Saturday, June 21, 2014

from way back in 2003, Driscoll said that his preaching being wrong was the most terrifying part of the job
Is Driscoll ever afraid that what he's preaching could turn out to be plain wrong? "It is the most terrifying part of my job," he says. "I have a team of pastors — they have the ability to edit me or fire me at will. I think any religious leader that does not have a bit of fear about what they're doing, and have people who can pull rank on them, are very dangerous."

So who can pull rank on Driscoll inside of Mars Hill Church at this point?  Perhaps in the end it wouldn't matter who formally has that ability because as far back as 2003 there was also this.

At 25, he knew it was time to start his own church. "It was crazy," he says. "I'd never preached, run a business, gone through seminary." But "it's like you're at the kids' table at Thanksgiving and someone says: 'Someday you'll get to the big table.' Screw it. I'll just form my own table."

Driscoll wasn't going to wait to do the usual years of seminary and going through the normal processes of getting ordained in, say, a denominational or confessional setting.  He may have felt like he heard that someday he'd be at the big table but he wasn't interested in waiting so he formed his own table.  And to some degree, now that the controversy about plagiarism in seven of his books has erupted in the last 12 months and news of rigging the NYT best seller list via Result Source has come to light we not only have some unpleasant discoveries about Mark Driscoll himself but in some sense a clearer and not entirely happy picture of what the table looks like now compared to whatever it was in 2003.  But perhaps that's just it, it's still the people Mark Driscoll gathered to himself that would let him form his own table.  If along the way the funding resources of David Nicholas or an Acts 29 were helpful in getting some salaries, great, but in the end Mark Driscoll having his own table could make sense of having pulled back from the Gospel Coalition and Acts 29.

To date there's been no explanation of when, how and why David Nicholas stopped being part of Acts 29.  If you happen to have documentation for that ... WtH has cleared up how to get in touch (if you wish) in another recent post.

Munson's path forward, and he managed to add the Oracle experience to his LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn, as you may well know, can be a bit squirrelly.  Munson was just an intern in 1999 and not an Executive Pastor ... but so it goes.

Storyville Coffee Company

Privately Held; 11-50 employees; Food & Beverages industry
January 2012May 2014 (2 years 5 months) Seattle
A premium coffee brand that does same-day roasting and shipping of the highest-quality beans to our customers. Opening its first retail location at Pike Place Market in 2013.

Executive Pastor, President

Mars Hill Church

Nonprofit; 51-200 employees; Religious Institutions industry
October 1999September 2011 (12 years) Seattle

Board Member / President

Ballard Chamber of Commerce

20032006 (3 years)



Public Company; 10,001+ employees; ORCL; Information Technology and Services industry
April 1998August 1999 (1 year 5 months)


Buca di Beppo

Privately Held; 5001-10,000 employees; BUCA; Restaurants industry
October 1997August 1998 (11 months)
But he has added his time at Oracle to his profile in a way that's easy to spot.

He doesn't particularly highlight his time at Mars Hill in his page profile at his own

But, really, the only non-profit experience he ever had that was likely to get mentioned was Mars Hill leadership culture, whether as an in intern in 1999 or as a pastor circa 2005-2011 and things in between.  He doesn't have to say his experience in non-profit was nearly all about Mars Hill.  Still, it's worth remembering that when he became Lead Pastor in 2007 he proceeded to be part of the termination of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer because they didn't respect or trust his role and authority. 

Munson's embarking on a new chapter as of June 2014.

Moving forward as a management/leadership consultant it may be all the more important to pay a visit to Joyful Exiles to get a case study in correspondence attesting to one of the earliest incidents in Munson's leadership.  Munson has, to date, never provided a particularly clear case for why the firings of Meyer and Petry were both inevitable and necessary.  Maybe they were but the evidence has yet to be made available to the public and the reason the evidence would matter is that because Munson issued a shunning edict.  Munson also proposed that the 2007 by-laws that he drafted were necessary because the older by-laws co-drafted by Munson and Petry (if memory serves) somehow weren't adequately architected for a multi-site campus.  Except that if you go look at the 2005 and 2007 bylaws there's no significant language in the 2007 bylaws about campus governance or administration compared to the 2005 bylaws.  What the 2007 bylaws did have was a shrinking of the executive elder board, a general expansion of its powers, and the innovation of making the Lead Pastor (not the preaching and/or vision pastor) legal president of the organization. 

But obscure though those early years at Oracle may be it's good they were added back in.  It helps to show that however minimal his non-Mars Hill experience is compared to his Mars Hill experience it shows that his background pre-MH was a little more diverse than previously listed.

Unfortunately for Munson's path as a leadership consultant, the documentation at Joyful Exiles of how he handled the 2007 terminations and Mark Driscoll's sharing the eventual systemic deficits at every campus of MH under Munson's tenure as legal president may be what's left as external testimony to Munson's leadership legacy at MH.  If Munson aims to be a consultant on leadership and management what has been shared by even Mark Driscoll from the pulpit over the last two to four years might give someone pause as to the fiscal legacy of MHC under Munson's presidential tenure.  Mark Driscoll shared from the pulpit that it wasn't that anyone sinned (on staff) but that MHC had a financial model that wasn't viable for the long-term future.

