Former Mars Hill Church Pastor Issues Statement of Confession

James Noriega is a former pastor at Mars Hill Church. Today, he posted a public statement on his Facebook page which addressed his time at the church. It does not blame his colleagues or Mark Driscoll but disclosed his feelings about his own approach at the time.
Noriega’s statement is a reminder that there is more to the concerns about Mars Hill Church than the top leadership.

For the people I have sinned against in these ways or in other ways please forgive me; I so am sorry I hurt you. I hope and pray God heals you. Please message me and let me hear you out. Please don’t be afraid of me any longer. I understand if you are. I absolutely want healing for you; not more hurt. I do love you.


Mars Hill University District Pastor Drew Hensley Clarifies Position

Drew Hensley is one of the nine current pastors at Mars Hill Church that signed the letter calling for Mark Driscoll to step down and enter an elder directed restoration program. He also signed the letter yesterday from lead pastors and Board of Elders.  To clarify his position, he posted a note to the members of the University District group on Mars Hill Church’s City website. I want to note that I did not obtain this note from Rev. Hensley.

From Pastor Drew Hensley:
Mars Hill U-District Family,
I want you to know how much I love you and count it a great privilege to be your pastor. My desire has always been to point you toward Jesus and help you grow in him, better understand his love and grace, and share that with the community around you.
I never want you to feel confused, especially by any of my actions as your pastor. Last week a letter from myself and 8 other elders was sent to the full council of elders. That letter somehow leaked out to the media this week and curiously didn’t include the confidentiality statement that was originally at the top. Yesterday a letter came out to all of Mars Hill Church from the lead pastors. I signed that letter as well because the main purpose and intent of that letter was to explain that the original letter wasn’t intended to go public, which it wasn’t. Obviously it did, but that wasn’t the original intent. With that being said, that you for all of the encouragement that many of you have show over the last few days. Tears have not stopped shedding at the love you’ve always shown me and continue to show.
For clarity sake, I absolutely stand behind what I helped write in the original letter from the 9 elders. I believe it’s very important that your pastor stand behind what he says.
I love you all and am praying for you daily. I have been called to care for your souls and as long as Jesus allows me to do that I want to do so above reproach and out of a genuine love for the sheep and Jesus church.
Only by His Grace, Pastor Drew

I want to add that there was no confidentiality statement on the materials I obtained.

Mars Hill Church Leaders: Giving is Down Due to "Increase in Negative Media Attention"

Yesterday, Mars Hill executive elders also provided a financial update for members:

Financial Update
We praise Jesus for his grace and faithfulness in caring for Mars Hill Church for 18 years. In January 2014 the church was in the great financial shape. God continued to be faithful, through your gifts, to also help us end the fiscal year strong this past June. Thank you for your support and service, as many have learned about Jesus and countless lives have been changed by Jesus’ work through you.
It is your continued support that is needed now more than ever. While we were able to end the fiscal year strong, giving and attendance have declined significantly since January. Specifically, we have seen a substantial decrease in tithes and offerings these past two months, due to the increase in negative media attention surrounding our church.
We have done much this year to prepare for a decline in giving, such as two rounds of staffing reductions and the cancellation of various events and projects, but we now find ourselves in a tougher financial position than we expected. The drop in giving revenue has exceeded what we have been able to cut in expenses. This has required us to now consider further ways we can reduce expenses, such as additional staffing reductions. The reality is that just because we are a church does not mean we can defy economic gravity—we can only operate the ministries and programs our members and attenders provide the resources for. We simply cannot spend money we do not have; this is true for any church.
Please pray for your church as we make some tough, but needed, financial decisions. If you consider Mars Hill your church home, now is the time to pray, serve, and give. As we head into the Fall we need your support now more than ever, and we are trusting in Jesus to continue his good work through you and Mars Hill Church.
As always, you may can make a gift and manage your giving online at

