Sunday, August 28, 2016

since Mark Driscoll Ministries features The Hardest Part of Ministry and still mentions how child molesters visited the Driscoll home, there's a 1-21-2001 sermon in which Mark Driscoll described one such visitation in his Gospel of John sermon series

Since Mark Driscoll has seen fit to bring back something he published in October 2013 more or less as is, and since the website gives us an opportunity to refer back to old sermons that got purged and may or may not resurface in other ways at Mark Driscoll Ministries, we have an opportunity to revisit Driscoll's tales of woe.  In particular, we can compare and contrast the 2013 bullet points of anxiety with the way Driscoll may have discussed those kinds of incidents much, much closer to the time those events occurred.

For instance, take the following statement:

  • Twice I have arrived home from work to find a registered sex offender seeking to engage with my family while waiting to talk with me.
What's interesting about this is that former attender Mark Yetman shared a story at the website We Love Mars Hill.  He has an anecdote worth sharing.

...  I started going to Mark’s house by the Montlake bridge for a men’s bible study. His uber-macho/hyperbolic public persona practically disappeared. He revealed a man that was Christ-filled caring and compassionate man. I remember one time him speaking about having a child-molester in his house and was uneasy about it but believed that Christ had changed this man’s heart. I remember one time someone asked if we were related because of are similar coloring and block shaped heads. It was the high-water mark for me and it seemed the sky was the limit.

Then the winter came. My wife and I went back east to see friends and family for the holidays. When we got back something had changed. We started hearing about “Headship” and then I found Midrash. I missed out on the on the whole “Pussified Nation” thread but I read enough to be confused. My wife and I were wondering what the hell happened while we were away. Things had radically changed in our eyes.

Since Mark Yetman mentioned hearing Driscoll talk about the changed heart of a man who had been a child molester during the 2000-2003 period here's a possible candidate for a sermon, preached in early 2001, in which Driscoll talked about a case where a man who had been a child molester visited the Driscoll home.
Part 12 of The Gospel of John
Pastor Mark Driscoll | John 6:1-14 | January 21, 2001

And I remember – I’ll tell you one story that kind of just sort of summarizes how I view this. My daughter was upstairs. She was about two-years-old taking her nap, and she was laying in her bed sleeping away – the bed that her grandmother had given her. She came downstairs and I was meeting with a guy who was sitting on my couch really struggling with a sin. He had been a child molester and was wondering whether or not he could become a Christian and whether God could forgive him of what he had done. And if you know me, I have very little compassion on men, especially men who take advantage of women and children. So this was really hard for me, especially being a first time father with a little daughter that I adored. And I was like, “You know, scripture says though that Christ has died for all our sins and there’s nothing that is beyond God’s grace in Christ. There’s nothing that God can’t forgive you of.”

And he’s crying. He says, “Do you really think that that’s possible? Do you really think that I could be forgiven for this?”

And it was interesting because my daughter came downstairs from her nap, and he was sitting on the couch that was given to us, and she looked at him and she saw him crying and she said, “Daddy, why is he crying?”

I said, “Well because he sinned. He did a bad thing and he feels bad about that.”

And she says, “Well we should pray for him.” So she climbs up on his lap and prays for him. She had no idea why he was crying, but I thought, “Man, if this is not the whole world coming together right here.” I mean it’s fishes and loaves. Somebody helped us get this house. Somebody gave us that couch. My daughter comes downstairs, sits on his lap, and then all of a sudden God’s grace gets multiplied right in the life of someone who’s very guilty of their sin, but now God has given them grace through a little girl and she didn’t even know she was doing it. She just thought she was praying for someone in need.

We have seen this over and over and over. It’s just amazing. ...

When you listen to the sermon there's Mark Driscoll describing how he felt nervous about this guy being in his home but without any sense of urgency or a sense that his child might be in immediate peril.  It may be that at so early a date only Ashley and Zachariah were born by early 2001.  In this account Ashley is the active agent by coming down from a nap and deciding to pray for the man.  Driscoll also describes the scene in terms of a kind of cosmic kismet in which divine mercy is shown.  If so, well, that's 2001. 

By 2013 every detail of such an encounter is superfluous to the litany of danger Mark Driscoll said his family has faced during his time in ministry.  And that's as may have been, but a Driscoll parent had to let the guy in the front door. And a decade or more later former attenders like Mark Yetman could remember Mark Driscoll talking about how there was grace for a child molester memorable enough that it was possible to trawl up what is possibly the sermon in which such an account was shared. 

Mark Driscoll Ministries has added 2015 Ecclesiastes talks to the sermon roster, not the 2003 Ecclesiastes sermon series in which Driscoll shared stories of starting a brawl on his own high school baseball team
from October 12, 2015, apparently

Mark Driscoll's advice, in reflecting upon Ecclesiastes 7:11 in an October 2015 presentation, is that you can't move forward if you're looking back to the past.  This axiom couldn't be more ironic since Mark Driscoll talked about how early in his preaching career he preached through Ecclesiastes and that it was like performing brain surgery on yourself.  1 John was a book of the Bible he went through in the earliest days of Mars Hill.  For a man who is set on not looking back it could seem as though all he knows how to do is recycle stuff he preached through a decade or more ago.  The forthcoming Ruth sermon series will cover material he preached through already in 2007.

But what's interesting about the Ecclesiastes sermon series is that it's an entirely new take on stuff Driscoll's already preached multiple times.  Why not just keep bringing back the old sermons Driscoll preached from 2003? 

Well, let's consider one sermon from the 2003 period.  What you're going to find, if you can dig up the PDF transcript of the sermon is that the narrative aside that appears at minute 40:00 isn't in the transcript.  But if you go over here and download the sermon you can hear that the following story is in the sermon.

Remember this anecdote isn't something you'll read in the sermon transcript and you have to download the audio from the site to be able to confirm that Mark Driscoll did in fact say this stuff from the pulpit for the record:
Part 10 of Ecclesiastes
Pastor Mark Driscoll | Ecclesiastes 7:1-14 | June 01, 2003

How many guys, honestly (you don't have to raise your hands), how many guys in their teens or twenties (I'm in my thirties now so I'm at that place where I WOULD fight but it seems like a lot of work). But especially when I was in my teens I would, just all full of myself, I would just, I liked to fight.  I would LOOK for fights. Certain guys are like this. 

I actually beat up a guy on my OWN baseball team during a game. Usually, usually, you know, in a baseball game people why--baseball players are all wussies.  They never fight.  They all just run out to the middle of the field and look at each other which is, I dunno, like prom or something. They're all gazing into each other's eyes. I'm not sure what they're doing.  They hardly ever fight and they NEVER take the bats which, to me, seems like the most OBVIOUS thing.

I love baseball and I can remember when I was playing ball. A guy on my own team in the dugout says something so I attacked him.  Now very rarely do you see a bench-clearing brawl with just one team. Usually the other team's involved. I was a total hothead. I would fight through high school. I fight quite a bit.  Guys would say something, give a cross--you got a problem? That's what he's talking about [the author of Ecclesiastes]. Especially you young guys. Some of you young guys, you're LOOKING for a fight. You want to legitimize it, you want to justify it. Some of you married people are looking for a fight. Provoke. Provoke. Provoke. Boom, off they go like the Fourth of July.

Within the same sermon Driscoll shared another story about coming to a new sense of discovery about who he was through one of the great catalysts for personal insight and epiphany bestowed upon parents since the dawn of parenthood, the reflexively emulative behavior of one's own child:

... How many of you, driving, really, is where you see your true self in its purest form?

It is for me. Driving for me--I think Jesus intentionally puts other people of certain mental acumen around me when I'm driving just to continually teach me the same lesson. I knew I was over the line when my daughter--she's five now. She's beautiful and brilliant--but, she was about two or so, and I was driving and I hit the brakes. And I hear from the backseat my glorious little daughter say, "Idiot!"
My wife looks over at me. My wife is very sweet, very kind, very patient. She looks at me and says, "You've discipled her." I said, "Yeah, I know, I gotta--" My two, three-year old daughter's beaten me to the "Idiot!" blow. So, I, okay. Slow to anger, abiding in turn signals. I got it. I got it. I got it. I got it.  Fools just blow.

In a story in connection to discussing Ecclesiastes 7:11 in his 2003 sermon, Mark Driscoll said:
I went to my ten-year high school reunion a couple of years ago. Everybody was talking about the good old days in a public high school.  Unless you've taken a ball-peen hammer to your own head you know it wasn't that great.

