Fall of Mars Hill Church: August 2014 Timeline (with a Bonus Section on Dealing with Bloggers)

August 2014 was a critical month in the demise of Mars Hill Church. Seven years ago this month, the church experienced multiple blows from which it never recovered. For those reliving that year via the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast, this post provides some context for what may have been the most consequential month of the year. The links take you to my blog posts in 2014.

August 1 – A former colleague and co-founder of one of the first Acts 29 churches, Ron Wheeler, accused Mark Driscoll of plagiarizing material from his work.

August 2 – The church announced that James MacDonald stepped down from the Board of Advisors and Accountability. The BOAA was basically a group of Driscoll’s friends who by bylaw had oversight of the church, but they did not attend Mars Hill. MacDonald has been a long time supporter of Driscoll and this was seen as a move that made Driscoll vulnerable.

August 2Christianity Today published an apology from Driscoll about comments he made on a Mars Hill Church message board calling the U.S. “a pussified nation.” This brought the mysoginistic William Wallace comments into public scrutiny again.

August 3 – A group of former members held a demonstration in front of the church with picket signs and media converage. Previously, Driscoll had told the church he couldn’t respond to many of the charges against him because they were made by anonymous people. This set off a wave of angry public responses from former members on Facebook culminating in this August 3 protest and a Facebook group that exists to this day.

August 7 – Planter of the first Acts 29 church, Ron Wheeler, penned an open letter to his former colleague Mark Driscoll and asked him to resign.

August 8 – Acts 29 Network evicted Mars Hill Church and former network co-founder and president Mark Driscoll from membership. I broke this story with the correspondence from Acts 29. Just prior to announcing their decision to remove the church and pastor from the network, the Acts 29 board said this: “Based on the totality of the circumstances, we are now asking you to please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help.”

August 9 – Lifeway Christian Bookstores confirmed to me that Mark Driscoll’s books would no longer be available via their bookstores.

August 12 – Popular biblical counselor Paul David Tripp broke his silence about why he resigned from Mars Hill’s Board of Advisors and Accountability. He claimed having outside advisors doesn’t work. Local elders are needed for accountability.

August 12 – Mark Driscoll was canceled from an Act Like Men conference.

August 14 – Mars Hill canceled their annual Resurgence Conference.

August 15 – Mark Driscoll was withdrawn as the closing speaker at the Gateway Church Conference.

August 18 – Public questions were raised about the cancellation of a promised Jesus Festival at the church since the church had raised millions of dollars via year end giving appeals. One major reason given for the appeal was to fund the festival.

August 21 – I published the charges brought against Mark Driscoll by 21 formal elders. These charges formed the basis for a later investigation by a group of current elders. They found him guilty and declared him to be disqualified as an elder. They offered him a plan of restoration. While Mars Hill’s two board haggled over the matter, Driscoll resigned without accepting the verdict of the investigating board.

August 22 – The New York Times covered the formal charges story.

August 24 – Mark Driscoll announced that he will take at least six weeks off while the charges against him are investigated.

August 28 – Nine current Mars Hill elders wrote a lengthy letter to the rest of the elders, executive elders, and Board of Advisors and Accountability with recommendations that Driscoll enter a plan of restoration (instead of just take time off), the communication from the BOAA become more honest, and the church to change their governance avay from non-local governance. The document laying out these demands was leaked to me and published on this date.

August 29 – A petition started by former member Dave Lester called on the Mars Hill leadership to follow the recommendations of the nine current elders regarding a Driscoll restoration plan, governance change, and more clear communication from leadership of the church.

August 30 – The Mars Hill Executive Elders released a statement saying that donations were down due to an “increase in negative media attention.”

As a bonus, I will add the advice I gave Mars Hill then to decrease negative media attention. They didn’t follow it and The Trinity Church isn’t following it now. But I think it is still pretty good advice. What do you think?

