Sunday, February 02, 2014

Exploring the history of the history of the Paradox

[Mark Driscoll] When we planted the church, I didn't get paid by the congregation for about three years. We were broke as a joke. We were meeting just at night in the cheapest room we could find. By the time I got paid by the church, we had two kids. So I was doing side jobs and some outside speaking to bring in money. Nothing big, just a college retreat here and there, trying to make ends meet. Then as the church started to grow, quite frankly, I didn't know how to run an organization. And the next thing you know, we got a building given to us, and we start adding some staff. But I was the only pastor until we had 800 people.

Remember, folks, Mark Driscoll planted the church in 1996 whether he gives credit to co-founding pastors Mike Gunn and Lief Moi these days or not.  Driscoll says he wasn't paid by the congregation for about three years, which means that he didn't start getting paid by MH until about 1999.
Let's keep in mind that at one point Zondervan had the following to say about Mark Driscoll:
Mark Driscoll is one of the 50 most influential pastors in America, and the founder of Mars Hill Church in Seattle (, the Paradox Theater, and the Acts 29 Network which has planted scores of churches. Mark is the author of The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out. He speaks extensively around the country, has lectured at a number of seminaries, and has had wide media exposure ranging from NPR’s All Things Considered to the 700 Club, and from Leadership journal to Mother Jones magazine. He’s a staff religion writer for the Seattle Times. Along with his wife and children, Mark lives in Seattle.

Write to Zondervan authors or their estates in care of Zondervan. Your mail will be forwarded as soon as possible, but please note that the author might not be able to respond personally. Email or send postal mail to:
Mark Driscoll
c/o Zondervan
 ATTN: Author Care
 5300 Patterson SE
 Grand Rapids, MI 49530

But that bio has been dead for a little bit.  It reappears here:

Mark Driscoll is one of the 50 most influential pastors in America, and the founder of Mars Hill Church in Seattle (, the Paradox Theater, and the Acts 29 Network which has planted scores of churches. Mark is the author of The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out. He speaks extensively around the country, has lectured at a number of seminaries, and has had wide media exposure ranging from NPRÆs All Things Considered to the 700 Club, and from Leadership journal to Mother Jones magazine. HeÆs a staff religion writer for the Seattle Times. Along with his wife and children, Mark lives in Seattle.

But local coverage established clearly that Driscoll didn't found The Paradox.
The Paradox Theatre waves goodbye

January 30, 2003 at 12:00 AM | Elliot Strong

The Paradox Theatre, home of all-ages concerts and events for the past three years, will permanently close its doors Feb. 2
Brainchild of Lief Moi, a pastor at Mars Hill Fellowship Church, The Paradox opened in 1999 after Moi discovered a loophole in the city of Seattle's Teen Dance Ordinance (TDO). He found the normal rules didn't apply to events held at locations owned by non-profit organizations, making it possible to give Seattle its first true all-ages venue since the passing of the TDO in 1987. The TDO is a response to some nasty incidents at some local dance clubs. [emphasis added]

Moi wanted to create a meeting place for local artists and musicians of all ages. His plan both expanded and materialized when he bought the building in 1998 and remodeled it as a music venue. Mars Hill subsidized the effort in its years of operation because, according to Moi, "[they] value the art community as a church."

The Paradox boasts only one fight in its three years of operation, a superb safety record during a time when many other clubs and concert venues in Seattle suffered high-profile shootouts and violent scuffles. Moi feels the very existence of The Paradox and its superb safety record provide an example of how well things can go for an all-ages venue if people were given a chance.

Now that the TDO has been effectively replaced with the All-Ages Dance Ordinance, more and more venues are able to host all-ages shows. One of the more significant changes includes the lifting of stringent security restrictions that required normal venues to hire off-duty police officers for all-ages events. Moi thinks the Paradox served its purpose and it is time for him to let go and move on.
Jet City Improv will lease the building; the spirit of The Paradox will live on in the form of the Artists Reformation Project (ARP) and Paradox Productions. The company will produce shows at various locations around Seattle. Other clubs such as Graceland and the Showbox will be hosting all-ages shows of their own.

