No longer were they coming to the synagogue to hear the Rabbis preach. They were teaching that Jesus fulfilled the law, and that the Temple would end up being destroyed. And they were holding their own meetings! And they called one another “brother” and “sister” – no one was called Rabbi or Teacher, not even the leaders. It was radical!

It was trouble!

The church leaders – the wolves – were of course nervous and angry. They thought killing Jesus would solve everything. But now the problem was growing and multiplying. So they tried to kill the apostles, but they somehow always managed to slip out of their grip. Finally they killed Stephen, a disciple of Jesus.

After they killed Stephen, the wolves started persecuting all the believers. The people scattered. They ran for their lives. But the persecution was only fuel for the fire, because the scattered ones took the truth wherever they went. They spread the word. They talked. Maybe they wrote. And more and more people came to faith in Jesus. More and more people walked away from life – and church – as they knew it. They too started doing things differently.

The threat to the church was growing.

Saul oversaw the stoning of Stephen. It was part of his mission. Threats to the church must be eliminated. And eliminating threats was Saul’s forte. He was bloodthirsty. And here he is breathing out murderous threats against those troublemaking followers of Jesus.

And he went to the high priest. The high priest was a man who was supposed to be deeply trustworthy. He was to handle the most sacred of tasks: seeking forgiveness for all of Israel’s sins, keeping peace between God and Israel. And it is this man that Saul seeks out. With murder in his heart and on his lips he seeks an alliance with the very man who is supposed to cleanse Israel of all sin.

“..and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:2)

Murderous Saul asks the high priest of Israel to give him written permission to round up the followers of Jesus. The high priest, after all, pointed the way to God. He had to eliminate these people who were rocking the boat, who were spreading this heresy that Jesus himself was the Way. How can a person be the way to God? No! The way to God was through systems, structure, law, rituals, programs. Not a person.

Besides, the high priest knew that the messiah was supposed to be a glorious king. Not this humble carpenter with calloused hands and a face that didn’t stand out in a crowd. No, the Son of Man would sparkle. He’d be a rock star. He’d be rich and powerful. He’d have big money and great power at his disposal, and he’d use his might to fix all of Israel’s problems. He’d rally the troops, declare a holy war, and he’d win. He’d make Israel mighty and powerful!

The real messiah wouldn’t live such a humble life as Jesus lived, and then die young. This the high priest knew for sure. This Jesus guy was a fraud. A false prophet. And his followers were continuing to spread his false teachings. They had to be stopped. Israel had to be protected from going off track. The flock had to be protected from going astray following this dead guy who clearly was not the messiah.

And these followers of Jesus who claimed that he had risen from the dead – that everything he had said was true – they were pure trouble. They had to be eliminated.  Wiped out. The high priest was sure of it.

“As he [Saul] neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?'” (Acts 9:3-4)

Saul believed he was fighting for God. He thought he was persecuting those who were trying to lead the church astray. He thought God would be pleased with him. He thought he was on mission. So imagine his surprise when the voice from heaven says, “Why do you persecute me?”

When you attack truth-tellers and truth-seekers, you attack the one who said, “The truth shall set you free.”

When you shun people for asking reasonable questions about things that the Body of Christ has a right to know, you are shunning Jesus.

When you fire someone for proposing that the church is heading in an unbiblical direction, you are firing Jesus.

When you threaten to destroy someone just because he pleads with church leaders to treat one another with impartiality and fairness, you threaten to destroy Jesus.

And Jesus takes it very personally.

The church is the bride of Christ. All of us who follow him are his bride. We are one Body. And we are one with him. And when any of us is treated unjustly, Jesus responds like a protective husband. It doesn’t matter who is doing the attacking – it can be the high priest of Israel himself!

So here Jesus confronts Saul on the road to Damascus. And Saul is confused about whose voice is coming out of the cloud. He thought he was fighting for God, killing off threats to the church, but this voice from the cloud sounded an awful lot like what you would expect God to sound like.

“‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.

“‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.'” (Acts 9:5-6)

Jesus!? But…he was supposed to be dead! You mean those truth-telling troublemakers were right? What! Jesus is alive? Saul’s mind must have been racing.

He must have been shaken to the core. So much of what he thought was right and true…wasn’t.

“The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.” (Acts 9:7-9)

Saul needed some time to grasp what was going on. Jesus had confronted him with the truth, and Saul was floored. Maybe his mind was racing with possible ways to deny what he had just experienced, to erase what had just happened. But the blindness! It was undeniable proof that Saul’s mission was terribly off track.

Saul was stuck. Like an animal caught in a trap, just laying there panting.

“In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’

“‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered.

“The Lord told him, ‘Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.'” (Acts 9:10-12)

Saul, like any church leader, was a man of prayer. He had likely prayed countless prayers in his lifetime. And here he is calling out to God for answers, for help. And God answered him with a vision of a certain man. A man who would help him to see clearly again. And God tells Ananias: it’s you who will open Saul’s eyes.

