Saturday, May 26, 2012

Update on mars Hill Orange county building

Well, perhaps today's announcement can help explain more of the background for this:

It would explain why they've had an incentive to suggest churches ask if they can be part of Mars Hill.  If Mars Hill Orange County just got served an eviction notice by the city of Santa Ana then the church has probably been aware for a few months they've been needing an alternative venue.  Mars Hill has retained legal counsel and is willing to stand their ground if they find evidence that this eviction is about anti-Christian bullying or bigotry.

HT Mockingbird: Moral licensing and self-justification

An interesting piece on moral licensing.

Mars Hill, Andrew in 2012, and the idol of social media

Rather than try and defend ourselves or refute misinformation, we simply wish to say that as a church, we’re saddened by this continual attempt to drag into public very private and sensitive issues that were church matters.

I'm going to open up with the pedantic observation that the sentence should have said "Rather than try to defend ourselves ... ." It has paradoxically been the attempts of Mars Hill to defend itself that have introduced increased potential for trouble. It happens that when Mars Hill has tried to defend itself it's made them look worse rather than better so it's understandable they hit a point where they decided to stop publicly attempting to defend their reputation. They've fallen even more silent since Joyful Exiles went up.They continually repeat that they don't plan to refute misinformation which simply means if they repeat it often enough people will assume there has been misinformation.  The proof of misinformation that has been available does not suggest that misinformation came from Andrew half as much as it came from Mars Hill.  An actually careful reader will also note that on Matthew Paul Turner's side there has not been misinformation at all unless a reader is exceptionally lazy.

But what is arguably the most specious claim made by Mars Hill since Andrew's story came to public attention is that there has been a continual attempt to drag into public very private and sensitive issues that were church matters.  The problem is that the matters, though sensitive, have never actually been private.

Why do I say that?

I'm going to answer this question at length but indirectly, at least at first.  The point to which we must continually return, the big E on the eye chart, is that we only know about this case because of the failure of Mars hill.  We only know about the Andrew case the way we do because a letter was posted to The City.  Why was it posted to The City?  According to Mars Hill PR spokesman Justin Dean it was due to "unclear communication". What was unclear?  Mars Hill seems to have made a big deal about The City over the years.  Yet it is precisely because something was posted to The City that any of this made the news. Mars Hill cares enough about social media that it created its own social networking platform.  The significance of this is a thing I hope to explore indirectly but at some length.

The City was first designed by former Mars Hill pastor Zack Hubert starting around 2007.  The City was eventually sold to Zondervan in late 2008 or so.  If memory serves Mark Driscoll may have mentioned that the sale of The City was what prevented Mars Hill for failing to reach budget.  So it may be helpful to appreciate that in a small-scale way The City could be seen as the financial salvation of Mars Hill for a short time.

For the sake of review, one of the points most quickly and perhaps deliberately misunderstood about The City is how wide its access and reach are.  If something gets posted to The City it's entirely possible for fifteen to twenty people to see an item.  I don't know this was the case in Andrew but when I was still attending and I was invited to join The City I got a pretty straightforward summary of its goals and uses.

Now as I mentioned before The City is an invitation only platform.  Even if you were on The City you'd have to be invited to join a group or select a campus.  Most people on The City won't know about Andrew from anything posted there. It is not, however, true that Andrew's case would have gone unknown if Andrew hadn't gone to Matthew Paul Turner.  Andrew's case would have gone unknown if Mars Hill had not had "unclear communication" that led to the posting of the escalation letter to The City.  While Mars Hill has stated the letter was intended to be read or heard by a small group of people Dean's apology that the letter was posted to The City at all is strange.  It's strange because if the letter had been posted to the correct privacy settings and distributed to the correct groups only the people who needed to know would have been able to read the letter.

So why was Justin Dean apologizing for a letter being posted to The City about Andrew that should have only been posted to the need-to-know crowd? In any event, this situation is as much the fault of Mars Hill imcompetence as Andrew's immorality and the immorality of his fiancee (let's not forget that point, either). Fornicators, generally, fornicate consensually. Without that synergy of failure across the board there would have been no headline. As a certain megachurch pastor has put it, there are no white hats except Jesus and everyone else is wearing a black hat.  Yet when a real world case shows up Mars Hill drops all the abstract talk about what sinners we are and how no one is righteous.  Instead there's a lot of "I'm not perfect" or "We don't always do it right" followed by pious protestations of fundamental goodness.

This is implicit in the phrase "rather than try and defend ourselves".  It's too little too late, though.  Because a comment made by an anonymous friend of Patrick Kyle on staff at Mars Hill mentioned that Andrew's case was connected to "a confluence of situations".  A "confluence of situations"? So Andrew was a common factor in multiple situations that Mars Hill has appropriately dealt with?  If Patrick Kyle at New Reformation Press was told that Andrew's storywas incomplete at best and most likely deliberately misleading this begs the question of whether we should take Andrew's story as credible on its face.  It also raises the question of what that anonymous Mars Hill staff member meant by "a confluence of situations", doesn't it?

And at the end of the day Mars Hill has not even established that there has been deliberate misinformation.  If Andrew didn't share the whole story, so what?  The misunderstanding about how many people had access to the letter is explicable by Justin Dean's reference to "unclear communication".  Dean has admitted on behalf of Mars Hill, in essence, that this was their fault  Andrew heard about the letter from a Mars Hill member, after all.  If Andrew's story is considered misleading because it is incomplete let's take stock of reality here.  Mark Driscoll didn't share the whole story about his marriage in his sermons circa 1997-2008. Even Real Marriage can be considered to be a selective presentation.  If deceit through not telling "the whole story" is as bad as deliberate deceit then Mark Driscoll and Andrew have proven equally "deceptive". They even have surprisingly similar kinds of tales, of young men engaged to pastor's daughter's and having a history of fornicating with them.  Again, despite the fact that months have gone by, Mars Hill has not contested any of the most basic claims in Andrew's story.  We'll get to those later.

To our critics, we’d humbly ask you to imagine how complicated situations such as this are for us. When someone says they have a issue with us, they get to tell the media their side of the story. If we tell the other side of the story, we risk breaching laws and exposing people—both the people in the discipline process and the people they’ve sinned against—to public backlash. The choice for us as a church is often to either take the hits in the press or put one of our members forward (often a young woman sexually sinned against) to let our members take the hits and endure the criticism. Obviously, we’d rather take the hits as a church than expose our members to the media and potentially break the law by divulging private information shared in a counseling session by a victim.