I was there. I remember. It wasn't that great. I had a mullet. I wore pastels. I loved my wife so much I took her to a George Michael concert, for the love of God.  I was trying to court her and she liked George Michael and I was sitting here going, "This is not, these are NOT good days." These are terrible days!  These are arduous, painful, toilsome days.  I am in the house of mourning, listening to "Jitterbug". This is terrible.

You know, fools try to go back.  Wise people, they go forward.

This next sermon excerpt is really long, but it features some interesting stories about Mark and Grace Driscoll's marriage as mediated through tales about the struggles to find and sustain workable automobiles. In keeping with the earlier jocular observation about how driving can reveal to you your true self, Driscoll shared the following:


He goes on to explain. This is what he means. “When times are good be” what? “Happy. When times are good, be happy.” “Hey! I gotta job!” “Hey, I got married!” “Hey, I got kids!” When times are bad, “Oh, man, I gotta job.”

“Oh, man. Have you met my spouse?” “Have you seen my kids?”

When times are good, be happy. When times are bad, consider this. God has made both days. God has made the one, as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future. What he says is this. People wanna be on mission. They wanna know everything and they wanna be sovereign. They wanna control everything. So, they’re trying to set up their life in such a way that they never have a bad day. And no matter what you do, you get bad days. I have had cars, okay? I’ll give you an example. My first car was a 1956 Chevy.

I was driving it and it had an electrical fire that came out through the steering wheel.

I was so happy. It was a good day. “I got a car!” Bad day? “The car is on fire.”

That’s a bad day. I got rid of that car. I got a 1966 Volkswagen. It was a little two door wagon, lowered with Porsche hubcaps. I thought it was cool. I pushed it more than I drove it.

I thought, “Cool. I have a cool car. I look cool.” I’m 16. You know, you gotta give me a little rope here. “I look cool.” I drive the car, a little Volkswagen, 1966 square back. It never, ever, ever ran. I pushed it all the time.

I’m gonna get rid of it. I’m gonna get another vehicle. I got a little, tiny pickup truck. Kept breaking down. Got rid of it. Got a Volkswagen Rabbit. Exploded. My dad, put a new motor in it, rebuilt it. It still ran rough. Got rid of it. Then, I decided, “I will get a truck.” I got a huge man truck. The tires were like this high.(Laughter)

I traded my wife’s car in for it. We were newly married. I didn’t ask her permission. It was the worst thing I ever did.
Response: Awww.

[emphasis added, and that's not audience approval, for those who haven't downloaded the sermon!]

It was so high, she couldn’t even get in. I didn’t even think about that.

The gas mileage was so bad. It had two tanks, but I loved it ‘cause it was huge. And we drove it to college first time, and something went wrong and the gas tanks leaked all over the road and we spent a couple of days in the Tri-Cities.

We ate Chinese food. It was not good Chinese food. Bad things happened. Never practice Chinese food in an unknown restaurant. After that, I decided I needed a different truck, so I got a 1966 Chevy pickup long bed. Happy day! Lowered it, Tonneau cover, mag wheels, redneck, Cadillac gorgeous.

My wife was going through an intersection. Some guy ran it. She t-boned him. Gone. Just totaled.

Out goes the front end. Dohhh.

Got my wife in. I said, “I love my wife. We’re gonna get a decent car. Got her a little Nissan. The thing kept breaking down. Got rid of it. Got her a Subaru wagon. Ran terribly. Got rid of it. Every day, I’d buy a car, happy day. The day I’d drive it the next day, bad day.

I’m also not a mechanic, so I don’t even know what’s going on. My poor dad’s been under the hood of my car so much. I mean, it’s been crazy. So, then, that’s it. I’m gonna get my wife a good car. An SUV. Something nice. Got her a black Jeep Cherokee. Leather, cruise, air, tilt, great. Drive it. All
the fuel injectors go. There’s gas all over the engine.

You don’t need to be a mechanic to know that gas all over an engine is bad. It’s just bad.

Bad things happen. Got rid of it. Got my wife a Toyota Landcruiser. She loved it. A nice, old one. It was like an ’88. Cruise, air. It was nice. Really sleek. It was perfect condition. The motor exploded.

We put a new motor in it and I said, “That’s it, honey. I’m gonna get you a Suburban ‘cause I love you as Christ loves the church.”

“I’m gonna get you a Suburban with a TV for the kids, leather. It’ll be a big Victorymobile. Anybody who runs a red light, you just go right over ‘em. You’ll win.”

Good day. Good day. Good day. We get it, first week, this light comes on, “Service engine soon.” We’ve had it a year. It’s got a warranty, but we’ve spent a total of over $5,000. Much of it’s gone to the warranty. Finally, got it all fixed. Good day.

Yesterday! Yesterday, we’re driving it up a hill and it starts shaking all over.
Like, “What is up?” “Service engine soon.” Bad day. Now, Solomon would tell me, “When days are good, be happy.” “Hey, I’m driving! Praise Jesus, I’m rolling! This is incredible!”

When days are bad, consider this. God made both days. I can’t get out and just yell at the car demon. It ultimately comes from the hand of God. Wise people accept that. Now, I’m not saying I’m wise and I’ve fully accepted it.

But, what he says is this. “Don’t think that the good days are from Jesus and the bad days aren’t. Every day’s from Jesus. And you can’t bend it back and make it straight, if he’s made it crooked. But, wisdom will help you navigate through it. Don’t get angry. Don’t surround yourself with stupid friends who let you sin and never rebuke you. Don’t go just get a lot of food to eat and a lot of alcohol to drink and listen to country western, and try and avoid it.”

You would potentially get the impression from Real Marriage that Mark Driscoll found his wife's issues with sex and sexuality to have been his primary point of frustration within the marriage.  But for those who were attending Mars Hill for years and can remember to look up some stuff, it becomes easier to see that the kind of newlywed (by Driscoll's account in the above-quoted tale) to trade in his wife's vehicle without her knowledge or permission so he could get the truck he dreamed of could be a newlywed guy with some communication issues.

It seems probable at this stage that Mark Driscoll will keep trying to move forward as if the last twenty years of Mars Hill basically didn't happen.  It may be that he'll continue to present his wife and children as intrinsically bound up in this new church plant that, as an homage to the church that Grace's father Gib Martin used to be pastor at, is an homage that is intrinsically backward looking in its disposition down to its very name.

If the key to moving forward is not looking back it's hard to be sure the future is looking rosy for Team Driscoll if so much of the church, ranging from the litany of recycled Mars Hill-era content to the explicitly filial homage to Gib Martin's church, is so steeped in conscientious nostalgia.  If Mark Driscoll had taken his own axioms seriously it seems none of this would have played out as it has.  But then for those who have been keeping track of these things the history of Mark Driscoll as a public figure in ministry has been full of moments where he's felt at liberty to instruct others by expounding upon principles he didn't live out in his own life.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Sutton Turner discusses Mars Hill Global allocations in recent post, a small fraction of the money raised went overseas and a lot went to US church planting, revisiting how some money went to the now defunct Resurgence Training Center in light of a 2009 Driscoll sermon

emphases in red and/or bold are added
Posted by Sutton Turner on August 25, 2016
Mars Hill Global

Mars Hill Global began in 2009 to raise money from the global audience (those who listened via podcast) to help fund the mission of Mars Hill Church: “Making Disciples and Planting Churches.” Until late 2011, Mars Hill had not significantly funded international church planting but was heavily invested in US church planting. From 2009 to 2012, Mars Hill spent $8.6M in U.S. church planting and $170k outside of the U.S. [WtH, slightly less than 2% of expenditures went to church planting outside the US] but we'll get to a 2009 sermon that explains why this wouldn't be a surprise to potentially impatient readers]

When I joined Mars Hill in 2011, I built relationships with the Kale Hewyott Church in Ethiopia to train church planters there. My passion for Ethiopia (which existed before I arrived at Mars Hill) began to dominate the message of Mars Hill Global. In hindsight, I see how many believed that the only reason Mars Hill Global existed was to fund Ethiopian church planting.

When people started to question the distribution of funds given to Mars Hill Global, the church brought in ECFA and independent auditors, Clark Nuber. Both groups gave Mars Hill a clear opinion that the church had done nothing wrong. In spite of these findings, we felt led to send 3765 emails and 6000 letters to 100% of donors to Mars Hill Global from 2011 to 2014 to clarify their gift intent. Less than 40 families responded; Mars Hill Church sent an additional $40,000 to Ethiopia because donors requested their donations to Mars Hill Global be for Ethiopian church planting.

