Rather little is said about the 2007 period in which two controversial terminations happened.
It's worth pointing out the transcript is hardly a full transcript and in at least one place "chick" has been replaced by "girl", for a sample of some of the pertinent audio ...
and the day after ...
The actual audio is about 2:45:00 (i.e. a very long time) and the mention of the pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus is more or less a tiny fraction of what else has been in this audio session. WtH may get around to addressing other content from that audio later. But that would be later.
For now, it may be worth revisiting what Mark Driscoll had to say for himself on behalf of Mars Hill back in a letter dated November 8, 2007. Keep in mind the terminations of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry but the rest of this blog post will not necessarily be dealing directly with that. Rather than attempt to directly address terminations that Pastor Jamie Munson described as, "we didn’t want to wait on what we had determined were necessary and inevitable firings until after the bylaws had been voted into approval because that would have been deceptive." what we can do is address the background of what pastors Driscoll and Munson considered the background to the firings that made the firings somehow necessary. While some readers will no doubt imagine that this has to go to the 2007 by-laws that is arguably not going back far enough. Read on, if you wish, and we'll highlight a few possibilities after the quotes.
... For me personally, everything culminated at the end of 2006. Despite rapid growth, the church was not healthy and neither was I. My workload was simply overwhelming. I was preaching five times a Sunday, the senior leader in Mars Hill responsible to some degree for literally everything in the church, president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network which had exploded, president of The Resurgence, an author writing books, a conference speaker traveling, a media representative doing interviews, a student attending graduate school, a father with five young children, and a husband to a wife whom I have adored since the first day I met her and needed my focus more than ever. I was working far too many hours and neglecting my own physical and spiritual well-being, and then I hit the proverbial wall. For many weeks I simply could not sleep more than two or three hours a night. I had been running off of adrenaline for so many years that my adrenal glands fatigued and the stress of my responsibilities caused me to be stuck “on” physically and unable to rest or sleep. After a few months I had black circles under my eyes, was seeing a fog, and was constantly beyond exhausted.
Nonetheless, the demands on me continued to grow as the church grew. We added more campuses, gathered more critics, saw more media attention, planted more churches, purchased more real estate, raised more money, and hired more staff. It was at this time that I seriously pondered leaving Mars Hill Church for the first time ever. I still loved our Jesus, loved our mission, loved our city, and loved our people. However, I sunk into a deep season of despair as I considered spending the rest of my life serving at Mars Hill Church. I simply could not fathom living the rest of my life with the pace of ministry and amount of responsibility that was on me. Furthermore, the relational demands of the church and its leaders depleted me entirely. In short, I had lost my joy and wanted to lose my job before I lost my life. Tucking my children in bed at night became a deeply sorrowful experience for me; I truly feared I would either die early from a heart attack or burn out and be left unable to best care for my children in the coming years. I have met many pastors who have simply crossed the line of burnout and never returned to health and sanity and that was my frightful but seemingly inevitable future.
One of the problems was that Mars Hill had essentially outgrown the wisdom of our team and needed outside counsel. The church had grown so fast that some of our elders and other leaders were simply falling behind and having trouble keeping up, which was understandable. To make matters worse, there was a growing disrespect among some elders who were jockeying for and abusing power. The illusion of unity our eldership had maintained over the years was kept in part by my tolerating some men who demanded more power, pay, control, and voice than their performance, character, or giftedness merited. While this was a very short list of men, as elders they had enough power to make life truly painful.
Sadly, it was during the bylaw rewriting process that two of our elders, who curiously were among the least administratively gifted for that task [WtH, as though drafting by-laws requires administrative gifts of any kind?] , chose to fight in a sinful manner in an effort to defend their power and retain legal control of the entire church. This included legal maneuvering involving contacting our attorney, which was a violation of policy, one elder who is no longer with us disobeying clear orders from senior leaders about not sharing sensitive working data with church members until the elders had arrived at a decision, which has caused much dissension, and that same elder accusing Pastor Jamie Munson, who was the then new Lead Pastor of Mars Hill, of being a deceptive liar in an all-elder meeting with elder candidates present, despite having absolutely no evidence or grounds because it was a lie. This was heartbreaking for me since I have seen Pastor Jamie saved in our church, baptized in our church, married in our church, birth four children in our church, and rise up from an intern to the Lead Pastor in our church with great skill and humility that includes surrounding himself with godly gifted older men to complement his gifts.
