Saturday, September 27, 2014

If Driscoll made the mistake of being under "green" elders in1996 why make Munson president in 2007--HT to Musings from Under the Bus

As noted over here

There's another question that emerges if we take Driscoll at his word that he made the mistake of appointing elders in authority over him who were "young and new and green" back around 1996.  In 2007 Mark Driscoll decided to make Jamie Munson legal president of Mars Hill Church and the Lead Pastor.  To get a clearer sense of how stupid this move would be if Driscoll was serious circa 2012 about the problem of young/new/green men in eldership let's revisit the signal quote itself, which to go by the set design and Grace Driscoll's haircut would have been during the Real Marriage period of earlier 2012.
That's one practical thing is, I'd never been a member of a church until I started my own. So I didn't know a lot about church. But I wanted, I knew I was a big personality and pretty intense so I wanted to be under authority but I made a mistake of--how do I say this carefully?--trying to be under the authority of my elders but the truth is all my elders were new and young and green and they would want to help but they really didn't know what they were talking about.

And so what I should have had was a team of pastors outside of the church who were older and more seasoned that could, you know, help Grace and I put life together.

Of course for alert readers of the histories of Mars Hill according to Mark Driscoll someone could ask, "What elders?"  For instance, in later 2011 Mark Driscoll explained in a post that the problem early on was there wasn't much of a team and he had to carry the burden alone.  The emphasis seems to shift in the narrative Mark Driscoll gives from topic to topic.  In one narrative the problem was he made the mistake of trying to submit to the authority of elders who were young and new and green.  Even if there's a compelling case to be made for that, another narrative from Mark paints the early years of Mars Hill as one in which he was the only paid pastor on staff shouldering a terrible burden all by himself as though he weren't under any authority of any elders because he had failed to raise up leaders to help him.
For the first five or six years of Mars Hill, I was the only paid pastor on staff and carried much of the ministry burden. I was doing all the premarital counseling and most of the pastoral work as the only pastor on staff. This went on for years due to pitiful giving and a ton of very rough new converts all the way until we had grown to about 800 people a Sunday. [emphasis added] At one point I literally had over a few thousand people come in and out of my home for Bible studies, internships, counseling, and more. My phone rang off the hook, my email inbox overflowed, my energy levels and health took a nose dive, and I started becoming bitter and angry instead of loving and joyful. It got to the point where either something had to change or I was going to go ballistic and do something I really regretted. [WtH, yeah, well, clearly this was published before the writings of William Wallace II got republished and Driscoll had a chance to remember he already HAD done something he regretted, maybe]

Through much prayer and study of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit impressed upon me that I’d done a poor job of raising up leaders along with me to help care for his church. I was carrying the burden myself and was not doing a good job because it was too much. [emphasis added] I needed to transition from caring for all the people to ensuring they were all cared for by raising up elders, deacons, and church members. This spurred me to make some dramatic changes to increase membership and train leaders.
We began a process of intentionally challenging qualified men to step up as elders to lead, finding and training men and women to serve and lead as deacons, and we started a Gospel Class to clearly articulate what we believed about Jesus, the Bible, and the church to make clear what we expected from members. Our first teams were not amazing, but some of those people, through years of maturing by God’s grace, are now amazing leaders and servants.

The one person who would best be in a position to call BS on the constantly shifting narratives about whether there were or weren't elders "in authority" over Mark Driscoll at the time seems to be willing to let him say whatever he wants in front of a camera without stopping him.  So now we're supposed to simultaneously hold that Mark Driscoll failed to raise up leaders along with him to help care for the church because he was carrying the burden himself in spite of a team of older guys.  But those older guys were young and new and green and he made the mistake of trying to submit to the authority of men he recruited to help him who were older and had some more ministry experience? 

What to do?  What to do? 

Now, if the elders whose authority Mark Driscoll tried to submit himself to in the mid-1990s were "young and new and green" and didn't know what they were talking about then maybe that was even more the case with Mark Driscoll when he decided to let Jamie Munson be legal president and Lead Pastor of Mars Hill. 

If anything Jamie Munson would have been even newer and greener and younger than Gunn or Moi.  Munson was one of the earlier converts to Christianity under Mark Driscoll's preaching and teaching.  So if Driscoll circa 2012 was willing to say that Mars Hill suffered because he didn't raise up leaders Jamie Munson's entire ministry career suggests that Driscoll did, in fact, raise up a young leader or two in the form of Jamie Munson and Tim Smith and that we can consult the leadership styles and decisions and conduct of these men as some insight into how the students took after their teacher.

This was the Jamie Munson who scouted the 50th street building that became Mars Hill corporate headquarters, the building that couldn't be zoned for the big vision Driscoll cast in his 2006 book.  Munson was also Lead Pastor during 2007 when the controversial firings of Meyer and Petry happened.  In fact a review of the reasons for immediate termination for both men seemed to revolve in part around the two older men not trusting or showing sufficient respect to spiritual authority, particularly with regard to Munson.

Pastor Paul Petry - Grounds for immediate termination of employment
* Continual insubordination and submission to leadership and spiritual authority
* Refusal to Ministry Coaching Program
* Divisive within Mars Hill Student Ministry and undermining of Pastor Adam, Deacons and entire ministry
* Blame shifting to Proxy leadership for misbehavior of children
* Public accusation of Lead Pastor [Jamie Munson] regarding hiding the real bylaw document
* Not following protocol and process for making bylaw comments by contacting church attorney without permission
* Ongoing contentious spirit to leadership regarding changes and direction.
Pastor Bent Meyer - Grounds for Immediate Termination of Employment
* Total lack of trust for Executive leadership and insubordination
* Multiple unfounded accusations from Bent regarding abuse of power, power grabbing and motives of leadership
* Not following protocol and process for making bylaw  comments by contacting church attorny without permission
* Showing unhealthy family favoritism by establishing son Cameron as spokesman for Salts recap meeting
* No communication with elders regarding Cameron's sin and removal of grace group leadership

Some might conclude this is a political move to gain more support for the bylaws as Paul and bent were outspoken critics of the current direction. [emphasis added] This is not the case, the executive team wants to conduct itself in a way that is full of integrity, walking in the light, under full disclosure and in a decisive manner that best serves Jesus and His church through Mars Hill.  If the bylaws don't pass, so be it, 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. [emphasis added] We made the decision to terminate them now and givem them the option to resign or undergo the full investigation. We have a higher value of being men of integrity than playing politics to swing a vote in our favor.

Because firing two of twenty-four elders was necessary and inevitable because without a 100% uniform vote for Munson's by-laws (or were they Driscoll's bylaws?) nothing could get done? Let's bear in mind that Jamie Munson's first major incident recorded in his tenure as Lead Pastor who was placed there, apparently, by some combination of his own selection and the approval of Mark Driscoll, was explaining why two guys had to be fired because they distrusted spiritual authority.  It is at this point that it may be pertinent to quote from Mark Driscoll himself about Jamie Munson.

Celebrate the fact that Pastor Jamie is Mars Hill 1.0. He is exactly why Mars Hill exists. A lost young person meets Jesus and grows to be a godly leader, spouse, and parent who loves and leads well by the grace of God with humility and passion. He has given us every day of his life since he was 19 years of age. Mars Hill does not exist as a church of more than maybe a few hundred without God’s grace through Pastor Jamie. If a book were written about what God is doing among us, at least one whole chapter would be devoted to telling the story of God’s grace in Pastor Jamie’s life.

Munson resigned membership earlier this year, which means that if Mars Hill Church survives long enough to have a book written about it there won't be a chapter dedicated to Jamie Munson's role within Mars Hill if the book were written by someone still at Mars Hill.

But in spite of Mark Driscoll's former claim that Munson was always above reproach, it seems Sutton Turner had some issues with the fiscal competency of leadership at Mars Hill and seemed to believe that Jamie Munson was "checked out" and had left Mars Hill in a financial situation that was something like a disaster.

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.

So Driscoll may change his tune depending on the topic and who is asking him a question.  If he told Grace he made a mistake in trying to submit himself to the spiritual authority of new and green elders it makes even less sense that ten years after the start of Mars Hill he would have had Jamie Munson be legal president and Lead Pastor of Mars Hill if Mark Driscoll really took seriously the problem of trying to submit to the authority of new, young and green Christians.  If anything appointing an even younger man who was a new convert under Driscoll's preaching and teaching would be an example of Mark Driscoll amplifying his earlier error.  He wasn't just trying to submit to the spiritual authority of young, green and new elders, he was trying to lower the bar for executive leadership even lower at a crucial stage of Mars Hill in 2007.

