Conference on Faith and History: Historians and Social Media

Christian Historians and PublicsI plan some posts today from the Conference, although not in order of presentation.
I intend to blog this session so John Fea can’t post on it first. He is on the panel. I am pretty sure I will get this out first.
John Fea, Chris Gerhz, and Paul Putz are sitting on a panel where they are displaying their blogs and discussing their efforts on social media. John Fea was live tweeting it as it took place.
Jon Den Hartog is setting up the panel now and asking good questions. One, do Christian historians bring certain virtues to the discussion of history? Another question, what is the direction from here with historians and social media.
John’s model for blogging is the Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish. He started it to help promote his work, and it has become his online vita. Sunday night Odds and Ends has become a regular feature of the blog. Another is: So What Can You Do With a History Major?
John’s virtual office hours is a hit on the blog.  His blog has become a legitimate piece of his scholarly work with full support of Messiah college.
Is blogging scholarship? Not in the traditional manner, according to Fea. However, he says it is a form of public engagement and service.
Chris Gerhz is up now and is talking about his 3 years of blogging and his 5 (!) blogs. He also started blogging to extend his scholarly work and perhaps has written enough in 3 years to fill a book.
He has used a blog to assist with a class; and another to promote his department. He also promotes what history majors can do with their major. I think I need to start doing that with psychology majors. What can you do with a BA/BS in psychology? Might be short and repetitive but I might be surprised. Chris also runs a research oriented blog.
Writing History in the Digital Age is a book featured by Chris in his talk.
Chris learned to write via blogging, and thinks out loud about projects and topics of interest; blogging as “pre-argument.”
Now Paul Putz. Paul was a teacher and has become a historian. Paul was converted to become a historian via the Religion in American History blog. The power of blogging.
Social media takes up a lot of time and won’t make you an historian, Paul says, but it is a public expression of what he is doing as a grad student. Blogging gets his work out there where it could actually be read by other historians. My words, blogging is a high wire act; high risk, possibly high reward. Write something good and someone might notice.
As a graduate student, blogging allows Paul to join the online community of scholars and find community. I certainly agree with this point.
Paul’s paper is so good that I kind of missed the end of it. One of the cool exhortations was to promote other people with your blogging which is a good way to avoid fluffy self-preoccupation.
Now Jon Den Hartog is opening it up for questions.
Question: Should you put up content on the blog which will later be in a book? Will people buy it if they can get it on the blog. The panel members don’t do that with the exception of a book Fea did where he build chapters around some blog posts. I know from experience that the book is always going to be worth buying.
Lots of conversation about the meaning of online community ended the session.
Grove City College’s Gary Scott Smith chimes in with a question about writing op-eds and columns for major newspapers.  Way to represent GCC GSS! Most of the responses indicate that social media blends seamlessly into print media opportunities. I have certainly found this to be true.

Conference on Faith and History: Allen Guelzo on Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

Christian Historians and PublicsLast night I attended the opening address of the Conference on Faith and History with the keynote speech provided by Civil War historian Allen Guelzo. Guelzo gave an excellent talk on Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. He noted several misconceptions (for instance, Lincoln did not write the speech on the way to the ceremony honoring the dead at Gettysburg) and noted the inspiration for the content of Lincoln’s remarks. He presented numerous points but here are a few:

  • The Gettysburg address is almost “anorexic” in verbal expression with so much packed into 272 words.
  • The address marked the transition from classical speech in American politics to “middling” speech which was a more common form of oration.
  • Lincoln clearly declared the importance of those who died at Gettysburg as the guardians of democratic principles worth dying for. Democratic ideals survived at Gettysburg even as many soldiers did not.
  • We would not remember the elegance or importance of the address if the North had lost the war. If the South had won, the North might have faded into a “Scandinavian irrelevance.”
  • In his second inaugural address, Lincoln delivered a speech which recognized that the North and South had their “hands in the toilet over slavery.” Noting that Lincoln asserted that God’s judgment had been delivered on both sides, Guelzo referred to the end of Lincoln’s address:

Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Guelzo’s speech was worth the price of admission and was a wonderful beginning to the conference.

Is Mars Hill Church in Ballard Growing?