Nobody thinks the situations are simple.  When someone has an issue and contacts the media it's no given the media will actually talk with them.  Conversely, Driscoll gets to tell his side of the story any time he wants at Pastor Mark TV.  In the case of the Justin Brierley interview earlier this year Driscoll can even choose to tell his side of the story in advance of, as he did in his pre-emptive attack on Justin Brierley's theology and character. Driscoll had the luxury of attacking Brierley's character and theology during the interview itself, again before the interview came out, and again by way of the interview showing Driscoll's assessment of Brierley on publication. Yet Mark Driscoll has described Grace as being his "functional pastor". Ultimately Mark Driscoll has been as much spiritually beholden to his woman as a pastoral authority over him, and by his own account, as he has claimed Justin Brierley is.  Mark Driscoll got a speech communication degree from Washington State University so he's able to spell big words like "hypocrite".

If Mars Hill was going to choose to take the hits and endure the criticism why even call for a reconciliation?  Why not rather be wronged?  Rejoice when you a slandered because you follow Jesus, right?  Divulging private information shared in a counseling session by a victim?  How is this relevant?  Mars Hill has had no problem hiding behind victims while being upset that people don't investigate facts that Mars Hill apparently doesn't even want investigated.  A consensual fornicator is not necessarily a victim.  If a fornicator gets a sexually transmitted disease that's unfortunate but if it were someone outside Mars Hill would the word "victim" be used about a fornicating woman who got an STD?  Has Driscoll shown any propensity to think in those terms or speak in them over the last fifteen years?

What we've seen this year is any controversy that Driscoll can be at the center of is a controversy he'll jump into with both feet.  If the controversy involves the religious institution he has founded he doesn't utter a word and lets his PR team issue boilerplate like the following:

In the two cases that have recently received media attention, we want to remind readers that there are always two sides to every story. As Proverbs 18:17 tells us, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” Unfortunately, in most of the articles and blog posts published in recent weeks, with the exception of the recent Slate article, we were not contacted by the authors to verify the facts or seek explanation regarding those cases prior publishing their articles. Out of sensitivity for all involved, and a biblical mandate to handle such matters within the church, we do not wish to comment publicly on those specific cases and drag into public what should be private.  [emphasis added]

There could be fourteen sides to a story.  These days Proverbs 18:17 is the popular prooftext for people who want you to believe just their side of a controversy. The proverb is a caution on the order of the TV character Dr. Gregory House, "Everybody lies." Or if we cast further back into pop culture Fox Mulder's variation was "Trust no one."  A lot of people have employed Proverbs 18:17 as a way to rubber stamp their own testimony rather than warn us that if there's really no one who's righteous, not even one, then everyone has an incentive to fabricate a tale that makes them look good.

Mars Hill has lamented that they were not contacted by authors to verify the facts or seek explanation regarding the cases prior to publishing articles.  But if Mars Hill was so concerned that nobody contacted them to verify the facts why did Mars Hill suspend its entire campus blog network and associated archives in early March 2012?  Why did Mars Hill scrub away all references to spouses or offspring in pastor profiles? The question at hand has not been why bloggers and journalists didn't contact Mars Hill to verify facts about Andrew's case.  The question is why Mars Hill said they regretted the press not verifying facts, yet undertook a massive information purge of the very facts the press, in the past, could have looked up without having to talk to anyone directly? 

Of course the answer to that question is simple.

Go back and read Andrew's story as related by Matthew Paul Turner.  You know where it is already if you're even reading this.  Four months on and Andrew's claims are astonishing in their specificity . To pick just three statements from Andrew's story at Matthew Paul Turner's blog here's basic stuff we're told about Andrew:

1) Andrew was a member and volunteer at Ballard
2) Andrew fell in love with and was engaged to a pastor's daughter
3) the pastor's daughter is also a stepdaughter

Mars Hill has a very good point in it's 2/13/2012 response I want to highlight. In the months of blogging and coverage not a single person bothered to investigate whether even these three rudimentary claims were true or not. That's true!  I totally agree. Mars Hill critics presumed Andrew's honesty. Mars Hill defenders presumed Andrew's guilt but scrupulously avoided, it seems, making any points about those three claims.  One anonymous woman at an agnostic's blog went so far as to state that Andrew wouldn't have been given an unfair demand being told he needed to be tested for a sexually transmitted disease.  She also implied that Andrew had gotten his fiancee a venereal disease.

Yet all the while the three simplest claims in Andrew's story as related by Matthew Paul Turner remain startling in their specificity even as no effort at all seemed to be taken by anyone other than, well, Matthew Paul Turner, it seems, to seriously verify the details.  We're told at which campus he was a member and security volunteer.

Most significantly, we're told in Turner's account Andrew was engaged to a pastor's daughter and that this daughter is also a stepdaughter.  Does this not automatically raise the question, in a conservative evangelical megachurch like Mars Hill, with its demanding standard of marriage and masculinity, of how a pastor has a stepdaughter? Someone got divorced and remarried at some point, or someone had a wife who died and got remarried after the passing of the wife.

Even in a church as large as Mars Hill Andrew's three claims above allow for laser-guided precision in identifying the parties involved if Mars Hill had left its campus blog system up and left the pastor profiles up in their older form.  No wonder Mars Hill engaged in what is arguably the biggest information purging campaign in its fifteen year history!  Suppressing all references to co-founding pastor Lief Moi in 2008 was a drop in the bucket compared to what happened in the last eight months.  So when Mars Hill lamented that nobody contacted them to verify the facts related to Andrew's case that lament was specious precisely because during this period of time they were, if anything, probably suppressing access to facts that were easy to look up before the controversy made the news. What does an information purge that has gone unmentioned in the press or blogs suggest?  It suggests this-- bloggers and journalists verifying the facts connected to Andrew's case was the last thing Mars Hill wanted to happen.

Unfortunately for Mars Hill, we can't even say Mars Hill succeeded. Did the church suspend its campus blog network and associated archives? Pastors still blog.  Take down the blog entries?  Pastors still twitter.  Take that down?  Mars Hill associated pastors still love talking about their stories of redemption to the Christian and even secular press.  Take down that MySpace page?  Join Facebook.  Get rid of the php forums to quell leaks?  Create The City which was the next platform through which a Mars Hill disciplinary case got leaked to a blogger and to the media.

See a pattern there?   Mars Hill urged members to jump on the MySpace bandwagon about seven years ago.  Then there was Facebook.  Then there was inventing The City so Mars Hill would have its own deal.  Why use all those other social media devices if Mars Hill could invent its own? The City sold to Zondervan for a good chunk of money. It also had the advantage, it was thought, that if the process was invitation only for members then leaks like the 2007 leak about the firings wouldn't happen.  Of course this was an oversight because the old Midrash was a members-only invitation only platform, too.

Meanwhile, pastors could reliably be counted on to blog tons of stuff at the campus websites.  Pastors could reliably be counted on to have Twitter accounts if they didn't already have personal blogs.  Mars Hill seized any and every opportunity to show how lives are transformed by Jesus and, not so coincidentally, by being at or near Mars Hill in any media and medium they could find.  Just about any and every seriously up and coming pastor gets a name drop by Mark Driscoll in a sermon or on The Resurgence or at Pastor Mark TV.  Sometimes people associated with Mars Hill even get coverage in local newspapers.

