Thursday, March 05, 2015

courtesy of Throckmorton, Justin Blaney interview with Justin Dean

with PR like that the question may not be how and why MH and MD fell so swiftly but why they didn't fall faster. 

If there was some alternate plan that could have averted the various PR disasters that beset MH in the past, oh, half decade, that alternate plan would probably have to include Mark and Grace Driscoll never deciding to write, publish and then have the church promote Real Marriage. Had there not been that book and all its attendant controversies there might still be a Mars Hill today with a Mark Driscoll preaching on Sundays. 

Between the plagiarism controversy and the RSI controversy and the latent controversy of how the framing narrative of Real Marriage cast doubt on the veracity of the narrative implicit and even explicit in ten years of Driscoll sermons about how happily married he was, that one book may well have been the seed of the death of Mars Hill and damage to Mark Driscoll's star once the decision was made to write, publish and promote it.

The other problem was, basically, so far as Wenatchee The Hatchet can tell, that they had Justin Dean handling their PR crises. There may not have been much he could have done but even what he did do, in a couple of cases, may have caused the reputation of Mars Hill more harm than good.

Remember, folks, when the discipline of Andrew Lamb spurred headlines in early 2012 what Justin Dean told Ruth Graham for Slate was that, basically, it had all become headline material due to a "communication error". Dean basically played the "we're incompetent" card and once he did that, he basically set the credibility of Mars Hill as a whole and its leadership culture on fire.  If the best defense you can mount for the organization you represent is pleading collective incompetence where do you think that PR crisis is eventually going to end?

Meanwhile, in early 2012 Mark Driscoll was busy promoting his book Real Marriage, staging pre-emptive attacks on journalists, and sharing nuggets of wisdom about how much a traditional Trinitarian T. D. Jakes was.  Between Justin Dean's pleading incompetence defense of MH as a whole and Mark Driscoll's pre-emptive strikes against journalists who were acting like actual journalists when he wanted to promote his book, it's not exactly as mysterious or remarkable how Mark Driscoll's celebrity fell as some recently quoted folks might have us believe, is it?

a year ago World Magazine broke the news that Mars Hill arranged with Result Source for Mark and Grace Driscoll's Real Marriage to get a #1 spot on the NYT bestsellter list

Worth noting since it's, you know, the anniversary of the event.

For those who may not be familiar with the history of how things unraveled, the first hint that this thing with Result Source might even have been a thing that Wenatchee The Hatchet could recall showed up indirectly.

Having a mega church background for the last 16 years I have witnessed first hand the tyranny of injustice done in the name of God. Layoffs during Christmas, weeks after new children are born and first homes purchased. The use of tithe money to purchase books at retail cost in order to build a mans platform and make the NY times best seller lists. [Update 12-5-2013 8.18pm PST: WtH, this sentence has been excised from the original post since the publication of this post, it is preserved with strikethrough with the proviso that jsuffering has stated that it was hearsay] All with the name of God stamped on it, and self justified because the rest of the business world has those kinds of practices. I am grieved for the state of a church that does not acknowledge and expose the sin of it’s leaders with love and humility but instead claims it is doing whats best for the body of Christ.
So, there was that.  It was important that Janet Mefferd and Warren Smith covered what they covered.  It was also important that Jeff spoke up about something that concerned him in a way that gave journalists and a few bloggers an opportunity to ask what had happened. 

Whatever Vanderbloemen or others may attempt to say about "popular bloggers", bear in mind that what Wenatchee The Hatchet observed over the last six or seven years was that men and women who were once part of the leadership culture came to the conclusion that, as Wenatchee The Hatchet understands it, the leadership culture of Mars Hill, from the top down, began to sacrifice the welfare and resources of what was once Mars Hill Church on the altar of Mark Driscoll's personal celebrity and on the altar of corporate efficiency.

Nobody a year ago could have guessed Mark Driscoll would decide to resign.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Puget Sound Business Journal: Mars Hill Church makes $4.2 million on sale of flagship Ballard sanctuary

It's getting linked to by Warren Throckmorton and the article is below at the link.

The Faults in Our Stars featuring some ... interesting explanations for the resignation of Mark Driscoll

In addition to quotes from a Gerry Breshears authoritatively describing his relationship with Mark Driscoll in the past tense, we get to read him explain that Driscoll was arrogant.  Considering that Breshears co-wrote four books with Driscoll would somebody who's formally in the press ask Breshears how Death By Love managed to end up being co-authored by the two of them when by Mark Driscoll's account he had mostly finished that book by 2006?

Driscoll mentioned that it was co-authored in his February 2008 spiritual warfare teaching seminar.

but ...

in September 2006 Driscoll mentioned mainly being done with the book that came to be known as Death By Love. The Relevant magazine article didn't single out that book for some reason but the nature and extent of Breshears' co-authoring relationship with Mark Driscoll would seem to warrant further interview questions since those co-authored works constitute Breshears' only significant published work since the dawn of the millennium.  For a bit more on that, over here:

A number of theories are proposed in the Ruth Moon piece, a couple of which are interesting.  That branding and media were a strength gets noted.  Wenatchee The Hatchet thinks it could be stated more forcefully that Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll had an Achilles heel in social and broadcast media immersion.  What this meant was the sheer tonnage of statements put out there became easier to collate, cross-reference, and examine for what turned out to be some startling ... continuity errors. 

More significantly, in its commitment to sustaining meteoric growth Mars Hill committed to an informational infrastructure that couldn't possibly keep up with the numbers it was assimilating.  The reason that matters can be explained after we get to a not-quite-passing reference to a theory proposed in the article by William Vanderbloemen, that Mark Driscoll resigned in response to, not some scandal about possible misappropriation of money or a sexual transgression but ... a steady stream of criticism from popular bloggers ... ?


