Earlier this week, Mark Driscoll sent an email to a mailing list that he won at a Mars Hill Church auction. He said it this way:
The Mars Hill Church board also very recently approved the sale of the assets of The Resurgence ministries through an independent auction conducted by a law firm. Having now gained first access to these resources, it will be some time before we catalogue and decide what will happen with the content.
However, if you are newly receiving this email it is likely because you were part of The Resurgence mailing list.
These assets were valued at $100,000 last year and were being offered to the public for sale via attorney Steven Goodspeed, the same attorney who registered Mark Driscoll’s short-lived Learning for Living non-profit trademark. The pitch ran like this:
You are being contacted because it is my understanding you have inquired about purchasing select assets related to the resurgence.com
website and domain name. We appreciate your expression of interest and are reaching out to interested parties and soliciting offers for this website content, technology, accounts, etc.
The asking price is $100,000 and the Resurgence content will be sold to the best offer subject to an undisclosed reserve. Your offer may be more or less than the asking price.
- We will be taking offers until 1/05/2015
- We will choose an offer on or before 01/15/2015
- Please direct any questions and offers to me, Steven Goodspeed
This could be the auction Driscoll is referring to. Emails to Mars Hill and Steven Goodspeed attempting to verify it were not returned.
Mars Hill did get some offers but turned them down. In March, the Resurgence mailing list resurfaced as the main product offered by an anonymous entity called “Church Leaders List
.” Actually, former Mars Hill Church spokesperson Justin Dean illegally sold the list to Craig Gross
. Dean later apologized
to Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church and everybody else. I confirmed with sources that the list was still owned by Mars Hill as of late March.
Sometime between April and this month, Driscoll apparently purchased The Resurgence assets from what he says was the “Mars Hill Church board” (who is still on that board?). I cannot verify if there was a renewed push to offer the assets on the market as Driscoll’s description implies. I am aware of individuals who expressed interest or made offers who were not contacted to offer a bid or make a counteroffer. This may have been a backroom deal or it may all be fine. I am skeptical that anyone who knows will ever say.
When Mars Hill Church closed the doors for the last service, the corporation Mars Hill Church did not cease. However, it has never been clear who remained in charge of the organization on a day to day basis. By by-law, the church’s Board of Advisors and Accountability has the power to create a plan of dissolution but the church has not disclosed who remained on that board. While I don’t know all involved in that capacity, I do know now who is the president of the church. Also, one person often speculated to still be involved is not.
According to documents filed last week in the King County court house, Chief Financial Officer Kerry Dodd is referred to as the president of the corporation. Dodd was hired by Sutton Turner early in Turner’s tenure as executive pastor. According to a 2012 memo to fellow executive elders, Turner considered Dodd to be a capable CFO. As president of Mars Hill, he signed documents recently in the sale of the Mars Hill Ballard building to Quest church.
The other update involves former executive pastor Dave Bruskas. Yesterday, Bruskas informed me via email that he resigned all of his roles and duties at Mars Hill Church, including his corporate role, on December 31, 2014. Under the Mars Hill bylaws, executive pastors have a position on the BoAA. As of the end of last year, there were no publicly named executive pastors.
At the time of the last service, remaining BoAA members were Matt Rogers, Larry Osborne, Michael VanSkaik, and Jon Phelps.
Who runs Mars Hill has become relevant again due to the ongoing questions surrounding the use of Mars Hill email lists by a shadowy group/individual doing business as “Church Leaders List.” After xxxchurch director Craig Gross purchased what former Mars Hill public relations spokesperson Justin Dean called The Resurgence mailing list, Church Leaders List essentially left public view by shutting down its website and twitter account. Now there are concerns that Mars Hill had not sold the list to anyone, raising questions about how Church Leaders List secured it. Efforts to get comment from the attorney who is responsible for selling The Resurgence assets have not yielded direct comment. No one from Mars Hill Church has offered comment as well.
Meanwhile, Justin Dean’s website has gone into maintenance mode and is unavailable; his twitter account has been removed.
Craig Gross summarized his involvement and what he believes about the situation in a new post today.
Initially, the story of Craig Gross buying an email list from Church Leaders List seemed like a marketing story gone sideways. However, there appears to be much more to the matter.
At the end of Christianity Today’s article on this, Bob Smietana wrote:
On Tuesday, Dean apologized for his part in the drama over the list. He admitted that he’d been involved the initial sale of the list to churchleaderlist.com (screen cap of page now removed from the web).