A full and total timeline from 2009 to 2014 with videos, blogs and other information is stored here.
From 2012 to 2014, Mars Hill Church spent $13.7M in church planting in the US and sent $545k to Ethiopia and India. [WtH--spent from an amount of ... ?] During its existence, Mars Hill Church invested over $23M in church planting in the US and around the world. [WtH--not necessarily the same thing as having done it through Mars Hill Global, given that Mars Hill began in 1996 and Global started in 2009] This amount is over and above the general and administrative costs of Mars Hill Church’s central operations and staffing. (47% of the funds given to Mars Hill Global from 2012-2014 were large donations from a small number of donors who specifically asked prior to giving for their donations to be counted in Global.  Many of these donors did not attend one specific Mars Hill location and wanted their donations supporting all Mars Hill operations including U.S. and international church planting.)

[ WtH--so it reads like that 47% of the funds given to Global from 2012 were from a small number of donors who wanted their giving to be counted in/toward global. Though these donors did not attend one specific location they wanted their gifts supporting all operations, but this raises a question of whether or not that was unusual because the donors requested this or because under normal circumstances donors might have expected or requested their gifts to be restricted to the campus they were giving to Mars Hill through/from]

Many have asked for these numbers. There was I time when I was restricted from providing these numbers. Now, everyone has the Mars Hill Global information that I had when I resigned in September 2014 (Eph. 5:13).

Actual financials reports with line items would have been nice.

Back in the pre-Turner era of Mars Hill Driscoll described the aims of Mars Hill Global as follows:
[it's mistitled "Humble Pastor", it was originally listed as Prophets, Priests and Kings" and discussed earlier at Wenatchee The Hatchet.  The 5-17-2009 sermon is a different sermon even though in the media library at the site it will appear to be "Humble Pastors", too.]

Prophets, Priests and Kings
Trial: 8 witnesses from 1 & 2 Peter
May 3, 2009
1 Peter 5:1-5
starting about 0:47
... I have announcements for you.

First of all, kinda let you know what's going on at Mars Hill, Pastor Scott Thomas runs our Acts 29 church planting network along with Pastor Tar, Pastor Tyler Powell and that's going great. We give ten percent of our dollars [to] church planting. Acts 29 has 250 churches in the US, many, many, many more overseas. Our goal is to see over 1,000 churches planted within ten years. We're well on the way to that goal and that includes sending Pastor Jesse, who has been our campus pastor at Bellevue, to go plant in California. He's sensing that call on his life.

Pastor Mark (it's a different Pastor Mark), Pastor Mark up at the Shoreline campus, is going to go plant in Chicago, a new church, and Andrew Pack is planting in Seattle out of the Lake City campus. Some have asked, "Why start another church in Seattle?" Cuz we need a zillion and this will make two of them. We're well on our way to a zillion. We need lots of churches in Seattle and we praise God that Andrew and others want to plant churches. We're all for it.  

Additionally, is an initiative led by your Lead Pastor Jamie Munson and here's where we're going: from seven campuses of Mars Hill to a hundred; from upwards of 10,000 people on any given Sunday to 50,000 in the next ten years. Leading this is Pastor Rick Melson, one of our executive elders and he's a great guy. We stole him from John Piper in Minneapolis. I'll rephrase that, we borrowed him for a long time to the glory of God from John Piper in Minneapolis, and he [Melson] is also running the Resurgence Training Center--it's a school that will open in the fall so that we can have a leadership engine to train more campus pastors, church planters and potential elders. We're seeking fifty students for the fall term. [emphasis added]

For all of this we will need to raise four million dollars above and beyond budget and Pastor Jamie has a really smart idea to take microgifts from a lot of our fans online. There's upwards of 20 million downloads of our sermons and content every year. [We're] asking those people who enjoy all that we give away to give some small gifts to help fund this global expansion and initiative. Many have asked--it's cool, we've recently had checks as large as ten thousand dollars--saying, "We love you. We listen to a lot of things. Here, how can we help?" So we're going to open that opportunity up. We're going to invite you to give as well, above and beyond your general tithes and offerings. And, amazingly enough, a generous donor stepped forward and said "I'll do a million-dollar matching fund. For everyone who gives any amount I'll match that up to the first million dollars." So that's the great kick-off. We praise God for that., you can check in there to get updates on where we're going, what we're doing and how we are expanding. That includes our newest campus, Mars Hill Albuquerque. We officially announce it today. We're going to New Mexico.  ...

Turner mentioned that more than $23 million was spent in church planting.  That's telling us what it was more than.  What we don't necessarily get is a number that would tell us how much went into The Resurgence Training Center (for anyone who even remembers what that was these days).  So some of the money given into Mars Hill Global would have gone to the Resurgence Training Center.  There are folks who are willing to say they went there and graduated from there but let's not forget the big E on the eye chart.  Mark Driscoll had had a personal ambition to start a movement that started a Bible college.  No matter how great the education was at Re:Train there's a hindsight we can have today through which we observe that this was part of the legacy Driscoll wanted to be able to look back on. It's also something to keep in mind as part of the basis for Global in its early stages.  We don't need to be so focused on how much went to overseas that we forget that at its inception Global was never explicitly designed for overseas missions but for the global expansion of what we can now regard as the Mars Hill brand.

The amount of money given/designated to The Resurgence Training Center could get some clarification, since it, too, was part of the Mars Hill expansion included within the fundraising activities of Mars Hill Global. 

And the thing to keep in mind, that commenter Nathan priddis mentioned recently at Phoenix Preacher, is that we should ask ourselves--even if "all" the money raised by Mars Hill Global went to overseas activity, who's to say that would have made the conditions in those regions in Africa or India better?

In other words, let's not forget that even if all the monies that people gave that they thought were going to go from Mars Hill Global to Africa went there, what in the end would this have been except for the global expansion of the Mars Hill brand?  Why would anyone in Africa need that?  This is not to say people don't have any right or reason to be upset about all sorts of things Mars Hill Global.  Turner gets that these things were worrisome to people, too.  But Nathan priddis raised a point that doesn't seem to have come up among those who have been close to the Mars Hill side of things in online discussions (that I know of)--that we can't assume that all that Global money going to the missionary work Mars Hill had in mind would have been any good for people in Africa in the end.

Sutton Turner's recent blog post on the subject of executive compensation at Mars Hill--discusses how some were critical of executive compensation. Criticism was not necessarily of "how" much prior to 2014 because people didn't know and couldn't find out what the numbers were
Posted by Sutton Turner on August 25, 2016
Executive Compensation

Some have criticized the executive elder compensation I received for my position insinuating that I unfairly enriched myself. Once again, this criticism is painful and unmerited. When I accepted the call to Mars Hill as General Manager, I left the private sector as a CEO with a significantly higher pay. When I accepted the position of Executive Elder, I was given the same salary as the person I replaced. These salaries were approved by the board and were supported by by-laws and church governance.

In 2012, the board commissioned independent compensation studies to determine the salaries of all three executive elders. The Compensation Committee (made up of board members) then used these studies to determine the compensation of each executive elder. These studies were done by the independent firm of Capin Crouse. Many have an issue with the compensations of megachurch pastors today, and I respect their opinion. The process that the Board of Mars Hill went through to determine compensation for executive elders was 100% by IRS process and following National Council of NonProfits guidelines, completed by an independent accounting firm, and audited by another independent audit firm. My compensation was based on what others in similar positions in similarly sized churches were compensated.

The first thing to note is that the timeframe in which the criticism Turner describes may have been made would be useful to know.  Prior to possibly 2014 the subject of how much executive leaders made didn't seem to be a burning question in coverage of Mars Hill for two fairly simple reasons:  1) nobody seemed able to figure out how much Mark Driscoll made and 2) nobody could figure out how he was even paid whatever it was he was paid who wasn't at the highest levels of the Mars Hill leadership culture.  Turner's recent explanation of things presents his account in terms of criticism that may not have been possible until after numbers began to be disclosed for consideration

In fact it's tough to remember whether anyone even cared what Turner was paid enough to raise the issue in the press or at blogs for the majority of the history of Mars Hill.  There were questions circulating about how much Mark Driscoll made, though.  Over the course of a few years sources indicated to Wenatchee The Hatchet that the question of how much Driscoll was compensated, and how anyone could even verify what it was, was a question people had considered. 

