Mars Hill Church thanks Rob Smith for partnering with them in the gospel in 2014

working together

Mars Hill Church just said “Thank You” for all that I had done for the kingdom of God during the year. This at the same time that they refuse to meet with me.

The letter thanking me was accompanied by my giving receipt for the year. I faithfully gave to Mars Hill Church every week that I attended between Mark Driscoll’s resignation and the decision to dissolve the church (two weeks).

In the letter, which suggests that we can “celebrate 2014 as an incredible year” and says that my gift has helped “sown a great harvest.”

The letter outlines some of what I and other donors paid for in 2014. Here are some of the items:

5 Mars Hill Churches were launched/planted in January of 2104.

5 sermon series were taught from the Bible.

67 evangelists were supported in Ethiopia.

33 church planters were supported in India.

11 independent churches planted in January 2015 (the remaining campuses).

Looking at that summary, the largest number is those who received the least amount of money: the Ethiopian evangelists and Indian church planters. The costs of supporting these 100 evangelists and church planters was about 5% of the deceptively promoted Global Fund, and far less than one half of 1% of the budget of the church.

Missing from the cheerfully worded letter was what happened to the $3 million raised for the Jesus Festival, and answers to questions that I and others have asked about the amount of our donations that paid for massive severance packages for the three Executive Elders, and, who now owns all the intellectual property paid for by my and other donors’ money.

Also glaringly missing was any attempt to take responsibility for the deep systemic abuse that led Paul Tripp to resign his position as Board Director and refer to Mars Hill Church as the most abusive that he had ever worked with.

Also missing was any attempt to reach out to those who were abused, including any comment regarding the still-in-effect shunning order against Paul Petry. To their shame, the leaders of Mars Hill Church want to shut down all operations while still leaving the Paul Petry shunning orders in place, and not retracting their official defamatory statements about him and Bent Meyer.

We may never get answers to our questions regarding the finances, and we may never see justice done for Paul Petry, but seeing that my questions throughout 2014 have been so warmly recognized as being a part of building Christ’s kingdom, I shall keep asking that we see full transparency and a redress of the grievances of so many of us donors and members.

Mars Hill Thanks Rob

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Are celebrity Christian authors and their publishers good men, or are they a den of thieves?

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As we begin to see more significant signs of the moral bankruptcy of the Evangelical Industrial Complex (as Warren Cole Smith coined it in his excellent book “A Lover’s quarrel with the Evangelical Church”), we will begin to find out which players are good men who have made mistakes they regret and are willing to name and repent of, and which players are money-changers in the temple who need to be exposed for who they are.

Trying to determine whether a celebrity author, or head of an Evangelical organization, is a good Christian who has done something they wish they had not is not as difficult as one might think.  The Bible is quite clear about how we will know His disciples. Several verses come to mind. They have to do with repentance, obedience, and walking in the light. We will determine the hearts of these men and the organizations they lead by how they react to increasing exposure of the corruption that is being exposed. Those that are being defensive and using counter-attacks, especially the ad hominem attacks used so effectively by Mars Hill Church against its critics, are showing their hearts. Surely those who love Jesus and his church first, and desire that the world see a good testimony from within the church, will be quick to be transparent about their sins.

Sin happens, and those that understand the gospel are not afraid to confess it, ask for forgiveness, and walk in newness of life. The church, made up of sinners who have been forgiven, will forgive these men and their organizations, and the evangelical church will be better for it. Those who love themselves and their organizations first (and perhaps who love the money they are making through their devious shenanigans) will not quickly confess their sins. They will attack the inquirer. They will attempt to discredit the people who are asking questions or who are exposing the sin in the camp. This is what we are currently seeing as we witness more and more of the willingness of Christian publishers to violate basic moral principles in order to secure more sales. Plagiarism is excused and minimized. The world has a higher standard when it comes to dealing with plagiarism.

Sales of books are deceptively manipulated by “Christian” publishers. Everybody sees the moral failure of deceptively trying to manipulate a spot on the New York Times Bestseller list. So-called Christian authors and publishers are not only lying to the New York Times, but also to the readers who believe the book is of greater value than it actually is. This is both lying and stealing. Continuing to hawk a book for years after discovering that it is based upon a fabricated story is also a violation of the eighth and ninth commandments. This is obvious to anybody. This is a new day for the Evangelical Church. Is Jesus is wondering what happened to his “House of Prayer”?  Will He clean out a den of thieves, unwilling to purge the sin out their own camps, or will he see sinful leaders rush to the cross of forgiveness and walk in the blessed freedom that confession and repentance brings? Thieves, or good men needing forgiveness? We shall see.

ECFA President Dan Busby warns bloggers that making comments angers God.

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After Mars Hill Church members turned to the internet having exhausted all other attempts to dialog with Mars Hill Church leadership, and after Paul Tripp characterized Mars Hill Church as the “most abusive and coercive church” he had every worked with, and after numerous elders filed charges against Mark Driscoll and called for financial transparency (all in vain), guess what the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability was doing?

ECFA was warning that those who criticize the church will anger God.

According to Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), blogging about your local church prevents people from getting to see God.