Last week, the Ballard (WA) News-Tribune posted an article with reaction to the recent closing of Mars Hill locations in downtown Seattle and the University district. Mars Hill leaders hope that the people who attended the closed locations will move to the Ballard campus. In describing that campus to the Ballard paper, church spokesperson Justin Dean is quoted as saying:

The Ballard church has been growing and is in a strong position to support those coming in from other churches.

I say “quoted as saying” because it is hard to believe he was quoted properly.*
I have comments from several Ballard attenders and former leaders who tell me that attendance at Ballard has followed the downward trend of the other locations. Reports are consistent that attendance has gone from about 1,100 adults/week a year ago to around 450 adults/week this September thus far.
I asked Justin Dean for comment and/or attendance figures, but have not received a reply. I will post any information I get.
I want to add that Dean again placed the blame for the recent declines on the leadership of the church.

“Some of our churches can no longer support the ongoing costs associated with their buildings and paid staff. We acknowledge that the reason for much of the decrease in attendance and giving falls to us, the leadership of Mars Hill,” said spokesperson for Mars Hill, Justin Dean.

This statement could be a positive sign. However, it is unclear what the leadership is owning. Perhaps, they believe they have done a lousy PR job. Or perhaps they acknowledge the validity of various concerns which former members and leaders have raised.
The question about growth at Ballard is a case in point. Is the statement a factual one with public disclosure coming to back it up? Or is it spin? Or is it an unfortunate misquote? Mars Hill Church can show positive movement by a transparent explanation or signal business as usual by allowing the disconnect between rhetoric and reality hang out there without comment.
*I realized after I posted this that my wording implies that the reporter may have been in error. I have been assured by the writer of the newspaper article that Dean was indeed quoted correctly. I can also add that I never heard from Dean.

Blogging from the Biennial Meeting of the Conference on Faith and History

Christian Historians and PublicsHeading out to Pepperdine University to attend the Conference on Faith and History. I will present a brief paper at the conference on faulty history in the public square.
Primarily I will draw on my experience taking on David Barton’s work, and the subsequent efforts to confront advocacy history among related religious right groups (e.g., National Religious Broadcasters, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family and others). Looking forward to speaking along with Fred Beuttler, Jon Wilsey in our session. Dwight Brautigam is the chair and Jon Boyd will provide reactions to the presentations.
The CFH describes itself as

…a community of scholars exploring the relationship between Christian faith and history. We welcome members from a variety of Christian traditions around the world. We also seek to learn from scholars outside the Christian tradition. Our primary goal is to encourage excellence in the theory and practice of history from the perspective of historic Christianity.

I intend to write some posts from the Conference. Watch John Fea’s blog as he will be doing the same thing.

Mark Driscoll: I Made The Mistake Of Trying To Be Under the Authority Of My Elders

In this video, Mark and Grace Driscoll acknowledge they made mistakes in ministry. What were those mistakes?
At 5:23 into the video, Driscoll makes revealing statements about his views of his elders. These opinions give insight into the changes in governance at Mars Hill since 2007. Watch and take note between 5:23 and  7:00 minutes.
Starting at around 5:37, Driscoll said:

…but I knew as a big personality and pretty intense so I wanted to be under authority, but I made a mistake of, how do I say this carefully; trying to be under the authority of my elders, but the truth is all my elders were new and young and green, and they would want to help, but they really didn’t know what they were talking about. And so what I should’ve had was a team of pastors outside of the church who were older and more seasoned who could, you know, help Grace and I put life together and also give me counsel on how to work on the church with the elders I had early on. They could work in the church but they couldn’t work on the church.

