Friday, October 25, 2013

Mars Hill Bellevue in Core Group Phase? A brief overview of how The Vine was planted in 2005 and became what is now Mars Hill Bellevue, courtesy of Mark Driscoll and friends
from Pastor Thomas Hurst:

We’re Still in Core Group Phase

As we walk down the path God has laid out for us, we want to share with you a bit of a paradigm shift: Bellevue is now in “core group” phase.

Exactly what Hurst means by "Core Group Phase" is impossible to know but what it cannot possibly mean is that the Mars Hill presence at Bellevue is less than roughly six years old. 

Pastor A. J. Hamilton wrote the following about Mars Hill in Bellevue:

Bellevue was an A29 church plant which then converted to a MHC campus and exploded in attendance. We then sent their campus pastor out to plant another church in San Diego and an existing A29 planter took the role. It is no wonder that Bellevue has aggressive church- and campus-planting strategies that other campus leadership teams look to for best practices.

Then there's Mark Driscoll's sales pitch for why Jesus loves church mergers and you should, too:
Mars Hill Bellevue
In the mid-2000s, a Mars Hill elder planted church on the Eastside of the greater Seattle area called The Vine. This plant was led by a Mars Hill pastor at the time, Jesse Winkler. The Vine started with a small core group from Mars Hill and eventually grew to be somewhere between 100 to 200 people.
Many people from that area were still driving into Seattle to attend Mars Hill in Ballard, and the number of people grew so large that we decided to consider planting a church east of Seattle. We met with Winkler and asked him if he wanted to continue as an independent church with us planting another one far enough away from his church so as to not drain his people, or if he wanted to become a Mars Hill Church. He took some time to fast and pray, seeking God’s will, and was convinced God was asking him to partner with Mars Hill to lead one church made up of people from The Vine and Mars Hill. The Vine church became Mars Hill Eastside in 2008, which eventually became Mars Hill Bellevue.
After the merger, the church saw immediate growth, going from 200 people to over 500 people almost overnight. Some Sundays, men were asked to stand outside in the wet and cold of Seattle to listen via speaker because we couldn't fit everyone into the small funeral home in which the church met for the multiple services. Since then, there has been much fruit, as Mars Hill Downtown Bellevue just moved into a new building in the heart of Downtown Bellevue and is seeing over 2,000 people worship Jesus and serve the surrounding community, hundreds of which are a result of new Christians who met Jesus and were baptized at Mars Hill Bellevue.

Additionally, Mars Hill Bellevue, along with some other Acts 29 churches, helped fund Westview Church in San Diego, California, with Pastor Jesse spearheading that plant. And the church has sent a core group of a couple hundred over to our newest location, Mars Hill Sammamish (which I’ll talk about later in this post).

So what's in the link?
The Bellevue church started four years ago, after merging with The Vine in a Redmond funeral home. It was a quiet launch, but it was only a few weeks before the church outgrew its space. Three years ago it moved into a remodeled gym at Eastside Christian School, near Bellevue College, but the group has been in pursuit of a more permanent situation since. Pastors discovered the John Danz building about two years ago. The church overcame a number of obstacles, including raising $2 million dollars to renovate the space, before its grand opening yesterday.

In the '70s and '80s, the Danz building played home to one of the biggest four movie theaters in the area. In the past 10 years, its served as a Good Guys and an Underhill's furniture store. It now has a new purpose. Pastor Mark Driscoll was so moved by what is going on in Bellevue, he committed to preaching a couple evening services a month at the new location. "This is a fantastic place," he said, spectating the growth. "I feel like I'm a kite, and God's a hurricane."

And while we're at it here's a post published September 2, 2010.

Jesse Winkler is planting Westview Church |

Jesse planted The Vine church in Seattle, Washington in 2005. In 2009 The Vine was adopted as one of the sites of Mars Hill Church and God put a calling on Jesse to move back down to Southern California and plant a church in Rancho Penasquitos of North County San Diego. Jesse is married, has four children and has been a guest speaker at The Resolved Church a number of times. Currently Pastor Duane is serving as one of Jesse’s virtual elders until he is able to find and develop qualified elders. Jesse is currently having soft launch vision and core group gatherings and is officially launching in November 2010. Here’s a word from Jesse about it:

But somehow after roughly eight years of Mars Hill having some kind of leadership presence in Bellevue through Acts 29 partnership and later assimilation ... Thomas Hurst says that Mars Hill Bellevue is currently in "core group phase".  Does the core group phase last eight years?

