Sunday, September 14, 2008

If the name of a Mars Hill founding pastor vanishes from Mars Hill websites has no one noticed?

Given all the blogging for and against Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll over the years the most startling thing is what hasn't been discussed or researched, at all.

Here's the question, given that Driscoll's 2005 book Confessions of a Reformission Rev (Zondervan) established that Leif Moi was one of the three founding pastors, why has Leif Moi's name all but vanished from Mars Hill websites?

Now perhaps someone would say there's no news and no story. Well, given the news and blogging about the church it would SEEM like a newsworthy observation that there's a founding elder of Mars Hill whose name seems to have dropped off. Mike Gunn is obviously still working at Harambee. Any Google search could establish that. Driscoll is still doing his thing at Mars Hill. Moi? Nowhere. You may even have trouble downloading any sermons he preached over the years. Old sermons get off-loaded from media libraries all the time but Moi preached sermons as recently as last year. No sign of them.

Nothing from any newspaper or blogger about this. Zip. And yet it's an elephant in the room. What happened that a founding elder of one of the fastest growing and influential Protestant churches in America has seemed to disappear and neither the pro nor the anti Mars Hill or Driscoll bloggers have even noticed?

This is simply a matter of having Driscolls Reformission Rev book and visiting the Mars Hill websites to see how things have developed since then. There's no mention in the short history of the church now of either Mike Gunn or Leif Moi, which seems sad since it would appear that for the first decade of Mars Hill's existence these men played an extremely important role. It sounds like it was doubtful that the church would have survived without help and encouragement from these men.

It's puzzling. Has Moi had health problems? Did he resign? Why no mention of the resignation of one of the founding elders of a church this large and with a lead pastor this famous?

Now maybe there's nothing going on at all ... but there seems to be a puzzling silence about this from people who, to go by their vociferous pro or anti Mars Hill Church/Mark Driscoll blogging or news coverage, would catch a detail like this.

Me? I'm deeply ambivalent. I really like and dislike aspects of MHC and the leaders, leaning fairly strongly toward appreciating it, though, which might be an understatement. You can't notice a strange, un-reported thing like this if you don't read broadly on the subject.

So if no one else blogs about this then that's fine, maybe preferable. In journalism people like to take stock of under-reported bits of news. Where anyone with any interest in Mars Hill Church pro or con this would seem like THE elephant in the room, the thing that no one has uttered a word about. To pick some non-random examples, nothing from Adrian Warnock, nothing from Steve Camp, nothing from bloggers who seem to follow Driscoll and Mars Hill to see what is going on.

Now this blog entry is not a place where I have any plans to do anything other than point out what seems to be obvious and not discussed. Given the contentious and invasive things I've seen in how people writing against Mars Hill Church have handled themselves in the last 14 months I don't want this blog entry to be taken as suggesting people try to dig up something on what may be a non-story. I stumbled upon The Stranger's coverage of the pastor firings over the last year and CLEARLY someone compromised a bunch of proprietary information in the process of breaking that story. I find that kind of thing wrong and, no, I don't care if you think you're some Hunter Thompson type. There's something to be said for recognizing that carefully going through on-the-record, publicly accessible information can still get you a news story without necessarily always relying on some hoped for "deep throat". And I won't beat around the bush on this one, there are people whose privacy was compromised whom I have met personally that were included in that coverage. I no longer want to kick whoever did that in the nuts but it's been a year.

Anyway, to me, it would nonetheless seem like news because a founding pastor can be likened to a root from which the church, as a plant, grows out of the foundational soil of Christ. So if a root disappears where did it go?

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you listen to the right people at MH, you can hear rumors that his "disaperance" is connectd to the pastoral firings last year. The rumor is that while he thinks Mark was wring in trying to grab power, and had to leave the church because of it, he respected him enough as a friend to not make a fuss. I still cant figure out if that is a healthy sign, or a negative one.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

I am skeptical about that explanation for a few reasons

1) Moi seems to have stopped preaching sermons after the Mother's Day sermon (which, weirdly enough was taken down but Driscoll then recycled all the jokes and statistics Moi used in a later sermon in the Nehemiah series, which was too bad because the jokes weren't funny the first time so I don't know why Driscoll thought he could improve upon cribbed material). This would account for Moi's absence from the media library within the last year all by itself. Whatever reason Moi stopped preaching MAY be connected to the firing of the other two men but it is probably more likely connectd to whatever reason lay behind pulling his Mother's Day sermon from around May 2007. People who have followed the sermons can make this observation even without actually being at the church or having any idea what was going on.

