Mars Hill Church: True religion does not abandon orphans and widows in their distress.

Marc Fulmer with childAgathos Internationaln Logo

This post has taken a long time to write. There are many reasons for it and I trust that each reader will understand as they read it.

In February of 2007, Mark Driscoll preached a sermon about Boaz, who he referred to as the “Dude of dudes.” Toward the end of the sermon, called “Redeeming Ruth – God’s hand in our luck,” at 58 minutes into the sermon, he says the following:

58:48 to 1:04:50.. and I will tell you in conclusion of a Boaz kind of guy who’s doing a Boaz kind of work…and I will give him some, some backup today. His name is Rob Smith. Working with him is a man named Marc Fulmer [pictured above]…they are both members of this church. Rob was a guy who grew up between Africa and the United States of America – he’s been a member of this church for a long time with his family – many of you know him – he’s a great guy – I love him – he’s a dear friend – and he saw the AIDS epidemic in South Africa, in Africa…knowing that about 20% of people are HIV positive and that there are eleven million orphans…and many widows in Africa. And so he devised a plan sort of taking the gleaning principle of Leviticus and Deuteronomy and Ruth saying “we need to have a farm that produces a harvest that is an ongoing source of food and life…and on that farm we need two things…we need an orphanage and a church. The church to be the church and love people and raise them and to teach them sexual chastity and raise kids to love Jesus so that this epidemic stops…and also an orphanage so that these kids are loved and have a roof over their head and food in their stomach…and a mother and father figure in their life – that being the pastor as well as these widows. We move in widows and orphans…and we care for widows and orphans because that’s the heart of God…and we do that as the church on a self-sustaining farm sort of taking many of the principles from a book like Ruth. So he started this organization – go to Agathos Foundation.org – or grab paperwork on the way out – and he’s got this concept called “One Church One Village” where a church in the US partners with a church in the village to get a farm…to plant a church…and to open an orphanage…and money goes from us who have the wherewithal, like Boaz, to help…out in the field.

So Mars Hill…we’ve done this in the past…you probably don’t know this…some years ago you all purchased a large piece of land in India that now has on orphanage with 100 kids on it and you purchased the land. So this is kinda what we do… So in Africa we partnered and we have an orphanage there that now has – I think it is – 32 kids and 140 people in Mars Hill give monthly to help support them. What am I saying? Do your part with the people in your life, give to your church, beyond that have a global heart for widows, orphans, the poor and those in need…

I am going to ask you to support some widows and orphans in Africa, We have an orphanage, we have a village…members of Mars Hill have actually moved there to take care of widows and orphans.

My involvement in the last year of standing up and speaking out against the well-documented abuses at Mars Hill Church was never about revenge or getting even. It was not about me or Agathos Foundation, which was the orphan care ministry Mark Driscoll referenced in the above 2007 sermon, which I founded in 2002 and which also was the year Merle and I became members of Mars Hill Church.

For six years after leaving Mars Hill Church I had no public voice. My open engagement in the story began in December of 2013 when I began to hear of the repeated abuse of others at Mars Hill Church. This includes standing up for many men who still will have nothing to do with me. This is partially because of slanderous attacks leveled against me and Agathos after I appealed to the elders to conduct a fair trial for Paul Petry in 2007.

As some are aware, the result of me pleading for a fair trial and arguing for due deliberation when changing bylaws was that Mark Driscoll, in an abusive and vile manner, threatened to destroy me and my ministry. He threatened to make sure that I could never be in ministry again.

In December 2007, Merle and I quietly left Mars Hill Church.

This was not due to the kindness of the elders (who told us we could not leave because we were under “church discipline”). It was because of a backfire in strategy by then executive pastors Jamie Munson and Scott Thomas, who handled my “discipline case.” They did not want us to leave. In attempting to keep us from leaving they recruited the largest donor to Agathos (who was also a large donor to Mars Hill Church) to encourage us to stay. When that donor eventually supported our decision to leave peaceably, Jamie Munson was in a pickle. He could continue the stance that we could not leave because we were under discipline and offend the large donor, or he could let us leave in peace and not offend the donor. So we were “allowed” to leave in good standing. The full story of the endless meetings that got us to that point is a post for another day.

You will want to hear that story.

But despite leaving peaceably – we had crossed a line. To use Mark Driscoll’s oft spoken words, we had “pissed him off.” For merely appealing to Mark Driscoll and a small handful of the lead elders, including the recently repentant Pastor James Harleman (one of my dearest friends at the time), the attacks on my character began. And the attacks on Agathos began.

A little background about Agathos.

In 2002, Agathos began as a ministry to rescue orphans in Africa during the peak of the “out-of-control” HIV/AIDS crisis. Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church were highly supportive of the ministry and gave Agathos favored exposure within the church and throughout Acts 29.