"... it's not that anybody has sinned, or done anything wrong, or is in trouble it's just that we had an economic model that wasn't sustainable for our future."
What's unfortunate is that if the same were said about rank and file members is that if you were chronically in debt if you weren't in sin you might be asked if you were being a poor steward of your financial resources.  If as Driscoll took pains to say in later 2011 that Munson was above reproach as he always had been then at the very least systemic deficits at every campus that had developed under Munson's presidential tenure since 2007 might at least raise some questions about what was going on, right?  Maybe it wasn't sinful or perhaps nothing was being done wrong but in the film God's Work, Our Witness Mark Driscoll said MH had historically stunk at giving.  That "could" be true but anyone who saw the deficit numbers might also ask whether part of the challenge was the level of spending being done by MH.  Spending got dialed back but that would at least imply the possibility that MH leadership figured out that they could reassess their expense priorities. 

That the important letters regarding Munson's resignation are no longer even up is just a puzzle.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

end of fiscal year approaching for Mars Hill, probably nothing to be particularly concerned about

Warren Throckmorton has recently posted an email that is said to be making the rounds.  Quoting just some of the message attributed to Sutton Turner ... :

,,, From 2007 to 2011, I was a podcaster like many of you. My family and I would download Pastor Mark's sermons weekly and Jesus used them to grow our family in godliness. As I think back, I don't know if I ever received a communication from Mars Hill asking me to financially give back to the church that blessed my family and me week in and week out. That's why I'm writing this quick email.  The financial picture of Mars Hill for the rest of the year depends largely on how we finish this year. Right now we're making plan as for what we can do -- and what we can't do -- next year.

Thankfully you and I believe in a God who is in control of everything. But you and I still have a role to play. In the near future I'll be asking if you can make a special gift to Mars Hill to help the church end the fiscal year strong.

Your gift to Mars Hill means that Pastor Mark's sermons are recorded and streamed for free, to anyone in the world who wants to learn more about Jesus and love more like Jesus loves. ...

It's not as though Mars Hill never solicited micro-gifts from online podcast listeners but it would make sense why Turner might never have been contacted given that he wasn't necessarily staying in the US at the time MHC was soliciting gifts.
Prophets, Priests and Kings
Trial: 8 witnesses from 1 & 2 Peter
May 3, 2009
1 Peter 5:1-5
starting about 0:47
... I have announcements for you.

Additionally, is an initiative led by your Lead Pastor Jamie Munson and here's where we're going: from seven campuses of Mars Hill to a hundred; from upwards of 10,000 people on any given Sunday to 50,000 in the next ten years. Leading this is Pastor Rick Melson, one of our executive elders and he's a great guy. We stole him from John Piper in Minneapolis. I'll rephrase that, we borrowed him for a long time to the glory of God from John Piper in Minneapolis, and he [Melson] is also running the Resurgence Training Center--it's a school that will open in the fall so that we can have a leadership engine to train more campus pastors, church planters and potential elders. We're seeking fifty students for the fall term.
For all of this we will need to raise four million dollars above and beyond budget and Pastor Jamie has a really smart idea to take microgifts from a lot of our fans online. There's upwards of 20 million downloads of our sermons and content every year. [We're] asking those people who enjoy all that we give away to give some small gifts to help fund this global expansion and initiative. Many have asked--it's cool, we've recently had checks as large as ten thousand dollars--saying, "We love you. We listen to a lot of things. Here, how can we help?" So we're going to open that opportunity up. We're going to invite you to give as well, above and beyond your general tithes and offerings. And, amazingly enough, a generous donor stepped forward and said "I'll do a million-dollar matching fund. For everyone who gives any amount I'll match that up to the first million dollars." So that's the great kick-off. We praise God for that.
So Mars Hill has solicited donations from their online audiences over the years.  And why not?  Turner just may never have been on the list.

Although Throckmorton and others have wondered if MHC is not doing well financially the numbers reported in the last two fiscal years suggest that while the number of people who give nothing is potentially the highest it has been since the earliest days of Mars Hill the number of high end and mid-tier donors giving has increased and the revenue seems to have gone up.  Unless something truly catastrophic has happened (and to go by the public statements and activities of Mars Hill the lead pastor Mark Driscoll being shown to have plagiarized in at least seven of his published books and had one of those books bought a place on the NYT bestseller list apparently doesn't count as catastrophic)  Mars Hill probably doesn't really want for money. 

While Munson was formally president he publicly endorsed the idea of growing even when it's not necessarily a good idea but Turner seems to be more fiscally restrained.  Or at least that's been suggested out and about and it seems probable.

Although by June 2012 Driscoll announced that MHC had run into another difficult season and that a lot of people had to be laid off because of shortcomings in the financial model, these things were said to be fixed by switching from an annual budget to a weekly budget.

The cycle of falling short by at least a little here and there sort of continued, though.

Then again, falling short of budget and laying a few people off became normal enough around Ballard that it's hard to describe that as anything close to emergency mode, though some bloggers and commenters might be tempted to see things that way.

But then it could be that in 2012 when there was a lean season there were different kinds of expenses.  It may have been FY2012 was when MHC entered an agreement with Result Source to buy a place for Real Marriage on the NYT bestseller list.  There was also a brief, tossed off comment from Driscoll about something else that had happened, apparently some time in 2012.

After Easter, We’ll launch a new sermon series called the Seven, looking at Revelation 1–3 and the seven churches to which John writes in those chapters. Most of the series was filmed live on location in Turkey—and it’s epic. We even rented the city of Ephesus for a day.
So how much did it cost to rent the city of Ephesus for a day?  Between buying a spot for Real Marriage on the NYT best seller list and renting the city of Ephesus for a day for some epic film-making what did that cost? Those may be the kinds of expenses that have been dialed back by a new and more fiscally cautious Mars Hill, perhaps?