To decrease negative media attention, follow these tips:

1. Don’t use church funds to manipulate literary best seller lists to make your pastor appear to be a best selling author.  In a related tip, don’t cover it up and threaten staff not to disclose this fact. Furthermore, when it is revealed, reduce the number of explanations from three to one that is accurate.

2. Advise the lead pastor to avoid offending people with vulgarities, name-calling and bullying.

3. Don’t spend dedicated funds meant for ministers in third world nations on nice facilities to expand the Mars Hill brand.

4. If you say you are raising money for a Jesus Festival, you should have a pretty big party.

5. Don’t ignore requests for information from media and members. When members want to see the bylaws or know where their money was spent, comply. When media ask for an accounting of how you spend money, disclose that information. Remember, it wasn’t your money and the information is in the public interest. Refusing to disclose looks like you are hiding something. It is not too late to follow this tip.

6. Don’t make technically correct, but misleading statements to the public and press. The press and the public are smart enough to see through that. Eventually even people who want to give you the benefit of the doubt will see through it.

7. Going forward, revamp the whole Board of Elders/BOAA thing. Most of the people who have been appointed to these positions are known vocal and financial supporters of Mark Driscoll. This will all come out soon. The verdict, if favorable to Driscoll, will invite another “increase in negative media attention.” For the sake of balance and fairness, you should appoint some of the nine elders who wrote you a letter to the group who will examine the charges against Rev. Driscoll. Another possibility is that everyone who has presided over the church during the season of increased negative media attention should step aside. The BOAA should change the bylaws to allow the current elders to elect new executives and get a fresh start. I suspect that would lead to a decrease in negative media attention.

I may think of some additional tips. I imagine that people who comment on this post will add some as well.

In short, be more transparent about what you are doing in the name of God. Mars Hill Church has become known for the mysteries it hides more so than for the mysteries of the Gospel it proclaims. This, brothers and sisters, should not be so.

Sound familiar?


30 thoughts on “Fall of Mars Hill Church: August 2014 Timeline (with a Bonus Section on Dealing with Bloggers)”

  1. wasn’t there a story here (maybe somewhere else…) that pointed out that the bible Drisky says he was gifted by Grace that coincided with his calling hadn’t even been published yet at the time? Would like to find that in light of the latest “Fall of…” episode re: the origin story

  2. The year Mars Hill blew (I knew very little about them), I was auditing classes as a local seminary that was planning to put a satellite campus at the church. As I heard the process being discussed, I just listened because I wasn’t a full-time student. I had been reading online articles about the place, and Driscoll sounded dangerous. Thankfully, they passed on the merger-but I always wondered what even made them consider it.

  3. Thanks Warren for posting this.
    Amazing to see this sequence of these events. August 2014 was crazy.
    Thanks for all you are doing to keep this story alive and help people learn from what happened.

    1. Have you learned from your very big part of enabling Driscoll? “King” Turner — were you embarrassed when you were called that or did you embrace the title?

      1. Warren interviewed Dave and I for two hours and I spoke at length about that. I encourage you to listen. /2020/07/28/blog-theme-mars-hill-church-interview-with-dave-bruskas-and-sutton-turner/

      2. On the title “King,” it came out of the wrongful termination and trial of Paul and Bent in 2007. Mark used that lingo of Prophet, Priest and King in an Acts 29 conference to justify the creation of the 3 executive elders. Something that Paul and Bent were concerned about and voiced concerns.
        That was 4 1/2 years before I got there.
        Looking back, it was crazy language in so many ways.
        You asked me above if I was embarrassed.
        I never felt comfortable when I was an Executive Elder. I joined Mars Hill as General Manager just to lead the the central operations, finance and HR of the church.
        Yes, but not just embarrassed but ashamed, remorseful, and very sad what happened to so many people. Many more emotions about 2011 to 2014 and something I tried to get to with my interview with Warren and Dave.