To make matters worse, this former elder’s comments came after my more than one-hour lecture in that meeting based on a twenty-three-page document I gave the elders as a summary report about what I had learned from the other pastors I had met with in addition to months of researching Christian movements. I had just explained the cause of the pains we were experiencing as a leadership team as largely tied to our growing number of elders and campuses, as well as ways that my research indicated men commonly respond by sinfully seeking power, money, preference, control, and information as ways to exercise pride and fight for their interests over the interests of the team, church, and mission of Jesus Christ.
The elder who sinned was followed up with following the meeting by a rebuke from a fellow Executive Elder, but repentance was not forthcoming. To make matters worse, some vocal church members ran to that elder’s defense without knowing the facts, made demands upon the elders, acted in a manner that was not unifying or helpful, and even took their grievances public on the Ask Anything comment portion of our main website for my forthcoming preaching series. Of course, this was done under anonymous names to protect their image in the eyes of fellow church members while maligning the elders publicly. Some church members even began accusing the other elders of grabbing power and not caring for the best interests of our people, which is nothing short of a lie and contradictory in every way to the entire process we were undertaking. It broke my heart personally when amidst all of this, a member asked me on behalf of other members if the elders really loved our people. Now having given roughly half my life to planning for and leading Mars Hill Church, the questioning of my love and the love of our elders, some of whom even got saved in our church, for our people was devastating.
Today, I remain deeply grieved by and for one man, but am thrilled that what is best for Jesus and all of Mars Hill has been unanimously approved by our entire elder team because I do love Jesus and the people of Mars Hill. Furthermore, my physical, mental, and spiritual health are at the best levels in all of my life. Now having joy and working in my gifting I am beginning to see what a dark and bitter place I once was in and deeply grieve having lived there for so long without clearly seeing my need for life change. My wife and I are closer than ever and she is the greatest woman in the world for me. I delight in her, enjoy her, and praise God for the gift that she is. She recently brought me to tears by sweetly saying, “It’s nice to have you back,” as apparently I had been somewhat gone for many years. Our five children are wonderful blessings. I love being a daddy and am closer to my children with greater joy in them than ever. In short, I was not taking good care of myself and out of love for our church I was willing to kill myself to try and keep up with all that Jesus is doing. But, as always, Jesus has reminded me that He is our Senior Pastor and has godly other pastors whom I need to empower and trust while doing my job well for His glory, my joy, and your good.
The past year has been the most difficult of my entire life. It has been painful to see a few men whom I loved and trained as elders become sinful, proud, divisive, accusatory, mistrusting, ower hungry, and unrepentant. [emphasis added] It has, however, been absolutely amazing to see all but one of those men humble themselves and give up what is best for them to do what is best for Jesus and our entire church. In that I have seen the power of the gospel, and remain hopeful to eventually see it in the former elder who remains unrepentant but to whom my hand of reconciliation remains extended along with a team of other elders assigned to pursue reconciliation if/when he is willing. Furthermore, sin in my own life has been exposed through this season and I have also benefited from learning to repent of such things as bitterness, unrighteous anger, control, and pride. As a result, I believe we have a pruned elder team that God intends to bear more fruit than ever. This team of battle-tested, humble, and repentant men is now both easy to enjoy and entrust.
Emotionally, I told our Board of Directors recently that I felt like I walked Mars Hill down the aisle and married her off so that she could be best cared for and loved in the next season of her life. I remain her father who loves and cares for her and is vitally involved in her growth and well-being, but now trust the elders to take good care of her thanks in part to a structure that enables her to be loved well. Subsequently, for the first time in my tenure at Mars Hill I am able to work in my area of gifting with men I trust on a mission I believe in with church members I love and a Jesus I worship. That harmony is priceless.
That's a sprawling excerpt, to be sure, but several things are worth noting.
First, while Driscoll went so far as to say that he nearly died from overwork, it's worth remembering that it was Mark Driscoll who, by his own account, had wanted to handle all the pulpit preaching as soon as he could manage so that he could learn-by-doing.
Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll, Zondervan
CHAPTER TWO, 45-75 PEOPLE
page 69-70... Lief was running a construction company, and Mike was running a campus ministry at the University of Washington, so I was the only person focusing full-time on the church. I really wanted to just take the pulpit and figure out how to preach by doing it every week [emphasis added], but I also wanted to respect these older, more seasoned, and very godly men. In time, they sat me down and said that they believed in me, wanted to cover my back, and wanted me to take the pulpit and lead the church.
... To some degree I had been wrongly allowing Mike and Lief to shoulder the burden because I feared failure and hoped to share the blame if things went poorly.