So it was not hugely surprising that the most looked-at post in the history of Wenatchee The Hatchet was ...
Sutton Turner memo recommended raise for Driscoll for FY2013 to 650k salary, retain 200k housing allowance for CY2013

Housing Allowance: I recommend maintaining Pastor Mark's housing allowance of $200,000 for calendar year 2013, as was approved and provided in 2012

Executive Payroll:  As of this summer, I have personally taken over entering the executive payroll. Outside of the Compensation Committee, there is no one with access to any of this information (including my assistant) for all three Mars Hill Church executive elders. I am the only person, besides the Compensation Committee, that needs to know about Pastor Mark's compensation. [emphasis added]
So one of the complaints was that how much Driscoll made was kept secret and to this day the question of precisely how Driscoll was paid has never been answered for the record.  Was Driscoll paid directly by Mars Hill or was that pay mediated by a third party company the way payroll companies handle things for many an employer? 

The housing allowance number was worth nothing because for those who recall Pastor Mark TV era blogging by Driscoll he noted that there were some concerns about whether the parish housing allowance might have been at risk because of a court decision.  But, more saliently to the history of Mars Hill, by the middle of 2012 the Driscoll family had moved out of King County altogether into a home in Woodway.  While Driscoll had blogged about how he wasn't going anywhere over the years and how some people didn't appreciate the risks of urban ministry. Back on October 25, 2013 (which is republished over here)
October 25, 2013

... Those ministering in more family-friendly suburban communities that welcome megachurches and gated neighborhoods may not understand the complexities of a ministry that is more urban and the dangers it can pose. ...
is that by then Driscoll had been living in Woodway for a bit more than a year.  His post was worded as if he were still living in Seattle when he had not been living in Seattle since May 2012. 

So when he wrote :

... I love Jesus--so does my family. I love our church--and so does my family. And I love our city--and so does my family. On average, we have seen 100 people get baptized every month for about the last five years. We are seeing lives change, and we find great joy in that. That said, I do all I can to care for my family and protect them, without being paranoid, and the truth is if I were not called to this line of work, I would quit.

Keep in mind that the tacit assumption was that he wrote as someone a normal reader would have assumed meant to say he was living in Seattle. The assumption at the time was not that he would have been living in Woodway given that a majority of coverage in media outlets talked about Driscoll being based in Seattle. 

An average Mars Hill attending reader reading Mark Driscoll's 2013 blog post might well have worked under a surmise that he was blogging as someone who still lived in King County.  It's really, really tough to sound like you can be taken seriously opining about the perils of urban ministry if you live in a gated house with a big dog in Woodway, Washington in Snohomish County. 

So while Turner can certainly feel that there were those who unfairly criticized his compensation during his time at Mars Hill, at least from the Wenatchee The Hatchet side of things, it didn't seem all that common for people to worry about Turner's compensation.  People were more concerned about how much money Mark Driscoll might be making and how secretive the leadership culture was about how much Driscoll was making and how anyone could even go about finding out that information.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Seattle Times' Nina Shapiro report on RICO suit, dismissal without prejudice of suit against former MH pastors Mark Driscoll and Sutton Turner
Short version, suit dismissed without prejudice.  Sanctions were not granted as the judge concluded the suit was not frivolous

Of some note from the dismissal, a few excerpts:
 The court finds that Plaintiffs have not acted in bad faith, recklessly, or with an improper purpose. Accordingly, in light of the court’s duty to carefully exercise its inherent powers, the court declines to impose the drastic sanctions Defendants seek.
Mr. Turner’s allegations about Plaintiffs’ behavior in filing this case, apparently adopted by Mr. Driscoll (see Driscoll Mot. at 3), are conclusory at best and do not demonstrate that Plaintiffs have acted improperly. Merely filing a complaint alleging RICO violations for Defendants’ part in the alleged misuse of Plaintiffs’ donations to MHC does not constitute bad-faith conduct, even if the allegations case Defendants in an unfavorable light. (See Turner Mot. at 9-10.) In addition, Plaintiffs’ complaint is not frivolous on its face (see generally Compl.), and there is no evidence other than Defendants’ conclusory allegations that Plaintiffs filed this suit merely to harass and disparage Defendants  ...

and ...

Simply put, Plaintiffs have done nothing to "defile the very temple of justice." Haeger, 813 F.3d at 1244 (internal quotations and alterations omitted) (quoting Chambers, 501 U.S. at 46). Plaintiffs have not committed any acts that indicate bad faith, recklessness, or an improper purpose. They have not misled the court or Defendants; destroyed evidence; disobeyed a court order; willfully abused the judicial process

Dismissal without prejudice means that, in principle, another case could be filed.  Whether one will be in the future remains to be seen. 

Sutton Turner's statement today about how back in 2012 he wanted to meet with former Mars Hill people from the 2007 crisis and was denied permission reminds me of something, one of those pious bromides one Mark Driscoll tweeted earlier this year.
Forgiveness takes one person. Reconciliation takes two.
2:52 PM - 25 Feb 2016
Posted by Sutton Turner on August 25, 2016
Many 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. [emphasis added]

So by Sutton Turner's account, he asked permission of someone to meet with those directly effected by the 2007 re-org and its fallout and permission was denied.  Whoever denied Sutton Turner that permission must have regarded reconciliation as a precious thing.  Then again ...
Forgiveness is a gift to your offender...and to yourself, freeing you up to move on with your life.
5:25 PM - 16 Jun 2013

The thought some people may have now is that it's time to "move on".  Well, there's a problem that could be in that approach:

For those who don't already know, in the spring of 2012 Paul Petry put up a website called Joyful Exiles that includes, among other things, an audio clip of something Mark Driscoll said about casting a vision and moving on in later 2007.  It's worth quoting extensively to provide some context for Sutton Turner's statements from earlier today about how he asked permission but permission was denied.  Who would deny Turner permission from the Mars Hill leadership to meet with former people from Mars Hill?  Well, whether or not we can answer that question beyond a shadow of a doubt we can get some sense of what one leader of Mars Hill from the 2007 days had to say to church leaders about moving forward in vision:
Here’s what I’ve learned. You cast vision for your mission; and if people don’t sign up, you move on.  You move on. There are people that are gonna to die in the wilderness and there are people that are gonna take the hill. That’s just how it is. [emphasis added]

Too many guys waste too much time trying to move stiff-necked, stubborn, obstinate people. (pause) I am all about blessed subtraction. There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus (laughs) and by God’s grace it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done.

You either get on the bus or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options; but the bus ain’t gonna stop.  And I’m just a—I’m just a guy who is like, “Look, we love ya, but, this is what we’re doing.” There’s a few kinda people. There’s people who get in the way of the bus.

They gotta get run over. There are people who wanna take turns driving the bus. They gotta get thrown off (laughs). ‘Cuz they wanna go somewhere else. There are people who will be on the bus, leaders and helpers and servants, they’re awesome.

There’s also just, sometimes, nice people who sit on the bus and shut up. (pause) They’re not helping or hurting. Just let ‘em ride along. Y’know what I’m saying?  But, don’t look at the nice people that are just gonna sit on the bus and shut their mouth and think, “I need you to lead the mission.”
There’s also just, sometimes, nice people who sit on the bus and shut up. (pause) They’re not helping or hurting. Just let ‘em ride along. Y’know what I’m saying?  But, don’t look at the nice people that are just gonna sit on the bus and shut their mouth and think, “I need you to lead the mission.”
They’re never going to.  At the very most you’ll give ’em a job to do and they’ll serve somewhere and help out in a minimal way. If someone can sit in a place that hasn’t been on mission for a really long time they are by definition not a leader.  And, so they’re never going to lead.

You need to gather a whole new court. I’ll tell you guys what, too. You don’t do this just for your church planting or replanting. I’m doin’ it right now. I’m doin’ it right now. We just took certain guys and rearranged the seats on the bus.

Yesterday we fired two elders for the first time in the history of Mars Hill last night. They’re off the bus, under the bus. They were off mission so now they’re unemployed. I mean (pause) you—this will be the defining issue as to whether or not you succeed or fail. I've read enough of the New Testament to know that occasionally Paul put someone in the woodchipper, y'know?

Because they shall know how Christ-like ye are when you put them in that proverbial woodchipper and ... move on.

