Friday, October 18, 2013

Sutton Turner interview in Church Executive from Sep 2013, a little history on someone who says he had the job before other people officially said he had it

It's worth noting the budget is currently listed as $30 million for MHC in the interview "quick facts" section.  It's also weird to read Sutton Turner compare himself to Joseph from the Old Testament in response to a question that presumes the comparison of Turner to Joseph has been made elsewhere.  Here's a question, who made that comparison to begin with?  Turner himself?  Why would there need to be a clarification in the question in a publication called Church Executive stating that the Joseph to whom Sutton Turner is said to have been compared is the OT figure?  Who in their right mind would say he's like Jesus' surrogate father? 

Apparently Sutton Turner updated the bylaws, implicit in his observation that Mark Driscoll doesn't like to do spreadsheets, draft budgets, do meetings, recruit new staff, assemble policy and procedure or update bylaws.  Turner says that's what he does.

For sake of review, Sutton Turner was formally introduced as an elder back in November 2011.  As Mark Driscoll put it himself:

Earlier this year, the Turner family moved around the world just to be a part of Mars Hill Church. They’d been listening to the podcast for many years, and when the opportunity arose to join the ministry, Sutton left a lucrative job in the Middle East to use his gifts to serve the church.

Pastor Sutton’s experience has already been a huge benefit. He has a degree from Harvard Business School, led multibillion-dollar organizations, and even worked as an executive pastor for a number of years at a large church in Texas. More importantly, he is a godly man with a delightful family.

By God’s grace, Mars Hill Church is in an amazing season of growth. With that comes significantly more complexities, however. We need help and we’ve been searching for a leader of Sutton’s caliber for awhile. God is faithful and brought the right man at the right time.

Sutton Turner got a mention in a letter Mark Driscoll published on September 9, 2011 that referred to Sutton Turner as on staff but not as an executive elder.  This is worth quoting at some length, actually for a reason we'll get to before too long:

Pastor Dave and I both believe Pastor Scott is the best choice for this role in this season. Pastor Scott [Thomas] has been very clear in his love and commitment to Mars Hill and has said he will gladly serve wherever he is needed, which we deeply appreciate. Administratively, Pastor Jamie was our senior "king" and his departure requires very competent leadership to cover his many responsibilities. Thankfully, Pastor Jamie was a great leader and humble man. He surrounded himself with great people. This allows us to not have the kind of crisis that could otherwise ensue. Pastor Dave and I agree that Sutton Turner should function as our highest-ranking "king." Sutton is new to staff, but not to ministry. He is a former executive pastor of a large church. Educationally, he is a graduate of Texas A&M, the SMU Cox School of Business, and Harvard Business School. Professionally, he has recently served as the CEO of a company that has nearly 1,600 employees. Prior to that he served as the CEO of another company that under his leadership grew from 0 to 500 employees in the first year. He and his family moved to Seattle sensing a call to serve at Mars Hill, and we believe he is a gift from God to us for our future. He is currently well into the eldership process so be in prayer for that as well as his many duties at the church.

Then there's Driscoll following statement:
While we celebrate the past and honor the present, we also need to prepare for the future by God’s grace. We’ve been here before, many times before, in fact. As our church grows, we encounter obstacles and hit ceilings of complexity and need to adjust as necessary to get through the next size barrier. This was true at 200, 800, 2,000, and 6,000 [emphasis added, watch for this number], just like the experts predicted. At 10,000 we are there again. I’ve been working on the beginnings of a comprehensive plan, as I can see into the future to 25,000 people a week, Lord willing.
Okay, so ... how far along into the eldership process was Sutton Turner by September 9, 2011?  By his own account, he already had the job!

Executive Pastor & Executive Elder

Mars Hill Church

Nonprofit; 51-200 employees; Religious Institutions industry
April 2011 [emphasis added]Present (2 years 7 months) Seattle, Washington
Sutton currently serves Mars Hill Church as Executive Elder and Executive Pastor. Mars Hill is a multi-site church with 14 current churches across the states of Washington, California, New Mexico, and Oregon. Mars Hill has planted over 400 churches through its and trains disciples through As Executive Pastor, Sutton oversees all centralized functions for all 14 Mars Hill Churches,, Mars Hill Global, Mars Hill Network, Resurgence Books, and Resurgence Conference, all external Campaigns, as well as serving Pastor Mark Driscoll as his Executive Pastor.

