Paul Tripp speaks. Check!

Paul Tripp     Check 1

“This is without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry I’ve ever been involved with.” — Paul Tripp, former member of Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA)

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Who is outwitting Mars Hill Leadership?

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2 Cor 2:10 -11 warns that Satan can outwit the church. Mars Hill Church has not only failed to reconcile with the many members abusively thrown under the bus over the years, but after almost seven years they are still shunning Paul Petry.

They are also seemingly hapless in their attempts to deal with the current scandals, choosing to cover up and hide the truth rather than “man-up” and be accountable.

This was demonstrated again yesterday in their attempt to remove videos posted on YouTube where in 2012 Mark Driscoll clearly asked the members of Mars Hill Church to consider giving to the Global Fund or Mars Hill Global (link).

If you are following the scandal, the new spin from Sutton Turner is that since 2009 Mars Hill Global was not in fact a fund, but was global donors that were giving to the general fund. Most of the organization’s solicitations for designated donations were made through the videos with an Ethiopian backdrop, clearly implying that the funds would be used for international outreach. Rather than admit the truth, that only a very small percentage of the money went to Africa and India, Mars Hill Church leaders are trying to re-spin the story.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have been focused on exonerating Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, and demanding a repeal of the 2007 bylaws that were changed in an improper manner.

It would seem, based upon understanding the Apostle Paul’s warning in 2 Corinthians 2, that it would be in the interest of Mars Hill Church to reconcile with Paul Petry and stop the almost seven years of shunning. Being too harsh with members invites Satan to outplay you.

The scripture passage is referencing the punishment of the man who was thrown out of the church in 1 Corinthians 5 for gross sin. Apparently he had repented, but the Corinthian church had not yet ended the punishment. Paul exhorts them that failure to forgive would cause Satan to outwit them.

2 Corinthians 2: 7 -11 “so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ,  so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”

There are two warnings. The first is that failure to affirm love and forgiveness will cause the victim to be overwhelmed with excessive sorrow. I can identify with that warning. The second is that failure to forgive and affirm the member will mean that Satan can take advantage of the church or, as some translations say, outwit the church.

The Apostle Paul’s warning in 2 Cor 2 applied to a case where the punishment was completely warranted but simply went on for too long.  In Paul Petry’s case, it is well documented that his show trial was a farce and merely a way of getting rid of a reasoned voice opposing the awful changes in the bylaws. Seven years of shunning is excessive by any reasonable measure. The Apostle Paul’s warning is particularly relevant in this case.

How much more then, if Paul Petry’s shunning is undeserved, will Satan be in a position to outwit Mars Hill Church leadership? They ought to take heed. We are seeing the consequence playing out before our very eyes.

More than one casual observer has expressed surprise at the seeming gaffs by Mars Hill Church leadership in reacting after being exposed for deceit and spin relating to the many scandals that they are facing. Historically Mars Hill has had excellent PR skills. But not recently. Are they being outwitted?

It seems obvious to the average Christian that to simply tell the truth is by far the easiest and most righteous thing to do when caught in a lie. Members will forgive a genuine plea for forgiveness. This is not happening at Mars Hill Church, where instead every scandal is addressed by new spin and explanation.

Three changing explanations for the shameful spending of $210,000 of church money to deceptively manipulate sales to ensure a spot on the NYT Bestsellers’ list. Apologies and conflicting stories to explain how the global fund spent a “preponderate” percentage of  money in the US and not in Ethiopia and India, while concurrently saying that the fund has not existed since 2009. The more appropriate word should be a “preposterous” amount.

How can there be only four donors to the fund that petitioned MH and ECFA for answers in a recent change.org petition (link), while at the same time the fund hasn’t existed since 2009? How can six thousand total donors to the fund be contacted to explain the matter and at the same time the fund doesn’t exist?  (link)

Does the Mars Hill Leadership think that we donors, members and ex-members are fools? Do they think that their shifting explanations will outwit us?

Or is it the Mars Hill leadership that is being unwittingly outwitted (2 Cor 2:10)?

Changing the story is a form of lying. Mars Hill keeps changing the story. This is disturbing as truth telling is being avoided in favor of cover-up. This is foolish and certainly a possible demonstration of the leadership being outwitted. It seems that the attempts to correct the scandals are being so badly spun that anyone who is paying attention can see it.