The author here digresses into a recognizable idiom of Christianese jargon.  The author knows a man in Christ who decided to follow the admonition of Mars Hill's "A Response Regarding Church Discipline" from February 2012.  The man decided to actually investigate whether the claims in Andrew's stories were credible.  The question was not whether or not Andrew was being less than fully honest by omitting crucial information about his story.  No, the question was simply, "Are the claims made by Andrew so far even plausible or verifiable?"

This means the story as conveyed by Matthew Paul Turner needs an exegesis before we jump to hermeneutics.  Before we interpret the meaning of the text we need to look at what the text says, what the context of the story is as well as the content, and what facts behind the text we can discover that could inform our reading of it. In order to do this we must ask questions like those in the next paragraph.

Were there any pastors at Mars Hill Ballard in 2011 who were remarried?  If so, how many?  Under what circumstances? How many pastors at Mars Hill have stepdaughters? How many pastors across the church have stepdaughters?  Were these pastors there for a long or short period of time? Where outside or inside Mars Hill had they come from earlier? After all, we couldn't be sure that the stepfather was at the same church Andrew and the fiancee were.  Would or does Mars Hill have any history of ordaining men who are divorced?  Does Acts 29 have any history of ordaining divorced men?  Does not Mars Hill have a history of grandfathering in A29 churches into Mars Hill? Does Mars Hill have any elders who are widowers? Given Mars Hill's stern requirements for elder candidates how was a pastor's daughter also a stepdaughter?  Wouldn't that mean that, potentially, that a divorced guy was voted in as an elder at Mars Hill?  Did that happen?  If so, when?  Who?  Why?

So the man began to investigate newspaper articles, Driscoll sermons, statements about the church's history made at the main Mars Hill website, and scanning things like that.  The man came to the conclusion that Andrew's basic story is plausible in general and credible in its particulars.  Andrew's claims in Matthew Paul Turner's account are so specific that from just three claims it is possible to identify four people connected to the case by name on the basis of strictly on record sources still available online for anyone to look up and read.  Unfortunately, Mars Hill, that massive information purge to get rid of pastor family information from your campus blog network and pastor listings was a complete waste of time.

How did the man who looked into these things figure it out?  I don't want to encourage laziness of the sort Mars Hill rightly said was characteristic of those journalists and bloggers this year.  This isn't something you can find on a Wikipedia entry, not even in those often inaccurately footnoted references.  You have to actually go do your own research into primary sources, something many bloggers and journalists don't bother to do.  Ironically everything is still up and accessible right now.  It's in sermons, in books, in historical summaries of Mars Hill, in references to campus histories that didn't get lost in this year's information purge.  It's in newspaper excerpts unaffiliated with a church. It's floating around in blogger entries and twitter feeds.  Even dead links can tell a story.

Mars Hill likes to talk about idols and how idols ruin our lives.  Often that "conversation" is about your idols and not their idols. The Martian discourse often focuses on individual rather than collective idolatry. Mars Hill finds it easier to tell you about the idols you probably have than to consider any possibility that Mars Hill has idols.  Like the rest of us, of course, Mars Hill has a few idols. I have no qualms saying one of the idols is Mark Driscoll, whose competence as a biblical scholar and pastor is substantially oversold.  But for the Mars Hill community one of the most pernicious idols is social media.  Or let me put this in more secular terms, they have a potentially narcissistic obsession with social media and media resources as a way to forward their brand and their message.

An idol? Isn't that pretty extreme?  Isn't that absurdly provocative?  Mark Driscoll likes to be absurdly provocative and his defenders finesse every statement.  Mars Hill has to be willing to take what they dish out at some point.  Having spent so many years there I don't think it's unfair to show them what a taste of their own medicine tastes like.  If every god or cause requires a sacrifice ever god or cause has a promise.  Let's say social media is an idol.  What does it promise?  Connection, community, communication, name recognition.  The promise of social media and associated tools aren't hard to spot.

Every god and every cause demands a sacrifice and the great sacrifice made to the idol of social media and media saturation is what? What you publish is there for everyone to see.  In other words, what you sacrifice when you immerse yourself in the internet and social media long enough is something called privacy. You can choose to give up ten percent of your privacy or thirty percent or you can create a persona that you offer to the internet and social media.  That, too, is a sacrifice.

Mars Hill has begun to seem more and more like a celebrity who after years of courting the paparazzi is starting to get sick of less than flattering photos coming up in the weekly tabloids.  Not everyone in the Hollywood system actually dislikes the papparazi.  Years ago Natalie Portman was asked why she didn't have any troubles with them. She said the reason was pretty simple, she's made a clear set of guidelines and actually follows them.  Photographers can take any photos they want of her out and about.  The second they set foot on her property, however, they're dog meat. Most celebrities she'd observed who complained most bitterly about the papparazi were those who broke their own rules, gave an opening to journalists and photographers, and ever after resented what was socially their fault.
Mars Hill is trying to preserve a "privacy" that it has given away over the course of a decade.

If you've read this far then you will not be surprised by this observation.

Someone could have done a massive info-dumping project showing all the still publicly accessible, on record information necessary to identify the key parties involved in the Andrew case and have done this months ago. This could have demonstrated that Andrew's story is both accurate in several claims but substantially inaccurate in others. Proverbs 18:17 has been used to claim that there's two sides to every story but neither side has wanted to cite the proverb to the effect that both sides could have an incentive to lie.

It is just as obvious, however, that someone hasn't dumped everything connecting all the dots together on the internet.  Nobody has, that I know of, gone to the press and by this point why would anyone in the press care?  Mars Hill as a culture completely failed to keep private things private for years before Andrew's case came up. Even so, there are plenty of people who know the names of the parties involved and don't want to say how much they know, even though none of it has been private.  Since Mars Hill in general and Mark Driscoll in particular have been fond of talking about idols I'll repeat this point in jargon that may help them understand what I think has been going on--Mars Hill has sacrificed privacy to the idol of social media and brand promotion but not everyone bows to those idols, or at least does not bow to them as often or as loyally.  That means that even when Mars Hill gives away everything many Christians are loathe to exploit that.

Why does any of this matter? Because when Mark Driscoll parades the dirty laundry of his wife's frigidity and sexual abuse history in a best-selling book his church can't meaningfully talk about respecting privacy and the consideration of sexually used women.  They just can't.  Where the leader leads by example the followers follow.  That's why anonymous Mars Hill defenders have implied Andrew gave his now former fiancee a venereal disease. For them parading dirty laundry defending the institution is more important even than respecting the privacy of victims or former members.  This is a problem, Mars Hill.