Seeing as Jamie Munson's LinkedIn Profile lists him as Executive Pastor from 1999 to 2011 even when any detailed survey of Mark Driscoll's own publications reveals that Munson was an intern in 1999, it may simply be that Sutton Turner is carrying on some Munsonian tradition of retroactively imputing to himself the full powers and leadership of a role that either didn't exist yet or had not been formally conferred to him.  After all, literally everything Mark Driscoll publicly wrote or said about Turner up until November 2011 indicated that Turner was not an elder yet as far as Mars Hill Church was concerned. 

Apparently, according to Driscoll himself, Mars Hill hit a ceiling of complexity that necessitated some new changes.  Munson publicly announced that he was stepping down and Driscoll took the occasion to announce that Scott Thomas was stepping into Munson's place.  But the introduction to Turner mentioned how his gifts and abilities were needed and how, by Driscoll's account, had been sought for for a while.  Thomas, in this case, would have at most been an interim leader until Turner could be formally vetted within the parameters of whatever bylaws were in place at the time.  But Turner's mention of his role including the revision of bylaws opens up the possibility that Turner drafted a completely new set of bylaws in a way comparable to what Munson did in 2007.  Where Munson's bylaws made himself, as Lead Pastor, president of Mars Hill, the bylaws that Turner drafted would appear to have made Mark Driscoll legal president of Mars Hill.  The vast about face on legal presidency for Driscoll at this point would have to be a whole post unto itself that we won't bother writing at this point. 

So Turner describes himself as having an executive pastor job before he was formally introduced?  Well, Munson has done the same thing so it's not like the executive elders differ from each other in terms of that detail.

What's interesting in this little feature on Turner is that Sutton Turner is credited as saying

“Mars Hill really did not grow until 2007, from 1 location and 2,000 in attendance.”

Really? How sure is David Fletcher about that quote from Turner?  Because according to Mark Driscoll there were about 6,000 people at MH circa 2007.—and-whether-or-not-the-new-calvinist-coalition-will-hold-together/

As we expand to more campuses, states, and possibly even nations, I wanted to do all I could to ensure doctrinal fidelity and clarity for our church. As the tree grows and the fruit increases, the roots need to sink deep as well. So, when our attendance was at about six thousand people a few years ago, we did something unprecedented. We canceled out the membership of everyone in our church [emphasis added in both types] and I preached the Doctrine series for thirteen weeks. Each sermon was well over an hour and included me answering text-messaged questions from our people.

Those who made it through the entire series were interviewed, and those who evidenced true faith in Christ and signed our membership covenant were installed as new members [emphasis added, and let's keep in mind that this was to become the standard memberization process through which ... Andrew Lamb ended up at Mars Hill Church, WtH]. We had always had a high bar for membership, but I wanted to raise that bar higher as we pursued our goal of becoming, by God’s grace, a church of fifty thousand. In so doing, we lost about a thousand people, dropped to five thousand total, and missed budget for the first time in our church’s history. [emphasis added] We then rebounded over the next few years to ten thousand people a week and as many as thirteen thousand on our peak weekend. We had pruned, which hurt, but then we harvested, which was healing. It’s not all about the numbers, and we were willing to lose a lot of people, but God proved that there is power in the gospel and that a people united around core biblical doctrine can be used by God to bear much fruit by grace.

If the way things played out in 2007 played out again in 2011 then when Mars Hill hit a new ceiling of complexity the giftings of certain men could no longer match the competencies required to sustain the organization.  Out with Munson, in with Turner, perhaps?


Anonymous said...

"Pastor Dave and I agree that Sutton Turner should function as our highest-ranking 'king.'"

Visions of grandeur.
At best, such a statement should be regarded as evidence of egotistical hubris; at worst, it is evidence of an extreme pathology.

Instead, the faithful continue to tithe and empty their wallets into the kingdom of these little self-appointed "kings."

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

It's fundamentally misleading is what it is. The "highest-ranking king" is the secretary and treasurer.