Robert Morris: Gateway Church is Doing Well and So We Are Reducing Staff

On April 18, I reported that fourth largest American church Gateway Church in Southlake TX was in the process of laying off about one-third of church staff. Two days later a church spokesman said the layoffs would reduce staff by 10-15%.  Today, Robert Morris told his congregation that the reduction would be “15 to 20%.” Watch:


One thing I want to tell you, one other thing. Uh, this is really true. There’s one other thing. Before I, uh, start the message, is I want to let you know that we’ve been in the process of evaluating everything that we’ve been doing around here, uh, for several months now.
It started last fall, at our elders’ retreat. And we’re in dynamic growth at Gateway Church. We have been growing dynamically for years and years and it, it hasn’t stopped at all. And we felt like the Lord spoke to us on the retreat last fall, that this growth is going to continue.
And so we need to prepare for the growth, and so, we’ve done what many corporations or organizations have done. We’ve gone through everything we’re doing, we’re saying, ‘Is this the most efficient way and the most effective way to minister to people?’
We’ve looked at all of our positions, we’ve looked at all paid staff, we’ve looked at all volunteers, we’ve um, looked at all of our processes, uh, and we’ve come to the conclusion that we need to make some changes, in how we do things. So we could do things, uh, better. And not be as “busy” maybe as we are, so you’ve got more time to minister to people, be with your family, and yet still be equipped.
And so, we met with, again, every person on staff. And our meetings have been fantastic. We have the best staff in the world. I mean, we have, phenomenal–if you’ve dealt with our staff, I think you know what I mean.
But we realized that we’re overstaffed. And so as we, as we met with all- everyone on staff, we felt like offering some very generous transition packages. And so we had many of our staff that said, ‘You know, I’ve been feeling like God’s saying something different to me, and that I’m supposed to do something else, and so, thank you so much, because this will help me.’
And then also as we went through this, some positions, we realized, are not needed any more. And so we’re going through about a 15 to 20% reduction in staff.
And I wanted you to know that, so that if you hear something, you’ll know why. We’re trying to do what God’s called us to do, more efficiently, and we’re also trying to prepare for the growth that we have in future, and cause that growth to be sustainable.
So um, our growth is– our attendance is up, our giving is up, uh, every- the church is doing well, but we decided we’ve got to make some changes.
So here’s what I want to ask you to do. I want to ask you to pray for these–our staff, the part of our staff that’s going to go through a transition. Many of you have been through a transition. The great thing about being a child of God, and going through a transition, is that God already knows what he has for you next. And God knows that, but I want us to be in prayer.
So I wanted you to hear from me, why we’re doing what we’re doing, and what we’re doing, in case you heard it from somewhere else, it was in the newspaper, on the news this last week, uh, but we have– there’s no financial problems, we are simply trying to do what we do, better. And so we are going through this re-evaluation processes, and it has been absolutely phenomenal.
So again, please pray for our staff, for the ones that will go through a transition, all right? All right.”

Morris puts a nice spin on events but it seems improbable that the reduction is because of growth in attendance and giving. One way to look at church finances is that the church has overspent revenues by $23-million in 2015 and 2016.
Morris said the elders decided to downsize last fall. So after they decided to eliminate positions and charge the youth group for pizza, they also decided to co-sponsor an expensive inaugural ball for President Trump.
Morris uses a business rationale to say downsizing is due to growth (i.e., rightsizing). If Gateway was bringing in machines to take the place of humans, then one might understand how growth in revenues and efficiency might be an outcome of downsizing. Otherwise, his explanation doesn’t seem convincing.


Former Mars Hill Church Elder Disputes Mark Driscoll's Account of Church Demise

Mark Driscoll 2016
Mark Driscoll 2016

On April 6, Mars Hill Church founder Mark Driscoll claimed to Randy Robison and Sheila Walsh on the Life Today TV show that he left Mars Hill Church over a “governance” conflict which lasted eight years. At the time, I surveyed former Mars Hill Church elders and not one of them remembered it that way. Now another Mars Hill elder has spoken out in response to Driscoll’s claim. Yesterday, former elder Mike Wilkerson said on Matt Carter’s podcast, Break it Down, that the reason Mars Hill ended was not governance but Driscoll’s coercive and abusive style of leadership.
The video of Driscoll’s appearance on Life Today has been removed from the program’s website but the transcript is still available. Here is what Driscoll told Walsh and Robison about the end of Mars Hill Church.