When Mark Driscoll blogs about the kerfuffle at Liberty University and acts as though some bloggers are making a fuss over nothing he just won't see that he's a blogger himself blogging about the stupidity of bloggers, thinking he's clever.  He who hates idols, does he rob temples? The man who figured out who was who in the Andrew case was able to do so at several crucial points thanks to Mark Driscoll's own sermons. Mars Hill, how can you keep things private if your spiritual leader keeps giving it away?

Mark Driscoll name-drops pastors often enough that it becomes a simple matter of looking up names and articles to identify who was who. The irony of Mars Hill wanting privacy now is they can't see they sacrificed privacy to social media.  They are even less able to see that the man who has made the greatest sacrifice of privacy to media exposure is Mark Driscoll himself.  But how was Mark Driscoll going to know he'd given away many of the clues necessary to identify the parties involved in Andrew's case.  Well, let's be fair and remind ourselves neither he nor anyone else in the church could have anticipated that this could happen. The clues have been sitting around for years. Why should Mark Driscoll pull sermons he preached years ago just so it's impossible for people to find out what family Andrew nearly married into?  Besides, after all those millions of downloads, and after all those transcripts the truth is out there.  That ship has sailed.  Driscoll has unknowingly given the game away.  The church culture has followed suit.

The thing about making a sacrifice to an idol is you often don't realize the magnitude of what you've sacrificed until it's already been burned on the altar. If there is a tough lesson for Mars Hill to learn in 2012 from the pulpit activity of Mark Driscoll and its obsessive embrace of social media it's that they've managed to reap what they've sown.  Trusting in the security of The City was evidently a mistake, a big mistake.  It's also a case where Mars Hill made the same disastrous mistake twice. Think about that for a moment.  Back in 2007 Midrash was a resource a disgruntled member used to leak a story to The Stranger and The Seattle Times.

In 2012 The City was the way a disgruntled member leaked news to Andrew who in turn went to Turner. Five years later and they made the same mistake they did earlier, thinking that if they just blocked the former members from Mars Hill's social media system that the secret was safe.  In 2007 it was Midrash and in 2012 it was The City. What was part of the disciplinary move in Andrew's case?  Blocking him from The City. In a classic tactic of attributing evil deeds and motives to the outsider Mars Hill keeps acting like outsiders have betrayed the cause when it has been upset insiders who still had access.

Mars Hill's eagerness to assume the worst about the former members has blinded them to a reality, if people are blocked from Mars Hill social media how can they get all the information that was leaked to the press?  This is not rocket science, folks.  When will Mars Hill figure out this basic stuff and see that all the most significant breaches of privacy have come not from the exiles and outsiders and former members, those breaches came from within.  If you're blocked from Midrash or The City you can't get to the stuff you'd need to make a press release or go to a blogger.  But a member who hasn't resigned membership but has lost trust?  Bingo. Maybe if I repeat this point often enough and clearly enough Mars Hill will get it but they seem really determined to not get it.

Now it's been four months since Andrew's story made headlines.  In all that church discipline stuff there was stuff about Andrew having to write out his full sexual and attachment history.  There was stuff about meeting to discuss a bunch of stuff.  When he didn't agree to the contract he was blocked from The City.  Some people mentioned at least the idea that Andrew might have been told he had to get himself tested for sexually transmitted diseases.  Now I don't have any answers here but I ask this question because, obviously, I believe it's relevant--did anyone else notice any point where Andrew's ability to take communion was actually ever discussed?  During that time when Andrew and his fiancee were busy consensually fornicating did they regularly participate in communion?

For folks who don't know what excommunication means in more old-school churches it means not participating in communion, not being labeled an apostate.  Let's face it, only in a church that already idolizes and idealizes social media would being blocked from social media mean anything or be construed as a serious disciplinary move.  Back when I was at the church a guy or gal thoroughly immersed in things Mars might find it daunting to be called into a pastor's office over some battle on a php forum.  It was serious business!  I should know as I got called in over a few such moments.  I can look back on them with both embarrassment and amusement. I used to worry I might not get to participate on the church discussion forums. What a scary prospect!  One of the steps taken once Andrew was deemed a wolf is he was blocked from The City. The City, honestly,. what little I saw of it, just didn't seem all that useful.

But if you look at the church discipline process with Andrew, doesn't it seem weird that blocking him from The City got mentioned more prominently than anything about the sacraments?  Jesus didn't say "Tweet this in remembrance of me", did he? Paul didn't write to Corinth saying, "And some of you have been blocked as trolls because of your behavior on the church's Facebook wall!" Paul didn't write, "Make sure that you blog and tweet in a worthy manner because some have gotten sick and others have fallen asleep." Baptism and not an invitation to The City is a clearer indication of participation in the local body of Christ.  You an accept the invitation if you want to, just keep in mind what the invitation entails.

Jesus warned that the left hand must not know what the right hand is doing but the left hand of Mars Hill can't do anything without the right hand blogging or tweeting about it.  When it seems to be a bigger deal to block Andrew from The City then to guard the sacraments that were instituted by Christ Himself that "might" be a sign that Mars Hill has made social media an idol.  After years of boasting about The City, promoting The City, and urging all members of Mars Hill to use The City it was The City through which Andrew's story began to make headlines. The functional savior of a homemade invitation-only social media platform with privacy settings did not deliver Mars Hill from the devil of bad press in 2007 or in 2012.  It was the means through which bad press emerged.  It's unfortunate that Mars Hill seems determined to not learn the lesson and to pretend that the threat of compromised privacy exists out there and not in Driscoll sermons and media coverage that Mars Hill and associates have courted at every turn for a decade.

You who have preached repentance and against idolatry to others, have you fallen prey to idolatry yourself?  If you answer "no" about social media or Mark Driscoll as idols maybe read Romans 2 a bit more closely.  Pride in Mars Hill's homegrown social media seemed to go before a media fall.  There's still time to repent.  You can't make private what has been given away but you can learn how to live a more private life.  Backing off on tweets and blogs about personal stories may be a good start because Driscoll's not likely to stop name-dropping people and real estate any time soon.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Wartburg Watch sure has a stripped down look today

At least as of about 11am or so. 

Slate: Unprotected Sects--Malware is abounding at religious sites

Slate's Will Oremus opens with the provocation that says you're more likely to get your computer enslaved to malware, spyware, or a botnet visiting a religious website than a porn website these days.

There's a bit more in the article, of course. I hadn't considered the possibility that religious websites could be a more prominent source of malware these days than the more usual suspects.

I've read some higher profile preachers have claimed that going to certain religious websites is worse than going to porn sites.  They were referring to what might be called watchblogger websites. It may be blogs are sources of malware ... but that church website may be just as dangerous.

Huh, well, you can learn something new every day, right?