Shorter Mark Driscoll on why he made mistakes: Lord, its these elders you gave me.
Driscoll goes on to say that church planters shouldn’t believe that accountability will come from their first elder board. He wished he had older, seasoned pastors to guide him because sometimes the problems they needed to talk about were the elders. In jest, Driscoll said, “Ok, guys I want to talk about this hypothetical person I wanna kill” referring to his unnamed problematic elders.
Elsewhere Driscoll has said that Mars Hill Church was killing him due to stress. He claimed he had to make changes in governance in order to save his life and his marriage. Here we learn that Driscoll did not trust (agree with?) his elders and believed that being under their authority was a mistake. Since his elders were wrong and frustrating, he needed to go outside the church to find wiser people.
In light of these statements, the rationale behind the formation of the Board of Advisors and Accountability becomes clearer. However, there seems to be two messages here. The explicit message is that his elders were inexperienced and although they meant well, they were wrong about important matters. The other more subtle message is that his elders frustrated him because he was correct and they were wrong. They disagreed with Driscoll and so they became the problem. What Driscoll needed were outside people who knew what they were talking about. All of this assumes that Driscoll, himself young and green, knew what he was talking about.
In hindsight, Driscoll’s solution to his young and green elders has not worked out well. The Board of Advisors and Accountability now appears to be ineffective in keeping Driscoll and the church advised and accountable. However, one reason the BOAA may have faltered is due to the unwillingness of Driscoll and his colleagues to follow through on the purpose of the BOAA. According to former BOAA member Paul Tripp, the BOAA is incapable of being effective, saying

But it became clear to me that a distant, external accountability board can never work well because it isn’t a firsthand witness to the ongoing life and ministry of the church.

Such a board at best can provide financial accountability, but it will find it very difficult to provide the kind of hands-on spiritual direction and protection that every Christian pastor needs. Unwittingly what happens is that the external accountability board becomes an inadequate replacement for a biblically functioning internal elder board that is the way God designed his church to be lead and pastors to be guided and protected.

Everyone makes mistakes, but sometimes we are mistaken about what we call mistakes. Driscoll’s assessment of the situation is debatable. Did he make a mistake by throwing off the authority of his elder board and bringing outsiders in?  One interpretation of the current situation at Mars Hill is that the cure has been worse than the disease. In hindsight, perhaps Driscoll misdiagnosed the disease. He thought the problem was the elders; another possibility is that he, also young and green, should have listened to his elders board.

Additional Information:

In light of this post, Wenatchee the Hatchet reviewed the video and provides much evidence that calls Driscoll’s narrative into question. WtH brings back other sermons where Driscoll described himself as being under the authority of elders in the early days. Watch the video again and then read WtH’s post; hard to bring the two together.

For more on the changes at Mars Hill which reverberate to the present, see this post.

Megachurch Methods: Weekly Top Giver Lists at Mars Hill Church

I have attended Christian churches since high school. Never have I attended a church or even heard of one where the pastors and elders know what members donate to the church. I have been in leadership in three churches as a deacon or elder, I have never known what anyone else donates. Only the treasurer in these churches has that knowledge and it is carefully guarded. Church boards I have served on get monthly financial reports but these are only summaries; there is no means to know who gives what.
Thus, I was surprised to learn that Mars Hill Church leaders give lead and executive pastors at each campus a list of donors each week who give over one thousand dollars. There are also top 25 donor lists for the year; kind of a billboard chart for givers. I recently obtained several of these lists for the years 2011 – 2012. I don’t know if this is done in 2014, but pastors who left in 2013 say it was done then.
The images below don’t show much because I didn’t want to indicate any identifying information. The first one contains the “Top 25 Donors” at the Shoreline campus for most of 2011.
Each week, lead and executive pastors get reports of giving at each campus:
These  lists include total giving to all locations as well. I suppose those donors would be in the Hall of Fame. Although shadowy, I have heard that a small group of donors, called the Lucas Group, are called on when times are hard. Those at the top, including current Board of Advisors and Accountability member and owner of Seattle-based Storyville Coffee Jon Phelps, have helped keep Mars Hill afloat.
Perhaps other megachurches do this. To me, this practice invites the violation of impartiality (James 2*). Pastors and other leaders might give more attention to those who show up regularly on these lists. In fact, former pastors have told me that they were asked to give attention to regular donors and felt pressure to make a quota of giving for their campus.
One evidence of at least some special access is a letter from Bellevue pastor Thomas Hurst to potential donors regarding the goal of $40 million to purchase and renovate a property in Bellevue.
One former lay leader, Shawn Nickerson, left Mars Hill Church because he believed partiality was being shown to wealthy givers. Nickerson explained, “This practice is what made up my mind to leave after I was not heard out. There was blatant catering to the high dollar or potential high dollar donors” by pastors at his location. He added, “Wealthy families and couples were being invited out to dinner with the church leadership, while it was unheard of to even get a coffee date with my pastor,and I was in a senior lay position. We were definitely briefed to keep encouraging giving and it became a mantra.”
A former pastor told me that the executive elders hosted “vision breakfasts” for the top 25 donors. This practice continued until some pastors complained about the partiality. He added, “If you are one of the top givers across Mars Hill, you then get invited to the Lucas group and get to have special access and regular meetings with the executive elders.”
Sutton Turner wrote an article for The Resurgence website which make a sin of “reverse partiality.” In some universe, Turner believes that wealthy people are ignored at church and so pastors need to make an effort to reach out to them. Turner wrote:

