Recently, Roraback was in the same meeting I described here and raised some pointed questions:
But probably the worst thing I did was asking the questions listed below. They are as follows, word for word:
I have two questions that I’d like to humbly and respectfully submit in advance as I imagine it will require some research ahead of time.
1. What are the salaries of the Executive Elders? And if we are not allowed to know this, why not?
2. At least once a year, the On Mission CRUT must distribute a percentage of its assets to what is termed the “non-charitable beneficiary”. Since this is tied directly to the Real Marriage finances, who is the beneficiary of this CRUT? I would imagine much of the backlash against Mars Hill could be deflated if it could be shown that this was paid out to Mars Hill, instead of an individual or individuals who benefit directly.” [emphasis added]
I asked these questions on The City, Mars Hill’s website, in the Bellevue Leadership forum and posted them in advance of the CG Sync so that all the meeting participant could see them in advance and there would be no option for MH leadership but to address the questions. As it turned out, someone else brought up my questions during the latest CG Sync and the response from the elder was, ‘Why is that important?’
The answers in the room from at least three people were some form of ‘because we pay their salaries with our tithes.’ The elder who was in the hot seat on this one pushed back on this response, continuing to suggest that this is not important, but when he realized the people in the room were not in agreement, he turned to another elder who got up to explain how the process of setting the Executive Elder salary worked. It was a nice speech, and it made it sound like there were multiple layers of oversight – just not from the thousands of members who pay their salaries, of course. Mars Hill members are not allowed to know something that any church with integrity should be willing to share, especially during times when the members have lost trust in the Executive Elders.
With respect to Roraback's questions, there's another reason it was important, because in 2004 and in 2008 Pastor Mark Driscoll and Pastor Tim Beltz respectively said from the pulpit that Mars Hill financials were open books to members
Now of course the sermons that are about to be quoted have been gutted from the Mars Hill media library since earlier this year. All the more reason to share what was previously available to be listened to and read by millions.
February 8, 2004
Pastor Mark Driscoll
And the last one, not a lover of money. I love what money can do. I love the fact that we can pay the bills and have heat and light and chairs and sound. I love what money can do but the problem is when you love money. When you love money. When you’re greedy. Addicted to money. Pursuing money. All your thinking about is the money. And isn’t that weird? Because in most jobs, you get promoted for that. They tell you, “Work over time. Work ten times the hours. Work more, more.” Why? Because you could get more money. Well, it’s gonna cost me my family and I’ll never see my kids. Well, that’s okay, you’re gonna make more money. And the pastor it’s like, wait a minute, there’s something more important than money. People. Money is what we use to help people but the people are the most important thing, not the money. Not the money. The money’s the means to the ends.
Do you guys know I have a church credit card? What if I was a lover of money? Do you know that most pastors have a church credit card? A lot of them have petty cash accounts. I have to turn in my receipts to our Accounting Nazi every month. I have to account for everything. So I keep all my receipts in my wallet. I open it and just like a receipt-in-the-box, they go flying but I got all my receipts and I gotta note everything. Gotta account for, “Okay, I took this person out to coffee. Bought this person a Bible. They became a Christian.” I need to account for how we spend our money. Because you know what? Whose money am I spending? I’m spending your money and I’m spending God’s money. And so, it’s really important that somebody looks at that and say, “What’s he spending it on?” [emphasis added]
There was a really well-known, prominent, national leader who just got into big trouble because he was spending a lot of the ministry’s money and it was for personal use. Got a new car, hard wood floors in his home, new wardrobe for his wife. Kept billing it to the church, or to the ministry account. You go, “What the?” You know, your tithes shouldn’t be used for personal things. I get a salary for that. But if I feel like this is my church and this is my money, then you put this money in the pot then I just get what I need, I start treating your money like petty cash.