        1. Driscoll specifically used your name (and Bruskas’) as “king” and “priest” and more than once. I was there. And yes I did listen to the interviews.

          You embraced and were emboldened as “king”.

        2. Let me suggest that you prove your claimed repentance by keeping fruit that proves that it is real. Why don’t you give all of that money back you got from being the Mars Hill King? That would sure prove your sincerity, or does a short, hated tax gatherer of old trump you on this one?

          1. That would not be a reasonable thing to do. Despite mistakes that were made and now confessed multiple times to multiple people, he also did contractual work for which he was paid. People from all lines of work make mistakes and make commit sins. They act proudly and no one is perfect in any pursuit. It is almost as if some of you are not reading what Sutton is writing.

          2. What I am not reading is his actions. And that is it. I am with John the Baptist when he said to these kinds of people, “keep fruit in keeping with repentance.” Sutton and others made a lot of money off of Mark’s actions. The problem we have today is that people do not know how to actually do this repentance thing. Shaking off the greed and stopping the damage control would be a great start.

          3. I don’t expect Sutton to come on here and talk about his finances but my impression is he made a lot less in church work than he was making in business.

          4. He doesn’t broadcast them but I have spoken to over a dozen people from Seattle (and have heard from them of more) who have reconciled with Sutton. He has been vigorous to pursue at his own expense opportunities to talk and get forgiveness. I do feel bad for anyone who was harmed at Mars Hill; he feels worse. However, I know he is doing something about it.

          5. Well that is more than Mark ever did, yet Sutton is a shrewd Feringi businessman and not a sadistic narcissist. Sutton knows that Mark’s love for running people over with buses is costing Mark’s bank account in the long run. If for this evil trait Mark and Sutton could still be in Seattle running Mars Hill.

            Yet who are these people Sutton has made good with? Are they all still in the business of $elling church to sheep? Has he made good with any who felt so bad about what happened to Mars Hill sheep that they got out of the biz for good and went and got real jobs (no more religious work?) The whole deal was screwed up from start to finish. Mark is the most obvious and annoying problem but there is nothing to say or to prove that Jesus was ever happy with any of it.

            Professor you need to take a good long look at the Greatest regular man in history: John the Baptist. Rich and powerful religious rulers came to him to be baptized. Did John sound like you? “Hey guys I am glad you saw the light! Come and be baptized and you are free to go right back to what you were doing before.” No, this is what he said to men like Sutton and Driscoll:

            “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.'”

            If Sutton never bears fruit in keeping with true repentance then the ax is coming and God will throw him into the fire. You cannot skip this step. It is what separates the goats from the sheep.

          6. Just like John the Baptist. By the way I have seen a hell reserved in hell myself for the goats from Jesus’ parable. Most real thing I have ever experienced. Trust me when I say no one wants to end up there. The company makes our jails look like paradise in comparison. Should you end up there my words will hardly sound harsh. And I should note that your old words and certainly Mark’s were at time very harsh, indeed. If anyone reaps what they sow then a lot worse coming for you snakes.

          7. I truly believe/faith in Jesus and his death/burial/resurrection. We do NOT get what we deserve.
            There was 1 good Guy (Jesus) and everyone is damned (including me and you), but Jesus saves by faith in Him. Not works but faith.
            Thankful for the grace of Jesus. Thankful for people that are overwhelmed by being saved by Jesus that they deeply want others to experience the love and grace of Christ.

          8. From the “Do not judge” chapter, Matt 7 that so many snakes like to use to bend and misuse like the Devil himself:

            “13 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

            True and False Prophets
            15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

            True and False Disciples
            21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

            The Wise and Foolish Builders
            24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

            Showing fruit by stopping the greed and giving back the money is what people like you need. Otherwise, as the verses from John the Baptist I quoted elsewhere, God will put an ax to you and cut you down and throw you in the fire. Do you really believe Jesus and Johns words or are you just leveraging what others do believe for your own personal profit? I notice that you are avoiding the Mammon false idol issue like the plague.

