Monday, March 18, 2013

Apparently Mark Driscoll now says of Mars Hill "We're not a wealthy church".

It's happened a couple of times before and it's happened again, someone finds something that gets passed along to Wenatchee The Hatchet.  Normally Wenatchee has not seen reason to comment on things that get sent along of this but this, this is a special case. 

Preaching live in Bellevue, Downtown Seattle, and Ballard

From Pastor Mark Driscoll:
Jesus loves this church very much. His grace is on Mars Hill in a way that is very unusual.
Despite geographical, political, and spiritual obstacles along the way, we’re larger than any other church that has grown up in the northwest corner of the country. We’re not a wealthy church. [emphasis added] We’re not an experienced church. We’re not a convenient church. We are a blessed church.

The only reason why this thing called Mars Hill is working is because Jesus loves us. He loves our cities. He loves our friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and other people who don’t even know him yet. We’re here for a reason, and it’s certainly not thanks to anything that we can take credit for.

Our multi-site strategy, which now includes 14 locations in four states, was never Plan A. Originally we wanted a nice, big building where we could all gather under one roof. But God had other ideas. He had people he wanted to save in Albuquerque, Orange County, Portland, and around the Puget Sound through our church. This has made our life a lot more complicated, but if it means more people get to meet Jesus, I’m all for it. Should God ever provide us with place where we can establish a Mars Hill hub someday, I won’t argue. In the meantime, however, we’re nothing but grateful for what we’ve got. God is using it in a big way.

Three of our Seattle-area churches are now up over 1,000 people in weekly attendance: Bellevue, Ballard, and Downtown Seattle. For the past year, I’ve been preaching almost exclusively from Mars Hill Bellevue. They’ve got a new building in a great spot and the potential for lots of new locations on Seattle’s Eastside, so I wanted to do everything I could to help make Bellevue strong. Today, it is without a doubt our healthiest church overall. Pastor Thomas Hurst is a great lead pastor, and the people of Mars Hill Bellevue are a huge blessing to the rest of our church in more ways than one.

In God’s providence, my season spent focusing on Bellevue coincided with Angela Hurst’s cancer battle. Since the other senior leaders and I were present on Sundays, this allowed Pastor Thomas to devote more attention to his wife and their boys during a very difficult time. Angela was diagnosed last year, and just recently received a clean bill of health. Praise God!

With Mars Hill Bellevue going strong, we now have a lot of other needs and opportunities throughout the church that could use some extra care. For example, Mars Hill Downtown Seattle is in the middle of a leadership transition and trying to get settled into a new location that’s already been picketed by protestors and picked at in the local press.[emphasis added] We’ve got a lot of seats to fill Downtown and a lot on the line for the reputation of Jesus and his work in Seattle. The stakes are high, and I want to make sure the church is well cared for during this critical season.

As of this month, I’m preaching live in Bellevue and Downtown Seattle. Ballard will join the live schedule this fall with the start of our Ten Commandments series. [emphasis original] Obviously, I can’t preach every single service in person; each location will get a combination of live and video sermons. Since none of our churches will be live 100% of the time, for those currently attending Bellevue, Downtown, or Ballard, I encourage you to pick a location and stick with it. Our churches need members committed to the local mission, and I would hate to see people leave their church and go to another Mars Hill just because they want to see me preach in person. Besides, the live schedule will probably take an air traffic controller to figure out, as we’ll be tinkering with the limits of space and time.

This is all rather complicated, but nobody ever said ministry would be easy. Please pray for me and my family. Since I will be spending my Sundays as a traveling minister preaching morning and evening, chances are Grace and the kids will have to attend church without me some of the time. This is hard for us, but we’ve talked about it a lot and we want what’s best for the Mars Hill family, even if it means a few sacrifices for the Driscoll family.

Thankfully, I’m surrounded by a team of gifted leaders who work hard and love Jesus. I praise God for Pastor Dave Bruskas and Pastor Sutton Turner, my fellow executive elders who help oversee the whole church. Our central operations team is also packed with humble servants who are hashing out the technical details as we speak.

God has given our church a hard job to do. It’s hard because Jesus loves us and he’s sent a lot of people our way. It’s hard because Satan hates us and will oppose every step. But there’s no place I’d rather be than right here serving the church and preaching the gospel. You are worth it, Mars Hill! I love you very much.

For those in Ballard, Downtown Seattle, and Bellevue, I’ll be seeing you soon. I look forward to visiting our other churches as time and schedule allows, and I can’t wait to see what God does on Easter when we get to enjoy live services together as one enormous family. Please join me in praying for 20,000 people to attend Mars Hill and for hundreds and hundreds to be baptized!