Over time, as we worked we grew from a young start-up ministry learning from our experiences and our mistakes. In early 2007, Agathos proposed a “One Church One Village” model of linking an American Church with an African Church in the rescue and care of orphans. The commitment of the US church was to raise $625,000 over six years for the orphan village it had “adopted”, and the commitment of the African church was to be the hands and feet on the ground caring for orphans in distress.

The first two American churches that committed to this was Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and The Vine Church in Redmond, Washington.  Mars Hill Church committed itself to Kwethu Village in South Africa, along with its 32 children and their caretakers, some of whom were young widows who themselves were impacted by the HIV/AIDS crisis. The Vine Church, led by Pastor Jesse Winkler, committed themselves to a new orphan village to be constructed just south of Ndola, Zambia.

Within weeks of the agreement, Mars Hill Church took over The Vine, and Jesse Winkler became the lead pastor for Mars Hill Bellevue. We were all excited as Mars Hill Ballard took over the relationship with the South African village under Kabyn Vikesland and Mars Hill Bellevue took over the relationship with the new proposed Zambian village. The future for Agathos looked bright, as discussion with executive elder Scott Thomas included plans to have each campus support an orphan village, and each Acts 29 church encouraged to do the same.

The vision for 1,000 orphan villages to be supported seemed possible. It was so encouraging. Agathos was now five years old and many Mars Hill members had been to Africa to visit the children rescued, and many more threw their support behind Agathos. This was usually by committing to $25 per month.

This all happened in August 2007 – one month before the infamous trial of Paul Petry.

When Paul Petry and Bent Meyer were fired, I heard that they were going to be put on trial. Many were asking questions, and it became clear that they were not going to receive a fair and impartial trial. The charges against them were unclear and seemed trivial. They were not going to be allowed to attend their own trials so that they could defend themselves. Their accusers were also members of the jury that would convict them. No witnesses were allowed.

It was clear that the trials would occur in such a way as to have long term bad consequences for the church. So I wrote a private email to the elders pleading for a fair trial. It was not written to defend Paul Petry or Bent Meyer. It was written to protect Mars Hill Church from the long term consequences of an unfair trial. I wrote that an “unfair trial would leave a shadow that would not easily go away”.

I was told that I had sinfully “inserted” myself, and that what I had written was written in “pride” and therefore disregarded. I was told that I should have gone to only one elder, (James Harleman), and that by going to all the elders I was actually trying to cause division among the elders. I was therefore placed under church discipline for being “divisive.”

The elders that dealt with my “case” were James Harleman, Dave Kraft, and Tim Reber. All have since repented of their role in the treatment of Paul Petry. None have addressed their role in my discipline, or their passivity in what followed regarding Agathos.

The last meeting that I had at Mars Hill Church was after both the trial and the changing of the bylaws. At the meeting was Jamie Munson, Scott Thomas, James Harleman, a man who for now will remain unnamed who was a major donor to both Agathos and Mars Hill Church, and the unflappable Will Hofman who supported me as a witness to the discipline process I was placed under by church leaders.

After Jamie Munson and Scott Thomas agreed with the donor that Merle and I should be free to leave the church peaceably, I raised the question about the continued support of Agathos. After all, the “One Church One Village” effort was led by members of the respective Mars Hill campuses. I had little to do with it. The support was widespread throughout Mars Hill Church.

When I asked the question there was a stunned silence for a minute. Jamie Munson then looked at the donor and asked “What do we do about Agathos?”

“We continue to support Agathos!” came the reply.

Scott Thomas, who at the time was the head of Acts 29 and very active in both the trial of Paul Petry and the changing of the bylaws, looked directly at me and said emphatically, “We will never abandon our orphans!” As he said that he brought his hands together and interlocked his fingers.

Intertwined hands 1

It was heartwarming.

Little did these men know that Mark Driscoll had threatened to destroy Agathos, along with threatening to destroy me and any future ministry endeavor.

So the infamous ad hominem attacks began. They had begun earlier at the trial of Paul Petry. It was me who Paul Petry sought out to discuss the “church discipline” wording in the proposed bylaws. This was one of the charges brought against Paul Petry. He allegedly had “violated elder protocol” by allowing a lowly member to see the proposed bylaws. Imagine that! The wording Paul Petry proposed on the rights of a member under discipline was actually written by me.

I had been approved to be an elder of Mars Hill Church. I was the pastor in charge of community groups for the new Mars Hill Wedgwood Campus. I had faithfully served Agathos and Mars Hill Church as a member for the previous five years. Yet it was a crime against the church for Paul Petry to consult with me regarding the new bylaws.

So at the trial of Paul Petry the attacks began. “You have no idea who Rob Smith is…”, stated Mark Driscoll at Paul Petry’s trial, “You do not know him like I know him..”, he continued. “He is the biggest troublemaker in Mars Hill’s history!” And so the attacks began.

And so did the attacks on Agathos. I hear them still today.