A few months after that crucial change Mark Driscoll described the impossibility of working with friends in ministry.
(starts at 00:31:52)

Q. How do you lead staff who are your best friends?Do you want the honest answer or should I punt?

... You can't. ... you can't.

I hate to tell you that. ... Deep down in your gut you know if you're best friends and someone works for you that changes the relationship. Right? Because you can fire them. Of course you want to be friends with your elders and the people you work with. I mean, we're a church. I mean you wanna, you NEED to love the people you work with. But one of the hardest things, and only the lead guy gets this. Nobody else on staff even understands what I'm talking about. When you're the lead guy you wear multiple hats. Say it's someone who works with you and they're a good friend. You wear the "Hey, we're buddies" hat. We're friends. We go on vacation. We hang out. We do
dinner. We're friends.

But you also wear the "I'm your boss" hat "You need to do your job or I might have to fire you" hat, and you also wear the "I'm your pastor. I love you, care for you, and I'm looking out for your well-being" hat. Those three hats are in absolute collision. Because how do you fire your friend and then pastor them through it? Right? I mean that is very complicated. I love you, you're fired, can I pray for you? That is a very .. what are we doing? I think if you're going to have your best friends working with you they need to be somewhere else on the team but not under you or the friendship really needs to change.

And what happens is when people are your friend ... I don't think that many do this intentionally but they want you to wear whatever hat is at their best interest at the time. So they didn't do their job, they're falling down on their responsibility, and you talk to them and say, "Look, you're not getting this done." They put on the "hey buddy. Yeah, I've been kinda sick lately and my wife and I are going through a hard time." and they want the friend hat on. And as a friend you're like, "Oh, I'm so sorry, dude." But then you put your boss hat back on and you're like "Yeah, but we pay you and we need you to get the job done."

And then they want you to put the friend hat back on and keep sympathizing.
And you're totally conflicted. ...

I have very good friends in this church. I have elders that are very dear friends, but when you have to do their performance review, when you have to decide what their wage is, when you have to decide whether they get promoted, demoted or terminated it's impossible to do that because you can't wear all three hats at the same time.

First guy I fired, he was a dear friend. A godly man, no moral or doctrinal sin whatsoever, he just wasn't keeping up with what we needed him to do. And it wasn't `cause he didn't try and wasn't working hard. And he had a wonderful wife and a great family and to this day I think the world of this guy.  And if my sons grew up to be like him, I'd be proud. And I'm not critical of this man at all.

But I remember sitting down at that first termination. First I put on the friend hat. I said, "I love you, I appreciate you. I value you." Then I put on the boss hat, "I'm gonna have to let you go. Here's why." And then I put on the pastor hat, "How are you feeling? How are you doing?" And he was really gracious with me and he said, "This is just the weirdest conversation I've ever had." And I said, "Me too, `cause I'm not sure what hat I'm supposed to wear."

Does that make any sense? The best thing is if you have a best friend maybe the best thing to do is not have them work with you.  Or if they do have them work under someone else. And to also pursue good friendships with people outside of your church. Some of my dearest friends today are not at Mars Hill, they're also pastors of other churches. Darrin Patrick is here, Vice-President of Acts 29. I love him. He's a brother. He's the guy I call. ... He's a pastor to me, you know?  Matt Chandler is here. I count as a friend. By God's Grace, C. J. Mahaney, I count as a friend. ...

Jamie Munson is head of the elder board. Jamie Munson is executive pastor. He is legal president of the organization. And for me, to be honest, it was the most freeing, liberating thing I could have dreamed of because now I don't have all that conflict of interest. I can be friends with someone but I don't have to fire them, do their performance review, and decide how much they get paid. It's just too conflicting for me."  [emphasis added]

But Mark Driscoll is legal president of Mars Hill since 2011.  So either Mark Driscoll no longer has a presidency characterized by conflicts of interest or he's arrived at a point where he doesn't have problems with conflicts of interest in a way that does not necessarily indicate that conflicts of interest don't exist.  We can't be sure.

But what is clear is that Driscoll can't have it both ways.  He can't claim that he made the mistake of trying to submit to the spiritual authority of young, new and green elders who were all older and more experienced than him while having made a point of appointing the even younger, even greener, and even newer-to-the-faith-than-himself Jamie Munson.  If submitting to the spiritual authority of Gunn, Moi and others was a problem because they lacked spiritual experience and wisdom then why appoint Munson Lead Pastor ten years later?  That looks like an exponential increase in stupid if Mark Driscoll actually ever believed the problem was he was trying to submit to the spiritual authority of young, green Christians.  And if Munson was so great a Lead Pastor and a spiritual authority somebody pull up all the fantastic sermons Munson preached while a pastor at Mars Hill.

And now?  Mars Hill isn't saying anything about Munson, the "king" who was heading the corporation for so long.  If what Driscoll did in 1996 was stupid what Driscoll did circa 2006-2007 was stupid times stupid if we're going to take that video seriously and believe that Mark's problem was that he made the mistake of trying to submit to the spiritual authority of green elders.  In late 2011 the story Mark told was he hadn't raised up a team to help him.  Fascinating how this works.  Mark didn't raise up a team of elders to help him and he had to do the majority of the work and yet somehow, at the same time, he made the mistake of trying to submit to the spiritual authority of the elders who were older men he asked to help him co-plant MH because they were young and new and green?  So they didn't exist for all practical purposes when Mark's talking about all the work he did but then they did exist when he wants to talk about how he made the mistake of trying to submit himself to their authority.  

And then assuming all that isn't a little bit weird ... picking Jamie Munson to be legal president in spite of being a young guy with little real-world work experience to manage Mars Hill as a legal entity when he was an even newer Christian than Driscoll himself was makes it hard to imagine that at any point Driscoll was very sincere or serious when he said the problem was he was trying to submit the authority of new and green leaders.  He let Munson stay president of MH for years, after all. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

JSuffering: This house may fall: A letter to my friends---and a few ruminations from Wenatchee The Hatchet

Jeff (if you're a regular to Wenatchee The Hatchet you don't need to even guess which one) has published a letter to those still at Mars Hill in a blog post titled "This house may fall."

It might.  The social/spiritual community that formed within the context of a corporation that has come to be known as Mars Hill Church may be alive and well in all sorts of unanticipated ways but the corporation itself may still die ... and unless certain types of real repentance and restitution take place it may well just deserve to die ... but the community that once existed in some sense still exists.

To put it another way ... all the mountains of leaked materials that have appeared at Wenatchee The Hatchet, those didn't come from nowhere.  Wenatchee The Hatchet is not and has never been against the people of Mars Hill.  Sure, Wenatchee has had some harsh things to say about the leadership culture and the veneration directed toward that culture but that's not the same thing as being critical of the people as a whole in their entirety.  The people do need to consider the sum of the shifting narrative about Mars Hill told by its leaders in general and Driscoll in particular and to consider what they have really been investing in but Wenatchee can only invite people to reconsider the nature of the narrative and provide them with as much information as possible.  That Mars Hill has made a point of purging so much of the previously publicly available material Wenatchee The Hatchet has quoted from over the years should be disconcerting; it should be a troublesome sign that Mars Hill ever took down the stuff Driscoll said would be archived to consult again if he ever went off the rails. 

Getting a reputation as one of the most persistent critics of Mark Driscoll on the internet shouldn't have ever have had to take the form of simply quoting him accurately, in context, and pointing out how many times he's come to embody all the things he used to warn against from the pulpit ... but if that's how people choose to interpret Wenatchee The Hatchet it's not like Wenatchee The Hatchet can control that.  As Wenatchee was saying earlier this week, the thing about whatever a legacy is is that you really can't exert that much control over it.  If people want to read Wenatchee The Hatchet as a watchblog it doesn't matter what gets published here about anime or chamber music, does it?  If people come here with minds already made up there's no way their minds will get changed just because they read (or didn't really read) something that has been published here.

Perhaps what Jeff is doing is what Wenatchee The Hatchet hopes to do, which is not to tell you "you have to leave and here's why" but to invite you to follow a different path and to come to a fuller engagement with the story of a people.  That way, whether you stay or leave you will have a fuller and richer understand of the history of the community and if it survives rather than falls it may be all the more important to understand that history. You might not like what Jeff has to say or what Wenatchee The Hatchet has to say but until you've had more than either 10 or 16 years inside the culture ... you might want to resist the temptation to write people like us off for a bit.