Back then Driscoll was sharing how MH had historically stunk at giving.  But that seems a bit unfair.  The church could, on the spur of the moment, donate about eleven tons of food to a regional food pantry when asked.  The change in policy that was set up in 2012 would eventually get described by Mark Driscoll as Mars Hill avoiding its own fiscal cliff.  Curiously, about a month later Driscoll was apparently sharing with Mars Hill this idea that "we're not a wealthy church" as though 30+ million dollars was poor.  Compared to an oil company, sure, but how many not-wealthy churches have even one Red camera, let alone have a pastor sharing in a tossed off line how they even rented the city of Ephesus for a day. It's not that they can't spend money on stuff like that, of course, it's that spending money on renting cities overseas while legal officers and pastors hemorrhage out of the leadership culture might send mixed signals.  The first half of 2012 was also when the Driscolls moved out of the city of Seattle and out of King County into a million-dollar home in Snohomish county. Whatever tight season was afoot at Mars Hill in the first half of 2012 that lean season did not necessarily apply to the Driscolls.  And if it had turned out that Real Marriage didn't have any plagiarism in it and if its spot at the top of the NYT bestseller list hadn't been bought then congratulations on an honest success would be in order, truly.  Unfortunately ... well ...

Anyway, by June 2012 Driscoll had shared how things were changing and by the end of FY2013 it was another "best year ever" but this time it was Sutton Turner rather than Mark Driscoll sharing the news that:

We’re in the best financial health in the history of Mars Hill Church, with ample finance staff, policies, and contingency to ensure good stewardship.
So the idea that now, of all times, Mars Hill might in any way be short on funds seems improbable, unless something really terrible has transpired in the last year but to go by Mars Hill's public statements and activity there's not much sign that anything bad in the way of finances would even be reasonable to infer.  You don't hire a capital development manager if you 1) think there's no money out there and 2) you think you can't possibly get some of it.  Sure, the International Paper Building didn't turn out to be quite as God's will as originally advertised by Thomas Hurst but maybe the elders of Mars Hill just misheard what Jesus was allegedly telling them.

Mars Hill is probably doing fine, based on what they've shared publicly.  IF there is any concern about money being in short supply this would more likely be because of the massive capital expansion projects of finding a new corporate headquarters home in Bellevue and taking a second-or-third shot at starting a school that would necessitate more funds.  Considering the whimper with which the Resurgence Training Center seems to have ended after no more than a sort of two year academic year it remains to be seen whether investing in Mars Hill Schools as either a student or as an investor is necessarily a great move.  A school started with some association with his church planting community was something Driscoll envisioned back in the earlier days of the church.

The mere possibility that in the earliest days of Mars Hill Mark Driscoll DIDN'T have a vision of starting a Bible college or seminary of some kind is so easily contested by so many years of public testimony from Driscoll himself that it was the subject of a blog post.

But then these days a majority of Driscoll preaching and teaching is actually no longer available at the Mars Hill website.  So if you're giving to the cause there's possibly half or more of the formerly available materials that are no longer available.

For that matter, Driscoll's relatively recent attempt to cast himself as being a fatherly type doesn't quite account for how recently he's leaned on anger as part of his homiletic style.  It's not as though proposing that most people don't even do anything until they get ticked off wasn't part of the roll out for A Call to Resurgence.  2009's "How dare you!?" wasn't really that long ago.  That was back when Driscoll was sharing publicly from the pulpit that he didn't have a side company for book royalties and wouldn't have one.  Then in 2011 that changed.  Driscoll's never been a stranger to controversy but in the last year at least some of the controversy has touched upon the fact that if you just look at what he publicly said about pastors and publishing and God boxes then and compared all of that to how he has spoken and written and behaved in the now that the 2014 Mark Driscoll can come across as though he's the kind of person 2004 Mark Driscoll warned everyone at Mars Hill Fellowship to be wary of. 

But so far all of that does not suggest that people aren't giving faithfully to the mission of Mars Hill Church or that there's any reason the financial situation in FY2014 should prove to be poorer than previous fiscal years.  Of course ... it's conceivable that maybe behind the scenes there are significant concerns but let's just assume for the sake of discussion that that would actually come to light in some documentable form.  The average attendance DID go down from FY2012 to FY2013 and more and more people in the last few years who have called MH home aren't giving anything at all ... but it's tough to infer from that a real financial crisis because it's common for a minority of hugely dedicated people to keep an organization like MH fiscally floating.

To date there have been grand visions of starting a music label that sort of turned into a partnership with Tooth & Nail.  There have been grand visions of a Resurgence Training Center that's turned into Mars Hill Schools, a partnership with Western Seminary and Corban University.  And along the way there was sort of a good-for-Bellevue thing.  So far Mars Hill has a track record of trying to build something in Mark's vision-casting plan from the early years from scratch that seems to fizzle and fade to then later get replaced by Mars Hill partnering with or somewhat assimilating an already functioning iteration of the basic concept a year or two or three later.  After all ... it's not like re:sound is easy to spot these days.  And the Capstone Institute ... it sort of doesn't exist any longer, either. Not that music labels and Bible schools are bad ideas, just that Mars Hill has been trying to get these two particular elements of Driscoll's early vision-casting plan off the ground off and on for at least a decade, give or take a particular project.  Arguably Mars Hill is too young a religious movement to really have the infrastructural competence and capital to pull these things off in the homegrown/home-brewed DIY fashion so assimilating the moderate successes of others may be the most reasonable approach for them.  And it's not like the Pacific Northwest has been famous for a distinctly evangelical seminary so that's actually, to a fellow evangelical, a theoretically very laudable goal. 

