Mars Hill Member Wants Accounting of Global Fund Donations

In late June, Mars Hill Church admitted that leaders took money designated for the church’s Global Fund and funneled those donations into their General Fund. On July 1, the church’s website disclosed that “the preponderance of expenses” were allocated to “church plants and replants in the U.S.” as opposed to mission efforts in India and Ethiopia. The church plants were Mars Hill Church branches  in the United States.
Then in their July 11 newsletter, Mars Hill briefly addressed a petition at Change.org requesting an accounting of the amount of money spent on missions and the amount spent toward expansion of Mars Hill Church in the U.S. In that newsletter, they also claimed that letters were sent to 6,000 Global Fund donors offering them the opportunity to direct (again) their donations to missions work outside the U.S. While this may be true, not all Global Fund donors received this letter.
Recently, a Mars Hill member (I will call him John since he doesn’t want his identity revealed) contacted me to say he did not get a letter from Mars Hill about his donations to the Global Fund. He also provided a page of his online giving records to me. You can see a portion below with his name redacted.

While Mars Hill has now admitted that the Global Fund existed and was separate from the General Fund, this record provides additional evidence that members could designate their donations to the Global Fund. This evidence is in contrast to the following statement on the Mars Hill Global FAQ page:

Since 2009, we have used the term “Global” to help us distinguish between donors who attend our churches and donors around the world who follow us online.

That is only partly accurate. Indeed, on the Mars Hill giving website, donors are asked to designate whether or not they attend a Mars Hill church or not. Those who don’t attend a Mars Hill church are supposed to designate “global” as a location. However, until May of this year, donors could also designate a fund for their contribution. They could give to the General Fund, the Global Fund, or a Foundation designed to support church plants. Members and non-members alike could designate money to the Global Fund. The person above is a member of Mars Hill and designated his donations to the Global Fund.
See this video for a demonstration of how the website worked prior to the changes done in May.
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4EFX3-RXyg[/youtube]
It should be a simple matter for Mars Hill Church accountants to run a report showing the amount given by non-members and members to the Global Fund and the General Fund. Likewise, a report could be generated to show where the Global Fund money was spent. However, despite the petition and the many requests for this information, Mars Hill has not provided it.
I asked John where he thought his money was being spent. He said, “It seemed pretty clear to me that the money was going to help out Pastors in Ethiopia as they received resources, training, and monetary assistance to plant churches abroad.” He added, “I had no reason to not believe it was going there until recent issues and events have come to light.”
I asked him what prompted him to donate to the Global Fund and he told me that the videos shown each Sunday before Mark Driscoll preached (e.g., this one) “were the most compelling part” of his decision to donate to the Global Fund.  I asked John’s reaction to finding out that all of his donated money was not going to mission efforts. He said he had been eager to give time and money to Mars Hill, but now he said, “I no longer trust that Mars Hill will steward my tithes or others well and have begun giving my tithes to other church plants and missionaries.”  He added, “There is no reason to hide from this unless they have either forgotten or choose to ignore the truth and freedom that comes from the Gospel of Jesus.”
John plans to discuss how to redirect or have his donations returned with his pastors in the near future.

Mars Hill Church Says A Little More But Not Enough About the Global Fund Changes

In this week’s email newsletter to members (dated 7/11/14), Mars Hill Church leaders mentioned the Change.org petition asking for financial accountability regarding the former Mars Hill Global Fund. Mars Hill has now admitted that money given to the Global Fund actually went in the church’s General Fund and mostly was spent on expanding Mars Hill video sites. Despite the fact that Mars Hill leaders admit there was a separate fund, they are requiring donors to contact the church and specifically designate (again) that their donation should go to missions (See the Global FAQs for more information). From the newsletter:

Update on Mars Hill Global

We are very thankful for what Jesus has done through our global family since 2009, with many disciples made and churches planted in the US, Ethiopia, and India.
As we strive to communicate the vision of Mars Hill Church, there has been an outside petition asking questions of Mars Hill. However, of the nearly 400 signers, only four have ever given to Mars Hill Global. We sent letters this past week to over 6000 Global donors giving them the option to designate their funds solely for international work if they wish. We received many replies of encouragement, as well as a few people who asked to change their designation, and we have gladly made those changes.
If you have any questions regarding Mars Hill Global, we have recently posted updates to our Global FAQ online page that you might find helpful.