The last show at The Paradox will start at 7 p.m. on Feb. 1. The bands Gatsby's American Dream, Rocky Votolato, Suffering and the Hideous Thieves, 14 Days of Terror and the Sweet Science will perform alongside spoken word by Mark Brubeck and piano interludes by Jefre Scott.

So now that Mark Driscoll is saying he wasn't paid a salary by the congregation for the first three years and since by this time the Driscolls were parents who did have the money to buy, renovate, and relaunch real estate in the city of Seattle as an all-ages venue? 

Well ...  let's plug in the address 5510 university way ne seattle, wa 98105 and see what they may tell us
Parcel 871460-0070
excise number             1651048 
recording number       199811191477  
document date            11/9/1998 
sale price                    $285,000.00
seller name                 DENAULT BRIAN G
buyer name                MOI LIEF+TONYA F
instrument                  Statutory Warranty Deed
sale reason                 None

excise number           2193442 
recording number      20060320000334 
document date           3/16/2006 
sale price                   $550,000.00
seller name                MOI LIEF+TONYA M
buyer name               FRONT ROW PROPERTIES L L C
instrument                 Bargain and Sales Deed
sale reason                None

So if the real estate at 5510 University Way NE was purchased in 1998 for $285,000 according to King County records this was well within the first three years during which, according to Mark Driscoll, the congregation of Mars Hill Church wasn't paying him.  Driscoll couldn't have founded The Paradox if he wasn't even drawing a salary.  And yet he and Grace Driscoll were clearly having children.  Driscoll had to have had a revenue stream of some kind from roughly 1995-1999.  What was it? 

Well, actually, it seems he told us who quite some time ago:

In the second season, Grace and I began attending Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland, where we volunteered our time working with their college ministry. We then located in Seattle to be closer to students and after a few months I was brought on staff as a part-time intern to oversee the college group. I served in that position for nearly two years and learned a great deal in my first position of ministry leadership in a church. At that time I met Mike Gunn who had moved from a pastorate in Southern California to begin a ministry to athletes at the University of Washington. I also met Lief Moi, a local radio show host, who came in to teach a class for us. These two men and their wives and children became like family [WtH: but now Driscoll's recently claimed that at the start of MH there was no childrens' ministry because there weren't any kids] and together we began dreaming about the possibility of planting an urban church for an emerging postmodern generation in one of the least churched cities in the U.S. We began praying, studying the scriptures, reading a great deal on postmodernity, and dialoging together to formulate a philosophy of ministry appropriate for our context. Helping us formulate our launch plan was Dr. Greg Kappas, who graciously mentored us and provided wise insight and counsel.

In the third season, we began a small Bible study in graciously loaned space from Emmanuel Bible Church in Seattle. The original small core of about a dozen people was a Bible study comprised largely of twenty-somethings from the college group, the Gunn and Moi families, and Chris Knutzen who had joined the Campus Crusade for Christ staff at the U.W. We began meeting weekly in an extremely hot upstairs youth room, and after a few months outgrew the space and began meeting in the sanctuary. It was during this season that the rest of our current elders - the Browns, Currahs and Schlemleins [but Mark was the only pastor on stuff, huh?] - and some singles and families joined us. It was also during this season that Pastor Ken Hutcherson and our friends at Antioch Bible Church began their generous financial support to cover my salary to ensure that I would not be a financial strain on the young church. [emphasis added]

In the fourth season, we launched the church in October 1996 at 6pm with an attendance around 200 [emphasis added], which included many friends and supporters. The attendance leveled off shortly thereafter, somewhere around 100 adults, and we continued meeting until the Christmas season.