HT Mockingbird: Psychology Today: The Self-esteem trap--The Boom and Bust Ego

Of course it's inevitable in an article discussing the dangers of high self-esteem that Roy Baumeister's work.  Baumeister's research led to a complete reversal on Baumeister's part about the idea that violence and aggression are motivated by low self-esteem.  He concluded the opposite is true, that the most violent and aggressive people have a very high self-esteem that is not backed up by the assessment of others. Who's going to be the biggest bully?  The guy (and it's almost invariably a guy historically) who thinks he's hot stuff but who can't back up his self-identified reputation.  When is he most likely to be violent in word or deed?  When his ego is threatened.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Slate: Risk Intelligence--how gamblers and weather forecasters assess probabilities

What's the difference between an expert gambler and an ordinary gambler?

The expert gambler makes money and the problem gambler loses it. But there are emotional differences. Although they both gamble a lot and it appears to be compulsive, expert gamblers know when not to bet, they evaluate their opportunity each time.

There is also a big asymmetry in feelings about winning and losing. Problem gamblers get a buzz from winning, it's like an adrenalin rush, but they don't mind losing that much. With experts, it's the opposite: They don't get a huge kick out of winning, the pleasure is more cognitive. But they hate losing so much that they are constantly re-evaluating their decisions and finding out how to do better.

I'm currently reading through Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow. I'd say between Kahneman and Baumeister this has been the year of steeping myself in research into the social and psychological elements of violence, aggression and the ways in which individuals and groups exploit people.  This has also been a year of examining cognitive biases and the way our brains often fail.  

Not that there's any some kind of subtext or metatheme for why I've been so fascinated by this or anything. ;-)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Jim West links to Paul Crouch and his son Matt reminiscing about the deaths of TBN haters

How Mars Hill acquired the West Seattle campus

The story of the people of Israel in the Old Testament can be read in many ways but one of the simplest ways of reading that story is as a battle to get and keep real estate. Of course everyone who has read the Bible knows that battle was eventually lost.  In the story of Ezra-Nehemiah we're given an account of how that land was resettled. If we dig a bit further we can get into the Maccabean revolt and the history of various occupying empires that found the region that is Israel indispensible for empire building and trade. Though it can be read with spiritual ideas in mind I invite you to consider the Old Testament as a story of the battle to get and keep real estate.  This martial approach to the story serves as a useful starting point for more local variations of how people who have identified themselves as on a mission from God have sought the gift of real estate through providence. 

Because, as the author of Ecclesiastes put it,  there is nothing new under the sun the history of local churches can also be studied in this light.  If there is a church in the Pacific Northwest that has become famous over the last fifteen years for its attempt to provide a masculine and theologically conservative beachhead in the secular liberal realm it is Mars Hill Church.  Of course Mars, was any cursory student of Greco-Roman mythology knows, was the god of war. In any way it is necessary to gain and keep ground within the battlefield.  A spiritual battle can still be seen as being fought in terms of real estate.  It is to real estate that we now turn in surveying the history of Mars Hill.  

In particular I'm going to discuss what is now the Mars Hill West Seattle campus.  The story of Mars Hill and the property that has at different times been called Mars Hill West Seattle, Doxa, and apparently Hillcrest Presbyterian goes back to at least 1996 by Mark Driscoll's account, and the story of the property goes back generations. Let's begin with a sermon Driscoll preached at the end of July in 2006.

Part 26: One Body, Many parts
1 Corinthians 12:12-26
Pastor Mark Driscoll
July 30, 2006

… In the meantime, we also picked up another miracle. This is West Seattle. This is on 35th at the top of the hill in West Seattle as you head toward White Center. I grew up in this neighborhood. This is a church building that is an absolute miracle. I’ll tell you the story on this space. I tried to launch Mars Hill Church in that building ten years ago, and we were rejected, and I’ve always wanted to be in there since. And what happened was, is we were growing. I went to Pastor Bill Clem, who was leading that congregation. He planted it for Acts 29 Church Planning Network [emphasis added], him and James Noriega, who is the other elder there and I said, “We’re maxed out. You got a fat building, 50,000 square feet, 1,000 seats.:” It’s a bigger building and the one you’re sitting in right now. I said, “Is there any way we to use it?” They said, “Well, we wanna reach as many people in West Seattle as possible. How about if we give it to you and work together?” we prayed about it for a second and said, “Yes.”

That is a $5 million gift. That is a $5 million gift, right? And I don’t know if you’ve been tracking the real estate market, people aren’t giving away a lotta real estate right now in Seattle and so we have – we’ve taken Pastor James and Pastor Bill on staff at Mars Hill. We have taken their members through the Gospel Class and they’re now members of Mars Hill. [emphasis added] They’ve been meeting as a core group over there. As we speak, there is $1.5 million of construction going on at the West Seattle campus, with the intention of opening in October in time for our ten year anniversary, and we want to expand over to West Seattle as well. We were thinking, “Well, we can borrow $8 million from the bank. We can spend $3 million and for $11 million, we can open up a 40,000 square foot location.” Well, we can now open more square feet for $1.5 million. So obviously, you take that opportunity.

The two cool aspects of this particular campus is one, is already zoned as a church, so we don’t need to fight use permits. We don’t have to bring it up to code. We can just walk in and use it immediately and it saves us, literally, a few years of permitting. Secondly, the lot that it is on is only zoned for 15,000 square feet of building and it already has 50,000 square feet, and because as grandfathered in, we could use it all. We could never build this building today as it exists.  And the cool thing with this building, a very Godly church that loved the Bible – started this church, built it, their denomination went liberal, dropped the doctrine of the inerrancy or perfection of Scripture and this building went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and was the test case for who owns the church building, the congregation or the denomination. The congregation lost and these people actually bought their own building back, because they refused to drop the authority of Scripture as their value. [emphasis added] And so, there were some Godly older saints who paid for this building twice. It then went into decline but there is still a core of these people, like in their 70s and 80s, that are now members of Mars Hill. Grandmas tithing, waiting for us all to show up and fill that thing up again, and they’re praying us in. It’s a really cool God story and what God has done is pretty amazing.

The first thing to address out the gate is the Supreme Court case.  Was the property that was known as Doxa church involved in a case that went to the U. S. Supreme Court?  Well, Driscoll doesn't provide any meaningful background as to when this case might have been heard even at a local level, let alone gone to the United States Supreme Court.  He also doesn't mention whether the high court even agreed to hear the case.  

Before we get to the question of whether there was such a case and which parties it may have involved, let's keep something in mind about the founding of Acts 29.  Mark Driscoll said he co-founded Acts 29 with Presbyterian Pastor David Nicholas.  David Nicholas was pastor at Spanish River Church in Boca Raton, Florida. That's a Presbyterian Church in America congregation, if memory serves. 

