excerpts from the sermon preached at Mars Hill on
March 24, 2004
from 1 Timothy 5:17-25
... I had no respect at all. It was like I would ask people, you know, "He, could you please not, you know, cheat on your wife?" "Who do you think you are?" "I'm your pastor." "Ahh." They'd just laugh at me and stuff. It's hard to do your job. It's really hard to do your job when people don't honor you. "No, I love you. I have verses." "Ahh, you're 25." Like, "Well, yeah, but I still have verses, and they're good verses. Do you wanna hear `em?" "Nah." You know, if there's no honor, it's hard to get anything done, right?
`Cause it's not like a police officer. I can't carry a gun, right. I can't, like, enforce, I can't enforce too well. Now, I'd like to, but I can't enforce, so the only way I can really enforce or we as pastors can enforce is if you honor us, is if you respect us.
When we started this church, I didn't get paid anything. First year, nothing. `Cause we had no people, we had no money. If you called the church, the church office was at my house, and I would answer the phone in my underwear and pretend like we were a high-powered organization. "Hi, thanks for calling Mars Hill." "I s Mark there?" "Yeah, let me get him." So I'd, you know, "Hi, how you doing?" I'd pretend like I had a secretary. I'd pretend like we were legit. I would, seriously. And I'm sitting there in my underwear just liek the short guy in the Wizard of Oz, just pulling the levers, maintaining the illusion of this tremendous empire. Woo hoo.
There's nothing, man. No money, no people, no nothing. The first year we put a box in the back, and I said, "Hey, if anybody feels led to give, feel free to give." Nobody apparently felt led. God didn't move in anybody's heart. The first year we brought in $90,000.oo, first year, which wasn't great. It's a nice SUV, but it's not a great budget, and that first year I didn't have any money. My wife was working full time. I was working full time while we were starting the church.
My wife started having major health complications from work, stress related. I told her, I said, "Honey, 1 Timothy says that, you know, I gotta make the money. If I don't provide for the needs of my family, I've denied the faith, I'm worse than an unbeliever. Quit your job. It's my responsbiility. I'll figure it out. I don't know how we're gonna pay the bills. We're not getting any money at the church."
And I was thinking about it, too. I started getting a little scared `cause I wanted to live in the city, do a church in the city, the least churched city in the country. I wanted to have a big family. I wanted to be able to pay my bills. I wanted to be able to have a nice church, and I'm going after 20-year old indie rockers that are committed to poverty and anarchy. Thinking, "This is not real liquid. This is not a brilliant business plan, really." You know, teenage kids who take scooters to church tend not to be a huge donor base, you know?
But I felt like that what's God said, "Go to Seattle and ... " You know, we lived in Seattle. I grew up in Seattle. I love this city. This is my home, so it was like I knew God told me to do that. I'm like, "Lord God, I mean, I'm cool with not eating, but I gotta get food fo rthe kids. I gotta get shoes on the wife. What am I gonna do here?"
So I went to Antioch Bible Church and I said, "They're not, you know, we're not generating any revenue." Antioch Bible Church, where I'd been the college director for a year and a half, they gave me $30,000 the first year as my salary. Praise God, they gave me money, so that's waht we lived off. My wife and I and my daughter Ashley, family of three, living in Wallingofrd on $30,000 a year. N omedical, no dental, no retirement, no nothing. Had to pay all of that. And then we tithed out of that, and then we gave above and beyond that for hospirality and for wedding presents and food `cause all the Bible studies and all the meetings were in our home. So we'd feed everybody and have everbody over and do all that kind of stuff.
And so when you subtracted it all out just from the tithes, I mean, we're living off of about $24,000 that first year. And then out of that, you've gotta pay medical, dental, retirement, food, rent, car, the whole thing. Family of three living in Wallingford, not a lot of bling. Didn't have the huge amount of extra the first couple of years.
Second year the church comes. Antioch kicks in again, gives me $30,000.00. Thid year Mars Hill still wasn't able to really cover a full salary for me, so I went out and raised some additional dollars from another church, Spanish River Church, in Boca Raton. They gave me about half of my salary.
about Year 4 [the church] starts paying my salary.