Decision Day for Michael Peroutka and Republicans in Maryland Tomorrow

A lot of important elections tomorrow. One I have been following is Michael Peroutka’s bid to gain a seat on Anne Arundel County’s county council. Peroutka is the subject of an election eve article in The American Prospect. The article asks if a neo-Confederate, theocrat can get elected in one of the richest U.S. counties. Good question; we’ll soon find out.
Peroutka, who doesn’t believe in civil rights or public schools but deceives the public about having one of his Constitution clubs in the public schools he dislikes, might win. Even though he was a defender of the white separatist League of the South until recently, and according to a source who does not want to be named, still supports the League financially, Peroutka might garner enough votes to defeat his Democrat challenger.
No matter how you look at it, a Peroutka win would be a disaster for the GOP.

Dave Bruskas to Become Interim Preaching Pastor at Bellevue Church

Looks like Bellevue Church wants to be the Mars Hill legacy church. This just came out:

On Becoming a New Church
From Pastor Matt Rogers:

Yesterday we honored Thomas Hurst who made the decision to step aside as the Lead Pastor of the Bellevue church. We also touched on the future for our church family and where we believe the Lord is leading us. As your elders look toward a new beginning, we have tremendous hope and confidence that a great future is ahead for us as we proclaim and live the gospel of Jesus Christ together as a church family!

Pastor Thomas and Angela have walked through incredibly difficult trials of cancer and losing a son while being faithful examples of trusting the Lord in suffering. They have poured themselves out for this church family in the midst of those trials because they love you and they love Jesus very much. The Hurst family will continue as members of our church as they pray through what God has for them in the future. Pastor Thomas has been great pastor, a great friend and a great encouragement to us. Please take a moment to send Thomas and Angela a note of thanks and keep them in your prayers. As his last official act as Lead Pastor Thomas declared himself the head of our Greeting team, his first day in his new position will be this coming Sunday!

A New Eastside Church

As Pastor Dave shared last week Mars Hill will transition to fully independent locally governed churches January 2015. Based on overwhelmingly strong support from leaders across our Bellevue church your elders are committed that Mars Hill Bellevue will become one of these new churches on January 1 2015.

We have been through too much together not to stay together.

We have celebrated hundreds of people meeting Jesus and being baptized, we have grown as disciples of Jesus Christ, we have walked through very difficult trials—together as a church family. The greatest fruit in our relationships comes over time, staying together, growing together, and seeing more of Jesus together.

Bellevue is a large financially healthy church and we have every reason to believe we can be a healthy and strong church based on the Eastside for many years to come. Pastor Dave Bruskas has agreed to serve as our interim preaching pastor here in Bellevue while we search for a permanent Lead Pastor. This Bellevue church is known around the world for the way you have served and loved one another and the broader church of Jesus Christ. We have already been contacted by several highly gifted and qualified pastors. We are committed to continuing bold Bible preaching that lifts up the gospel as Jesus Christ as the great hope for our city and the world.

Some Things Will Never Change

As a new independent church some things will be different. All ministry direction, production, staffing, and governance will be done together as a local church. We are establishing a new 501©3 corporate entity, creating new bylaws, selecting a new name, establishing a new structure and setting up new financial accounts. With all of us working together we will bring the best of Mars Hill while learning from our past to build a great new church.

After discussing a transition with dozens of leaders around the church you have our commitment that some things will never change. Your elders are absolutely committed to ensuring we are under Bible focused preaching that boldly proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ. We will never compromise the truth of God’s word, and we will serve our good King with excellence!

For the next few weeks we will be seeking input from leaders from around the church, working through transition details, and look forward to having a lot more to share with you at our first Vision Meeting Sunday November 16 at 12:30.

This morning I woke up thinking about Ephesians 3:20-21 and believe this is an important reminder for our church family. In the last several months the Lord has brought much repentance, much growth and we are stronger and more dependent on Jesus than we have ever been. I am grateful for that work in my own life and in the hearts of the people in this church. He has used all of this for his glory and our good to make us into a church more reflective of our savior.

Together let’s proceed forward with confidence that the gospel will continue to change lives in this city and this church! Let’s pray to celebrate thousands more people meeting Jesus, to dedicate our lives to the forward progress of that gospel and growing together as disciples of Jesus Christ! Please be praying, please dream big about what God will do and let’s join together to build a new church with our hope firmly rooted in our savior Jesus Christ!

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

(Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)

For more on Thomas Hurst’s resignation, see this.

How long before Mark Driscoll comes back as a guest speaker?