It's at least something to consider. 

[six] adaptive strategies Mars Hill and Driscoll can consider during this difficult season

Having noted that Rachel Held Evans relatively recently suggested six ways forward, and having noted that Michael Newnham mentioned at Phoenix Preacher at Calvin's Corner that American Christians like to get angry and stay angry without necessarily suggesting any options or alternatives ...

Well, Wenatchee The Hatchet thought it might be interesting to suggest some potential ideas for how Mark Driscoll could weather the current storm and how the culture of Mars Hill Church might roll with the punches.

Before getting to them it must be noted that Driscoll has utterly destroyed his own credibility through the citation errors in half a dozen books; through the Result Source Inc contract; and through the steady revisionism of his history at MH and of MH.  There's little question whether he has any credibility whatsoever to the outside world.  A number of secular media outlets have already pronounced the corporation known as Mars Hill Church dead and even Mark Driscoll's own writing circa 2006 suggest the death/blaming stage has been entered.

That there is a crisis of trust within the church over the honesty and integrity of the leadership culture would seem largely beyond doubt.  There is also little question whether he has credibility to Christians in the US who aren't already devoted to him.

So the crisis at hand is how Driscoll can survive and maintain his kingdom long enough to have a
plausible rebound.  He has to admit that his own ambition led to this in a way that gives him a basis for coming back.  Nobody has a functionary sign a contract with Result Source Inc. who is really only interested in furthering the message about Jesus Christ.  There are plenty of Bible translations that are in the public domain, after all. 

Driscoll has spent a career arguing for and urging young men to pursue a legacy.  Legacy is such a big deal to Mark Driscoll he named a trust Future Hope Revocable Living Trust.  He's got an LLC called Lasting Legacy.  He's also got On Mission.  This is a guy on a mission to create a legacy.  If there's been a problem it is that Mark Driscoll has been so eager to build a legacy for himself he has gotten confused about the possibility that a legacy is something that is only full formed by the time it is too late to control it.  Count no man happy until he is dead, anyone?  You don't know what you're legacy is going to be and if the last year's scandals connected to Driscoll have hinted at anything it may just be that it was Mark Driscoll's vision of a lasting legacy and a future hope that got the better of him--he keeps coming back to starting a music label and a Bible college in spite of fiscal disasters and a lack of infrastructural competence.  Why?  Because that's part of the legacy he wants to have and that he keeps trying to have Mars Hill pull these things off within his own lifetime suggests he's determined to see a full realization of what he wants his legacy to be with his own eyes.

And that, dear readers, may be the simplest way to sum up the problem, a lot of walking by sight and by relying on any and all tools possible to be able to SEE THAT LEGACY in his lifetime rather than walking in a faith that doesn't have to see those things realized within his lifetime to see the possibility that his children might (potentially) see that legacy come about.  If the church has been laying people off in spades every other year for a decade how on earth is it going to start and sustain a music label and a seminary?  Why would Driscoll want to insist on keeping at realizing things that would be better saved for a second or even third generation of the kind of movement he's clearly been so eager to be the catalyst for?  Who knows? 

There is no reason to suppose Mark Driscoll is going to fire himself and he still has a lot of people devoted to him (officially to Jesus).  There are a couple of strategies that may be feasible over the next two years to turn everything around.

Keep in mind these strategies presume that at no point will Mars Hill Church become more transparent about how it actually spends money or make any changes to its governance.  These are just potential strategies that might allay the faithful who are having moments of doubt.

1. let the out of state campuses close or die or become autonomous
Per the March 17, 2012 memo, opening or re:launching half a dozen campuses in half a year was not sustainable.   So Sutton Turner apparently figured out and relayed to leaders what Wenatchee The Hatchet conveyed in 2008. 

Yet Mars Hill has tried to keep pushing for more growth at precisely a point when they should disavow expansion, probably for several years.  They need to regain trust and because so much of the crisis in the last few years has been about the fiscal competency of Mars Hill leadership and fiscal discretion, the best way to restore that is to halt altogether campus additions and expansions.  Let campuses outside Washington state either die a natural death or invite them to remove themselves from the organization.  There are a number of cases to be made for why this could be a beneficial short term meets long term strategy.

a   it  keeps everything inside WA state and regroups so that campuses are all in-state and
b   provides a more stable geographic unit for the nascent Mars Hill Schools to recruit students from
c   reduces likelihood of interstate scandal dealing with evictions, land-use, etc (i.e. Orange County)
d   sends signal of being chastened by overambitious expansion to live within means

A related strategy would be to not open new campuses but

2.  Stop expansion and choose to assimilate existing A29 plants that want to join rather than launch truly new campuses

Let's keep in mind that of the closures that have happened and that are pending there's a pattern.  U-District and Downtown and Phoenix were all raw plants.  Huntington Beach may close but it was a spin off of Orange County.  But these are all raw launches rather than assimilations from Acts 29.  Mars Hill Albuquerque was assimilated.  West Seattle was assimilated.  These campuses still exist, right? 

By ceasing all active site planting and only conditionally excepting volunteers for assimilation the potential advantages could be as follows:

a.  this avoids fiscal/infrastructural problems in start-ups from scratch
b.  allows for only those churches that have already beaten their real estate/zoning problems to even be up for consideration
c.  could also show that maybe A29 leadership may have made a bad call in cutting Driscoll loose if A29 churches are willing to align themselves formally with or even merge into MH

This (c) might become pertinent in the wake of Acts 29 basically throwing Mark Driscoll off and under the Acts 29 bus.  If Acts 29 participants show solidarity with Mars Hill and their local leaders have enough rep within the network it could signal that maybe Acts 29 Network leadership seemed too hasty and reactive in simply cutting ties.  Not that that would actually be the case in light of all that has come to light, but for those already disposed to be sympathetic to Driscoll after all of this that would likely be the net effect, that Acts 29 leaders would seem more heartless with respect to its co-founder for cutting him loose if individual churches join from A29. 

Of course you'd have to be sitting on some pretty kick-ass real estate ... but Wenatchee digresses.

There's a risk here in all this that Mars Hill will become far more insular as a corporate culture ... but then again it's arguable they couldn't possibly be more insular and on the defensive at this point than they already are.  The plagiarism scandal wasn't exactly a small deal for those who kept track of the sheer scope of the citation errors which gets to a third potential future strategy.  In light of Sutton Turner's recent resignation without any clearly announced changes to Resurgence Publishing Inc ...

3.  Re:consolidate publishing of Driscoll books into Resurgence Publishing Inc and/or make a point of having his books owned by Mars Hill Church and not Mark Driscoll as an individual or Driscoll via corporate proxy.

Even if Tyndale is stoked about continuing to work with Mark Driscoll in spite of all this controversy about plagiarism, having a back-up plan wouldn't be a bad idea.  In light of the problem that Mark Driscoll could appear to have personally benefited at the expense of Mars Hill resources  In a secular setting the level of citation problems Driscoll had would have destroyed his writing career but Christians may well love to forgive and some even say that intellectual property isn't even really all that Christian a concept anyway.  But it may help Mars Hill's financial woes if Mark Driscoll begins to assign the copyright to subsequent books to Mars Hill both to force him to be more careful, for the sake of the church, to avoid citation problems of the sort Intervarsity Press felt obliged to comment on and also to ensure that royalties and such go to keeping the church more financially stable. 

Now this next one might not go over well.

4.  Get rid of Justin Dean and/or at least drastically reappraise his role in MH PR
Do we really need to review highlights from Justin Dean's time at Mars Hill?  Probably

Let's start with the disciplinary case of Andrew Lamb back in 2012
[Justin] Dean told me, was that the letter was intended to be read aloud, not posted online, and only to a “handful” of people. Instead, the group leader received unclear instructions and posted the letter online, a move Dean insists was not meant to hurt.

Oh, so the whole thing could have been avoided if Mars Hill weren't fraught with organizational and communication incompetence?  Sweet.

Moving along to 2013
Mars Hill spokesman Justin Dean explained that congregants intended to teach to the neighborhood's "AIDS victims" about Jesus ...
It turns out, Mars Hill Church hasn't filled out any volunteer application forms or undergone a screening process to affiliate itself with Lifelong AIDS Alliance, ...

