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.

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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?

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The ECFA has purged their web-site of Mark Driscoll, but still certifies the integrity of Mars Hill Church.

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The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability is still giving its stamp of approval to Mars Hill Church. They correctly show the lead pastor as being Dave Bruskas.

Mark Driscoll has been purged from the ECFA website. There is not a single reference to him. Nothing.

Until recently Driscoll was highly featured in their advertising. An attempt to go to the WayBack Machine to see when the change occurred was blocked. It appears that the ECFA uses robot.txt to block its history to the public.

So some time recently, Mark Driscoll was purged in a similar way to the way that Mars Hill Church would purge any reference about or sermons and writings of departing (and sometimes shunned) pastors such as Lief Moi and Mike Gunn, both co-founders of Mars Hill Church.

But despite the decision to purge Mark Driscoll from its website and advertising, and despite the reality that former Mars Hill board member Paul Tripp has called Mars Hill Churchthe most abusive and coercive churchhe has ever worked with, and despite the numerous financial scandals, the ECFA continues to certify Mars Hill Church’s adherence to transparency, integrity, and accountability.

One might ask why a church would need the ECFA certification, an entity that we now know bases their certification of a church on seemingly little information plus a few statements from the staff of that church. Surely, if a church was doing a good job being transparent with its donors, the ECFA certification might seem rather unnecessary. We now know that it is somewhat meaningless, or, perish the thought, even an indication that the church the ECFA certifies needs the certification in order to overcome its lack of transparency. So that when a donor asks questions, rather than be transparent, the church can merely point to their ECFA certification. This was how Mars Hill Church leadership has repeatedly used the certification.

The ECFA itself has been very non-transparent and slow to communicate with the public about its removal of Mark Driscoll and its continued certification of Mars Hill Church. This despite the church collapsing in a stunning and spectacular way largely due to financial pressure. They have been so slow that one has to ask whether the ECFA was trying to protect Mars Hill Church and not the donors to Mars Hill Church?

When one sees that the ECFA certifies other churches with similar financial non-transparency, like Stephen Furtick’s Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and James MacDonald’s Harvest Bible Chapel, one has to wonder what sort of transparency the ECFA is certifying. Both of these churches have been added in the last 14 months, and both have had significant financial scandals prior to their certification where lack of transparency was a factor in the scandal.

Mars Hill Church members, former members, and donors are crying out for financial transparency. Mars Hill Church leadership continues to ignore them, while the ECFA continues to certify the church.

It would appear that the ECFA itself has lost its integrity. What was once a badge of excellence appears to have become a part of the problematic “Evangelical Industrial Complex” that we Evangelicals are now contending with. Rather than the ECFA certification leading to a donor feeling confident about an organization, it now seems that the certification will cause a donor to doubt and wonder.

“I am Spartacus!” Let us stand together to end the Mars Hill Church abuse redemptively.

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In a pivotal moment in the movie Spartacus, all the slaves stood up one by one, and each declared that they were Spartacus.  It is time for members, ex-members and donors of Mars Hill Church to rise and call for a just and righteous dissolution of the church.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8h_v_our_Q

We need to band together for one last time! Please support the legal fund effort to cover upcoming legal fees that will be incurred in an attempt to prevent Mars Hill Church in its determination to rush to dissolve and disburse its assets without justly addressing the many grievances expressed and the massive call for transparency.

A week after the leader of the “most abusive and coercive church” that former Board member Paul Tripp “had ever worked with,” declared that he could not reconcile with people who have been hurt because they “remain anonymous.” on a beautiful sunny August 3, 2014, former members of Mars Hill Church stood up to say,We are not anonymous!”

Had there been a single voice, the protest would have had no effect. Because of the many voices, the abuse Paul Tripp referenced has been exposed and Mark Driscoll has resigned in an apparent effort to avoid the proposed verdict of the Board of Elders.

