by Mars Hill Church on Saturday, October 22nd, 2011 8:34 pm
At Mars Hill we like to be generous with everything we’ve been given. For over ten years, we’ve made all of our sermons available for free online, invested significant time and money to help raise up thousands of leaders around the globe through theresurgence.com, and given millions of dollars to plant dozens of churches through Acts 29. Recently, this has grown to include such things a free Leadership Coaching and Campaign research to help other churches and ministries grow. We love other churches and ministries, and we love giving generously to serve them.
By God’s grace, our ministry has grown to the place where we’re recognized by people all over the world. With this kind of recognition, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the influence that God has given us to tell people about Jesus.
Sadly, in addition to giving things away, we’ve also had things taken. We’ve had churches cut and paste our logo, take our website code and copy it completely, had ministry leaders cut and paste documents of ours, put their name on them to then post online as if it were their content, and even seen other pastors fired for preaching our sermons verbatim.
We’re not the only church called Mars Hill, and occasionally there arises confusion between us and other churches that share the “Mars Hill” name, particularly as we now have our churches in four states. This was the case recently when one of our members called us to find out if we had planted Mars Hill churches in the Sacramento, California area. We had not, but when we went to these churches’ websites, it was obvious to us how people could be confused. Each of these three connected churches in the Sacramento region—planted in 2006, 2007, and 2010—bore the “Mars Hill” name and their logo was substantially similar to the logo we’ve used since 1996.
When cases like this arise in the business world, it’s customary for a law office to send a notice asking the other organization to adjust their branding to differentiate it. This is commonly referred to as a cease and desist letter. On September 27, 2011, our legal counsel sent such a letter to these three Mars Hill churches requesting that they change their logo and name. In hindsight, we realize now that the way we went about raising our concerns, while acceptable in the business world, is not the way we should deal with fellow Christians. On Friday we spoke with the pastor of Mars Hill in Sacramento to apologize for the way we went about this. We had a very productive conversation and look forward to continuing that conversation in the days and weeks ahead.
We made a mistake in not calling these churches prior to sending the letter. We should have picked up the phone before sending any other communication.
Unfortunately, rather than hearing from the church in Sacramento, we began hearing that the matter was instead being speculated on by a blogger who did not verify any facts with us and, as a result, provided an inaccurate version of what transpired. This blog post from us is intended to alleviate any confusion.
As a clarification, we have not sued any churches and have no plans to sue any churches.
We have not sent any similar letters to any other “Mars Hill” churches, and we are not planning on asking any church with “Mars Hill” in their name to change their name.
At the speed of the internet clarification has come.
By now I don't anticipate the fans or detractors will have anything new to say they haven't already been saying. What we can establish at this point is that if at any point in the future Mars Hill sues any church over branding issues the whole English-reading/English-speaking internet world has been put on notice that a flip-flop will have happened.
By the way, plagiarism is lame. There are a lot of things that can be said about a guy like Driscoll but his bibliographic citations and attributions have been, on the whole, pretty consistent. He might lift some weak jokes from another pastor's Mother's Day sermon (which I've written about elsewhere on this blog) but for actual bibliographic stuff in his writings he's usually good about, say, referring to Richard Bauckham as a scholarly reference for his 1 & 2 Peter sermon series. His spiritual warfare series includes a reference to the monstrous, door-stop book The Christian in Full Armour by William Gurnall. Give Driscoll credit for at least this much, when an idea isn't really his own he's usually pretty good about giving credit where it's due. It's when he gets goofy ideas like that the Targum Neofiti teaches the Trinity that you can be sure that dumb idea is all Driscoll and not an idea he got from somebody like John Stott or Jim Packer.