Dramatic Changes at Mars Hill Church: Multi-Site Model Out; Local Autonomous Churches In

In a dramatic announcement, Dave Bruskas disclosed today that Mars Hill Church is essentially disbanding and the campus locations will merge, become autonomous churches, or cease operation. From the church website:


Mars Hill,

Historically, our mission has always been clear – to make disciples and plant churches. In keeping with that mission you have always been excited about new life and new birth. Last week I shared three values that are the driving goals during this transition period at Mars Hill.

Today, I am excited to share with you important decisions recently made about the future of the congregations of Mars Hill Church that we believe will work to accomplish these goals.

Following much prayer and lengthy discussion with Mars Hill’s leadership, the board of Mars Hill has concluded that rather than remaining a centralized multi-site church with video-led teaching distributed to multiple locations, the best future for each of our existing local churches is for them to become autonomous self-governed entities. This means that each of our locations has an opportunity to become a new church, rooted in the best of what Mars Hill has been in the past, and independently led and run by its own local elder teams.

We recognize this reorganization plan is a significant and complex undertaking on many fronts; however, our goal is to have the process completed by January 1st, 2015.


Please be in prayer for your local elder teams as they contemplate the following options in the next few weeks: (1) becoming an independent, self-governed church; (2) merging with an existing church to create one independent, self-governed church; or (3) disbanding as a church and shepherding current members to find other local church homes. This decision will be made by your local church’s Lead Pastor and elder team.


The decision to plant independent, self-governed churches has significant ramifications for the existing Mars Hill Church entity. Our central staff members, who have served and labored so faithfully, have already begun work on establishing many of the details to enact this plan, under the following general priorities:

(1) All of Mars Hill’s existing church properties will either be sold, or the loans on the individual properties will be assumed by the independent churches, subject to approval by the lender; (2) all central staff will be compensated for their work, and then released from their employment; (3) if any funds remain after the winding down and satisfaction of Mars Hill business affairs, they will be gifted as seed money to the newly independent churches, then, (4) the existing Mars Hill Church organization will be dissolved.

Ultimately, the success of this plan, and the future viability of each of these new local churches rest solely on all of us continuing to be faithful in supporting Jesus’ mission through our attendance and continued giving.


Mars Hill Church has never been about a building or even an organization. Mars Hill is a people on mission with Jesus, and that singular focus continues as these newly independent churches are launched. It’s still all about Jesus!

As you consider next steps for you and your family, let me encourage you to join us in three critical pursuits:

  1. Stay with your church family as we embark on a new expression of the same mission.

  2. Pray for Jesus to be honored in everything we do as we begin this season of transition.

  3. Give generously, as your gifts in November and December of this year will make a critically important difference in our desire for 13 churches being healthy and sustainable from launch-day and thereafter.

Thank you so much for your prayers and patience with us as we work out the details of this transition. We are thankful that God has a plan that is bigger than we can imagine and we are thankful that he has always been in control of our future. It has always been his mission, and he still has work for each of us to do–for his glory and our good.

Pastor Dave Bruskas

Even though this is a remarkable announcement and may lead to some healthy churches, I hope some of the Mars Hill leaders will call out concerns in this announcement.

1. If anything has become clear over the last year, it is that the church was all about buildings and organization. Mars Hill’s Global Fund was all about expanding the Mars Hill brand via new locations and more giving units in the United States. Why now, after all of the changes and revelations, is Dave Bruskas staying within the Mars Hill spin?

2. Why should people continue to give to Mars Hill Church? Shouldn’t the giving now go to the separate entities? In my opinion, any appeal to giving should also include full disclosure of what will happen to the funds. Are the severance packages of departed executives dependent on this continued giving? While the future is getting clearer, the leaders still at Mars Hill should provide an accounting of how funds have been spent in the past.

Happy Reformation Day everyone.

UPDATE: Justin Dean says new churches can’t use Mars Hill name.

Mark Driscoll’s Reports to the Woodway, WA Police

When Mark Driscoll appeared at Robert Morris’ Gateway Conference on October 20, he told some stories involving harassment of his family. Specifically, he said that rocks had been thrown into his backyard one morning after he and his kids had spent the night in a tent. Then Driscoll talked about a helicopter flying over head a few days later. Driscoll begins speaking about these matters at 3:20 into the clip.