Is this Pastor Thomas Hurst the same Thomas James Hurst who took the cover photo for Mark Driscoll's Confessions of a Reformission Rev?  Because if so Hurst has been in a position for the last eight years to know that Mars Hill has had a presence on the Eastside that goes back long enough that today's Mars Hill Bellevue can't realistically be said to be in "core group phase" now by any stretch of the imagination.  Eight years is a long time to just be in "core group phase" and Driscoll's reference to how well Bellevue was doing earlier this year suggests that Driscoll himself didn't consider MH Bellevue in core group phase when he said about Mars Hill "We're not a wealthy church" or when he told us about how Jesus loves church mergers and you should, too.

More coverage of the Mars Hill PR campaign to get already-purchased property
The Church had accused Sound Transit of taking the property by eminent domain, which Sound Transit denies. The Church has since backed down on that claim. Now the church leaders are questioning International Paper's acceptance of Sound Transit's offer.

 "We bid $250,000 over Sound Transit's bid," Dean said.

 In an email, a spokesman for International Paper in Memphis said that's not the case.
 "We accepted the highest and best overall offer which was from Sound Transit," wrote International Paper spokesman Kyle Morgolis. "Given our confidentiality agreement, we are unable to disclose the terms of the transaction".

 Sound Transit bristles at the idea it finalized the purchase agreement by undercutting and pushing Mars Hill out of any negotiation.

 "The idea that we intervened in the purchase of the property by them late in the game, that wasn't true," Patrick said. "We didn't here from them until a week after we entered a binding agreement to purchase that property".

The Seattle Times reports that Bellevue officials generally oppose Sound Transit locating a maintenance yard close to the 120th Ave station.  It also mentions that developer Wright Runstad broke ground last month on the 16-block project.

So if I understand this rightly not only was the real estate purchased before Mars Hill made a tangible offer but ground has already been broken on the real estate as of last month.
Justin Dean is quoted as saying that Mars Hill offered $250,000 more than Sound Transit. 

Justin Dean is quoted as saying that Mars Hill offered $250,000 more than Sound Transit.  What was the form of the offer?  Let's remember that in a recent feature on Sutton Turner Mars Hill's total budget is listed as $30 million.  Where was that $250,000+ $23,000,000 going to come from, a money fairy? An already inked deal beats an offer pending explanation, doesn't it?  "It's already been bought" seems simple, not odd.

But there's another possible reason that a Mars Hill offer would not look great compared to Sound Transit.  Internal communications within Mars Hill in 2013 have stated, from Mark Driscoll himself, that Mars Hill managed to avoid going over its own fiscal cliff.

How we avoided our own fiscal cliff
As we grow in numbers, we’re also growing in maturity thanks to the Holy Spirit. In early 2012, we moved to a new financial model, a change we’ve communicated in person at most of our churches.

Previously, our budget was based on annual giving. The problem was, a lot of our giving came in during December, which means we were operating at a loss during most of the year. Under the leadership of Executive Pastor Sutton Turner and Deacon Kerry Dodd (our CFO), we made a hard course correction and moved the church to a budget that does not depend on big giving spikes. We now live within our means year round, and as it turns out we made the shift just in time.

For the first time in a long time, the big December giving spike did not come. In the past, we’ve had some generous donors contribute significant gifts that have really helped us float from year to year. That didn’t happen last year. Our large givers are still with us at Mars Hill, but the national fiscal climate is such that no major year-end gifts came in. We understand and we’re praying for our brothers and sisters in this situation.

As a result, we were unable to raise our above-and-beyond goal in December. We did, however, raise enough to cover our operating expenses for the year, in large part because we spent $670,000 less than what we had budgeted for during the last six months of 2012. Throughout the church we are doing everything we can to be good stewards of what God has given us, and so we have significantly cut our spending as another part of our budget reform.

So the good news is, we implemented our new budget model just in time—had we not made the changes when we did, we would have faced our own version of a fiscal cliff. The not-so-good news is that we have inadequate funds to complete some necessary renovations: in downtown Seattle, we have a row of frozen outdoor porta potties instead of indoor bathrooms; in Everett, we have $126,000 to complete $750,000-worth of work on the building; and we can’t move into Tacoma until we raise another $600,000. Budget is tight, and we simply don’t have a lot of margin to complete these and other projects.
So if the church avoided its own fiscal cliff in the last year or so adjusting away from a financial model that was not good for its long-term future would it be a good idea to try to outbid a $23,000,000 purchase with an operating budget of $30,000,000?  Where's the fiscal sense in that? 