          9. and you know these things about Turner how?

            “Yet who are these people Sutton has made good with? Are they all still in the business of $elling church to sheep?”

            Why do are you assuming the only people Turner “made good” with are people who profited off of Mars-Hill church?

          10. Just saw this comment on another blog about this topic. It fits so well this situation that I will include it as part of my response:

            Give me an example of a “restored” pastor who has been the subject of TWW posts who demonstrated the fruit of repentance. “Bring forth fruit that is consistent with repentance, let your lives prove your change of heart” (Matthew 3:8) Have any refused to stay out of the pulpit, confessing that they disqualified themselves from ministry? Have any made restitution to their victims? Have any been satisfied to just be a lowly pew-sitter?

            To me you are the greedy horse who snuck up behind sheep and kicked them to the ground while you watched Mark kick 10 to the ground. The fact that you are still in the business making six figures many times over is all anyone needs to know. Again I tell you if you are truly repentive, “Give the money back.” Jesus is not a means to get rich and $elling a go$pel saves no one, and least of all you! Follow the money for “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” And the scriptures are quite plain that those who do not handle unrighteous Mammon correctly will not receive the true spiritual riches from God. You are telling people you are full of these riches and they should pay you big bucks for your help. But that is just a big load of b.s. I know a Machiavellian when I see one.

          11. Sutton Turner: God knows your Heart! At least, your talking and apologizing, acknowledging MHC abuses and your part. Don’t let someone play judge and jury as come out of a horrific abusive church like this and NO one ever acknowledged or apologized for all it’s horrific abuses and death that came out of it. Had no choice as was child enduring abusive Cult.
            Learned, God doesn’t waste one circumstance, one stitch, one iota but it’s been “Coming Out Alive” by Beth Cavete; horrific journey out and lessons in Forgiveness but doesn’t mean not going to take injustices public. Going to God and learning to die to self! Bible, Sermon on the Mount, Beatitudes, Lord’s Prayer. i had to forgive myself also! “Wounded and Betrayed Believers Are Useful to God” one of the most life changing messages that turned it around for me along with Leonard Ravenhill’s writes.

          12. I appreciate your comments. I need to own and help out as many people as possible. I am a sinner, than needs forgiveness that Jesus provides.
            Some, like Driscoll, run from their sin or claim he is a victim. That helps NO ONE, and hurts many. I have seen that from the front row.

          13. I’m NOT sure, why we need to replace God; Bible with Men or Women who were really types of King Saul’s! Did anyone think to ask MD IF, he was even Christian or was he put in place by Mormons, Satanist and or Catholics to suck out the people’s life, brains, time (which you cannot get back) and or money? Found that in my research, as if you go to: “Hold the presses, MD needs $650,000 more” and “MD Christian Theology vs. Critical Thinking” article; comments to make us think.

            In 2008, was in a meeting where they were talking about satanic role call of pastors and ministries; which makes a Book by John Scura/Dane Phillips. Can’t recall, if in David Kupelian and Dr. James W. Wardner’s writes also. Former Editor of Charisma J. Lee Grady should be in his Editorial and Magazine calling a meeting of Leaders to address corruption. Obviously, didn’t do much good seems to have gotten worse; since people not exiting and drying up income.

    1. *tapping foot* still waiting for that. Unless being that fat, middle aged white woman who occasionally stands on the sidewalk outside TTC is God dealing with him. (I hope not.)

  4. it woulda been one thing if the ousted pastor who refused help, refused repentance, took the money and moved to arizona and started a new church, had turned over a new leaf and was no longer a narcissistic bully but a humble preacher of the gospel.

    but when one continues the same antagonistic bullying and downright evil behavior, I for one question the man’s relationship with our Savior that has allowed him to flourish. And I pray that his followers’ eyes may be open to the truth and not be irreparably harmed by this man’s actions

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