There is a new wild card today. Until recently, churches did not have to contend with hate websites, scathing blog posts, nasty comments on reader forums, online petitions, or spoof social media accounts. All such attacks on churches and their leaders may be based on scanty facts and occur using code names to hide true identities.

Churches are often left without any positive way to respond to incorrect perceptions—especially in the blogosphere. Attackers generally say they want more transparency, but the more information a church provides, the more it is attacked. This is as close to an unresolvable grievance in God’s work as I can imagine.

Those who make derogatory comments about churches and their leaders apparently haven’t learned what it means to anger God. Want to anger God? Get in the way of people who want to see Him. Want to anger God?”  Link

So while former elders of the church call for financial transparency, ECFA pulls out the “God will be angry at you bloggers” card. To the last day of the existence of Mars Hill Church, ECFA continued to certify the church for its integrity, accountability and transparency while former members, elders, and donors were crying out for answers that were not forthcoming because of the church’s determination to avoid transparency – the very thing that ECFA assured donors they would get.

Dan Busby seems to suggest that all internet bloggers and commenters are haters filled with nasty comments. This even though his own comments were from someone’s blog. Busby gives no indication that bloggers and commenters may have good motives and have been perhaps calling for the type of accountability that ECFA is supposed to certify.

Some of the former members of Mars Hill Church have sought to have financial questions answered, but have been thwarted on every attempt. They have tried to meet in private, only to be rebuffed. They have appealed to ECFA via private letter and via petitions, only to be rebuffed. They have appealed using the internet, not only to be rebuffed, but now warned by Dan Busby that to do so will anger God. Watch out, you pesky bloggers, God will get you!

Sadly, the last resort is to appeal to the civil court. It appears that this is the only vehicle that is left hold the leaders of Mars Hill Church accountable – something that their ECFA certification assured its members and donors of.  Given the brazen lack of accountability that Mars Hill Church leaders have portrayed, one begins to wonder who ECFA is protecting, the donor, or the defiant leaders of Mars Hill Church?

It seems that Dan Busby has gone a long way toward holding bloggers accountable, putting a heavy burden on their backs while failing to hold churches that are not transparent and who abuse their members and donors accountable. Will ECFA slowly lose its credibility, accountability and transparency in the process?

[This is same post as the last one, but with a picture that did not look like God – for our brothers and sisters who felt the other post’s depiction of an angry Moses appeared too similar to a picture of God – a potential violation of the 2nd commandment]

ECFA President Dan Busby warns bloggers that making comments angers God.

Angry God

After Mars Hill Church members turned to the internet having exhausted all other attempts to dialog with Mars Hill Church leadership, and after Paul Tripp characterized Mars Hill Church as the “most abusive and coercive church” he had every worked with, and after numerous elders filed charges against Mark Driscoll and called for financial transparency (all in vain), guess what the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability was doing?

ECFA was warning that those who criticize the church will anger God.

According to Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), blogging about your local church prevents people from getting to see God.

There is a new wild card today. Until recently, churches did not have to contend with hate websites, scathing blog posts, nasty comments on reader forums, online petitions, or spoof social media accounts. All such attacks on churches and their leaders may be based on scanty facts and occur using code names to hide true identities.

Churches are often left without any positive way to respond to incorrect perceptions—especially in the blogosphere. Attackers generally say they want more transparency, but the more information a church provides, the more it is attacked. This is as close to an unresolvable grievance in God’s work as I can imagine.

Those who make derogatory comments about churches and their leaders apparently haven’t learned what it means to anger God. Want to anger God? Get in the way of people who want to see Him. Want to anger God?”  Link

So while former elders of the church call for financial transparency, ECFA pulls out the “God will be angry at you bloggers” card. To the last day of the existence of Mars Hill Church, ECFA continued to certify the church for its integrity, accountability and transparency while former members, elders, and donors were crying out for answers that were not forthcoming because of the church’s determination to avoid transparency – the very thing that ECFA assured donors they would get.

Dan Busby seems to suggest that all internet bloggers and commenters are haters filled with nasty comments. This even though his own comments were from someone’s blog. Busby gives no indication that bloggers and commenters may have good motives and have been perhaps calling for the type of accountability that ECFA is supposed to certify.

Some of the former members of Mars Hill Church have sought to have financial questions answered, but have been thwarted on every attempt. They have tried to meet in private, only to be rebuffed. They have appealed to ECFA via private letter and via petitions, only to be rebuffed. They have appealed using the internet, not only to be rebuffed, but now warned by Dan Busby that to do so will anger God. Watch out, you pesky bloggers, God will get you!

Sadly, the last resort is to appeal to the civil court. It appears that this is the only vehicle that is left hold the leaders of Mars Hill Church accountable – something that their ECFA certification assured its members and donors of.  Given the brazen lack of accountability that Mars Hill Church leaders have portrayed, one begins to wonder who ECFA is protecting, the donor, or the defiant leaders of Mars Hill Church?

It seems that Dan Busby has gone a long way toward holding bloggers accountable, putting a heavy burden on their backs while failing to hold churches that are not transparent and who abuse their members and donors accountable. Will ECFA slowly lose its credibility, accountability and transparency in the process?