The current Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) have decided to dissolve the corporation called Mars Hill Church, sell all of its assets (of which the net value is over $20million), and whatever is left after dissolution will be given to the campuses that will survive the crash and continue as “new” churches – none of which are allowed to be branded “Mars Hill Church” in any way.

The dissolution date is set for December 31, 2014.

In planning to end the church, the BOAA has shown no inclination to take action to correct many of the wrongs that members, ex-members, and donors have called to be addressed.

This includes

  • Disclosing to donors exactly how the Global Fund monies raised were spent.
  • Full disclosure of the compensation for Executive Elders.
  • Ending the shunning of Paul Petry and his family.
  • Acknowledging the shunning and the emotional and psychological mistreatment of hundreds of families.
  • Being transparent about the current liquidation of assets.
  • Expressing repentance and providing restitution to the many harmed members and ex-members of the church.
  • Fully investigating and being transparent about the use of church assets and money to inure its own lead pastor and possibly other executives.

Should the church dissolve without addressing these and other issues, the many who have been harmed will have unresolved wounding and harm for many years to come. It is repentance and restitution that brings healing, not burying the truth by dissolving and running.

The countless efforts to encourage the BOAA to respond to the grievances of its members, former members, and donors continue to be ignored. Even most of the current elders of the church have no idea what is happening, especially as millions of dollars is created  and dissipated through the selling of church assets.

Members of the BOAA who have stood by and have been accused by sitting elders of the church for being deceptive, are now dividing the spoils of the church that crumbled under their corrupt and incompetent watch. It is time for good and godly men and women to stand up and say with me with loud voice:

I AM SPARTACUS ! 

We will do this together as we go to the only venue that the BOAA cannot ignore, the civil court. Please consider standing up and supporting the legal costs that will be incurred. The GoFundMe fund has been created to cover these costs.

Our prayer and hope is that the leadership of Mars Hill Church will come to the table and settle matters as members of the body of Christ. Despite the overwhelming body of evidence supporting Paul Tripp’s claim of abuse, the loud call for redress of grievances, and constant plea for financial transparency, they have not allowed any form of reasonable discourse to occur.

Thank God that we live in a country where the civil courts create a just and civil environment where all the facts are laid out in the open through the discovery process, and an independent jury, made up of peers of the church, are able to see the truth and render a binding decision.

If this is the only way to obtain transparency and closure, then the process will be of great value and bring healing to many. If the BOAA remains defiant and non-repentant, the process will bring rebuke.

Please pray that the better path to reconciliation and repentance is chosen in the last days of the church. Please consider supporting the effort to see this happen.

Let us stand together.

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Mars Hill Church leadership – giving members the finger to the very end.

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In a telling move, the final acts of the leaders left at the now defunct church have echoed Mark Driscoll’s words to his own elders and basically told members and donors that they simply “do not give a sh-t.”

After watching a lack of accountability and transparency bring Mars Hill Church to its knees, the leaders have decided to dissolve the church.  This decision was done without any consultation or input from the thousands of members and donors who have been implored to continue giving to keep Mars Hill Church going.

As was the case with Mark Driscoll and the way he and his executive elders ran the church, the members and donors have no say whatsoever.

Members and donors have been calling for an exoneration of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, whose firings and the subsequent bylaws change in 2007 led to the current debacle at Mars Hill Church.

Members and donors have been calling for accountability and answers regarding several financial scandals, including full disclosure of where the Global Fund money went, and exactly how much personal inurement did Mark Driscoll get from the his activities at the church, and what were the salaries of the executive elders of the church.

In its place, the pleas of members and donors are disregarded and the decision to dissolve the church that many thousands of us gave years of our money and effort to build is made without any attempt to reach out to us.

Even more stunning, is that despite totally disregarding the input of members and donors in the decision to dissolve Mars Hill Church, and in the face of a willful stubbornness to continue to operate in the dark, Dave Bruskas asks members to continue to give to Mars Hill Church.

Is he serious?

Why any member or donor would give another cent to Mars Hill Church after such a mule-headed display of utter disregard of both its members and donors is beyond me.