Ah, so by Mark Driscoll's own publicly available account, even before Mars Hill Church launched in October 1996 Ken Hutcherson's Antioch Bible Church began their generous financial support to cover Driscoll's salary to ensure he would not be a financial strain on the young church.  If he didn't have a salary paid by the congregation in the first three years of the church this doesn't mean he wasn't being paid a salary. One can't help but wonder if Mark Driscoll attended the memorial service that was given for Hutcherson a few weeks ago.  Let's move along to ... :

Whenever this was written it had to have been before Lief Moi reopened the theater in 1999 and here Mark Driscoll refers to The Paradox as a dream shared by other people, one of whom is named Lief Moi.  The "ninth season" was starting roughly early 1999 and Driscoll moved along in "Seasons of Grace" to say the following:

We are now upon our eleventh season as we begin to realize a dream we have been praying for over the past three years. One of our elders, Lief Moi, purchased an old theater on 55th and University Way (walking distance to the University of Washington) that we are currently renovating. The 200-seat theater is now host to a 7pm Sunday night church plant, a Wednesday night church service run by interns preparing to plant churches, and the only all-ages concert venue in the city of Seattle. Lief is also building out a broadcast booth for the national radio show, Street Talk, that we host on Saturday nights from 9 to midnight. Live bands will be performing while we broadcast the show around the U.S. and dialogue with people in their teens and twenties about the Gospel.

In our twelfth season, we are seeking to press forward with church planting in hopes of planting 1000 churches in conjunction with the Acts 29 Network. Pastor Bill Keogh launched Harbor Fellowship in Kirkland at 6pm Sunday, September 19. We launched our 7pm University District church on Sunday, November 7. Pastor Rick McKinley will launch his Portland church on Easter 2000, and we hope to launch our Sunday morning Ballard church in the spring of 2000.

So by Driscoll's account some time in 1999 he began to get a salary from Antioch Bible Church.  Where did it go? What amount was it?  Because in Confessions of a Reformission Rev from 2006 Driscoll wrote about a young couple leaving the church in its earliest phase and mentioned:

page 81:

My wife and I were both working other jobs because the church could not pay me and were volunteering more than forty hours a week to the church. Being rejected by friends felt like a punch in the gut.

Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll, Zondervan 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27016-4
ISBN-10: 0-310-27016-2

Did Antioch Bible Church stop paying Mark Driscoll's salary after the 1996 launch?  Driscoll did have some kind of job.  C Stirling Bartholomew blogged a few times about Driscoll.

When I first met Driscoll he was clerking in a bookstore in Greenwood (North Seattle). I had heard about him. He makes a lot of noise. I knew his father-in-law very well when I was in my teens and 20s but I was long gone when Mark became a regular visitor in that household. When Driscoll came back from college and started doing "street talk" on the radio I would tune in now and then and listen. I noted right away that Driscoll was a generation bigot. He hated 'hippies' with a passion. I suppose this has something to do with growing up blue collar in Seattle which is a northern clone of San Francisco. The war between the hard hats and the flower generation was still in progress when Driscoll was born into the world of hard hats. In the end the hard hats lost the war. The flower children and the neo-pagans took over the culture and nowhere is that more evident than in Seattle. So Driscoll hates what he calls 'hippies' because his people lost the war and now he would like to put the culture back where it was in 1955 and it just isn't going to happen. 
By contrast, the blogger notes:
I have it on very good authority that Grace Ann Driscoll is an intelligent and highly capable person who was on her way to a stellar career in the secular job market when she decided to say home and be a mom. So when I listened to the opening remarks in this clip from the Stay at Home Dads Q&A session, I was suffering some cognative dissonance when she made an allusion to 1Tim. 5:8 to support the Driscoll view on gender roles.
Who that authority might be is not 100% clear but this is a possible clue:
Driscoll's message is offensive both in content and style of delivery. It isn't how he says it that bothers me. It is what he is saying, the subtext of contempt for christians that disagree with his worldview. I am a pacifist. I didn't go to Vietnam. I was a CO and did two years of alternate service in a residential drug rehab center which was established and ruled by Driscoll's father-in-law in the late '60s. When I listen to Mark Driscoll talk, I hear a constant subtext of hatred directed at my generation and what we stood for in the late 60s. I have every reason to be annoyed at Driscoll's arrogant presumption that he has a corner on the market when it comes to biblical truth. To my ears, he sounds like a deputy sheriff from Alabama during the race riots in the early '60s.