Now Justin Dean’s website is down (and his Twitter page has been removed) and so that statement is not available (except via Google cache) and screen cap below.
According to Craig Gross’ explanation, Dean’s involvement may have been that Dean was churchleaderlist.com. I asked Dean yesterday and today about his dealings with Church Leaders List but have not heard back from him. Gross wrote:
I found it interesting that as soon as I posted this that Justin Dean posted a blog on his website that he somewhat apologized for distributing the list to me. Lets be clear, he sold the list to me. He didn’t broker a transaction. He sold me the list along with several other people who paid $1350-$1500 for the list.
I asked the lawyer that was in charge selling the assets for 100k earlier in 2014 and he said that no one has purchased the rights to sell these assets yet.
I have seen communications which indicate to me that Mars Hill Church has not sold The Resurgence email lists. Thus, if the lists have not been sold by Mars Hill Church, then how did Church Leaders List get them?
From my conversations with former Mars Hill staff, I believe there is a limited group of people who have access to the lists.
Mars Hill Church is still a viable entity but has not responded to repeated requests for information or comment. Given the non-profit status of the church, the public and former members still have an interest in their operations. If the church is selling member emails without permission, then they should come forward and acknowledge this. If not, then the question remains, how did Church Leaders List get that information?
UPDATE: Just a bit ago, Craig Gross updated his post with the following information:
I asked the lawyer that was in charge selling the assets for 100k earlier in 2014 and he said that no one has purchased the rights to sell these assets yet
That lawyer is Steven Goodspeed and Gross is referring to this information about the sale of The Resurgence website and related email lists. If these assets have not been purchased, then how did Church Leaders List get the email list?
UPDATE 2: Wenatchee the Hatchet just posted a screen cap of Justin Dean’s Ministry Communicators Association with an ad for Church Leaders List on his MCA Facebook page.
Last night, I noted that Craig Gross, director of xxxchurch.com, sent out an email to a mailing list he purchased from a now missing-in-action website called Church Leaders List. The email included former Mars Hill Church members and those who had signed up for information from Mars Hill’s training ministry, The Resurgence. Gross received a backlash from supporters of Mark Driscoll because the email included critical remarks about Driscoll. Read the entire email here.
Now Craig Gross has provided his perspective on the matter at his blog and Justin Dean has done the same on his website.
Dean’s statement to me in full is as follows:
I issued an apology here: http://justinjdean.com/craig-gross-the-real-story/. I regret my involvement in distributing the list and am deeply sorry. While I was not involved in Craig’s email, I’m equally at fault. Although I think it’s a shame that your story isn’t about Craig Gross’s misuse of the list to spread gossip, and his unapologetic attitude towards doing so.
Craig Gross sent a link to his website as well.
From start to finish, here is how I see it.
Someone took out Churchleaderslist.com as a domain on March 3, 2015. A twitter account was established at about the same time. Not long after that, the website was live and twitter activity began advertising the sale of a mailing list of Christians and church leaders. See screen caps below. First the twitter account:
The website is no longer available but a screen capture of the cache is below:
Justin Dean said he believed the mailing list would be used for spreading the gospel. The website recommended by Dean indicates that the list can be used to promote books, events or products.
The pitch for the website says the lists were compiled from churches, websites and conferences. Apparently, some or many of those addresses have been used without permission.
According to Craig Gross, Justin Dean pitched the mailing list (Gross says Dean pitched The Resurgence list) to Gross’ staff on March 15 (see his post for a screen cap of the text). Dean says in his post that he was “involved in distributing a list of church leaders to a couple of people who I assumed would only use it to spread the gospel and bible teaching.”
Gross then purchased the list and sent the email which stirred intense reaction from Mark Driscoll supporters yesterday afternoon. Sometime afterwards, the Church Leaders List website and twitter accounts were pulled. Gross received a refund for his purchase from Church Leaders List.
Gross then asked Dean if Dean sold the list. Gross noted that the media templates for Dean’s new Doxa Media company and Church Leaders List phone # is 678-829-4458, Dean’s phone # is 678-829-4455 (also uses 678-829-4450). A call to the Church Leaders List doesn’t get an answer.
According to Gross, Dean denied owning the list, saying instead that he was “involved” in distributing it.