Mark Driscoll went so far as to tell Mars Hill "We're not a wealthy church." earlier this year. Justin Dean can say whatever he likes but if Mark Driscoll tells Mars Hill they're not wealthy then where does Justin Dean think the money's going to come from to outbid Sound Transit on a deal that has already been inked? 

But then there's Thomas Hurst's statement that Mars Hill Bellevue is still in the core group phase.  That actually may require a separate post just to deal with that truncated history.  Mars Hill's presence via Acts 29 and former MH leaders over in Bellevue goes back further than the arrival of Hurst and Hurst should be in a position to know this all already. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Stranger: Mars Hill has eye on property already purchased by Sound Transit and a short history of MH with municipalities and zoning snags

Mars Hill Bible College

Part of this vision includes opening a Bible college. Recently we sent out proposal requests to the best Bible colleges in the U.S. with the intention of partnering with one of them to establish an accredited Bible school at Mars Hill Bellevue. We want to provide sound theological training for your children as we raise up the next generation of leaders and church planters.

Mars Hill has been attempting intermittently to set up a seminary for years.  Nobody has been paying attention to that very closely in blog land but the Capstone Institute started up by Gary Shavey was an early attempt circa 2005.  It petered out for some reason.  In 2009 there was that big public roll-out for the Resurgence Training Center and the Master in Missional Leadership degree (more on that later).  But it took about two years for that class to wrap things up and the program never got continued.  There's a lot we've been meaning to write about that project for some time and it's worth noting that Mars Hill Bible College may be at least the third attempt by people at Mars Hill to set up a seminary.  So far Mars Hill seems to have been striking out in getting together the right, stable combination of resources and funding to get a seminary off the ground.  But they're going to keep trying, obviously.  That job opening for a Bible College Director got posted within the last month or so.

Unfortunately we find ourselves in a position where we are going up against the government. Given the perspective, we are a small church with little chance of being able to make the government change their decision. However, we will continue to move forward with faith in a God who is bigger than any government. A God who rules a world that bends to his will. We believe that God wants us to have this property, and we will continue to be obedient to his call.

So ... it would appear that Mars Hill wants to move its corporate HQ from Ballard to Bellevue and it'd like to pick up some real estate in Bellevue as a future HQ but the trouble seems to be that the ideal real estate was already bought by Sound Transit.

The Stranger's Brendan Kiley writes:

If you take Mars Hill's word for it, the big, bad government stole their prize lollipop. But that lollipop was never Mars Hill's to begin with. The closest they come to staking a legitimate claim in any of their PR is to say they "made a generous purchase offer." So they've got money. But nobody seems to want to sell (to them, anyway). And they're pissed.

They made a generous offer?  Who would "they" have been?  Driscoll has alluded to Sutton Turner working on important deals here and there could this have been one of them?  If so how could a generous offer have been made seeing as Mark Driscoll told Mars Hill earlier this year "We're not a wealthy church".  Apparently however not-wealthy Mars Hill Church was Mark and Grace Driscoll were able to purchase a million-dollar home in the Edmonds area (and the real estate has been transferred from Future Hope Revocable Living Trust to the Downs Family Revocable Living Trust).  The Future Hope Revocable Living Trust was based in a mailing address that is the current corporate HQ of Mars Hill Church.  The Snohomish County Auditors Records search made it relatively easy to work out that the Driscolls bought a million-dollar home during the period of 2012 in which Mark Driscoll plugged the congregation to give a bit more generously in May and then, in June, said that Mars Hill had been pursuing a fiscal model that was not good for its long-term future and that this had been fixed.  Precisely how pursuing a fiscal model that was leading to systemic deficits at every single campus was not something Driscoll ever deigned to explain.  Systemic deficits for a family would be explicable by poor financial stewardship but for a nimble team of three or four executive elders that's ... something else, apparently.

The Stranger has reported, "Sound Transit says it bought the property for $23 million. We don't know how much Mars Hill offered for it."