It’s really important that you know how we handle our money. You guys give your money – a group of people collect it. Another group of people count it. Another group of people deposit it. Another group of people pay the bills. Another group of people balance the books, and then a CPA who’s a Christian that doesn’t attend this church, comes in and does a full external audit every year, to give us a full write-up on how we did with our finances. We take it incredibly seriously. I am none of those guys. I don’t touch the money. I don’t. Judas touched the money. You know, that’s a good lesson. Don’t touch the money. I don’t touch the money. I don’t go anywhere near the money. Okay, so in a church, though, you need to know – you guys are gonna give. Some of you are gonna give real generously. You gonna give large amounts of money. For members of the church, we keep an open book policy. If you have questions, come in. We’ll explain how all the money’s disbursed. We’re not going to hide anything from the members of the church. [emphasis added]
Here’s how it works at this church. We are in elder-lead church, an elder-governed church. I’m one vote on the board. I – I can get fired. I can get censored. I can get disciplined. I mean, I’m one of seven guys who vote. First of all, if you want to be an elder in this church, you need to become a member of the church. That means you’re a Christian who has been baptized, gone through a basic theological training. That you’re giving, that you’re serving, that you’re mature, that you’re doing a good job with your family and your ministry and you’re rising up. Quite frankly, in the future, most of our leaders are going to come from our community groups. They’re gonna do a good job taking care of people and they’ll be able to take more people.
December 21, 2008
Generous Part 2B
Pastor [Tim] Beltz: That’s a tough act to follow. Thank you. Just a couple of real quick points. We take this really seriously, the financial controls of the church. Our generosity as a – I’m a members of Mars Hill Church, obviously, and so it’s our generosity that really gives us an opportunity to be great stewards here at Mars Hill Church.
And so, just walking through this, the financial controls piece, it’s as simple as the two people that count the money and then deposit it. We have a chain of custody for that money, to make sure that there’s no opportunity for making errors or mistakes or having any problems.
It’s as complicated as having budget and expense reports that are reviewed at multiple levels of management. It’s also a system where Pastor Mark and Pastor Jamie, they don’t sign any checks. Their names aren’t on any of the accounts so that we can keep them above reproach, and that we can allow those who really enjoy doing those kind of things, and who are good at it, that we can.
It also means that we periodically, quarterly and annually, we talk to outside professionals, independent of our church, and we show them our financial records so that they can provide oversight, and that provides accountability for me and the financial team.
The second, on salary determinations. We have – we had about a hundred staff. We’ve had to lay off some folks at Ballard, and there may be some more. But from a salary standpoint, about 18 months ago we came up with a very comprehensive and integrated system for compensation and for performance management.
Our performance counts as staff members, and we use a lot of extensive research – national and local data – to be able to identify what’s the right salary for a particular job. We have an audit committee of the board of directors. And this audit committee does a couple things, but primarily they’re the ones who take that research data and they build the compensation tables for our staff.
It’s pretty complicated, and I won’t go into it. It’s more detail than you’re probably interested, but it’s something that other churches are really interested in getting from us. But that’s approved annually.
And then the salaries of the executive elders are something that’s recommended and approved by the audit committee of the board, so that we can provide, again, that extra objectivity.
The chairman of the audit committee is an unpaid elder – not a staff member here at Mars Hill Church. And again, that helps provide some oversight and objectivity to the process.
The third point, the annual external audit. We contract with an independent external auditor. And each year, we have our financial records – it’s about a four-month-long process, but they audit our books. And I have to tell ya, we just finished it, and again, we got a sterling report. It’s like bringing home an A year after year after year. And it’s a pretty hard, extensive process.
The annual report. We really like to be, and we are, open and want to shed light on everything that we do. And part of that is our philosophy. We have an open books policy to our members. If any of our members want to see financial details, it’s there for them.
So for that person who asked Roraback why his questions mattered enough to get answers, there's a pretty simple reason. Roraback had been at Mars Hill so long he could have (whether he technically actually did this or not) cited the public statements of executive leadership at Mars Hill from 2004 and 2008 as establishing a precedent that members could ask to see any of the financials of Mars Hill.
This next quote is gigantic but it is presented to provide a more recent (namely 2012) explanation from the pulpit by Mark Driscoll about financial accountability as practiced by Mars Hill at the time. Read it carefully (or listen carefully):
Jesus Loves His Church
Part 11: Jesus Gives Through Us
Pastor Mark Driscoll
September 9, 2012
About 32:40 in
So, the next question is if Jesus is a generous giver and good steward, and you are aspiring to be a generous giver and a good steward, are you giving Jesus’ resources to a church that’s a generous giver and a good steward? It’s not just enough to give. You’ve got to make sure that what you’re
giving to is actually stewarding the resources well.