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.” Philippians 1:27–28

Driscoll mentions the Downtown campus facing picketers and getting picked at by the press. If you go and consult the actual critical coverage of Mars Hill in The Stranger ...

The Stranger spent more time fisking Justin Dean for misrepresenting the level (any) and nature of Mars Hill involvement with Liflong AIDS Alliance than making any sustained complaint about Mars Hill Downtown in particular (beyond the usual jokes about Tim Gaydos' name, I suppose).  Justin Dean wrote a sorta long press release about the grand opening, after all.  Mars Hill clearly wants the attention if they have a PR team.  Let it be noted that though The Stranger dislikes Mars Hill intensely they've been known to show some courtesy to specific pastors.  They didn't rip into Bill Clem when announcing that his wife Jeannie had cancer and even went so far as to suggest that if you're the praying type, to pray for them.

So take Driscoll's comment that Mars Hill Downtown has been nitpicked by critics with a grain of salt, or two.  Some readers have the distinct impression The Stranger had it out for Justin Dean far more than Mars Hill Downtown. 

The change in the schedule of live preaching is vaguely interesting.  For a while the plan seemed to be moving live preaching to just Bellevue and that phase seems to have passed. 

What's significantly more interesting is Driscoll's claim about Mars Hill "We're not a wealthy church." 

Er, excuse me?
Wasn't it on March 28, 2012, no less that Mark Driscoll said this in "What's Next For Me"?

After Easter, We’ll launch a new sermon series called the Seven, looking at Revelation 1–3 and the seven churches to which John writes in those chapters. Most of the series was filmed live on location in Turkey—and it’s epic. We even rented the city of Ephesus for a day.

He did say that, in fact.

If Mars Hill isn't a wealthy church what happened to the church that could rent the city of Ephesus for a day?

Or that still uses Red cameras in its production. Like this old job listing for Assistant Video Editor. The job listing was posted 11.16.2012

If you were working for us, here are some of the things you would have done for us last week:

Captured, edited, and finalized a promotional video.
  • Edited and exported a sermon front to back, using multicam switching in Final Cut Pro and After Effects.
  • Edited, exported, compressed, and uploaded clips to youtube.
  • Communicated with multiple team members via Basecamp about deadlines and deliverables.
  • Organized a documentary project in Final Cut Pro.
  • Created a folder structure for a new project and transferred all media from storage devices.
  • Transcoded Red camera footage in Red Cine.
  • Light a set for a promotional video.

  • An old feature on Mars Hill production and their use of Red cameras can be found here.

    And over here back on September 21, 2009 Driscoll mentioned the following:

    ... So, I’ll explain to you what is next from Mars Hill and me:
    1.We have upgraded our video cameras to the RED cameras used for major films like District 9. This means that the video experience at a Mars Hill Campus or online is better than live – for free.
    2.We have upgraded our media player by creating our own technology to handle the high-definition video content we are now capturing and are giving it all away online – for free.
    The high end major film level gear was important enough that it was brought up, at all.  That was 2009 and now in 2013 Mars Hill is not a wealthy church? 

    Anyone remember back in 2011 when the Salvation Army food pantry in Port Angeles had a ton of food stolen?  Mark Driscoll made an appeal to Mars Hill members to donate food to the Port Angeles food pantry/  How much food was donated?  Eleven tons. As Mars Hill put it on the MH blog on October 26, 2011:

    Yesterday, a crew went to the Port Angeles Salvation Army to drop off the 21,500 pounds of food people at our Seattle-area churches brought in.

    That's not exactly a small amount of food.  But now, Driscoll says of Mars Hill "We're not a wealthy church".  Last year for annual reporting stuff Driscoll said last year was their best year ever.  Well, maybe every years is Mars Hill's best year ever but this year Mars Hill isn't a wealthy church even though within the last, say 18 months, Mars Hill has shown that it can throw together eleven tons of food for the Salvation Army Port Angeles food pantry (good for them about that, by the way).  Driscoll could casually mention how epic it was that they were filming in Ephesus, which they rented for a day just about a year ago.  And now this year, somehow, Mars Hill isn't a wealthy church. 

    Annual reports, anyone?