Then, still in 2013, there's Justin Dean's contribution to the public discussion about Mars Hill and the International Paper Building:

The Church had accused Sound Transit of taking the property by eminent domain, which Sound Transit denies. The Church has since backed down on that claim. Now the church leaders are questioning International Paper's acceptance of Sound Transit's offer. "We bid $250,000 over Sound Transit's bid," Dean said.

 In an email, a spokesman for International Paper in Memphis said that's not the case.
 "We accepted the highest and best overall offer which was from Sound Transit," wrote International Paper spokesman Kyle Morgolis. "Given our confidentiality agreement, we are unable to disclose the terms of the transaction".

 Sound Transit bristles at the idea it finalized the purchase agreement by undercutting and pushing Mars Hill out of any negotiation.

 "The idea that we intervened in the purchase of the property by them late in the game, that wasn't true," Patrick said. "We didn't hear from them until a week after we entered a binding agreement to purchase that property".

So it doesn't matter that Justin Dean said MH was going to pay 250k more than Sound Transit because the real estate was already bought anyway.

Then, of course, there's Result Source Inc. from 2014 news
church spokesman Justin Dean responded via email, saying, “Mars Hill has made marketing investments for book releases and sermon series, along with album releases, events, and church plants, much like many other churches, authors, and publishers who want to reach a large audience. We will explore any opportunity that helps us to get that message out, while striving to remain above reproach in the process. Whether we’re talking about technology, music, marketing, or whatever, we want to tell lots of people about Jesus by every means available. That’s what we’re all about and have been since 1996.”

and yet later the Board of Advisors and Accountability would describe the use of Result Source as "unwise" and Mark Driscoll would go so far as to say he realized it was wrong (a bit more than two years after Sutton Turner signed the contract is a pretty long time to realize that).

By now, perhaps, you'll see that it seems that when Justin Dean opens his mouth in the wake of a controversy associated with Mars Hill things don't come off looking better for them when the stakes are high.

Because things have gotten to a point where even Mark Driscoll has broached 2006-2007 with a number of not entirely matching narratives, here's a bit of unsolicited strategy from Wenatchee The Hatchet.

5.  pretend that the 2007 firings and trials didn't have any problems with them or let the bureaucratic inertia documented at Joyful Exiles serve as the plausible deniability it already basically is. 

As in Driscoll should make a point to disavow having any role in the by-laws and constitution revisions of 2007 because if he ever even once said he did all that himself then he might as well admit to a power grab because shrinking the size of the executive elder board and expanding its powers will only ever look like that.

Wenatchee The Hatchet noted when Joyful Exiles came out that if you look at the documents Mark Driscoll was thoroughly insulated formally and bureaucratically from the firings and from correspondence.  If things ever hit the fan the furthest back it might go would be Scott Thomas as head of the EIT or Jamie Munson and now both those guys are gone.  Driscoll as politically brilliant enough to have so many levels of plausible deniability that even if things came to light that were slightly less than flattering it would still be on the council of elders that voted at the trials or on Thomas or on Munson but it would never necessarily ever have to go directly back to Mark Driscoll even if "everybody" knew he made a decision.  It's what lawyers might call "hearsay", it doesn't matter if it's actually totally the truth if you can't prove it in a court with documents and someone willing to swear an oath to tell the truth.

In other words, Munson and Thomas are even more convenient fall guys for the 2007 re-org now that they're both outside the corporation.  The formal insulation Driscoll had in 2007 from having to be directly involved in documented ways (well, up until Bent Meyer's documents emerged, at least) meant that it was possible to let people imagine Mark Driscoll wasn't an active agent in these disciplinary scenarios.

Something Wenatchee The Hatchet has mentioned in a handful of settings is that the protection that bureaucratic insulation afforded Driscoll in the controversies of 2007 could also become a weakness if the underlings ever ended up being party to things so economically or ethically dubious a ripple effect would kick in.  If the bureaucratic insulation of executive elder and formal boards shielded Driscoll from having any direct connection to the 2007 firings for a time the opposite problem kicked in circa 2012-2014 where Sutton Turner's activities as executive with Result Source anchored Mark Driscoll to a contract that the executives apparently approved of and that had to get a public apology for. 

But for 2007 stuff, silence would be golden.  The last thing Driscoll would ever want to do (that he's unfortunately already done) is to make any public statements (ever) crediting himself with direct and active agency for revising the constitution and by-laws of Mars Hill Church in 2007.  Now that he's done that his best option is complete silence if he's not going to publicly apologize for how he let former elders be treated.  And keeping his story straight as to how, when and why he decided the structure of the corporation needed to change to begin with might be a place to start ... but silence is probably more golden.

Finally, if Driscoll is determined to present a fatherly image of himself (which, unfortunately, was also what he did in 2007 describing the by-laws revision and trials) then ..
6.  Mark Driscoll should hand off a majority of preaching and teaching to campus pastors.

He needs to consider this for two reasons

a   his own reputation is shot

b   if he's going to be the mentoring fatherly figure he needs to be able to prove there are any spiritual "sons" competent enough to rise up and continue the legacy he's working toward.  The longer he stays the dominant face behind the pulpit the more he destroys his own reputation at this point.  Taking a year or two off to let others recycle his older material newcomers don't have access to since the media purge of 2014 gives him time to reconsolidate.  Nobody's going to believe Driscoll's really trying to be a more fatherly type if he's insisting on doing the lion's share of preaching year in and year out.  But if he steps away from the pulpit for the majority of the time and lets all those younger guys he keeps claiming he wants to see rise up actually do so ... well ... that might improve his image some.

This would not persuade the world at large that Driscoll's moral compass has found true north, as such, but it would probably make strides toward restoring trust among those who are still at Mars Hill and not sure why they should be.  All of these adaptive strategies could have large positive effects within the corporate culture.  Whether or not any of them may be considered remains to be seen.

Driscoll actually displaying any real competence in exegeting biblical texts might be a nice change of pace, too.

It would also not require that anyone change the governance or become more transparent about finances at any step of the way.

Rachel Held Evans suggests six ways forward for changing the culture that enabled Mark Driscoll, WtH suggests six other ways forward

Rachel Held Evans recently sounded off on changing the culture that enabled Mark Driscoll. 

The post is, summarily
"changing the culture that enabled Mark Driscoll: 6 ways forward"
and the six other ways forward are listed as:

1.   We must educate Christians about abuse, bullying, and misuse of power in church settings.
2.   We must value and preserve accountability
3.   We must take misogyny and homophobia seriously.
4.   We must measure “success” by fruit of the Spirit, not numbers.
5.   We must protect people over reputations.
6.   We must treat our pastors and church leaders as human beings—flawed, complex, and beloved by God.

If we want to change the culture that enabled Mark Driscoll the way forward is not necessarily in the outline of points in Rachel Held Evans' post.

In order to change the culture that enabled Mark Driscoll we need to be clear whether we're talking about one culture or two or a network of cultures with overlapping interests and aims.  Presenting the social-historical moment that spawned a Mark Driscoll as though it were monolithic is too reductionist an approach to have any long-term merit.  Exploring Mark Driscoll as merely symbolic of a series of points that it looks as though Rachel Held Evans were going to make anyway gives Wenatchee The Hatchet pause.  After all, it didn't seem to particularly matter that it was Ted Haggard in 2006 that gave Mark Driscoll an opportunity to opine on his pet topics anymore than it seems necessary for the megachurch pastor to be Mark Driscoll for Rachel Held Evans to revel in her own bromides for the internet.

Wenatchee The Hatchet would suggest six other ways forward from the culture that enabled Mark Driscoll

1. We must educate ourselves on how publishing and media industries work because the last year's worth of Driscoll scandals shine a light on how those industries may have made him a star to begin with.

If there's a lesson to be learned in the Mark Driscoll scandal it's that one should perhaps be reflexively suspicious of high profile Christian authors (left or right) who end up being New York Times best-selling authors and deign to tell us what we should do at this cultural moment of great importance.  We've had a chance to learn how the game is rigged and who has played roles in the rigging.  At this point we should not take seriously either a Mark Driscoll or a Rachel Held Evans until we're certain that we're looking at authors who have done their own scholarship; written their own books; and gotten onto the New York Times bestseller list entirely on their own steam and the last year's worth of controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll was over a book published by the same publisher that published Rachel Held Evans in 2012.