Mars Hill Church Elders Post Letter of Confession to Bent Meyer and Paul Petry

Pastors who voted to disqualify Paul Petry and Bent Meyer as elders have issued a statement of confession and repentance (UPDATE: the former website has been taken down. You can read it via the Wayback Machine). It begins:

Dear Paul and Bent, we want to publicly confess our sin against you regarding events that took place at Mars Hill Church back in 2007. We were wrong. We harmed you. You have lived with the pain of that for many years. As some of us have come to each of you privately, you have extended grace and forgiveness, and for that we thank you. Because our sin against you happened in a public way and with public consequences, we want to make our confession public as well with this letter.

More commentary to come but really it speaks for itself.
Note: The title has been changed twice to better reflect the actual events of 2007.

Mars Hill Tacoma to Become Independent Pending Bank Approval; Will The Leaders Open the Books?

According to this Tacoma News Tribune article, the Mars Hill location in Tacoma plans to pursue independent status. If the bank doesn’t approve them for a take over of the loan on the building, the congregation will seek a new location.
Lead pastor Bubba Jennings is supposed to meet with officials of the credit union which financed the building on November 18 to learn if the congregation can keep the building they meet in now.
Jennings told the congregation to keep attending and giving because the bank will evaluate those metrics in order to decide whether or not to transfer the note.
More of the same top down approach seems to be the order of the day. Jennings announced that he will tell the congregation what the new name of the church will be.
Tacoma becoming independent does not surprise me, but there are red flags for potential members in this announcement.
First, Jennings doesn’t know how much money the loan will be. He is talking about placing the congregation on the hook for a large amount of money to maintain their building without knowing the terms.  Second, there is only one fund to give money to now at Mars Hill – The General Fund. I would not give anything unless I thought it would go to the local branch. Current Mars Hill leaders have a track record of using the donations in questionable ways which should make potential donors skeptical of the claims that giving is needed to help locations become independent. Without full disclosure, how would anyone know that the donations are not going to pay executive pastors’ (Driscoll, Turner, and Bruskas) severance pay? In the past, church leaders have told the congregation that donations would go to Ethiopian and India church planters, yet very little money ended up there. Also, the leaders used a “Jesus Festival” to bring in dollars but no such festival was ever held.
Bottom line, unless current church leaders come glean on the Driscoll’s investigation, the Global Fund, Jesus Festival, year end giving campaigns, and pastors’ compensation and severance packages, I don’t think the current leaders have earned trust. Failing to address these issues is deliberate. Too many public calls have gone out to open the books for the leaders to say they are unaware of the need for disclosure.

Mars Hill Bellevue Pastor Thomas Hurst Resigns

During the 10:30 am service this morning, lead pastor Thomas Hurst announced his resignation. It was announced that Hurst wanted a break from ministry saying that today was his last day as pastor. Hurst then told the congregation that he wanted to be the guy to lead the new Bellevue Church but that he is tired and just can’t do it. The Hursts don’t plan to leave the church as members but Thomas is going to step aside as pastor. Hurst said the church leadership is looking to find somebody to preach the Bible for the new church.
Hurst is listed as a member of the new Bellevue Church board which will take over for the closing Mars Hill Bellevue campus.

Open Letter to Gateway Pastor Robert Morris From a Former Member of Mars Hill Church

I have a few comments at the end…
Dear Robert Morris, Senior Pastor at Gateway Church in Dallas,
I believe you owe the folks who have ever loved Mars Hill Church an apology.  Or two.
I watched a Youtube clip of the Gateway Conference in Dallas from a couple weeks ago where you made a little speech about how we ought to think about and behave towards Mark Driscoll.  That clip is here.
Robert, I would give you a pass if you were a young pastor.  But you’re not.  You lead the 3rd largest church in the U.S. it appears.  And to make matters worse, your comment was in front of leaders at the Gateway Conference, who came to you looking for teaching (and modeling) on how to lead.  Plus, it was posted to the internet, where 100,000 folks have viewed it so far.
My honest reaction?  The whole clip made me throw up in my mouth a little.
So what is my beef with what you said?  I have two main issues:

  • You implied that Mark’s troubles primarily stem from bad media and mistakes, not sin.