Little matter that I had just been approved to be an elder. Little matter that James Harleman had offered me a paid position as an elder at Wedgwood starting in 2008 if I would accept the position. Little matter that hundreds of members were supporting our orphans in Africa, and many could witness the ministry first hand.

None of that mattered.

Not a single elder stood up to ask how I could have been vetted for eldership one week, and be “the biggest troublemaker in Mars Hill’s history” the next. How was it that in February I was a man like Boaz, dude of dudes, and now ten months Iater I was pariah? No elder cared to ask.

Within a few months most of the members of Mars Hill Church withdrew their support of orphans under our care. The emails we received were similarly written. “We have been led by God to support another ministry.” Almost all of them pointed to God’s “leading.” It certainly looked like they had been coached on what to say.

At that time, although I led Agathos, I was not taking a salary from Agathos. We hunkered down and prepared ourselves for the impact of Mark Driscoll’s threat. It came swiftly and with great effect.

In February 2008, less than two months after his promise not to abandon “our” orphans, we received a letter from Scott Thomas. Mars Hill Church was ending its relationship to Agathos. What I did not know, was that Jamie Munson and Scott Thomas had called Marc Fulmer, who leads Agathos to this day, and threatened to pull support unless I resigned from Agathos and Mars Hill Church took it over and re-branded the ministry as a Mars Hill ministry. They proposed to keep Marc – but I had to go. Marc turned the “offer” down and we received the letter from Scott Thomas shortly thereafter.

Letter from Scott Thomas 1

So Agathos lost about 85% of its support.

I recently ran into Scott Thomas and asked him about his promise to never abandon “our orphans.” He was no longer at Mars Hill Church and was himself suffering a level of abuse from the Mars Hill Church leadership. He appealed that he had no say in the matter. He said that his hands were tied.

I recently had coffee with a staunch Mark Driscoll supporter who has chided any criticism of Mark Driscoll and strongly challenged me for every apparent infraction of the last year, yet at the same time vigorously excused or defended every one of Driscoll’s “mistakes.” The supporter said some awful things about me and Agathos, particularly its “misuse” of funds. I asked where he got such information. He had no idea. He had simply accepted the rumors. Rumors that circulated after the trial of Paul Petry. I also have recently spoken to another ministry leader involved in orphan care in Africa. She was warned not to work with Agathos. She came to me in sorrow that she walked away from a relationship with Agathos after that Mars Hill warning.

Ad hominem attacks.

I am sure that there may never be a full recovery when one’s name has been intentionally slandered. That is why God takes such seriously. It is similar to theft. The stealing of a man’s good name has severe consequences, some of which are almost impossible to overcome. That is why it is an awful sin against someone.

Agathos has survived and our children have done well. But it was not easy.

For several years we put ourselves under a good ministry called Pilgrim Africa. This action removed our orphans from the slander we were enduring and we encouraged our remaining supporters to support Pilgrim. In 2009, Agathos then closed its doors and Kwethu Village continued under Pilgrim.

In 2014, Agathos was reborn as Agathos International.

There were two reasons for this. First was that while Pilgrim willingly supported our orphan village in South Africa from 2009 to 2014, their ministry is focused in Uganda, so Kwethu Village was somewhat outside their scope. The second reason was a strong sense that Agathos had always had a broader ministry to the broken and poor in the communities we served. and we felt the need to reemerge and serve that purpose.

So after seven years since leaving Mars Hill Church, Agathos is once again supporting Kwethu Village. Some of the orphans that were rescued by Agathos through the early support of Mars Hill members are now entering university. The stories are amazing! New orphans are being accepted as the village grows.

Because of the intent behind the early vision of Agathos, the monthly support costs are strikingly low. Most support comes from local activity in the village. It is wonderful. Local support and local economic activity pays for most of the costs of the care of the the village.

I encourage readers to consider supporting Kwethu Village with a monthly contribution. We are looking to raise a total of $3,000 per month for the village. As you see the precious lives of children in distress being impacted and stabilized, you will agree that this is a great value for so little per month.

Please consider becoming a monthly supporter of our orphans. The fruit of your support will be eternal.

Agathos International is also committed to creating economic life for the broken in the areas that God has placed us. So we are working to address poverty both in the countries in Africa where we have impacted orphans and the poor, as well as in the U.S. where we are beginning to call successful businessmen and businesswomen to engage the issue of poverty through our “Freedom, Wealth, and Poverty” events that we host in the greater Seattle area.

Agathos is run on a voluntary basis with no salaries being paid on the U.S. side. This allows over 95% of what we receive to go into program. Please feel free to contact me for more information.

Agathos Internationaln Logo

Rob Smith

What Mark Driscoll actually said on Sunday

Deaf translation

To fully understand what Mark Driscoll was saying, you must read this! This blog post saved me a lot of time. It is excellent and worth the read. Thanks to this excellent interpreter for the following article! Note… I did not write this piece.. please see the link below for the source 🙂

Translating Mark Driscoll

Translating Mark Driscoll

This morning I watched the 17 minute videoed announcement from Mark Driscoll this weekend that he is stepping down as Pastor of Mars Hill for a minimum of six weeks. You can watch the video and read the transcript here.