It was Driscoll's idea to handle the pulpit on his own because that's what he wanted. Gunn and Moi were willing to let that happen.
As for the comment about how frustrated he was to see leaders he had trained turn on him ...
there's something that can serve as a postscript to a post at this blog about the problem with Driscoll saying he failed to raise up good leaders with him without mentioning that he was the runt of the litter recruiting the time, skill, experience and financial leverage of older men. That postscript would be this, a statement Here's a screen cap if you want to see for yourself, and a copy of the relevant text for those who can't pull up images:
In all honesty, I think the biggest waste of time for a church planter is training leaders. Leaders cannot be trained. Leadership is a spiritual [sic] gift. Leaders can be encouraged and helped to grow, but sitting around talking about leadership is like phone sex where the talk is good but the action is missing. [emphasis added] Anyone who has planted knows that most of your original core disappears before the launch for various reasons (they are flaky, they don't get their way, the vision varies from theirs, they move away, they are lazy etc. etc.). Then, another core emerges to launch the church. Then, around six months to one year after the launch, the skill set needed requires a whole new core and with the launch team getting tired you get your third set of leaders. So, leadership development is something done every day rather than up front with the anticipation that those people will actually be there in five years still going strong.
So, the best way to see who is a leader is to lead. Those who keep up with you and drag others behind them are leaders. Most leaders seem to learn better from modelling than teaching and need to be in the mess of the details to get any inspiration.
The sooner you can transition to some larger event the better because most new people want to come through a front door that is large and public and enables them to check things out without getting a full body cavity search. I have yet had a new person enter our church through a Bible study or other cell. They always come to the service and once they trust us then they connect in a smaller community.
Going into someone's home with a small group of people who know each other is about the most terrifying thing a stranger could do. The only people who generally do this are the "What About Bob" types who have bizarre social reasoning, no social framework, and need lots of attention. Or, horny young men sizing up the draft board.
Lastly, you'll be lucky to find strong young alpha male leader types who connect first to a cell. Why? Because a lot of small groups philosophy feels pretty queer to a young guy who's wary of sitting in a group and sharing his feelings. Anyone who's seen Fight Club can relate.
and yet now community groups are kind of a big deal at Mars Hill ... .
So it seems that way back at the dawn of the millennium Driscoll thought the biggest waste of time for a church planter was to train leaders because the turn-around in church-planting activity would render the resource investment wasted time and effort. It's not just that Driscoll somehow failed to raise up leaders alongside him when he was planting Mars Hill, it's that he had a view of leadership that was so essentialist as to reject explicitly the idea that training leaders in leadership or recruiting leaders was even a worthwhile enterprise. Clearly in the last thirteen years someone has changed their minds about that. But this may be yet another way in which the chaos Mark Driscoll described himself as coping with could have been a fairly natural outworking of the consequences of his philosophy of leadership and ministry on the one hand and of the level of responsibility and activity he voluntarily took upon himself as an individual on the other.
Now, as for adding more campuses, it can't be avoided by now that one of the catalysts for developing multi-site from 2006-2007 was because the real estate purchased in 2005 was purchased without having researched or settled the licensing and permit issues associated with what is the 50th street building.
Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll, Zondervan 2006
Our current facility cannot accomodate much growth beyond our current four Sunday services. Additionally our kids' ministry is busting at the seams, our Capstone classes are in desperate need of space, and our cramped, windowless office space woudl perfect if we were a third-world sweatshop.
So the elders voted to purchase a 43,000 square-foot dumpy warehouse Jamie [Munson] 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 on video in others. [emphasis added] Some of our people are mildly unhappy about watching me preach on video instead of live because they feel it isn't very authentic. But in our current worship space, about half of the people sit so far away from the stage that they watch me on a video screen anyway.
The following material was discussed in an older post:
For sake of review:
In his July 30, 2006 sermon in 1 Corinthians Driscoll said several things about the property mentioned in Reformission Rev:
[dead link, of course]
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 [sic, Schirmer]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….
Page 72/145 from Mars Hill: A miracle of Jesus
November 9, 2007
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. 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.
Said property is on the market now.
So for those who were there the necessity of multisite arose out of the abject failure of all of Mars Hill leadership to account for zoning and land use permit issues for the 50th street real estate purchased in 2005. Multisite was a boon in terms of assimilating real estate that didn't have to get any development in the face of restrictive land use zoning and permit issues. But it came with some challenges and some potential drawbacks. Mars Hill, by Mark Driscoll's account in 2007, simply lacked the infrastructural competence to make multisite work all that smoothly, it seems. In order to get better at managing a multi-site system with rapidly acquired real estate things had to change.