Your statements on the video were (and I quote):
“I want you to know that everything you read on the internet is not true.”
“most of what you read is not true.  some of it is, he did make some mistakes”
“When I say he made some mistakes, he preached for 10-12 years, 50 weeks a year, sometimes 6 services a weekend.  Its just not healthy.  I’m glad that he’s saying ‘help me, help me learn to do it differently.”
“here’s what i figure:  we’ve got two choices. one is we could crucify him, but since someones already been crucified for him (big applause).  the other choice is we could restore him with a spirit of gentleness, considering ourselves lest we are also tempted.”
“its very sad, that in the church, we’re the only army that shoots at our wounded.  and i want you to stop it.”
“we invited Mark and Steve (Furtick) and they both got bad media this year (camera shot of the two shaking hands while you laugh).  it is surprising that we believe so quickly what we read about a brother in Christ whom we’ve never even met.”
What is wrong with this?
Let me lead with a bible verse on this:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.  James 3:1
Robert, you are an experienced Bible teacher, holding the office of pastor and therefore held to a higher standard than the average person yammering on Facebook.   Where are you getting your information about what is and isn’t true about Mark’s tenure at Mars Hill?   His own board of elders and the pastors at his church presented him with a restoration plan after an exhaustive investigation.   You can read about it here.   In fact, the logical conclusion of these findings is that Mark has disqualified himself as an elder once he walked away from Mars Hill,  until he comes back and goes through a process of repentance and restoration.  You can read more about that here, from a current Mars Hill pastor.
Robert, the first thing I suggest you need to publicly apologize for is being reckless in how you handled the truth in your teaching on the topic of Mark Driscoll.  Yes, I agree you can’t believe everything you read on the internet or hear from the media.  But sometimes a person gets bad media because they deserve it, yes?   Before you spoke to thousands of leaders about the Mark Driscoll situation publicly (and tens of thousands more on the internet) the office you hold should have compelled you to personally talk to the Mars Hill elders and see why Mark was being asked to engage in a restoration plan.
When you labeled Mark’s behaviors as “mistakes’ you undermined the literally hundreds of hours work of the leaders chosen by God to oversee Mark’s behavior in Seattle and in my view, put yourself on the opposite side of the issue from God.  That is correct, I am saying that God was clearly speaking through Mark’s elders at Mars Hill when they presented him with a restoration plan…and when you ignored that with your comments, you opposed God.
You made it sound as if Mark was in a job interview and was asked “so what’s your biggest weakness?” (best answer? “oh, i care too much and work too hard”).  In other words, Mark made the mistake of working too hard and you are going to help him with that.  Did you think we in Seattle hadn’t noticed Marks preaching frequency? (by the way, its been a long time since Mark has been preaching that much.  We’ve heard the adrenal fatigue story for many years now.  Marks ‘mistakes’ are much, much more recent than that).
Those of us at Mark Driscoll Ground Zero are sensing a general pattern.  Marks behavior catches up with him; Mark blames others.  I have often said to my wife after listening to Marks’ explanations of what is wrong, that if our kids came to us when they were little with the tales he tells I would ask them to go back to their rooms and think about it until they were really ready to take responsibility.  Your comments disrespect the years of love and work and prayer that others have put into trying to make things right at Mars Hill.  You in short said, “Hey Mars Hill, don’t you know that Mark is being unfairly persecuted by the media, by internet trolls, by judgmental Christians?  Here, let me set you straight.”   Can you see how that sounds presumptuous?
Mark is in trouble because Mark sinned.  Not because he just made mistakes (though he made those too).  If you want to know how he sinned, ask the elders who investigated.  Ask the 21 former Mars Hill pastors who he has still not reconciled with. Ask the 9 pastors/elders who spoke out (and most of whom lost their jobs).  Ask Matt Chandler and those at Acts 29.  Ask about the Real Marriage book debacle.   Ask about the the poor in Ethiopia who got a small fraction of what they were due from the Global Fund money that donors thought was going direct to them,  while the rest went to other Mars Hill enterprises (though the money was restricted funds and could not legitimately be used that way) including to Mark’s apparent $500K-$600K+ annual salary (plus of course a $200K housing allowance on top of that for total compensation of $700-800K per year).  Do you think God likes people living on dollars a day in Ethiopia to be shortchanged so Mark can get a raise? (let me be clear; I am not saying that stealing from Ethiopian’s was Mark’s motive.  I am saying that was the consequence of a series of events that occurred under his watch, for which he is ultimately accountable as the leader).
When we at Mars Hill church were asked to dig deep and give in 2012, and were told by Executive Elder Sutton Turner that Mars Hill was financially in a ‘big mess’, Mark Driscoll that same year received a raise from $365K to $503K.  Does something not seem ‘off’ to you about that series of events?
How does it happen to be that when the dust settles from this Epic Fail, Mark is a millionaire with an estate in Woodway from his time at Mars Hill while the others that are left to clean up the mess are without jobs or churches?   What is wrong with that picture?
You are not disqualified as an elder for ‘making a mistake’ or being vilified by the media.  S-I-N is the problem.  And Robert I believe you have unknowingly poured more gas on that fire by saying what you did and giving Mark a platform and a mic to continue on with his stories.  I will use your own words from the video:  “Please stop.”
Robert, you presume when you imply that those of us at Mars Hill have quickly judged (or are ‘crucifying’ him in your words) Mark in these matters based on a  few internet blog posts or media reports.  Many people have given the best years of their lives at Mars Hill.  Most everyone who has ever been involved with Mars Hill is accustomed to taking heat, defending the church in small ways with friends, family, outsiders. For YEARS we have  patiently defended Mark’s behavior.
We have not been blind to Marks tendencies, but we have extended him charity (rope?) as we should have, trusting Jesus to work with his willing heart in transformation, a path we all travel.  Instead it appears he, with his stubborn refusal to accept a restoration plan from God, has  hung himself with that rope we intended as a lifeline and trampled on that charity.  Even when Marks behavior has been challenged (and there are many examples, many, including those noted in this letter) Mars Hill top leaders (modeled by Mark) were expert in dismissing those who challenged them; Steve Tompkins, Mars Hill pastor, bravely names this sin now as “ad hominem’ in his open letter .
Mark is making more than just ‘mistakes’, and its not just from working too hard.  I agree with you that Jesus is the answer. I thank God that He was crucified for us and all our sins.  Mine, yours, Marks.  Jesus wants the Kingdom of God to reign, here in this situation and in every situation.   Jesus says:  “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15.   Jesus marries repentance with the Kingdom coming.  This is all we are asking of Mark: repent, so he and those he has harmed can experience the fullness of the Kingdom.  And now I ask it of you as well since you have injected yourself into the situation.