It's just that after seven books have been shown to have citation errors and a number of egregious factual errors ... Driscoll and Mars Hill have not quite shown themselves the ideal peeps to be spearheading these projects on behalf of evangelicalism in the Pacific Northwest ... strictly in the opinion of Wenatchee The Hatchet.

But ... if a person is going to give to the cause then finding out how much it actually cost to rent the city of Ephesus might be interesting.  MHC has said that the Result Source contract cost significantly less than the $210,000 reported by World Magazine but has yet to provide the evidence for why this would be the case and what the real number would be.  As the vision of global expansion and funding for that expansion continues the numbers get bigger along with the ambitions.  That's not necessarily a bad thing ... but it's worth thinking about how many iterations of the record label and Bible college have been cast off and forgotten about as if they never existed Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll seem to have gone through in the last ten years before cutting a check for yet another attempt at something that has been aimed for since the earliest days of Mars Hill Fellowship.  Maybe the third or fourth time will be the charm, though. Who knows?

a word of thanks to those who have contributed to help get WtH a new computer.

The fundraising target has been reached. 

Thanks to those who set up the fundraiser and who contributed to the fundraiser so that Wenatchee The Hatchet can get a new platform for continued work.  Thanks to Michael at Phoenix Preacher and to Warren Throckmorton for highlighting the fundraiser.  Thanks to those who donated. 

And thanks to Q for taking the initiative to raise funds. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

God's Work, Our Witness film has a lower profile, revisiting the 2011 fundraising film as a who's who of who's gone from the public face of Mars Hill.

On December 6, 2011, Mark Driscoll tweeted about the documentary God's Work, Our Witness, a film distributed on DVD with the FY2011 annual report for members that was also the title of a sermon series preached in late 2011.  As noted before, this series featured Mark Driscoll sharing how many at Mars Hill stunk at giving.  That has been blogged about by others already and Wenatchee The Hatchet has cross-referenced how the fundraising film God's Work, Our Witness had a release date around the period in which Sutton Turner had signed the contract with Result Source Inc. and the trademark/logo controversy.

Anyway, thus Mark Driscoll tweeted.
The God's Work, Our Witness documentary is up for viewing. Chronicles the crazy early days of Mars Hill
7:15 PM - 6 Dec 2011
which led to ...

but the film may or may not play for you at the main page these days.
The film hasn't exactly been pulled down, though, because the sermon transcript is functionally a transcript of the documentary and it would be tough to just pull the first part of the series altogether and renumbering all the subsequent entries in the sermon (though this was, in fact, done with the 2002 Proverbs series when the original part 20 "Lovemaking" got pulled ... ).

For those of you who currently (or presently will) have the fundraising film to view in the comfort of your home, a few screen captures of stuff you may have already seen.
the Harlemans haven't been at MH for a couple of years
(actually a review of James' book is seriously overdue at WtH)

technically still at Mars Hill but not necessarily public, Jamie Munson has still been listed as a pastor inside MH recently.

still around but preparing for a sabbatical

In terms of the history of the early years of Mars Hill (i.e. the first decade) that's practically a who's who of Mars Hill.  If you don't instantly know who these people are you basically weren't around in the first decade of Mars Hill Fellowship. 

Given that the fundraising film/documentary God's Work, Our Witness (if you can watch it) now views like a who's who of the people who aren't at Mars Hill in the leadership culture it's not entirely surprising Mars Hill may have semi-withdrawn the film or may be in the process of withdrawing it. 

With the exception of Tim Smith you're not going to find any of these people as a present fixture in the publicly accessible leadership culture of Mars Hill.  Munson may still be a pastor behind the scenes but he stopped being listed as a pastor at Mars Hill some time around the time The Stranger began to raise a racket about how Storyville Coffee Company (owned by Jon and Esther Phelps, the former being a long-time associate of Mark Driscoll) was probably a front for Mars Hill activities.  The Stranger being The Stranger, well, never mind. 

For those who have the film the minute indications are left at the bottom near the center so you can see about where these people would be featured in the film. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

revisiting a tweet, a few announcements, and a couple of invoices connected to Real Marriage

Mark DriscollVerified account‏@PastorMark   Grace is thrifty so we were at the Dollar Store getting stuff for
Gideon's 6th bday when we heard we'd hit #1 on NY Times Best Seller list.
7:15 AM - 15 Jan 2012

October 13, 2011

Dear Mars Hill Church,

This letter will confirm your engagement of Result Source Inc, ("RSI") to conduct a bestseller campaign for your book, Real Marriage on the week of January 2, 2012.  The bestseller campaign is intended to place Real Marriage on The New York Times bestseller list for the Advice How-To list. Additionally, RSI will work to put Real Marriage on The Wall Street Journal Business Bestseller list and on the USA Today Money list,, and bestseller list.