Eons later, in the early 90s, I was chatting with a sales clerk in Norman Baggs'  book store out on 85th & Greenwood (Seattle) — this young man was a voracious reader, working two jobs to support his young family and involved with some innovative street ministry in Seattle — some how we got talking about The problem of evil.  I told him to read John Frame's chapter on it in Apologetics to the Glory of God. The next time I saw him in the book store he told me he had read Frame but considered his treatment of  The problem of evil  "a cop out". Meanwhile, he had laid hands on a copy of A. Plantinga's book and was reading it and was impressed with Plantinga's argument. I had read some of Plantinga but wasn't excited about it. I think I had perhaps two more discussions with the young man before he became unreachable[1] .

 [1] the young man's name was Mark Driscoll, currently "one of the pastors at Mars Hill Church" Seattle.

So some time in the early 1990s someone got the understanding Mark Driscoll was working two jobs to support his young family.  By Mark Driscoll's account Antioch Bible Church was supplying him with a salary even before the launch of Mars Hill Church.  By Mark Driscoll's account in Real Marriage Grace was working up to the birth of Ashley, their first child:

Our marriage was functional but not much fun. As we approached the launch of the church, Grace was pregnant with our first child and suffering from painful stress-related issues caused by her public relations job, which culminated in me apologizing for not bearing the entire financial burden for our family. She gladly came home from work, and we lived on a very small income from outside jobs and support, because the church plant could not afford to pay me during the first few years.


One night, as we approached the birth of our first child, Ashley, and the launch of our church  ...
page 11

Real Marriage
Mark and Grace Driscoll
(c) 2012 Thomas Nelson
ISBN 978-1-4041-8352-0

So Driscoll was, at least possibly, working two jobs to support his young family (according to at least one blogger identifying as C. Stirling Bartholomew) but also getting support (which by Mark Driscoll's account at around 1999 was from Antioch Bible Church).  There's simply no way this young aspiring pastor and recent father was going to have money to spare to buy, renovate, and relaunch real estate at 5510 University Way NE in Seattle, Washington 98105 after purchasing the real estate in 1998.  But Lief and Tonya Moi did, and King County records have established that.  So while Mark Driscoll's account about money being tight and his jobs not being particularly lucrative at the time while he and Grace were beginning a family basically seems to check out, this makes it all the more impossible for Mark Driscoll to have been the founder of The Paradox per his author profile that was listed at Zondervan.

So who at Zondervan got the idea that Mark Driscoll founded The Paradox when so much publicly available information proved otherwise?  Antioch Bible Church people would seem to be in a good position to establish whether or not they paid a salary to Mark Driscoll and what that amount was, if they made any point of keeping records.  More to the point, if what Driscoll's been saying about his salary is true it makes it impossible for him to have ever been founder of The Paradox.


jsuffering said...

I'm not sure how all this information is helpful. It seems clear that
A. people don't remember history very well
B. many people are self serving
C. Things are much more convoluted than one might think
D. Paranoia?

I could say a million things about The Paradox. The only reason The Paradox was interesting and meant something to the city of Seattle is because of people like Josh Norris, myself, Alicia Blake, Joel Brown, Nick Dyackonoff, Bubba Jennings and a huge slew of volunteers who did not even attend MHC (Like Alicia), not to mention the entire all ages scene in Seattle at the time, and people like Megan Seling from the Stranger who gave us props and write ups all the time for shows we did, and Sharlese Metcalf (DJ Sharlese at KEXP) who always loved the bands we had and played them on her show when she was djing at KGRG.