  • You provided cover for Mark to run from his God appointed accountability.

You said in your video:
“there are some pastors in his life, myself included, who are speaking into his life, and he’s listening.”
Here is what Mark said after you gave him the mic:
“I’m in a season of ‘healin’ up, praying, asking the Lord Jesus through wise counsel to show me any blind spots where i can grow.”
“Every pastor needs a pastor.”
Robert, the steam was not even done rising off the dead body that was Mark’s ‘lifetime commitment’ turned resignation at Mars Hill when we find him in Texas with a microphone you put into his hand.  Telling us that he’s there looking for ‘blind spots’.  ‘Repenting’.  Apparently looking for a pastor to pastor him. You tell us he’s ‘listening’.
Now the cynic in me says that Mark was down in Texas beginning a public image rehab campaign that will eventually lead to him being offered a position to head another church, in another state, after sufficient time has passed.
But I’ll try to be charitable here.  Let’s take him at his word.  He’s out hunting for blind spots, ways to repent, looking for pastoral mentorship.
We from Mars Hill have a suggestion for him:  he could start with the restoration plan from his own God appointed elders at the church he just ran away from   You want blind spots?  Ask Dave Kraft and the other former pastors.  I bet they have a couple of ideas for him.
Mark needs a pastor?  How about Paul Tripp, who knows him well and already offered to help.  Mark respected him enough to have him on his ‘Board of Non Accountability’ at one time.  Paul in fact pastors pastors for a living it seems (Paul by the way said our situation at Mars Hill was the most messed up he’d ever seen, so we’re still #1 in something).
Robert, I don’t fault you for being a friend to Mark; we all need friends.  I do however think you have sinned by undermining the God given accountability structure that Mark himself help create and then escaped from.  Wisdom would have been to march Mark right back to the crime scene and force him to face the music.  This you did not do.   Instead you provided cover for his sin with your comments and a microphone to allow him to Continue The Story.   I think you owe the elders and pastors and those whom Mark has truly harmed, a big public apology. I will assume you did what you did for compassionate reasons Robert, but a sin is a sin; man up and acknowledge it publicly.
Let me finish by addressing a few other reasonable questions or objections about what I’m saying here.
First who am I and what gives me the right to say these things?  My name is Mike O’Neil and my biggest claim to fame is staying married to my wife for nearly 29 years and raising two kids that I’m proud are mine.  I attended Mars Hill for roughly 8 years and was a member at two campuses at different times:  Shoreline and University District.  I was a deacon and led a community group, among other volunteer activities.  I was never on staff, or on the “inside.”  I was just your “pretty involved” Mars Hill member like so many.  Nothing special, Joe Average.
What gives me the right to say these things?  I would not call it a right.  I’ll call it a responsibility.  I actually have been sitting on these thoughts for almost two weeks.  I really didn’t want to say anything.  I thought, surely someone else would say what I think needs saying.  After all, who am I anyway?  And what’s the point, it will likely have no impact.  And I’ve got better things to do.  What’s my upside in this?  I see only downside. And folks will criticize me (you know that whole friendly fire analogy you used; I’m familiar with that experience).
But I’ve been a follower of Jesus now for going on 35 years.  And after that length of time, you know when the Holy Spirit is not letting you off the hook on something.  No matter how much I tried to ignore this whole thing, I couldn’t.  I waited for others to challenge your comments publicly, and I saw nothing.  And as I went through my objections, I realized they didn’t hold water.  Who am I? No one.  But Moses thought that same thing (Please know that I am not generally comparing myself to Moses btw, just his hesitation to obey).  What’s the point of me writing a letter like this?  Obedience.  I’ve got better things to do?  Better things to do than obeying the Holy Spirit? What’s my personal upside? None, but since when does that matter? Folks will criticize me?  Well, I won’t bore you with the many verses on the topic, but I’m pretty sure being afraid of the criticism of others is not a way to lead a Kingdom life.