Mars Hill Church – Déjà vu?

On no not again

Seven years ago 22 elders lacked the character and leadership skills to stand up and stop bad mistakes from being made. As a result the by-laws were changed to reflect a form of church goverance that not only flew in the face of everything the church believed and had been taught, but set in motion the destruction of Mark Driscoll’s ministry, reputation, and the church he claimed he loved.

Now we are facing a similar daunting situation. Sadly, it appears that once again the church is left with leaders who seem to be unable to lead with courage, strength and openness.

Despite telling the church how much they are loved, and promising to be more open with members, news and information from Warren Throckmorton or Wenatchee the Hatchett’s posts is more reliable and far more credible than the updates coming from Dave Bruskas and his leadership team.

In order to get the information that is needed to know how to pray, how to give, and how to move forward with their lives, members and donors learn more of value from the comments section of Throckmorton’s and Wenatchee the Hatchett’s posts than they do the flaccid leadership of the church.

Take the current financial picture for example.

We have learned that several campuses are for sale. Where did we learn this? From social media.

We have heard that Mark Driscoll had a recommended salary and benefit package that was at least $850,000 per year, not counting perks. Where did we hear this? From social media.

We have heard of a million-dollar home being purchased in a gated compound and placed in a trust that listed the same address as Mars Hill Church. Who told us this? Social media.

We have heard that Mars Hill Church does not own the rights to the sermons and intellectual property its members and donors paid for. We have heard of a scandalous severance package for Mark Driscoll, the man who fired elders without severance unless they signed restrictive non-disclosure agreements. Where did we hear of all this? Social media.

Through social media, we donors and members are hearing that the current leadership is considering filing for bankruptcy. How can this be the case? How insulting that we are not given the exact picture of the condition of the church!

Does the current leadership not love the church enough to shoot straight with its members and donors?  How can any of us pray about our giving if we are kept in the dark? Yet, the leadership warns us not to read reports in the social media.

I could go on.

Sadly, what we have not heard, even via social media, is a call for a heartfelt attempt to make matters right with Paul Petry, Bent Meyer and Lief Moi. No attempt to say we are deeply sorry. No rumors of reconciliation, restitution, or restoration.

Mars Hill Church needs men like those men right now. They had the foresight and backbone to do the right thing seven years ago. These men are sorely needed at this time. Mars Hill Church needs leaders that have the clarity and conviction to lead the church back to a solid footing.

Many of us leaders and former leaders would roll up our sleeves and help if called upon.

In my case, my emails to Dave Bruskas remain unanswered.  Paul Petry’s phone (the same number since 2007) has not rung.

Sadly, unless something changes, we will see weak men repeat the mistakes of the elders of 2007, and fail to stand up and lead in full transparency and open reconciliation with the real men who were thrown out years ago, but who have what it takes to help Mars Hill Church recover in the wake of Mark Driscoll’s departure.

 

Why is ECFA certifying churches without requiring the same public disclosure as non-churches?

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The fact that the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) approves churches as easily as it does other 501(c)3 groups should be a matter of grave concern to the evangelical church that the ECFA serves.

If the ECFA is going to maintain its integrity it will have to change its method of approving churches.

While I totally understand and agree with the position that churches should not be regulated by the government in any way or required by the government to be burdened with the same disclosure requirements as other 501(c)3 not for profit organizations, I do not understand the why and the how behind the ability of the ECFA to actually certify churches without requiring at least the same information that is available to the public on a standard I-990 form.

The argument, with which I strongly agree, that the government has no business regulating the church in any capacity because of the first amendment, should not mean that Christian groups like ECFA should not regulate or require information from the churches it certifies.

The freedom we are afforded here in the United Stated to keep the government out of our religious lives is a right, not a privilege. It therefore carries a risk that we as American citizens are willing to bear. That risk is that a certain number of charlatans will use this right to exploit people, especially their donors.

We are willing to bear this risk because this risk is a smaller risk than the risk of allowing the government to regulate how we exercise our religion. So we as citizens are left to navigate the risks without government intrusion.

