Monday, April 20, 2015

Sutton Turner posts How to Follow When You Disagree, ResultSource Part 1, examining how Turner's account fits in with what has been reported previously

Part 2 is forthcoming and the first question that comes to mind is if Turner would be willing to talk on the record with Warren Cole Smith, who broke the story of Mars Hill using Result Source last year.   Turner opens matter-of-factly and quickly mentions:

... One of the biggest mistakes of Mars Hill Church was using a company called ResultSource. It deserves to be a business school case some day, but for right now, let’s focus on the leadership lessons.

Mars Hill Church may have made a lot of history, for sure.  Turner goes on to explain the following:

In April 2011, I joined Mars Hill as the General Manager and reported to the Executive Pastor. I had enjoyed the teaching via podcast from overseas since 2007. My family and I looked forward to attending and serving in the church that we had enjoyed from afar, a church that loved Jesus and preached the gospel. I looked forward to using my gifts and experience to further the mission of Jesus through the local church.

When I arrived at Mars Hill, the financial books were a mess. During my first week, I asked the finance director to bring me the financials. He said he could provide me with September 2010 because they were about to close out the books for October. Financial reporting was six months behind. I thought, “How do they know how they’re doing financially?!” The finance team handed me a bank statement. (If you are in finance or accounting, you just cringed as you read the last sentence.)

Through the grace of the Lord Jesus, the efforts of a hard-working team, and the hiring of a chief financial officer, we had put in a new chart of accounts, gotten the books closed out within 30 days of the previous month, and started to figure out where we were financially. That was all within only five months! At the same time, I was getting familiar with other ministries and departments, such as Media and Communications.

September 2010 financials in April 2011 is pretty creepy.  In a more competent and experienced non-profit setting, even in literally disastrous circumstances the books would still be expected to be closed by, say, the fifth day of the next month for the month given.  What's striking about the date Turner mentions is how it seems to correspond with officers.

September 2010 financials would have fallen under the tenure of Tim Beltz' time as an executive pastor.
Biblical Living Pastor - Downtown Seattle
Mars Hill Church
(1 year 2 months)Greater Seattle Area
Mars Hill Church

(9 months)Greater Seattle Area
For reasons that have never been explained, Beltz stopped being Pastor of Central Operations after a mere nine months, and he stopped being an Executive Pastor at the same time that he stopped being Pastor of Central Operations.

What seems clear was the last available set of financials Turner was able to get dated back to when Tim Beltz was an Executive Pastor and from the short stint Beltz was handling Central Operations.  But by Turner's account by the time he arrived there was not a chief financial operations officer. 

Why wasn't there a CFO around by the time Sutton Turner arrived?  Given that since the 2007 by-laws revisions Jamie Munson had been made the president of the corporation known as Mars Hill Church this would seem like something Jamie Munson could explain at some point. 

Turner goes on to recount RSI:

In July 2011, a new marketing proposal was already in the works at Mars Hill: ResultSource. I learned of the project from the manager who was overseeing it. ResultSource was a marketing practice that purchased books through small individual bookstores that would qualify the book for the New York Times Best Seller List. Then, these books would be shipped to Mars Hill and sold in our nine church bookstores. It was proposed that being listed on the New York Times Best Seller List would increase the awareness of the church, support the upcoming sermon series, and increase church size.

This appears to correspond with details reported by Warren Throckmorton
In June 2011, Kevin Small wrote to then Mars Hill Church executive elder Jamie Munson to provide details about how ResultSource could get Mark Driscoll on the New York Times best-seller list. ...
2. Consulting: RSI (Result Source Inc) will work with your staff to establish a pre-sale plan that will generate the necessary 11,000 copies. We will give you the plays to run as well as help by creating a shopping cart similar to the cart I showed you. We will engage Paul Joiner at Turning Point to provide the insight into constructing a donor campaign that will result in a higher donation than book cost.

So Turner's account matches up with and seems to confirm earlier reporting that the idea to use Result Source Inc. was pitched to leaders at Mars Hill and was accepted, apparently, by the executive leadership before Turner was formally on the executive elder team. 

Turner has described his reaction to news of the RSI deal as follows:

I had a couple of meetings with the manager who was working on this project and at the time he stated his concern with the marketing proposal. I was not invited to any meetings to discuss ResultSource in my role as General Manager overseeing finance. However, I wrote several memos to my supervisor sharing my concern and lack of support for this marketing practice. I was relatively new to the staff and obviously not on the Board of Directors, nor was I asked to be a part of this particular decision. But due to my adamant disagreement and desire to best serve the staff and church, I wrote a memo on August 26, 2011 to my supervisor saying the following:
  • The plan was poor stewardship.
  • If the plan were to be revealed, it would look poorly on the stewardship of Mars Hill Church.
  • If the plan were to be revealed, it would look poorly on Pastor Mark Driscoll.
A week later, I was notified that my advice was not taken and the plan to use ResultSource was approved. I don’t know who approved the plan. I don’t know what process was conducted concerning the decision. I do know that it showed that the process of making big decisions was broken and it needed to be fixed.