Result Source

In 2011, outside counsel advised our marketing team to use Result Source to market the Real Marriage book and attain placement on the New York Times Bestseller list. While not uncommon or illegal, this unwise strategy is not one we had used before or since, and not one we will use again. The true cost of this endeavor was much less than what has been reported, and to be clear, all of the books purchased through this campaign have been given away or sold through normal channels. All monies from the sale of Pastor Mark’s books at Mars Hill bookstores have always gone to the church and Pastor Mark did not profit from the Real Marriage books sold either at the church or through the Result Source marketing campaign.
To correct a statement in a recent article, Pastor Sutton Turner was the General Manager, not the Executive Pastor or Executive Elder as reported, at the time he signed with the referenced agreement with Result Source. In the time since this campaign [emphasis added] we have established a new Executive Elder team, new Board of Advisors and Accountability, as well as a new marketing team.
For sake of clarity, the contract Sutton Turner signed with ResultSource was dated October 13, 2011.  Jamie Munson's resignation as executive elder was formally announced on ... September 6, 2011 [as dead as the link has been lately the original publication date is still embedded in the link]. [for those who may be using mobile devices]
So at the time that Sutton Turner signed the contract with Result Source on behalf of Mars Hill he was not yet introduced as an executive elder or executive pastor but he was still technically part of the executive team as acknowledged by the BOAA announcement earlier this year.  So it didn't look as though there was really a new team of executive elders overall in terms of public listings so much as that Munson stepped down and ended up being replaced with Sutton Turner.  
In fact Sutton Turner was introduced as a pastor on November 23, 2011 and it's not entirely clear that there actually was a new Executive Elder Team since the campaign with Result Source kicked in.  The contract Turner signed was the earlier month and unless the campaign did not actually kick in until January 2012 Turner was part of the Executive Elder team during the campaign.  If the Result Source side of the campaign didn't kick in until January 2012 then Turner was on the Executive Elder team before the campaign began on the RSI side of fulfilling the agreement.  In any case,  in December 2011 Driscoll was pushing to promote the book internally. In case the video ever stops working ... James Duncan discussed the presentation Driscoll gave over here.  So it might appear that the campaign really kicked in in earnest AFTER Sutton Turner had been publicly and formally introduced as an Executive Elder/Executive Pastor. 
But it would be accurate to say that the team of men who would consider formal charges against Mark Driscoll had definitely changed some time between late 2011 and late 2012. On the side of those that would consider formal charges, well, Wenatchee The Hatchet documented what the earlier team of men who would consider formal charges against Mark Driscoll would have been.  This did seem to change in the wake of the Real Marriage campaign, though precisely when would be hard to assess given how thoroughly robots.txt has been applied to MH associated websites.
It used to be ... "This group currently consists of Jamie Munson, Dave Bruskas, James MacDonald, Darrin Patrick, and Larry Osborne." and has since gone to be: "Dr. Tripp joins the current Board members: Michael Van Skaik, Dr. James MacDonald, Dr. Larry Osborne, Mark Driscoll, Dave Bruskas, and Sutton Turner." But it's hard to say this group is completely new since Dave Bruskas and James MacDonald and Larry Osborne stayed on the team and the major change was to add the Executive Elders Mark Driscoll and Sutton Turner to the crew, and eventually Paul Tripp.  Michael Van Skaik resigned from his pastoral role so that he could play a role on the BOAA.  The men who disappeared were Jamie Munson and Darrin Patrick but otherwise there was more continuity than discontinuity between the two iterations of what may have been the Board of Advisors and Accountability/those who would assess formal charges made against Mark Driscoll.  Until MHC introduced robots.txt to preclude crawls by The WayBack Machine a crawl from as late as October 10, 2012 ...

showed the older line-up of Jamie Munson, Dave Bruskas, James MacDonald, Darrin Patrick, and Larry Osborne.  Perhaps MHC had not updated it's governance page expeditiously enough or perhaps the newer BOAA that made the announcement regarding ResultSource had not quite taken shape yet.  Paul Tripp's joining the team was announced in late 2013.
While the BOAA that made the announcement on March 7, 2014 was certainly not the board that would have been in place to consider formal charges that might be made against Mark Driscoll at the time Sutton Turner signed the contract with Result Source Inc. that board did not yet include ... Sutton Turner or Mark Driscoll. 
So it was that newer Board of Advisors and Accountability that explained that the real cost of dealing with Result Source was considerably less than the reported $210,000.  Given that Driscoll was on that board and probably saw the invoices himself the BOAA would seem to have been in a good position to know what the dollar amounts were.  The BOAA didn't bother to clear up how much less than the reported amount the cost of the campaign actually was but someone has since conveyed to the blogger Warren Throckmorton the following:

$25,000 is a lot less than the $210,000 in the initial story that broke at WORLD Magazine ... but it may be argued that spending just one tenth the amount to rig a spot for a book that turned out to have plagiarized the work of Dan Allender makes for thrifty sales-rigging for a book that had citation errors ... but it's still technically sales-rigging.  It becomes a little tough, particularly with all the facts that have been made available and have been conceded as true by Mars Hill executive leadership, that a tweet about hearing word that a Driscoll book had made #1 on the NYT bestseller list could have been anything close to a surprise for Mark Driscoll.  Grace?  Well, maybe, that's conceivable ... but Mark?  No.  It's also a bit difficult to sustain a case that since the campaign to get Real Marriage on the NYT bestseller list began that there was actually a "new" Executive Elder team.  If anything it was the new executive elder team of Driscoll, Bruskas and Turner that was at the helm of MHC in the midst of the big push while Munson had resigned for some reason.  The BOAA had definitely changed but it would be hard to describe it as new unless adding the executive elders that were supposed to be accountable to the board ... to the board ... was what the BOAA meant. 
Mark Driscoll tweeted about Grace's thriftiness and transitioned into hearing that they had a book that hit #1 on the NYT bestseller list.  It does make for a cute twitter-worthy irony, doesn't it?  Shopping at a dollar store and then hearing a book made the NYT bestseller list.  Of course Driscoll has long since informed Mars Hill members he would request that #1 NYT bestselling author description no longer be used but the twitter-feed (at least for now) still reflects that once he got word Real Marriage was at a #1 spot on the NYT bestseller list that was worth tweeting about. 