At least one journalist, Dori Monson, initially reported that city officials of Driscoll’s home city of Woodway, WA were unaware of any such report. Although I have yet to hear it, I have been told that Monson has retracted that report. Given the police reports below, he did well to retract. While there is no evidence that the rock throwing report is related to Driscoll’s problems at Mars Hill Church, he did make the incident reports.

In order to clarify the record and with thanks to police officials there, I am posting the relevant and appropriately redacted police reports from the city of Woodway. Click the links below.

August 25, 2014 – The rocks flying incident

August 28, 2014 – KOMO-TV News effort to get an interview.

On the KOMO-TV News report, see this post. In the KOMO report, there is a shot of a sign on the gate which indicates cameras are recording the activities. The police report includes nothing about a check of any surveillance footage.

Current Mars Hill Pastor Says Investigation Findings Showed Mark Driscoll Not Qualified as Elder

In an ongoing conversation on a previous post, current Mars Hill pastor Steve Tompkins, indicated that based on the Board of Elders’ investigation, Mark Driscoll is not currently qualified for the office of elder.

Speaking to former elder Zack Hubert, Tompkins commented on the findings of the Board of Elders report of their investigation into formal charges by 21 former elders and other private witnesses.

To my knowledge, Tompkins is the first current elder who has characterized the Board of Elders investigation as resulting in a finding of disqualification. The only statement from the Board of Elders indicated that Driscoll was asked to enter an elder directed restoration process. However, instead of following the counsel of the elders, Driscoll resigned.

The Board of Elders have not released a report, and since the investigation was not completed, there is some question about the existence of a report. There are many unanswered questions about the role of the BoE and BoAA in the manner in which Driscoll left the church.

Uncertainty of another kind surrounds Mars Hill Church. Reliable sources tell me dramatic changes are in store for the church. Campus locations are considering merger, independence, or closure. Options for reducing debt and spinning off locations into autonomous churches are being explored.

Mars Hill Shoreline Pastor Asks Forgiveness, Calls Out Leadership

Steve Tompkins has penned a remarkable open letter in which he calls out past Mars Hill leadership and asks for forgiveness for being complicit with that leadership. You should read the entire letter, but I want to pull out a few segments.

Dear Former Members and Attenders of Mars Hill Church, especially those of you for whom I have had shepherding responsibility at Mars Hill Shoreline.
I am deeply sorry that so many people have experienced profound hurt over the years at Mars Hill. It breaks my heart that many continue to live with deep emotional and spiritual wounds, even long after leaving the church. I also realize that in my role as an elder, including as Lead Pastor at Shoreline, I share responsibility and complicity in some of the ways you have been hurt, disappointed, and sinned against at Mars Hill. For me this has been an ongoing process in which the depth of conviction and realization of my own sin seems to grow almost daily as does my sorrow over how people have been hurt. This has especially been so as I have had opportunity to sit down and hear people’s stories directly. My purpose in this letter is to share some of the ways my perspective has changed, to confess my sin, to spell out my ongoing process of repentance, and perhaps—should God allow—play some role in his work of healing. Let me tell you a bit about the journey bringing me to write this letter.

Tompkins has some clear words for those who blame outside forces for the problems at Mars Hill.

First of all it means that what has been happening at Mars Hill is the work of Jesus in our midst. It means that the root of the problem is not satanic opposition or attack, nor is it social media or vocal online critics, nor is it the members or attenders of the church (past or present). Nor is it elders, deacons, staff and leaders who have called for change from within. In fact the root of the problem has been the leadership of the church who have been blindly committed to maintaining the status quo as if we simply need to push through what has so frequently been referred to as a “difficult season.” All such attempts at crisis management and damage control are futile, foolish, and in fact create more harm since they are the polar opposite of repentance.

I am aware that some Mars Hill apologists have blamed outsiders but Tompkins, as an insider, has another view.

