Sunday, September 08, 2013

Mars Hill Church in May and June of 2012: systemic deficits and a million-dollar home purchased in Snonohomish county

We'll just start with some numbers because these numbers tell a story.
From the May 2012 update

April vs March 2012
              Adults that give  weekly giving per A.  Giving Households  Weekly attendance
April        42%                     $29.13                                   5,490                   14,059
March      41%                     $32.79                                   4838                    13,125
The June 2012 budget update included the following
                                             PAST     PRESENT       FUTURE
Weekly giving per adult        $20.25     $30.25           $35.00
church costs                        -$14.20   -$11.82         -$10.00
facilities costs                     -$12.37   -$8.81           -$10.00
central costs                        -$22.69   -$16.07         -$10.00
projects/investments           -$3.60     -$0.99           -$3.50
Margin/Loss                        -$22.61    -$7.44           $1.50

presents list of weekly deficits per campus, we'll add corresponding percentages of givers per campus into this list since Driscoll went to that stat set next
                           wkly deficit  % adults that gave
Rainer Valley      -$3.39                27%
Portland              -$3.74                42%
Federal Way        -$4.71                42%
Ballard                -$4.81                41%
Everett                -$5.73                45%
Bellevue              -$6.14                54%
Albuquerque        -$7.16               38%
Downtown           -$8.29               24%
Olympia               -$8.35               59%
Orange County    -$8.65               32%
Sammamish        -$9.75               64%
West Seattle        -$11.55              66%
U-district             -$11.82              29%
Shoreline             -$18.02              67%

So after a few years of every year being best-year-ever by the summer of 2012 Driscoll was sharing that every campus was running systemic deficits. He also alluded to what seemed to have been a mass layoff or termination process of some kind. 

So if you hear, "Hey, Mars Hill's canceled a few programs. The staff is shrinking a little bit. They're making some transitions," it's not that anybody has sinned, or done anything wrong, or is in touble, it's just that we had an economic model that wasn't sustainable for our future.

Nobody sinned but there were systemic deficits?  What happened to financial stewardship?  Who was falling short of the best they could do?  There's an explanation Driscoll would proffer elsewhere in the June 2012 update but let's take a little detour into real estate that probably wouldn't qualify as a Mars Hill campus.

In late May of 2012 the following real estate transaction was listed in Snohomish county records

The sales price was $1,055,888.00 and sold to a grantee/buyer that had its base at the physical address of the corporate headquarters of Mars Hill Church, namely

1411 NW 50TH ST, SEATTLE, WA 98107 

So however lean and difficult the financial season at Mars Hill was in June of 2012, as Mark Driscoll explained things, there was still someone who 1) had some affiliation with the Mars Hill corporate headquarters address 2) and had enough money to buy a roughly one-million dollar home in the previous month. For people with a background in fundraising in non-profit settings the address (which we're not going to actually publish here) is nested in what might be called a "prestige ZIP code".  It's sexier to say you live in X than, say, Edmonds. 

And, let's face it, while the exact person(s) party to the transaction may not be listed, in the lean season Driscoll said Mars Hill was going through last year, there weren't exactly a whole lot of people affiliated with 1411 NW 50th St in Seattle, WA 98107 that were going to be in a position to buy a house that cost a million in the midst of what Driscoll called one of the tougher financial seasons of the church. 

And because government websites tend to make things available to the public, it's no secret that by later 2012 Mark Driscoll was listed as Manager for a couple of LLCs that are registered with Washington state but incorporated in Colorado.

UBI Number                   603258278
Category                        LLC
Active/Inactive              Active
State Of Incorporation    CO
WA Filing Date               12/06/2012
Expiration Date              12/31/2013
Inactive Date
Duration                        Perpetual
Registered Agent Information
Agent Name                  C T Corporation System
Address                         505 Union Ave Se Ste 120
                                     Olympia, WA 98501

For governing persons the title, name and address are as follows:
1411 NW 50TH ST

Then there's ON MISSION, LLC, the owner of the copyright in Mark and Grace Driscoll's book Real Marriage:
UBI Number                 603258287
Category                      LLC
Active/Inactive            Active
State Of Incorporation CO
WA Filing Date            12/06/2012
Expiration Date           12/31/2013
Inactive Date 
Duration                      Perpetual
Registered Agent Information
Agent Name                C T Corporation System
Address                       505 Union Ave Se Ste 120
                                   Olympia, WA 98501
Governing Persons
Once again, the title, name and address turn out to be
1411 NW 50TH ST

Now, in a way, whose million-dollar house in Snohomish County it is that has some affiliation with the corporate headquarters of Mars Hill is not particularly important.  An author can sell tens of thousands of books and can have earned the revenue to live in a spendy house in a prestige ZIP code.

