Mars Hill Church Final Distribution – Where Did the Money Go?

When Mars Hill Church closed, the by-laws required a final distribution of assets. Although the plan omitted some details, a dissolution plan was filed with the state of Washington and I assumed had been carried out by last June. Today current pastor of Doxa Church (once the Bellevue campus of MHC) Jeff Vanderstelt said the following about funds distributed from MHC. His comments were posted in the comment section of a Gospel Coalition article on Mars Hill Church. I wrote a reaction to that article yesterday. In response to a claim from another commenter about money paid to the MHC churches, Vanderstelt said:

The churches were given money to continue on if they signed a binding legal agreement not to talk about Mark Driscoll in a negative way. Do you see how that could be dangerous?
  • That is actually not the truth. Churches were not given money if they signed a binding legal agreement. Where did you get that information from?

There was no “hush money”. I stepped in to restart a church from the Bellevue campus and we did not receive the money you are referring to. Neither did any of the other churches. What are you basing your conclusion on Roger? And what revisionist history are you referring to?

I wrote Vanderstelt to ask if his church received money as set forth in the MHC distribution plan. He answered by saying he had made comments on the Gospel Coalition article and that I should read those. I wrote back to ask if his church received the 22.18% which was designated as part of the plan.
As he said, Vanderstelt clarified his earlier statements on the Gospel Coalition website:

Roger – Each church did receive some “start-up/seed” money because MH had money in their accounts that had to be distributed as directed by their 501 c3 guidelines. It was not hush money however. I was not required to sign anything or agree to silence in order to receive those funds. Also, they weren’t that substantial (as some seem to believe) when you take into account the lease payment we assumed in stepping into the Bellevue campus. For us, it amounted to about 2-3 months of operating expenses. You are correct in that I can’t speak for the other pastors so I will not. I’m only representing what I know and what I’ve experienced.

According to the dissolution plan, Doxa was to get 22.18% of what MHC had to distribute after debts and liabilities were paid. I hope Vanderstelt will clarify if this “seed money” was all they received. Mars Hill owned lots of equipment and property and sold it all off. Did Doxa and the other churches receive those funds according to the plan filed with the state? I hope Vanderstelt will address this point. If the churches didn’t get anything else, then significant questions may be raised about how the rest of the assets were distributed.
The plan states:

Distribution of Assets.
The Corporation hereby resolves that after payment of the Corporation’s debts and liabilities, or provision made therefore, including without limitation the establishment of reserves as set forth in paragraph 4 herein, Kerry Dodd or Caleb Walters (either, the “Authorized Officer”) shall distribute all of the remaining property of the Corporation as follows: (a) first, any assets held by the Corporation upon condition requiring return, transfer, or conveyance, which condition occurs by reason of the dissolution, shall be returned, transferred, or conveyed in accordance with such requirements; and (b) second, any remaining assets of the Corporation shall be transferred or conveyed to specific churches (each a “Church”, and collectively, the “Churches”) identified in Exhibit A that provide ministry services and have a similar lawful purpose as the Corporation in the percentages indicated in the attached Exhibit A.

One of the liabilities could have been Mark Driscoll’s severance pay. The church never addressed this matter. If all concerned really want to move on, they should come clean on the distribution of assets at the end of the church. As Vanderstelt said, the churches got seed money, but it sounds like from his comment that Doxa Church didn’t get anything else, or in other words, 22.18% of nothing. Is that possible? If that is the case, a final public accounting is all the more necessary for MHC to cease being a stumbling block in Seattle and surrounding area. As a non-profit, MHC has a responsibility to donors and the public to account for those funds. One of the factors that led to the downfall of MHC was a lack of transparency with donor funds. It would be tragic if the legacy churches continue that trend.
Read the Mars Hill Dissolution Plan
Exhibit A:
MHC dist plan churches

Mars Hill Church's The City Still Online

Even though Mars Hill Church is no longer doing business, the church’s social media platform, The City, remains operation and is being used by at least of the new churches – Doxa Church in Bellevue.  I obtained a screen cap of this communication from Jeff Vanderstelt via emails sent as a notification that content was available on the website.
DoxaOnTheMHC City
The entire communication is below:

As we enter into a new year we are also entering into a new beginning as a church. This Sunday marks the beginning of our first official gathering together as Doxa Church. I am excited to lead us through our very first series entitled: Foundations – Building a New God Glorifying Church Together.

We will begin the New Year with two new gathering times starting this Sunday: 9am and 11am.

During our Foundations series we will walk through each of the building blocks for establishing a church that exists to see God glorified through all of us everyday and in every place. Each week we will address a key building block followed with opportunities for discussion in groups during the week around each topic. I will also give you Scripture to read to prepare you for the next week’s message. This Sunday I will address Doxa’s Vision.

If you would like to read ahead, take some time to read Ephesians 1 and 2 Corinthians 3-4.

At the end of this series each of us will have the opportunity to commit to be a member of our new church. In order to commit with integrity, you will need to hear each message. So, if you are not able to attend all of our gatherings for this series, please make sure you watch or listen to a recording.