When a pastor meets with someone who is poor or middle-class, we call it discipleship. When a pastor meets with someone who is rich, we call it partiality. This double standard leaves a portion of the church body without a shepherd, and these are men and women who often struggle mightily to find meaning and identity in Jesus rather than their possessions. It meant a great deal to me the first time my pastor sent me a text message to let me know he was praying for me.

We (whoever we are) would only call such meetings partiality if they are like the ones described by the former pastor and Shawn Nickerson – by invitation because of one’s wealth. This is one megachurch method that I hope is not widespread and if it is should be scrapped.
*James 2:1-4

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Mars Hill Phoenix Becomes Phoenix Bible Church

Earlier this month, Mars Hill Church announced the closing of their Phoenix campus. Now, some in the former Mars Hill location are promoting the creation of a new work called Phoenix Bible Church.

We believe that God has begun something very special through Mars Hill Phoenix. As things come to an end on September 28th, we want to explore next steps to continue as a church family and essentially start a new church out of what was Mars Hill Phoenix.Our first Sunday together would be October 5th. at a location to be determined.

It’s likely we may start out meeting in another church willing to let us use their facility on either Saturday night or Sunday afternoon.

One hopes some lessons were learned…

Memo: Mars Hill Church Staff Worried That Real Marriage Campaign Would Benefit Mark Driscoll More Than Church

According to the charges filed by the 21 former Mars Hill Church elders, Mark Driscoll told current elders in May 2014 that he was unaware of the details of the ResultSource agreement which artificially landed his book Real Marriage on the New York Times bestseller list. The former elders alleged:

May 2014—Mark told elders that he was not aware of the ResultSource agreement but had chosen to admit knowledge of it for the sake of the team in his letter to the church, and that others had made the decision to work with ResultSource. He claimed that another elder and Mark’s publishers made the decision to work with ResultSource without his knowledge. He insinuated that he had learned about the ResultSource agreement only after the story broke on World magazine. In fact, Mark agreed to work with ResultSource on the Best Seller Campaign for Real Marriage as early as July 2011.

What did Driscoll know and when did he know it? The letter to the church mentioned by the elders was sent by Driscoll via The City (Mars Hill’s closed web community) in March 2014. In it, Driscoll said:

First, a marketing company called ResultSource was used in conjunction with the book Real Marriage, which was released in January 2012. My understanding of the ResultSource marketing strategy was to maximize book sales, so that we could reach more people with the message and help grow our church. In retrospect, I no longer see it that way. Instead, I now see it as manipulating a book sales reporting system, which is wrong. I am sorry that I used this strategy, and will never use it again. I have also asked my publisher to not use the “#1 New York Times bestseller” status in future publications, and am working to remove this from past publications as well.