For folks who have the patience to read through the old Governance page circa 2012 and compare that to what showed up in 2013 ... you can go over here.

What the BOAA said about itself on March 7, 2014 and about the executive elder team that was or wasn't necessarily the same in late 2011 as the one since the campaign to get Real Marriage to #1 on the NYT bestseller list remains a bit fuzzy.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

truncated theologies of sin and the punishments sin is said to merit

No doubt at least some of you will remember this tweet from Pastor Mark Driscoll
You deserve hell. Everything else is a gift.
10:25 PM - 25 Feb 2011

Having discussed the problem of this twitter theology elsewhere there's another aspect of this kind of twittered down theology that merits discussion, how would this sort of theology of sin (hamartiology) work itself out in pastoral counseling? 

One of the patterns I saw in pastoral counseling both first hand and second hand in the Mars Hill scene (and one can only hope things have maybe improved there) is that there tended to be a truncated theology that presupposed sin.  An opening question that could guide the entire course of counseling might be this, "Who sinned?"  Once that question was answered to the satisfaction of the pastor doing counseling things would proceed to whatever action was felt to be necessary.  What did not necessarily happen would be to proceed with the following set of questions:

Where is relationship broken?
How has trust been lost or not attained?
What can be done to establish or restore trust?

Now this second approach certainly did happen and no doubt does happen at Mars Hill Church but it may still be the case that pastoral counseling can be a forensic exercise.  There is certainly a time and a place to challenge people about ways in which they have sinned but ... at Mars Hill the culture was (and may or may not be now) steeped in a mentality about sin that formulates it in simple terms.

1) all sin is rebellion against God or God-approved authority
2) it is motivated by pride

There was not necessarily any room for the possibility that what might be identified as sin could be motivated by fear or that a person might not even realize that things they did or said might be harmful.  There was a culture of supposing that, "You know what you did and you are being proud and defiant."  When people asked if it was possible to disagree with the by-laws voted in in 2007 or to disagree with the firings of Petry and Meyer there were those who were told by campus pastors it wasn't possible to dispute with the elders on those things and still be a member in good standing at Mars Hill Church.  A lot of people opted to leave rather than soldier on in membership knowing that even the most respectful disagreement with the leadership culture on those particular points was going to be viewed as sinful defiance.

Fast forward to 2014 and Mark Driscoll has begun to talk from the pulpit about how sometimes people mistakes and that mistakes are not sin.  When confronted by Janet Mefferd on the air Mark Driscoll's response to her accusation of plagiarism was to offer that maybe he made a mistake but that a mistake is not a sin.

The trouble with that line of reasoning is that it is specious.  In the Old Testament the Torah provides for sacrifices to be offered when you realize only after the fact that you have sinned.  Psalm 19 and Psalm 119 both show the Psalmist asking to be pardoned of hidden and inadvertent sins and faults.  If sins are only sins if I know about them then so long as I can convince myself I'm not actually guilty of any sins I can consider myself "not perfect" but functionally sinless.  Of course almost nothing could possibly be further from the truth.  I sin all the time in ways that I probably can't even begin to perceive.  Yet in the culture of MH there has often been a swiftness to categorize sins (real or perceived) as done with a high hand. 

Yet even Driscoll can distinguish between active harm and passive neglect as both being sinful if he's talking about a daddy who let down his kids.  Assuming that Mark Driscoll just made mistakes in seven books that Warren Throckmorton showed had plagiarized content (and this may have really happened for all anyone does or doesn't know) the point where copyright law is concerned is moot.  In terms of appropriating the intellectual property of others without attribution the laws don't care if it was on purpose or maybe just a mistake.  That these mistakes happened across seven books might not have anything to do with any ill will on the part of Mark Driscoll but it raises questions about the competence of Driscoll as an author (particularly in light of his past boasting about the formidable nature of his memory) and of the editors who failed to catch how often Driscoll took up ideas that could be clearly traced back to other authors without adequate citation.

It's unfortunate that Driscoll has only begun to expound from the pulpit about how a mistake isn't a sin when he's spent the last eight months at the center of controversies about plagiarism and Mars Hill signing a contract to rig a #1 spot for Real Marriage on the NYT bestseller list.  That Driscoll has been rolling out this distinction between "mistakes" and "sins" in the wake of these controversies makes it hard to shake the impression that Driscoll has only gotten around to developing a more nuanced theology of sin from the pulpit after he's been shown to have cribbed material from other authors without adequate citation in at least seven of his books, one of which was bought a place on a bestseller list to boot. 

Some in the Reformed world have asked the blunt question why there has been no discussion of who on earth thought Mark Driscoll should have been publishing any books to begin with. 

(I don’t know why people are not debating whether Driscoll should even be writing books.) 

Maybe Darryl had a point? Driscoll vs the Catholic Creeds ...

Now talking about something like the nature of the subordination of the Son to the Father in the Trinity is admittedly going to be as esoteric as can possibly be in Christian theological though.  But the ends toward some wish to employ the concept of the eternal subordination of the Son are not abstract or esoteric.  If wives are expected to submit to husbands because through all eternity the Son has always been in a submissive relationship ontologically to the Father then the practical implications aren't hard to work out.  And yet the eternal subordination of the Son, as discussed by Clark in the most recent link above, is not traditionally orthodox Trinitarian thought.  If anything you get to Arianism faster by insisting on the eternal subordination of the Son than you do by simply affirming the Son is begotten of the Father as is customary in the creeds.