That’s fair, right? I mean, some of you would have questions. You’re like, “Well, what do you guys do with the money? You know, do the kids count it? Like, where’s the accounting department? What do we—you know, what do we do?” That’s a fair question, and Paul brings it up, and here’s what he has to say. He says Jesus cares about stewardship.
He says it this way, in 2 Corinthians 8:20–21: “We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us.” There’s the stewardship issue. Paul’s saying, “You’ve given this generous gift. We’re the administers, we’re the stewards, we’re the ones who receive the gift and then we want to wisely, humbly, in a way that is godly, take care of the resources that have been entrusted to our care.”
“For we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.” So, when it comes to a church or a ministry, receiving tithes, offerings, gifts from God’s people, it’s really important that, number one, the way that the resources are stewarded is pleasing in the Lord Jesus’ sight, that Jesus would look and say, “That’s okay. That’s pretty good right there. You know, I’m encouraged by that,” and in the sight of man, meaning you obey the law, right? There’s nothing worse than a pastor doing prison ministry from the inside because of tax evasion, right? There’s nothing worse than that. And so it’s not just—it has to be that Jesus says that things are taken care of well and that the government agrees. That the government agrees.
So, here’s what I’m going to do at this point. I’m going to talk a little bit about how we steward our resources, and this is important. On more that eight hundred occasions, the Bible talks about wealth, finances, possessions, tithing, and stewardship. Twenty-five percent of Jesus’ parables or more are about stewardship, what somebody did with something that they received. So, it’s super, super important. And I’ll answer some of the general questions that come up.
First of all, people ask, “Well, who oversees the finances at the church?” Well, there is a finance team of elders and deacons. It’s a team of eight. Their tasks are broken down into income, expenses, purchasing, and then financial reporting.
Overseeing that team is Pastor Sutton Turner, your executive pastor. He felt called of God to take a significant pay decrease. He was actually working for a royal family, now he’s just working for the King of kings. He has decided to take a significant discount in his income to come and serve at Mars Hill Church, and so he has built the finance team.
Now, working with him, under him is your CFO, Kerry Dodd, B.A. in business with an emphasis in accounting from the University of Washington, ten years working for Deloitte and Touche, a very well-known national accounting firm, three years experience as the CFO of another large church. He and his wife moved back to the area. She is, in fact, from the Puget Sound area.
The other members on this team, the six of them, they all have degrees in business, at least a B.A., and in addition, they all have experience in human resources, or accounting, or whatever their specialization might be in the workforce for large, successful, for-profit companies. Okay, so that’s the essence of the finance team. You know, none of us pastors can sign a check, none of us are present when the offering is counted, none of that.
The way this works, as well, some of you will ask, “What about the collection of the finances?” Well, we say the easiest way to give is to go online to MarsHill.com and click under give and give online. But for those of you who mail your check in during the week, or you give cash or a check on Sunday, you ask, “Well, what happens to that?”
Well, first of all, it’s collected, and it’s collected by teams of people that we do a background check on because we don’t want, you know, criminals collecting our offering. And they’ll take the offering and count it immediately, and it’s always a team, and that team is never a couple, like Bonnie and Clyde. Okay? So, we never let a couple count the offering. And then we take the offering, and it is, in fact, deposited.
And then some of you will ask, “Well, how do we know that the money is well spent?” Well, first of all, we don’t hand out a lot of credit cards. I mean, you can imagine in your family if you gave credit cards to all the kids and said, “I trust you. It you feel like you need it, go for it.” You’d be like, “That’s a lot of Xbox and they’re swimming in Mountain Dew.” You know? So, we don’t hand out a lot of credit cards, and for any purchase, I think it requires two levels of approval. So, someone can’t just go buy something. They need oversight and supervision so that it can be cleared.