“‘Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.'” (Acts 9:13-14)

Ananias is scared. He’s heard reports about Saul’s violence and the abuse he’s put so many Christians through. And he knows that Saul is backed by the authority of the highest spiritual leaders in Israel. This is not someone that Ananias wants to encounter. And it’s certainly not someone that he wants to help.

“But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.'” (Acts 9:15-16)

But God assures Ananias that he has chosen Saul to preach the gospel to many people. He would be God’s tool to spread the news of Jesus – that he is the Messiah, that he died and rose from the dead, that he is Kind of kings, and he will change the world. All the broken ways of men – all the corrupted systems, the tainted priesthoods, the oppressive kingdoms – will fade away. And in its place will be the kingdom of heaven. And it’s here now! It’s in the heart of every true believer! It’s in our midst when we fellowship in spirit and in truth!

And Saul would suffer. Jesus offers forgiveness and an amazing fresh start; a truly new life. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have to suffer, especially if we have sinned against God and his true followers like Saul did.

There is no cheap grace with God. You really want to repent? Great! But you still need to face the real-world fruit of your sin. And you may need to go through a great deal of suffering as you work to undo the damage you’ve done.

Saul would go on to become an incredible stone in the foundation of Christianity. He would author most of the New Testament. But despite being an amazing teacher, church planter, and a highly gifted writer, God did not give Saul a large salary, a beachfront house and a pampered life with lots of bling. No! Despite his great talent, God had in mind that Saul would suffer greatly, that he would work a blue collar job to pay his own way, and that his ministry would not last very long.

“Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.” (Acts 9:17-19)

Saul’s eyes were opened. He could see again, physically. And he was forever changed. He would see for the first time spiritually. He would repent. And he would embrace God’s plan for him with his whole heart – suffering and all. And the new life he would lead, the new ministry he would devote himself to, would leave an incredible legacy for us all.

A legacy worth dying for.

Shaun Smith

profit, priest and king

not-fidos-day

This skewed version of triperspectival leadership was challenged by ousted and shunned pastor Paul Petry. It was rather prophetic, I would say.

Everyone seems to be surprised by Sutton Turner recently referring to himself as “King”, yet the terminology has been used by the leadership of Mars Hill Church for years. It has only been recently that the Mars HIll leadership web page no longer mentions Driscoll as “the prophet” or Bruskas as “the priest” (possibly because Driscoll now envisions himself referred to as “Father.” Father Mark?). But the Mars Hill web page still states that Sutton Turner is “kingly.”

Anybody who has been paying attention should not be surprised by the titles bestowed on the three executive elders – the result of hierarchical teaching that started infecting leadership prior to 2007, and which Pastor Paul addressed in his 10/25/2007 “scathing letter” to the elders just five days before they voted to pass the new bylaws which stripped them of all legal authority and permanently changed the entire governance of the church:

My greatest sins, however, are not what I have said and done but what I have failed to say and do. I failed to speak up to confront and resist the abusive spiritual authority and false teaching about authority that has infected the hearts and imaginations of Pastor Mark, the Executive Elders, and other elders who have bought into it, even though several of you have privately expressed grave reservations – namely, the “domineering over” (1Peter 5:2) which has grown increasingly worse, which is clearly forbidden of elders who are called to serve like Christ, laying down their lives for the sheep.

The sins I am accused of, “disrespecting and distrusting spiritual authority and improperly handling confidential information,” are they not the sins Mark and the EE team are guilty of because they assume some spiritual preeminence they do not have – not delegated by our by-laws, nor by God Himself? Have they not “distrusted and disrespected” the shared leadership biblical eldership model that is clear from Scripture and that is functionally laid out in our current by-laws? Have they not failed to be open, honest, forthright and willing to hear dissenting opinions about their “confidential” plans to lead this flock, but have instead worked with a heavy hand in secret, taking matters into their own hands to get the control and power they want and believe they should have?

I sinned by failing to speak up months ago when the false doctrine/teaching of “Prophets, Priests, and Kings” was embraced and adhered to as if it were Scripture and utilized to further justify a false/sick authoritarian leadership model. Did not the embracing of this false teaching set into motion a whole string of sinful behaviors, starting with elevating or subjugating and valuing elders based on gifting? Does the Scripture make these value distinctions? My understanding of 1 Corinthians chapters 1-4 clearly negates this teaching and commands us to end all such boasting.

Does not God put the body together as He determines, commanding us to consider others better than ourselves? And, can “one part of the body say to another part, I don’t need you?” (1Corinthians chapters 12 and 13) Is what is currently being referred to as a “kingly” gifting, as though this grants someone more authority and more importance/value than other giftings, not simply referred to as those having gifts of administration according to 1 Corinthians 12:28?

This church started out with a clear commitment to biblical eldership. Where is that commitment now? Is not the way the new EE team was installed, the way it operates, and the new proposed by-laws, a clear shift away from a biblical model of authority and leadership to a corporate/militaristic model where power is centralized, autonomous, and authority is not to be questioned? Are we now to follow a leadership model that more closely aligns with “the divine rite of kings?” 