Well, unless they were trying to leverage some heavy-duty donors nobody knows about, Mars Hill could not possibly have beaten that bid given what financials are made available.  In a feature piece on Sutton Turner the Mars Hill budget is listed at $30 million. That's kind of a bigger budget than the Union Gospel Mission or Salvation Army Northwest Division have been having the last few years in the wake of the 08 housing bubble.

But Mars Hill hitting unanticipated snags dealing with real estate isn't new.  Just last year Mark Driscoll posted a video announcing that Mars Hill Orange County had been served an eviction noticed and wondered what the deal was.  Anyone who looked into that matter would have seen that eviction coming in advance. 

Or consider the $1.5 million purchase of the 50th Street building back in 2005, the current corporate HQ of Mars Hill (and of Future Hope Revocable Living Trust, still?), was scouted out by Pastor Jamie Munson, the zoning and licensing issues weren't considered prior to purchase. 

When the grand vision Driscoll touted in the closing chapters of Confessions of a Reformission Rev turned out to be impossible given the reality of zoning and licensing restrictions on the 50th Street real estate multi-site emerged as an alternative vision of future growth.  There lay the path of grandfathering in Doxa as Mars Hill West Seattle with the backing of Bill Clem and James Noriega (Clem's wife was dying of cancer during the period when Doxa was apparently on some kind of decline (reportedly) and Driscoll had wanted that real estate for Mars Hill since 1996, it was win-win as deals went).  Tim Beltz was Chief Operations Officer at CHRISTA Ministries and somebody (nobody has said who) brokered a deal in which Mars Hill Church got to use Schirmer Auditorium for free.  After Tim Beltz stopped being COO of CHRISTA he became executive elder at Mars Hill in 2007 after Munson's by-laws (the ones Meyer and Petry got fired for not supporting) got voted in in late October. 

The final branch in the three-pronged development of initial multi-site was buying Tabella.  Munson would go on to say it was bought for a million less than it had been valued at even though externally searchable valuations suggest that Mars Hill paid more like a million MORE for the property than it was being valued at at the time.  Munson also asserted that the bylaws that got voted in were to address multisite and that the older bylaws didn't address this.  In fact there was more language in the old by-laws prior to 2007 dealing with campus teams and leadership than in Munson's bylaws, which concerned themselves chiefly with a smaller and consolidated executive elder team with lifetime memberships.  It's simply not tenable to claim, as Munson did, that the bylaws voted in in 2007 seriously dealt with the multisite approach MH was embracing unless by this one meant a smaller more consolidated power base at the executive level.

Make no mistake, Mars Hill is very serious about real estate expansion and capital development

There are job openings for

Capital Development Manager
Bible College Director (of course)
Chief Sales and Marketing Director (still open after a few months?)
Leadership Development Director
Account Manager ,Ministry Leads
General Editor
Account Manager, Expenses
Account Manger, Income
Discipleship Curriculum Writer, Bellevue
HelpDesk Technician

and a few other job openings, but that's a LOT of Central Operations job openings.  The desire on MHC leadership's part for a big expansion seems relatively easy to propose.

And anyone with any roots in non-profit development in the Puget Sound area can propose that it would make sense to move everything to the Eastside.  Wenatchee has surmised that had MH not diluted its donor base too soon and too early to keep Ballard fiscally solvent a move to have the Eastside developed could have happened years earlier.  It's not like The Vine wasn't being assimilated into Mars HIll around that time, a core group was there, wasn't it? 

Finally, take a gander over here

There's about six or seven campuses listed there. If The Stranger wants to do any kind of follow-up they might want to contact these folks to see if they'll answer any questions about the history of MH real estate purchases since possibly half of the campuses (campi?) seem to have passed at some point through this company's hands in some way.

a MH revamp of the job opportunities web page

Time was, not too long ago that this would lead you somewhere

But not lately, nope, the 404 message that the tomb is empty and so is the URL.

This still leads somewhere so long as you bear in mind that this

currently leads to something more like ...

The new layout makes it much clearer which jobs are campus and which are central and omits the detail of how long a job listing has been posted or when it was posted to begin with, arguably mundane and unnecessary details.  When jobs are filled the listings can simply be taken down. 

