Monday, April 16, 2012

Mars Hill, Acts 29 and enough boards for making tree houses.

April 11, 2012


Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Driscoll announced that he was stepping down from the reins of Acts 29 late last month to make room for Chandler, the lead pastor at The Village Church in Highland Village in Texas. Driscoll remains on the organization's current three-member board which also includes The Journey's (St. Louis, Mo.) lead pastor, Darrin Patrick. The group's headquarters will move from Seattle to Dallas.

Driscoll seemed to have left the door open about the possibility he would remove himself from the board if needed for the greater good of the group, he implied in his statement last month about his decision.

"I want him on the board. He's a great advantage to the men, the movement, and the network as a whole," Chandler told CP when asked about Driscoll. "I think culturally and theologically he has some spectacular gifts. Driscoll will absolutely remain on the board. He would gladly step off if he thought that was best for the network. I don't think anybody believes that's best for the network."

Who is currently listed as on the board?

Mark Driscoll, Founder & President (executive elder "prophet" at Mars Hill)
Darrin Patrick, Board Member
Matt Chandler, Board Member (they haven't changed their website to reflect Driscoll saying Chandler's president yet, have they?)
Dave Bruskas, Vice President of Acts 29 (executive elder "priest" at Mars Hill)
Sutton Turner, Secretary/Treasure of Acts 29 (executive elder "king" of Mars Hill)
Scott Thomas, Network Director (although there's an announcement that suggests this, too, needs updating).
March 28, 2012

I am thrilled that Acts 29 is moving to Dallas and will be led by my friend, Pastor Matt Chandler. I think it is good for the network that other leaders will add different perspectives, nuances, and emphases. It will only be a better network as healthy, reproducing churches will continue to plant churches for the glory of God.

I was honored to serve in Acts 29 as God allowed some amazing outcomes in spite of man’s feeble efforts. I never deserved the opportunity. I never deserved the love of so many planters. I never deserved the fruitfulness God enabled.

But I wasn’t planning to stay forever. I was anticipating a change for my ministry in the future, and the move to Dallas makes it a perfect time to allow new leadership to emerge. I am looking forward with great anticipation how God is going to shape the network and the planters to effectively pursue His mission with greater Spirit-empowerment and clearer gospel purposes.

see also here, where Phoenix Preacher quotes from Matt Chandler's letter explaining how the previous weekend (would have been weekend of March 24, 2012) Scott Thomas told him he felt released from leading Acts 29.

Scott Thomas is taking this transition as a chance to pursue other opportunities he has before him and will not be making the move to Dallas. Scott and I are on very good terms and had dinner just this past weekend, where he informed me of his deep love for you and the network but felt like God has released him from leading Acts 29.  He is excited about what God has next for him.

One of the relevant questions is how enmeshed Mars Hill is with Acts 29 as a whole.

again from the article published April 11, 2012

... Driscoll and Chandler acknowledge that Acts 29 was in need of some restructuring. The network of church planters that "emerged from a small band of brothers" to more than 400 churches in the United States and networks of churches in multiple countries had not been overhauled since its beginnings.

"A29 was feeling growing pains," Chandler said. "For well over a year we noticed at the national board level that there were some cracks in the organization. Not necessarily of people, but how we were running Acts 29 as a network. We were really running a network of 422 churches on six continents the same way when it was 80 to 100 churches on one continent.

"There were some multiple issues across the whole network that was feeling the strain of trying to run the network as though we were still 80 to 100 churches. We honestly haven't tweaked things as we've grown," he explained.

Acts 29 will not only be moving its Seattle-based headquarters to Dallas, but deciding how to continue with its connection to Mars Hill Church, also based in Seattle.

"A29 was so kind of meshed into Mars Hill that right now we are just trying to untangle where one begins and the other ends. We are gathering information right now. Our hope is that A29 is completely in Dallas by September," Chandler said.

"Acts 29 has been primarily funded by and run by Mars Hill," he noted. Chandler estimates that about 80 percent of the organization was funded by the church and it is a matter of deciding on the operational priorities moving forward, including which employee positions to keep.
"Those are some of the questions we are trying to answer even now," he said. [emphasis added]

Chandler said that his main goal is to empower the pastors and ministry leaders of the organization.
"I think there are a lot of guys in the network that are extremely gifted that have never really been asked to do much in the network. I'd like to ask some of those guys to really step up and take some serious ownership of the network," he said. "In regards to just the immediate future, that's my hope is to really empower very gifted, very godly Jesus loving guys to really play an important role in the shaping of A29 culture and ultimately the care of our pastors and the churches we want to plant."