I am fairly sure that someone is going to say “he who is without sin, let them cast the first stone” or “judge not lest ye be judged”.   My response is simple:   I’m obviously not without sin; a quick call to my wife or kids will give you the 411 on my sin report for this day or week.  Judging?  Everyone does it.  You did it when you told us to stop criticizing Mark (Your command to ‘stop it’ sounds kind of judgmental, don’t you think?).  If you read the passages on judgment taught by Jesus the idea is not that we never judge (that’s impossible and ludicrous) but to not judge unfairly or without the charity and mercy that comes when we look to our own sin first.  And God only knows if I have appropriately examined my own heart as I write these things to you and Mark.  I surely hope so (but could be wrong of course and trust I will be corrected if true).
To those who ask “why didn’t I go to Robert Morris personally?”   I say that comments made publicly by a public figure are fair game to be evaluated publicly.   I’m sure I’ll have plenty who disagree with me on that point.
Let me close with some words from God.  Those who read can judge for themselves if they think this is the word of the Lord to Mark and his Mars Hill legacy or not.  I don’t presume to know, but as the saying goes, if the shoe fits, wear it.   I have edited a very long section to make it easier for those reading.
Amos 5
This is what the Sovereign Lord says to Israel:
“Your city that marches out a thousand strong
   will have only a hundred left;
With a blinding flash he destroys the stronghold
   and brings the fortified city to ruin.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
   you will not live in them;
For I know how many are your offenses
   and how great your sins.
There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
   and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
Seek good, not evil,
   that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,
   just as you say he is.
Hate evil, love good;
   maintain justice in the courts.
Woe to you who long
   for the day of the Lord!
Why do you long for the day of the Lord?
   That day will be darkness, not light.
“I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
   your assemblies are a stench to me.
Away with the noise of your songs!
   I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river,
   righteousness like a never-failing stream!
God loves us and extends mercy to us all. This includes me, you and Mark. That said, He appears to also care a great deal about us being just and righteous.  And when He doesn’t see justice and righteousness at the levels He expects, He appears to be willing to take action.
In less than a year’s time from the first ‘scandal’, a church of 14,000 has come to ruin, with former Mars Hill members blown like dust in the wind to new churches (a recent email from Mars Hill Pastor Dave Bruskas confirms that Mars Hill will end operations as a centralized entity in approx. 90 days or less).  18 years of Marks sermons, vaporized from the internet. Years of work by thousands, obliterated.  Sounds alot like the blinding flash Amos 5 talks about to me.  If it could happen to Israel and their millions, it can happen to us and our thousands.  At Mars Hill in Seattle, in Dallas, anywhere. A warning to us all.
With the respect such passages like Amos 5 deserve from us all, Robert I ask you to publicly repent so that justice and righteousness can be done to those whom (I will assume) you inadvertently sinned against at Mars Hill.  I also request that you to implore Mark, since he is now someone you are mentoring, to publicly repent (I would also hope you would plead with him to return and apologize personally to all those he harmed during his tenure at Mars Hill).
I would like to offer you an example of what this type of repentance looks like.  Consider  Mars Hill pastor Steve Tompkins.  Steve deserves to be famous for his contrite spirit.  How he took responsibility for his sin.  His efforts to reconcile with those he has offended as a Mars Hill leader.  The student has become the teacher.   Please go here to see his beautiful example of repentance worthy of emulation.  
I ask both you and Mark to follow Steve’s Kingdom example.
Mike O’Neil, former deacon, Mars Hill Church
I wonder if Mark Driscoll might end up partnering with Morris on something.
Could it happen in Dallas? I wonder if Mike’s note will turn out to be prophetic regarding Morris’ empire.