This job, Account Manager, Ministry Leads, seems relatively new:

The Account Manager will report to the Senior Account Manager for the Media & Communications department and will manage all requests and projects that come from First Among Equals (FAE) who are The ministry leads. The FAE ministries include Small Groups, Biblical Counseling, Women's, Worship, Students, and Kidss This person is the messenger and advocate for the ministries both individually (as each has unique needs) and corporately (the collective needs of Mars Hill Church as a whole). This means the Account Manager will be their eyes and ears within central to make sure all relevant information from across the various teams and disciplines is communicated out to the the ministries. Secondly this means that they will partner with ministries to identify challenges and pain points to work within MedCom to develop and deliver solutions for each ministry. It requires the ability to discern when you should protect, when you should deflect, and when you should innovate. It requires the ability to assimilate input, information, and direction from multiple stakeholders and turn that into clear action items. It requires the ability to operate at forest level thinking, seeing both the forest and the trees as well as immediate needs while also thinking down the road and preparing for what’s around the next bend in the road. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

An Open Letter to Mark Driscoll about the Strange Fire conference

Usually Wenatchee The Hatchet looks askance on open letters, particularly open letters from self-styled Calvinist or Reformed bloggers of any kind or at any level.  Usually Wenatchee The Hatchet's sentiments about this dubious literary tradition within blogdom can be summed up over here.

Not all open letters are the same, though, and this one is linked to for your consideration.

Charlotte Observer discusses Steven Furtick's house

For those who may already remember, Steven Furtick is part of Mark Driscoll's growing social network of megachurch pastors.  Last year Driscoll preached at Elevation Church and mentioned this on his Facebook wall.
Mark Driscoll · 218,603 like this
May 29, 2012 at 12:47pm · ..

Thank you Pastor Steven Furtick for letting me cover your pulpit via video this weekend. I hope you had a BLAST w/your family on break!

Then there are these:

January 27, 2013 (probably still 2012 but at some point listed as 2013)
May 26, 2012

But it's one video you can watch on tab two from the How To Hug a Vampire series
Then there's this:

Mark DriscollVerified account@PastorMark 4 May 12
I'm finally getting around on Twitter for the first time in my life. What better way to start than saying high to a friend  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Steve at Triablogue discusses "when the perfect comes" and how the old cessationist exegesis of the text fails

It's Steve, so it's not short.  :)  We'll simply quote some of what he wrote and you can read the rest if you like:
ii) A cessationist alternative is to claim that Paul is alluding to the closure of the canon. Once Christians have the complete canon of Scripture at their disposal, the need for revelatory gifts like tongues and especially prophecy will be moot.

This interpretation has generally fallen out of favor in scholarly circles, but it still has defenders in some cessationists pockets. For instance, Bruce Compton of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary tries to rehabilitate this interpretation. Let's call this the "canonical interpretation" of 1 Cor 13:8-10). 

iii) I think the canonical interpretation is exegetically dubious. However, let's concede, for the sake of argument, that Paul is alluding to the closure of the canon. Does that give cessationists what they need?

Fact is, even if you grant that interpretation, it leaves the situation highly unstable and open-ended. It fails to solve the problem which the cessationist posed for himself.

iv) To begin with, it relocates the issue to the question of when the canon was closed. On cessationist grounds, what event counts as the closure of the canon? 

After all, this was debated in the Reformation. So you could say the canon wasn't settled until the 16C, with the Westminster Confession and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. If that's the terminus ad quem, then you'd have ongoing prophecy through the patristic era, Middle ages, and Renaissance. Clearly that's far too late for cessationists. ... [emphasis mine]
Uh, yeah, that would be a problem for a cessationist position, particularly if a properly Protestant confirmation was necessary for things to be settled.

Internet Monk's Chaplain Mike weighs in on The Strange Fire historiography of charismatic Christianity

There are other conversations about how selective and polemic the history of charismatic/Pentecostal thought and practice is throughout the internet but we'll link to just this one for the time being.

A sustainable and compelling case for something called cessationism is a more historical than a strictly exegetical/textual argument and it is a Protestant rather than a catholic polemical point, as the history of polemic generally tends to show since the dawn of Pentecostalism as a movement. 

Over at the BHT Brian Auten mentions MacArthur's references to second and third wave Pentecostalism.  Even MacArthur seems able to grant that Gordon Fee is a capable textual scholar and Fee, arguably, represents the emergence of a scholastic impulse that is hardly dominant in first wave Pentecostalism but that makes the sorts of polemics MacArthur has employed against Pentecostalism and charismatic movements slightly more difficult to broadbrush.  Not that people won't do it anyway ... .