Scroll down to FL, hit search, and then scroll down to the S's.  There it is. And here it is being referred to by Driscoll at Pastor Mark TV.

And being referred to on the event of the passing of Pastor Nicholas.

The early link in the above article is dead.  It takes a reference to another resource to pull up a captured/cached version of what the link was to.

Some local coverage of Nicholas life and passing. 

So we've established that co-founding elder David Nicholas was Presbyterian and PCA.  Being Presbyterian myself this wasn't really all that difficult. 

Now in his July 2006 sermon Driscoll described the property that is now Mars Hill West Seattle as having been part of a denomination that went liberal.  Okay, for folks steeped in enough American church history to have paid attention to denominations that have gone liberal that's too big a net to cast.  However, Driscoll's association with Nicholas tells us that he was willing to work with men in the PCA. Now Driscoll also mentioned that the congregation that owned Doxa bought the property back from their denomination after the Supreme Court case.  This is at least partly informative. Let's say that for a Presbyterian with a modicum of training in research methods, access to the internet, and who knows a couple of attorneys you can find out about this:

Hillcrest Presbyterian Church vs the Presbytery of America.

Well, the thing about Hillcrest Presbyterian is that if you look it up now here's what you'll probably find first:

10404 34th Avenue SW
Seattle, WA 98146

That's roughly a six minute drive from the property that is now Mars Hill West Seattle which is here:
7551 35th Avenue SW
Seattle, WA 98126

Okay, so if you look up Presbytery of America literally you won't find it.  You will find this, however.

PCUSA, for the folks who aren't actually Presbyterian, would be considered by Driscoll in all likelihood to have been a denomination that sold out on the inerrancy of scripture.. 

Here's a reference to this case hitting the Supreme Court of Washington from October 9, 1973. 

The case didn't actually get appealed to the United States Supreme Court until Apr 22, 1974 and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

I'm not 100% sure here but it looks like this is probably the case Driscoll was referring to and this is what little I could dig up on the net for free with a little helpful guidance. 

So Driscoll is technically correct to say the case got to the Supreme Court but the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case.  Now I'm not an attorney or anything but Driscoll saying the case went all the way to the Supreme Court sounds sort of like someone saying he met Geddy Lee in an airport, shook hands with the man, and now he can say he's known on a first name basis with the bassist of Rush.  That's just my take on things, and I know that's not worth much. 

According to this July 30, 2006 sermon from the 1 Corinthians series, Mark Driscoll explained that James Noriega was a pastor with Bill Clem at Doxa, an Acts 29 church plant.  Noriega, however, was not ordained until somewhere around November 2004 and Doxa was planted in 2002.  Noriega could not have been one of the founding elders at Doxa.  Since he was a pastor at Doxa, and Doxa was an Acts 29 church plant, we can at least infer that James Noriega was ordained in and by Acts 29.

We also learn from this sermon that what is now Mars Hill West Seattle had been the property Driscoll wanted for Mars Hill in 1996, at the start of his ministry. He was rejected, he said, from getting that property and it had been a property he’d wanted ever since.  In 2006, obviously, he was finally able to grandfather in the property into Mars Hill by approaching Bill Clem. It’s important to note here that the transcript for the July 30, 2006 sermon is wrong by describing Bill Clem as “leaving” that congregation. Go listen to the actual audio of Driscoll’s sermon and you’ll discover he said “leading”, not “leaving”. So the sermon includes what appears to be a factually incorrect statement that James Noriega was one of the elders who founded Doxa and the transcript includes an error of wording that does not accurately convey what Driscoll said in the actual audio of the sermon. Overall the content in the sermon seems to be accurate.

Now to appreciate the significance of “we don’t need to fight use permits” you need to be aware of the 2005 capital campaign that led to the purchase of the 50th street property. This requires a lot of citations that can’t be shortened. Here they are.

The first excerpt is from Confessions of a Reformission Rev, published in April 2006.

Our current facility cannot accomodate much growth beyond our current four Sunday services. Additionally our kids' ministry is bursting at the seams, our Capstone classes are in desperate need of space, and our cramped, windowless office space would be perfect if we were a third-world sweatshop.

So the elders voted to purchase a 43,000-square-foot dumpy warehouse Jamie found one block away from our current building. When the project is completed, we will have two buildings only a block apart, each hosting church services, with 1,300 seats in one location and a projected 1,000 seats in the other. We will be able to grow to more than 10,000 people per Sunday through multiple services in multiple locations. Each service will have live worship teams, but I will only be live in some services and in video in others.

However, in his July 30, 2006 sermon in 1 Corinthians Driscoll said several things about the property mentioned in Reformission Rev:

There is the building a block away. We purchased it a year ago. It was heading into foreclosure. We purchased it for under market value. It has increased in value since that time, and this is just some interior and exterior shots of the space, and our plan was to turn that into a large room to see maybe 800 to 1,000 people. And so, what we have instead decided to do, first, we’re going to keep that building – and it’s been great – ‘cause according to King 5 television, they had a report that said that 98105, which is this zip code, is one of the five fastest, increasing valued zip codes in the State of Washington. Since we bought that building, as it was going to foreclosure, we already have gained a million dollars in equity in that building. We have no intention of getting rid of it, but here’s what we do want to do with it. We want to knock half the building down and just turn it into parking to increase our parking capacity. Secondly, the other half of the building – we don’t feel that we have to use right now because of some other things that have come available that we’re gonna tell you about – but we’re gonna keep it. We’ll rent it out with the hopes that a tenant will pay most of our mortgage. We can keep it then, and then if we ever do wanna build on it, we can develop it and do whatever we want with it but we feel it’s important right now to watch and see what happens with this neighborhood, particularly what happens to parking, and then make a determination down the road as to best use.

And the reason that we don’t need to develop it as we had thought is because of some other things have come available. Among those is Shoreline and these are some shots from the Shoreline campus and where we are meeting at Christa Ministries, at Shermer Auditorium. Four hundred seats, plus a full daycare. It’s amazing kid space. Huge gym for the kids to run around in. Lots of parking. They’re letting us use that on Sunday and now this fall for beginning, for midweek programming for nothing. It’s free. We don’t even pay for janitorial, we don’t even pay for utilities. It is a savings of over $100,000.00 a year. We can be there for two more years. It’s a savings of 200 plus thousand dollars. We love Christa. We’re very, very grateful for their kindness to us. Eventually, we will need to purchase a permanent site for our Shoreline. We’ll need to get them a permanent purchase campus, ‘cause we can only be there for two years. I mean, wouldn’t it be great if somebody let you how the house for two years for free? I mean that’s a very kind gift, so we are actively looking for another place to buy.

Reformission Rev got published in April 2006 and by July 2006 the plan for the 50th street property looks pretty different.   My best guess is that it was this substantial change in announced plans was what Jamie Munson refered to when answering the question asked below.