See: http://joyfulexiles.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/draft-confession-request-for-redress-to-the-elders-of-mars-hill-church.pdf

 

Acts 6 teaches true leadership. Leadership was chosen by the “brothers and sisters”, not from the top down.

leadership

Stephen was chosen for his leadership role by the entire church. The apostles merely blessed what the whole church decided.

It’s worth taking a closer look at the leadership style of the apostles.

 “In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said…” (Acts 6:1-2a)

The apostles had a problem to solve, so they took it straight to….tada!….all the disciples. All the Christians. The whole church. And it was not a small number of people: Acts 4:4 says that there were about 5,000 believers.

 “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:2a-4)

Look at that! The apostles included the women in the process just as much as the men! The apostles trusted that the body of believers had enough discernment to make decisions about church matters. Here they are being trusted to identify and choose their own leaders. The apostles trusted the whole church so much that they committed ahead of time to go with whomever the group decided: You choose the men and we’ll go with them.

 “This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.” (Acts 6:5-6)

Having heard the apostles’ proposal – not their edict – and giving it some consideration, the body of believers was pleased with the idea and decided to do what the apostles proposed. And they chose seven men. And they presented them to the apostles. The apostles didn’t choose the men and then present them to the body. How opposite to how things work in elder-dominated churches!

And the apostles kept their word and blessed the men that the body had chosen.

How different the experience of church might be if this process played out more often.

Shaun Smith

Why did the Acts 29 board fail to address Driscoll’s abuse in 2005?

man who made a monster

Members of the Act 29 board knew of Mark Driscoll’s abuse in 2005, but failed to address it. They share responsibility for the abusive environment that now exists at Mars Hill Church.

The very first Acts 29 church plant ran into some problems. The way Mark Driscoll handled these problems demonstrated his abusive ruthlessness to the men on the Acts 29 board.

In dealing with the problems, a pastor, Ron Wheeler, interacted with Mark Driscoll and experienced the abusive treatment that Driscoll has now become notorious for. Here is an excerpt from a letter Wheeler sent the Acts 29 board in 2005:

…was followed up the next day, with a phone call from Mark where he used the most obscene vulgar language that I can remember someone using with me.  The next day, he sent an email to the other elders, that I had no knowledge about until recently, that can only be defined as wildly inaccurate and slanderous.  The current leadership of The Gathering considers much of where things currently stand in leadership to be directly related to Mark’s influence and conduct in the process.

Over the past many years, I have identified and struggled with issues in Mark such as:  pride, speech (lack of self-control, sexually vulgar and slanderous, exaggeration that bordered on deception, gossip about others and confidential issues either about others to me, or about myself with others. Confidentiality issues carry legal implications for the church), and an impulsive/reactive spirit. It is because of the confidentiality and distortion of the facts, that I distrust individual communication with Mark, and need the involvement of the Board in these issues. My frustration is that I have never been silent with Mark or with anyone else about where I stand.  It is no secret to the past Acts29 leadership board that I have had frustration in many of these areas, and it ought to be noted by the existing board members that the two former board members have pulled out of leadership, one out of frustration with the conflict between Mark and David, one largely through dealing with conflict brought on by some of these same issues. This is now the second time that issues have gone on record with Mark regarding areas of character in speech and conduct.  The fact that Mark is an incredibly talented leader and speaker, cannot in any way substitute for the simple Biblical requirements of being Christ-like, much less the qualifications of being an Elder.  I can make a Biblical case from Titus regarding being overbearing, quick-tempered, self-controlled, upright, and holy, as well as 1 Timothy regarding above reproach, self-controlled, respectable, not quarrelsome, and reputation with outsiders.  [emphasis added]

When I read this letter of appeal to the Acts 29 board, I felt sick. Ron Wheeler was describing my own experience with Mark Driscoll. When Mark Driscoll called me to tell me that I was under discipline for asking the elders for a fair trial for pastors Bent Meyer and Paul Petry, I experienced the most obscene and vulgar language that I have ever endured (in asking all the elders, Driscoll accused that I was trying to divide the elders – therefore I was “a divisive man” according to him). Mark Driscoll threatened me, demeaned me, said he would destroy me and my ministry and make sure I would never minister again.

This is what Ron Wheeler was describing to the Acts 29 board in his appeal for help. This is what countless other former members and elders have experienced.

Where were Acts 29 board members Ed Stetzer, Darin Patrick, Steve Tomkins and Chan Kilgore? Why did they not take action and deal with these issues in Mark Driscoll’s character? Why did they remain silent? Did they not care for those that were being abused so clearly?

Ed Stetzer claims that he never saw the letter from Ron Wheeler. If this is the case, one might wonder if Driscoll failed to deliver it to the board. If so, it is yet another example of hiding the truth, something else that Mark Driscoll has become notorious for amidst scandals that include plagiarism in seven of his books, deceptively manipulating sales of his last book to gain a NYT bestseller spot and changing the story three times in his attempt to excuse his actions.

Perhaps further investigation is warranted. But one thing for sure, even if Driscoll hid the letter above from them, Ed Stetzer and the rest of the Acts 29 board were aware of the abusive manner and style of Mark Driscoll, yet they failed to address these issues and continued to promote his leadership for years to come.

