Friday, March 23, 2018

Justin Dean, in interview with Jon Morrison from January 2018, revisits the sale of The City and discusses Mark Driscoll's marketing degree while talking about PR Matters

As readers will know from earlier this week, we've looked briefly at Justin Dean's book PR Matters, with some lengthy preliminary review of the public relations and media highlights (or lowlights) of Mars Hill slightly before and during Justin Dean's tenure as public relations/communications lead for what used to be Mars Hill Church. 

Dean has been on the Christian podcast circuit over the last year or so discussing his book and his experience s from the Mars Hill period.  A recent interview was conducted by Jon Morrison with Justin Dean in which Dean talked about his recent book and shared some memories of things from the Mars Hill days.  A couple of things jumped out.  The first was Dean was asked by Morrison about The City, which Morrison, in the framing of his mention, seems to have believed Justin Dean was somehow involved with the development of The City.

Jon Morrison: and I know many churches are using The City, which, you desi--you were part of the design of that, too, right?

Justin Dean:
Yeah, I, I wasn't personally but we had a team of developers there. That started as our church management program there and we sold it to Zondervan for about four million bucks. But I think the first year I was there that happened and, uh, we continued to develop it for our own use as well, too, but yeah, stuff like that.

If Justin Dean remembered The City being sold the first year he was on staff at Mars Hill Church then 2011 can't have been the year that Mars Hill Church sold The City to Zondervan because by Zondervan's account that happened in November 2008.

Furthermore, that was verified in 2008 in a message posted by then Pastor Jamie Munson
So, a couple things I want to hit. You guys are all familiar with The City. Anyone not familiar with The City? That’s our custom, social, online network that Pastor Zack Hubert developed. This is real exciting. We were able to build this in-house. It’s a custom network for Mars Hill. It allows us to communicate. To interact as a community. To reinforce the community that is Mars Hill Church – the daily life of the church. [emphasis added]

We set out to build this, ‘cause some of our old systems were just not working for us. And never set out to sell the thing, but in God’s grace, a couple months ago, as we’ve been using this, a bunch of people have taken interest. Zondervan, a big company, a big Christian media company, came to us and said, “Hey, we’d like to buy that.”

So, we started working with them, negotiating with them, figuring out, “Okay, what would this look like? How do we make this work?” Tons of details. We wanted to make sure that the church is protected in it. That it’s not something where we’re selling our data, or anything like that, but that they want to take the tool and leverage it for other churches to go use.

This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in terms of a church developing a piece of technology that a for-profit company is then coming in and purchasing.

We get to continue to use it free as a church. It’ll continue to be private. Our data is not being sold, nothing like that. We’re not gonna have banner ads.

It’ll exist how it is, plus they’re putting a lot more staff into it than we were able to. We had Zack and another part-time – or a couple employees that were working very part-time on The City.
They’re gonna build a staff in Seattle of about 15 people that Zack’ll go and oversee and work with. And they’ll make the tool even better. So, we get to use it. In that, we’ve been given $4 million to steward. It’s a gift that’s come to Mars Hill Church, and we want to share with you what we’re going to do with those funds.

So, we’ll walk through this quickly. The escrow and potential taxes – 1.6 million. There’s a chance the proceeds will be taxed. Our accountant doesn’t think so, but we want to be sure. We want to be safe. We want to put some money in the bank that can just earn interest, that can protect us. In case it is, we’ll have that money set aside.

So, we’ll know that in the next few months. But for – in the meantime, we’re just gonna safeguard and put that in the bank. In addition, we’re gonna bolster up our cash reserves. We always have a cash reserve to float us in times of lean giving. To float us in times of seasonal giving, when the summer’s down or the winter’s up. It allows us just to continue to operate.


We’re not gonna just make up all of our budget deficit with it, because this is an extra thing, and we believe the church should continue to carry the base budget of our operating needs. But this is an extra bonus that we then get to spend and spend wisely for the Gospel.

Next piece – what is our economic plan for 2009? We want to finish 2008 as close to being on budget as possible. We had a $200,000.00 deficit going into December. We’d like to make that up if possible. Given the weather, given the economy, we’re not sure that we will, but we’d like to. That’s what we’re praying for.

Now if Justin Dean meant to say that Mars Hill Church sold The City to Zondervan the first year Justin Dean was attending, well, okay then.  But if Justin Dean remembered that The City was sold by Mars Hill to Zondervan the first year Justin Dean was on staff at Mars Hill Church in 2011 then that's something that can be disproven by the testimonies of Zondervan, Mark Driscoll, and Jamie Munson. 

Let's get to the other thing Justin Dean mentioned in his interview with Jon Morrison.

... Pastor Mark is an incredible, you know, has a marketing degree and all, all of the branding and everything came from his vision for just excellency in everything we do to put the Gospel out, and the concentration on good theology and doctrine was just very clear in everything we did. That was, that was our only focus, our only mission--to get out good doctrine and good theology in everything we do. 

You know, it's uh, that's, that's what it was about.

Certainly people did make it about Pastor Mark at the end there, so much so that he felt that he, he felt he needed to quit which is, you know, sad for a lot of reasons but it's good to see what God is doing through him now down there in Phoenix as well. ...

A couple of things ...

First of all, in the twenty years Mark Driscoll has been doing the preaching and teaching thing I can't recall even a single instance in which I ever heard him say that he had a marketing degree.
Born in North Dakota, Mark Driscoll grew up the son of a union dry-waller in south Seattle. After graduating from high school, he attended Washington State University on scholarship. He became a Christian during his freshman year and graduated from WSU with a Bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication from the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication. He later completed a Master’s degree in Exegetical Theology from Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon.