Scoundrels and charlatans therefore have less to dodge as they are able to hide behind the first amendment as they try to get away with hoodwinking people to give money to support their “church” or special “Fund” in a manner that they may not get away with if they were not a church.

As we all know, such charlatans are able to have audited books every year, yet still hide basic information from the people that support them. Audits report numbers broadly, not specifically, so that a donor or church member cannot see specific expenditures, especially the salaries of the top dogs or whether a particular “fund” has been spent as promoted.

This is what frustrates many members and donors to Mars Hill Church.

Historically, Mars Hill Church has said they have open books, which meant a member could get a copy of the audited financial statements. To get more information risks the donor or member being branded as a troublemaker, unless of course that member is a large donor, in which case more information is carefully parsed out.

In the last two years Mars Hill Church, as its income and its executive salaries has soared, has now added the fact that they are certified by the ECFA and are therefore meeting the ECFA standards of accountability and transparency. This is intended to assure donors that Mars Hill Church adheres to the highest of ethical and biblical standards.

ECFA, by its very title, is telling members and donors that Mars Hill Church is being biblical in its transparency and accountability.

The problem is that a normal non-church 501(c)3 has to provide a lot of basic  information via the government-required I-990 form while a church does not. In so doing a lot more information is available to the ECFA when certifying a non-church. There is a substantial amount of information that the ECFA has as it considers certifying a non-church 501(c)3. As a result the ECFA’s approval is helpful and meaningful. Most Christian 501(c)3’s desire this approval.

Thus the ECFA has earned a good reputation as it let donors know that the total information provided to it via the audited financial statements, the I-990, and the statements from the organization is quantitatively sufficient to warrant the ECFA’s blessing.

But the ECFA, some two or so years ago, decided to add churches to the type of organizations that it would certify. Yet despite the fact that information that is available to both the ECFA and the general public for most 501(c)3’s is not available in the case of churches unless a particular church chooses to make the information public, the ECFA failed to require much higher level of standard to ensure that donors were protected and informed.

This begs two questions. The first is why churches need the ECFA approval in the first place, and the second is why the ECFA is so actively pursuing churches to certify.

Churches ought to walk in the light. There should be no secrets or even the ability to hide information from members. So why would a church decide that it needs to be certified by the ECFA unless it has become a church driven by the need to broaden its donor base?

Surely a church with open transparency would hardly benefit from the ECFA seal of approval. If a church were not open with their books, as increasingly independent mega-churches seem to be, then a seal of approval from the ECFA would be a sure way to seem transparent, whether a church was or not.

From the ECFA’s perspective, adding churches without requiring at the very least the type of information that a standard I-990 would provide would be an easy source of revenue for the ECFA. Under the current requirements, church do not have to do much more than provide an audited set of financial statements, plus an assurance that they use some matrix in determining executive salaries.

So churches that are notorious for stubbornly refusing to be open to its members, such as Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church, Steve Furtick’s Elevation Church in Charlotte, and James MacDonald’s Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago can have minimum transparency, hidden executive salaries where the pastors live in million dollars homes, and yet also have the ECFA approval.

Basic information that non-church 501(c)3 organizations are required to provide via the I-990 form can easily be hidden by a church wishing to keep such information private.

Executive salaries over $100,000 per year are required to be disclosed for all non-church 501(c)3’s on the I-990 form. Certain specific expenditures are required to be disclosed, as well as disproportionate sources of income. The ECFA, as well as a curious donor or potential donor can find out a lot of basic information as he or she evaluates the organization.

In the case of churches certified by the ECFA, however, such basic transparency is not required and therefore easily avoided. The ECFA knows this, yet they fail to address the flaws in their certification process that allow accountability and transparency to accompany such certification.

Even the ECFA does not know basic information such as the executive salaries of the churches they certify.