Will they ever speak up?

Do they realize the extent to which they have helped create what we are seeing today within Mars Hill Church?

Dear Mr. Driscoll: Religious leaders killed Stephen.

Pharisees

Mr. Driscoll,

Stephen was killed because he brought charges against religious leaders.

He brought charges that discredited not just one minister, but an entire group of ministers – the Sanhedrin. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Stephen “attacked” the ministers with charges that they could not even tolerate hearing. And so, instead of responding to the charges he brought, they chose to destroy the accuser.

They were men who were supposed to be trustworthy. They were religious leaders, tasked with shepherding the flock of Israel. Their ministry was to run a religious court system, ensuring justice in Israel. Yet they were the men who killed Jesus.

Stephen’s charge to them: “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.” (Acts 7:51-53)

How utterly insulted the Sanhedrin must have felt. Who was this Stephen guy anyway, and how dare he speak so boldly – so arrogantly! – to men of such high authority! And he brought enormous charges: he said they killed the Righteous One!

“At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.” (Acts 7:57-58)

The religious leaders couldn’t handle the charges Stephen brought. They were enraged by them. They responded by destroying the accuser, but they didn’t stop there. They instigated persecution against all Christians in Jerusalem. It’s as if they thought, “We have to root out this threat to our ministry, this threat to all of Israel! We have to squash these troublemakers! Who are these people to believe and speak such blasphemy, such falsehood? We must put a stop to it! We must make an example of them, to send a message to everyone in Jerusalem: if you roll with the wrong pack, you will pay!”

So terrible persecution spread across Jerusalem. Fear was put into the hearts of every Christian. Fear that if they spoke the truth, they would be targeted. Fear that if they seemed sympathetic to that troublemaker Stephen, and if they seemed critical of the Sanhedrin, they too would be killed.

And so the church was ravaged by religious wolves who couldn’t stand to hear criticism of their ministers.

Shaun Smith

Do shepherds also come in packs?

a pack of leaders

As we become more and more exposed to the systematic abuse of members, staff and elders who raise questions at Mars Hill Church, coupled with scandal after scandal that clearly cause question raising, one must wonder about the many factors that helped create the environment that has allowed the current mess.

There is no doubt that other national leaders who have had a relationship with Mark Driscoll have seen what questioning members have seen. There are many men who could have played a role in tempering Mark Driscoll’s rush to un-accountability. But I think a good place to start is to look within the ranks of Acts 29.

Acts 29 was birthed out of Spanish River Church in Florida when its late leader, David Nicolas, met Mark Driscoll and proposed to start Acts 29. Spanish River Church had a church planting heart, having had a history of launching many church plants prior to the founding of Acts 29. It also had several members who were able to financially back a national movement of church plants.

In 2005, in a move very similar to the 2007 manipulative firings of Pastors Petry and Meyer and radically changing the bylaws of Mars Hill Church, Mark Driscoll succeeded to get David Nicolas ousted from the board of the very organization he help co-found, and Driscoll himself installed as the president.

The manner in which this was done has been the source of rumors of Mark Driscoll’s callous cruelty toward people. Witness to this were men like Ed Stetzer, Darrin Patrick, Rick McKinley, Steve Tomkins and others. Other men like Tim Keller and John Piper would have surely heard and seen Mark Driscoll in action, yet they said nothing.

Furthermore, these men continued to speak with Mark Driscoll at conferences and create organizations that named Mark Driscoll in a way that authenticated his ministry style. They shared the podium and limelight at Acts 29 boot-camps and other venues repeatedly. Their very presence on the same stage led the public to believe they were endorsing Driscoll – and by their actions they were.

Some of these men, including Piper and CJ Mahaney (now embroiled in his own mess), were called upon by Paul Petry when he unsuccessfully reached out for help after his world was turned upside down by Driscoll’s ruthlessness.  Not a word from these men. I personally reached out to Gerry Breashears, who simply did and said nothing. Some, like Josh Harris, continued to heap praise on Driscoll

http://www.joshharris.com/2007/11/learning_from_mark_driscoll.php

Others went on Driscoll’s defense. Several writers at the Gospel Coalition, even when mildly rebuking Driscoll for this or that, still heaped praises on him and his ministry. Anthony Bradley came out of the woodwork harshly rebuking Rachel Held Evans for her words condemning Driscoll’s comments about effeminate worship leaders. Apparently, Bradley failed to see how publicly rebuking Evans for publicly rebuking Driscoll was at the very least doing exactly what Bradley accused her of doing.

http://www.worldmag.com/2011/07/libel_is_not_love

Maybe the gentlemen’s agreement among these men is that you do not rebuke one of your own. Is this why these men who have known of the aggressive and abusive style of Driscoll are quick to rebuke others, but hardly have opened their mouths when it comes to Mark Driscoll?

It is long known that many Acts 29 pastors were beginning to question and distance themselves from Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll in particular. So when Driscoll tried his takeover of Acts 29 in 2012, there was finally sufficient backlash to remove Driscoll as president and move the headquarters out of Mars Hill Church to Texas.