Well, first of all, I would like to ask the executive elders if the budget was adjusted to allow the church to finish strong in June. Sources tell me that the budget had to be amended to reflect the lower giving. Second, there is finally an admission that giving and attendance are down. Two rounds of reductions have taken place.
The reason given is a window into the mindset of the leaders: “increase in negative media attention.” Thanks to their lead pastor, Mars Hill has always had negative media attention. However, now the decline is because that attention has increased, according to the executive elders. Could there be a reason for this season of increased negative media attention?
Hiring Mark DeMoss was certainly a nod to the need for help in the PR domain.  I will offer some additional pointers. To decrease negative media attention, follow these tips:
1. Don’t use church funds to manipulate literary best seller lists to make your pastor appear to be a best selling author.  In a related tip, don’t cover it up and threaten staff not to disclose this fact. Furthermore, when it is revealed, reduce the number of explanations from three to one that is accurate.
2. Advise the lead pastor to avoid offending people with vulgarities, name-calling and bullying.
3. Don’t spend dedicated funds meant for ministers in third world nations on nice facilities to expand the Mars Hill brand.
4. If you say you are raising money for a Jesus Festival, you should have a pretty big party.
5. Don’t ignore requests for information from media and members. When members want to see the bylaws or know where their money was spent, comply. When media ask for an accounting of how you spend money, disclose that information. Remember, it wasn’t your money and the information is in the public interest. Refusing to disclose looks like you are hiding something. It is not too late to follow this tip.
6. Don’t make technically correct, but misleading statements to the public and press. The press and the public are smart enough to see through that. Eventually even people who want to give you the benefit of the doubt will see through it.
7. Going forward, revamp the whole Board of Elders/BOAA thing. Most of the people who have been appointed to these positions are known vocal and financial supporters of Mark Driscoll. This will all come out soon. The verdict, if favorable to Driscoll, will invite another “increase in negative media attention.” For the sake of balance and fairness, you should appoint some of the nine elders who wrote you a letter to the group who will examine the charges against Rev. Driscoll. Another possibility is that everyone who has presided over the church during the season of increased negative media attention should step aside. The BOAA should change the bylaws to allow the current elders to elect new executives and get a fresh start. I suspect that would lead to a decrease in negative media attention.
I may think of some additional tips. I imagine that people who comment on this post will add some as well.
In short, be more transparent about what you are doing in the name of God. Mars Hill Church has become known for the mysteries it hides more so than for the mysteries of the Gospel it proclaims. This, brothers and sisters, should not be so.

Victoria Osteen: Don't do stuff for God (with more video spoofery)

(Scroll down for additional Osteen spoofs)
This is all over social media but in case you haven’t seen it, watch:
Others have added additional goofiness. For instance, Mark Driscoll might just lose it:
This one is almost too serious:
Osteen might cause a little ruckus at the office:
And (probably not) finally:
All of a sudden I just feel like singing some worship music:

Mars Hill Church updates members on Paul Tripp and new additions to Board of Advisors and Accountability

Mars Hill Church posted an update on replacements for the BOAA. As I reported earlier, Matt Rogers is joining the board. In addition Jon Phelps will join the board. I will have more to say about the addition of Mr. Phelps later. In addition, the church was provided the Mars Hill take on Paul Tripps comments.

Update on Paul Tripp & The BOAA

As we have shared before, Paul Tripp recently resigned his membership from our Board of Advisors and Accountability. To the best of our knowledge at the time, this was due to his intent in helping Mars Hill as a paid consultant.

Paul later released a statement, adding additional comments that he did not believe the structure of the Board that he joined was healthy, and that we should add accountability from local members of the church. Paul’s concerns were not made known to the Board as a whole before he resigned; however, we agree there is wisdom in adding local members to this board and we were already in the process of doing just that.

We have now become aware of new comments and concerns that Paul Tripp has voiced about Pastor Mark and Pastor Sutton within the last week to a small group of current elders at Mars Hill. These elders then posted these comments as a letter in an unsecure place, and the letter has since been posted online by various critics and media sources.

Paul Tripp’s comments to our elders were never made directly to the Board of Advisors and Accountability, as we have minutes of these meetings. We are deeply disappointed that Paul did not bring these concerns to our full Board or to the Executive Elders directly.

The concerns brought forth by these elders and the comments from Paul Tripp have been heard and are being taken seriously. Their letter, as with past letters voicing accusations toward Pastor Mark, will be processed in accordance with our bylaws. This means the accusations will be thoroughly examined and a report issued when the review is complete.

As for the Board of Advisors and Accountability we are pleased to announce that the vacancies created on the Board were filled with local members of our church who meet the ECFA guidelines for independence. Pastor Matt Rogers is a local Seattle business leader and has been serving as a volunteer elder at Mars Hill Church Bellevue. He will also serve as the Chairman of the Board of Elders which will provide increased accountability in areas of financial responsibility, staff and elder transitions and church culture. The other vacancy on the BOAA has been filled by John Phelps. John is a successful businessman and longtime member of Mars Hill. We are excited for these men to provide local perspective and accountability on our Board.

Phelps is well known as a longtime associate of Mark Driscoll’s and one of the more generous donors to Mars Hill. Independence in this case is a word with little meaning.