Why can they not be forthright and open?

Members are asking how much of the Global Fund money was spent on international outreach. Instead of answering the question, and despite clear evidence that the solicitation was for the Global Fund and in addition to normal giving, Mars Hill has chosen to say that there is no Global Fund, and that since 2009 it refers to global donors. Abundant evidence exists to show that this is simply not true. Donor receipts after 2009 reflect their donations to the Global Fund.

By refusing to be truthful, the leadership is playing a game where they are just hurting themselves. This is the warning of 1 Cor 2:10.

A reminder to the reader to some of the sad scandals that all reflect failure to be truthful or a desire to hide the truth.

– Purging the history of who founded Mars Hill Church.
– Plagiarism in multiple books authored by Mark Driscoll.
– Deceptively manipulating sales of “Real Marriage” to ensure a New York Times Bestseller title.
– Requiring gag-orders from departing employees in order to get severance pay – thus attempting to silence truth-tellers.
– Requiring an employee that files a charge against Mark Driscoll to submit their resignation first.
– Repeatedly soliciting Global Fund money using an African backdrop implying the funds were to be used for International Outreach.
– Removing and purging the names of members who helped build the church, including founders Lief Moi and Mike Gunn.
– Removing hundreds of sermons and other content from accessibility to members and the general public.

But before these recent examples, let me talk about the mother of all deceptions.

For years Mark Driscoll preached that he was one of a plurality of elders of equal authority. He preached that this was the biblical pattern for church leadership. He said he could get fired by his elders. This made Mars Hill members like myself feel secure and safe.

Little did we know that Mark Driscoll, while preaching this with great frequency and fervor, was reverse engineering a plan to change this form of governance and accountability. While preaching this line, and getting the support of our tithes, offerings, and volunteered effort as a result, he and former executive elder Jamie Munson rewrote the bylaws to usher in a church governance structure that was the antithesis to what Mark Driscoll was concurrently preaching.

Then, in an effort to ward off opposition at the elder level, they accused Bent Meyer and Paul Petry of opposing the new bylaws because they wanted to grab power. After ruthlessly firing the men and subjecting them to a show trial full of hearsay and pettiness, they told the church that the men demanded power.

As unsettled members were trying to understand what had happened, every member covenant was torn up, and a seemingly healthy church of over 1,600 members and over 3000 attenders was shut down and Mars Hill Church was “replanted”. Over 1,000 members did not join the replant.

Our church was deceptively taken from us.

Mark Driscoll told an interviewer that he lost over 1,000 members because he raised the bar for membership by publishing his book – “Doctrine”. Yet the truth was that the only change was the new bylaws that consolidated power in Mark Driscoll’s hands (link). So few ex-members were signing up for the replant that attendees were recruited to become members more fervently than the local fitness club tries to sign you up.

In addition, Bent Meyer was found to be not guilty on all counts but one. Mark Driscoll and Jamie Munson were his accusers. The outcome of the trial of Bent Meyer clearly demonstrated that the accusations were false. In other words, they were lies.

The seeds of deceit in 2007 have born the fruit of repeated deceit since then as we are all seeing.

For Mars Hill Church to survive and recover from its current implosion, the deceitful and coercive changing of the bylaws and the shameful treatment of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer and their families will have to be dealt with. If the 2 Cor 2:10 warning means anything, it seems to warn that even subsequent confession and apologies will not thwart the injustice of failing to affirm love for the brother whose punishment has become harsh.

So confession and repentance must, for the sake of Mars Hill Church, start with the unjust treatment of Paul Petry. It also needs to be a full attempt at learning to tell the truth and transparently walking in the light on all matters.

True reconciliation and fellowship will be the result. It will involve forgiveness and restoration, and despite the pain of the process will bring true joy and freedom. It will be “all about Jesus” in a way that Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church has not experienced in some time.

The alternative is to continue to walk in the dark, continue to shun not only Paul Petry, but the many bodies under the bus, and we fail to realize that the consequence of this is to allow Satan to continue to outwit.

He is an angel of darkness and the source of spin, deceit and lies.

Satan is defeated by the walking in the light.

Mars Hill Church disses both the 99% and the 1% and points to the fund that they claim does not exist!