Also, the way it works is we have a purchasing department. So, with fourteen churches and growing, not only do we want to ensure that we’re only spending the money that is necessary, but that we’re getting the best deal. How many of you are like my wife and if you can get a deal, that’s a happy day? Full price? You’re like, “No.” It becomes a personal mission, like, “I’m going to find the best price.” I married that girl, okay? There’s a whole bunch of reasons I love her. That’s one. She’s always looking for a deal.
The church needs to behave just like your personal budget. If we need something, then the requisition is made, and if it’s approved by the finance department, they will go shopping for the best deal, lowest price, because the church should conduct itself like you do, get the best deal.
And so you know as well, as soon as our bill comes in, we have a practice of immediately paying our vendors, because there’s nothing worse than, “Yeah, I sold something to Mars Hill and they didn’t pay me, and they quoted a verse about not suing, but I think they’re very suspicious people, those Mars Hill people.” So, if we do business with you, our goal is as soon as you send the invoice, we send the check because we want to have a good reputation with our vendors and with those that we purchase from.
Then the question often gets asked, “Well, what about salaries?” I’ll say a couple of things on this. Just like your profession if you’re in the workforce, there are national job descriptions and then pay ranges and scales for certain levels of responsibility. Everybody gets a job description. We do twice a year annual 360 performance reviews. People are weighted according to their responsibility and duties, and then this national scale is used to set the pay scale. And we tend not to be anywhere near the top. We’re not at the bottom. We’re somewhere in that reasonable middle as a general rule, and the salaries and the salary ranges are not set by the paid employees.
So, unpaid leaders in the church and unpaid leaders outside of the church oversee the establishing of the salaries of the employees. So, it’s not like somebody is a pastor at one of the churches and sets their own salary. You could go to jail for that. It’s illegal. So, part of this is not only acceptable in the eyes of God, but also acceptable in the eyes of government.
And what this means practically as well, we tend to have a very small staff. If you include, I don’t know, thirty-some services a Sunday, fourteen locations, five residents getting ready to be sent out to plant, plus the Resurgence and everything else we’re doing, the fact that we only have 136 employees is very, very, very small. I was meeting with pastors of somewhat larger churches recently. One had 750 employees, the other had 800, okay? One of the churches owns 500 acres of real estate. We call that Seattle. Like—so, for us, we tend to use very small square footage for the number of people, and we tend to have a very, very, very small staff for the size of our church.
In addition, then, we are finalizing our application to the Evangelical Christian Financial Accountability Association. It’s like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval to also provide all of our finances for outside oversight. And in addition to that, we have an external board of leaders, godly people, some of them pastors in other churches, that also have access to our finances and all of our reporting, just to make sure that we have internal and external, we have Christian and non-Christian oversight and accountability.
And we also have contracts with the banks for certain real estate that we own, and the banks give us additional requirements, like you have to keep this much in cash reserve, you have to keep your finances at this kind of level so that we don’t default on any of our loans.
So, between the banks, the internal and external controls, the external audit, and now joining another accountability organization, it’s our way of saying, “By the grace of God, we are good stewards, and if you are a good steward who gives generously, we want to be, and are, by the grace of God, good stewards stewarding wisely.”
I think it’s fair to ask those kind of questions. I really do. I really do, and so I’m glad to answer them. But that’s what he says. It’s a generous gift, it’s a grace, and it needs to be stewarded well.
That is a very lengthy excerpt and there's something that didn't get mentioned in 2012 that got mentioned by Mark Driscoll in 2004 and Tim Beltz in 2008 and that would be the open book policy where any member could simply ask where all the money actually went.
As for the external board of leaders ... it turns out Paul Tripp has resigned from the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability
Specifically, Tripp wrote, "But it became clear to me that a distant, external accountability board can never work well because it isn't a firsthand witness to the ongoing life and ministry of the church."
Mark Driscoll could roll out an explanation of all the internal and external accountability structures until he's blue in the face, it's not a substitute for opening up the books to any member who asks what Mark Driscoll's annual salary actually is. If Mark Driscoll said ten years ago that there were open books to any members with questions and Tim Beltz repeated the sentiment in 2008 then if Driscoll didn't explicitly repudiate that sentiment from the pulpit in 2012 why would Dalton Roraback have gotten the response he reports he got in 2014?