Lief provided the space (it was made clear that Lief purchased the physical location). Driscoll provided it as a church program which due to the laws in Washington state allowed MHC to become basically a church of immaculate loop hole in order to provide a place and insurance for the programming of the PAradox through MHC. The insurance policy and permitting where different for a church to congregate than a rock club, and thus made it more viable to do the things we did. So if Mark started MHC it is not a stretch to think or state that he started the Paradox as an organization at least. Driscoll in no way made the Paradox what it was or the success of it. I know that when it was shut down it was viewed as unsuccessful due to the financial strain it put on the church even though Munson clearly stated otherwise in the quote above. MHC cares about new converts, so if what Jamie said was true (I really don't know) then it seems counter intuitive to shut down the thing that has the best measure of metrics for what an organization actually cares about. Either way I have no idea motivating factors other than money which led to a number of us getting laid off from the church in some shady circumstances that felt a lot more like business strategy to make and save money rather than a church family, or reaching the youth of the city of Seattle. THis has been a cognitive dissonance I haven't been able to reconcile 100% until the last few months since I've left MHC.

I am personally still in relationship with many folks who became Christians in that space, and in relationships with many who's lives were touched and made meaningful during their adolescence from the work we did in that space, even though the majority of those people are not Christians. The Paradox was an ethos and an attitude that Lief facilitated, and Mark stamped his name on by using it as a church program. MHC take care of the business and resourcing in order to make the Paradox happen. The thing would have never happened without Lief and Driscoll and all the people I mentioned earlier.

Although the point of this post seems to be that Driscoll is a liar about money he has made and where it came from. Which I can't speak into in any way shape or form. I wanted to make sure that somebody mentioned the Paradox stuff. I think it is fine if Mark says he founded the Paradox, because in many ways he did. I think the stuff about the Paradox is much more tricky and convoluted than presented in this article. It would make sense that a facilitator of a program can claim to be the creator of it. MArok and/or Lief named the place and program set up book keeping for it and hired the individuals who made it successful (or unsuccessful) So in my opinion as one who helped make the thing happen it is not a lie or fabrication as much as it is adding your name to something you were a part of and hands on in many ways that made it work.

Anonymous said...

Founded? No
Co-founded? Sure

The difference?

One respects this with whom it was founded. The other, like plagiarism, tons credit where credit is due.

Walk on the light, no?

Anonymous said...

One respects those with whom it was founded. The other, like plagiarism, denies credit where credit is due.

Driscoll is trying to be somebody who tells everybody that he needed nobody in his quest to become somebody.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

thanks for commenting, jsuffering.

I'm not quite done surveying the available material but I'm building up to a cumulative case that if we take everything people have said about the Paradox from the MH side it's complex and in this case it looks like someone on the Zondervan side made a call, either out of oversight or a need to conserve copy space, and credited Driscoll as founder of The Paradox on the back of Confessions of a Reformission Rev. I didn't manage to reach that conclusion in the body of the blog post so I'm appending it here as a comment.

While I know Mark's detractors have wanted to catch him in unabashed misrepresentation about The Paradox, Confessions of a Reformission Rev itself (NOT the author blurb supplied by Zondervan) covers a lot of territory about the history of The Paradox as an all-ages venue and a temporary site for church services at Mars Hill. I think if people revisit the 2006 book and cross reference it to various sources Driscoll's depiction of The Paradox is fairly solid. A person may still dislike Mark Driscoll after all that but the story checks out internally and externally. The story has also been fairly consistent. There are subjects on which Mark Driscoll says various things that can't be reconciled but on the subject of The Paradox, at least, things seem to hold up.

As to the reason Mark gave for closing The Paradox, that's in the 2006 book.

on page 148 of Confessions of a Reformission Rev Mark Driscoll wrote:

"I asked my dear friend and accountability partner, Lief, to shut down the Paradox because the concerts were losing a lot of money, give up the pulpit, and become the associate pastor. Lief tearfully agreed to shoot his dream and do what was best for the whole church."