And now here we are in 2016 and Mars Hill is inactive but not yet completely dissolved as a company.  Expiration date is listed as the end of this calendar year, basically.

If just moving on was such a great-looking strategy to Mars Hill leadership in 2007 how is that a RICO suit came about in 2016?  Is that really a compelling case that "move on" works in a case like Mars Hill? 

today's Turner post discussed tension in the MH board in "A Governing Board Under Pressure", how when A29 removed MH other board members knew but didn't tell Turner or Bruskas; looking back at his April 24, 2015 post discussing a rift in the board over Result Source and Mars Hill Global


A Successful, Unhealthy Church

Many 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 Pressure

In 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. 

RICO suit against Mark Driscoll and Sutton Turner dismissed without prejudice--mentions that in 2012 he sought to meet with former MH people from 2007 but was denied permission to do so.

Turner has posted an update on the recently dismissed RICO suit

For those who were concerned about the Global fund, Turner has published the following:

Mars Hill Global began in 2009 to raise money from the global audience (those who listened via podcast) to help fund the mission of Mars Hill Church: “Making Disciples and Planting Churches.” Until late 2011, Mars Hill had not significantly funded international church planting but was heavily invested in US church planting. From 2009 to 2012, Mars Hill spent $8.6M in U.S. church planting and $170k outside of the U.S.

When I joined Mars Hill in 2011, I built relationships with the Kale Hewyott Church in Ethiopia to train church planters there. My passion for Ethiopia (which existed before I arrived at Mars Hill) began to dominate the message of Mars Hill Global. In hindsight, I see how many believed that the only reason Mars Hill Global existed was to fund Ethiopian church planting.

As I've written a few times in the past, from the Munson period there was a pretty clear explanation of what Mars Hill Global was for and that it could be for anything connected to Mars Hill global expansion as, for want of a better term, a brand or organization.  Unfortunately, the sermon in which Mark Driscoll most explicitly articulated that vision from the Peter series never got transcribed and the sermon got pulled down after a while. 

Turner explains a bit more as follows: [linkage removed, emphasis original]

When I joined Mars Hill in 2011, I built relationships with the Kale Hewyott Church in Ethiopia to train church planters there. My passion for Ethiopia (which existed before I arrived at Mars Hill) began to dominate the message of Mars Hill Global. In hindsight, I see how many believed that the only reason Mars Hill Global existed was to fund Ethiopian church planting.

When people started to question the distribution of funds given to Mars Hill Global, the church brought in ECFA and independent auditors, Clark Nuber. Both groups gave Mars Hill a clear opinion that the church had done nothing wrong. In spite of these findings, we felt led to send 3765 emails and 6000 letters to 100% of donors to Mars Hill Global from 2011 to 2014 to clarify their gift intent. Less than 40 families responded; Mars Hill Church sent an additional $40,000 to Ethiopia because donors requested their donations to Mars Hill Global be for Ethiopian church planting.

A full and total timeline from 2009 to 2014 with videos, blogs and other information is stored here.
From 2012 to 2014, Mars Hill Church spent $13.7M in church planting in the US and sent $545k to Ethiopia and India. During its existence, Mars Hill Church invested over $23M in church planting in the US and around the world. This amount is over and above the general and administrative costs of Mars Hill Church’s central operations and staffing. (47% of the funds given to Mars Hill Global from 2012-2014 were large donations from a small number of donors who specifically asked prior to giving for their donations to be counted in Global.  Many of these donors did not attend one specific Mars Hill location and wanted their donations supporting all Mars Hill operations including U.S. and international church planting.)

Many have asked for these numbers. There was I time when I was restricted from providing these numbers. Now, everyone has the Mars Hill Global information that I had when I resigned in September 2014 (Eph. 5:13).
Once Mars Hill Church/Mars Hill Fellowship became inactive as a corporation ...
UBI Number 601677819
Category REG
Profit/Nonprofit Nonprofit
Active/Inactive Inactive
State Of Incorporation WA
WA Filing Date 12/22/1995
Expiration Date 12/31/2016
Inactive Date 03/24/2016

it seemed like it would be a matter of time before Turner presented some general numbers.  I'd wondered whether the hesitation to discuss and then keep numbers up for public consideration had a connection to the active status of the corporation. 

We'll skip over the compensation parts for the time being.  There's something else Turner mentions that's worth quoting:
Many 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. [emphasis added] 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.

For those who didn't instantly catch the import of the bolded section, Sutton Turner stated that he asked permission in 2012 to meet with those people directly affected (effected?) by the events of the 2007 re-org but permission was denied.  By who?  Based on the by-laws that were in place the only person who seems could have outranked Sutton Turner as a legal officer would have been Mark Driscoll himself.  It's a little difficult to imagine Dave Bruskas forbidding such a thing, in any case, because Bruskas wasn't even a part of Mars Hill in 2007.  Since Bruskas couldn't have plausibly had any material interest in forbidding Sutton Turner from meeting with former members and staff and since no one else seems to have been higher up the hierarchy than Turner, it seems that either one person above Turner insisted that he not speak to former members or the Board forbade it.  But none of that explains why whoever outranked Turner would have done so.

Remember this comment Driscoll made in 2014?

Mark Driscoll from a video statement July 21, 2014

"If I’m real honest with you, at first it was just a little overwhelming and a bit confusing. We, and I were not exactly sure what was happening and so it took a little while to sort that out... As well, one of the things that has been complex is the fact that a lot of the people that we are dealing with in this season remain anonymous. And so we don’t know how to reconcile, or how to work things out with, with people because we’re not entirely sure who they are [emphasis added], and so that has, that has made things a little more complex and difficult as well."

And yet this very day, Sutton Turner published, "In 2012, I asked permission to meet with those directly affected by the events of 2007; permission was denied." How could Turner have been denied permission to contact people from the 2007 debacle if, according to Mark Driscoll in 2014, they weren't sure who was trying to meet with them to reconcile with them.  Based on Turner's account published today, it seems that when someone from the Mars Hill side proposed meeting with former MH people he was denied permission to do so from within the Mars Hill side.  For those not already familiar with the officers listed for Mars Hill circa 2012:

Who are the officers of Mars Hill Church?
For state law purposes, Mars Hill has a president, Mark Driscoll; a vice president, Dave Bruskas; and a secretary/treasurer, Sutton Turner. Mars Hill also has a chief financial officer, Kerry Dodd; and a chief legal officer, Chris Pledger.

Of those officers exactly one of them was even at Mars Hill in 2007.  So if Turner has reported things reliably whoever denied him permission to meet with former MH people had to know who they were or at least had to stake out a general principle of forbidding Turner from meeting. 

But if the leaders of Mars Hill Church weren't sure who those people were, according to Mark Driscoll from July 21, 2014, what's the explanation from Team Driscoll as to why, according to Sutton Turner's recent account, he tried to meet with people who were at Mars Hill in 2007 but was denied permission to do so?  You can't forbid someone like Sutton Turner from meeting with people when you're not even sure who they are, can you?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mark Driscoll and the art of observing how from 1992 to 2002 he presented different motives for why he started to read the Bible and what that would prove for him, depending on what point he was trying to make for the record

About a week and a half ago we looked back on how Mark Driscoll recounted the story of his conversion in a 1992 op-ed he wrote for The Daily Evergreen.  He provided what was ultimately a boilerplate narrative of "I tried to prove Christianity wrong and became a Christian."  It was notable mainly for who he neglected to mention, Grace Martin and her family.  For as often as Driscoll shared that God told him to marry Grace, teach the Bible, reach young men and plant churches, one of the earliest accounts has no mention of Grace or her family.  To go back and read that if you haven't already, here's the link for that stuff.

But that was the conversion narrative in 1992 tailored to a polemical question as to whether Mark Driscoll was perceived by his peers as a fundamentalist Christian because he was raised that way, back when Mark Driscoll was writing for The daily Evergreen.  A decade later in a new millennium, when the subject was the distinction between faith and works in a sermon it wasn't some Christian guy in a dorm that Mark wanted to disprove the Bible to that catalyzed his conversion.  Not that that guy necessarily didn't have a role to play, but you can read the sermon transcript here to see that in 2002 Driscoll's account of how he came to a conversion experience involved a conversation with a drunk fratboy.