We are the 99 percent 2

Despite belittling 99% of the petitioners, Mars Hill Church leadership responded hastily to the petition these people participated in over the past week (link).

In a post to members, Mars Hill Church leadership has made some things quite clear, and also added to the confusion that they have already admitted.

As we strive to communicate the vision of Mars Hill Church, there has been an outside petition asking questions of Mars Hill. However, of the nearly 400 signers, only four have ever given to Mars Hill Global. We sent letters this past week to over 6000 Global donors giving them the option to designate their funds solely for international work if they wish. We received many replies of encouragement, as well as a few people who asked to change their designation, and we have gladly made those changes.

Here is what is clear:

It is clear that this issue is a serious one.

Deceptively raising money for a non-existent Global Fund is a violation of ECFA standards, and, like using church funds to deceptively purchase a spot on the NYT bestseller list, is something that is clearly immoral. Despite belittling the petition, it certainly got the Executive Elders’ attention..

It is clear that Mars Hill Leaders can provide exact numbers when it serves their purpose. They spent time and effort to go through the list of petitioners to show that only 1% gave to Mars Hill Global.

It is clear that the leadership failed to respond to the request of the 4 donors to Mars Hill Global as well as the remaining 99% who were members, ex-members and friends. The petitioners asked what was actually spent on international mission. They were quick to spend time researching how many actually gave to the fund called Mars Hill Global, yet simply ignored the donors’ request. Four petitioners gave to Mars Hill Global… but I thought Mars Hill Global were the global donors out there. Ah….. so there is a fund – despite the latest explanation that there is no fund.

It is clear that the leadership appears to imply that the petition is of lesser value because “only” four of the petitioners have ever given to Mars Hill Global.  This disregards the 1% that actually gave to the fund, and disregards the 99% that were members, ex-members and friends, many, if not most, of whom gave to the general fund.

It is clear based upon this communication that the Global Fund did exist recently and that donors to the fund are seen as such. This flies in the face of the recent spin from Sutton Turner that Mars Hill Global is not a fund but is in fact global donors to the General Fund. If Mars Hill Global is simply global donors giving to the general fund, and if that includes everyone, including Mars Hill members (as Turner stated), then it seems that they would not say that four of the petitioners gave to Mars Hill Global. Based upon the latest explanation from Turner, the four would be global donors to the general fund, as he claims that since 2009 the Global Fund has not existed. So it appears that Mars Hill Global does exist as there is data available to identify four donors to the fund who made up 1% of the petitioners asking Mars Hill to make clear how much Global Fund money was actually spent on international outreach.

It is clear that the 99%, made up of members, former members and friends did not give to Mars Hill Global – a fund that supposedly does not exist. Obviously the fund does exist as four of the petitioners were identified as having given to it.

It is clear that in 2010 Mars Hill Global was listed as a restricted fund in footnote 5 of the abridged version of the Annual Financial Statements.

 

Report Showing Global Fund restricted in 2010

It is clear in this video that the fund exists (link).

It is clear that in 2014 almost all promotions for giving “to” Mars Hill Global was set in an African setting, deceptively implying that the fund was intended to go toward international church planting (link).

It is clear that a preponderance of the money that was raised in that fund went to U.S. Mars Hill church plants and not to Ethiopia or India as implied.

It is clear that Mars Hill leadership does not want to tell donors how much of the Global Fund money was spent on Ethiopia and India. Are they embarrassed about how little that amount was, perhaps?

Was it more than the $210,000 spent on deceptively buying a spot on the NYT Bestseller list?

Was it less that the annual salaries of any one of the Executive Elders?

Now that it is clear that there is a fund in to which at least 6000 donors gave, four of which petitioned Mars Hill Church, will the leadership now simply respect the 1% that donated to the fund and answer their question?

We are the 99 percent 4

We promise to tell the truth, some of the truth, but not the whole truth…

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Mars Hill Church leadership has admitted to confusing donors about the Global Fund and Mars Hill Global.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2014/07/01/major-mars-hill-global-admission-and-offer-to-direct-donations-to-international-missions/

After admitting fault in confusing donors on Mars Hill Global, the leadership proceeded to tell some of the truth, but clearly avoided telling donors what they wanted to know.