Churches like Mars Hill Church may choose to pay the top dogs through a third party rather than out of the normal payroll accounts of the church. Like many corporations, they will outsource that function to a company that charges a single amount for all the top dogs. In this way even the accountants within the church will not necessarily know the specific salaries of the top earners within the church.

How it would work, as an example, would be as follows. For the sake of example let us use the rumored earnings that have been bantered around within Mars Hill Church circles. Many have suggested that Mark Driscoll earns about $1,200,000 per year and his two co executives Dave Bruskas and the recently departed Sutton Turner each earned about $400,000 per year. Rather than pay them directly from the same payroll account as the other employees, Mars Hill Church could pay them using an outsource payroll company, who then merely bills Mars Hill Church $2,000,000 over the year, plus their fees. So the bookkeepers would get a monthly bill for executive salaries of about $170,000.00 per month.

Even those doing the bookkeeping would have no idea who earns what, so the executives are protected from busybodies and naysayers (perhaps a good thing) but they are also able to hide specific earnings from everybody, even the auditors or the ECFA (not so good).

The ECFA knows that churches therefore are able to avoid transparency, yet they are aggressively signing up churches without addressing the reality that by doing so without requiring the same disclosure that the I-990 requires of all other 501(c)3 groups, they are rendering their certification meaningless.

Surely the ECFA knew this would need to be addressed. The fact that they have either willfully moved forward despite this obvious outcome, or have been blindsided by this reality, both show that perhaps it is the ECFA that needs to be scrutinized for letting the donor down by either its choice or its lack of wisdom.

Both reasons are highly problematic should cause grave concern to the evangelical church that the ECFA serves.

All of the Mars Hill Church senior leadership need to resign!

 

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How is it possible that the senior leadership at Mars Hill has not yet resigned?

It is no wonder that Paul Tripp, James MacDonald, and now Sutton Turner have resigned from the senior leadership of Mars Hill Church.

The more the truth comes out, the more it is clear that the senior leadership, the Executive Elders in particular,  knew about and actively participated in the planned deception of donors, members, and the New York Times Bestseller list.

First, the leaked memo which revealed that elders within the church were alarmed and warned that the scheme to use church monies to purchase 11,000 copies of Mark Driscoll’s book, Real Marriage, at $20 per copy (versus a wholesale price of $7), might attract the IRS because of the personal inurement of the author, and “muckrakers” who would see through the deception and draw public attention to it.

Keep in mind that it was at this time that the author of Real Marriage was able to pay for a home costing well over a million dollars in an exclusive, upscale suburb outside of Seattle. The home is fully paid for.

Everyone now knows that the contract with Result Source was intended to deceive the New York Times Bestseller list, and therefor intended to deceive the public that Mark Driscoll is a bestselling author.

Sadly, the three explanations that were given to church members now appear even more deceptive than they were at the time they were released. One must review them in light of the recently leaked internal memo warning the senior leadership of the shenanigans.

Second, the recently leaked memo that laid out the scheme to use global backdrops to trick donors to give to global missions but used the money for local Mars Hill expenditures brought a new wave of outrage and disgust. The deception is blatant and clearly calculated. The overt strategy was to raise millions for global missions, but to actually give as little as 1.5% to 2% of the money received to actual global missions, with almost all the money going to fund business as usual in the US. The memo specifically strategizes that the amount actually spent on global mission should not be made public, and that the outlay for global missions should be about $10,000 per month – a fraction of the total take. The recent financial reports of Mars Hill Church reflect this strategy was used, with not a single dissenting voice within senior leadership to call attention to the impropriety.

This means that the 6,000 donors who gave a total of over $10 million to global missions in recent years ended up giving well over $9.5million to fund Mars Hill Church in the U.S. and hardly any money to global missions.

The wording of the memo evidences an unconscionable breach of trust and a callous intent to deceive donors. Such a violation by church leaders brings disgrace upon the church and dishonor upon the name of Christ. “As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'” — Romans 2:24

In the light of these deceptions, why are the senior leaders still in office?