Part 4 of Galatians
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Galatians 3:1-14
June 02, 2002


And my misunderstanding was this: I thought that as long as you believed in God and you were a good person, then God would love you and you would go to Heaven. That’s what I thought. And if you would have asked me, you know, when I was up until the age of 18 or 19, “Are you a Christian?” I would’ve said, “Yes, and a Christian is someone who believes in God and is a good person.” And that’s what I thought. Until a drunken frat guy shattered my world with one decent question, and God uses anything. He used a drunken frat guy, who was like a seventh year sophomore to absolutely upset my theological worldview. [emphasis added]

So in this account from 2002 the catalyst wasn't the Christian guy in the dorm Mark Driscoll was in that he mentioned in his 1992 op-ed at The Daily Evergreen, it was a drunk frat guy who zinged him with a question.  Let's assume that both the Christian guy in the dorm and the drunk frat guy both existed.  The observation here is that Mark Driscoll's stories of his conversion tend to be tailored to the rhetorical point he intends to make in a given context and that details of biography that aren't germane to that point get glossed over or simply aren't mentioned at all. Driscoll explained himself further in the 2002 sermon:

I did not drink because I made a list of rules to declare myself self-righteous. So, I said, “Why, I’m gonna be a good person.” I made this little list of things that I thought a good person should be. I won’t lie. I won’t steal. I won’t cheat. I won’t drink. I won’t smoke. I won’t, you know, beat anyone up who doesn’t deserve it. I won’t – I had this list of things that I would do and not do, and I would declare myself “good.” That is the essence of works and self-righteousness. That was basically my worldview. “I make my rules, and I live up to them. I’m a great guy.” [emphasis added]

Now before we move along with the rest of this story we need to remember something.  Did Mark Driscoll not mention in a sermon from 2001 that he did, in fact, lie on an occasion to get something he wanted?
starting at 54:45
Proverbs 29:21, “If a man pampers his servant from youth, he will bring grief in the end.” These guys are pampered; totally pampered. Okay? And again, this is not a boasting on me. This is a – this is actually a tribute to my dad. I was eleven years old. I was going out for the little league all-star team, and I needed a new glove. My dad said, “Good. Go make some money.” I said, “Hey, dad, I’m eleven.” He said, “Well, you’re taller than the lawn-mower. I’m sure you’ll figure something out.” True. So, I get the lawn-mower, and I go and I mow lawns to get my glove. And I come back and my dad says, “You owe me gas money. You used my gas.” It’s the nicest thing my dad ever did. Up until that point, I didn’t know gas cost money. Now, I do. Now, I appreciate gas.It comes to the point where I’m 15 and I wanna get a car. I said, “Dad, I need a car.” He says, “Good. Go get some money.” I said, “Okay, fine.” So, I falsified my birth certificate, I lie about my age, and I get a job at a 7-11 selling lotto tickets and liquor and cigarettes to people that are twice my age. I was not a Christian, so – I shouldn’t have done it anyways, but I wasn’t a Christian. And so, I’m 15, working at a 7-11 selling stuff. And I make a decent living, and I buy my first car, a 1956 Chevy that I should’ve never sold. That’s a whole other sermon. And – and so I’m 15, driving myself to work without a license, because I gotta go make money to pay for my car. [emphasis added] Okay? And again, I was not a Christian. Okay? So, I’m not saying, “Thus sayeth the Lord.”

So ... did you catch that in the 2001 sermon he described how he was not a Christian?  Of course you did.  And for the 2002 sermon he said that if you'd ask him if he thought he was a Christian he would have said he was and had reasons for it.  The simple explanation here is that Driscoll considered himself some kind of good-enough sort to be a Christian or a Catholic, but that the Driscoll who made his name as a Protestant would say he wasn't a Christian at the time. America has no real shortage of Protestants who look back on their days as altar boys and decide they weren't really on Jesus' team. Driscoll just happens to be one of them.

So, Driscoll may have had to do some soul-searching about how he had, in fact, lied about some stuff to get ahead.  Ironically Driscoll mentioned that story in a sermon where he lamented that some guys take shortcuts. 

And I realize that, since I was young and I was strong, I could make more money. And so I started dinking around trying to figure out where to make more money. And I find out that guys in unions make a lot of money. And – at least compared to me working at the 7-11. And I got tired of getting robbed and held-up, too. ‘Cause if you run a 7-11 behind a Déjà vu, somebody’s gonna put a gun at your head. And after a couple of those, you realize, “For minimum wage, I’m not taking a cap. You know? I’m not gonna get shot for, like, a pack of cigarettes. I’m not gonna do that.” So, I lied about my age. I falsified my birth certificate again, and told them I was 18. Got a job working long-shoring down on the docks in Seattle. And I would go throw 100-pound sacks of peas, and unload trucks, and work hard. And they paid me tremendous money. [emphasis added] At the time, it was like $10.00-something an hour. This was, like, in 1986 or ’87 or something. And I’d work 40 hours a week, and over-time was double-time. And none of the guys would wanna work over-time. Usually it was on Friday, ‘cause they had to get containers out, and those guys all wanted to go to the topless club.

And so, I would work all the over-time at $20.00 an hour as a 16 year old kid. This is in the mid-‘80s. Right? So, I’m loaded. I have money, money, money, money. So, I buy a car, and I start saving for college, doing my stuff. And with my dad – I thank God for my dad. My dad’s like, “You’re a guy. You work. You pay your way. Good. It’s good for you.” And you know what? He’s right. He was totally right. Thank God for my dad. My brother and my other brother and myself, we’re all doing great, making good money, doing fine. My brothers are all in management leadership running companies or businesses. It’s great. You pamper a guy from his youth, and he just – he gets this course of action. All of the sudden he feels like if his hands are dirty, or his muscles are sore, or if he put-in a long day, or thought something was tough, that’s unusual; that’s abnormal. And so, he avoids it.

For the moment we're just going to note that in this 2001 sermon Mark said he made good money and was doing fine, although in a 2006 book he'd mention something or other about not having a credit rating good enough to buy an outhouse.

So, now, let's get back to the 2002 sermon where he recounted his epiphany about faith and works because a drunk frat guy asked him a question:

So, I had these rules, and one of my rules was I won’t drink because then God will look down and say, “Well, I’m going to pick Mark for my team because he’s such a great guy.” After all, I was.
So, what happened was I was at a frat party in college, which is not the typical place that God shows up in powerful, illuminating, theological acumen. But this drunken frat guy came up, and he said, “Here. Drink a beer.” And I said, “No, I don’t drink.” He said, “Why?” I said, “I’m a good person.” (Laughter)

And he said, “Well, why do you want to be a good person?” I said, “Because I believe in God, and I’m a good person.” He said, “Well, Jesus drank,” which is about the only part of the Bible he really knew. That and, “Thou shalt not judge.” He put those two verses together, and he’d come up with alcoholism. But anyway. (Laughter)

I said, “No, I’m a good person.” He said, “So, how do you know you’re gonna go to Heaven?” I said, “I know I’m gonna go to Heaven because I’m a good person.” And he asked this question that shattered my world. He was basically mocking me, trying to get me to drink. And he said, “Well, how good do you have to be to go to Heaven?” I thought, “I don’t know. That’s a good question. I don’t know.” And he said, “Do you have to be good all the time? And if you’re not good some days, does that cancel your bad days, and who makes the rules, and how do you know what’s good and bad?” He was just sort of in a drunken stupor rambling, but it was a really good question, I felt, particularly considering his condition. [emphasis added]

I said, “I don’t know,” and I started thinking about that. How good do I have to be? How moral do I have to be, and who determines the morality? Do my good days cancel my bad days, and did my sins cancel my obedience? And I started getting really muddy about where I was at. Up until this point I thought, “I’m a good guy. I’m a great guy.” And then I realized, “Well, maybe I’m not good enough.”

Just consider the wisdom and shrewdness of Mark Driscoll that in this story it was a drunk frat guy asking a question that spurred Mark Driscoll into depths of introspection.  It's almost as if Mark Driscoll were an Augustine considering what he had done to a pear tree or something.

And so, what I decided was, “I’ll read the Bible to get all the rules, and then I’ll do them to make sure that I’m a good guy.” Okay. Now my wife, she was my girlfriend at the time. Moral of the story is if a woman gives you a Bible, give her a ring. She gave me this Bible as a graduation present from high school, and I started reading the Bible.

