Sunday, March 18, 2018

a second prelude to a review of Justin Dean's PR Matters, looking on Mark Driscoll's early ambitions to found a movenent that would start a Bible college, a record label, publish books and host conferences

Much of this has been discussed before, over here

The reason we have to review so much old news and old material is because during the peak of controversies in the early 2014 period Mark Driscoll wrote a letter in which he claimed that the smallest location of Mars Hill Church was bigger than his total vision was for the whole of the church when it was started. 


On (or maybe before?) March 14, 2014 one Mark Driscoll posted a letter on The City to Mars Hill Church, which Warren Throckmorton has linked to via two different avenues.

For those of you who have been around for a while, it is amazing for us to see all that Jesus has done. People often ask if our church today resembles what I had originally planned. Not even close. The smallest location of a Mars Hill Church is bigger than what my total vision was for the whole church when we started.
In the second paragraph of that letter posted to The City (which has been widely and erroneously interpreted as and presented as a public apology of any kind for anything), Mark Driscoll stated that people had often asked if Mars Hill today resembles what Mark Driscoll had originally planned.  There's a problem with "Not even close."  The problem is that in both Confessions of a Reformission Rev from 2006 and the fundraising film God's Work, Our Witness from 2011 Mark Driscoll explicitly said he had dreams of starting a school and a music label from the earliest stages of planting Mars Hill.  You might have to hunt a bit to find the pertinent clip.  A chapter or heading "Launching Mars Hill Church" may be of help.

God's Work, Our Witness Part 1
Pastor Mark Driscoll

about 12:30 in
You know, and I thought, for sure, we’d probably tap out at two hundred. I thought if we can get this
thing to two hundred, that would be amazing.

And I had big vision for more. I put together a forty-page vision statement. I said, “We’re going to
start a school. We’re going to plant churches. We’re going to do a record label.” I had this whole vision, and I handed it out to, like, fifteen people, and they’re like, “Are you kidding me?”

So I had big dreams. But to be honest with you, man, if we could just get up to two hundred, I thought that would be amazing.

  About 200?
From "Seasons of Grace" by Mark Driscoll

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.

So at the launch of Mars Hill Church, according to Mark Driscoll's "Seasons of Grace" they had already launched at the number that Driscoll was saying in the 2011 film would be "amazing".
With that in mind, let's revisit the 2006 book

Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll
Copyright (c) 2006 by Mark Driscoll
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27016-4
ISBN-10: 0-310-27016-2
CHAPTER ONE: Jesus, Our Offering was $137 and I Want to Use it to Buy Bullets
0-45 people

from pages 53-54

So in an effort to clarify our mission, I wrote down on paper the first of what would eventually be many strategic plans. I shot for the moon rather foolishly and decided that our church that was not big enough to fill a bus would plant multiple churches, run a concert venue, start a Bible institute, write books, host conferences, and change the city for Jesus. I started handing out these goals printed on boring white paper without any graphics, colors, or cool fonts, naively assuming that it would all happen eventually just because it was what Jesus wanted.

To get leaders in place for world domination, I also spent time trying to articulate the vision in my head to good men who would be qualified to rise up as fellow elders-pastors. So, as Jesus did, I spent time in prayer asking the Father which of his sons should be trained for leadership. The church started as an idea I shared with Lief Moi and Mike Gunn. Lief is a descendant of Genghis Khan and his dad was a murderer, and Mike is a former football player. They proved to be invaluable, except for the occasional moments when they would stand toe-to-toe in a leadership meeting, threatening to beat the Holy Spirit out of each other. Both men were older than I and had years of ministry experience, and they were good fathers, loving husbands, and tough. ...

 So now this year Driscoll has said, "The smallest location of a Mars Hill Church is bigger than what my total vision was for the whole church when we started."  For Driscoll to have made that statement in March 2014 is to say something that flies in the face of things he's said on record in print and in film over a period ranging from 2006-2011.  There was a vision of starting a music label since either the launch of Mars Hill Church or to go by the numbers and the timeline laid out in Confessions of a Reformission Rev to a period even before the official launch of Mars Hill Church.