All this was well and good. But where were the truthful statements about the transition? All we got was flowery statements. If Matt Chandler knew about the abusive ways of Mark Driscoll, why has he not spoken up?  Chandler shared the stage with Driscoll at Resurgence 2013. His presence continued to endorse Driscoll’s leadership style. Chandler’s continued silence and his association with Driscoll’s Resurgence organization, if not implying Chandler’s approval of Driscoll, is troubling.

The national leaders of Acts 29, as well the leaders in the Gospel Coalition have now increasingly distanced themselves from Mark Driscoll. But they have done so in a way that has not warned the church of his abuse. It is only recently that Acts 29 has followed the actions of the Gospel Coalition, scrubbing references to Driscoll from their websites. So why not tell us why?

It is my opinion that these men have failed the church by their silence. They are continuing to fail the church with their continued silence. Members are being hurt, yet we hear nothing from these men.

I appeal to them, even as lowly members are increasingly speaking out, to walk in the light and tell the truth to the church.

After all, are you shepherds meant to protect the sheep, or the pack of shepherds?

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

wolves-in-shepherds-clothing1

Mark Driscoll is warning his congregation that wolves are attacking Mars Hill Church.

The wolves apparently are attacking the community groups in particular and the church in general, according to Driscoll.

In his recent sermons, Driscoll has been preparing the church to handle these attacks, including sermons warning the church of such attacks claiming they are akin to the stoning of Stephen (apparently the Apostle Paul was an example of an alpha-wolf before his conversion) (sermon of May 25th), sermons talking about Jesus making mistakes but not sinning (http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=276_1402705603), and a sermon in which members are encouraged not to look at the internet, which Driscoll warned is “all shenanigans” (sermon of June 8 2014).

A shenanigan is a “deceitful trickster”.

Of course, prior to Driscoll’s sermon of March 25th, had you searched for sermons about wolves attacking the church being preached from Acts 7, you would have come up empty-handed. Driscoll is plowing new ground. One might wonder why he did not wait for Acts 20 where Paul (the so-called “alpha” wolf of Driscoll’s Acts 7 sermon) is warning the church about wolves:

“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw disciples after them”.

The Book of Acts does talk about savage wolves (not sure where Driscoll gets the term “alpha wolf” from – unless it is a part of triperspectival hierarchy among the wolves) and Paul makes it very clear how they draw disciples to follow them: They distort the truth.

Driscoll is making a case to the church that attacks are either happening or are immanent, and that the attackers are wolves plus a few really bad alpha-wolves. In Acts 20, the only verse in Acts that actually warns about wolves says that they will attack by distorting truth.

So perhaps the best way to identify these wolves, particularly the alpha wolves, is to hone in on who is distorting truth.

While we are pondering the warning it is worth reminding ourselves of the scandals the poor church is currently dealing with. These scandals are unrelated to any outside “attacks” against Mars Hill Church and have clearly been caused within the church itself (where Paul in Acts 20 suggests that the wolves will likely come from).

The scandals all seem to relate to some level of truth distortion. This is more than a little disturbing if in fact this is the main weapon that the wolves choose to employ when attacking the sheep.

Here some the scandals the church is scrambling to deal with:

  • Over 42 elders/pastors resigned in the last two years, as well over 100 church employees, most of whom were required to sign an agreement not to speak anything negative about the church or forfeit severance pay. So the Executive Elders are asking them to hide any negative truth about the church or be punished.
  • Multiple accounts of plagiarism in the writings of Mark Driscoll have come to light. Plagiarism distorts the truth about the authorship of what is written.
  • Complete scrubbing and re-writing the history of Mars Hill Church have become evident. Mars Hill Church and Resurgence websites have taken Mars Hill Church founders Lief Moi and Mike Gunn out of the picture altogether, and they now state that Mark Driscoll was the founder of the church – another distortion, seemingly intended to highlight Driscoll and take credit away from the other founders.
  • Deceptively using church funds to coordinate the mass-purchase of 11,000 copies of “Real Marriage” within one week and using an outside company to manipulate book sales resulting in a NYT Bestseller status created a recent scandal. Such deception sounds like a distortion of the truth to me.
  • Once the NYT bestseller scandal was discovered (after two years), Mars Hill Church leadership gave three different explanations. The first explanation was that it was a commonly used method and was employed to reach more people for Jesus. Then “outside counsel” was blamed (we were never told whose counsel it was) – the implication being that even Sutton Turner was new and merely signed what was put in front of him. Lastly, an admission that it was wrong to do and would not be done again. At least three changing versions of the story were put out for public consumption. Even if we assume one of the three is correct, it means that the other two are distortions of the truth.
  • Removing members that are asking question seeking the truth has become commonplace. It seems, as happened after the trials of Petry and Meyer in 2007, that members seeking the truth are not given answers, but are viewed as trouble makers and their membership revoked or suspended. Could refusing to answer questions from members, such as asking for a truthful breakdown of the NYT misuse of church funds, or asking for a list of the salaries of the elders, including the Executive Elders (rumors range from $350k to $1,2m per year) be a way of hiding or distorting the truth? Rather than answering questions seeking the truth, the questions are not answered and the questioners silenced. The Executive Elders would rather keep the truth regarding financial transparency hidden.
  • Then of course, there were the trials of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer themselves. It has become clear to many that the trials were either a power-grab or a means to cover flagrant violations of the then existing bylaws, such as the purchase of the downtown Tabella nightclub without proper notice to the elders, which the elders found out about via an article in The Stranger newspaper.  The current church leaders continue to distort the truth about the trials and the motivations for changing the bylaws. While the truth is slowly becoming clear, the facts are not coming from the Executive Elders. They seem to want to keep these matters in the dark and distorted.