2. Moi's disappearance from any preaching presence substantially predates any news of the firing of Paul Petry or Bent Meyer, by possibly 4 moths. That means that any attempt to connect Moi's disappearance from the Mars Hill websites on the basis of pastoral firings is coincidental at best. I can't say that there is or isn't a connection since nothing has been reported but I was once advised by a history teacher years ago that you should never assume a conspiracy theory when simple imcompetence can explain things.

3. Two counseling pastors got fired in 2007 and that drew protest. If Moi didn't protest then why would he disappear months AFTER the firings happened from any Mars Hill websites? It seems completely implausible that the rumors that he's not at Mars Hill have to do with the firing of Petry or Meyer. Given the largely conspiratorial nature of how people view Mars Hill and how Mars Hill can view others this doesn't surprise me, but it's still immensely improbable.

Besides all that, I wouldn't be sure who the "right people" at MH are. Rumors are not something we should put a huge amount of confidence in and quite a few bloggers on the subject of Mars Hill seem to be, frankly, paranoid either about Mars Hill or perceived or actual opponents of Mars Hill. The odds of finding someone who can balance between those two poles is about as likely as Joel Schumacher directing the next Batman ... no, it's quite a bit more likely than THAT. Forget I said that.

Anonymous said...

You could be right. As far as I know, they haven't given us anything official on why he's gone...but, to be honest, very few people inside the church are talking about it, as far as I know. I'm not hearing any, "I really miss Moi." The couple conversations I've been in gave the explaination I posted or one other, which is more scandalous, and without being abel to verify anything about it, I dont want to say it in public.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

There's bound to be something official. MH has always loved on-line virtual communities tied to the congregation and mass electronic communication. It may be accessible only to members (which would be smart) but it must be accessible. It's impossible for a founding elder to resign or get fired without some notification. So if you're a member, Anonymous, there's probably some official communique about something this significant. If you're not but you regularly attend just ask what has happened. Someone must have written something. Perhaps if you're a member you can log on to The City, which looks like the latest thing that filled the role the unmoderated Midrash filled about 7-10 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Yeah...you'd think it is impossible, but I have never seen anything about it. I guess thats why I dont think anyone is really missing him (which is sad, but I didnt know him either, even though I became a member in 2001). I never liked his preaching, but I know he did a lot of good for the church. There is a lot of good going on at MH...I think people's attention is just in other places.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Who says no one misses him? Per your first post maybe you haven't listened to the right people at MH yet. ;)

Quinault said...

That is sad. I always liked Lief. But there was the whole Lief stepping down from the elder board, then returning to the elder board in 2006-7.

Quinault said...

He has been taken of the Resurgence site as well.

Nicola said...

Apparently, the news to the member boards is that Moi was asked to leave/resign.

My suspicion is that after the public relations disaster over Driscoll's comments pastors' wives "letting themselves go", there was a moritorium on making any derogatory comments towards women from the pulpit.

Lief preached at least one sermon (the aforementioned Mother's Day sermon) that was exceptionally offensive to women, and touched on certain painful issues (women being blamed for their infertility because they waited too long, for one thing). Some women walked out of the sermon visibly crying. It was really astonishing and pointlessly unkind. Lief also did two other sermons from Genesis during one summer that were really, REALLY bad.

So, I'm assuming that Lief was unwilling to back off on some of the church's traditional rhetoric towards women that they have been trying to tame for the sake of public relations. Therefore, he was removed from speaking and other areas of visibility. Why such a person would be kept in a counseling role is beyond me as well, and maybe the church finally figured that out.

Moi was the only recognizable figure to many people who went casually to the Ballard campus. While I understand why he was likely pulled, his sudden disappearance left the place like a ship without a captain, and it continues to be an exceptionally unfriendly and faceless branch of the church.