The wording of the statement makes it difficult to know when he became aware that the ResultSource scam was manipulative. Did he become aware of it after the story broke in World? Or sometime before that? Or did he know it all along? According to the former elders, Driscoll implied he didn’t know until after World broke the story. Since Driscoll is not talking to the media now, it is not possible to get his side of that story. However, there is evidence that Driscoll was warned about the nature of the ResultSource strategy before Sutton Turner signed the contract.
Regarding the July 2011 date mentioned by the former elders, I have seen an email which appears to support that date although I am not at liberty to print it. However, I have recently obtained an internal memo which indicates that Mars Hill staff were concerned about the Result Source agreement well before Sutton Turner signed the deal. The memo below provides additional evidence which supports the claim that Mark Driscoll was aware of the ramifications of the ResultSource strategy before the church leaders agreed to the terms of the contract. RMGiving1pager According to sources aware of the situation, the Mars Hill communications staff raised questions with the executive elders (Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas) about the wisdom of the ResultSource agreement prior to October 2011.  The above memo was written in September 2011, prior to the ResultSource contract dated October 13 and signed by Sutton Turner, apparently on October 17. In May 2014, I posted October 18, 2011 invoices from ResultSource which were addressed  to Mark Driscoll.
Driscoll told the church in March that he thought the ResultSource strategy would “reach more people with the message and help grow our church.” However, the memo above raised important questions regarding potential harm and loss which could result. The memo writer raised two important issues to the executive elders. Would the church lose money on the arrangement and is it acceptable for the church to pay retail price for Real Marriage when Driscoll could get them at a substantial discount and allow the church to sell them at a higher price.
The large giving campaign referred to in the memo above was launched on November 22, 2011 with a announcement to the church that Driscolls’ Real Marriage book could be secured via a $25 or more donation:
The pitch to the members is described at the bottom of the page (since removed by Mars Hill Church; this is an archived copy of the page) Give25getRMbookB The links (in tan letters) lead to This website was referred to in the Result Contract with Mars Hill: ResultSourceWebsiteRMB   That website is archived (November 19, 2011) and looked like this: ResultSourceRMBlanding
With this foundation, one can understand the concerns expressed in the memo more clearly. Real Marriage was being offered for a minimum price of $25. Since the books had to be purchased from retail outlets at the retail price ($20 or more)  in order for the books to show up in the New York Times sales count, the profit to Mars Hill Church was meager compared to what it would have been if Driscoll had exercised his option to purchase bulk quantities at a vast discount ($7).  Presumably, he made his usual royalty from the books purchased at retail. What is unknown is whether or not Driscoll donated any additional money from his royalties for the books sold in relationship to the entire campaign.
In light of this information, let’s review the worries expressed in the memo: RMMemoIsAcceptI have been told that the giving campaign did not achieve “sales” expectations. Successful or not, the campaign was set up pursuant to the ResultSource contract and managed by them. The campaign was set up to achieve Driscoll’s rise to the top of the NYT bestseller list and may have resulted in significant financial gain. The website said that purchasers were helping the ministry efforts of Mars Hill Church. Unknown to them, they were also helping Mark Driscoll get to #1 on the NYT bestseller list with all of the resulting benefits.
Finally, the memo implies that Driscoll was warned about the problems with running the ResultSource campaign through the church. The church Board of Advisors and Accountability spent money unwisely in order to benefit Mark Driscoll both via elevating his personal status and by purchasing books at retail price when those same books could easily have been secured at a substantial discount. While Driscoll said he was sorry he used the strategy, he has not directly addressed the financial consequences of the deal to the church. If the BOAA desires to repair lost trust now, I believe they need to issue a full accounting of money spent on the entire campaign, along with the resulting royalties, profits and losses.

A 2008 Caution About Mark Driscoll From Australia

Martin S.* is a Presbyterian pastor from Australia who attended a training put on by Acts 29 and Mark Driscoll in 2006. In response he wrote an article with a polite but clear warning about Driscoll to his fellow Presbyterian pastors. Given some of the charges, and discussion about eldership at Mars Hill, I thought this would be an revealing item to review. The article became a letter to the editor of the Australian Presbyterian magazine (Sept. 2008). Start reading at Uncultured Culture:
Not sure where “dude stuff” is in the NT criteria for the position of elder.
The initial submission is here, used with permission of Martin.
The charges filed by the 21 former pastors makes reference to an invasive interest in the conjugal lives of elders. Furthermore, the line “If you come after me, they won’t find your body” seems to depict the macho attitude toward elders described by the former and current elders.
*Martin preferred that his last name not be used in the write up.
Additional note: To address confusion about displaying the name of the author of the letter, I deleted the last name from the image of the Australian Presbyterian. Of course, his name is printed at the link.