So if wolves attacking the church do so by distorting the truth, it would seem that the church is protected by the truth.  Those that are seeking the truth are most likely then protecting the church from wolves who persist in distorting the truth.

As the above scandals continue to rock the church, many members who have formerly been quiet have risen and are blogging (as I am) or joining their voices in a number of amazing Facebook groups and other forums.  Hundreds of posts and stories with thousands of participating comments have occurred in the last ninety days.

Members are telling their stories. They are stories of abuse, shunning and heavy-handed treatment. They are each member’s account of the truth. Some are told in righteous anger, others in ways that are more tender and kind. Each reflecting a truthful perspective by a member who felt harmed by the current manner in which Mars Hill Church leadership devalues and discards its members.

They are stories of members who have been thrown under the Mars Hill Bus, something Driscoll claimed would keep happening, and in time “by God’s grace”, the pile of bodies would become a mountain http://joyfulexiles.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/preaching-paul_edits1.mp3

It is now clear that the Executive Elders have a staff member who “joined” the Facebook Group “REPEAL THE BYLAWS – EXONERATE PETRY AND MEYER” to see what is being said. At the same time, Driscoll is suggesting that members avoid the internet.

Wolves use avoidance or distortion of the truth to deceive the sheep.

Are former members who are finding their voices together and reaching out to each other in truth “wolves” for seeking and speaking the truth? Or are the real wolves those who have tried to silence them and distort the truth? Is a reporter asking reasonable questions about these scandals really a wolf seeking to distort the truth, or are the men who refuse to answer truthfully flirting with wolf-like behavior themselves?

It seems that the safest way to protect oneself from the wolves that may attack is to have as much truth as possible. Walk in the light. Be open and honest. Answer questions quickly and honestly. Do not avoid or shun people, but listen and share the truth with them.

If the key characteristic of a wolf is that he distorts the truth, then Mars Hill Leadership ought to seriously pray about how it may be viewed by many of the sheep that have been thrown under the bus in the last several years.

The truth always prevails. The truth will root out the wolves and protect the sheep. True elders walk in truth and transparency and have sheep that do not stray.

And if a sheep does stray, a good shepherd leaves the fold to find the one who is lost – not revel that the sheep is “under the bus.”

Men of Unclean Hands

Wash my hands

I believe that the secretive reconciliation attempt by 20 secretive elders and the Mars Hill Church executive elders will produce very little fruit. It has and will, however, produce more pain and angst in many of the most abused ex-members.

My dear wife and I can attest to this pain, and several others have contacted me expressing what I am about to say.

In what will be probably the hardest post to write, I want to say something that may be very difficult to hear.

Many of the men reaching out to seek reconciliation with Mark Driscoll and the Executive Elders of Mars Hill Church do not have clean hands. The best agreement they can come to is that they will all change from being “angry young prophets” to become kinder and gentler, more like a “spiritual father.”

Any resolution that is more punitive in nature is one that they cannot demand without impugning themselves. They do not have clean hands.

Like I did seven years ago when appealing for a fair trial, I will simply point out both the biblical principle of justice and that which our society deems to be fair when it comes to the “clean hands doctrine.” Although we do not know the names of most of the 20 men seeking reconciliation with the Executive Elders, I presume several were men who rejected my advice seven years ago.

I also presume that several of these men still support the notion that I am simply bent on revenge and am a “one trick pony.” Despite the reality that these men do not think much of this messenger, I trust that perhaps God will assist them in their understanding.

Here is a definition of the “clean hands doctrine”:

The clean hands doctrine is a rule of law that someone asking the court for equitable relief must be innocent of wrongdoing or unfair conduct relating to the subject matter of his/her claim.

The sad truth is that most of the elders who are seeking redress from an unknown adjudicator (who knows why the BOAA isn’t addressing the issues at hand?) are themselves men who participated in the abuse. They are guilty themselves.

Even worse, they are in some ways guiltier than the Executive Elders. Any of the 20 men who were elders in 2007 (Dave Kraft was part of the 2007 Elder Investigation Taskforce) are the ones who gave the executive elders their power in the first place. These men chose to give up their role as overseers, legal directors of the church, and gave Mark Driscoll the power that he now wields.

If these men were not up to the task of governing the church, they should have resigned. Instead they voted to give up their authority to govern the church and protect the members. Instead of protecting the flock, they gave the flock whom they were called to lead a form of government that would turn abusive in the hands of a man like Mark Driscoll.