We need to educate ourselves on how the publishing industry works, what it considers ethical and permissible, and how it goes through doing all that to promote books.  The scandals associated with Mark Driscoll suggest that in popular/mainstream Christian publishing the bar for ethics and scholarship may be significantly lower than for that in mainstream publishing.  If some say this is the case about mainstream publishing, "Editors no longer edit." and others agree we should at least consider that the standards in Christian publishing may not only be no better but may even be worse.

Clearly in light of all that has come to light in the last year's controversy about Mark Driscoll and citation errors a lot of mistakes were made and whether they were Mark Driscoll's mistakes or the mistakes of his editors and publishers should not be something we get hung up on too much.  We're talking about a set of scandals that should cause us to rethink the ethics and aims of an entire web of industries.  If Rachel Held Evans didn't first lead with that as a way forward then Wenatchee The Hatchet submits that her ways forward are not going to be ways forward because Wenatchee The Hatchet's #1 leads to ...

2.  An unstinting internal critique of the actions and ethics of people on "our" team is vital and must be sustained and maintained even if it is awkward and painful. 

Long ago Wenatchee The Hatchet had a journalism teacher explain something, that everyone has biases.  There is no such thing as a truly unbiased reporter.  The point here is that a journalist will have biases but must be disciplined enough and scrupulous enough to make sure those biases do not get in the way of seeing what the facts are.  If you don't mind ignoring what the facts are in seeking to promote or explore a particular cause the industry you want to be in is public relations and not journalism.

But the last year's worth of scandal around Mark Driscoll has suggested that many evangelicals and conservatives don't want a sustained or critical examination of Mark Driscoll's ideas and career.  While the secular and religious progressives kept repeating their talking points about gays and women it was conservatives and evangelicals that blew the lid off of the plagiarism and Result Source Inc. stories that nobody on the progressive side seemed to even be paying attention to.

In fact at this point we can't help but wonder whether some of the Christian left writers have availed themselves of the same star-generating tools Mark Driscoll may have availed himself of.  Since it has become abundantly clear that virtually no one to the left of Mark Driscoll was well-situated or even ever disposed to discover the citation errors to begin with this should underscore that as the apostle Paul wrote in an entirely different context, it's not out business to pass judgment on the outsider but by all means we must be willing to pass judgment on failures within our own community.

The problem is that it is not entirely clear that either the Christian right or the Christian left in the United States has any long-term interest in self-policing when they can point fingers at the evils of the other side.

A real way forward from here would not be for the religious progressives and conservatives to keep disagreeing on things about which we will likely always disagree, it would be that we work to promote a public discourse in which we police our own ethics and the intellectual integrity of our own arguments. 

At this point both Mark Driscoll and Rachel Held Evans are respectively two sides of the same coin, the coin that Thomas Nelson made in 2012 promoting both their books.  This rather naturally leads to.

3. Identity politics as usual is not only not a way forward, it was one of the key reasons none of the last year's controversies did not come to light earlier.  This needs to change.

Rachel Held Evans can talk about misogyny and homophobia all she wants.  Mark Driscoll can keep asking rhetorically where all the real men are.  Rachel Held Evans' "stand up"spiel was worthless 2012 as a real challenge to Mark Driscoll in the public sphere and it's just as worthless in 2014.  Should a person ask why it's a bigger deal when Mark Driscoll seems to have plagiarized but not when he says terrible things about women there's a rather blunt reason for this, because there's this thing called the First Amendment and if progressives and anti-charismatics forget that the First Amendment protects offensive speech that is not technically defamation then stop wasting time acting as though a thought crime for the Left or the Right is the same as actual copyright infringement.  If you pretend that the identity politics issues are supposed to be a bigger deal than copyright infringement you are just part of the problem. 

To the extent that Rachel Held Evans wants to keep beating the drum about misogyny and homophobia when the real scandals that have laid Driscoll low (for now) were plagiarism and sales-rigging is the extent to which Rachel Held Evans is nothing more than an instantiation of the same old problem that Mark Driscoll is.  The problem with the likes of Evans and Driscoll is that the questions they ask are largely rhetorical and they rely on dog whistle political stunts that can seem to be more carefully timed to their own book promotion efforts than to any form of intellectual discourse.  If you want to witness some egregiously shameless examples of that sort of thing Piatt comes to mind.  Let the reader understand.

The old left/right dichotomy was why many people who were situated to have observed problems in and commented on Mark Driscoll a decade ago not only didn't say anything about their actual concerns at the time but even dug in their heels?  Why?  Nobody likes to have people who they think are basically okay ripped apart in private or public settings.  Wenatchee The Hatchet used to make defenses of Mars Hill as a community even while having an occasionally dim view of Mark Driscoll as a public figure and persona because there's nothing quite so annoying as a bunch of people who don't know or care who you are talking about Kool-aid.

Wenatchee The Hatchet was not the sort to consider himself a drinker of Kool-aid.  But the more we learn about heuristics and cognitive biases the more it seems that humans are by their very natures kool-aid drinkers.  Everyone will "drink the kool-aid" for the right cause or right person.  It doesn't matter that JFK was kind of a hawk and a womanizer and a drug addict.  Camelot!  What does it matter how many times Reagan was married and that he tried to avoid nuclear conflict.  Family values and fighting the Evil Empire!  If I convince myself I'd never drink the kool-aid I have taken the first and most dangerous step toward actually doing that.  There's nobody so dumb as the person who thinks he or she is too smart to do something stupid.

4. The last year's worth of controversy are simultaneously a commendation and condemnation of the state of "Christian" journalism and associated punditry, but the alternative is not necessarily blogging or "just" blogging, but a reappraisal of our ethics and interests in the public sphere

If the lessons you learned in the last year are only lessons that exonerate or vindicate you then you probably didn't learn anything. 

On the one hand some journalists really blew the lid off of a couple of significant news stories in the last year.  That's commendable.  On the other hand, virtually everyone has made a point of talking about the people in the news story and not about what this may signal to us about the industries.  That Christian authors plagiarize is not necessarily news, but that Christian authors could plagiarize so often for so long a stretch of time without anyone calling it out over a decade is mind-boggling.  The recent success of journalistic coverage in the last year may simply highlight the failure of the whole preceding decade.

And this would also tend to be true for the blogs.  So thoroughly has blogging been pitched toward outrage and anger for or against Mark Driscoll there was a great deal of heat and not much light.  While The Stranger, WORLD magazine, and other outlets did some fine coverage that highlighted how much of what was published about Driscoll and Mars Hill wasn't really news, wasn't new, and added little to the public discourse.  This became more problematic as more secular/progressive publications tried to wade years late into the waters.  Valerie Tarico's article got fixed but what was initially published in April 2014 had so many factual mistakes Wenatchee The Hatchet felt obliged to do a fact-check.

When Libby Anne made some waves publishing some material from "Using Your Penis" that was published back in late July 2014 it didn't look as though AlterNet or Salon realized that Libby Anne used a jpg that happened to be published more than a month earlier; Time didn't seem to know either.  In the rush to not get scooped there was a problem of people running with things without vetting.  The game of telephone has kicked in in the past about Driscoll over the years and the popular but spurious claim that Mark Driscoll said Gayle Haggard let herself go may have been because a bunch of lazy readers who didn't get The Stranger's smart-ass humor filtered that into a claim that Driscoll actually discussed Gayle Haggard's figure.  He didn't but not even REPEATEDLY PUBLISHING what Driscoll ACTUALLY SAID seems to have made any different to people who have their minds made up.

On the other hand, while some of the most trenchant work discussing the history of Driscoll and Mars Hill has been done by some bloggers a lot of blogging has been all heat and no light because of the previously described echo chamber of identity politics.  Wenatchee The Hatchet got flamed for a year or so by Driscoll critics at a couple of blogs for, as best Wenatchee understands, refusing to express disagreement with Mark Driscoll's ideas and actions in terms of moral outrage.  Wenatchee The Hatchet has also tended to avoid imputing motives to Mark Driscoll.  Though the reason SHOULD be obvious it's been surprising how over the years people would type out things like, "I don't see how you can't not see this."  which can be tacitly fleshed out as "Mark Driscoll is evil". 

