A Successful, Unhealthy ChurchMany staff heard me say during my tenure, “It is a miracle this church still exists.” Jesus was saving people and growing the church in spite of issues with organizational structure, dissension within the staff, and dissension with former members. A 2007 bylaw change had split the church. The issues that led to that bylaw change and its implementation heavily impacted the culture of Mars Hill. In 2012, I asked permission to meet with those directly affected by the events of 2007; permission was denied. Those events in 2007 had unfortunately begun the cycle of distrust and a lack of transparency. One fed upon the other to build an unhealthy culture.
The Result Source contract decision was made within the context of this successful, but unhealthy church. As I have stated before, I was not a part of that decision making process back in the summer of 2011. Because of the Result Source mistake along with other cultural issues, Pastor Dave Bruskas and I began to campaign for greater outside accountability. I wrote two long blogs about the resulting new board (Result Source 2 & Result Source 3). This new Board decided to never use Result Source again and rightfully so.
A radically fast-growing church like Mars Hill would probably not die in a quiet whimper. By 2012, the Board began to plan for the worst-case scenario: how our Mars Hill churches would become independent churches and who would preach during the transition period. We planned for a potentially fatal “what if” hoping for God’s continuing favor but realistically preparing for the day when the unhealthy culture would overcome us (Gal. 6:7-10).
I left before all of the final details of the plan were completed and executed (“When to Quit”), but I am grateful to those pastors who led and participated in the process. I am also grateful to the staff that worked diligently to give the resulting independent churches the best start possible. I know they all served well during a difficult tragedy and did their best, and I applaud their effort and the resulting work that continues to this day.
A Governing Board Under PressureIn spite of our best effort to formulate an external board, the board began to crack under the pressure in late 2013 and 2014. Board members faced great scrutiny that affected their full-time ministries and businesses. Many board members probably questioned what they had signed up for in their volunteer role. Communication within the Board became triangulated as informal communication one-on-one and in small groups increased. One board member communicated “to the Board” his ideas for changing the culture in spring 2014. Pastor Dave Bruskas and I (who were members of the board) were not a part of that communication and were not able to discuss and possibly agree with his ideas. When Mars Hill Church was removed from the Acts 29 Network in August 2014, it came as a complete surprise to Pastor Dave and me. However, other board members knew it was coming and never told us [emphasis added] ...
It's worth noting (again) that the start of Jamie Munson's tenure as president of Mars Hill featured the terminations and trials of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry over their objections to the 2007 by-laws, and that notable decision made under Munson's watch on his way out was greenlighting Result Source finding a #1 spot for Mark and Grace Driscoll's Real Marriage. It's also worth noting that by Turner's account and of those who have recommended him, Mars Hill was on the brink of something like a fiscal cliff when Turner joined the team. To the extent that Mark Driscoll insisted that people correct anyone who might even hint that Munson was ever less than above reproach there's been virtually nothing about Turner's account of the history of Mars Hill in which Munson comes across as ... kingly, perhaps is the best word here.
Turner has recounted how he set about formulating an external board. The tragicomedy of that board is that however it started, by the final year of Mars Hill it was arguably packed not only with insiders, but with people who had advisory roles in the period in which the 2007 by-laws got drafted!
For the details of that process ...
James Macdonald was facing some pressure. Elephant Room 2 got people wondering how committed he was to the traditional doctrine of the Trinity since not everyone accepted that T. D. Jakes had really proven his Trinitarian confession bona fides. Then there was the debt situation discussed at length in The Elephant's Debt.
Driscoll ended up having his controversies in 2013-2014 related to allegations of plagiarism (and since Real Marriage has had plenty of amendations between the first print edition and a subsequent edition it seems that a person could propose that you don't correct citation errors in a book if they weren't there to begin with). Then Result Source came to light. Once Driscoll started on the path of Real Marriage and Who Do You Think You Are? he stopped being that guy who just preaches through books of the Bible. In the 2012-2014 period he also became that guy who preaches through his own book about stuff he said he was in the Bible.
Of course in the end the board reforms didn't seem to help "that" much. Paul Tripp went so far as to say that the external element of the board was essentially by definition incapable of providing accountability to Driscoll and Tripp resigned from the BoAA. Surprisingly, Turner at some point concluded Tripp, one of the few people on the BoAA who could have been legitimately proposed as actually having an external role in relationship to MH, didn't quite know the scene. Either that proved Tripp's point for Tripp, if we take that critique seriously, or it suggests Turner may have objected to Tripp asserting that the external board could not, by definition, do what it was intended to do.
For those who don't remember ...
Posted by Sutton Turner on April 24, 2015
When the criticism of Mars Hill Global began in the Spring of 2014, I wanted to communicate about what happened with Global, its history, the financials, and my mistakes. Unfortunately, I was not permitted to discuss these things just as I was not permitted to discuss the ResultSource situation in the detail that I felt it deserved. There was actually a division on the Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) as some men wanted to put all the blame for both Global and ResultSource on me, but I am thankful for men who did not allow that. [emphasis added]
The stories Turner has shared about what was going on at the MH BoAA in 2014 make it sound like there was ... it kinda comes off like the leadership culture at Mars Hill was in trainwreck mode.