80 percent of organization being funded by Mars Hill is not a small ratio, is it?

Driscoll has mentioned plans to create a Mars Hill Network inside the Acts 29 network.  If Acts 29 wants to distance itself from Mars Hill and the reality that it is, in essence, an extension of Mars Hill leadership that will be a long, long journey and if all the executive elders who run Mars Hill are still on the board then, ultimately, any distancing between Acts 29 and Mars Hill will look purely pro forma.

As the cofounder of Acts 29, I’m honored to work with great men, amazed at what God is doing, and excited for what remains. But, after examining what is best for the men in our network in the next season, the board and I have, without reservation, decided to appoint Pastor Matt Chandler as our president and allow him to oversee the daily operation of Acts 29.

... Every man who has ever served on the A29 board is a blessing. We have experienced uncommon unity and collaboration. But, going forward, we need multiple smaller boards. In the present state, the board has been too big to meet but once a year. We need real accountability, real brotherhood, and the ability to move faster.

The following are three changes that will take place on the A29 board.

1. The Board of Acts 29 will be myself, Pastor Matt Chandler, Pastor Darrin Patrick, and Pastor Dave Bruskas. Each man has been able to hand off their network to full-time staff, thereby freeing them up to go to the next level of leadership and help me work across all of Acts 29 and serve all of the networks that comprise the A29. Each man also has a church staff that is large enough with sufficient funding to do more than one network and help invest in others. Furthermore, Pastors Darrin and Matt can help me be in community with wise counsel from A29 and navigate the ever-increasing complicated waters of the broader church and culture, and represent us in the media and at events, as well as through preaching and publishing. Pastor Dave runs the entire ministry side of Mars Hill and can assist me with the details of running Acts 29 centrally

How big was this board that was too big to meet but once a year?  Seen the board now?  It's basically half Mars Hill executive elders and half whomever else got asked to join.  If the kit and kaboodle is moving to Dallas then how does having all the Mars Hill executive elders make it easier to have a full board meeting more than once a year unless the Mars Hill executive elders (all three of them) jetset between Seattle and Dallas Fort Worth however many times the board is supposed to meet?

It might seem as though in the wake of Andrew's story of church discipline going public and Petry going on record in early 2012 that the only way to divest Acts 29 of a Mars Hill influence would be if the executive elders didn't seem to be half the board.  And another puzzle is that when MH PR indicated that staff were let go months prior to the Andrew situation (like around September 2011?) they may not have realized that some people were actually paying attention to the elder shuffle and noticed Noriega disappeared from the elder listings around the time the MH discipline clarification notice said some staff were let go for displaying a pattern of overstepping spiritual authority.  The trouble, though, is that without an actual definition of what overstepping spiritual authority means nobody knows.  The passages cited about elder discipline mention

1 Timothy 5:19-21
Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism. 
Rhetorical questions, did this happen?  Was an elder who displayed a pattern of overstepping spiritual authority assessed as being guilty of this by reliable and certain testimony?  Was this elder who sinned among Mars Hill reproved before everyone so that the local church could take warning?  Is it sure those things were done without partiality and that nothing was done out of favoritism?

Meanwhile, there might be enough boards proliferating in a future Acts 29 to build a treehouse but if the core board consists of the executive elders of Mars Hill and they are the ones who agree with Driscoll to appoint Matt Chandler as the president of Acts 29 then Mars Hill will retain a massive amount of power to guide and influence Acts 29 everything.  Chandler has expressed that there's no reason Driscoll shouldn't still be on the board and that nobody wants him gone.

Well, if the foundational plank is a board that has all the executive elders of Mars Hill on it then any formal distancing or geographic distancing between Mars Hill and Acts 29 will be pro forma.  All the boards in the treehouse will not change that.


BrianD said...

Wenatchee, I didn't see an email address for you, and this seemed like the most appropriate place to leave this item I found thru Google Alerts a few minutes ago:

…which includes the following excerpt: “In fact, Ed Young’s Sexperiment has drawn media attention for its candid discussion of marriage and sex, as seen through the lens of Scripture. But where other pastors, like Mark Driscoll, find their teachings on sex to generate controversy, Ed Young’s book is noteworthy primarily for how pragmatic it is.”

