Sunday, February 09, 2014

Where are they now Part 6B: Mark Driscoll's accounts of Brad Currah's role in MH music

Back in a comment at a blog post that can be read here someone asked how and where Currah transitioned out.  That is a highly relevant question and it would be difficult to find someone more capable of addressing that question than Mark Driscoll himself, since he actually wrote about the transition in his 2006 book.  He also wrote there about how Brad came to have a prominent role in leading music which is ... interesting ... because the Confessions account credits Brad with taking initiative in MH music significantly earlier in the history of MH than the "Seasons of Grace" account Mark Driscoll published at some time around 1999.


page 68

And we finally landed a good worship leader. Brad was a godly guy with a nice wife, who fronted a local band that was big in the club-scene heyday of flannel-wearing grunge gods like Nirvana and Pearl Jam.  Following one particularly dreadful Sunday worship set by a well-intended guy whose singing sounded like he was being electrocuted, Brad had had enough and asked to take over the worship. He soon showwed up with a bunch of guys from his band who smelled like cigarettes, including a guy with long hair and another guy with tattoos.  So things looked very promising.

Let's keep in mind that it's in the start of Chapter Three, which Driscoll helpfully indexes as attendance of 75-1500 people) that Mark Driscoll mentions, "A few weeks before we launched our little church plant in the fall of 1996, I was perplexed by an older man who had become something of a mentor to me."

In other words, by Mark Driscoll's account Brad asked to take over worship/music for the nascent church plant before it was even officially launched. Let's look back through The WayBack Machine to another account by Mark Driscoll of how Brad Currah ended up being worship pastor.
Seasons of Grace: The Story of Mars Hill
By Pastor Mark Driscoll

... In the third season, we began a small Bible study in graciously loaned space from Emmanuel Bible Church in Seattle. The original small core of about a dozen people was a Bible study comprised largely of twenty-somethings from the college group, the Gunn and Moi families, and Chris Knutzen who had joined the Campus Crusade for Christ staff at the U.W. We began meeting weekly in an extremely hot upstairs youth room, and after a few months outgrew the space and began meeting in the sanctuary. It was during this season that the rest of our current elders - the Browns, Currahs and Schlemleins - and some singles and families joined us. It was also during this season that Pastor Ken Hutcherson and our friends at Antioch Bible Church began their generous financial support to cover my salary to ensure that I would not be a financial strain on the young church.

[WtH: let's remind readers at this point that Mark Driscoll has recently said there was no childrens' ministry at MH because there were no kids, a point that is so easily disproven by Mark Driscoll's own testimony about Mike Gunn and Lief Moi as fathers being a reason he co-planted Mars Hill with them it bears repeating.]

In the fourth season, we launched the church in October 1996 at 6pm with an attendance around 200, which included many friends and supporters. The attendance leveled off shortly thereafter, somewhere around 100 adults, and we continued meeting until the Christmas season.

... In the eighth season, our worship ministry was in great disarray and I had a dream that Brad Currah, who had been a member of our core group before the launch, was leading worship. I repeatedly informed Brad that he was to be our worship leader and after numerous conversations he began volunteering time overseeing the worship and arts ministries. Brad had spent a few years playing the club scene with his band Springchamber, but was quickly overwhelmed with the demands of his first time pastorate and quit his job at Microsoft to free up time for ministry and hoped to live off of his wife Devonna's salary. But, she soon became pregnant and needed to quit her job. I then got a call from a pastor in Florida who had a network that funded church plants. Grace and I met with Pastor David Nicholas at Spanish River Church, and his church planting network agreed to help us financially. This gift allowed us to bring Brad on full-time, which has culminated in a fantastic independent worship album, multiple worship teams, and an aggressive set of new songs written by some of our many gifted artists. [emphasis added]

We've discussed how Mark Driscoll, according to Tim Smith, explained to Smith that he had a dream from God that said Smith was coming elsewhere.  What we haven't gotten to yet is Mark Driscoll's account of concluding he had to let Brad Currah go. 


page 135

We had to quickly reorganize all of our systems and staff.  Our administrative pastor, Eric, left, which we all recognized was God's call on him.  And our worship leader was a great guy and great musician but was unable to coordinate the multiple bands in the three locations, so we let him go. This was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made because he was a very godly man who had worked very hard and would have been fine if the church had not gotten so crazy so quickly, and he and his very sweet wife were both close personal friends of mind. But I needed a worship pastor who could lead mltiple bands, coordinate multiple services in multiple locations, and train multiple worship pastors while keeping up with a church that was growing so fast that we had no idea exactly where it was going. I had no one who could possibly fill this role but felt compelled to wait until God let me know, so I just left a gaping hole in our leadership to create a crisis that would force a leader to emerge. 
From here Driscoll went on to mention insight he was given by his friend Jon Phelps about how in any growing organization there are three types of people, risers, people who attach to risers, and people who don't cut the mustard.  By Driscoll's account he decided to leave a chasm in leadership to create a crisis that would force a leader to emerge. 