 

Within the announcement Mark speaks of the “court of public opinion” not being useful in addressing issues in a Biblical manner and suggests online conversations, like this blog for instance, are unhelpful. I can see that everyone having OPINIONS can be problematic, but without the courageous tenacity of bloggers across the internet raising the issues, Mark Driscoll would not have taken the very necessary and welcome step that he has.  So I’m not going to apologise for adding the OPINIONS in the public space and as I would suggest that his denigration of the “court of public opinion” is a tactic to silence the hurting, and as a book we Christians honour states, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.”

 

I have recently begun working with perpetrators of domestic abuse. I am facilitating a Respect accredited programme with men who have chosen to be violent and abusive to their partners.  And if there is one thing that perpetrators are “gifted” in, it is avoiding responsibility and manipulating people’s views of them.  I would suggest that some of what we see in Mark’s announcement uses those same tactics, whether intentionally or not, whether orchestrated by a PR plan or by the man himself.  I would like to clarify that I am not suggesting Mark is perpetrator of domestic abuse, but that his words and actions mirror those of abusers.

 

During the announcement Mark was emotional, at points he seemed very close to tears. It is interesting to note that domestic abuse perpetrators who visibly show remorse change at about the same rate as those who don’t.  In our wider context of power based masculinity, men crying, or being close to tears brings out a specific response for many.  That act of vulnerability in a society that states the only appropriate emotions for men are humour and anger can change perceptions of an offender in an instant.  I’m not for one minute suggesting they were “crocodile tears” but that we must be careful to not equate an emotionally remorseful delivery as a litmus test for repentance.

 

This is my translation of some parts of the announcement:

 

“When a small group of us started what would become Mars Hill Church in 1996, we could not have dreamed it would be what it is today. Thousands upon thousands of people have become Christians as the gospel of Jesus Christ has proven powerful over and over. Every day, it seems, I hear of someone whose life has been transformed by the power of the Word of God taught in this place and modeled by so many who call this their church home.”

I’m going to start by reminding you of all the 1000s of people my ministry has saved from hell, so that when I get to my bad choices, we’re all feeling that is insignificant compared to all the people I have helped. So many people’s lives have been transformed by my teaching of God’s Word and you all living out my teaching.

 

“Today, we are blessed with lead pastors who love Jesus and the people He gave His life for. These men faithfully serve the Mars Hill family.”

Though there are 21 ex-leaders of the our church who are publically stating that I have behaved in horrendous ways and were either sacked or left due to their strong convictions, the current leaders are supportive of me.

 

“While I’m still young, I suspect when I’m old I’ll be known for many things—some good, and some not so good.”

I am a 43 year old grown up, but I am going to describe myself as “young” in order to suggest that my young-ness mitigates the bad choices I have made. I would also like to remind you that I have done good things and not actually say that I have done bad things, but just things that are “not so good”.

 

“I may be an author, a speaker, and a thought-provoker; but in the deepest recesses of my heart, I’m a local church pastor, and that’s what I want to give the rest of my life for.”

I would like to remind you all of the powerful man I am and the many successes I have had in my career so far, but that I also want you to know that I am humble local church pastor, even though I have intentionally and ruthlessly built a large megachurch over the last 18 or so years.”

 

“It is because of my deep love for the local church in general, and Mars Hill Church in particular, that it grieves me to see anything come against it or threaten to harm it. It also grieves me greatly when something I say or do results in controversy and publicity none of you signed up for when you decided to be a part of this church family.”

I get upset when my choices, actions and words result in people challenging me. I am so totally uninterested in the people I have hurt that I’m not even going to mention their hurt in my announcement.  I don’t want to accept the consequences of my actions as the leader of a large church which I am paid large amounts of money to lead and rather than say this, I am going to make it about the peripheral hurt of the church family, which I am actually responsible for not those who have challenged me.

 

“Over the years, as I have grown and as the Lord has been molding and pruning me, I have, on many occasions, shared with you some of the lessons I’ve been learning. Some of these have been painful, and some I’ve been slow to learn. I’ve acknowledged and confessed many of my sins, shortcomings and missteps, and God has been more than faithful with His forgiveness. Most of our Mars Hill family has been forgiving as well, and for that I’m grateful and blessed. By God’s grace, I want to always be humble and teachable.”

I would like to remind you all of the times I have said sorry for what I did over the years. The fact that at no point have I actually changed my behaviour is something I’m going to try and ensure you don’t think about by making it all about the ways I’ve learned.  I’d like to also remind you that before God I am forgiven.  Rather than mention how much I appreciate and value all those who have tried to stop it coming to this point, I’m going to validate all those who collude with my behaviours by honouring those who keep forgiving me.  Although I have proven that over the last 18 years of ministry that I am not willing to be taught and am not humble, I am going to say that I am both of those things.

