On April 10, 2012, Mark Driscoll posted "Is Your Church Interested in Becoming a part of Mars Hill?"
Regular readers will recall I wrote a long blog post about this post of Driscoll's at the Mars Hill website. I encouraged pastors considering giving their assets, people, and real estate over to Mars Hill to ask questions about a number of things. Realizing that many pastors will not know what to ask or where to look I have taken it upon myself to document, as best I can where pastors considering the invitation by Driscoll for them to ask if their church can become part of Mars Hill can start their own line of study and research.
Along the way I have realized that my own investigation led me to a discovery, Mark Driscoll has habitually neglected to mention in his touting West Seattle as an example of a great church merger the fact that Driscoll had been wanting the property that has become Mars Hill West Seattle since as far back as 1996. Wanting a piece of property for Mars Hill for a decade is a long time. During 2002 when Bill Clem planted Doxa as a church plant in partnership with Acts 29 and Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll was the Church Planting Scout for Acts 29.
In 2006 when Bill Clem's wife Jeannie was diagnosed with cancer Driscoll approached Clem and Doxa pastor James Noriega about making use of the Doxa facilities to help Mars Hill deal with steady expansion and a failure of earlier real estate development plans to succeed. The transfer/gift/sale of the Doxa property to Mars Hill is still a bit murky but what is evident is that the transaction was definitely a boon for all parties involved and the property was something Driscoll had wanted for ten years. He was rejected from being able to plant Mars Hill at that property back in 1996.
To casually read the description of how Mars Hill became multisite since 2006 you might think there was an actual plan in place. Well, there was sort of a plan in place but in order to understand how and why Mars Hill grew into a multisite it is necessary to understand the essential failure of the 2005 purchase of the 50th street building, the building which Mark Driscoll wrote was going to be the second Ballard campus in the book Confessions of a Reformission Rev. While the multisite model seems to be effective it should not be overlooked that the impetus for the multisite model Mars Hill has been embracing since 2006 was predicated on a collosal failure of judgment in assessing the real estate situation within the city of Seattle.
This failure (which could have been averted by more diligent investigation of land use and permit restrictions) required a swift and practical response and the two earliest responses were the assimilation of Acts 29 church plant Doxa into Mars Hill on the one hand, and the foundation of what has become Mars Hill Shoreline on the other. That the Chief Operations Officer of CRISTA Ministries, Tim Beltz, was attending Mars Hill since approximately 2004 may have benefited Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll in getting a couple of years of rent free use of Schirmer Auditorium. Tim Beltz would eventually nominate himself to eldership and get ordained as a pastor at Mars Hill in October 2007.
Did Bill Clem, James Noriega, and Tim Beltz play significant roles in getting real estate into the hands of Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll, who in 2006 was apparently the legal president, senior employee, lead pastor, and head of the elder board? Does it not occur to anyone else that it looks like after Clem, Noriega, and Beltz got real estate into the hands of Mars Hill they were accepted into eldership with what seem to be fantastic options? Tim Beltz was ordained in October 2007 and it seems he immediately became an Executive Elder. Beltz was Chief Operations Officer at CRISTA where, as Mark Driscoll pointed out in a July 30, 2006 sermon, Mars Hill was given completely free access to Schirmer Auditorium. Would the Chief Operations Officer (i.e. Tim Beltz, who'd been attending Mars Hill since about 2004) have been the person to have brokered such an arrangement?
Driscoll has recounted how he approached Clem and Noriega to partner together. Clem and Noriega would give Mars Hill property Driscoll had wanted for Mars Hill since 1996. There was no primise, Driscoll has said, of any job or power or influence. But Clem and Noriega were voted onto the elder team. Bill Clem was given a full salary and months of time off to care for his dying wife. That sounds altruistic enough at a personal level but at an institutional level it means a man who was basically not doing any real work was on full salary and had played a significant role in gifting to Mark Driscoll a property Mark Driscoll has publicly stated he'd wanted for a decade.