Well, even if he were what's the point of Captain Obvious bromides that don't accomplish anything.  What might catalyze more change in the culture of Mars Hill, declaring in all caps "MARK DRISCOLL IS EVIL" or finding Driscoll's house and pointing out that it's hard for a guy to blog about how much he loves the city that implies Seattle if he doesn't even live in King County any more.  That the house was bought in the year when a book was rigged a spot on the New York Times bestseller list is also worth noting.  Wouldn't evidence of plagiarism and sales-rigging and by-laws revamping constitute evidence of an ethical problem?  And it's not as though there have never  been progressives in the history of progressive politics and religion who weren't capable of moral wrongs.  It's not like we can just ignore Yoder altogether in light of what has come to light about him, which may be a tolerable transition to the next point.

5.  Christians should not operate under the illusion that "our" heroes are not also capable of being monsters.

This is in some sense nothing more than an extension of 3 but the part that makes it unique is that a failure to recognize this reality about the human condition would be to miss that many of our heroes are heroes, paradoxically, BECAUSE THEY ARE MONSTERS.  A hero is not so much someone who only has good qualities but, to put a ridiculous point to it, the monster who is fighting for the ideals we believe in.  It's not so much that Frank(y) Schaeffer and Mark Driscoll are all that different in how they talk about and to people in the public sphere via mass media, it's that what they stand for becomes a cynosure for other commitments held by others.  Maybe this or that person is rough around the edges or gets overheated or over the top but that person is MY PERSON.  We can exercise a type of self-admiration through the public figures whose antics and stunts embody the ideals we want to see championed.  Few forms of so-called wit are more annoying to Wenatchee The Hatchet in general than the types of wit attempted to make fun of people on opposing teams because a good deal of it amounts to making fun of people rather than their ideas.  It's easy to make fun of someone you disagree with as some senseless stupid kool-aid drinker for as long as you don't think about for whom or what you'd drink kool-aid and if you say you wouldn't do that for anyone then think harder. 

Wenatchee has written this before but when people are defending Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill they are not necessarily defending him but their investment of themselves in the story he tells. You're not going to get anywhere demanding stuff from people, particularly on the internet, but you can invite them to reconsider the narrative they have been given.  And as Wenatchee The Hatchet has, at times, shown, there are a few reasons here and there to doubt the overall coherency of the narrative of Mars Hill as presented by Mark Driscoll over the course of the last ten years.

But the thing is that it's easy to be dismissive when the person subject to scrutiny is not your hero.  It wouldn't hurt if the fans of Rachel Held Evans asked why she never managed to notice Mark Driscoll's plagiarism or why she published her book in 2012 with the exact same publisher as Mark Driscoll.  Sure, publishing under the same publisher sometimes happens but it's worth reconsidering the ease with which and the eagerness for which we lay into the people admired by others while being so brittle and thin-skinned when the people we admire are subjected to the same kinds of mockery.  Then again, we could also reconsider why we're mocking people and not ideas.  But that's something for others to consider.

6.  We should attempt to understand the scandals associated with Mark Driscoll as indicative of the crimes and passions we excuse or berate in our various heroes as a mirror to critique our own loyalties and ethics.

Think of this as the photo negative of the sixth and final "way" Rachel Held Evans wrote. Everyone recognizes their respective heroes are fallible and imperfect human beings.  Even dogs can understand why cats hunt for food but that doesn't mean dogs and cats aren't both predators.  It can be easy to mistake differences in predatory style for supposing that one is a scavenger while the other is an active killer when both creatures are capable of scavenging and both are capable of killing for sport. If we want to address the culture(s) that have enabled Mark Driscoll we need to be capable of critically assessing our own ideologies and loyalties.  We can get some insights into which stunts and attacks we will defend in ourselves by looking at the stunts and attacks we're willing to defend in others. 

Whether we're looking at film or the pulpit or athletics or industry we have no shortage of scandals in which the rich and famous are pilloried or defended as icons of values.  There are plenty of people who want to make this moment in the life and times of Mark Driscoll about self-vindication for or against him.  People who read the Stranger might be inclined to side with Dan Savage as though there's nothing in Dan Savage that resembles Mark Driscoll as a willfully incendiary public persona.  There are those who would endorse Rachel Held Evans over against Mark Driscoll and vice versa.  Wenatchee The Hatchet admits to not being much of a fan of either of these sorts of Christian celebrities ... and the star-making apparatus that has brought them both about seems like the bigger, more serious problem that has yet to be addressed.  Someone convinced these people that anything they might have to say on a variety of issues actually matters and these people believed that someone.  It's not just "the people" but also publishers that put them where they have gotten to.  Evans may well be right to recognize that as a beneficiary of the same publishing system Driscoll has benefited from she might not have the most compelling platform from which to speak to the expectations people have about famous Christian authors.  But she did it anyway.  In that respect Evans and Driscoll may both fall prey to the temptation to sound off on things that might be best left without their respective commentaries.

As Wenatchee The Hatchet has said dozens of times, the aim here is less to persuade through direct advocacy than to inform.  Wenatchee The Hatchet has not made much of a point of declaring that people have to leave Mars Hill (though that might be highly advisable for a variety of reasons).  If you're considering leaving there are reasons for that and if you're considering staying Wenatchee The Hatchet can attempt to provide as thorough a history of Mars Hill as possible so that your decision is as informed as possible.

Years ago someone joined Mars Hill in the years after the 2007 firings and considered it this way, that perhaps Mars Hill elders made some mistakes but the point was they did something, they didn't just let things stagnate in a particular way.  Okay, but Wenatchee's case to that person was to bear something in mind, that in the history of Mars Hill those whose star is on the rise, those whose social trajectory keeps going upward tend to see Mars Hill in one way, while those whose social status plateaus or even declines tend to notice things they tended to dismiss in the earlier stage.  It's not that the culture changed so much as what they noticed about the culture changed.  The risk inherent in someone like Rachel Held Evans sounding off on what needs to change about the culture that enables Mark Driscoll is there's no evidence she's ever set foot in Mars Hill and there's reason to doubt whether someone who was published by Thomas Nelson the same year Mark and Grace Driscoll were is ideally situated to provide a meaningful critique of the culture that really made herself and the Driscolls stars.  You don't want to bite the hand that feeds you, perhaps?

Wenatchee The Hatchet saw how swiftly materials published by Janet Mefferd got pulled.  If there's something to bear in mind amid all this it is that we may really need a mixture of the mainstream press, the independent press, the Christian press, and yeah ... even maybe some bloggers all on the case to maintain and further a public discussion.  It won't all be equally valuable but we have an opportunity to use the last year's worth of scandals associated with one man as an opportunity to ask what happened and, if possible, to ask in a way where it's not just a rhetorical question leading to a point we wanted to make already anyway.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

so is there a Mars Hill Wenatchee in the works? Josh McPherson of Grace Covenant in Wenatchee listed among the Mars HIll pastors lately

Josh McPherson serves as lead pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Wenatchee WA, a church he helped plant in 2008. He is a member of Acts 29 and graduated from the Resurgence Training Center in 2010. He also holds an undergraduate degree in biblical studies and is currently finishing his graduate degree from Western Seminary. He and his wife Sharon have four children: Ella Mae, Levi Gregory, Amelia Claire, and Gideon Joshua.

The questions of the evening are in the title of the post. Clarifying comment from readers is invited ... though apparently few dare to actually comment on blog posts at Wenatchee the Hatchet even when commentary and clarification is solicited. There were some comments in the last year and a half about the possibility of some collaboration of some kind left here and there at this blog but you probably won't be able to find those if you look for them.  This was something only on the periphery of Wenatchee The Hatchet's radar in the last year or so but the emergence of McPherson in the pastor listings does raise/invite a question as to whether or not church assimilations are happening even as Mars Hill has been in some kind of financial nosedive this year. 

Interesting to see that there were actual graduates of the Resurgence Training Center in 2010.  So there was at least one graduating class, maybe in two stages?  But that's blogging for some other time.

This was a church with MH connections brought to Wenatchee's attention earlier this year but the Result Source controversy sort of overpowered considerations of whether or not some assimilation of Grace Covenant into Mars Hill might have been getting considered.  McPherson just showing up in the pastors roster of Mars Hill would appear, in light of Mars Hill history, to have now rendered such a question moot ... in a way.

Ballard News Tribune quotes Justin Dean saying Mars Hill Ballard growing and can accomodate people from closing campuses, commenter states this has not been the case

Wenatchee The Hatchet sometimes wonders how on earth Justin Dean still has anything to do with MH PR. 
It's not like the stuff he said at the start of 2013 about Mars Hill and Lifelong Aids Alliances turned out so well, for instance.