Page 72/145 from Mars Hill: A miracle of Jesus
November 9, 2007

Section: Stewardship

Answers submitted by Pastor Jamie Munson
Q: What is the status and future plans for the property M.H. owns just north of the Ballard campus?
We purchased the building on 50th with the intention of performing a massive renocation, and by connecting it with our Leary building, to create a large campus in the middle of the city. Sicne the 50th building dedication, our renovation plans were delayed by our attempt to obtain a change of use permit. During the permitting delay we were gifted a building in West Seattle and undertook renovating and opening that building as our next campus. [emphasis added]  At the time of these changes we communicated this to the members of the church openly and honestly as we wanted to be faithful to the stewardship and generosity of the body.

Also, each quarter a letter is sent to members, along with their donor statement, urging faithful stewardship and giving updates to vision and building strategies. In addition, Pastor Mark wrote a lengthy letter that was sent ot members electronically, and handed out at all campuses explaining the shift ot a multi-campus church before the West Seattle campus opened.  Due to the restrictions and expense of buildilng a single large buildilng in our city our focus has shifted from one large campus to becomine a multi-site church of smaller campuses.  Your elders feel this will enable a more effective and cost-efficient spread of the Gospel throughout Seattle and beyond.  It will still take capital campaigns and the purchasing of facilities but allows us to spread and grow more quickly as Jesus leads.

We are leasing part of the 50th buildling to generate some revenue. We are also performing a minor renovation of portions of the building to alleviate our current office and production space needs.  This will eliminate the need for leasing office space for our use.  In addition the property provides some much needed parking relief for our Ballard campus and also needs such as storage.  An average church of our size functions with about 4 times as much square footage as we do with our Ballard campus.  Storage, meeting rooms, office space and parking are greatly needed and this property serves those with purposes in the mean time. Future development options are being considered as well but there are no firm plans for these.  This is further complicated as the city is considering further zoning changes and restrictions in industrial areas of the city.  Until this legislation is decided it hangs property owners up as the future possibilities of the property are unclear.  We are hanging on to the property and using it to the fullest extent possible in the mean time.

In other words, we could take Munson’s reply to explain that Mars Hill elders purchased property in 2005 without adequately investigating zoning and land use permits beforehand. They bought what is now the 50th street property, and have been making the best of it while they were looking to purchase or acquire other property. The property was valuable enough that selling it could be done without a rush and the property maximized while more suitable options were considered. As we can see from Driscoll’s July 2006 sermon other options presented themselves quickly enough.

This suggests to me, at least, that the 2005 capital campaign purchase was very ill-advised but that the elders did do their best to make lemonade out of a property that turned out to be a bit of a lemon in terms of actual land use permits. They also lined up the purchase of a controversial Belltown establishment that is a subject that would merit an entirely separate discussion.  Suffice it to say Doxa being assimilated back into Mars Hill could be considered a boon because of the various reasons Mark Driscoll explained in his July 2006 sermon.  It was also advantageous for Clem, who was approached by Driscoll shortly after Clem got word that his wife Jeannie had been diagnosed with cancer. 

On November 9, 2011 the following video got posted.  In the video Bill Clem says about what is now the West Seattle campus:

"It isn't as though we do a lot of ministry here on Sunday morning, but this is where we did all of our ministry when we first started a church plant called Doxa, which was an Acts 29 church in partnership with Mars Hill."

The close of the video establishes the following statistics.
Doxa launched in 2002 with eight people.
Today as many as 1,000 people meet to worship in that same building every week.
In 2009 the West Seattle campus planted the Federal Way Campus.

So the majority of what Driscoll said in the July 2006 sermon about not developing the 50th street property and the advantages of acquiring Doxa check out. It’s a bit surprising to read now in 2012 what Driscoll said in 2006, that he had made a bid for what is now Mars Hill West Seattle way back in 1996 and was rejected.  The property that was once Hillcrest Presbyterian seemed to be owned by the PCUSA. When the church differed with the denomination a case went to court.  The ruling was apparently appealed to the Washington Supreme Court, which rejected hearing the case. The case was then appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which also rejected hearing the case.  It is probably after that point that Hillcrest Presbyterian Church bought back the property.  According to this:

The property that is now Mars Hill West Seattle was sold to Mars Hill Fellowship for $180,236 on June 2, 2006 by Grace Community Church. 

Having Bill Clem plant an Acts 29 church at that property matches up with what Clem himself says about his time as a church planter in Doxa.  It would appear that by Driscoll’s own account he’d had his eyes on the property that is now Mars Hill West Seattle from the first days of his ministry way back in 1996. Doxa grew just big enough that Bill Clem and James Noriega were approached by Mark Driscoll in 2006 about arranging for the property that is now Mars Hill West Seattle to be added into the real estate of Mars Hill Fellowship/Mars Hill Church. 

The advantage of this arrangement for Clem can't be overstated. He'd been approached by Driscoll just after finding out his wife Jeannie had been diagnosed with cancer and she passed a few years later. The church had grown enough to not have to meet in the basement or the gym of the property they were using (though it appears they did not necessarily own the property themselves). As Acts 29 pastors Clem and Noriega had much to gain from getting the property to Mars Hill.  Driscoll is the more charismatic speaker, draws a bigger crowd and with the video venue and multi-site apparatus getting into place Mars Hill could solve the problems it faced from having acquired property in 2005 that got them little but permit purgatory. The property was too valuable to consider just getting rid of but they also couldn't use it for the things that Driscoll had announced the 50th street property would be used for in Reformission Rev. Beyond all that, as Mark Driscoll said in his 2006 sermon, the opportunity to get the Doxa meeting site was the opportunity to get property he'd always wanted for Mars Hill since 1996. 

While Clem's role in founding Doxa is easily established there's less documentation about the ordination and role of Noriega in Doxa by the time Mars Hill acquired it.

Those links will suffice for an overview. 

While there's little about James Noriega becoming a pastor at Doxa that has been published it is easy enough to establish how he became a pastor at Mars Hill. Mark Driscoll referred to Noriega not just in the July 2006 sermon but also in a November 2007 sermon. In the following sermon preached by Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll on November 4, 2007, Driscoll explained that James Noriega was one of a number of men who were seeking humility and had been added to the Mars Hill elder team. 

Mark Driscoll on November 4, 2007

... The last one is James. He was running a drug and alcohol treatment center, I think for the Union Gospel Mission. He was an elder at Doxa Church in West Seattle. He and Pastor Bill were there and I approached them and said, “I think we should partner together,” and turned that building into Mars Hill West Seattle. I don’t know what the building’s worth – $4 million, whatever. He said, “Well what’s the deal?” I said, “Give us the building, resign as elders, work through the membership process, work through the eldership process. I guarantee you nothing – no power, no job, no eldership. If you meet the qualifications and the men vote you in, we’ll make you an elder, but I guarantee you no job. Nothing. If you believe it’s right for Jesus, give us the building, resign, give up all power of authority, give up your position. Walk away from it all for the cause of Jesus.”