It sort of reminds me of the famous “How dare you!” sermon that Driscoll preached to the young men of Mars Hill Church.

The sermon blasted young single men who diddled with their girlfriends. The Christian fundamentalist world loved the sermon (even landed Driscoll an interview with James Dobson) while the young men in the pews were thinking, “Now wait a minute. You went the whole nine yards with several women, including your wife, and you are screaming at us about diddling?”

Mark lacked the moral authority to preach such a sermon in the way he did. Had he wept with remorse and openness from the pulpit, it would have been amazing. He could have appealed to the reality of his own sin and weakness, and used that as a platform to guide young men struggling with the same sin.

Instead he came across as a fundamentalist preacher, pointing out the sins of others. He did not have clean hands himself.

Now come twenty men. If you know who they are (I only know of a few) then take a look at the words they write: Blogs about “leadership” and “gospel centeredness,” and even posts in recent groups where hurting members are sharing their pain.  Lengthy words of counsel are coming from some of these very men.

I am sorry. This may sound harsh. But these men have been abusers themselves, and until they are broken by the abusive culture that they voted into place, and until they painfully and publicly articulate the abuse they are guilty of, they have no place acting like they are leaders and have something of value to say – even if it is of value.

For Dave Kraft to be quoting Jamie Munson at a time like this, tells me that he has no idea of the harm he has inflicted on us members by his role in carrying out Jamie Munson’s and Mark Driscoll’s abuse.

I and many other hurt members would value a single word of counsel from Bent Meyer or Paul Petry over a volume from Jamie Munson.

I have been trying to think of a good analogy to help the reader understand.

Consider a family that has a particularly gifted 12 year old. Everything that he does he seems to do well. He even seems to be a good leader and God appears to be blessing his gifts. He is part of a large family and decides that he wants to drive the family van (or could we say “bus”?). A handful of uncles argue that to give him the keys would be unwise, but their concerns are set aside (I could embellish the story, but I will spare the reader 🙂 ).

So the family members are driven in the bus by a talented 12 year old kid. Sadly, the kid starts to run over pedestrians that, in his immaturity, he deemed to have been in his way. While members of the family are uncomfortable, they understand that the pedestrians could have moved out of the path of the bus, and they were also becoming afraid of questioning the decision of the rest of the family, especially after seeing how the old uncles were treated.

Plus they were enjoying the ride.

Eventually the young driver lost control of the bus and plowed into a crowd of people.

In this scenario, the police should arrest everyone on that bus and bring them all to justice. If a child is killed by the bus accident and it turns out his father was one of the family in the bus encouraging the driver on, he would have no business being an accuser seeking justice, because he would have blood on his own hands.

Imagine other family members who were in the bus going to the victims and telling them that “it is all about Jesus”. That “now is the time to turn to Jesus”. Imagine them speaking to the wounded long words of how to deal with the pain and grief. It would all be salt on the wounds – even if what they said was true.

The only healing that that person could hope to offer would be a broken heart of remorse and grief, and a throwing of oneself prostrate before God and the wounded bodies under the bus begging for mercy and forgiveness.

Anything else would be total arrogance and a further harming of the abused.

The Board of Advisors and Accountability need to hear from victims, not perpetrators. They need to hear the charges and see the evidence, not seek out some “peace making” group to work out reconciliation between co-perpetrators of their sins.

The way that blood is removed from one’s hands is through open, forthright and full confession.

These men with blood on their hands who are writing one or two sentences of “repentance” among hundreds of pages of other good stuff need to get a biblical view of repentance. Are they hoping that they can quietly slink off and continue to be considered a shepherd? Most are not even saying anything at all – like a murderer escaping and moving to another state and changing his name. I am sorry, even if he becomes a model citizen, he is still a murderer and needs to face his crime.

Of the elders that in 2007 kicked out, humiliated, and called for a shunning of Paul Petry only Lief Moi, Dave Kraft and Zach Hubert have said something considered public. And their confessions are drowned out by the lengthy words of leadership and counseling advice that keeps rolling out of the mouths of some of these men.

To those of the 20 men that remain unrepentant yet are seeking reconciliation with Driscoll and his Executive Elders: Stop posting platitudes until you have openly repented . Stop talking about leadership until it is clear that you are broken over your role in the abuse.

Please just stop.

You will bring healing when you post long words about your sin and brokenness. Then you will be at the foot of the path to one day being in a position to lead others again. Men like Jeff Bettger and Kyle Firstenberg, who I believe are among the 20, have shown the way to lead. I applaud these men, and I encourage the remaining men to follow their example.

Or, I suppose you could secretly seek reconciliation with Mark Driscoll and his team, come to some agreement after which you all sing Kumbaya and dance down the road leaving very little healing of the abused in your wake.  You can scrub from your own resume and memory your role at Mars Hill Church, move elsewhere, and pretend to be a man who cared for the sheep.

Richard Harlemen recently posted the following in a blog where Mike Wilkerson, Jesse Winkler and James Noriega posted words of platitude. These were men who supported the abuse of Paul Petry and gave up their authority to govern the church by changing the bylaws:

“Managing bitterness and vengeance in your heart I can greatly respect. It’s a shame to me when people hide the truth in the guise of piety.”

