Mars Hill Church Investigation: Some Charges Are Being Investigated And Some Are Not

Almost six weeks ago, Mark Driscoll told his congregation:

I have requested a break for processing, healing, and growth for a minimum of six weeks while the leadership assigned by our bylaws conduct a thorough examination of accusations against me. I believe their review can best be performed without me being in the pulpit or the office, and they have agreed to this arrangement.

As it turns out, the leadership assigned by the by-laws (Board of Advisors and Accountability) formed a committee of elders (Board of Elders) to investigate accusations presented by 21 former elders and 21 witnesses. In addition, nine then current elders (eight of whom resigned or were laid off) made allegations against the executive elders and the chair of the BOAA, Michael Van Skaik. What is going on with these allegations?
Some are being investigated and apparently some are not.
After a slow start, the formal charges presented by the former elders are being investigated. I contacted many of the former elders and asked for comment; those who replied wanted to remain anonymous. Generally, they said the interviews were being conducted by the Board of Elders. Some interviews have yet to be scheduled but the pace of discussions has quickened in recent days.  Given that there are interviews remaining, the investigation will not be completed by this Sunday, and probably not for another week or two. Thus, I doubt we will see Mark Driscoll in church on Sunday.
Some of the anonymous protected witnesses referred to by the 21 former Mars Hill pastors have dropped out of the process. Those I have spoken with tell me that the interviews did not feel safe. They were concerned about their identities being revealed to those outside the investigation process. Others felt that the process was a sham. Elevating Matt Rogers and Jon Phelps to the BOAA was viewed as stacking the deck in Driscoll’s favor since they are not perceived as being independent. One protected witness told me that the executive elders and BOAA have heard the charges in times past but did not take them seriously. This person believed the leadership is giving appearance of a serious investigation because the charges became public.
On the other hand, the letter written by nine then-current pastors has not been acted upon. In that letter, various allegations were lodged against Driscoll and other members of the executive elders and BOAA. In that letter, Paul Tripp was cited as saying that Mars Hill was “the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.” However, despite the fact that the lead pastors told the congregation that the letter would be “taken seriously,” no further action, serious or otherwise, has been taken. In late August, the Mars Hill lead pastors told the congregation:

Despite the way the letter was sent out, please know we take its contents very seriously and will be taking the appropriate actions to honor Jesus, address the allegations and concerns, and work toward becoming a healthy church.

Furthermore, Mark DeMoss, speaking on behalf of Mars Hill Church told Religion News Service that the letter would be handled in the same manner as the formal charges:

This letter, as with past letters voicing accusations toward Mark Driscoll will be processed in accordance with Article 12 of the church’s bylaws,” a statement provided by public relations firm head Mark DeMoss said. “This means the accusations will be thoroughly examined and a report issued when the review is complete. In the meantime, it does not seem appropriate to comment on specific accusations before/while they are being formally reviewed as we don’t want to circumvent the process prescribed by the governing body of Mars Hill.”

However, according to former pastors I spoke with, none of the concerns or allegations have been investigated or addressed. They have not been contacted about the letter since their last days at the church. One told me that the lead pastors’ response might have been a “public relations” effort to change the subject. Despite promises from lead pastors and a church spokesman, nothing has happened on that front.
In response to my question about the status of the investigation, including the letter sent by the nine then-current elders, Justin Dean responded on behalf of Mars Hill Church:

As our Board of Elders shared in The Weekly on 9/12/14, we do not expect to have any updates on the review process until it is complete.

“While Pastor Mark continues to take a break to focus on his personal growth and family, our Board of Elders is conducting a formal review of allegations that have been presented against him. This board has completed many interviews already with more scheduled, but they also anticipate that this review will take a number of weeks to complete. Until such time as they issue their report, they do not anticipate commenting on the allegations while they are being reviewed. We want to be sensitive to the process and allow the board and the Holy Spirit to work. Earlier this week Pastor Alex Ghioni released a blog post that we hope provides more clarity on the process this board is taking. We encourage you to read that post here.”

Mars Hill Church and Mars Hill Go: Still No Financial Transparency

Today, Mars Hill Church rebranded Mars Hill Global by calling their missionary efforts Mars Hill Go. However, the revised Mars Hill Global/Go Frequently Asked Questions page still does not answer one of the most frequently asked questions — how much has Mars Hill Church spent on mission efforts in India and Ethiopia? From the FAQ page:

Where have past gifts been used?

During fiscal years 2009-2014, over $10MM dollars has been given to Mars Hill Church by the Mars Hill Global Family. During that same time period $22.48MM has been spent on church planting in the US, India and Ethiopia. In 2009-11 over 80% of funds given by the Mars Hill global family went to Acts 29 church planting and funds were consistently spent in India for church planting in each of those years. In 2012- 2014 expenditures for church planting efforts in India and Ethiopia were increased with the preponderance of expenses related to church plants and replants in the U.S.