This did not, however, preclude Driscoll or others from actively recruiting potential future leaders.
As Driscoll would recount on pages 46-147 the emerging worship leader was Tim Smith who was distinguished by his alleged complete lack of musical competence at every level but whom Driscoll considered to be a dudely dude with leadership potential, and Driscoll decided to literally and figuratively invest in Smith as a leader. 

So it seems that by one of Mark Driscoll's accounts (in 2006) Brad Currah asked to take charge of music at the not-yet-planted Mars Hill Church and that Mark let this happen.  By another account (at via The Wayback Machine) Mark Driscoll declared that in the eighth season music was in disarray (and we see that the church launched in season 4).  Mark Driscoll states he had a dream that Brad was leading worship and recruited him by repeatedly emphasizing this experience. Driscoll even goes so far as to say that he and Grace went to meet David Nicholas to request financial support and that Nicholas' financial support allowed Mars Hill Church to pay Brad Currah a salary.  Then on to the ninth season at the start of 1999.  But by the time of about 2001 it seemed Mark Driscoll concluded that Currah was not able to organize all the bands at the three campuses Mars Hill had at the time and so by Driscoll's account they had to let Brad Currah go.

As for what happened to the other guy about whom Mark Driscoll had a dream, Tim Smith.  Nothing came of the music label Smith was working on called ReSound, it seems.  Tim Smith lead worship and music for years but by 2011 he was a campus pastor en route to Portland.  It's possible that as with other leaders before him, even Brad Currah, the growth of Mars Hill Church may have exceeded Tim Smith's gifts.  By 2006 on The Resurgence Driscoll was beginning to mention the name of someone who would eventually replace Tim Smith, Dustin Kensrue.  But having looked over Mark Driscoll's different accounts of how and why Brad Currah ended up out of leading worship in spite of the apparently divine oracle dream Mark Driscoll had about him, let's turn some attention back to the narrative of the rise of Tim Smith.


Anonymous said...

"so I just left a gaping hole in our leadership to create a crisis that would force a leader to emerge."

Cold-blooded corporate management decision - never mind that the guy was talented, committed, and your friend. Just bring people in, use them up, and spew them out, as long as you remain on top of the heap.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

If you've read the book what's striking is where Driscoll immediately goes to about advice he got around the time they let the worship leader go, also from page 135:

A very wise friend who is a successful business entrepreneur, Jon Phelps, shared an insight with me around this time that was very clarifying. He said that in any growing organization, there are three kinds of people, and only two of them have any long-term future with a growing organization. First, there are people on the rise who demonstrate an uncanny ability to grow with the organization and become vital leaders. Second, there are people who attach themselves to the people on the rise as valuable assistants who rise by being attached to someone on the rise. Third, there are people who neither rise nor attach to anyone who is rising, and they cannot keep up with the growing demands of the organization. These people fall behind, and the organization can either allow their inability to slow down the whole team or release them and move forward without them. This is difficult to do becuase they are often good people who have been partly responsible for the success of the organization. But the needs of the organizsational mission, not an individual in the organization, must continually remain the priority if there is to be continued success.

Driscoll and Phelps copyrighted Reverse-Engineering Your Life in 2005. In the acknowledgments in Confessions of a Reformission Reve Driscoll mentioned Jon Phelps:

Jon Phelps of DC3 Entertainment has been a mentor in ways of which he is unaware

Driscoll mentions on page 153 of Confessions that they entered what is now the Ballard campus in 2003. This means that the advice Driscoll said he got from Phelps had to have been in 2002 or possibly earlier.

Driscoll has name-dropped Jon Phelps so many times in the last ten years it's been surprising how little attention people seem to have paid to that fact. Rachel Maddow may not have known when she did her piece on Full Sail University she was just one or two steps removed from Mark Driscoll.