Donors were told that $22.48 million was spent on church planting in the US, India and Ethiopia. Donors are also told that over $10 million was donated by the Mars Hill Global family.

Donors are not told how much of the over $10 million that Mars Hill received through the deceptively marketed “fund” actually was spent on Ethiopia and India.

Also, the current story is that the global “fund”, which is now called Mars Hill Global, is and always was simply the global donors. Yet clearly local Mars Hill members have been pitched to give over and above their tithe to the fund. So it appears that the fund did exist, and that it was a specific fund as this video clearly points out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4EFX3-RXyg

So after saying that Mars Hill Global is all the people who are throughout the world listening in and supporting the church, and that their money, given to the Global Fund, was simply placed into the general fund of the church, Mars Hill leaders are now including the members of Mars Hill Church in Mars Hill Global.

Now everyone, including local church members, are and have always been a part of Mars Hill Global. So the story has changed once more. The Global Fund, a designated fund prior to Sutton Turner’s arrival at Mars Hill Church, morphed from meaning a fund to meaning the global Mars Hill community of podcasters and supporters out there, and has now morphed again to include members as well.

Everyone is now Mars Hill Global.

Clearly the confusion that the leadership of Mars Hill Church refers to is the blatant implication that monies received through the Global Fund were to be used for international purposes as I pointed out in my last post. https://musingsfromunderthebus.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/while-ecfa-looks-away-mars-hills-deceptively-marketed-global-fund-is-certainly-getting-the-attention-of-everyone-else/

If in fact the money has always gone into the general fund of the church (even though designated by the auditors as restricted in earlier years), then why not ask donors to merely help support the church? The confusion seems to have been borne out of deception.

But more troubling, is that the leadership simply will not tell donors how much money was spent in Ethiopia and India. It would be an easy question to answer from a pure accounting point of view. But I suspect that it is a very hard question to answer because the numbers would show the level of exploitive marketing in attracting donors to give.

I say this because Mars Hill leaders say the following:

In 2009-11 over 80% of funds given by the Mars Hill global family went to Acts 29 church planting and funds were consistently spent in India for church planting in each of those years. In 2012- 2014 expenditures for church planting efforts in India and Ethiopia were increased with the preponderance of expenses related to church plants and replants in the U.S. [emphasis added]

Donors are told that the preponderance of the money received via the Global Fund was spent on plants and replants in the U.S. Preponderance could mean 70% or 80%. So even though 95% of the solicitations to give appear to be pitching an Ethiopian setting, the preponderance of the money was spent in the U.S.

Of course, other ex-members or employees might have some idea of the actual percentage spent in Ethiopia and India, but let’s examine what the leadership says.

They tell donors that funds going to India and Ethiopia have been consistent over the years, with an increase in 2012 to 2014.

Well, what I learned as a member of Mars Hill while travelling with certain Acts 29 leaders in Africa, was that the Indian pastors were given a monthly stipend to assist them. If my memory serves me correctly, it was about $75 per month per pastor.

So if Mars Hill is being consistent, which they claim, then prior to 2012 they supported no more than 33 Indian pastors at a cost of about $2,475 per month. In 2012, Sutton Turner attracted Mars Hill to support Ethiopian pastors, and 40 evangelists are being supported. To be consistent, they would also get a monthly stipend. So perhaps from 2012 t0 2014 the total Indian and Ethiopian ministers being supported totaled 73, which at $100 per month amounts to $7,300 per month.

Under this consistency, the total amount spent from 2009 to 2014 would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $350,000.  This amounts 0.35% of $10 million.

It is no wonder it is so hard for the truth to be told. Given the “confusing” but otherwise blatant implication that donors are giving to the poor, needy Africans in Ethiopia, it would be a shocking truth to discover that after the preponderance of money spent locally buying U.S. buildings and paying U.S. salaries, the remainder that went to India and Ethiopia was less than 1%.

Some donors might be encouraged that the amount that was consistently given probably exceeded the $210,000 spent on the similarly deceptive manipulation of the NYT bestseller listing. Of course, it pales when compared to the salaries of the Executive Elders that were paid out of the same fund into which Global donors gifts were directed….

So sorry for the confusion, folks.

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

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“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

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

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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?