 

“A central theme in my personal walk with Jesus in recent times has been to follow the Apostle Paul’s charge to Believers in Romans 12:8: If possible, so far is it depends on you, live peaceably with all men. God is not honored by conflict, strife, disunity, arguing, slander, gossip or anything else not consistent with the fruit of the Spirit, and I am deeply sorry for the times I have not done my part to living peaceably with all men.”

By quoting Scripture I can reduce my ongoing hurtful behaviour to the term “not living peaceably with all men”. I am going to use the term “my part” so as to suggest that it is not all my fault, but that it is a reciprocal thing where both I and every other person involved are partly to blame for the hurt I have caused.

 

“I want to thank those who have come directly to an Elder, lead pastor or me to tell us of an offense they are carrying. This allows us to deal with it head-on between the two affected parties, rather than in a court of public opinion and public media. I believe God is honored by this approach—the approach He prescribed for us in Matthew 18 and other Scriptures.”

All those who have used public spaces to challenge me are wrong and dishonour God and only those who have come to me and the leadership of the church are right and honour God. I am going to use the term “offense they are carrying” so as to avoid saying that I had hurt people.  The fact that when people tried to come to me I refused to listen, sacking them, threatening them and destroying their lives and livelihoods is of absolutely no relevance.  God is not honoured by anyone who publically holds me to account.  I am going to mention the first bit of Matthew 18 where Jesus tells us to approach other Christians who we have been hurt by, but I am going to conveniently ignore the bit Jesus says that’s someone who fails to listen should be treated like a non-believer.

 

“Others have chosen to air their grievances with me or this church in a more public forum. As is often the case, some of what is said it true, some is partly true, and some is completely untrue. Lately, the number of accusations, combined with their public nature, makes it much more difficult to know how to respond appropriately. Indeed, many times we have chosen not to respond at all, which probably raises even more questions in some people’s minds, and I understand that.”

I am going to use the term “air their grievances” rather than talk about people being hurt. I am going to talk about truth, half-truths and lies without distinguishing between them so that I subtly cast aspersions on all that everyone has accused me of.  I am going to talk about “the number of accusations” increasing which makes the issues external to me, rather than about my own choices and hurtful actions.  I am going to reinforce my criticism of people holding me to account publically, but will use it neutral language like “public nature” to hide that.  I am going to mention that we haven’t addressed the issues, acknowledge that is problematic but continue doing it.

 

“In other cases, some have publicly brought up issues that were long ago addressed and resolved, adding to the understandable confusion many of you may be experiencing recently. For example, nearly 15 years ago I wrote some things on a Mars Hill discussion board on our website using a pseudonym. I quickly realized what I wrote and how I did it was wrong. We removed the entire section of the website a few months later and I addressed it publicly in a book I wrote six years later—calling it what it was: wrong.”

The only accusation I am going to address during my announcement is the one that relates to historical actions. I am going to manipulate the facts to suggest that a book I wrote six years later dealt with what I had done, when in actual fact, that book mentioned that I thought it was funny how I had a man turn up at my house to challenge me; that I talk of things “going crazy”.  I’m not going to mention that at no point in the book do I actually own or apologise for my misogynistic, homophobic behaviours and attitudes.  I am also not going to mention that for the past almost 15 years I have continued to use similar language and ideology in my preaching and writing.  I am going to use language that distances me from my actions by saying “what I wrote and how I did it was wrong” rather than saying “I was wrong and I have hurt people”.

 

“I have taken full responsibility for those actions and will forever be ashamed by what I did, even as a 29 year-old preacher. What I did in this case back in 2000 is indefensible. It is also forgiven; and thank God, I’m not the man I was back then. I have learned hard lessons from this situation, as I have from other situations where I have done wrong things and God has had to deal with me.”

I am going to talk of taking full responsibility for something while still using language that distances me from my choices and actions. When talking about what I did I will mention the age I was in order to justify it as related to being young (like I did earlier in my announcement).  Although at 29 years old I had been an adult for over ten years, I will suggest my age made me immature, though I was a married father entrusted with the leadership of a church.   I will remind everyone that this happened in 2000, keeping people focused on the historical accusations and not the current ones. I will talk about learning hard lessons which will allow me to suggest I have changed, when the way I have behaved and the choices I have made since then have continued to hurt many people.

 

“Storm clouds seem to be whirling around me more than ever in recent months and I have given much thought and sought much counsel as to why that is and what to do about it. The current climate is not healthy for me or for this church. (In fact, it would not be healthy for any church.)”

I will again talk about the consequences of my actions using language which distances me from any responsibility by talking of what “storm clouds seems to be” doing. I will talk of how unhealthy this would be and subtly place myself as a victim.  I will then restart talking of Mars Hill Church as the main victim of the issues, keeping my audience feeling like they are the centre of this and their interests and hurts are cared about while continuing to completely ignore the hurt and pain of the people I have hurt throughout my ministry.