Of course, all of this is speculation on my part. Frankly, I've ceased caring what the church does to grown adults and I'm worried about what they're teaching people to do to babies and children at this point.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Nicola, I agree about the speculation part. By way of addition, Mike Gunn'sname has all but vanished from mention, too. I'm not here to speculate (or encourage speculation) as to why Moi's name has been eliminated. I'm asking why Driscoll and his wife are listed as co-founders of MH now when for years anyone who attended MH regularly knew that it was Driscoll, Moi, and Gunn who co-founded the church together. If you want to speculate a more plausible line of reasoning would be that whatever reason Moi's name has been expunged is probably the same reason Gunn's name has been removed, too.

Anonymous said...

Gee...has anyone called Leif to ask him? I don't attend Mars Hill and have only met him "casually" on a few ocassions but have always found him to be forthright. I last saw him at Overlake Christian Church this past Thursday evening for a church "family business meeting". Don't know what his connection is there but why all the speculation. Why not just call him?

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Ah, seems like this post is doomed to be misunderstood. Perhaps it was just poorly written. I was pointing out that rabid bloggers for and against Mars Hill seem to go into things with their minds made up and that this blinds them to asking basic questions about simple observtaions in the publicly available information about the church. But why would anyone bother to do that if the questions may not get answers or, more common yet, they have already made up their mind and don't really want to know what happened? It is in that context and not others that I mentioned that Lief is no longer listed as a pastor. I thought that my opening sentence would establish the context into which I was speaking ... but I'm not sure that it matters now.

I can keep shooting down speculation from people like the other anonymous or Nicola and it won't make any difference. They have already made up their minds what they think about MH or any number of things.

But, most recent anonymous, I do think it's fair to ask if I've contacted him. Yep. We know each other. We're not close but we do know each other. And, yep, he's a forthright guy. If it helps prevent people from continually assuming this post is speculating about what happened to Lief I guess I might as well put it out here. We've talked, he's okay.

You may not have read other posts in this blog but if you do you'll quickly find out that I have attended MH for 8 years. In cases where things are in the public record I blogged about that, but I have also shared concerns privately when I have believed (as I have in most cases) that an issue was best discussed privately. Christian bloggers really do seem to ignore Prov 25:8-10. It's one thing for me to point out in public things that I think should be asked about, it's another thing to reveal the secrets and conflicts of people and that does not interest me. I have seen a lot of profoundly irritating blogging over the years from either side. I was writing too obliquely about that then.

Anonymous said...

Wenatchee: To suggest that because an event taking place in a church pre-dates another possibly related event demonstrates that you don't know much about the inner workings of a church organization. My father (a pastor) and his elders would often stew about something for months (even a year) and sequentially execute certain operations related to the event over a long period of time. It's not out of the question.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

It's not out of the question but there's no reason your experience or your dad's has anything to do with Lief Moi unless your dad is Lief Moi. Actually, you know that even if your dad IS Lief Moi your observation is at best a tangential aside.

No offense but you're just another anonymous blog poster who talks like I should believe conspiracy theories by anonymous posters based on rumors and assumptions. I already said I'm not going there with this blog. Asking the question publicly doesn't mean I have to assume anonymous blog posters actually know the answer. Perhaps one day Lief may publicly clear the air about what happened but if he doesn't and Mars Hill elders don't discuss things publicly I don't have to assume anonymous blog posters know what they're talking about.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

http://www.imagodeicc.org/

For those who don't know, here's a link to the church Lief has planted.

Anonymous said...

How about if a new MH "Executive Elder" suddenly vanishes off the online list of executive elders? A couple of months ago there were five. And now there are four. Rick Melson has been effectively scrubbed from online links to Mars Hill. What happened to him? Hmmmm.

Anonymous said...