    INCOME 2012 2011
    tithes and offerings  $                24,054,755.00  $                   18,153,776.00
    Misc. income and other   $                     609,771.00  $                     1,332,983.00
    gains and losses
    TOTAL INCOME  $                24,664,526.00  $                   19,486,759.00
    personnel costs  $                12,047,038.00  $                     8,408,764.00
    operations  $                  2,938,080.00  $                     3,534,901.00
    tech & equipment  $                     836,602.00  $                        859,581.00
    administration  $                  1,418,622.00  $                        676,412.00
    facilities  $                  3,391,113.00  $                     1,898,844.00
    Church planting partnerships  $                     821,182.00  $                     1,764,973.00
    interest  $                     562,135.00  $                        647,424.00
    depreciation & amortization  $                  1,680,600.00  $                     1,542,266.00
    TOTAL EXPENSES  $                23,695,372.00  $                   19,333,165.00
    EXCESS REVENUE OVER EXPENSES  $                     969,154.00  $                        153,594.00
    cash & cash equivalents   $                  3,369,472.00  $                     5,165,170.00
    accounts receivable, inventory & other assets  $                     506,987.00  $                           81,041.00
    property, equip, net  $                28,650,133.00  $                   27,099,676.00
    lease & other long term assets  $                     173,991.00  $                        361,337.00
    TOTAL ASSETS  $                32,700,583.00  $                   32,707,224.00
    current liabilities  $                  1,931,392.00  $                     3,070,910.00
    long-term liabilities  $                13,285,248.00  $                   13,121,525.00
    TOTAL LIABILITES  $                15,216,640.00  $                   16,192,435.00
    unrestricted assets  $                17,364,950.00  $                   16,387,843.00
    temporarily restricted assets  $                     118,993.00  $                        126,946.00
    TOTAL NET ASSETS  $                17,483,943.00  $                   16,514,789.00
    TOTAL LIABILITY AND NET ASSETS  $                32,700,583.00  $                   32,707,224.00

    So half the total expenses are personnel expenses. Where's that money going?  Who's getting how much?  What are the housing allowances for staff, particularly lead pastors at campuses and executive elders?  Now, to take a trip down memory lane, let's consider that in Lief Moi's letter from 2007 he mentioned that he stopped being lead pastor at Ballard and as part of the 2007 re-org he received a nearly 40% salary cut.  It's on page 7 of the big 145 page pdf for those who haven't read Moi's letter already.  The nearly 40 percent salary cut was part of the 2007 re-org and what happened to co-founding pastor of Mars Hill Lief Moi during that re-org was he was told he lacked the kingly gifts to run a campus the size of Ballard and he was no longer campus pastor/lead pastor there.  And that would seem like the reason he got the nearly 40% salary cut. That raises a fairly natural question of what the pay grades are lead pastors, executive pastors of campus, and executive pastors for the entire organization that is Mars Hill (i.e. the officers of the church as a corporation).

    Compare the  audited financials of Mars Hill Church for their FY2012 and FY2011 to, say, Seattle's Union Gospel Mission or the Salvation Army Northwest Division, both charities Mars Hill has donated money or food to in the last few years.  Some churches don't even own their own buildings, for instance.  Mars Hill managed to put the old Tabella on the market and someone bought that real estate.  Mars Hill also sold the old Lake City campus (some say at a loss).  Mars Hill has a decent amount of real estate holdings within the city where some churches still have to use the space made available in other churches ... kinda like Mars Hill did a very long time ago.  If Mars Hill isn't a wealthy church what is it?  Poor?  That seems a bit hard to believe.  :)


    Anonymous said...

    The only reason why this thing called Mars Hill is working is because Jesus loves us. He loves our cities. He loves our friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and other people who don’t even know him yet. We’re here for a reason, and it’s certainly not thanks to anything that we can take credit for.

    and yet we write books on leadership and authority and sell them to others, based on the perceived expertise we have from building the biggest church in the northwest...

    Anonymous said...

    "Grace and the kids will have to attend church without me some of the time."

    So daddy is too busy working to attend church with the wife and kids? For someone who has constantly preached the importance of men leading their families, this seems like a rather poor decision.

    Anonymous said...

    "Nope. We're not wealthy.
    No way. No how. We're so persecuted. It's just poor little ol' us, against all the protesters and the critics.

    "Lessee, last year, we took in almost $25 million from folks who just gave us their money, we spent about $24 million on salaries, houses, real estate holdings, high-tech gadgets and toys and musical instruments, and we didn't even give a dime to charity or benevolent giving (or at least we forgot to mention it in our report), and we still ended up with about $1 million in profit at the end of the year. Compared to Warren Buffet, that makes us dirt poor."

    Yvonne Trimble said...

