Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Warren Throckmorton publishes March 2012 memo on Mars Hill in financial trouble: part 1 the general situation

Well, today's contribution from Throckmorton, if it's an authentic memo from Sutton Turner from March 2012 ... is pretty amazing.
Unless we're exegeting Pauline epistles for telegraphed doctrinal themes we know the Christianese cold open can usually be ignored but Turner opens with a paragraph that, summarily, declares how bad things were in 2012.

The parts that are interesting enough to quote for the moment are ....

Executive Elders
Current Financial Situation
Saturday, March 17, 2012

After being at Mars Hill for 10 months and in my current role for 3 months, I now have a picture of a very broken and fundamentally financially unsustainable organization. I am sorry that I have not been able to really see the financial picture of the organization until just this week. So many distractions with A29, Real Marriage, GWOW, distractions with Churches, my Eldership, and a very incompetent staff when I arrived has kept me from not seeing the picture. But now I see the organization very clearly and we have some difficult decisions to make.

"GWOW" is most likely a shorthand for God's Work, Our Witness. 

One of the greatest and most harmful events was Pastor Jamie resigning and leaving me in this job as General Manager/Executive Elder. From early June until he resigned in August, he had basically checked out. So I had less than 6 weeks as General Manager before becoming #1 King without being an Elder. Then finally in November, I was made an Executive Pastor without have any creditability with the staff. This single fact hindered my ability to really even understand the organization or the people, much less see the problems as they had existed for a long time.

Let's revisit the resignation of Jamie Munson.

Since Mars Hill purged this content Wenatchee The Hatchet has to make do with previously published blog material that preserved some information.


My proposal to the Board of Directors (BOD) is that Pastor Jamie Munson remain an elder at Mars Hill Church Ballard. Following a sabbatical through the end of the year to enjoy his family, rest up, and finish writing a book, he will rejoin us as an unpaid board member at the highest legal level of Mars Hill Church. In God’s providence, the same day that Pastor Jamie made this decision, one of our unpaid BOD members had to resign due to escalating demands at his place of employment. So, while this man will remain an elder at his local Mars Hill Church, it opened a seat on the BOD for an unpaid elder, which Pastor Jamie fills perfectly. We need many more unpaid elders and Pastor Jamie helps us to raise the profile of that service. The plan is simply that Pastor Jamie will remain an elder at Mars Hill indefinitely. He has clearly communicated his desire to stay at Mars Hill and serve as an elder and we welcome this. So, Pastor Jamie is still Pastor Jamie. Also, the door to employment is always open to Pastor Jamie. It has been clearly communicated to him by myself personally and by his performance review team collectively that should he ever change his mind, we would welcome him back on staff at Mars Hill Church. Our bylaws require that our Executive Elder (EE) team have at least three members. Pastor Dave Bruskas and I remain on the EE. Thankfully, Pastor Dave and his family recently moved to Seattle after leading Mars Hill Albuquerque. His leadership, wisdom, and experience come at just the right time and we praise God he is on the team. In God’s providence, the sermon he preached at Mars Hill Ballard will air this Sunday at all our other churches, helping you to get to know him better. To fill Pastor Jamie’s vacancy on the EE, I am recommending that the BOD vote for Pastor Scott Thomas to join the EE for at least the foreseeable future. Pastor Scott has served faithfully for many years as an elder at Mars Hill, is among our most trained and seasoned leaders, is already a BOD member, and has served previously for many years as an EE member while also leading Acts 29. Pastor Dave and I both believe Pastor Scott is the best choice for this role in this season. Pastor Scott has been very clear in his love and commitment to Mars Hill and has said he will gladly serve wherever he is needed, which we deeply appreciate. Administratively, Pastor Jamie was our senior "king" and his departure requires very competent leadership to cover his many responsibilities. Thankfully, Pastor Jamie was a great leader and humble man. He surrounded himself with great people. This allows us to not have the kind of crisis that could otherwise ensue. Pastor Dave and I agree that Sutton Turner should function as our highest-ranking "king." Sutton is new to staff, but not to ministry. He is a former executive pastor of a large church. Educationally, he is a graduate of Texas A&M, the SMU Cox School of Business, and Harvard Business School. Professionally, he has recently served as the CEO of a company that has nearly 1,600 employees. Prior to that he served as the CEO of another company that under his leadership grew from 0 to 500 employees in the first year. He and his family moved to Seattle sensing a call to serve at Mars Hill, and we believe he is a gift from God to us for our future.

Let the record note that Scott Thomas vanished from the leadership scene of both Mars Hill and Acts 29 with a matter of months, but we'll get to that later.  Driscoll stated back in 2011 that Munson was always above reproach.  It'd be easier to go look that up if Mars Hill hadn't scrubbed that public statement, though.  But what we can consult is occasional public statements from Munson such as:

2) The opposite of growth is death.
The living grow; the dying do not. A church need not add to its numbers in astronomical proportions, but if nobody is showing up, chances are nobody is meeting Jesus, which is the whole point. Also, spiritual growth is inextricably linked to numerical growth (though it’s not always an exponential relationship); if people are truly growing in their faith, they will give, they will serve, they will invite their friends, they will tell people about Jesus, they will live on mission—all of which leads to some level of numerical growth as God works through his people.

Munson may have been implementing what amounted to a "too big to fail" approach to church growth

So, let's get back to what Sutton Turner reportedly thought about the financial situation at Mars Hill as it was left to him in the wake of Munson's resignation.  According to the memo, the financial situation was none too promising.

If you go back and look, the Church had no budget and the financial statements were a total joke this time last year. Financial reporting was 4 to 5 months late because the staff in finance was incompetent and the policies and procedures were non-existent. I am sorry, these are strong words, but it is true.

In June and July, we slammed together a budget and put in place a new software system so we could start getting some financial information. In September the financial information began to come, but since the organization in general had no policies around spending and credit cards use, it was garbage in and garbage out. In September we installed Concur (credit card management system) and new policies across the organization. Finally by December, Kerry arrived with two good accounting managers to really get things cranking. As we have discussed, the financials for January 2012 were difficult to read because of all of the year-end GWOW giving/expenses plus the launching of 4 churches on 1/15/2012 to make the picture very foggy.

Is it less foggy two years later? Because it would be a great demonstration of the stewardship of the leadership of Mars Hill Church to open up the books to rank and file members and explain where all that money went.  Throw in how much it cost to rent Ephesus, too.  After all, Driscoll couldn't help himself remarking "We even rented Ephesus for a day".

Yesterday I received February financials (within 15 days of the close of the month) and we are in a big mess. It is much worse that I could have ever imagined. Since September, we have basically planted or re-planted 6 churches (EVT, ABQ, OC, SAM, RNV, and PDX). Operationally and organizationally this is a huge task. In order to accomplish this massive task, the people and processes were set up to accomplish this task. So the organization was built to plant 6 churches, not sustain past that event. Then you put on top of these 6 churches launches a RM campaign and you basically have a company going to World War Ill. It is all hands on deck, spend whenever is
needed and let's win the War.

Wenatchee The Hatchet had made a point of sharing with leadership in 2008 that Mars Hill looked to be committed to a growth pattern that couldn't be sustained.  Adding campuses would just be adding operational liabilities without cultivating the donor base to keep the newly opening campuses viable.  The Lake City campus was eventually closed, so the recent closure announcements of Mars Hill are merely unique for quantity rather than quality of announcement.

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