"Not even close" is hard to sustain based on Mark Driscoll's own testimony.  If anything it is only right now that Mars Hill Music has been in partnership with Tooth & Nail (after Re:Sound failed and after Mars Hill Music was announced) and on the eve of Mars Hill Schools launching (after the disappearance of the 2005 Capstone Institute and the dormancy of the Resurgence Training Center) that Mars Hill is on the cusp of things Mark Driscoll envisioned since the dawn of Mars Hill Church.


Something else we've looked at in the past is how in 2009 Mark Driscoll said that he had not started a side company to manage book royalties because of the selfish greed that was involved in that, although in 2011 he would set up precisely such a side company, On Mission, LLC, to manage book royalties for a book he would later publish in 2012, Real Marriage.

But it's worth quoting the 2009 sermon, which has no transcript (an unusual feature for a Mark Driscoll sermon, whose sermons were ordinarily transcribed pretty thoroughly):

Prophets, Priests and Kings
  Trial: 8 witnesses from 1 & 2 Peter
 May 3, 2009
 1 Peter 5:1-5

 ... In all of this, as well, I've had people ask, "So what about the book sales?"  Here's how it works, I didn't start a separate company. One of the ways that guys work this, they become a leader in a church and they have a company on the side and they use the church to funnel business into their side company and I didn't start a side company (like a lot of guys do) for my book writing. Instead I publish under Mars Hill.

So the way it works, I don't get all the money. Mars Hill gets a huge take. Mars Hill gets all the marketing dollars, they get paid by the publishers. Mars Hill gets half of all the royalties so the books that I publish, about 75% of the revenue goes to Mars Hill Church, not me. Not me.  Because I'm worried about this issue, greed, shameful gain. Just using Mars Hill as a platform so I can start a business to rake in massive dollars. I don't think it's a sin for a pastor to get a salary but we're
now at the point where the books and the marketing, that a huge portion of my salary is covered by income that I generate.  And, I'll be honest with you, I hope one of my books pops or I get enough books on the shelf, titles in print , I'd love to see the day where I'm basically working for free and that the book sales and royalties and such let me generate enough money for Mars Hill that I can work free of charge. That's my hope and my goal. I don't know if we'll get there but that's what I'm trying to do. [emphasis added]

Driscoll had made it clear in 2009 that he hoped one of his books would "pop", or that he'd have enough books in print, that he would be able to work for free and not draw a salary from Mars Hill.  The Result Source contract did ensure that at least one of Mark Driscoll's books would "pop", if by "pop" this were understood to be making a #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list. 

But along the way Mark Driscoll had started precisely the side company for managing book royalties that he regarded as a sign of selfish greed for gain ... in other pastors, which should continually raise questions as to what it was between 2009 and 2011 that made Mark Driscoll have a change of heart about owning a side company to manage book royalties.  That's not something we have an answer for, but it's something to bear in mind because it would seem much of the decision-making to use Result Source on the one hand and to have the side company on the other were made well before Justin Dean took the reins of public relations at Mars Hill. 

In other words, we can have some understanding in light of the scandals that erupted on a nearly monthly basis at Mars Hill or about Mars Hill from mid-2011 through to the end of Mars Hill that there was arguably only so much a public relations person could have done to salvage the reputation of the institution and the brand.  The gap between Driscoll's claim in 2014, that what Mars Hill was was "not even close" to what he envisioned, and what he'd repeatedly said had been his dream for what Mars Hill would become on the record in mass media, was too big to bridge with a few simple open letters to members.  The gap between a public condemnation of side companies for managing book royalties for books by a pastor as being a sign of selfish gain that Driscoll preached in 2009 and the company Mark Driscoll set up in the run up to the publication of Real Marriage was also a rather big gap to bridge, even if Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill had never at any point followed the advice of counsel to make use of Result Source. 

Driscoll had made it clear from the earliest days of Mars Hill he wanted to start a record label and that publishing books was part of his long-term vision, along with founding a Bible school.  So when he wrote that all of that sort of thing that Mars Hill was striving to achieve in 2014 was "not even close" to what he originally envisioned, his own decades of preaching and writing testified against him.  Not even the greatest public relations person in the world was likely able to help Mark Driscoll out of what was arguably a self-generated public relations fiasco. 

