Friday, April 24, 2015

the changing tune Mars Hill leaders have sung about Paul Tripp (and it turns out Turner's not going to share concrete numbers so much when he discusses Global/Go)


Learning, Growing, & Communicating Under Criticism

For the past several weeks, I have been planning to discuss the lessons I have learned from events and mistakes at Mars Hill Church on my website. Earlier this week, I wrote three separate blogs regarding the ResultSource decision in 2011 at Mars Hill. Today, I planned to focus on Mars Hill Global. However, last night I received a call to explain that Mars Hill’s former attorneys did not want me to post any more blogs and also to remove what has already been communicated this week.

In a previous blog, I wrote that if you leave an organization because decisions are made that you do not agree with, then you should not go to social media and blog about it. If Mars Hill were still a church, I would not be discussing these things in a public way, but the church’s epic implosion was historic. In our modern day, a church of its size, influence, and scope has never failed in such a public way nor experienced such unprecedented circumstances. Unless, we study the leadership, events, decisions, victories, and failures—the whole history of Mars Hill Church—it may very well be repeated. My goal in discussing these events is to get a better and more full account of what transpired. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another,” and I believe that this is just such an opportunity for sharpening other believers. I want to spare another church from facing the challenges Mars Hill faced. I also want to spare another pastor and church family
from walking through what we did.


As I’ve said, I do believe there are helpful lessons to be shared that might prevent what happened at Mars Hill from ever happening again. Consequently, I will not be able to fully comply with the request of Mars Hill’s former attorneys. However, I will rework the Global blog post content this weekend and remove many of the financial numbers that people are so eager to know.

So much for having anything useful to say.  Discussing concrete numbers was the only thing that could have truly cleared the air about what went on with Global. 

Still, there's something to bear in mind about the timing of Turner sharing things.  Technically Mars Hill Church, the corporation, doesn't formally dissolve or expire until the end of this calendar year.
WA Filing Date12/22/1995
Expiration Date12/31/2015
WA Filing Date11/26/2013
Expiration Date11/30/2015
WA Filing Date10/30/2013
Expiration Date10/31/2015
PresidentDRISCOLL, MARK1411 NW 50TH ST
SecretaryBRUSKAS, DAVID1411 NW 50TH ST

All three of these corporations are ones that don't expire until the last quarter of 2015.  So all this talk online about Mars Hill being no more, it's a bit premature.  Try 2016 for that.  And in case there's any further doubt, Kerry Dodd's signature suggests there's still a legally recognized corporation that can contract to sell real estate.

Wenatchee The Hatchet can certainly endorse the idea that what happened within the history of Mars Hill can and should be discussed and done so in a way that is for the public good.  That's ... kind of what Wenatchee The Hatchet has been doing off and on since about 2008ish. 

And what's been particularly fascinating this week is to note the changing tune Mars Hill leadership has sung about Paul Tripp in the last two calendar years.
Posted by on
During my tenure, many people criticized the culture of Mars Hill and lack of accountability. The most stinging came from Dr. Paul Tripp who actually served on the Board of Advisors and Accountability for eight months when past mistakes and sins began to crater in on Mars Hill. Few people know that Dr. Tripp never physically attended a board meeting during that time. In fact, he had never met all of the board members in person. Furthermore, the points he attempted to make were never made in a board meeting or to all of the board members. Dr. Tripp resigned because he wanted the board to go back to local elders. He wanted local elders to govern each of the fifteen churches across five states. Many of the mistakes, sins, and problems that created the culture occurred under a local elder-led board—including the ResultSource decision. There is a tipping point where a church or organization outgrows its current governance. I’m not certain when it happened, but for Mars Hill, the local elder governance had reached the tipping point well before the summer of 2011.
Justin Dean ·  Top Commenter · Buford, Georgia
Hi Frank,

 We didn't get everything right but I do think our critics, a few in particular, were responsible for starting a snowball effect of events, all under the guise of doing gods work. These aren't honest people we were dealing with.