James Noriega, despite having a publicly documented divorce and remarriage with a history of felonies in articles published by the Seattle Post-Intellgicencer in 2004, nevertheless made the cut as a pastor both inside the Acts 29 church Doxa and in Mars Hill alike. By 2007 he'd been promoted to the Board of Directors and was in charge of recovery groups. He would go on to co-lead Redemption Groups and play an important role in transforming the Grace Groups established by Bent Meyer into the Redemption Groups that Mike Wilkerson and Noriega were tasked with working on. By Mike Wilkerson's account a key task in making what are now the Redemption Groups was ensuring that recovery and counseling theology did not contradict pulpit theology. Noriega seems to have helped contribute to that process in 2008 and 2009. It's not clear, however, that Noriega (who is no longer employed by Mars Hill) had demonstrated sufficient qualifications to be a pastor in charge of dealing with addiction issues just because he was himself at one point a meth addict and had some experience in a Union Gospel Mission ministry.
What is clear is that the three men (Clem, Noriega, and at least possibly Beltz) managed to bring some fantastic real estate and property options to Mars Hill in 2006 and by 2007 had some impressive jobs and benefits. Exactly what that means I'm not sure I want to speculate about on some blog. I have, however, compiled the research I've done, such as it is, to explain in detail what I have summarized above.
So if you're a pastor thinking about giving your church, flock, and assets to Mars Hill make sure you read all this stuff. I quote from primary sources, namely Driscoll himself, from pastors involved in acquisitions, and also refer to coverage in local media independent of Mars Hill. This blog post is the short overview. These posts are where I document the details as carefully as I could manage given on record resources. If you're just curious you've read this summary and it's enough. If you're thinking of giving your church that God's given to you to Mars Hill make a point of reading all the material below.
Time permitting I hope to discuss Downtown, Lake City, and Albequrque as well as other campuses.
I've added the May 2012 link that first summarized how Mars Hill acquired the West Seattle campus. I've also added to the index a newer post providing a comparison between the salary and hours worked by Bill Clem after Doxa was added to Mars Hill and co-founding elder Lief Moi's salary and hours after he was approached in June 2007 and asked to step down from being lead pastor at Ballard. The contrast between Moi working half time with a nearly 40% salary cut while Clem was given a full salary and didn't how to show up for work for a period of months is startling enough that it seems to merit inclusion in this series.
New posts discuss the pay and work of Bill Clem and Lief Moi circa 2007, as well as the acquisition of the Mars Hill Downtown Campus. These posts discuss how Moi's back problems left him in constant pain, according to Mark Driscoll's response to a member in the 145 document published in November 2007.
The discussion of the Downtown campus looks at how a property purchased for nearly $4 million in October 2007 would have been purchased by executive elders and that the most likely candidates for the purchase were Driscoll and Munson. In 2008 the housing bubble meant that what was purchased for nearly $4 million lost a million dollars of value in the real estate bubble. In contrast to the public mention of West Seattle and the rent free deal at Shoreline Mars Hill Downtown was a purchase shrouded in secrecy within the church. It was covered by secular newspapers like The Stranger, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Seattle Times before Mars Hill members (and probably many pastors) knew what was going on.
A bare bones overview of Mars Hill Albuquerque is up as well as an inquisitive post about sale listings in 2005 related to what is now the 50th street property owned by Mars Hill.
A few more links. One post surveys the "Joy in Anxiety" sermon with a comparison of Driscoll's "maybe" statements to what may have been actual controversies within the church at the time the sermon was preached.
Another establishes that according to the Secretary of State of Washington listings Mark Driscoll is the President of Mars Hill Church, which was incorporated on 12/22/1995, about ten months before the church was ever even planted.
Whoever John J. Houlihan Jr. is he seems to have played a significant role in the corporations that were used to purchase Mars Hill real estate at different points.
Another post "Regrouping for Jesus' Fame" raises the question of whether the bylaws Munson seemed to draft in 2007 substantially addressed making Mars Hill a network of campuses. It's not clear that the bylaws did that but perhaps people more informed about these things than I am could elucidate that.
There's more in the material now than linked to here. Things are now tagged when they show up in the series, at least.