He doesn't even say he earned a marketing degree at his website biography now.

That he got a degree in Speech Communication is something he's been pretty consistent about over the years, even in the midst of controversy such as the one he was involved in with an interview with Justin Brierley.

A Blog Post for the Brits

by: Pastor Mark Driscoll on Jan 12, 2012 in Current Events
There is reportedly an article coming out in a British Christian publication that features an interview with me. As is often the case, to stoke the fires of controversy, thereby increasing readership, which generates advertising revenue, a few quotes of mine have been taken completely out of context and sent into the Twittersphere. So, I thought I would put a bit of water on the fire by providing context.

I have a degree in communications from one of the top programs in the United States. So does my wife, Grace. We are used to reporters with agendas and selective editing of long interviews. Running into reporters with agendas and being selectively edited so that you are presented as someone that is perhaps not entirely accurate is the risk one takes when trying to get their message out through the media.
If Mark Driscoll had wanted to say he had a degree in marketing he's had twenty years in which to say so.  He hasn't.  Why does this matter? 

Because, quite simply, as Justin Dean has done his podcast circuit interviews promoting his book PR Matters or talking about what he's done in the post-Mars Hill world we live in, he's talked about how the press and bloggers would sometimes not even contact the church to verify the Mars Hill side of the story before running something. Granting that there were, in fact, plenty of hostile reporters and bloggers out there, if Justin Dean could say on camera that Mark Driscoll had a marketing degree and had a vision that guided all the media content at Mars Hill when Mark Driscoll has never once said "I have a marketing degree", is it altogether startling if some journalists and bloggers conclude that talking to Justin Dean to confirm the facts at hand might not always be necessary?

I was one of the people recruited to beta-test an early version of The City so I certainly wouldn't need to consult Justin Dean about what year The City was sold or who did a ton of work on developing the platform. 

And then there's this other element in Dean's comments to Morrison, the claim that near the end of Mars Hill some people had made it about Pastor Mark, so much so that he ... Mark Driscoll ... felt he needed to quit.

We've compiled half a dozen accounts of how and why Mark Driscoll resigned from Mars Hill Church that were disclosed from the day of Mark Driscoll's resignation through the interim period before the launch of The Trinity Church.

But in not a single one of those accounts, whether by Mark Driscoll or Robert Morris or anyone affiliated with the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability did anyone say that the reason Mark Driscoll resigned was because he had come to believe Mars Hill Church had become too much about him.  As any of us who have kept track of what happened to Mars Hill in the wake of Mark Driscoll's resignation, that corporate entity was dissolved in late 2014 and was dissolving throughout 2015.  Now if Mark Driscoll did, in fact, resign from Mars Hill because he felt it had become too much about him, what's the explanation for planting a church that, as he told it to Sheila Walsh, was started by the Driscoll kids?

How is having a website called making anything about Mark Driscoll's ministries less about Mark Driscoll as an individual?  Pastor Mark TV was, after all, called Pastor Mark TV.  How is Mark Driscoll Ministries making things less about the one man?

File #    Corporation Name
Domestic Address
 STE 1630-527
 PHOENIX, AZ 85050 

Foreign Address

Mark Driscoll is the President and CEO of Mark Driscoll Ministries whether he tells Sheila Walsh his kids decided they were a church or not.

So the idea that Justin Dean presented to Jon Morrison that Mark Driscoll quit Mars Hill Church because Mark Driscoll felt it had gotten to be too much about him at the end seems a bit hard to believe.  But then as we looked a while back ...
Domain ID: D104853693-LROR
Creation Date: 2004-09-07T15:38:06Z
Updated Date: 2014-12-10T02:19:44Z

Registry Expiry Date: 2015-09-07T15:38:06Z
Sponsoring Registrar:eNom, Inc. (R39-LROR)
Sponsoring Registrar IANA ID: 48
WHOIS Server: 
Referral URL: 
Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited
Registrant ID:24938753-NSI

Now whether or not Mark Driscoll is okay with naming his own ministry after himself is something he can choose to do, even if it seems to fly in the face of warnings he gave years ago from the Mars Hill days.
Part 3 of 1st Corinthians
Pastor Mark Driscoll
1 Corinthians 1:10-17
January 22, 2006

Some of you have teams that you consider yourself to be on, theologically or philosophically insofar as how church should be done. And what happens is that certain Christians get elevated like rock stars, and it’s not good. It’s not good at all. I know one church the pastor’s name is the domain for the church website. That’s not good. Like if it was and that was our website, you’d go, “You know that’s a little much.” That’s a little much, because if he gets hit by a car do we gotta get a new name? That seems that the church should be more than a focus on one person. That’s why to be honest with this church I try not to show up and speak at every event.

But even if someone were to decide that it's okay for Mark Driscoll to name Mark Driscoll Ministries after himself and to be the President and CEO thereof, how does any of that back up Justin Dean's claim that:
Certainly people did make it about Pastor Mark at the end there, so much so that he felt that he, he felt he needed to quit which is, you know, sad for a lot of reasons but it's good to see what God is doing through him now down there in Phoenix as well. ...

When Dean makes claims for which there doesn't seem to be any positive supporting evidence and against which, there could seem to be formidable evidences to dispute his claims, it is difficult to take seriously his complaint that members of the institutional press and bloggers weren't contacting Mars Hill in the peak years of controversy to confirm things.  Perhaps during those active years things were different, but here in 2018 Justin Dean shared two relatively brief anecdotes for which the factual accuracy and clarity of the claims seem doubtful.

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