This may blow over quickly but there are some important issues raised. Why did Church Leaders List close down as soon as former Mars Hill people started to complain? Who was/is behind Church Leaders List and where did they get those email addresses? Are the current leaders of Mars Hill Church selling emails of former members? If so, I wonder how Mars Hill Church members feel about this use without permission.
Additional information: It is curious that Marshill.com, Theresurgence.com, and a bunch of other related websites are registered to Justin Dean. Did Mars Hill Church sell them to him? Did they give them to him?
UPDATE: It appears that the website used to purchase the list is now down and went down after Craig Gross pointed out where he got the list. I have a screen cap of it and it still exists on Google’s cache. The website does not identify the mailing list as being The Resurgence’s list. It seems Craig Gross didn’t know what he was getting into when he purchased the list at the recommendation of Justin Dean. I am wondering how Church Leaders List (which is now gone from Twitter — see the cache — and the web) got the emails.
See screen caps at the end of the post.
(Beginning of original post)
There is some irony in this story.
Craig Gross, founder of XXXChurch.com has purchased the mailing list of Mars Hill Church’s training ministry, The Resurgence. In an email forwarded to me by several people (thanks Joe, Brandon and others), he offers a book called Open. Then, in his pitch for accountability software, he specifically identifies Mark Driscoll as an example of someone who was not open to accountability. From the email:
From: Craig Gross <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mon, Mar 23, 2015 at 4:53 PM
Subject: Mark Driscoll – The Real Story
my name is Craig Gross. I started XXXchurch.com 15 years ago to help people with porn addiction. We then created an accountability app called X3watch.com about 9 years ago and have been helping people stay accountable and safe on the internet ever since. In fact, X3watch now has over 1 million users and counting!
Two years ago, we partnered with Mark Driscoll and the Resurgence to be a major sponsor at the R13 conference, meaning we were able to have our logo and product talked about from the stage. The conference was great, our team met Mark and his staff, and we were able to help hundreds of pastors stay accountable to one another, their spouses, and their church staff.
This is where the story gets hard. I’ve seen a lot of pastors come and go because of extramarital affairs, flirting, porn addiction, gambling addictions, and a whole mess of other stuff. It’s never easy to see a pastor, leader or friends shipwreck their life because of bad choices. Usually they lose their spouse, respect from their kids, their extended family, and their job.
With Mark, the details are different but the core truth remains the same: he didn’t have people speaking into his life to help him make the best choices. This was his downfall. He didn’t let anyone in to help guide him, to speak truth to him, to coach him, to tell him when decisions might be a bad idea.
He didn’t make himself accountable.
As a leader, if you don’t have accountability, your time is coming. You will fall. I’m not saying this to scare you (okay, maybe I am), but it’s for your own good. I hope you all are choosing to be a leader that’s OPEN.
I wrote a book called “OPEN.” It deals with people coming to terms with all their sins and living a life that is transparent and honest.
I want to give you this book FREE. Also I want to give you 50% off of our premium accountability software. This will help you stay accountable online, filter the internet for your family, and help create a legacy worth talking about for generations to come. Simply use the code “resurgence” when you check out at www.x3watch.com. You will get a link to the book once you create your account.
Keep the Faith and Stay OPEN.
A follow up letter was mailed to the recipients of the first clarifying how xxxchurch got the email addresses:
On Monday, Mar 23, 2015 at 6:33 PM, Craig Gross <email@example.com>, wrote:
Hey Guys and Gals,
I sent you an email earlier. Just to be clear.
I apologize if my email caught you off guard. I bought an email list from http://www.churchleaderslist.com/.?utm_campaign=website&utm_source=sendgrid.com&utm_medium=email Mark’s right hand guy at Mars Hill told us that this list was the Resurgence list.
So the Resurgence mailing list is being used to promote marketing that uses Mark Driscoll as an example of what not to do.
Gross called on Driscoll to step down in early August of 2014.
Sounds like it could be an interesting book.
The Resurgence domain was for sale for $100k; the email list at the time was nearly 60k.
Below is the screen cap of the Church Leaders List Twitter account:
A pdf of the website (now down) is here. A check of it will show that the source of the emails is not identified. How did people get on this list? It appears that whoever is behind Church Leaders List doesn’t want anyone to know. Another unanswered question is did the people behind Church Leaders List have permission to sell these emails to any willing buyer?