Now, about the theology of sin ... this wasn't abstract stuff if a person ended up in a counseling session at Mars Hill Church.  A person might end up meeting with someone in a pastoral role who wanted to figure out who sinned and how that sinner could be confronted (in Christian love and truth, of course) and made to shape up and fly right and, barring that, how the sinner could be avoided or perhaps brought back with what one pastor apparently described as "Gospel shame" some time back in 2012.

It may be that all of these patterns that showed up in the past could change.  Mark Driscoll has abruptly discovered that mistakes aren't the same as sins but this is not the same thing as discovering that there are things that are sins that may not have been intended as sins. 

If there's a pattern in the new Calvinist movement as it is often called that is distressing it's that the measure of sin for the rank and file does not seem to be the same as the measure of a "mistake" on the part of leadership cultures.  Take for instance, intellectual property.  Mars Hill let a cease and desist letter go out in 2011 to a small church plant and apologized after the whole situation blew up.  What's strange about that controversy is that it was happening in the months during which the contract with Result Source had been signed and invoices were being issued, and Real Marriage was getting heavy promotion inside of Mars Hill and that the Driscolls had actually plagiarized the work of Dan Allender and others was not yet known.  Driscoll was willing to tell members of Mars Hill in a letter that he came to view the ResultSource contract as wrong but he didn't describe it as a sin.  So does this mean a new theological nuance has been introduced into Mars Hill teaching in which something can be identified as a mistake and even as wrong but that it is still, somehow, not a sin?  Ten years ago if a young couple was sexually active prior to marriage would they have escape disciplinary rebuke from Mars Hill if they simply said that what they were doing was a mistake and wrong but not necessarily sinful because they love each other?

It has recently been noted by Warren Throckmorton that a video of six minutes that were excised from a May 2014 Driscoll sermon got pulled down from Youtube on the basis of a copyright claim.  And that might be a legitimate claim on the part of Mars Hill but, if so, how might things have played out if Intervarsity Press took a comparable stance toward Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll over the plagiarized content in the Trial study guide?  Didn't Driscoll used to say from the pulpit that the problem we all have is that I want justice for you but grace when it turns out that I've done something wrong? 

If Driscoll would still stand by the idea that everyone deserves Hell and everything else is just a gift then does it matter if everyone deserves Hell because they knowingly sinned or not?  After all, Eve said the serpent tricked her but didn't she still get the sentence of death anyway?  Even in Genesis 3 not fully realizing what you have done didn't seem to be a basis for a lightened sentence. 

One of the problems with Driscoll somehow discovering that there are mistakes (that aren't necessarily sins) is that he hasn't demonstrated he has competently handled biblical texts from which he attempts to make these statements.  What's more it's not as though in the last eight months there haven't been controversies about Driscoll connected to plagiarism and sales-rigging.  Now is not the best time for Mark Driscoll or any high-level leader at Mars Hill Church to abruptly introduce the idea that not all mistakes are sins even if all sins are mistakes or to proclaim that mistakes warrant grace.  The problem is that when you have high enough a level of leadership and influence a mistake like taking a census can have the consequence of lots of people dying of plague (look at the census from late in David's reign).  David didn't say "Oh, I made a mistake".  That was more of Saul's reaction when he was confronted on his failures.  David said "I have sinned against the Lord." 

And for as long as Mark Driscoll has invoked an explicit divine commission as to what he's supposed to be doing with his life that, if anything, raises the bar even higher as to how he should conduct himself in a self-described divine appointment to leadership.  Yet the controversies of the last year connected to Driscoll can give outsiders the disturbing impression that the measure for the leadership set is simply not the same as the measure for others inside the church, let alone outside the church.

If Driscoll would still stand by the idea that "you deserve Hell. Everything else is a gift" does he have the consistency to share from the pulpit what this would mean for him now?  It can seem more and more as though sin is a category Driscoll only manages to describe about others rather than himself.  If Driscoll wants to regain what credibility he has with outsiders admitting that he actually sins (because no one who isn't Jesus fails to sin) and to confess what those sins are or have been would be helpful.  Because there is no one who doesn't sin but if we confess our sins ... .

And because it's one thing to have tweeted in 2011 about how "You deserve Hell. Everything else is a gift." and another thing to recognize what the implications are for this statement if you include yourself in it. 

Now is not the best time for Driscoll to transform Acts 6 from a story about the appointing of the seven to correct the neglect of Hellenistic widows into a top-down pastors-pick-pastors story.  Now is not the best time for Driscoll to transform the martyrdom of Stephen into a riff on how Mars Hill gets critics.  Ten years ago the critics were all generally progressive Christians and secularists.  In the last year the most hard-hitting criticisms and headline revelations have been from evangelicals and conservative Protestants.  The most dangerous possibility about what has been going on at Mars Hill in the last four years is that when the shoe is on the other foot the leadership culture of Mars Hill does not want to be on the receiving end of what it is willing to dish out. 

The blogger Jim West has a whole category of posts called "Twitter theology that makes me sigh".  All Twitter theology makes Wenatchee The Hatchet sigh because theology is something that can't be reduced to tweets.  Just as a Haydn string quartet can't really be reduced to a eight second sample and a sonnet by John Donne can't really be conveyed by the first four lines, theology at any level is not going to come across if it is reduced to tweets.

But out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks and out of the abundance of a particular theology the social media user tweets so ... in a way ... the truncated theological aphorisms people are willing to put on twitter do tell us something about them.