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Thanks for the link.

Driscoll's made fun of Young in the past, though careful to not name names so as to have some plausible deniability. But if I were to buy a marriage book from one of these two jokers Ed Young Jr. would be more likely to get my money.

Something no one else has discussed that sticks out about Driscoll's marriage is that if he keeps telling us God told him to marry Grace and yet he wrote so bluntly in Real Marriage "Had I known this about her I would not have married her" doesn't that mean Mark Driscoll was only able to be obedient to the divine command because his wife deceived him about a particular thing about their relationship?

That God can get people to walk into the things He has ordained through deceit is a simple thing but it's not so hot to have King Ahab as a reference point. How Jacob got the birthright instead of Esau was still deceptive. Bathsheba and Nathan scheming to install Solomon was not necessarily honest. So if Grace had to lie for Mark to obey God's command that he marry her then that was necessary. It's interesting no one else seems to take note of this but the theology nascent in accept the entire Driscoll story at face value should give us pause. The Driscolls don't seem to have unpacked the significance of saying they serve a God who told Mark to marry Grace who would only have done this if Grace hadn't lied, which God in His sovereignty had to know was the only way for the marriage to happen.

As I've written before, do a John Piper and frontload God's sovereignty into everything and this is where you have to go, a Driscoll marriage entered into with some deceit so God could be glorified by the eventual planting and growing of Mars Hill. That's just taking the Driscollian narrative at face value and connecting the dots of the theodicy and theology that emerge.

The Blog bites better than the Bullet. said...

So very true. The more I read and the more sermons of Driscoll's I watch on youtube, the more I am concerned that people actually listen to this guy without a truckload of salt to pinch for every few paragraphs he utters. Poor guy- he's taken his own views of things and run with them and forgotten that he's no more infallible than any one of us.

BrianD said...

Hatchet, the other point I wanted to make (and this is a copy of a response I made to you at Phoenix Preacher) was that Driscoll is making it impossible for true, honest discussion between he/Mars Hill and them to occur. He's setting his own rules for discussion and debate. He mocks the opposing side and tries to portray them as divisive fools, while making himself look sympathetic - and in the right - to his church and his/their supporters.

Obviously he doesn't want to engage issues on an equal footing.

As to how Christ-like his/Mars Hill's strategy is....I suppose - to paraphrase Michael Newnham - you'll have to make your own application.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

He doesn't want to engage the issues on an equal footing because he's a coward. Sure, he's brave in one sense because he gets up in front of people. He's an introvert but he's got enough bravery to speak to countless people. But not all bravery is the same. Military historians have noted that MacArthur did not lack courage on the battlefield but he arguably lacked moral courage. William Wallace II (Driscoll) can do the brave thing if it's making fun of people. But Driscoll demonstrably lacks the moral courage to discuss Scott Thomas, James Noriega, Lief Moi, Jamie Munson, the 2007 firings of Petry and Meyer, the ill-advised property purchase of 2005 or the imcompetence of his religious institution implementing church discipline. He's living his pastoral life by a double standard and special pleading. This is a problem.

Driscoll seems to not grasp that he and Grace have given us an unbending narrative with some interesting theological implications. God told Mark to marry Grace and yet Mark wrote in Real Marriage he would not have married Grace if he had known her whole sexual history. Grace, for her part, admitted she lied because she feared that Mark would not marry her if he knew the whole truth about her. Thus the Driscoll marriage had to be entered into on the basis of some deceit. Critics of Real Marriage have camped out on that a bit already. I believe it's crucial to consider the theodicy/theology inherent in the Driscoll narrative if taken at face value.

1) God told Mark to marry Grace and plant a church
2) God knew Mark wouldn't marry Grace if he knew her whole history
3) God providentially let Grace lie to Mark so Mark would be obedient to the divine command

So in this sense the entire foundation of Mars Hill was predicated on a marriage that could only have been entered into, by both Driscolls' account, because of deceit. This is a conclusion we arrive at not by fixating on Mark or Grace as moral agents as such but simply reverse-engineering theodicy and theology about God by taking all Driscoll statements from chapter 1 of Real Marriage at face value.