Oh!  So NOW in the 2002 narrative Grace becomes a substantial supporting character in the conversion narrative!  She was never mentioned once in the 1992 account for The Daily Evergreen.  Driscoll didn't even make much effort to explain how he got a Bible, and just mentioned that he had not owned or read a Bible until he was in college.  So whereas in 1992 he read through the New Testament to prove the Christian guy wrong, in the 2002 narrative he read through the New Testament looking for good people in the hopes he could count himself a good person, too:

I started reading the New Testament, and the first time through I hated it. It made no sense at all. It sounded like everyone was bad, and I kept looking for the good people to figure out what they were doing. And even the people that I thought were good at the end of it ended up killing God, and I didn’t think that necessarily proved that they were good people.

So, I kept reading and reading, and I got through the whole New Testament and I couldn’t find any good people. And I couldn’t find any way to declare myself good, which really troubled me.

And there you have it, a 2002 account in which Mark Driscoll said he thought he really was a Christian because he laid out the rules he felt you needed to follow to be a good person, he felt he pretty much followed them and that meant he was basically a Christian.  Okay and yet there's nothing here about that residence hall Christian guy who bugged Driscoll so much he just told the guy he really was a Christian from the 1992 Daily Evergreen piece.  Neither account highlights a point that Driscoll would bring up later about how he was an altar boy and an arty jock in 2013, yet another decade later.

Maybe he doesn't look back on himself as having been a Jesus-loving Catholic altar boy but the observation presented for your consideration is that Driscoll saw fit to mention that he even was an altar boy as part of establishing what he considered his credentials to be regarding the arts.  Not entirely unlike his claims about having been a professional journalist, indeed even more so, Mark Driscoll's self-attested artistic streak can come across as all hat and no cattle. 

Unless we're counting Mark Driscoll's artful ways in fashioning narratives from the pulpit it's a little tough to know when he's sketched anything with pen or pencil.  Which mediums did he experiment with?  Did he find water color dried too fast?  Did he find acrylic paint hard to control?  Did he find oil paints just right on every point of use except for the atrocious smell?  Did he experiment with ceramics and discover he was all thumbs whereas pen and pencil worked for him?  Did Driscoll admire Bill Watterson and Rembrant?  Oh, ah, no, that's just some reminiscing about an earlier time decades ago for me.  I trust you get my concern--if Driscoll experimented with different mediums it would seem like he'd have had something to share about those experiments. 

Keep in mind, when comparing these narratives the tension is not in the reported events.  The facts (whatever they are) can still be the facts.  That Driscoll in 2002 could say in a sermon he didn't lie or steal, however, becomes slightly more difficult to square with his matter-of-fact claim that he fudged his birth year to get a job.  By Driscoll's account he lied about his age to get a job so he could get a vehicle he proceeded to drive without a license and all that was back when he wasn't a Christian ... in the 2001 sermon. 

But for the 2002 sermon he talks about how if you'd asked him if he was a Christian he would have said he totally was because he had not been confronted with the distinction between faith and works by the drunk frat guy's question yet.  That would come later.  The part where Driscoll assumed he was good enough because he followed his own rules, that part's not too hard to believe. 

Comparing the 2001 and 2002 sermons highlights what a difference a year makes, not least when the point you're trying to make in a sermon requires a substantially different tone of personal narrative to illustrate a point.  It's just a shame that the stories Mark Driscoll shared to show how industrious he became in response to the wisdom of his dad show that his early career was, if we take Driscoll's account at face value (and, perhaps, we shouldn't) he took quite a few shortcuts on being honest about his age, driving without a license, and so on.  He shared stories that showed that even if he urged other men to not take shortcuts he shared the shortcuts he took to get to the point where he had money, money, money. 

People can be complex and multi-faceted, obviously.  It's just that between the 1992 story Mark gave for his conversion and the 2002 story he gave for his conversion we get the 1992 Mark saying he wasn't a Christian and he became a real Christian trying to debunk the Bible.  In the 2002 account he thought he was a Christian until a drunk guy rocked his world with a simple question (which, in narrative terms, makes Mark look like he had keen insight into the nature of the question the drunk guy asked that the drunk guy himself is implicitly held to not have had). 

Let's assume both these accounts are basically accurate, the tension isn't in the events, it's in the interpretations Mark supplies for what we're supposed to observe in the events.  He could be the same nominal Irish Catholic kid in every account, but in the 1992 story he tried selling himself as the spiritual-but-not-religious type who found the truth of Christianity by trying to disprove it.  In the 2002 story he would have us accept that he assumed he was totally a Christian because he had his rules for life and he followed them and that meant he really was a Christian and he took to reading the Bible because a drunk guy asked "how good do you have to be?"  Driscoll proceeded to read the Bible not to disprove its accuracy in this 2002 account, but to confirm to himself his own goodness.

The tension is in the contradictory self-ascribed motives across the narratives.  If we take the narratives as testifying to a whole then Mark Driscoll told us he set out to both disprove the Bible's legitimacy and also look through it to confirm through it for himself that he was good enough to call himself a Christian.  Now if Mark Driscoll was what one biblical author called "double-minded" maybe that's no surprise in the end. 

But sometimes it seems as if what Driscoll does is fashion a narrative in order to make a point and that if narrative A ascribes a motive to Mark that conflicts with the motive in narrative B, well, who's going to pay attention?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

feature at The Guardian on "How technology disrupted the truth"; fivethirtyeight author asks "Who WIll Debunk the Debunkers?"; and Jacques Ellul's definition of sociological propaganda (Big Brother can let us make our own spin on social media)

As regular readers no doubt already know, this year one of the books WtH has blogged about extensively is Propaganda, by Jacques Ellul.

Translated from the French by Konrad Kellen & Jean Lerner
Vintage Books Edition, February 1973
Copyright (c) 1965 by Alfred A Knopf Inc.
ISBN 0-394-71874-7
There's a concept Ellul described in his book called sociological propaganda and before we get to that definition he provided in his book, let's stroll through a couple of articles from this year's journalism about the problem of social media allowing for rumors and legends to circulate more quickly than anyone in the mainstream press can debunk them. As reported by Katharine Viner:


But while the possibilities for journalism have been strengthened by the digital developments of the last few years, the business model is under grave threat, because no matter how many clicks you get, it will never be enough. And if you charge readers to access your journalism you have a big challenge to persuade the digital consumer who is used to getting information for free to part with their cash.

News publishers everywhere are seeing profits and revenue drop dramatically. If you want a stark illustration of the new realities of digital media, consider the first-quarter financial results announced by the New York Times and Facebook within a week of one another earlier this year. The New York Times announced that its operating profits had fallen by 13%, to $51.5m – healthier than most of the rest of the publishing industry, but quite a drop. Facebook, meanwhile, revealed that its net income had tripled in the same period – to a quite staggering $1.51bn.

The impact on journalism of the crisis in the business model is that, in chasing down cheap clicks at the expense of accuracy and veracity, news organisations undermine the very reason they exist: to find things out and tell readers the truth – to report, report, report.

Many newsrooms are in danger of losing what matters most about journalism: the valuable, civic, pounding-the-streets, sifting-the-database, asking-challenging-questions hard graft of uncovering things that someone doesn’t want you to know. Serious, public-interest journalism is demanding, and there is more of a need for it than ever. It helps keep the powerful honest; it helps people make sense of the world and their place in it. Facts and reliable information are essential for the functioning of democracy – and the digital era has made that even more obvious.
Earlier this year over at fivethirtyeight we had one Daniel Engber asking who will debunk those who make it a point of debunking? Along the way we get some stories about classic cases of unheeded researchers that turn out to be, well, "supermyths".

Emerging from the rabbit hole, Sutton began to puzzle over what he’d found. This wasn’t just any sort of myth, he decided, but something he would term a “supermyth”: A story concocted by respected scholars and then credulously disseminated in order to promote skeptical thinking and “to help us overcome our tendency towards credulous bias.”  [emphasis added] The convolution of this scenario inspired him to look for more examples. “I’m rather a sucker for such complexity,” he told me.

Could [Mike] Sutton be a modern-day version of Ignaz Semmelweis, the Hungarian physician who noticed in the 1840s that doctors were themselves the source of childbed fever in his hospital’s obstetric ward? Semmelweis had reduced disease mortality by a factor of 10 — a fully displaced decimal point — simply by having doctors wash their hands in a solution of chlorinated lime. But according to the famous tale, his innovations were too radical for the time. Ignored and ridiculed for his outlandish thinking, Semmelweis eventually went insane and died in an asylum. Arbesman, author of “The Half-Life of Facts,” has written about the moral of this story too. “Even if we are confronted with facts that should cause us to update our understanding of the way the world works,” he wrote, “we often neglect to do so.”