 Paul Tripps comments shocked me because he was barely involved at MH, never showed up for any meetings and only talked on the phone with our board a couple times. He has no context to say those things and I believe his words and actions were very self serving. What he described is not at all how it was at Mars Hill, not that he would know. I'd love to hear from Paul how he justifies what he did.

Reply ·  · March 6 at 6:57am
It's strange because Mike Wilkerson mentions Tripp in the acknowledgments section of his book, which was published in January 2011, which was three months before Sutton Turner showed up at Mars Hill and about ten months before Justin Dean showed up.

Redemption" Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry
Copyright (c) 2011 by Mike Wilkerson
Published by Crossway
Trade paperback ISBN: 978-1-4335-2077-8
PDF ISBN: 978-1-4335-2078-5
published January 15, 2011

Page 20, from Acknowledgments in Redemption by Mike Wilkerson
Through many books, lectures, and personal interactions with the faculty of CCEF--Ed Welch, Mike Emlet, Winston Smith, Tim Lane, David Powlison--and Paul Tripp, I have been personally challenged and taught how to think biblically about people and how to help them practically and pastorally.  More than anyone, they have provided the vision and guidance to put gospel counseling into practice in the local church.
Thanks to James and Heather Armstrong, Warren and Melissa Myers, Michael and Mary Van Skaik, Hank and Sharon Matthews, Cedar Springs, and Warm Beach for providing comfortable places for me to write.
In terms of the church's history and its culture Sutton Turner and Justin Dean were the newbies who may have had a less than full understanding of Tripp's understanding of Mars Hill history.
When Tripp joined the MH BoAA there was much rejoicing, public, for-the-record rejoicing.
Dr. Tripp joins the current Board members: Michael Van Skaik, Dr. James MacDonald, Dr. Larry Osborne, Mark Driscoll, Dave Bruskas, and Sutton Turner. This Board of Advisors and Accountability was voted upon and installed by an overwhelmingly supportive vote from the entire eldership, with every single elder who voted doing so in approval
Even as recently as March 2014 Van Skaik was describing how Tripp was overseeing a Board-approved reconciliation process.
Earlier this evening (3/26), a letter went out to Mars Hill Community Group leaders from the Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA)* regarding the formal charges filed by Dave Kraft in May of last year. In addition, the BOAA commented on a “reconciliation process” but did not specifically mention the 20 former pastors who asked for a mediator. ...
[from Van Skaik's letter]
... However, we are hungry for reconciliation and are continually grieved that many offenses and hurts are still unresolved. We want to seek out and hear the hurts in a biblical manner. A Board-approved reconciliation process is currently underway and is being overseen by Dr. Paul Tripp who flew to Seattle and recently spent a day with the Executive Elders. [emphasis added] He has also been in conversation with a person who is very capable of facilitating these reconciliations. Additionally, each of the Executive Elders has taken the initiative to reach out to people with whom they may need to reconcile. Our prayer is that as a church we can learn from this experience as we continue to grow in love and grace.
Then ... resignation
Upcoming Changes to the BOAA

Dr. Paul Tripp joined our Board of Advisors and Accountability in November 2013 and has been an immense help to our leaders over the past year. Dr. Tripp has extensive experience in discipleship and biblical counseling. Earlier this month, we made the decision together to open the opportunity for him to work with greater focus on issues directly related to his expertise, namely the continued development of our community and redemption ministries. Because simultaneously being a board member and a consultant does not allow for the required definition of independence, Dr. Tripp graciously submitted his resignation from the BOAA in early June so that he can more extensively serve our church as a consultant. We are excited to continue this work with him, and are thankful for his continued support of Mars Hill Church. [emphasis added]

Similarly, Pastor James MacDonald informed the board at the July meeting of his decision to transition from his current role on the board pending his replacement. Pastor James has been a great help in forming the current board’s direction, and we are very grateful for his time and wisdom over the last several years. He said about this transition, “I have great love and affection for Mars Hill Church and I want to make clear this change is not because I am unhappy with Mark’s response to board accountability. On the contrary, I have found him to be exemplary in his current readiness to live under the BOAA oversight. I am not resigning because I doubt Mark’s sincerity in any way. I believe in Mark Driscoll and his heart to leverage difficult lessons in service to Christ and his church in the years ahead. I am excited to continue to support that trajectory as Mark’s friend, as I focus my efforts on Harvest Bible Fellowship.”

