Monday, October 13, 2014

Throckmorton--commenter Mike on the 2011 switch from "campus" to "church"

Years ago, when Wenatchee The Hatchet commented on the announced shift from "campus" to "church" it seemed like a distinction without a difference.  It was another case of Mars Hill yet again seeming to be a denomination in the closet.

However, WtH was considering the local campus functionality as an end unto itself, not the significance of treating each individual Mars Hill site as an independent church in terms of finances or membership in Acts 29. 

So props to commenter Mike over at Warren Throckmorton's blog has brought up something in a recent post at WT's blog that seems worth quoting.

In many ways this was an attempt to avoid diligently fulfilling Mars Hill's frequent promise to tithe 10% of giving to church planting. Easy to find many places, but here's one from 2008:
In August 2011 Jamie Munson announced via The City that Mars Hill campuses were being re-branded as individual churches It was not mentioned that they would actually individually belong to the Acts 29 network. As a member at the time this sounded good and correlated with what Driscoll said here:  which also sounded good. Deceitfully though, this shift allowed MH to spend their 10% internally on new location plants rather than giving outside the organization.
If new locations are considered individual churches, then the expenditures from setting them up were fair game to gobble up the 10% proclaimed to be used for church planting. The Global Fund strategy further dug into this idea as a way to convince donors that MH was mission minded, while in reality the mission was building an empire. Being cool simply cost too much money to give anything to other churches. And, even if you didn't attend Mars Hill church locally, you were a potential source of revenue once MH could convince you that it was "helping the helpless."

The video mentioned above also mentions church strategy that is hugely different than what we've seen play out. Clearly, Mars Hill Churches are not stand alone. They are not autonomous. It seems like Driscoll and the leadership shifted from the idea of local lead pastors preaching 25% of the time sometime in 2011. That shift was not really made public, but was a massive change in strategy. Not long after that Mark stepped down from leading Acts 29, and also resigned from the Gospel Coalition.
Wenatchee differs a bit on some matters of interpretation but the March 2012 Turner memo seems to reflect a train of thought that giving to Acts 29 was "not sustainable" without explanation while it was also established that this was the period around which Global was considered a "sleeping giant".  Nixing A29 giving from MH as not sustainable seems crazy if there were actual considerations of the mission of Mars Hill and Acts 29 (i.e. church planting) given primary consideration.  But if the decision was fueled by desperation or ambition surrounding the bottom line then it might make sense, at least to someone with a bottom line mentality. 


Anonymous said...

Acts 29, or at least Mars Hill through A29 in name only was paying for Mars Hill expenses before the church/campus switch in 2011. U-District was always unsustainable, and the lead pastor's salary was paid by Acts 29 from the launch. The church wouldn't have been able to run without it (roughly half that campus' budget) even at it's peak of ~650 attendees.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...


WtH privately advised that the growth approach taken by MH seemed financially unsustainable back in later 2008ish so it wouldn't be a big surprise if MH UD was unsustainable from jump. It increasingly seems many of the campuses were that way because of donor dilution.

But while WtH believes your explanation is definitely plausible and may even be likely, it would be helpful if we could get some comments for the record here (or maybe elsewhere) with any documentation that could clear things up on the A29 side or from a former MH pastor at the U district.

That A29 up through the spring of 2012 seemed to be little more than a formals hell for Mars Hill executive leadership was discussed here a while back; it's pretty easy to believe that A29 for a long time was only "not Mars Hill" by dint of David Nicholas retaining co-credit for founding the network.

Speaking of which, if anyone on the Spanish River side of things would be willing to share anything for the record Wenatchee The Hatchet is interested.