During this time, we will do our best to keep you aware of all that is happening from week to week. While we are still establishing our new communication hub, we will continue using The City to communicate to one another. We hope to have a new system for communication in place by February.

Many of you have also asked how you can give to the new church. We are building avenues for online giving which should be available soon. Until then, we will have to go ‘old school’. Please plan on giving with a check or cash during one of our gathering times on Sunday.

As some of us processed through the messiness of new beginnings I reminded them – as I want to remind you – building a new church is messy. We are at the beginning of laying a new foundation. Not everything will be perfectly in place from day one. That’s OK. That’s what beginnings are like. If you’ve ever begun a new job, moved to a new house, got married or started a family, you know. New is messy. And yet together, we all get to create something new together. It’s the beginning of a new work and all of us get to shape the future together. I’m excited to witness with you what Jesus wants to bring about as he continues to build His church through us in this new season!

So, please come join us in the mess of building a new foundation with Jesus as our cornerstone.

May he be glorified in us, through us and throughout the Eastside!

While Doxa is a new name and there is a new pastor, the church also has several elders from Mars Hill, at least one of whom was and presumably still is on the Board of Advisors and Accountability (Matt Rogers). Rogers, who recently tweeted that he was grateful for every minute of something to do with Mars Hill (his time there or the last service, can’t tell), has never publicly addressed the conflicting statements of the BoAA. For that matter, none of the lead pastors have addressed the discrepancies between the lead pastor’s public statements about Mark Driscoll and those coming from the BoAA.

Doxa Church (Mars Hill Bellevue) Discloses Salaries and More in Memo on Transparency

It is hard to understand how the leaders of Doxa are behind this when some of them are still involved in keeping information quiet at Mars Hill Church. However, this communication to church members is a breath of fresh air. In addition to other items, this memo addresses several questions that  have been placed before Soma leadership.