 

“Some have challenged various aspects of my personality and leadership style, and while some of these challenges seem unfair, I have no problem admitting I am deserving of some of these criticisms based on my own past actions that I am sorry for. In recent years, I have sought to apologize to people I have knowingly offended in any way. I’m grateful that God has honored many of these encounters and granted true reconciliation and restoration.”

I will start addressing criticisms by saying that some have been unfair. I will not use language which states that my critics are right, but will instead say “I am deserving of” some criticisms.  This sounds like I’m taking responsibility, but subtly avoids doing so.  I will use the term “past actions” to suggest that this isn’t related to my ongoing behaviour, thereby subtly connecting it to my previous comments on my actions in 2000.  I talk of seeking to apologise to people even though those who have been hurt report being shunned and destroyed by me.  I will talk about God honouring these encounters without specifics.

 

“But I’m particularly sorry that any of my past actions or decisions have brought distraction to the mission of Mars Hill Church, and therefore, to those who call this their church home. Part of this is no doubt a function of the media age we live in—anyone can write anything, anywhere, anytime. As a public figure, I recognize and accept this, even if I don’t like it; for this is one of the paradoxes of being a pastor in a media age—the same media channels that can be used to carry a sermon to virtually anyone around the globe can also be used by anyone around the globe to criticize, attack or slander.”

The first time that I start a sentence with “I am sorry” it is related to the impact on the church community which yet again reinforces to the audience that their feelings are validated, but the actual victims of my offences are not mentioned. I make my sorry focused on the mission of Mars Hill, reminding everyone that is the priority, not the reality of the people who have been hurt.  I will then yet again criticise people who have publically challenged me and place myself as the victim by talking of myself as a “public figure”.  This makes the situation more about my position than my choices and actions.  That I have used media channels to criticise and attack is irrelevant, and I will suggest my detractors are “criticizing, attacking and slandering” without actually stating that is what those who challenge me are doing.

 

“However, another part of it is simply my fault and I will own it, confess it and move on from it as God continues to redeem me. I will seek to resolve unresolved issues with others, and will seek to avoid such conflict in the future; at least to the extent I have any control over it.”

After spending time being negative about my detractors I will now talk about my fault. Yet I won’t take responsibility for any of it, I will just accept partial fault, which essentially means the other people involved are also at fault.  Essentially I am blaming everyone else while using the language of responsibility.  I will talk of God redeeming me to remind everyone that God is okay with me, having previously inferred that others have dishonoured God by challenging me.  I will use the term “avoid such conflict” which essentially distances me from fault and focuses the issues as conflict based rather than founded in power and abuse.

 

“There is a well-documented list of past actions and decisions I have admitted were wrong, sought forgiveness, and apologized for to those I hurt or offended. I will not review them here, as it is my prayer we can, together as a church, move on as Paul writes in Philippians 3:13—But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead.”

I will talk about admitting I am wrong when what I have done previously is apologise but continue to do the same things over and over. I quote Philippians and use the word “forget”; this infers that forgetting is the option for the church community.  That forgiveness and forgetting are not in any way related and that forgetting is impossible when we have been hurt badly is something I want to avoid people being aware of.

 

“These are serious times we are living in and people all around us are dying every hour without Jesus. It is this reality that drives me and motivates me to keep learning God’s Word, and teaching God’s Word to His people so that together, we can continue to reach people with the saving grace and love and mercy of Jesus. I hope that regardless of whatever else is swirling around us, we never lose this perspective on why Mars Hill exists in the first place – Jesus loves people and people need Jesus.”

I will now spend time explaining how people’s souls are at risk of burning in hell and that in comparison these issues that have been raised are really not a big deal. I will talk about my purpose and call and will talk of the current issues that have resulted from my actions and choices as “swirling around us” yet again distancing myself from being the instigator of the issues.

 

“I realize the vast majority of you just want to come to church and hear God’s Word taught. You want to feed your families spiritually just as you feed them physically, and Mars Hill should be a safe place to do just that. As your pastor, I want that for you more than anything. All of our lead pastors want that for those under their care as well.”

I will keep the audience supportive of me by yet again talking about them as the primary victims in the situation. I will talk about the consequences of my choices and actions in a way that acknowledges the struggles of people are going through without taking responsibility for them.

 

“I have submitted to the process prescribed by our church Bylaws as overwhelmingly approved by our entire Eldership for addressing accusations against me. I invite this process, rather than debating accusations and issues in social media or the court of public opinion. A report on this process will be presented when it has been completed.”