Considering these transitions, Pastor Mark shared, “I am thankful for the service of both Paul and James, two men I admire and respect. Their service on our board has been a blessing to me and Mars Hill Church in countless ways. The amount of hours they have given as volunteers is extraordinary, especially in light of their other ministry demands.” Candidates are currently being interviewed to replace these open board positions. They will be submitted before the Full Council of Elders for their approval as soon as possible
The early Mars Hill account was that Tripp was stepping down because simultaneously being a board member and a consultant did not allow for the required definition of independence (the bylaws Turner drafted actually seem potentially ambiguous there, actually).
Paul Tripp's public explanation of why he resigned was as follows:
Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mars Hill BoAA Statement

I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. I love the church of Jesus Christ. I love pastors. I love working with churches to help them form a leadership culture that is shaped by the same grace that is at the center of the message that they preach.

It's because of this love that I accepted the position on Mars Hill Church's BoAA. But it became clear to me that a distant, external accountability board can never work well because it isn't a firsthand witness to the ongoing life and ministry of the church.

Such a board at best can provide financial accountability, but it will find it very difficult to provide the kind of hands-on spiritual direction and protection that every Christian pastor needs. Unwittingly what happens is that the external accountability board becomes an inadequate replacement for a biblically functioning internal elder board that is the way God designed his church to be lead and pastors to be guided and protected.

So, since I knew that I could not be the kind of help that I would like to be through the vehicle of the BoAA, I resigned from that position.

I would still love to see the leadership community of Mars Hill Church become itself a culture of grace and I am still willing to help, but not through the means of a board that will never be able  to do what it was designed to do. [emphasis added]
After that, well, it seems Sutton Turner and Justin Dean have decided this year was the year to say Tripp was, like, pretty much never there even when he was on the BoAA.  Admitting that raises the question of why Tripp wasn't at the two-a-year meetings?  When were the meetings?  Was Tripp ABLE to make them?  What about that meeting Van Skaik referred to in the March 2014 letter posted by Throckmorton?  Did that count?  Tripp's assessment was that the BoAA was incapable of performing the role for which it was designed.
Whatever assurance Sutton Turner may publish as to how effective the BoAA could have and would have been in some alternate universe, Paul Tripp's public vote of no confidence above and beyond resignation suggests that Turner's appraisal of the board of advisors and accountability is an assertion that for the moment wants for evidence.  So what if the BoAA prevented another result Source.  What about Driscoll crashing Strange Fire? 
While Turner has decided to cast some doubt on Tripp's knowledge of Mars Hill history and culture the context for this seems to be Turner's defense of his drafting of a governance structure that he thought would solve the problems he saw at Mars Hill.  If they had done that there might be a Mars Hill in 2016 but the dissolution process continues, it seems.
Turner has spent this week attempting to explain how, in spite of the fact that he voluntarily signed the Result Source contract, it wasn't really what he wanted to do but if he didn't sign it someone else would have.  Who else would have? 

Turner seems to believe that what went wrong at Mars Hill was a failure of governance and in some sense there's much to agree on there.  But Turner has not presented us with much detail as to what, for instance, Paul Tripp was insisting on that Turner considered emblematic of the problems Turner thought he was solving.  It's not a given that the solutions Turner proposed even solved the problems he saw.  Bear in mind that the BoAA ended up being populated by men who were around in advisory capacities or even potentially donor capacities for the 2007 re-org.  Tripp was not necessarily wrong to have surveyed the BoAA, concluded it could not possibly actually do what it had been designed to do, and resigned.  if Turner weren't so insistent on defending the viability of his idea on paper he could explain how it failed in practice.

Meanwhile, there seems to be this gap between the praises sung about Tripp by Mars Hill the collective up until Result Source broke and then this 2015 belittling campaign. 

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