Mark Driscoll also owns or co-owns the copyright for most published things with his name on it (that Driscoll owns the copyright and not the church is another topic for discussion at some other time).  Driscoll can sell as many books as he likes and put that revenue to whatever use he sees fit, and "if" he bought an expensive house in Snohomish county he can do that. 

And Snohomish county publicized that information for anyone to consult as government registers have a habit of doing. And as for search tools, Google is pretty popular.  It's just a matter of popping in the MH-HQ address alongside "Snohomish County" and it's the first result that pops up.  Anyone can do that. Simple as that. 

This real estate transaction, whatever its connection to parties at Mars Hill, retroactively sheds some new light on an older post at Wenatchee The Hatchet.  Namely the one posted here about how Mark Driscoll told Mars Hill "We're not a wealthy church."  However not-wealthy Mars Hill Church was someone felt confident enough in their revenue stream to buy a house, a million-dollar house, at a time that Driscoll described as one of the tougher financial seasons in the history of Mars Hill.  

Yes, in June 2012 Mark Driscoll was explaining the systemic deficits Mars Hill Church was running at each and every campus and explained that nobody sinned, MHC just had a financial model that wasn't sustainable for the long-term future.  Apparently systemic deficits don't indicate even the possibility of any kind of sin within Mars Hill.  Well, maybe giving needed to improve alongside scaling back staff and programs and, meanwhile, the month before Driscoll would share about systemic deficits someone with an affiliation to the corporate headquarters of Mars Hill bought a roughly million-dollar house in Snohomish county.

Who bought that house?  Well, in a way it's not very important, is it?  People can buy real estate if they can afford it.  But we're on the other side of a housing bubble, aren't we?  And who bought that house is, in another way, obviously the point anyone would be likely to care about when the topic is Mars Hill and at ... some blog.  We're not going to bother explicating that, because it's not 100% certain through primary documentation (at this point) who bought the house.  We do not necessarily provide answers (most of the time) so much as raise questions.  [Edit. If you want to plug the parcel number into a county auditor's index of public records ... you're free to do that. The answer is not exactly a great big shock.]

So let's let the question float around a little for consideration as we close with Mark Driscoll's dry aside from his sermon about the church in Philadelphia.  In discussing the sytemic deficits and how things would improve going forward Mark Driscoll would publicly explain to Mars Hill Church what myth pervades the church when it comes to finances (sermon transcript):

Now, you look at this, you say, “Fourteen churches.” See, this is the myth at Mars Hill: “There’s a money fairy somewhere and the money fairy takes care of it.” Okay. You’re the money fairy. Okay.

POSTSCRIPT 05-09-2014
Seeing as Mars Hill Church has pulled the "Update" page and introduced robots.txt to preclude the use of The WayBack Machine readers who want to learn what's in the "Update" that was originally quoted in this post may need to try out some links over here if they want to see and hear for themselves what was discussed by Driscoll that was quoted in this post.

1 comment:

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Shows now that on September 5, 2013 the real estate was transferred from Future Hope Revocable Living Trust to Downs Family Revocable Living Trust for a price of $0. The Downs Family Revocable Living Trust has a mailing address of

1402 LAKE TAPPS PKWY E STE 104 #307, AUBURN, WA 98092-8157

Pretty obviously a UPS Store type set-up where a private mailbox is set up that gives no clear indication of the physical addresses to which it may correspond. Future Hope Revocable Living Trust was located at the Mars Hill corporate headquarters at 1411 NW 50TH ST, SEATTLE, WA 98107.

So the most recently listed transfer as of the date this post was published looks like a simple paper transfer that likely does not change anything about who resides at the estate.