Given the speed of which eight of the “Noble Nine” elders who recently called for accountability from the BOAA and the Executive Elders were either fired or resigned, and given the large number of elders and employees who were fired for merely questioning senior leadership, surely now that the calculated deception of the senior leadership has been well established, they should follow the lead of Paul Tripp, James MacDonald, and Sutton Turner and tender their resignations.

As Mars Hill Bellevue Pastor Thomas Hurst stated just a month ago, “In the end there are only two outcomes I will continue to partake in – seeing our church faithfully rebuilt…from the top down, or turning off the lights and locking the doors…”

GoFindMe – who and where are the “little people” laid off from Mars Hill Church?

Generous giving

I notice that there was no scramble to set up a GoFundMe campaign for any of the 30 to 40 employees of Mars Hill Church that recently got laid off from their jobs.

There has been no GoFundMe fund for restitution to Paul Petry or Bent Meyer for the pain of their firings and loss of income because of the slander that was used to discredit them.

There was no GoFundMe set up for the loss of income supporting the Agathos orphans when Mars Hill Church cut off support after Mark Driscoll threatened to destroy that ministry after the 2007 trials.

As heartwarming as it was to see many of us put together $105,000 for the four former elders (link, link), I note that there are clear biblical guidelines for who the church should raise money for. I hate to see so many lose their jobs at Mars Hill Church in the wake of the numerous scandals that have resulted from the actions of the elders and leadership of Mars Hill Church over the years that is recently coming to light.

It would be fantastic to generously help all who have been plunged into crisis as a result.

As we look at how to help going forward, and before I lay out some biblical guidelines, I must say that I love the generosity displayed to the handful of former elders, and, as an immigrant to the USA I am always amazed at the generosity of Americans to almost any crisis. I see this regularly around the fire where several brothers that meet weekly will rise up and support fellow brothers that are struggling financially. It is true Christian charity at work.

Having said that, there are clear biblical guidelines for the church when providing financial assistance to those in need both outside the local church and for members within the church. We are clearly told who we should give to.

FIRST, give to the orphan and the widow.

This is the most basic directive regarding our Christian charity. Without question or hesitation it should be to the orphan and the widow.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  — James 1:27

Note that we are not to give to all orphans and widows, but only to those that are in distress.

SECOND, give to those in crisis.

Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.  Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me. — 1 Corinthians 16:1-4

The Apostle Paul’s collection for the Jerusalem church occupies significant portions of his letters (1 Cor 16:1–4; 2 Cor 8:1–9:15; Rom 15:14–32). He was willing to put time, effort, and risk into collecting money for the church in Jerusalem which was in crisis. When there is a crisis, it is totally appropriate and biblical to raise money for those in crisis, and to risk one’s life to make sure the money gets into the hands of those in crisis and meets their critical needs.

This was the first time we hear of weekly giving in the church. It was not to support the local church, but to support the poor brothers and sisters in crisis in Jerusalem.

THIRD, give to support the widow in your church.

Paul addresses supporting the needy widow in 1 Timothy 5. He teaches that even truly needy widows in the church must first look to their own families before the church kicks in. This is not to be mean, but to be biblical. The first order on God’s civil structure is the family. Therefore the family of the hurting widow should be writing the check and caring for their own widows.

Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. — I Timothy 5:3-11a

This list of which widows should receive help can seem quite harsh. Imagine if you were the widow who had lost her husband and was struggling. Some friends of yours go to Timothy and the other elders and suggest a GoFundMe campaign for your plight. Timothy, while moved with compassion at your loss, remembers the words of the fatherly Paul, and asks you about your family. You have family who are able to take care of you, and the GoFundMe idea is scrapped, allowing your own family to enjoy caring for you.

FOURTH, give to the poor.

Numerous passages talk about being generous to the poor. This should be the core of a person’s generosity. The bible verses to this end are too numerous to quote. While it is clear that every member of society should be productive, and the man who will not work should not be rewarded, generous care for the poor should be the hallmark of every church and every Christian’s budget. This should be Generosity 101 in the giving curriculum of every Christian church.