    "Not a wealthy church"? Then why did Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald fly to Haiti in a private jet? One year after the 7.0quake further devastated the world's poorest nation, hot shot preachers Driscoll and MacDonald arrived at the Port au Prince airport which was open to commercial airlines American, Delta and United, in a private jet with security guards! I know because I was the missionary driving an 18 year old vehicle that was sent to pick them up. Imagine two of my children were born here, at home, and two of my grandchildren were born here; I lived here in the most dangerous of times with no health insurance let alone security guards! My whole house shook like a leaf in the wind for the quake. The first five years here we did not even have a car or running water or an indoor kitchen.

    My husband and I produce, host and fund a Creole Christian TV show aired on 100 stations in Haiti and the US; 2 mil viewers/day. Churches Helping Churches came to us after the quake to put on a crusade. We used 67K of their money w/o a penny for us and drew a crowd of 100K Haitian on the First Anniversary of the quake. The Haitians turned out to seem my husband, his show had given them dignity and pride.

    Driscoll and MacDonald did not stay overnight here, too dangerous, too inconvenient, not sure why but it was offensive to us who live here. They did not even stay for the entire crusade, every evangelist dreams and prays for such a massive crowd.

    But they did recognize we had accomplised something here b/c they wanted us to be "their" missionaries; one small problem though I'm a woman preacher. Since they know nothing about missions or evangelism they have determined it is biblical to exclude 51% of the laborers, women, even though "laborers are few".

    "Not a rich church"? Well then don't travel with paid body guards in a private jet and let women do their fair share of the work.

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

    Pretty much any church in England is wealthy compared to a church in India, for example. If that is so, any megachurch in the US is exceedingly wealthy by comparison to the church in the developing world.

    And what are we talking about here, the corporation or the people of God? Mark is making a ridiculous comment here, financially speaking, whatever criteria he is using to define MARS HILL Church.

    I do wonder sometimes if American pastors should be mandated with a year living in the developing world with an average Christian family-even a year in Europe might change their perspective a little.

    Anonymous said...

    The Lake City campus (95th and 35th) was purchased for 1.3 million and appraised for twice that (slightly over 3 million). I can't imagine it could have been sold at a profit...

    Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

    Recent anonymous, seen any of the Mars Hill sales as presented here?

    Anonymous said...

    2012 2011
    $24,664,526.00 $19,486,759.00

    Church planting partnerships
    2012 2011
    $821,182.00 $1,764,973.00

    Remember when it was a huge deal that MH tithed 10% off the top to church planting, specifically Acts 29?

    2011 shows 9.1% of the total income going to church planting (that's close to 10%) but in 2012 it looks like 3.2%. Does not being rich make a church less generous? or maybe opening new campuses counts as planting churches.

    Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

    Well, here's just a theory, that when MH backed out of being the primary funder of A29 and having a dominant role in leadership that that could account for the dip in giving to church planting. it seemed to be commonly believed that most church-planting MH funded was essentially A29 stuff anyway, give or take a few church plants that eventually became campuss within the MH system itself.

    That's just a guess, though.

    Another Anonymous said...

    "Mars Hill also sold the old Lake City campus (some say at a loss)"

    Even if MH had but no money into capitol improvements, they almost certainly sold the building at a loss.

    According to King County Tax records

    MH paid $2,000,000 on 07/17/2006

    The property had been listed for sale at $2,475,000 since 08/20/2004

    They sold it to One Life Community Church for
    $1,300,000 on 01/27/2012

    2012 preliminary total tax assessed value was $2,079,200

    Anonymous said...

    original anonymous, here - It's curious as the sale to One Life Community Church is the old MH campus, yet the churchadvisor website lists the sale as $2mil. As another anonymous posted, King Co. tax records have the sale as $1.3mil and that's the number I remember as one of the (many) mortgage holders. Color me confused. Did I misunderstand your question, Wenatchee?

    Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

    Mainly just wondering about what may have been a discrepancy between the 1.3 mil for Lake City you seemed to mention and the 2 mil that the other website seemed to mention since it looked like separate references to the same real estate transaction but possibly at different times.

    Anonymous said...

    8:20am and 12:33am Anonymous here: The transaction listed "Anchor Baptist Church" on the same website is the same property in Lake City. That sale is listed as $2mil in King Co. records. Perhaps it was a clerical error on the part of the website administrators? Or perhaps someone is rounding numbers creatively.

    Anonymous said...

    i worked for MH a number of years ago and I can tell you that over 10% of income went to the top 5 paid pastors at the time. That doesn't include their $$ from books, speaking, etc.

    Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

    At this point anyone who's read this post will probably want to read this one, too.