This was also around the time that both Noonday and The White Horse Inn got shut down. Noonday was losing money and the White Horse Inn was starting to get tenants that were of a lower caliber and by Mark's account the leaders decided to shut it down and urge stable married couples to encourage community living by getting houses that accomodate single renters as a way to encourage community life without it having to be an infrastructural and fiscal drain on the church.

So, with that in mind, it's possible that The Paradox by itself was not necessarily a money drain that had to be rectified but if by Mark's account the community houses were also losing money or being a resource drain in a transitional period in the history of the church, then divesting MH of associations that were cumulatively losing more revenue than the church could continue to support and reconsolidating infrastructure would have made sense at the time.

As Driscoll put it, Jeff, a lot depended on how you and others handled the transition and it seems by all accounts so far you and the others handled it gracefully and graciously.

What I think I've at least partly established is that while some folks WANT a Zondervan blurb to be an example of Mark Driscoll lying the cumulative testimony from Driscoll himself and from numerous parties actually involved in The Paradox make this assertion impossible to sustain. We could say that the Zondervan blurb is an example of possibly lazy or less-than-honest biography about Mark Driscoll from ZONDERVAN but that's another topic, and it would seem that for readers of the blog saying that Christian publishers are lazy about vetting facts isn't nearly as sexy as saying a specific pastor they don't like is lying.

Hope this lengthy comment helps clear up what I've been writing toward. Think of it as a part 2 that didn't have to be its own post and thanks again to jsuffering for his comment. Hope you and your family are doing well.

Anonymous said...

It was Mefford's fault.
Then it was the researchers' fault.
Or maybe the ghostwriters' fault.
Now it's Zondervan's fault.
Who's next?

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Try harder. MH has never implicated Zondervan for anything at any point.

It's still Driscoll's fault he let Zondervan print a misleading biographical blurb about him and it's also still Zondervan's fault for printing a blurb that was proven to be simplistic and wrong on the back of the very book that clarified the story to begin with about The Paradox. There's enough fault to go around without insisting on having to bring it all back to MH or MD every single time.

Let's also bear in mind that newer biographical blurbs do not seem to be repeating this mistake.

Anonymous said...

Newer biographical blurbs say that MD founded MHC.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

If you can't keep this on the actual topic of the blog post (The Paradox and its history) sit tight for a while.

Anonymous said...

"Newer biographical blurbs say that MD founded MHC."

Mistakes were made.

Anonymous said...

If the actual topic is whether Driscoll founded the Paradox or not, a simple conversation with Lief Moi should be conclusive.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

and Lief's welcome to comment here any time he wishes to. He's gotten that invitation to contribute when or if he wishes to.

Anonymous said...

This all seems rather silly now.
WTH posted who bought and owned the Paradox from the county records at the time. We don't need Lief Moi to come out of hiding to address the issue - leave him in peace. Also, newspaper articles at the time when the Paradox closed mentioned that it was Moi's "brainchild." No mention of Driscoll.

Unfortunately, publishers are in the business of "fluff" and image-making. After awhile, people believe the fluff and forget history.

Anonymous said...

So WTH gives a pass to MD unless Lief chimes in?

Headless Unicorn Guy said...

So who at Zondervan got the idea that Mark Driscoll founded The Paradox when so much publicly available information proved otherwise?

Because Bee Jay Driscoll has the propaganda machine (which now includes Zondervan). Kind of like "Joe the Georgian" in the Al Stewart song.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Who among those who actually read what is published at Wenatchee The Hatchet could possibly imagine Mark Driscoll has been given a pass?

The Zondervan blurb about Driscoll is actually eight years old now, HUG. He's graduated from Zondervan to Crossway to Thomas Nelson to Tyndale since 2006.