Barry Webb on the life of Gideon via his commentary on the Book of Judges, a synopsis

There's a great deal that Barry Webb discusses in the life of Gideon as it is presented in the Book of Judges in Webb's fantastic commentary on the book in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament.  The book of Judges has rarely gotten much discussion among evangelicals in the United States among the average churchgoer and even among Christian scholars it's arguable that the Book of Judges only gets on the radar for those who pay attention to it just long enough to deal with it for the sake of apologetics.  The idea that there is a great deal of material in the book of Judges that is helpful or even necessary to study may just not occur to many Christians who would otherwise profess a love of the scriptures.  And yet if we cast about for what book, quote for quote, is mentioned by Jesus more than many others from the Old Testament Deuteronomy sure looks like a winner.

It would be difficult to summarize all of the content Webb shares in the book (particularly since WtH has lent the book to someone!) but several things are fresh in the memory.  The foremost thought is Webb make a compelling case from the biblical text that Gideon started off well and ended badly and all this in spite of a divine commission.  WHile most people who have read the Book of Judges know how the book ends what is noteworthy about Gideon's tenure as a judge was simply that Israel's slide into apostasy began within Gideon's own lifetime.  Gideon (aka Jerubaal) actually facilitated the slide into apostasy when he refused kingship and also requested the materials from which he made an ephod.  The act of making the ephod in itself might not have seemed too bad but how it came to be viewed was bad, at least certainly from the perspective of the author of the Book of Judges.

And another unavoidable detail about the end of Gideon's time as judge was that though he formally refused the kingship he named the son of his concubine (not one of his various wives) Abimelech, which means "my father is king".  The formality of the time was that there was no king and yet informally Gideon/Jerubaal recognized himself as enough of a king to name the son he had through his concubine "My father is king".  One can get a sense from the narrative that Gideon felt he had paid his dues in the battles of his early career and his late career was the time to reap the benefits in the form of wives and wealth and an informal kingship.  He appeared to take the high road in refusing kingship when it was directly offered to him and yet the private reality in the naming of one of his descendants suggests that in his heart Gideon saw himself as truly kingly. 

And in Gideon's later career, as Webb takes quite a bit of time to demonstrate, he began to transform the original division commission he was given to deliver Israelites from bondage into an opportunity to settle old grudge matches and family blood feuds.  Webb unpacks in a lot more detail than seems reasonable to explain in a blog post that Gideon was willing to invoke the language of Mosaic law about a brother being an avenger of blood against foreign soldiers who had killed Gideon's brothers in the course of war.  That Gideon was eager to avenge the death of his brothers in a previous battle is understandable but Barry Webb's case that Gideon began a dangerous slip into conflating his early divine commission with a divine sanction to exact vengeance on others seems compelling.  That Gideon goes so far as to punish and even torture fellow Israelites who don't just roll out the red carpet for him is another aspect of Gideon's moral decline that Webb discusses.  The whole book is a fantastic read but it has been Webb's observations about Gideon as a judge whose moral decline charts the decline of Israel is fascinating.

While Judges as a whole may not be grist for meditation and reflection by Christians this would be a serious mistake.  Judges is often colloquially thought of as the book that showed that Israel needed a king.  That's not exactly what the book is about, it's more about the Israelite decline into corruption and brutality as the Israelites became more and more like the Canaanites around them.  This would at times be reflected in the people but it could often be exemplified in its leadership.  A few scholars think of Israel as not even being a meaningfully united national identity until "maybe" the time of David and that the period of the judges was more a case of regional tribal chieftains and mercenaries successfully keeping local cohesion long enough for a united Israelite king to eventually form.

There's that ... but a point Webb highlights through his commentary on Judges is that the judges began to act more and more like kings, appointing heirs to rule in their stead and appropriating for themselves wealth, power and privileges that suggested the office of the judge was becoming progressively corrupt. 

So by the time of Samuel even Samuel has appointed his corrupt and wicked sons to run things in his stead and this prompts Israel to ask Samuel to appoint a king.  Though described in the Samuel narrative as a sign of Israelite faithlessness the narrative is ambiguous because Samuel, having rebuked Eli for the nepotism and corruption of his priestly household, ends up demonstrating essentially the same character flaws in his own late tenure as a judge with priestly training! By the time we get to the life of Samson we have a man who seeks out Phillistine woman and whose wedding ceremony may have been a Phillistine one.  Samson ends up doing nothing more than beginning to deliver the Israelites from the Phillistines and this in spite of his apparently ongoing wish to simply be a Phillistine. Samson was also surely the worst-behaved Nazirite described in the Bible.  For someone who was never supposed to touch carcasses ... .But let's get back to Gideon.

The felt-board Gideon has been popular enough to share with both children and adults but it's the overall arc of Gideon's life that is both more instructive and more sobering.  Webb points out a blunt humor in the fact that Judges tells us that as soon as Gideon was "clothed in the spirit" he began to immediately put out fleeces!  This suggests (as does the later comment about how when Samson's hair was cut he didn't realize the spirit of the Lord had departed from him) that even those who may get an explicit divine commission never stop having their all-too-real human moral failures. 

Judges can be read as a book in which the judges became so progressively corrupt and self-serving to the point of becoming kings that in some sense Israel was right to ask for a king, the king might be corrupt but at least it would be official. But those who have read the books of Samuel may already know that making it official did not necessarily make things better.

And those familiar with the postlude to the reign of Gideon as judge will already know about Abimelech appointing himself king of the Shechemites and killing nearly all of his siblings but we can save that for some other time.