Lief Moi has an interesting history with Mars Hill. Mark left him in charge of the Paradox Theatre and preached there for some months in about 2002 or thereabouts. It was rather unsuccessful and shut down. I think people just wanted to follow mark and that's what they did. I liked lief, always have. But all of his efforts have had a similar effect: they all seem to die out.Mark Driscoll is a hard act to follow, and if you want to build a following it's better to not use Mars Hill as a platform. Leif is better than many current pastors at Mars Hill in my opinion but those guys never try to do to much... they don't in most cases regularly preach. If they did, people would leave. Right now most places listen to Mark on a big screen. That's not Mark's fault, it's the people that follow him. To me, Marks a decent speaker but I like Leif better, flubs afore mention non withstanding. I heard that he did go back to his radio program (he before meeting mark was a semi-successful talk show host) and now is involved with a church called imagio dei Christian church. So I think his leaving didn't have to do with firings, etc. He just decided to leave and go back to radio. I got the feeling that Leif always wanted more success than he was ever able to get under Mark's shadow. I wish he was still at Mars Hill but he will never get anywhere there.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

I hadn't heard that the number of executive elders had dropped from five to four but it is not particularly surprising. Melson was brought on to orchestra multi-site expansion. It would not be particularly surprising if, his job having been accomplished, there was just no need for him. As to the 5 to 4 shift, well, what I consider to be the denominational leadership structure has always been pretty ad hoc.

Anonymous said...

The Hatchett: "What I consider to be the denominational leadership structure has always been pretty ad hoc."

Except for numero uno, of course.

Anonymous: "So I think his leaving didn't have to do with firings, etc. He just decided to leave and go back to radio."

You really don't have a clue, do you?

Brian said...

"Anonymous said...


Anonymous: "So I think his leaving didn't have to do with firings, etc. He just decided to leave and go back to radio."

You really don't have a clue, do you?"

Apparently I have no clue then Mr. Anonymous. If you have some information on this, enlighten me. I just assume Lief was not happy there and left. If they gave him the boot, that would be pretty sucky.

Hatchet, Did Lief say anything about why he left? I haven't seen him in a long time, I suppose I can go ask him myself, I'm sure he'll recognize me.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Asking him in person is probably the way to go. I'd rather that than attempt to explain what I've read and discussed in settings I consider to be off record.

Anonymous said...

http://www.imagodeicc.org/blog/vision-of-imago-dei/

Here Lief makes some comments on why he left. Maybe not all the info but it does give further insight as to why he may have left. ~Brian

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2011/10/very-short-update-on-lief-moi.html

Unknown said...

I know Mike and Donna, after watching the hour long video on MH website I thought it was odd that it seemed like people were missing from the story. I have researched many ministries that have grown to excess and it seems like in every case there is a power play and sometimes it occurres very underhandedly, like The PTL or Equip. Mike in my estimation is a great leader, and an even better Christ follower. If your interested his Facebook has links to his blogs.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Unknown, the film came out at the same time as the 2011 annual report so the fundraising purpose of the film God's Work, Our Witness is easily discerned. The percentage of members giving $0 in any given year has slowly increased. It's not hugely surprising that Driscoll has reframed the story to be about him and Grace founding the church more over time as it's been years since Gunn or Moi had any significant leadership role within the Mars Hill leadership structure.

Still, a lack of reference to Gunn or Moi is disappointing. Mike's sermons on the Psalms highlight how remarkably weak Driscoll remains in handling any sermons dealing with poetry. The multi-site video format Mars Hill has been using may seem trendy but, as you say, it's sort of like PTL. I would suggest that Pat Robertson pioneered a video-derived kind of church thing before Driscoll was even in ministry so it's ironic that Mars Hill has embraced video venue as a new way to contextualize the Gospel little realizing how much it makes them like TBN preachers, it seems. Oh well. I've had a chance to hear some of Mike's sermons from the last couple of years and they've been solid. And Lief's pizzeria is well worth visiting!

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

I touch on the annual reports Mars Hill published for 2010 and 2011 here, which provides some additional context for the film God's Work, Our Witness as part of a fundraising campaign.

http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2011/12/8020-in-non-profit-fundraising-and.html

If that might seem too cynical a take on the film it's not intended to be cynical. I spent nine years in fundraising support and research at a 1,000+ non-profit. Whether or not one agrees or disagrees with Mars Hill on doctrinal or cultural issues God's Work, Our Witness is the kind of funddraising/promotional film a non-profit would be expected to invest in to inspire members to renew or increase giving. It's all built obviously into the title "God's Work, Our Witness".