Personally it's hard to believe that all of the controversies were simply ones that erupted that Mars Hill somehow couldn't handle.  Mark Driscoll was adept at provoking controversy and it's hard to take seriously that at any point Rachel Held Evans' public statements against Mark Driscoll as being a bully weren't aligned in some way with her own book publishing and book promotional schedules.  After all, Thomas Nelson published Evans' book and Mark Driscoll's book within the same calendar year.  A person might at least entertain the possibility that if Driscoll and Evans were that opposed to each other they wouldn't even wish to share the same publisher, would they?

Something to bear in mind about internet firestorms between ostensibly opposite sides of an issue who share a publisher in common. 


From a sermon preached by Mark Driscoll. December 01, 2013


Here’s where we’re at: Recently, 10,177 adults in attendance across Mars Hill. Fifteen churches, five states. We count people because people count. We count people because people count, and it’s not just numbers, it’s faces and names. There are also almost 2,500 kids, right? Can we say, “Praise God”? We like kids. When we started Mars Hill 17 years ago, there wasn’t even a children’s ministry—because there were no children. [emphasis added] People are coming in, getting saved, getting baptized, getting married, getting pregnant. Ideally, that’s the order, OK?

Remember that the FY2013 annual report listed the average attendance as 12,329Sutton Turner's July 2013 update mentioned the following:
* Average weekly attendance: 11,151 (8,959 adults and 2,191 kids)  [emphasis added]
  • Contributing households: 3,394 (an estimated 32% of adults at Mars Hill Church gave during July)
  • Average giving per adult: $38.33 (higher than projected)
  • Total giving: $1.61M (target: $1.48M)

  • So if there were 10,177 adults and almost 2,500 kids that would get you in the zone of the 12,329 average, wouldn't it?  It's worth noting that Turner's July 2013 update bracketed out the slightly less than 9,000 adults and the slightly less than 2,200 children.  This raises a question of whether or not it would be prudent to take whatever the average attendance is stated to be and simply subtracting one fifth of that amount to account for the children. 

    Speaking of children, that bit about how when Mars Hill started 17 years ago there were no children, might be hyperbolic?

    Confessions of a Reformission Rev
    Mark Driscoll, Zondervan

    page 54

    ... The church started as an idea I shared with Lief Moi and Mike Gunn. Lief is a descendant of Genghis Khan and his dad was a murderer, and Mike is a former football player. They proved to be invaluable, except for the occasional moments when they would stand toe-to-toe in a leadership meeting, threatening to beat the Holy Spirit out of each other. Both men were older than I and had years of ministry experience, and they were good fathers, loving husbands, and tough.  [emphasis added]...

    What's that again about no kids?  If Driscoll from 2006 testifies that Gunn and Moi were good fathers how can a person take seriously the claim of Driscoll in 2013 that there were no kids in the beginning of Mars Hill?  Again, perhaps Driscoll's 2013 statement is just some rhetorical, hyperbolic flourish.  Or let's propose that none of the Gunn and Moi children were so young that they couldn't participate in the earliest services at Mars Hill.  How about that?  But to say there were no children at Mars Hill Church in the plainest, most literal form, is one of the most readily disprovable assertions about the history of Mars Hill in the history of Mars Hill by Mark Driscoll's own published account.

    POSTSCRIPT: 01-18-2014

    and ... from page 145

    Jamie [Munson] came to Seattle at the age of nineteen, drinking, smoking pot, and having spent most of his life driving around in a maturity cul de sac, listening to Bon Jovi albums in the great nation of Montana. In Seattle, he lived with his sister and brother-in-law, Jen and Phil, who had been with the church from the beginning. They were the first couple who showed up with kids when we were in our core phase. [emphasis added]

    On just these three points:

    1) how ambitious was Mark Driscoll's initial vision for the expected achievements of Mars Hill?
    2) if setting up side companies to own book royalties indicated a pastor with a selfish greed for gain had Mark Driscoll quietly done an about face on his publicly preached principle?
    3) had Mark's understanding of the history of MH as a church co-founded with two men who were fathers he admired slipped his mind when he claimed the early MH had no children?

    It seemed as though Mark Driscoll's memory was insufficiently reliable to be taken at face value or, worse, he could not be trusted to give a factually accurate account of widely and well-established facts about the history of Mars Hill Church regardless of any potential motive.

    Now with the two preludes wrapped up, we can get to discussing the book Justin Dean wrote and published.

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