I have heard from donors who did not get a letter or email from the church. In fact, I have not heard from any donors who did get a letter. Obviously, I am not in touch with 6,000 donors and so I am not saying a letter was not sent. However, some donors did not get a letter. Also, I would say it is a little early to quantify the reaction to Mars Hill’s change of public position (for a somewhat different reaction see Wenatchee the Hatchet). They just changed their Global FAQs on July 1.
I don’t understand what this sentence is trying to communicate: “We received many replies of encouragement, as well as a few people who asked to change their designation, and we have gladly made those changes.” Change designation from what to what?
The Global Fund was clearly designated as separate from the General Fund on the online giving page, as well as in Mars Hill documents. If donors wanted to designate their funds to Mars Hill Church’s General Fund, they had the option to do so. Thus, Global Fund donors were designating their money to what Mars Hill Church said was “how we as a church participate in the worldwide mission of Jesus” (see below from the FY 2013 Annual Report). Now Mars Hill is making their donors jump through another hoop to redesignate their money to missions. So when Mars Hill says they are changing the designations for gifts, I don’t understand. Are they really claiming that there was no designation before?

The petition (which is still open for signatures from anyone who wants to encourage disclosure in accord with ECFA guidelines) says:

Mars Hill Church has solicited millions of dollars for its “Global Fund” which, now that questions have been asked, has disappeared. It seems that most of the money was not spent on global or international outreach and that the money simply went into the general fund. Donors and those with a close interest or tie to Mars Hill Church ought to know exactly how much of what they gave was spent on international outreach. This is a part of a greater call for financial transparency from the leaders at Mars Hill Church.

Every time a person signs the petition, a letter is sent to the boards of Mars Hill Church and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability:

Mars Hill Church, please tell us how much “Global Fund” money was spent on “international” outreach. We donors, members, ex-members and the broader Christian community deserve transparency from the leadership at Mars Hill Church.

This is a question Mars Hill could answer easily. They know how many donors gave money, they certainly know how they spent the donor’s contributions. Mars Hill Church leaders already said the preponderance of the funds went to fund the expansion of Mars Hill video sites in the United States. Surely, they can tell us the actual numbers. Sources within Mars Hill have told me the percentage of Global Fund actually spent on missions is low, perhaps 5% or less. There is potentially quite a windfall for Ethiopia and India if Mars Hill donors would contact Mars Hill to stress they want those funds spent on missions. The amount would likely more than double the annual budget of Mars Hill’s partner for Ethiopia, New Covenant Foundation.
For all stories on Mars Hill Global, click the link.

With Questions Unanswered, Mars Hill Church Keeps On Pushing Mars Hill Global

Last week, Mars Hill Church admitted that they had caused confusion regarding donations to the Mars Hill Global Fund. While answering some questions, they left some unanswered. One big question: How much money was actually spent on Ethiopian and Indian evangelists between 2012 and 2014? Mars Hill offered to direct donations made to the Global Fund to mission purposes if requested. However, I wonder how most donors will ever know they are doing that. How many former/current members who donated to Global are going to be cruising the Mars Hill website and stumble on the Global FAQs? If ever donors find out, they could trigger a windfall for Ethiopian and Indian missions if they request the money go where they thought it was going to go.
Shouldn’t Mars Hill Church alert the donors to the Global Fund about how the money was used? ECFA guidelines require it.
As if we need any more confirmation that Mars Hill portrayed Mars Hill Global as a means to help the international missions, I present this You Tube video of a former Mars Hill member who looked up a Looney Tune segment and got a Mars Hill ad before the cartoon started. The ad was for Mars Hill Global and was filmed in Ethiopia with no mention of any application to the United States. Watch:
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60mm4GOwGZ8[/youtube]
In fact, the ad was this video which asked Mars Hill members to give more than their tithe to Mars Hill Global:
[youtube]http://youtu.be/XcseC6KpSBk[/youtube]
I recently learned of an older lady who donated a substantial sum to Mars Hill Global thinking it would go to Ethiopian missions who is now bewildered by the recent message from the church. She doesn’t want to give her name but she used to attend Mars Hill and sat through many of the videos filmed in Ethiopia before giving her gift. Another individual who doesn’t want to be named also gave in 2012 thinking his money was going to missions. The several donors I have spoken with are afraid to go public.
 

Mars Hill Church Admits Fault in Confusion on Mars Hill Global; Still No Report of Donation Amounts

In a change of course, Mars Hill Church leaders admitted they caused confusion, and have offered to direct Mars Hill Global donations to international missions. They still have not clearly provided a specific accounting of the funds but they have come closer. Here are the new questions and answers added which are significant admissions:

WHERE HAVE PAST GIFTS BEEN USED?

During fiscal years 2009-2014, over $10MM dollars has been given to Mars Hill Church by the Mars Hill global family. During that same time period $22.48MM has been spent on church planting in the US, India and Ethiopia. In 2009-11 over 80% of funds given by the Mars Hill global family went to Acts 29 church planting and funds were consistently spent in India for church planting in each of those years. In 2012- 2014 expenditures for church planting efforts in India and Ethiopia were increased with the preponderance of expenses related to church plants and replants in the U.S.