Mark: At 22 we graduated; 25 we started a Bible study trying to reach primarily young 2 college-educated singles in what was at the time among the nation’s least churched cities. In the early years we were broke and we didn’t have kids and I was working a job and didn’t think it would amount to anything. Eventually, in God’s grace, God did some remarkable things through some wonderful people. We saw about 10,000 people baptized. We saw the church grow to 15,000 on a typical Sunday. We saw 15 locations in five states, just kind of superseded all expectations.
Randy: And this is the Pacific Northwest, this is not the Bible belt.
Mark: No. This is urban, single, young adults, all kinds of sexual issues, confusion, abuse, baggage and carry-ons — so lots of stuff going on. We had a governance war at the church that went eight years behind the scenes over who is in charge and how things play out. At the end we had 67 elders in 15 locations in five states, a large percentage of whom I had never met. They wanted to have independent local churches and we were one large church in many locations. So there was an eight-year battle that finally went public the last year and it was very painful for everyone involved, especially the wonderful, dear, generous, amazing people that served and gave and made it all happen.
So the governing board in authority over me invited us to continue and we prayed about it and talked about it as a family and felt like we heard from the Lord and I resigned. And left without — didn’t have an opportunity to say good-bye to the people so I want to let them know how much I love them and appreciate them and wish I would have had that opportunity. We took some time off just to heal up. I signed a non-disclosure agreement so you’re not going to talk about it, which was fair and reasonable and I agree with. And just decided to spend time as a family to heal up, to meet with wise counsel, to learn what we could learn and to see what the Lord had for the next season of our life.

Now go here and listen at 32:31 into the podcast to Carter ask Wilkerson if Driscoll’s recent statements on Life Today were accurate. The following is a transcript from 32:31 to 34:02.

Carter: A couple things, so the way that you’re describing that is, I’ll at least bring up and say that it seems to me to be at odds with what I saw Mark say on TV recently which was, which really tripped me out when he said it, yeah, there was problems there but it was an eight year governance war behind the, power struggle behind the scenes and it didn’t work out right and so God told me to leave. When he said it on there, I was like, hm, maybe I’m crazy and that’s what happened but I felt so weird like maybe I’m the crazy one because it sounded believable what he said the way he said it, but I think he, if I’m not right correct me on this, some of the stuff that you’re already discussing and whatever that is that he’s describing would largely involve you and other people.
Wilkerson: Presumably
Carter: How does that strike you when you hear him say that?
Wilkerson: What strikes me is that’s not true, but…
Carter: Do you think he thinks that’s true?
Wilkerson: I don’t know. I mean I don’t know. What I can tell you that I know is there I was in 2013, early 2013 dealing with these highly escalated issues and they had to do with the bullying, kind of domineering, that kind of stuff. There was no context about governance in that.

Then Wilkerson said he continued to hear stories of domineering and bullying behavior even after he resigned. About the reasons for Driscoll’s and the church’s demise, Wilkerson said clearly, “None of it was about governance, none, none of it was about governance. It was about the issues he was eventually charged with.”
To read those formal charges, click here. As you will see, none of the issues related to governance, eight years in duration or otherwise.
In the coming days, other Mars Hill Church elders may speak out.

After IRS Raid, Benny Hinn Ministries Claims Full Cooperation with Governmental Entities

Via the organization’s Facebook page earlier this evening, Benny Hinn Ministries issued a statement about the IRS/Postal Service raid on their headquarters:

As has been widely reported, Benny Hinn Ministries is cooperating fully with the governmental entities that are reviewing certain operations of the Church.
The ministry has undergone intense scrutiny over the years, and we remain confident that there will again be a positive and speedy outcome in the days ahead.
Pastor Benny appreciates the love, prayers, and support of our beloved partners as we continue to minister the saving and healing Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world.

Most of the many comments on the page seem supportive of Hinn.
“Reviewing certain operations of the Church” seems to be a pretty positive spin on a raid that went from 9 AM yesterday morning until sometimePolice Guarding Entrance after 10:30 PM last night. It is hard to see how a truck load of documents in the hands of the IRS will yield a speedy outcome. As I told the Daily Caller’s Eric Owen last night, Hinn is innocent until proven guilty, but I hope the attention to this situation will lead to improved transparency and accountability for religious businesses such as Hinn’s.

Where in the World is Benny Hinn?

Police Guarding Entrance
Police block entrance to Hinn’s HQ

The day after the IRS raided evangelist Benny Hinn’s Grapevine, TX headquarters, Hinn remains silent.  No one from the Hinn camp has spoken and Hinn may not want to be located. From reading a Daily Caller piece about the raid, I learned that a video of Hinn speaking in France yesterday has been removed from Twitter. I posted a link to the tweet in my report on the raid yesterday, but now that link doesn’t work because the tweet has been removed.
Hinn missing Tweet

So where in the world is Benny Hinn?

Probably, Hinn is traveling to Ukraine. His website says he will rock Kyiv tomorrow with a healing service. I wonder if he address the raid before he returns to the U.S.

Hinn schedule
From Benny Hinn’s website