This remains the same as when the FAQ was about Global. The period of interest is 2012-2014. The church knows what they spent on missions but they won’t release the numbers. The memo posted yesterday indicated that the plan was to fund “highly visible” mission projects costing about $120,000 per year. Given what the church claims to have done, I estimate they may have spent a little more than that. However, why not tell the church and the “Global family” how much they spent and where they spent it? The leaders revised the FAQ page today, but again failed to include the figures which would address how they handled the donations. Why not be transparent?

In 2012, Sutton Turner told the executive elders Mark Driscoll and Dave Bruskas that churches should be transparent:

It is my belief that the reason we have such poor giving by our Church is the lack of stewardship in the Church staff. Churches with excellent stewardship see greater giving because people know that every dollar they give will go towards the mission of the Church. It is very clear this has not been the case at Mars Hill Church.

What was true then is still true today.

Mars Hill Global Becomes Mars Hill Go

Mars Hill Global is now Mars Hill Go.
From the Mars Hill Church website:

Today we are making some changes to Mars Hill Global, and introducing Mars Hill GO.


A ministry of Mars Hill that supports churches and church planters around the world.
“And [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” – Mark 16:15
The mission of Mars Hill Church is to make disciples and plant churches. The mission Jesus called us to not only requires that we share the gospel with family, friends, and neighbors in the communities in which we live, but also with those around the world. Jesus called us to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel.”
GO is a ministry of Mars Hill Church that supports churches and church planters around the world. We work with in-country partners to train pastors and plant churches in Ethiopia, where we support 40 church planters, and in India, where we support 33 church planters. In addition, we distribute Bibles and translate resources so that people from more cultures can have access to solid Bible teaching.

We are excited to launch a new page at that features the stories of God’s people who’ve answered the call to GO. All content related to our international church-planting efforts will now be featured on this page, and no longer at


We understand that communications around Mars Hill Global have been confusing in the past, so we have updated the content featured on, and moved other content to the new page. In addition to online services, and on demand content, Mars Hill Global will now feature stories from and about our Global Family.

By confusing, could the church be referring to this memo?

So Mars Hill Go is the mission activities and Mars Hill Global is the group of people who listen in but aren’t members (“our Global Family”).

The Mars Hill Global/Go FAQs has also been modified:

What is Mars Hill GO?

The mission of Mars Hill Church is to make disciples and plant churches. The mission Jesus called us to not only requires that we share the gospel with family, friends, and neighbors in the communities in which we live, but also with those around the world. Jesus called us to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel. (Mark 16:15)”

GO is a ministry of Mars Hill Church that supports churches and church planters around the world. We work with in-country partners to train pastors and plant churches in Ethiopia, where we support 40 church planters, and in India, where we support 33 church planters. In addition, we distribute Bibles and translate resources so that people from more cultures can have access to solid Bible teaching. features the stories of God’s people who’ve answered the call to GO and information about our international church-planting efforts.

In the past this content was featured on our Global page, but is now on the GO page to reduce confusion.

Can you now give to missions directly? Sorry no.

Can I designate my current gifts towards international mission efforts?

To better support Jesus’ mission and to allow us to effectively and efficiently steward the resources that God has provided us, we encourage all donors to send in their gifts unrestricted so that we can apply them where they are needed most. We believe scripture clearly calls us to be on Jesus’ mission, whether here in the U.S. or in other countries.

As such, every donation is a contribution towards our efforts to carry out His mission, here in the US as well as India, Ethiopia, and around the world. Your support means more people are saved by Jesus Christ, more people are growing as disciples of Jesus, and more churches are being planted, no matter the location. If you’d still like information on sponsoring specific needs and projects, please contact [email protected].

Updated 10/2/14

Please note that prior to May 2014, Mars Hill provided a link to the Global Fund on their giving page. People thought they were giving to support global missions via that fund with no explanation about where the money was going.

Nothing much has changed except the name. Mars Hill will still support a few “highly visible” mission projects but money given with mission projects in mind might still end up paying for current expenses or some other general fund expense.

To better understand this post, please see yesterday’s post on Mars Hill Global. I am not sure that this rebranding is going to adequately address the outrage generated by the memo posted yesterday.

No more MH Global on Twitter:


Mars Hill Global Fund: Help the Helpless or Use the Helpless?