God 1

Marching in step with their abusive leadership, the pastors of the 11 Mars Hill Church campus replants remain silent.

marching in step

Jon Krombein, who was an elder at Mars Hill Church for almost eight years, made an impassioned appeal to the remaining lead pastors of the eleven campuses to speak out and call for the release of information that so many ex-members and donors want to see.

These pastors simply refuse to walk in the light.

We need mediation to get the truth. An anonymous donor will match your contribution to help pay for mediation.

Jon Krombein’s challenge went out to Pastors Dave Bruskas, David Fairchild, Ed Choi, Tim Smith, Ryan Williams, Matthias Heusel, Aaron Gray, Bubba Jennings, AJ Hamilton, Matt Rogers, Jason Skelton, Scott Harris, and Seth Winterhalter.

He said that these men know more than they are saying, and that they knew Mars Hill Church had “cooked the books,” yet they remained silent. He implored them to speak openly to avoid their culpability in these matters from hanging over their future ministries.

Jon Krombein’s call was simply ignored.

These pastors are telling their “new” churches, made up of the same members of Mars Hill Church, meeting in the same buildings with the same donor money “seeding” each location for the next three months, and the same leadership (except for Bellevue), that they will not reflect the same bad DNA that brought Mars Hill Church to its knees.

But sadly these men are behaving in the same way that the Executive Elders of Mars Hill Church have behaved. They simply will not answer the questions that us former members and donors have asked. They will not meet. They will not walk in the light.

This behavior was a part of what led to Mars Hill Church being recognized as the most abusive church in recent church history. Yet despite witnessing the results of such behavior, these pastors seem to acting the same way. They have disregarded Jon Krombein’s appeal, just as they refuse to speak to those of us seeking to have our grievances mitigated.

One of those pastors, while completely ignoring Jon Krombein’s appeal, said this last Sunday that he is struggling to see how he and his fellow elders have been complicit in the pattern of sin in the leadership at Mars Hill Church. He seems to not be able to connect the dots, or he is not being honest.

Former donors and members are calling Mars Hill Church executives to come to the table of mediation. This is the Matthew 18 mandate. I urge each reader to consider supporting the costs of such mediation.

If the executives will not come to the table, it would seem to serve the cause of justice and truth to pursue the matter in civil court. If indeed they have “cooked the books” the donors and members have a right to know.

Please support the effort to get these answers. After all, “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with on another.” — 1 John 1:7

Mediation will cost us at least $20,000. If mediation is refused, a civil RICO lawsuit that will expose the “cooking of the books” will cost a lot more. Your help will enable these costs to be covered.

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Sermons from Nehemiah, and one worth listening to!

Prosper

In the last sermon at Mars Hill Church–West Seattle, which has now been renamed “Trinity West Seattle” and is off to a new start, Pastor David Fairchild preached from the book of Nehemiah.

The sermon is worth listening to.

Fairchild

It was seven years ago that Mark Driscoll preached from the book of Nehemiah. When he began the series of sermons in 2007, the church was governed by a plurality of elders. On September 30, 2007, Driscoll preached the notorious “I break their noses” sermon, then walked off the podium and within minutes fired Paul Petry and Bent Meyer. Within a month, the remaining 22 elders gave up their fiduciary duties as overseers and voted in bylaws that neutered themselves.

Break Their Noses

It was at that time that the walls began to crumble.

The clear contrast between Fairchild’s sermon this last Sunday and Driscoll’s sermon seven years ago, was that unlike Driscoll, who presented himself as Nehemiah, Fairchild does not weave his own image into the story, except for seeking out ways that he and his fellow elders could see their own sin of complicity, and having done so, repent. He promised his members more of this. This is very encouraging.

There are parallels in the story that might be of note.

  • Complicity means that it was not the exiles that brought the walls down, but the very elders themselves. As readers have noted in my writings (to some of their frustrations) I hold the elders responsible for the abusive side of Mars Hill Church more than I hold Mark Driscoll responsible. The elders willingly gave him what he wanted.
  • It was the exiles that, in coming back to Jerusalem, brought hope and effective rebuilding back to Jerusalem. Could it be that there are many “Jeremiahs” that God will use to rebuild the broken church, and they have last names like Petry, Meyer, Krombein, Smidt, Kraft, or Bettger, to suggest just a few?
  • The city that needed rebuilding housed a few remaining and broken Israelites. The vast majority had been scattered as a result of the exile. When God warned Israel of the coming destruction he called Nebuchadnezzar his “servant.” It was God’s plan to scatter Israel, and then rebuild Jerusalem with the hands of both exiled Jews as well as those that never left Jerusalem. What rejoicing there will be when the 11 churches that represent the broken walls of Mars Hill Church, will welcome with joyful arms those who have been shunned, and those who have been calling for the abuse – which crumbled the walls in the first place – to be addressed.

So, dear reader, pray for the rebuilding of Trinity West Seattle, and for the leaders of the other 10 churches that now exist. Pray that they call for and welcome the exiles that could help them rebuild.

So help us God.