Best guess is that given that up until his resignation Jamie Munson had been lead pastor and legal president of Mars Hill that Jamie Munson was "probably" Turner's supervisor.  But if Turner didn't even know who made the decision to approve the plan then that suggests that leadership decisions were opaque even to those within the highest levels of leadership in the corporate culture of Mars Hill.  Or someone could choose not to believe Turner didn't know but let's just propose for the sake of consideration he was actually that kept in the dark.  This would seem more potential evidence that there was neither transparency nor accountability inside the leadership culture of Mars Hill if even Sutton Turner could say he didn't know who approved the plan to use Result Source.

Still, a quick review of the by-laws drafted in 2007 may be able to establish that Munson would have been legal president, and would have the highest level of formal decision-making power with the other executive elders.
Bylaws of Mars Hill Fellowship
A Nonprofit Corporation With Members

Article VI
The Executive Elder Team

SECTION G – The Executive Elder Team shall include the preaching elder and the lead elder,
who shall be determined by the Board of Directors. The preaching elder functions as the principal
teacher and preacher for the church. The lead elder functions as the organizational head and
leads the Executive Elder Team, the Board of Directors, the Full Council of Elders and the rest of
the church in effectively obeying God’s leading as revealed in Scripture.

SECTION H – Immediately following the election of the members of the Board of Directors, the
Board of Directors shall appoint members of the Executive Elder Team to serve as President,
Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer to serve as officers for purposes of the Washington
Nonprofit Corporation Act. The lead elder described in Section G shall be the President. He shall
chair the meetings of the Executive Elder Team, the Board of Directors, and the Full Council of
Elders. The preaching elder shall be the Vice-President and serve the role of president during
the absence of the president. The treasurer shall maintain proper books of account for the

Skipping past Turner's ideas about how to approach decisions you don't agree with, the next part of the narrative of how RSI was engaged reads as follows:
Shortly after the decision to execute the ResultSource marketing plan was made, my supervisor resigned. After him, I was the highest-ranking employee in administration. The decision had been made but the contract hadn’t yet been signed. On October 13, 2011, I signed the ResultSource contract as General Manager a full month before being installed as an Executive Elder. After signing the contract, I emailed an elder, stating my frustration with having to be the one to sign the contract when I had voiced my disagreement with it. But few in the organization (or in the media since then) knew of my disagreement. When you stay in an organization and you do not agree with a decision, you have to own that decision as your own. Unfortunately, I will always be linked to ResultSource since my name was on the contract even though I thought it was a bad idea. If given the same opportunity again, I would not sign the ResultSource contract, but honestly, my missing signature would not have stopped it. Someone else would have signed it anyway since the decision had already been made

Turner could well be right, if he hadn't signed the contract maybe someone else would have.  The question would still be who else would have.  As Warren Throckmorton was able to verify, the guy who got invoiced for the contract was Mark Driscoll.  Understandable though it may be from Turner's account he seemed to have to be the one to sign since Munson had lately resigned and he was the next highest-ranking person, what about the part where the vice-president would be the president according to the 2007 by-laws?  Wouldn't that have made Mark Driscoll the de facto president in the case of Munson's resignation?  Turner may well clear up a number of things in the forthcoming Part 2.  At the moment it's not 100% clear why it had to be Turner and not someone else in leadership who signed.

Something for concern is the all or nothing approach to loyalty that seems expressed in Turner's approach to operating in a leadership culture.  Not only does it seem a bit extreme presented at face value it may need to be gently corrected by some counter-examples from narrative literature in the Old Testament. At the risk of invoking a biblical narrative example, couldn't the book of Daniel be consulted as a case study in how a person could occupy a position in an organization in which the leaders above make decisions you disagree with and to disagree in a way that is respectful of their authority but not of their lack of wisdom?  Or what about Obadiah in the court of Ahab ,shielding prophets from campaigns undertaken by Jezebel to kill prophets of the Lord?  It's possible to politely suggest Turner's advice may spring from a potential lack of biblical literacy as to examples in which one can dissent from the decisions of leaders in a way that avoids giving consent while consenting that something wrong may get done all the same.  Prophets occasionally did this with kings.  Then again ... Sutton was described as the "king" at Mars Hill, and the shortfall in that formulation is not suitably a topic for this post.

Turner's account does at least clear up that he privately dissented from the use of Result Source Inc.

If it turns out even Sutton Turner didn't approve of the plan but it was already decided upon as the way to approach before he became an executive elder then who was in executive leadership at the time?  It would seem to have been Jamie Munson, Mark Driscoll, and Dave Bruskas. 

Part 2 of Sutton Turner's discussion of Result Source is not published just yet but that may get published soon.  Perhaps in Part 2 there can be an explanation of how it would have been divisive to not sign something you don't believe in but it's not possible to be "divisive" by belatedly and publicly expressing dissent nearly four years later.  Couldn't the Mars Hill faithful and fans of Mark Driscoll construe it as more divisive that Turner mentions only in 2015 he was against the RSI deal?

We'll just have to see what gets stated in Part 2.  One would imagine that a reason to look warily on an RSI deal is that gaming a list could be construed as a false measure of success, a matter we may have to return to later this week.


okieman said...

Is Tim Smith still leading his post MH church? Is he still on sabbatical?

jerespresso said...

Looks like Justin Dean is going to address "Result Source & Book Marketing" in his Ministry Communications podcast. He teased it in a tweet.