What changed was not the development of a set of by-laws that more explicitly addressed campus by campus governance but a shrinking of the executive elder board and an expansion of its enumerated powers and a loosening of requirements that had to be met with respect to the executive elder group toward the rest of the pastoral roster.
So for sake of review, by Driscoll's account he was stressed out to the point of adrenal fatigue because he was preaching all the time and yet by his own account he early on wanted to just take the pulpit and learn by doing preaching every Sunday. There was no particular obligation on the part of Mark Driscoll, except to his own ideas of what he ought to be able to do, to NOT SHARE the pulpit with the team of elders at hand.
As to the expansion of Mars Hill into multi-site in 2006-2007 that allegedly necessitated revised by-laws, it's useful to note that the selection of the multi-site approach looks as though it was adopted in the wake of Mars Hill discovering that it spent about $1.5 million on a piece of real estate it couldn't do a whole lot with and hadn't researched adequately before discovering all of this after the purchase.
Another way of putting things would be to point out that a great deal of the stress Mars Hill in general and Mark Driscoll in particular have faced has been fairly mundane consequences for pursuing a set path. The multisite model was, depending on how you look at what Driscoll so eagerly announced in the April 2006 book Reformission Rev, Mars Hill attempting to make lemonade out of the purchase of a real estate lemon. The real estate's fine if you have a business but for church stuff the purchase was not the most brilliant purchasing move. Had Driscoll 1) been willing to keep sharing the pulpit 2) been willing to repudiated much earlier than he did the canard that leaders simply can't be trained (and that he invoked statements about how it is better to train the called than to call the train might be a subject someone else can take up) and 3) not presumed upon divine favor to overcome city zoning and land use restrictions on real estate along with the rest of the leaders circa 2005 then a lot of the stresses that Driscoll would go on to say could have killed him could have bee largely avoided all across the board.
Then again ... hindsight, as the saying goes, is 20/20. Even this late in the game Mark Driscoll seems unable to grasp or unwilling to concede that the troubles he has so eagerly shared that he has gone through have been troubles that can seem like fairly natural consequences to the paths he has taken and the decisions he has decided to make. After years of being willing to say things such as this:
You either enjoy confrontation or you enjoy sin. You get to pick one or the other. If people sin and there’s not confrontation, then you better enjoy sin because that’s what’s going to happen.
in the sermon "Fathers and Fighting" in the Nehemiah series, Mark Driscoll has, only lately, introduced the possibility that there's a third way, that there are mistakes that aren't sins. Whether this might be an allusion to seven published books with citation errors documented by Warren Throckmorton or an allusion to the confusion and concern people have expressed this year about what on earth has been going on with the monies donated to and through Mars Hill Global, Driscoll may no longer believe that you have strictly one of two options, to enjoy confrontation or enjoy sin. He may no longer believe you get to pick one or the other.
If Driscoll took the trouble of mentioning 2006 and 2007 then it's impossible to not know the big names from that tumultuous period. It's rather difficult to not read the sprawling sample of Driscoll's 2007 letter quoted above and not see references to Paul Petry and Bent Meyer. That letter was at the front of a document distributed to Mars Hill members. Thousands of people saw that letter, if not tens of thousands since 2007. If Mark Driscoll were to follow the counsel (but perhaps not the example) of his former Lead Pastor Jamie Munson he could "own it and move on". But that would require that he own up to anything at all and given the bureaucratic and procedural insulation that seemed to surround Mark Driscoll in 2007 one can sometimes wonder whether the point of the whole process was to ensure that none of the 2007 firing process or trial process could ever make its way back to Mark Driscoll himself.
So what, exactly, per Jamie Munson's recent counsel, Mark Driscoll has owned up to at this point is nebulous, if it is anything at all. That's just addressing the mere possibility that Mark Driscoll has, seven years afterward, conceded that maybe he and the other leaders at Mars Hill didn't handle the transitions in 2007 in as loving a way as they could have. If Mark Driscoll has gone so far as to say that then the question of why two dozen men voted to have Meyer and Petry removed is back on the table for public discourse. Of course regular readers of this blog know that topic never went away.
If even Mark Driscoll might dare to concede that things weren't very lovingly handled back then now might be a good time for any men who were in eldership at Mars Hill back then who have since had a change of heart and mind about how they voted in 2007 to consider making some kind of public statement. A few have done so already, after all.