He said, “Okay, I think it’s best for Jesus.” He resigned, voted to hand us the building and the people. Humbly went through the eldership process. After he finished the membership process, oversees our drug and alcohol addiction recovery. We just voted him onto the Board of Directors. Why? Because God opposes the proud and he gives grace to the humble.

As I have documented elsewhere James Noriega stopped being employed at Mars Hill some time in late 2011. In late 2011, at Pastor Mark TV, Mark Driscoll wrote the following looking back to the acquisition of West Seattle:

Mars Hill West Seattle

Mars Hill West Seattle was a result of conversations I had with Pastor Bill Clem, who now leads our Ballard church. Bill planted Doxa Fellowship in West Seattle after having served as the North American Director for Sonlife Ministries, a national discipleship ministry. The church was part of the Acts 29 network and running under 100 people when Bill and I began talking.

At the time, Bill’s wife was diagnosed with cancer, from which she eventually passed away. I called up Bill to offer support for the tough battle he and his wife were facing, and I also asked if he’d be open to letting us use Doxa’s building on Sunday mornings, as Doxa was only meeting on Sunday nights.

Eventually, as our church met in his building in the mornings, as we talked more and more, and as Bill’s wife faced a continuing and difficult battle with cancer, Doxa decided to merge with Mars Hill and become part of our church. We gave Bill many months off, paid him a full salary, and let him care for his dying wife and get a break from the exhausting work he’d undertaken in planting a church with an often bedridden wife. [emphasis added] Her funeral was held in the church building that Pastor Bill had been given, and once he was ready, he started working for Mars Hill and is now our lead pastor at our biggest church, Mars Hill Ballard. Additionally, he has published the book Discipleship for us, and is the Northwest regional director for Acts 29.

The old church building we inherited needed a lot of work. So, the people of Mars Hill generously gave $1.8 million in one massive special offering to renovate it. It’s been a great transition over the last five years or so, with the church growing from less than 100 people to now well over 700 people coming together to worship Jesus and serve the West Seattle area, many of whom are new believers who’ve met Jesus and been baptized at Mars Hill West Seattle. Not only that, Mars Hill West Seattle has gone from being a church plant to planting churches, having planted Mars Hill Federal Way in 2009.

In April 2012 Mark Driscoll revisited the subject of West Seattle again in this entry:

3.  We have some success, by God’s grace, adopting in an existing church and transitioning it to a Mars Hill church. In New Mexico, we’ve seen a church go from a few hundred to over 1,000 worshipers in a few years—primarily by conversion growth. In West Seattle, we saw a church go from under 200 to as high as 1,000. [emphasis added] In Sammamish, east of Seattle, we saw church go from under 200 to around 800 in a matter of months. This is not all transfer growth. Fully 1,392 people were baptized at Mars Hill last year, and every one of our 14 churches across four states is seeing people meet Jesus regularly. 

4.  We’ve found some fantastic people and leaders in churches we’ve adopted. Bill Clem, the lead pastor at our largest Mars Hill church, joined us when we adopted his small church plant. [emphasis added] One of our three executive elders, Dave Bruskas, joined us when we adopted his church of a few hundred in New Mexico. We’ve also picked up some amazingly gifted and generous Christians who have made our mission to preach Jesus’ gospel more strongly than ever. We love to develop and deploy leaders, and there are many people sitting in churches who could be equipped and unleashed for major ministry impact. 

Mark Driscoll has mentioned West Seattle twice as a case study for why church mergers are good.  It would seem like an important case study to sell churches on merging with Mars Hill. In his 2011 and 2012 accounts he didn't mention what he was very up front about in his sermon in 2006, that West Seattle was a property he'd wanted for Mars Hill since 1996.  There's nothing necessarily wrong with a pastor at a church wanting a piece of property for his church for ten years in a row, and there's nothing necessarily wrong with him getting that property.  It's apparent that the deal of getting the property to Mars Hill was considered a boon to everyone.  Mark Driscoll and Bill Clem still have their jobs.  Noriega apparently doesn't but at the time the deal was proposed, apparently by Driscoll, the deal looked fantastic to everyone involved.  

But it does provide a basis for caution for those pastors who might be considering gifting property to Mars Hill now.  Clem was sent as a church planter by Acts 29 in 2002 and was well-situated to negotiate a deal of getting to Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll property he'd wanted for ten years. It's probably just me but that doesn't seem like a minor detail to just skip past if you're a pastor considering gifting your church's assets and property to Mars Hill. Do you have a piece of property Mark Driscoll has wanted for Mars Hill for ten years?  You'll get some willing ears and Driscoll mentioned that Clem offered to give the building to Mars Hill in the 2006 sermon. Gift may turn out to have meant sold for a fraction of the property value and building value. but at that point I leave it to better researchers than I to look at that stuff. 

I know this has been long but when Driscoll has referred twice to West Seattle as a case for why church mergers are good it is to the benefit of any pastors considering gifting assets and property to Mars Hill to have a more detailed history of the acquiring of that property and its resources. It would appear the grand plan announced by Driscoll in Reformission Rev turned out to be prohibitively expensive and, in terms of permits and zoning, legally impossible. What looked initially like a fantastic real estate purchase turned out to be a bit of a white elephant. Though Munson was credited with finding the property Driscoll didn't clarify whose vision for the property he outlined in his book. Maybe it was his.  We could guess that but it's ultimately not relevant.  Fiscal and legal reality forced Mars Hill leadership to think of a new approach for the 50th street building and to try to make lemonade from a property that was a lemon.  It is to their credit they seem to have made some sweet lemonade.

But Mars Hill was still too large a congregation to hold all the people attending and juggernauts of five and even six Sunday services was decimating Driscoll's health.  There was the option, I would suggest, of letting other pastors actually share preaching responsibilities as was done when Moi and Gunn were also involved but Driscoll didn't pick this path.  He chose a path that broke him physically.  In an attempt to reach as many people video venue was championed and the path to multi-site began.  To pull off multi-site there needed to be new venues.  As history has shown the most promising early venues included Shoreline and West Seattle. For Bill Clem it was a way to let him take months off at a time to care for a dying wife with a full salary.  For James Noriega it eventually brought being promoted to co-leading Redemption Groups and helping Mike Wilkerson transform the Grace groups that had been pioneered by Bent Meyer into Redemption Groups. By Driscoll's two accounts it was Clem and Noriega who were persuaded to give Doxa to Mars Hill and their initiative that was vital to the acquisition. For Mark Driscoll getting what is now the Mars Hill West Seattle property was the realization of a decade-long dream that had been snubbed at the outset of his ministry.