In all my coverage of the Mars Hill Church Global Fund, two questions have not been fully answered: What was the purpose of the Global Fund? and How much was spent on missions from the money donated to the Global Fund? I have recently obtained a Mars Hill memo that addresses those questions. Although complete answers are not provided, an examination of this memo allows some insight into how the Global Fund functioned at Mars Hill. Apparently, at least during some of the time when the Global Fund was an option for member giving, church leaders used the Fund to offset accusations that Mars Hill Church did not sponsor international missions. Even though very little was planned for missions, the branding of Mars Hill Global was used to burnish the church’s reputation.
The purpose statement in the November 2011 memo below is almost identical to another November 2011 memo I posted in early May of this year which signaled a change of focus for Mars Hill Global. Previously, Mars Hill Global supported Acts 29, The Resurgence and Mars Hill church planting. However, in November 2011, Mars Hill Global was transitioned into a platform for international outreach. In this way, Mars Hill Church could wake the giving potential of a “sleeping giant” of donors around the world (e.g., visitors to the website and people who listened to Mark Driscoll’s sermons via podcast). The memo below discusses the Global Fund and how donations to it would be used. In that sense, this memo is a companion to the one I obtained in May.
From mid-2012 to May 2014, Mars Hill Global emerged as Mars Hill Church’s international mission outreach with concentrated efforts in Ethiopia and India. I have contended that the marketing created the perception that donations would be spent in those countries. Earlier this year, Mars Hill Church admitted that confusion existed and agreed to spend donations on international missions if Global donors contacted the church with that specific request. The memo below suggests that there was a plan to brand Global as an international outreach but spend most of the money elsewhere.
There are several portions of the memo I want to highlight.

Global Focus
The vision and activities connected to the Global Fund must focus on reaching the worldwide church. As a person sits in front of his computer in Qatar, London, Cape Town, or Sydney, he does not care about Mars Hill planting in Everett. As an international citizen, however, he cares greatly about global evangelism, global missions, global causes for Jesus, global church-planting, etc. Though the sentiment is rare among Americans, people abroad feel a sense belonging and kinship with the global community.

This statement appears to vindicate the perception that the church was aware that global donors wanted to support global projects. However, “the preponderance” of the funds (to quote the Mars Hill Global FAQs) went to Mars Hill Church locations in the U.S. In fact, some of those donations went to Everett.

Flagship Projects
Of the money that comes into the Global Fund, designate a fixed percentage internally for highly visible, marketable projects such as mission trips, orphan care, support for pastors and missionaries in the third world, etc. (ten to fifteen strategic operations in locations where Mars Hill wants to be long term). This percentage should be flexible (not a “tithe”), and not communicated to the public. Support for Mars Hill Global would be support for Mars Hill Church in general, but the difference and the draw would be that a portion of Global gifts would also benefit projects that spread the gospel and serve the needs of people around the world.

It appears that Mars Hill leaders planned to market Mars Hill Global as a mission outreach as a means of raising money for other projects. However, the plan did not include public disclosure of how much money would actually be spent on “highly visible, marketable projects.” We get a little insight into this later in the memo. Two examples of those “highly visible” projects include the Amharic Bibles donated to church planters in Ethiopia and the Ethiopian pastors’ conference in August 2013.

Podcast Commercials
Every podcast would begin with a 10-second spot from Pastor Mark, inviting people to come on mission with Mars Hill Global to spread the gospel and help the helpless. This message would promote the Mars Hill Global giving website.

Eventually, these commercials featured Sutton Turner in Ethiopia at the beginning of the sermons and a narrated commercial at the end of the sermon video (e.g., this sermon: watch the first 1:49 and then the last 22 seconds of the sermon). Mars Hill Church has much content on their Global site and You Tube where Indian and Ethiopian people are shown as recipients of Global funds. However, we now know that very little of the money donated was sent to “help the helpless.”
Under the heading of “Benefits,” the memo outlined how “the helpless” could help Mars Hill Church:

The Global Fund could be beneficial in a number of ways, besides the obvious gain of increased funding:
• For a relatively low cost (e.g. $10K/month), supporting a few missionaries and benevolence projects would serve to deflect criticism, increase goodwill, and create opportunities to influence and learn from other ministries.
• Many small churches who may consider joining Mars Hill hesitate because they do not believe we support “missions.” While we need to continue to challenge the assumptions underlying a claim, the Global Fund would serve as a simple, easy way to deflate such criticism and help lead change in these congregations.
• The ability to communicate and interact with supporters of Mars Hill Global provides an avenue for promoting events, recruiting leaders, and developing Mars Hill core groups in strategic cities.

This cost-benefit analysis strikes me as an illustration of exploiting the helpless rather than helping them. Look at the benefits to the church; for a low cost (about $12o,000/year), the church can look like they strongly (“highly visible”) support international missions. The leaders hoped to deflect criticism that Mars Hill did not support missions, even though the amount actually envisioned for international projects was trivial compared to the amount raised (over $2 million in FY 2013).
As we now know, most Global Fund money went to support Mars Hill expansion — which was the plan all along — without any plans to tell donors how their funds were being spent.
I contend that Mars Hill Church owes the public an explanation and Ethiopian and Indian church planters a lot of money.