For example, if the leadership and ministry culture at Mars Hill has been marked by arrogance (and it has), then I am coming to see how I have been marked by that same arrogance, and how I was blind to it, both in others and in myself. I now see how my own sin of arrogance within our arrogant culture therefore went unrecognized and unchallenged. In saying this, I am in no way blaming my sin on others or on the culture. On the contrary, my sin is my own sin which I freely confess. That is what I am now seeing with painful clarity. The same is true with the sin of domineering leadership. In fact, if you mix ministry arrogance together with top-down domineering leadership along with idolatry of church growth and numbers, then inevitably you create a ministry culture where many end up hurt, burned out, feeling used. I see this now, and I see how I helped to build such a culture.

This must have been hard to write.

In fact, I would say I consider this to be the darkest, most destructive and most hurtful aspect of Mars Hill’s ministry culture by far. I call it the “ad hominem” narrative. Ad hominem is the Latin term for a tactic used when facing off with an opponent over an issue, whereby one seeks to win by attacking and discrediting their opponent rather that honestly debating the issue at hand. In one form or another ad hominem narrative (which can sound very reasonable, especially because it can contain elements of truth), has been consistently used for years to discredit voices of dissent and to silence accusation of wrongdoing and sin. What I have seen on multiple occasions is that when a leader raises an issue with Mars Hill or Mars Hill leadership, they themselves soon become the issue rather than the issue they raised. What they said, for example, is invalidated by how they said it, or because they did not follow proper procedure or protocol. Then, almost inevitably it is not long before they are gone from their position, their job, or the church itself. Often, their integrity was then slandered and their character maligned. Resorting to ad hominem narrative as a response to conflict is horrible and devastating in the extreme. Ad hominem narrative is essentially to defensive one’s own righteousness rather than to trust the righteousness of Another. It never confesses or takes responsibility for sin. It is inconsistent with humility. It resists repentance at any cost. It is therefore antithetical to the gospel.

Tompkins has reached out to the elders who were railroaded out of the church in 2007.

This includes, for example, the events in 2007 ensuing from the (what I now believe to be the unjust and unfair) firing of pastors Paul Petry and Bent Meyer. I was involved in the subsequent events which included the official investigation process, the trial conducted by the elders, and the official shunning of the Petry family which followed. These events were profoundly devastating and damaging to both the Petry and Meyer families. I deeply regret my actions. I sinned against them through my participation as an elder, and desire to publicly redress these wrongs. I have recently reached out and apologized, repenting to them and seeking the beginning of reconciliation. From them I have received only grace and forgiveness. I am so grateful and humbled.

Go read the entire statement here.

Mars Hill's Compensation Process and ECFA Guidelines

Recently, Wenatchee the Hatchet posted a memo from Sutton Turner regarding Mark Driscoll’s salary recommendations. In the August 2012 memo, Turner wrote:

I would like to put forth a recommendation to raise Pastor Mark Driscoll’s salary to$650,000 for financial year 2013 based on the following:

Turner then made a case to the compensation committee for Driscoll to receive a substantial raise for FY 2013. He also indicated in the memo that he was the only person outside of the compensation committee who knew Driscoll’s salary.
I submit that Turner’s activity violated at least the spirit of the guidelines of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Regarding the setting of compensation, the ECFA guidelines state:

1. The board or an authorized committee of the board shall make the decision regarding total compensation, and those participating in the decision-making process may not have any conflict of interest in the decision, whether direct or indirect. That is, no person in the decision-making process may:
a. be related to the person whose compensation is being addressed,
b. be subordinate to the person whose compensation is being set,
c. be a person whose compensation is determined in a manner that involves input or decision-making by the person whose compensation is being set, or
d. otherwise have a conflict of interest.

Determining the extent of the violation hinges on a definition of “decision making process.” It could be argued that Turner had no part in the decision and therefore did not violate the guidance. I would argue however that recommendation and advocacy to the compensation committee was a conflict of interest for Turner who served at Driscoll’s pleasure. Information gathering is part of the decision making process and should be done by the compensation committee. Turner had intimate knowledge of the process, participated in it, and was the only staff person who knew the facts. If the ECFA guidance permits this kind of participation, then the value of the guidance is again called into question.
One could also argue that this memo was written before Mars Hill was accredited. However, did the process continue over the remainder of Driscoll’s time at Mars Hill? If so, it seems to me that the ECFA should at least investigate the role of subordinates in the setting of compensation for FY 2014 and the current year which most likely forms the basis for Driscoll’s severance package.