Let's go back to 2012 and see how Driscoll tended to publicly discuss "bloggers".  Since the pertinent page probably can't be found where it first appeared; since said materials can't be dredged up by the Wayback Machine due to robots.txt; and since the post in question somehow didn't migrate over to ...  it seems that Wenatchee The Hatchet will have to rely on having previously documented and discussed some Driscoll material, again.

The trouble started with a Southern Baptist blogger . . . yes, you should have seen that one coming. Now, to be fair, the blogger quoted an anonymous “source.” And, we all know that almost everything bloggers say is true. But, when they have something as solid as an anonymous “source,” then you can rest assured that when Jesus talked about the truth over and over in John, this is precisely what he was referring to. I have a degree from Washington State’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication and worked professionally as a journalist, and I can assure you that The Kerfuffle is a very serious matter to be taken with the utmost sobriety and propriety. In fact, one anonymous “source” I spoke to said that Watergate pales in comparison.
Perhaps we can cross reference another, ahem, blogger here:
But, to give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he was poorly briefed about “The Kerfuffle” by his community relations manager:
“So, I asked our community relations manager, who gets to enjoy reading blogs about me while eating breakfast every day (it’s amazing he holds anything down), to give me a summary of this kerfuffle.” (An Official Response to The Kerfuffle at Liberty University)
So by Driscoll's account, admittedly quoted second-hand of necessity, not only did Driscoll not seem to take the blogger of that moment seriously, he also seems to have summarized that he consulted his community relations manager to summarize "this kerfuffle".  That would seem to have been ... Justin Dean?

As for that blogger?  This seems to be his response to the Driscoll response.

And here's some coverage from the time

Now it's possible Driscoll found it useful to be at the center of a controversy connected to a blogger, but there's nothing in any of the above material that suggests Mark Driscoll was someone who was swift to take bloggers or things they said seriously.  So what would Vanderbloemen suggest popular bloggers could have published that would have mattered to someone like Mark Driscoll? If someone like William Vanderbloemen were to suggest Mark Driscoll's late 2014 resignation could have anything at all to do with popular bloggers (never mind what "popular" might be or which bloggers) this would still seem to fly in the face of some direct statements on Driscoll's part that suggest the LAST thing he'd do is resign of materials published by any bloggers, popular or otherwise.

Perhaps things Vanderbloemen said at the end of 2014 could illuminate things?

Driscoll‘s recent resignation from the church he founded was followed by another shocking announcement: Mars Hill is dissolving by year’s end, with its 11 congregations becoming independent houses of worship.

 And Vanderbloemen said that the stunning situation carries with it a plethora of lessons to be learned. “Mark stepped down at his own choice, but it wasn’t without a lot of pressure,” he said. “Mark’s departure didn’t contain any of the normal elements of a scandal.”

There wasn’t an extramarital affair nor any other explosive singular event that contributed to his downfall, he argued, calling Driscoll a “brilliant communicator.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” Vanderbloemen said, noting that Driscoll ended up leaving over a wide variety of smaller infractions and debates that were perpetuated on the Internet. “We have seen a lot of guys have to leave, but never from the death of a thousand cuts that happened online.”

He continued, “There was a weird sort of perfect storm of critics and disorganization.”
In the end, Vanderbloemen said that Mars Hill grew very fast and simply wasn’t prepared for the level of expansion it experienced. As an anecdotal result, he said that churches need to do what businesses have done, drafting plans in preparation for uncertainty.

Pressure?  From where? 

But Vanderbloemen doesn't seem to have camped too much on whether or not a wide variety of smaller infractions revolved around any themes.  How about plagiarism?  Consult Warren Throckmorton's blog, or maybe a post or two in which Wenatchee The Hatchet raised a question of whether Dan Allender's work was adequately acknowledged in the first edition of Real Marriage.

Speaking of that book ... wasn't it pretty much a year ago that World Magazine's Warren Cole Smith broke a story about the use of Result Source by Mars Hill to secure a #1 spot on the NYT bestseller list for that book?

So between the plagiarism controversy and the controversy surrounding Result Source, both of which featured Real Marriage, what would be the basis for Mark Driscoll's resignation to have been catalyzed by .... popular bloggers?  Wouldn't it seem more likely that the double-whammy of being confronted by Janet Mefferd on air about plagiarism and then having it revealed by World Magazine sales were rigged for one of Driscoll's books seem like bigger deals than bloggers? 

Driscoll's resignation statement didn't seem to give any indication bloggers had anything to do with his decision. You can go read the whole thing if you want.  Here's the pertinent pair of paragraphs
... Prior to and during this process there have been no charges of criminal activity, immorality or heresy, any of which could clearly be grounds for disqualification from pastoral ministry. Other issues, such as aspects of my personality and leadership style, have proven to be divisive within the Mars Hill context, and I do not want to be the source of anything that might detract from our church’s mission to lead people to a personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ.That is why, after seeking the face and will of God, and seeking godly counsel from men and women across the country, we have concluded it would be best for the health of our family, and for the Mars Hill family, that we step aside from further ministry at the church we helped launch in 1996. I will gladly work with you in the coming days on any details related to our separation

This does not sound like someone who was saying popular bloggers had anything to do with his decision, does it? 

Is it possible Ruth Moon misunderstood what Vanderbloemen said?  For that matter, would anyone associated with the Driscoll family be willing to clarify whether or not William Vanderbloemen was given any permission to make statements to any effect about the reason for Mark Driscoll's resignation?  That seems to Wenatchee The Hatchet something for which Driscolls could understandably break social media silence, especially if there needs to be any statement that would set the record straight about what has lately been recounted in an article in Relevant magazine.