I will not mention that one of the accusations against me relate to changing the bylaws of the church to make it very difficult for the church to hold me to account. I will talk of inviting the process even though it has taken enormous public pressure to essentially force me to take action.  Book shops are withdrawing my books from sale, I am being removed from church networks and others and although there have been issues throughout my entire ministry, I have shut down all criticism to the point of changing church bylaws and sacking employees, yet I will state that this is a process that I have invited.  I will again reinforce that challenging me publically is wrong.  I mention that a report will be presented, but I haven’t mentioned who that report will be presented to, and I have called it a “report on the process” not inferring whether the outcomes will be made public.

 

As a general rule, I will respond to little if any criticism of me in the media, on social media, blogs, open letters, etc. Conducting church business and biblical conflict resolution through media channels is not healthy and is more likely to prove unproductive at best, and destructive and dishonoring to the Lord at worst.

I will now categorically state that media channels are unproductive, destructive and dishonouring to God. That without these media channels I would be able to continue behaving in hurtful and damaging ways without any accountability or negative consequences.  This places anyone who comments publically about what I have said as unproductive, destructive and dishonouring God.  The hurt I have caused people should be compounded further by me attempting to silence and denigrate their attempts to heal.

 

“I have asked our Board of Advisors and Accountability to strengthen our board by adding members to it, and they are in the process of doing so with local members being our first choice.”

We will strengthen the board of advisors and accountability by inviting people who are still in the church and have stood by me throughout all that I have done. Anyone who has had the courage to challenge me has talked of how they were sacked or abused by me.  By saying this I yet again focus on my audience, enabling them to feel they are being given power to change things and trusted with that.

 

“I have agreed to postpone the publication of my next book until a future season, to be determined.”

Bookshops have removed my books from sale and due to the current climate I would probably not sell many books if I did publish my book, plus I am no longer able to pay a PR company to unethically get my books onto bestseller lists.

 

“I have begun meeting with a professional team of mature Christians who provide wise counsel to help further my personal development and maturity before God and men. I have never taken an extended focused break like this in my 18 years as your pastor, and it is not a vacation but rather a time to focus on deep work in my soul in the areas of processing, healing, and growing.”

I will talk of meeting with a professional team of mature Christians but will not mention any of their names. The fact I haven’t taken an extended break in 18 years will be used as an opportunity to be applauded for my commitment rather than concern that I have not had a healthy work life balance.

 

“As I look forward to the future—and I do look forward to it—I believe the Lord has shown me I am to do two things with the rest of my life: love my family, and teach the Bible. I deeply love my family and our church family and am seeking the Lord for how to have a godly and loving future that is not just sustainable but fruitful.”

I will now talk about my family which reminds everyone I am a human being with good priorities. I will establish that I plan to continue teaching the Bible for the rest of my life which suggests I will continue be seeking to influence and lead people.

 

“Finally, I want to say to our Mars Hill family—past and present, I’m very sorry. I’m sorry for the times I have been angry, short, or insensitive. I’m sorry for anything I’ve done to distract from our mission by inviting criticism, controversy or negative media attention.”

Having spent over 15 minutes talking I will finally say that I am sorry, not to those I have direct hurt, but to my church family. I talk about inviting criticism rather than behaving abusively and focus on the actions of the commentators rather than my own actions.

 

“God has broken me many times in recent years by showing me where I have fallen short, and while my journey, at age 43, is far from over, I believe He has brought me a long way from some days I am not very proud of, and is making me more like Him every day. The gospel is powerfully at work in me, your pastor, thanks to the faithfulness of our Senior Pastor Jesus Christ, and the best thing for us each to do is look to Him and point others to Him. Thank you Mars Hill. I love you.”

I talk of “falling short” and doing things “I am not very proud of” yet still do not quantify that in terms of identifying what I have actually done. I make this last section about what God is doing in me and still do not mention anything about the people I have damaged who are no longer in Mars Hill church.  After this I am given a standing ovation by the church and my wife and children all come onto the platform to embrace me.  This reminds the audience that there are children involved in any decisions made about me.  The image of them embracing me will be used on the Mars Hill website alongside my statement.

Are Mars Hill Church elders elders in name only?

Puppet 2

The ruthless firing and unfair trial of Paul Petry, which in 2007 was used to bully and coerce twenty two shocked and mostly young elders into passing new bylaws without due process, is the most clear example of the current charge of bullying that has been brought against Mark Driscoll by twenty one former elders, along with an additional twenty one unidentified elders that will testify as witnesses as needed (link).

This act of bullying, and the resultant bylaws, ushered in the current era of Mars Hill Church governance whereby Mark Driscoll’s own elders cannot hold him to account. In fact, subsequent “rules” call for an elder to submit a letter of resignation before he can even bring charges against Mark Driscoll.

Mark Driscoll, prior to the bullying in of new bylaws, taught that the elders were men who had equal authority in the church. These elders were men who went through a rigorous evaluation, including the fact that they managed their own household well. This is a biblical standard as well as one called for in the bylaws of Mars Hill Church:

1 Tim 3:4 and 5:  He must manage his own family well and have children who are submissive and respectful in every way. For if a man does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?