Of course, there’s always one more twist: Sutton doesn’t believe this story about Semmelweis. That’s another myth, he says — another tall tale, favored by academics, that ironically demonstrates the very point that it pretends to make. Citing the work of Sherwin Nuland, Sutton argues that Semmelweis didn’t go mad from being ostracized, and further that other physicians had already recommended hand-washing in chlorinated lime. The myth of Semmelweis, says Sutton, may have originated in the late 19th century, when a “massive nationally funded Hungarian public relations machine” placed biased articles into the scientific literature. Semmelweis scholar Kay Codell Carter concurs, at least insofar as Semmelweis was not, in fact, ignored by the medical establishment: From 1863 through 1883, he was cited dozens of times, Carter writes, “more frequently than almost anyone else.”

Yet despite all this complicating evidence, scholars still tell the simple version of the Semmelweis story and use it as an example of how other people — never them, of course — tend to reject information that conflicts with their beliefs. That is to say, the scholars reject conflicting information about Semmelweis, evincing the Semmelweis reflex, even as they tell the story of that reflex. It’s a classic supermyth! [emphasis added]

The story about Semmelweis may not be true but it's got a shelf life because it's the false story that conveys what people consider philosophically true.  But this kind of supermyth, in which an idea promulgated by scholars that's promoted as factually accurate in spite of a dearth of evidence, might not just be an example of how academics are human, too (and in his book discussing King David Jacob Wright essentially demonstrated that one of the pervasive supermyths in biblical scholarship is that the Samuel narratives "whitewash" David of wrongdoing when anyone who spends any time at all with the actual narratives and knows how ancient hagiographies worked across the region would find otherwise).  The supermyth may well be, for the sake of discussion, the scholastic variation of the dynamic at play in social media that Viner has lamented. 

It doesn't seem too huge a stretch to propose that Jacques Ellul's "sociological propaganda" might be able to encompass the echo chambers of social media on the one hand and the supermyths of academics on the other (and Ellul, for those who have read him, described education within state-sponsored contexts as a kind of necessary pre-propaganda).

So here's Ellul on what he meant:

Propaganda, page 64

Sociological propaganda springs up spontaneously; it is not the result of deliberate propaganda action. No propagandists deliberately use this method, though many practice it unwittingly, and tend in this direction without realizing it. For example, when an American producer makes a film, he has certain definite ideas he wants to express, which are not intended to be propaganda. Rather, the propaganda element is in the American way of life with which he is permeated and which he expresses in his film without realizing it. [emphases added] We see here the force of expansion of a vigorous society, which is totalitarian in the sense of the integration of the individual, and which leads to involuntary behavior.

from pages 64-65

Sociological propaganda expresses itself in many different ways--in advertising, in movies (commercial and non-political films), in technology in general, in education ... All these influences are in basic accord with each other and lead spontaneously in the same direction; one hesitates to call this propaganda.  Such influences, which mold behavior, seem a far cry from Hitler's propaganda setup. Unintentional (at least in the first stage), non-political, organized along spontaneous patterns and rhythms, the activities we have lumped together ... are not considered propaganda by either sociologists or the average public. [emphasis added]

And  yet with deeper and more objective analysis, what do we find? These influences are expressed through the same media as propaganda. They are really directed by those who make propaganda. To me this fact seems essential. A government, for example, will have is own public relations, and will also make propaganda. Most of the activities described in this chapter have identical purposes. Besides, these influences follow the same stereotypes and prejudices as propaganda; they stir the same feelings and act on the individual in the same fashion. These are the similarities, which bring these two aspects of propaganda closer together ...

... Such activities are propaganda to the extent that the combination of advertising, public relations, social welfare, and so on produces a certain general conception of society, a particular way of life. ... the individual in the clutches of such sociological propaganda believes that those who live this way are on the side of angels, and those who don't are bad; those who have this conception of society are right, and those who have another conception are in error. Consequently, just as with ordinary propaganda, it is a matter of propagating behavior and myths both good and bad. Furthermore, such propaganda becomes increasingly effective when those subjected to it accept its doctrines on what is good or bad (for example, the American Way of Life). There, a whole society actually expresses itself through this propaganda by advertising it's kind of life.

By doing that, a society engages in propaganda on the deepest level. ... [emphasis added]

If you take to Facebook to share how those people are spreading propaganda on this or that political issue you are yourself engaging in propaganda, sociological propaganda in Ellul's taxonomy of the behavior.
It's hardly a stretch to propose that the way we see ourselves treating each other on Facebook and Twitter and the comments sections of news articles seems to affirm this. 

Social media has become the vector for what Ellul described as sociological propaganda.  Big Brother never needs to make this kind of propaganda, though, because Big Brother gets the basic idea that whenever you take to social media you will voluntarily choose to make this kind of propaganda yourself simply by how you participate in social media. When you take to Facebook or Twitter to opine on the political world and promote your political views you aren't serving Big Brother, you are Big Brother to the extent that you participate in a cycle of sociological propaganda.  Ellul's warning that in order to understand contemporary propagandistic techniques we must understand that they are scientific might need to get revisited. Ellul proposed that the sociologist and the psychologist are no more off the hook for the application of their discoveries than physicists can disclaim credit for discoveries applied in the use of nuclear weapons.  Ellul even went so far as to propose that in order to understand the foundation of American propagandistic approaches you have to understand the ideas of Dewey. 

And here we are with journalists and scholars wondering how on earth it all came to this and yet it would seem the overall process, however long it has taken, is ultimately not that complex.  If the institutional formal media has not fully appreciated the speed with which social media has allowed for sociological propaganda to, er, propagate, there's time to catch up.  And if scholars have wondered how it is that people who it seems shouldn't have been able to move in the directions they moved step back a moment, maybe in our urging students to question everything on the basis of, say, supermyths, we didn't stop to consider that one of the side effects of a "supermyth" is that it can boomerang. 

One of the more popular and pervasive internet myths about Mark Driscoll that has been promoted by folks like Lindy West, and other writers with progressive/secularist/feminist interests is that Mark Driscoll said Ted Haggard's wife let herself go.  This is so easily debunked that doing it a sixth or seventh time isn't worth the trouble.  At this point it is enough to point out that the reason this internet legend stuck with progressives and secularists about Mark Driscoll is because it was something they wanted to be true because it appealed to the stereotype with which they have assessed Mark Driscoll as a stand-in for the entire twenty year history of Mars Hill and for Mark Driscoll as some kind of preacher in general.  So if it turns out that there were people at Mars Hill who were into Christian anarchism or sympathetic to socialism or politically progressive policies, well, it doesn't matter who those people were even if they did exist for the kinds of writers who contribute to AlterNet or Salon or even Slate.

Journalists have had their say about Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll but scholars are, no doubt, setting about to writing books and one of the things that will happen is that supermyths will form.   There will probably be no shortage of scholars who are ready to run with the idea that Mars Hill was right wing and the stereotypes about people on the right wing will inform their work.  If it were to turn out that a co-founding pastor of Mars Hill was happy to endorse Obama, whatever, Mark Driscoll has become the sole personality through which people attempt the history of the community that was known as Mars Hill.  That a former Mars Hill pastor recommended Ellul to me (before he was a pastor, granted) won't be of interest. 

Which is to say I'm proposing in advance that sociological propaganda can happen in the academy as well as social media. 

But there's the fact that we're here in 2016 with an election cycle and people have asked how we've gotten so balkanized toward each other, how it is that people red and blue seem so incapable of imagining that the other people are really American.  Well, Ellul wrote it wasn't clear what the long term impact of the two parties in the United States embracing the methods of propaganda might be, but if they went for it the likely result would be that third parties could never possibly catch up to having comparable levels of influence and that the two would remain the only two formal options. 

I'm not an optimist about the future of the United States and it's not because we don't have a wonderful nation in so many respects, it's because so many are in the thrall of a propaganda war between red state and blue state, between left and right, between groups who have fashioned mythologies for themselves in which they and their constituencies are the heroes and the other folks are villains, but all these folks are fellow citizens.  Ellul's warning was that once democracy had been transformed from a process of government into a way of life that it would in the end prove as emotionally and intellectually and socially totalitarian in its conduct as a bunch of storm troopers. 

The way people behave on Facebook and Twitter seem to have proven Ellul right there.