Sutton Turner’s Last Day at Mars Hill Church

If the Board of Advisors and Accountability announcement is accurate, today is Sutton Turner’s last day at Mars Hill Church. On September 19, the BOAA told the church:

Earlier this month Pastor Sutton Turner informed our board of his intention to resign from his current staff and elder position. His personal decision is a sober acknowledgement that it would not be financially feasible for him to stay on staff as the church rightsizes itself, and secondly, not emotionally prudent to subject his family to what has been an ongoing season of personal attacks. We want to be clear: there are no disqualifying factors related to his decision.

Although there were rich days during his time at the church, Turner leaves the church where he came to it: in financial crisis. In 2012, Turner revealed to his fellow executive elders and lead pastors that the church, financially speaking, was “in a big mess.” Today, I reported that Mars Hill Church’s chief financial officer Kerry Dodd said the church is in “the most trying circumstances in our church’s history.” Layoffs and location closings preceded Turner’s announcement.

Turner has already removed references to Mars Hill Church from his Linked In profile, writing instead that he worked for a “non-profit organization.”
Turner leaves a gap on the executive elder board with no public announcement about how that vacancy will be filled. As the chief operating officer of Mars Hill, Turner oversaw the day to day operations. It is not clear who is doing that at present.


Conference on Faith and History: Taking It To The Streets: Engaging Bad History In Public

Christian Historians and PublicsI just returned from the Conference on Faith and History which was held at Pepperdine University from September 24-28. On Saturday, I presented a paper as part of a panel titled, Professors, Prisoners, and the Polls: Engaging the Past in the Public Square. The session was chaired by Dwight Brautigam, Huntington University. Other papers given were: “In God We Trust”: Teaching Faith In and Through the U.S. Capitol, by Fred Beuttler, Carroll University and former Deputy Historian for the U.S. House of Representatives, and Teaching History Behind Bars: The Public Platform of a Texas Maximum Security Prison, presented by John Wilsey, professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The featured commenter was Jonathan Boyd, InterVarsity Press.
The abstract is below, the full paper is at the link.

David Barton is a popular Christian writer who specializes in making a public case that America is a Christian nation. Immensely popular with conservative Christians, Barton distorts historical events to support conservative political positions in the present day. Up until recently, left-leaning and progressive critics have led the way in calling out Barton’s historical errors in the public square.
However, in 2012, David Barton published a book on Thomas Jefferson that generated much public reaction, most of it critical, from Christian scholars. Along with co-author Michael Coulter, I published a book length critique of Barton’s work on Jefferson. Eventually, publisher Thomas Nelson listened to the critics and pulled Barton’s book from publication.
This episode was unprecedented in that a Christian publisher pulled a New York Times bestselling book due to vocal public complaints from Christian scholars. What can be learned from this situation?
I take the position that Christian historians and other scholars should engage their brethren in critical scholarship when other avenues have not brought resolution. Myth-busting in this situation can serve the Kingdom and our vocation by placing a quest for truth above narrow in group interests. In-group pressures are often so strong that no real change will occur if those within the Christian community do not raise issues publicly.

Read the entire paper.
Read all posts on the Conference on Faith and History.

Collective Soul – Shine

One of Collective Soul’s best songs. Huge sound with mysterious lyrics most can relate to.
Give me a word
Give me a sign
Show me where to look
Tell me what will I find
Lay me on the ground
Fly me in the sky
Show me where to look
Tell me what will I find
Oh, heaven let your light shine down

Mars Hill Church Financial Update August 2014 – "The Most Trying Circumstances in Our Church's History"

The following August 2014 financial update was sent to members of the Mars Hill Church in Albuquerque, NM. Discussion to follow:
This particular letter is specific to the Albuquerque church but gives information about the church as a whole. August giving was under budget:

During the month of August, we received $1,552, 817 and expenses were $2,222,274, so our net over expenses (loss) after depreciation and capitalizing assets was ($647,768). Our income target was $1,842,414 and we missed this target by almost 16%. The average giving per adult attendee per week dropped in August to $39.08 from $44.16 in July.

Reports from insiders are that September’s giving has been much worse church wide. According to this letter, Mars Hill’s CFO Kerry Dodd expects another loss in September. The memo projects some optimism that current giving will level out and return October to more positive territory but, according to my sources, giving is down again in September. Also, they will begin paying Sutton Turner’s severance in October. On the upside for Mars Hill, Albuquerque bucked the trend by coming in with higher than projected giving numbers.


–          Tithes were $104,120 which was 141% of the $73,757 budget for August.

This appears to be a more candid approach for Mars Hill and I suspect leaders at each campus received one regarding their location.

Justin Dean Clarifies His Statement About Growth at Mars Hill Ballard

I posted last week a statement Mars Hill Church spokesman Justin Dean made to the Ballard News-Tribune about Mars Hill Ballard. He told the paper that the church was growing and I wondered how that could be based on reports from those who attend there.

Some of those comments were posted at the Ballard News-Tribune. Go read those at this link. Now in an update to the article, Dean explains:

Dean contacted the BNT today to clarify what he meant in his statement he emailed to the BNT on September 10.

“As there has been some confusion around my statement I’d like to provide some clarification. … While our Ballard church has seen recent growth, particularly as families return to church while being absent over summer months, the reality is the Ballard church is currently much smaller than it was a year ago. We do believe Mars Hill Ballard is in a solid financial position and has a great leadership team in place to effectively care for the additional people they will take in from U-District and Downtown Seattle,” wrote Dean.

Readers can assess that one. Is a church growing if attendance picks up for one Sunday or people start doing what they stopped doing due to vacation? At least he acknowledges the declines.

A little later in the statement above, there is another head scratcher. Ballard is in a solid financial position? Ballard is a location, not a separate church. If Mars Hill is facing the worst budget crisis in church history how can Ballard be solid?