A Word About Transparency
Pastor Timothy Patton
From Pastor Timothy Patton:
Doxa Church Family,
We have shared for the last couple of months a prayerful desire for the new church, now named Doxa Church, to be one that is characterized by shared leadership and transparency in finances. It is our intention to be held accountable to the congregation, and to walk in the light with respect to our decision-making and spending.
The purpose of this post is to address the topic of transparency and the level of disclosure you should expect to see in financial communication from our new church. In some sense, this is family business that is quite detailed. It may not be important to some—but it will be very important to others. Thus, we wanted to address these issues in a public manner.
Transparency and Access to Information
As Doxa Church, we believe that the congregation is better served if the people are informed and equipped to ask questions, share concerns, or voice affirmation. We are committed to providing access to information that includes the monthly summary level data shown below, as well as more detailed monthly and year-to-date revenue/spending reports. An annual audit will be conducted by an independent public accounting firm and their audit report, together with the accompanying financial statements, will be made available at the church office and online. Specific financial statement line item detail will also be made available to our members, upon request, at the church office. We will hold an annual business meeting with the full church, but also want to be available to answer your questions each Sunday and through regular open Q&A sessions.
We will also, as per our bylaws, inform the congregation of any purchase that would be over $100k and describe both the nature and the need for the expenditure. Following discussion and prayer, we would then seek a vote of the congregation to move forward.
Our accounting, payroll and other books and records will be maintained by an outside accounting service.
Salary and Compensation
As you would expect, Doxa Church provides financial support for staff members in order that they can be freed up financially to focus on equipping others for ministry. In the specific context of Bellevue, Washington, this leads to salaries that may appear higher than some surrounding areas. However, we believe these salaries are reasonable given the nature of our workplace and context, when compared to national salary surveys for similar positions in similar sized churches.
Jeff Vanderstelt will be the highest paid staff member and has requested that his annual salary of $125,000 be made public as we launch the church. Specific salary ranges for other positions will fall within the following ranges:
Senior Leadership Positions – between $90k and $125k
Ministry Directors – between $60k and $90k
Administrative Positions – between $40k and $60k
No employee will receive any compensation prior to January 1, 2015. Following January 1, 2015, employees will receive a salary as described above and benefits including insurance and participation in a 403(b) plan (the retirement plan offered by tax-exempt organizations).
“Seed Money” from Mars Hill Church
Doxa Church will begin regular operations on January 1, 2015, and will be the recipient of “seed money” from Mars Hill Church as a replanted church in Bellevue. This “seed money” comes in two categories: (1) start up costs and (2) a final gift. The start up cost category represents the tithes and offerings Mars Hill Church members gave in the last few months as the new churches, like Doxa Church, were being created. The amount is intended to approximate three months of operating expenditures. We are planning to use this money to fund and offset some of our start up costs in the first year. The second category, a final gift, would come from any residual balances after Mars Hill Church liquidates its assets and pays off its obligations. At this time, there are simply too many variables to know the timing and/or amount of this final gift.
The elders of Doxa have made the determination that we will live within our own means. Specifically, we want to support this new church based upon the giving we receive from our members and attendees of Doxa. That is why we are not budgeting to use the latter category of “seed money” mentioned above in the daily operations of the church. To the best of our ability, we will use these funds to build cash reserves and save for the future. We will prayerfully consider how to allocate those funds with wisdom, integrity, and full disclosure once their timing and amount are known.
We also want to be clear that no Doxa Church funds will be going to Mars Hill Church. We are receiving “seed money” because Doxa Church was birthed out of two former Mars Hill locations, however, there are no financial ties or obligations from Doxa to Mars Hill.
Budget Model
Doxa’s ability to stay in our facility and hire staff is, in part, made possible because the budget model of our church is very different than that of Mars Hill Church. Mars Hill Church existed as one church in many locations, which meant that a significant portion of giving went to help other church locations. In the Doxa model, as one church in one location, we have the ability to make independent decisions. The congregation’s generosity thus has an even more direct impact on the people of this church family.
Based on recent giving trends at Bellevue and Sammamish churches, we believe that Doxa will likely operate with a annual budget of approximately $2.2m. This projection is preliminary and will need to be further reviewed as we move through the first part of the year. Currently, we have a budget that breaks down in the following general categories:
Compensation: 35%
Facilities: 30%
Operations: 25%
Church Planting Tithe: 10%
These percentages include start up cost category “seed money” from Mars Hill Church described above, without those funds the percentage breakdown is 35%, 46%, 9%, and 10%, respectively.
We will share more details of this budget in the new year, once we have a clearer picture of giving and expenses, but wanted you to be aware of the framework within which we are making current decisions.
Our Church Building
Doxa Church leadership has made the determination to stay in the current facility (John Danz Building) through the remainder of the lease term (October, 2017). Mars Hill Church would have paid the full remainder of the lease to leave—something that we, together, believed would have been poor stewardship. Through discussions with our landlords, we came to a mutually agreeable solution—that, in essence, Doxa Church would simply continue on with the lease, but with no penalty payment. The new lease contains a 12 month notice clause—meaning after notice to move, our landlords would be able to redevelop the property. However, the property is no longer under contract and there are no current players in mind for this redevelopment.
Our monthly payment (including auditorium and office lease, parking, and common area maintenance) will be $82k. To offset some of this cost, and because we desire the partnership, we will host classes from Western Seminary, who will be paying for use of the space to hold weekly graduate-level classes.
We do not yet know what might happen after October, 2017. However, we believe that staying in this facility is a sustainable choice that also allows the members of the church to have time to heal without the pressures of relocation, and to prayerfully consider a longer term plan for a future church location.
Church Networks
It is important to note the difference in church model between Mars Hill Church and the Soma Family of Churches. Mars Hill Church was one church in many locations, which meant operating from one church budget and with one central governing body. The Soma Family of Churches is made up of many independent churches with a shared vision. The network is currently comprised of twenty-four independent churches with no legal or financial obligations existing between them.
To be clear, while we will work toward affiliating with this body at some point in the future, financial resources of Doxa will be stewarded by the elders of Doxa Church. There may be times we choose to help our brothers and sisters in Christ at Soma or another local church, but those decisions will be made out of love, prayerfully led by the Spirit, and not out of obligation.
When You Have Questions
Your elders and staff desire regular communication and want to be both transparent and accountable. When questions come up, you are welcome and encouraged to bring those inquiries to any of the elders. I will be serving as an elder and as the Director of Administration, and will most readily have access to specific details.
Thank you for your continued prayers, support, encouragement, and faithfulness.
In Christ,
Tim Patton

I realize that the leaders of Doxa may not feel any obligation to address unfinished business at Mars Hill Church. However, I believe that since some of the leaders are the same at Mars Hill and Doxa, Doxa should now acknowledge the unfinished business and indicate what former Mars Hill leaders are doing to address those issues.

Mars Hill Bellevue Becomes Doxa Church

After incorporating as Bellevue Church, and using Eastside church for awhile, the Mars Hill Bellevue leaders seem to have settled on Doxa Church as the new name for the Jeff Vanderstelt led church. From Jason Skelton late yesterday:

If you were at any of our gatherings on Sunday, you had the opportunity to join with us in the exciting news that we have welcomed Jeff Vanderstelt as the Lead Teaching Pastor of our new church. He will begin in this new role on January 1st, 2015.

As a part of our series, Jeff preached on Sunday and also shared the new name of the church: Doxa Church. Doxa is the Greek word for Glory, and foundational to the choice of the name Doxa is Colossians 1:27 which reads: “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Jeff’s sermon was a part of the series “Jesus: Gift of God” and the focus of this sermon was on the name “Immanuel,” which means “God with us”, showing how Jesus is the fulfillment of  Isaiah’s prophecy. We encourage you to watch the entirety of the sermon to understand the deep meaning of our church name.

We look forward to seeing you this Sunday, December 28th, as we celebrate the work that God has done through Mars Hill Church. We will have one special service together at 10amRick Warren of Saddleback Church has prepared a special message that will be shared.

On behalf of the elders, we want to wish you a Merry Christmas. See you on Sunday!

In Christ,