As I stated, his comment came after postings from James Noriega, Jesse Winkler, and Mike Wilkerson, none of whom had yet spoken out in public about the abuse or their own role in it. In Mike Wilkerson’s case, he posted long posts about dealing with pain and conflict. They were good words, coming from a man who threw the church under the bus in 2007, and voted for the lynching of Paul Petry.

Men, healing comes from confession. Period. If you cannot do that and clean your own hands first, what do you hope to see in reconciliation with your co-abusers?

And until you publicly confess, for God’s sake, stay away from the wounded and bleeding.

 

Note: Since this article was written and posted online, former Mars Hill elder, Jesse Winkler, published his confession and apology at repentantpastor.com.

Abusive tactics forced the bylaws to be changed in 2007

 

 

Cast your vote

Recent events at Mars Hill Church show that dissent of any kind is not tolerated. Even questioning can get you removed as a member.

It therefore time for all members and ex-members to understand that the bylaws that were changed in 2007 were changed under that same threats and abusive coercion that we have all witnessed in recent days, most lately in the cases of Dalton Rohrback, Phil Poirier, and Phil Smidt, all of whom were terminated because they either questioned or could not agree with one thing or another.

The current bylaws allow for the Executive Elders to simply remove elders at will. This was not, however, the case in 2007 under the old bylaws. But the abusive tactics that we now see commonly used by Mars Hill Church executive elders used were used in 2007 to scare and coerce the men at the time to agree to change the bylaws.

How on earth could Mark Driscoll, who taught that he was one of a plurality of equal elders (and recruited elders on that basis) get the same elders to agree to give up the authority they had and give it all to the executive elders? It would seem to be an impossible task.

In order to change the bylaws, two thirds of the elders had to vote in favor of the change, and that would mean that two thirds would have to agree to bylaws that flew in the face of everything that Mark Driscoll had taught for years. They would vote against the form of church governance that the members had signed up for.

The way Mark Driscoll and Jamie Munson pulled it off was crafty and certainly against the spirit of the bylaws. One might make a good case that the way it was done violated the bylaws themselves.

The set up was the ruthless firings of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer.

It is common knowledge at this stage of the game that they were primarily fired because they opposed the transfer of power from all of the elders to the executive elders. Petry and Meyer proposed that the Executive Elders be given power by the body of elders in a way that kept them accountable to the elders – certainly a sensible and more biblical approach to church governance, and one that Mark Driscoll taught with great power in the years prior to the 2007 bylaws change.

In 2007, most of the elders were young men. For many this was the best paying job they had ever had, and at the time they were well paid. Average salaries and benefits were rumored to be about $100k per year. As they watched Petry and Meyer get fired and humiliated for just questioning the bylaws, it was clear that their jobs would be on the line if they failed to fall in line with Mark Driscoll and Jamie Munson’s wishes.

So twenty two elders voted to change the bylaws in the aftermath of watching two men get fired for resisting the changes. Actually, the truth is that the vote should be recorded as twenty one men voted for the changes, and one man, Lief Moi, voted against. According to Lief, Mark Driscoll wanted to present a unanimous vote to the church, so he demanded a second vote and Lief, who was terminated just months later, realized that his was a lost cause and changed his vote.

So, like so many twists of the truth that we members heard, we were told the vote was unanimous. It was true, but untrue. It was a half-truth.

In 2007, a change in bylaws required a two thirds majority vote. Before the firings of Pastors Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, when the total number of elders was twenty four, sixteen votes were needed to pass the vote. Nine elders could stop the change.

After the firings of the men, which was done in a massive hurry before the vote to change the bylaws, only fifteen votes were needed. It would still take eight votes to block.

So by firing the men ruthlessly, and demanding a unanimous vote, Mark Driscoll and Jamie Munson pulled off two things. They removed two dissenting votes, and demonstrated what would happen to any elder that raised questions or appeared to oppose the change.

Some of us ex-members have spoken to at least twelve of the 24 men who voted on October 2007 to change the bylaws. Some have now stated that they felt shame about their vote, and felt undue pressure to vote against their conscience, while others say they were afraid, and others say that had their been reasonable dialog and discussions and the freedom to dissent they would not have voted the way they voted.

In other words, the way that the Executive Elders won the vote was not with reasonable due process that would certainly be expected in any civic and ethical environment, and we know now, based upon everything that we have seen, that the abusive environment caused the vote to be coerced.

Had Paul and Bent not been fired, they would have needed seven additional elders to vote against the bylaw change in order to keep the church elder run.

Without the abuse, 12 elders would have voted against the new bylaws. Mark Driscoll and his executives would have to give an account to the elders of the church. Instead, we have leadership that cannot be held to account, and hundreds of hurt members and staff have left.

The bylaw change was a violation of due process, and the Mars Hill Church BOAA should recognize this fact and acknowledge the immense damage that has been the result.

The current bylaws need to repealed and Paul Petry and Bent Meyer exonerated.