Elders are to take care of the church, and that care is similar to managing one’s household. This implies that the elder has the authority to carry out such management or care.  Some elders rule better than others, and the ones that rule well are worthy of double honor.

Elders rule.

So how on earth do the men who are called elders under the current by-laws actually rule? The current bylaws do not allow the office of elder to rule the church, even though this is what Mars Hill Church was taught, and is implied, even recently by Mark Driscoll in his statement made on Sunday, August 24, 2014.

Driscoll made a point that the bylaws which spell out the process for dealing with his discipline were approved by the entire eldership:

I have submitted to the process prescribed by our church Bylaws as overwhelmingly approved by our entire Eldership for addressing accusations against me (link) (emphasis added).

If Driscoll was talking about the 2007 bylaws, then he is not telling the truth. The Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) did not exist under the bylaws that were passed by his bullying in 2007. After the 2007 bylaws were changed, subsequent bylaws did not need the elders’ vote in order to be changed.

In fact, the bylaws that were passed that included the BOAA are mentioned in the charges brought by the twenty one former elders. Here is the 7th charge they brought against Mark Driscoll:

7 . May 8, 2012—In a meeting of the Full Council convened to vote on the slate of nominees for the new board of advisors and accountability, Mark was explaining to the elders that under the newly revised bylaws, the Full Council would have the right to review any changes by the board. One elder corrected Mark with his own understanding that the new bylaws, in fact, allow the board to make decisions without running it by the Full Council. Mark’s response to that elder was bullying, with some elders present recalling language to the effect of: “I don’t give a sh-t what you think. I’m trying to be nice to you guys by asking your opinion. In reality, we don’t need your vote to make this decision. This is what we’re doing…”  (link)

As the reader can see, Mark Driscoll did not need or ask for the bylaws that created the BOAA to be voted upon by the full council of elders. Driscoll not only did not need them, but he rubbed this fact in the face of his elders. Driscoll simply did not “give a sh-t” about their opinion. This is the charge against him – for crying out loud!

What Mark Driscoll was really doing was showing the church (and the current men who are elders in name only) that the bylaws that neutered the elders in 2007 were passed overwhelmingly by the then twenty two elders in 2007. Many of them are among those that have now brought charges against Driscoll. He was not referring to the bylaws that set forth the process of dealing with the current charges.

This shows that Mark Driscoll sees the significance of that 2007 vote. Almost any observer of the current mess traces it back to that vote. Even The Stranger has correctly noted that the bylaw changes of 2007 are at the root of the current problems (link).

Almost every time Driscoll speaks, he reinforces the “need” for the change in the bylaws that occurred in 2007. Over the years he has told different stories as to what motivated the change, the last being that he did it for his wife, Grace (link). Perhaps some other blogger can go through the multiple reasons given over the years.

At the end of the day, Mark Driscoll may apologize and say he is sorry, for this and that, but he will not repent of bullying the 2007 bylaws into place.These bylaws removed his accountability to the elders of the church. His bullying included harming, shaming, shunning and slandering Paul Petry. Yet Driscoll will not repent of that act. By repenting he would have to admit that the entire bullying episode occurred so that he could change the bylaws without due process.

The bylaws that were put in place in 2007 are illegitimate because they were passed only because of the bullying tactics of Mark Driscoll and then lead Pastor Jamie Munson.  Due process was thrown out the window. A future post will go through this in more detail.

Asking the elders to vote-- 20 out 24 were highly paid eldersAsking elders to vote after firing two elders for merely questioning

Suffice it to say that under the current bylaws there are men who are called elders, yet these “elders” have no ability to rule the church as elders.

However, this does not mean that they are not elders in the biblical sense. They have been called by God to be elders, and have passed the test of character that the bylaws call for. All they lack is the ability (if the bylaws are legitimate) to actually function elders. They cannot manage the church as they manage their homes.

But they are elders.

They should rise up and fulfil the role that God has called them to, and declare the 2007 bylaws that were passed through bullying and coercion to be unlawful and therefore unenforceable. They need to conduct their eldership duties under the bylaws that preceded the 2007 bylaws as they were properly and lawfully deliberated and voted upon without duress and bullying tactics.

The charges against Mark Driscoll should be reviewed and adjudicated by the elders of the church as per the legitimate bylaws. The current bylaws, which call for the lead pastor to be tried by a hand-picked sham of a board, which cannot be impartial, should be repealed.

While this is clear to almost everyone, even secular journalists, the question is whether this is clear to the current men of character who have answered the call to manage the church.

Or are these men elders in name only?

Who is outwitting Mars Hill Leadership?

devil made me do it 5

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…

Ten Commandment--9

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)

ConversionStPaul

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was trouble!

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

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

The threat to the church was growing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Jesus takes it very personally.

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

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

“‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A legacy worth dying for.

Shaun Smith

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

leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shaun Smith

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

man who made a monster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will they ever speak up?

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