And it's not as though what he said really cleared up much when Mars Hill took interest in real estate Sound Transit had already bought.

But perhaps the recent campus closures could go to show there's no situation connected to Mars Hill where the waters couldn't be muddied just a teensy bit more by Justin Dean saying anything.

Why?  Well ...

 The move comes after the church announced last week that the churches would be closing because of a decline in financial “giving” after “negative media attention.”

“Some of our churches can no longer support the ongoing costs associated with their buildings and paid staff. We acknowledge that the reason for much of the decrease in attendance and giving falls to us, the leadership of Mars Hill,” said spokesperson for Mars Hill, Justin Dean

“The Ballard church has been growing and is in a strong position to support those coming in from other churches.” [emphasis added]

Because Ballard is relatively close to the U-District and Downtown locations, Mars Hill hopes that the change in venue will not negatively affect the number of attendees.

“Our Ballard church has plenty of room to accommodate people coming from these other churches, and we can increase the number of services as needed. … Some will be traveling farther than others, but our Downtown Seattle and U-District churches are fairly close to the Ballard church location. Our hope is that everyone will make the transition to the Ballard church, or another nearby Mars Hill church. If they are not able to make it then we know there are many great Bible-believing churches in the area, and if they choose to attend them instead then we hope they are a blessing to those churches.”

Dean reported that leasing arrangements influenced the decisions to move the Downtown congregation.

“We recently received notice from the Daniels Company that they are exercising an option in our lease for the Downtown Seattle location that would force us to move out of the current building within 12 months. Because they are enabling this option earlier than we expected, this results in a significant cost savings and payout to Mars Hill. We have been discussing what the best option would be for this church, whether we find a new location or consolidate the church with Ballard. Ultimately due to our current financial position, we believe the best option is to consolidate with Mars Hill Ballard.

 One commenter and churchgoer responded to Justin Dean, MHC spokesperson, stating that the Ballard congregation is growing and that the reason for closing the University District location was because of financial issues brought on by a drop in attendance.

“Attendance at Mars Hill U-District has declined significantly in recent months, and the cost of operating the church compared to giving that is received makes keeping this location open untenable. We feel the people of U-District would be better served by joining the family at Mars Hill Church Ballard. ... This decision was made carefully and prayerfully by our Executive Elders with consultation from Lead Pastors and approved by our Board of Advisors and Accountability,” stated Dean. 

 The commenter on the BNT site wrote, “Ballard has been growing? That's not true. In fact when I attended there a couple of weeks ago the entire back half of the auditorium was curtained off. [emphasis added] There might be an attendance decline at the university campus but that campus has always had a small and fluctuating attendance due to the majority of attendees are students. When school is out attendance is down when school is in session attendance is up. The reason they are consolidating is to give them a reason to pull Drew Hensley (lead pastor of the u-district campus) out or the lead pastor role because he was one of the nine signers of the charges submitted against Driscoll.”

Of course if Mars Hill Ballard is really growing Justin Dean can post the attendance listings for this year and last year to prove that's the case.  Wenatchee The Hatchet would love to see the attendance figures for Ballard month-by-month over the last two years. 

Throckmorton quotes Driscoll "I made the mistake of trying to be under the authority of my elders" two types of revision in the history of MH

Warren Throckmorton recently highlighted a particularly curious interview between Grace Driscoll and Mark Driscoll recently that's worth commenting on.

There's a quote from Mark Driscoll that has to be heard and read to be fully appreciated.
Throckmorton writes:
At 5:23 into the video, Driscoll makes revealing statements about his views of his elders. These opinions give insight into the changes in governance at Mars Hill since 2007. Watch and take note between 5:23 and  7:00 minutes.

and the particular part of the quote Wenatchee finds interesting is here
That's one practical thing is, I'd never been a member of a church until I started my own. So I didn't know a lot about church. But I wanted, I knew I was a big personality and pretty intense so I wanted to be under authority but I made a mistake of--how do I say this carefully?--trying to be under the authority of my elders but the truth is all my elders were new and young and green and they would want to help but they really didn't know what they were talking about.

And so what I should have had was a team of pastors outside of the church who were older and more seasoned that could, you know, help Grace and I put life together.
There's a good bit of material Wenatchee already covered about the early leadership of Mars HIll over here

But in light of Throckmorton's recent post a substantial amount of review seems appropriate. This was material ready for publication or already published as of last night but how about it just goes up now?

Anyway ...

A team of pastors outside of the church who were older and more seasoned?  Wasn't Driscoll saying something in the James series about a team of some kind?
Pastor Mark Driscoll
James 1:1
January 12, 2014

I’m not just in authority; I’m under authority. I have pastors do my performance review, can rebuke me, can terminate me, whatever the case may be. It’s important to know that everyone needs to be under spiritual authority, including those who are in spiritual authority.

When I felt called to start Mars Hill, I went and met with elders. When I felt called into ministry, I went and met with my first pastor. I said, “I think this is what God’s telling me to do.” He said, “I think that’s right, but you’re nowhere near ready. It’s going to be a really long time.” “OK, I’ve got a lot of work to do.” When I felt called to plant, I went through a full assessment. Pastors oversaw me, a team interviewed me, a church sent me, an overseer had authority over me.

So that sure sounds like a team of pastors outside of the church.

Then there's even this old reference to Antioch Bible Church. Greg Kappas, and stuff
from Seasons of Grace
by Mark Driscoll

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

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

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

March 24, 2004
from 1 Timothy 5:17-25

When we started this church, I didn't get paid anything. First year, nothing. `Cause we had no people, we had no money. If you called the church, the church office was at my house, and I would answer the phone in my underwear and pretend like we were a high-powered organization. "Hi, thanks for calling Mars Hill." "I s Mark there?" "Yeah, let me get him." So I'd, you know, "Hi, how you doing?" I'd pretend like I had a secretary. I'd pretend like we were legit. I would, seriously. And I'm sitting there in my underwear just liek the short guy in the Wizard of Oz, just pulling the levers, maintaining the illusion of this tremendous empire. Woo hoo.

There's nothing, man. No money, no people, no nothing. The first year we put a box in the back, and I said, "Hey, if anybody feels led to give, feel free to give." Nobody apparently felt led. God didn't move in anybody's heart. The first year we brought in $90,000.oo, first year, which wasn't great.  It's a nice SUV, but it's not a great budget, and that first year I didn't have any money.  My wife was working full time. I was working full time while we were starting the church.

My wife started having major health complications from work, stress related. I told her, I said, "Honey, 1 Timothy says that, you know, I gotta make the money. If I don't provide for the needs of my family, I've denied the faith, I'm worse than an unbeliever. Quit your job. It's my responsbiility. I'll figure it out. I don't know how we're gonna pay the bills. We're not getting any money at the church."

And I was thinking about it, too. I started getting a little scared `cause I wanted to live in the city, do a church in the city, the least churched city in the country. I wanted to have a big family. I wanted to be able to pay my bills. I wanted to be able to have a nice church, and I'm going after 20-year old indie rockers that are committed to poverty and anarchy. Thinking, "This is not real liquid. This is not a brilliant business plan, really." You know, teenage kids who take scooters to church tend not to be a huge donor base, you know?

But I felt like that what's God said, "Go to Seattle and ... " You know, we lived in Seattle. I grew up in Seattle. I love this city. This is my home, so it was like I knew God told me to do that. I'm like, "Lord God, I mean, I'm cool with not eating, but I gotta get food fo rthe kids.  I gotta get shoes on the wife. What am I gonna do here?"

So I went to Antioch Bible Church and I said, "They're not, you know, we're not generating any revenue." Antioch Bible Church, where I'd been the college director for a year and a half, they gave me $30,000 the first year as my salary. Praise God, they gave me money, so that's waht we lived off.  My wife and I and my daughter Ashley, family of three, living in Wallingofrd on $30,000 a year. N omedical, no dental, no retirement, no nothing.  Had to pay all of that. And then we tithed out of that, and then we gave above and beyond that for hospirality and for wedding presents and food `cause all the Bible studies and all the meetings were in our home. So we'd feed everybody and have everbody over and do all that kind of stuff.