FIFTH, give generously.

There is no biblical injunction against simply being generous to anyone. God lavishes gifts on his children, even though we do not deserve it. We can give gifts out of love. We can give gifts out of thanks. There is no biblical prohibition to an individual from giving gifts to whomever he pleases.

SIXTH, give when restitution is required.

When Zacchaeus was convicted of his sin, he paid back to his victims fourfold. Biblical law always had restitution in mind where the actions of the offender had impacted the victim financially. To fail to do this permanently robs the victim of that which is rightfully his. That is why, when slander is exposed, in most cases there is financial recompense as the slander robbed the victim of his name and therefore his ability to earn.

IN SUMMARY THEN….

  1. Give to the orphan and widow in their distress.
  2. Give to those in deep crisis.
  3. Give to the widow in your church. a. Only to those that are in need and have no family to support them through their crisis. b. Only to those that are known for good works c. Only to those that have cared for her own relatives. d. Only to those who have been faithful to their own husband. e. Only to those well known for her own good deeds. f.  Only if she is not young (over 60) and not capable of working or finding a husband.
  4. Give to the poor.
  5. Give generously.
  6. Give when restitution requires it.

Mark Driscoll: It was a mistake to submit to these young, new and green elders.

New young and green  15

Says Mark Driscoll: “I wanted to be under authority, but I made a mistake of, how do I say this carefully; trying to be under the authority of my elders, but the truth is all my elders were new and young and green, and they would want to help, but they really didn’t know what they were talking about.” (link)

Mark Driscoll, in yet another re-spin of his past actions, is now saying that the elders he was under were new, young and “green.” It is hard to keep up with the perpetual retelling of the past.

So who were these “new, young and green elders” that Mark Driscoll made the mistake of trying to be under the authority of?

Tim Belz

Tim Belz. Prior to coming to Mars Hill, Tim was the Chief Operating Officer with Christa Ministries in the greater Seattle area. He has been a Christian for years (link).

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas. Prior to coming to Mars Hill, Scott had planted and pastored churches for years. He has been a Christian for years (link).

Tim Quiring

Tim Quiring. Prior to coming to Mars Hill Church, Tim had served as an elder in a church in Indiana. He has been a Christian for years (link).

Steve Tompkins

Steve Tompkins. Prior to coming to Mars Hill Church, Steve had been a pastor in Canada. He has been a Christian for years (link).

bill clem

Bill Clem. Prior to coming to Mars Hill Church, Bill had been the pastor of Doxa Church in West Seattle and served in other churches prior to that. Bill has been a Christian for many years (link).

Jesse Winkler

Jesse Winkler. Prior to coming (back) to Mars Hill Church, Jesse had been the pastor of “The Vine” church in Bellevue, WA. Jesse has been a Christian for years (link).

Dave Kraft

Dave Kraft. Prior to coming to Mars Hill Church, Dave worked in Christian service his entire life and was coaching for Ministry Coaching International, which included coaching Mark Driscoll himself. Dave has been a Christian for 54 years (link).

Gary Shavey

Gary Shavey. Prior to coming to Mars Hill Church, Gary worked for Athletes in Action. Gary has been a Christian for years (link).

james-noriega

James Noriega. Prior to coming to Mars Hill Church James was a pastor at Doxa Church and worked at the Union Gospel Mission. James has been a Christian longer than Mark Driscoll had been when he co-founded Mars Hill Church (link).

Lief Moi

Lief Moi. Lief co-founded the church and was always viewed by the younger members as the father figure that Mark Driscoll now claims to be aspiring to become. Lief has been a Christian for years.

Bent Meyer  Paul Petry

Then of course there are Bent Meyer and Paul Petry, seasoned Christians of many years who had the wisdom to stand up and argue against the disasterous change of the bylaws seven years ago.

Here are twelve men of age and maturity.

I do not see any “new, young and green” men in this list.  Perhaps the fatherly Mark Driscoll could point point them out?

fatherly mark driscoll