And so when you subtracted it all out just from the tithes, I mean, we're living off of about $24,000 that first year. And then out of that, you've gotta pay medical, dental, retirement, food, rent, car, the whole thing.  Family of three living in Wallingford, not a lot of bling. Didn't have the huge amount of extra the first couple of years.

Second year the church comes. Antioch kicks in again, gives me $30,000.00. Thid year Mars Hill still wasn't able to really cover a full salary for me, so I went out and raised some additional dollars from another church, Spanish River Church, in Boca Raton. They gave me about half of my salary.

So there were those people at Antioch Bible Church that gave Driscoll financial compensation during the years when Mars Hill didn't pay a salary.  The idea that there was no external accountability seems like it needs some explaining as to what that meant.

As for the "young and new and green".  Driscoll was the runt of the litter in terms of age and he'd made a point of recruiting older and more experienced men to help him co-plant Mars Hill.

But first let's revisit the later 2011 commentary Driscoll had so that it can be more clearly understood by the time we get back to Driscoll circa 2006 and 2000.
For the first five or six years of Mars Hill, I was the only paid pastor on staff and carried much of the ministry burden. I was doing all the premarital counseling and most of the pastoral work as the only pastor on staff. This went on for years due to pitiful giving and a ton of very rough new converts all the way until we had grown to about 800 people a Sunday. At one point I literally had over a few thousand people come in and out of my home for Bible studies, internships, counseling, and more. My phone rang off the hook, my email inbox overflowed, my energy levels and health took a nose dive, and I started becoming bitter and angry instead of loving and joyful. It got to the point where either something had to change or I was going to go ballistic and do something I really regretted.

Through much prayer and study of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit impressed upon me that I’d done a poor job of raising up leaders along with me to help care for his church. I was carrying the burden myself and was not doing a good job because it was too much. [emphasis added] I needed to transition from caring for all the people to ensuring they were all cared for by raising up elders, deacons, and church members. This spurred me to make some dramatic changes to increase membership and train leaders.

We began a process of intentionally challenging qualified men to step up as elders to lead, finding and training men and women to serve and lead as deacons, and we started a Gospel Class to clearly articulate what we believed about Jesus, the Bible, and the church to make clear what we expected from members. Our first teams were not amazing, but some of those people, through years of maturing by God’s grace, are now amazing leaders and servants.
Another problem that came from not having built a great team is that everyone expected me to be their pastor in a therapeutic model where we had 1-on-1 meetings every week.

Who was this "we" Driscoll was referring to?  Didn't he say earlier that he had done a poor job of raising up leaders with him?  Didn't he just say in the previous paragraph he was carrying the burden himself?  This ... within the first six years of Mars Hill?

For the sake of review:
Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll, Zondervan

page 54

... The church started as an idea I shared with Lief Moi and Mike Gunn. Lief is a descendant of Genghis Khan and his dad was a murderer, and Mike is a former football player. They proved to be invaluable, except for the occasional moments when they would stand toe-to-toe in a leadership meeting, threatening to beat the Holy Spirit out of each other. Both men were older than I and had years of ministry experience, and they were good fathers, loving husbands, and tough.  [emphasis added]...

Has Mike Gunn had any thing to share in the last five years?

The Harambee story is a bit wrapped up in my (Mike Gunn’s) story. The vision began around 1992 as I began to feel the need to plant a church that represented the diversity of God’s creation, as well as a gospel that centered on God’s glory and not our own needs. I was prompted by the Spirit to engage the culture in a more meaningful and direct way, so God decided to send me and my family on an unknown journey to Seattle to begin a campus ministry for athletes at the University of Washington. This began to hone our skills in apologetics, evangelism, and discipleship, creating a desire to reach the next generation with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

At that point, Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland and Mark Driscoll entered our lives. My family began attending Antioch in January of 1994, and we started helping the college group, which was run by Mark Driscoll, at that time, a 23-year-old intern recently graduated from Washington State University. [emphasis added]. It became obvious that we had similar backgrounds and ministry callings, so we began to explore the possibilities of our vision (reaching truly postmodern, post-Christian people for Christ), and it became abundantly clear that we were to begin a new work in the city of Seattle.

With the blessing of Antioch and the exodus of about 30 of the students, Mark, Lief Moi, and I began Mars Hill Church in October of 1996. [emphasis added] We watched God work His mosaic miracle as He began to put together the matrix that became Mars Hill Church. The church grew to more than 1,200 people in five years, and because of facility limitations at the time, we were running seven services at three different locations in the Seattle area. One of these was Mars Hill South, which began as an evening service in October of 2001 with about 40 people. During that time it became evident that God was calling us to a different work, and that we needed to plant as an autonomous church. Subsequently, as of October 6, 2002, we became Harambee Church and began meeting at the Tukwila Community Center. [emphasis added]

They say you should show and not just tell, so here are screen caps of the elder listings from Mars Hill circa 1999-2001 that show Driscoll was basically the runt of the litter.

What exactly about all of that suggests that there was no team in the first six years of the history of Mars Hill? 

Let's also not forget that as older and more seasoned men in ministry available to Driscoll went there was David Nicholas, right?

What about Grace's father, Gib Martin?

Oh, but in Real Marriage one of the points of resentment on Mark Driscoll's part was Grace's family so perhaps Mark Driscoll was of mixed feelings about Gib Martin's role as a pastor?

One of the things Driscoll asserted in 2011 was:

We began a process of intentionally challenging qualified men to step up as elders to lead, finding and training men and women to serve and lead as deacons, and we started a Gospel Class to clearly articulate what we believed about Jesus, the Bible, and the church to make clear what we expected from members. Our first teams were not amazing, but some of those people, through years of maturing by God’s grace, are now amazing leaders and servants.

Within the first six years of the church?  But if that's the case then Mark Driscoll playing some role in getting Paul Petry and Bent Meyer into the leadership structure of Mars Hill happened after this first-six-years period.  Again, who is this "we" if Driscoll was carrying the burden by himself? 

Moving along ... Driscoll wrote more in the piece about ten lessons from the early years:

While the sentiment of being a unified team was good, since we required a unanimous vote of the elders to do anything, the leadership team went from being accountable to being adversarial, stifling, and impossible. But, we could not move leaders on unless they chose to resign and leave. The truth is that when a church is planted, the first elder team will not be in place years later—even Jesus’ team of a mere twelve people did not hold together for a full three years, and we cannot expect to outperform his leadership. The goals of the church are not to secure power and position for leaders but rather to glorify God, reach non-Christians, and mature Christians by putting in place whoever is best suited for these tasks

This claim that a unanimous vote was required by some group keeps being asserted but evidence for the claim is rarely (if ever) produced.  As for the claim that "we could not move leaders on unless they chose to resign and leave" the testimony of Mark Driscoll himself suggests that they were letting people go.

CHAPTER FIVE, 350-1,000 PEOPLEpage 135

We had to quickly reorganize all of our systems and staff.  Our administrative pastor, Eric, left, which we all recognized was God's call on him.  And our worship leader was a great guy and great musician but was unable to coordinate the multiple bands in the three locations, so we let him go. [emphasis added] This was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made because he was a very godly man who had worked very hard and would have been fine if the church had not gotten so crazy so quickly, and he and his very sweet wife were both close personal friends of mind. But I needed a worship pastor who could lead mltiple bands, coordinate multiple services in multiple locations, and train multiple worship pastors while keeping up with a church that was growing so fast that we had no idea exactly where it was going. I had no one who could possibly fill this role but felt compelled to wait until God let me know, so I just left a gaping hole in our leadership to create a crisis that would force a leader to emerge. 

 Strangely, even though Mark Driscoll spent time repeatedly telling Brad Currah he'd seen Currah leading worship at Mars Hill in a dream that was taken as a divine oracle ... Currah didn't have that role for really all that long before "we let him go". 

For as much time as Driscoll spent in a post from 2011 explaining how he was carrying the burden of Mars Hill by himself anyone who visited circa 1999 to 2002 might have the impression there was actually a team of people and of people that Mark Driscoll actively recruited to join him in planting Mars Hill Fellowship. 

As a postscript, for those interested in reading an examination of pre-2007 bylaws to assess whether or not complete unanimity in voting was actually necessary:

There were decisions that executive elders made that had to have unanimous voting (with abstentions permitted) but the repeated claims that all MH elders all across the board had to agree on everything is simply not true. Not only was there a team but that team did not necessarily have to always agree on everything all the time at all levels for decisions to get made.