I GAVE AND THOUGHT THAT MY MARS HILL GLOBAL GIFT WAS SOLELY USED FOR CHURCH PLANTING OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES. WHAT DO I DO?

If you gave previously and were intending that your gifts would be used solely for international efforts, we sincerely apologize for the confusion caused by a lack of clarity on our part. If you still want your previous gift(s) to be directed to our international work, please email giving@marshill.com and we will make sure that your previous gift(s) will be used to support making disciples and planting churches specifically in Ethiopia, where we are currently supporting 40 evangelists, or in India, where we support 33 church planters. From July 2014, we have clearly communicated that donations to Mars Hill Global go to making disciples and planting churches in the United States, Ethiopia, India and wherever else around the globe Jesus calls us into his mission.

Let’s take the first question and answer. Mars Hill Global was first discussed in 2009 as a means of connecting with people who were not attending a Mars Hill Church. Eventually, it became a fund that supported Mars Hill church planting, Acts 29 Network of churches, and the Resurgence training center. However, in late 2011, that changed with the elevation of Sutton Turner as executive pastor. Gradually, the description of Mars Hill Global changed to make it into a way that Mars Hill Church could help international mission efforts. At times, the description was confusing in that Global sounded like both a source of donations (“the podcasters”) and a destination for assistance (Ethiopian evangelists and Indian church planters). By the FY 2013 annual report, the transition to Mars Hill Church’s way to “participate in the worldwide mission of Jesus” was complete. All accomplishments listed on this page were about Ethiopia and India with no mention of U.S. church planting, Resurgence, of Acts 29.

Now Mars Hill has come a step closer to admitting that they misled the congregation:

I GAVE AND THOUGHT THAT MY MARS HILL GLOBAL GIFT WAS SOLELY USED FOR CHURCH PLANTING OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES. WHAT DO I DO?

If you gave previously and were intending that your gifts would be used solely for international efforts, we sincerely apologize for the confusion caused by a lack of clarity on our part.

This statement vindicates my reporting on this subject and the petition on Change.org. Of course, people thought their gifts were going to efforts outside the United States. The church told the congregation that Global had changed and all of a sudden videos of Ethiopian evangelists were leading off nearly every service. We really don’t have to debate that anymore.

Regarding disbursements, the statement provides specifics where they weren’t requested and general statements where specifics were requested. After telling us how much was raised during the early years when Global didn’t mean what it meant between 2012-2014, then the statement becomes vague:

In 2012- 2014 expenditures for church planting efforts in India and Ethiopia were increased with the preponderance of expenses related to church plants and replants in the U.S.

Expenditures were increased over what? What does a preponderance of expenses mean? This is spin and an insult to the requests that members, former members, other donors and the public have made. However, one fact is established: the church spent most of the money given for international missions to domestic expansion.

That established fact aside, the church still should provide specific information. According to Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability guidelines, project reports need to provide more than is now included on the FAQ page:

The project report should include the amount of donated income, the costs related to administering the project, and the amounts that went directly to the project for which the solicitation was held. Any unusual items related to income or disbursements should be identified and explained. Though audited financial statements provide overall financial data for the reporting period, they are not intended to provide data on specific projects. So, in addition to financial reports, project accomplishments should be shared with the donor. This may include both short-term and long-range results of project gifts.

This FAQ statement doesn’t come close to satisfying the ECFA requirement. This failure to comply with ECFA guidelines again raise questions about Mars Hill Church’s accreditation.  How long will ECFA give Mars Hill Church to correct the situation? It seems clear now that the executive elders know the numbers but won’t disclose them. I hope this will be the next addition to the FAQ page.

The offer to direct gifts to international efforts probably comes at a bad time for Mars Hill as giving is down and staff are being dismissed. However, the offer is necessary in light of ECFA Guideline 7.2:

Giver intent. The organization is obligated to use a gift as directed by the giver or, alternatively, to choose not to accept the donation. Once the giver has indicated the intent for which the gift was given and the organization has accepted the gift, it is the organization’s responsibility to fulfill that intent, whether or not the gift fulfillment is required by law.

I know some donors who will probably take them up on this promise.

Even this promise, as nice as it sounds, raises concerns. Since Mars Hill still has not engaged in full disclosure regarding the disbursement of funds, then how will any donor know that the church will honor this new promise? Since changes have come as the result of public pressure, what is to assure donors that any future promises will be kept? Only financial transparency as requested by the Mars Hill Walk in the Light petition can begin to repair the erosion of trust.

For all posts on Mars Hill Global, click here.

Facing Financial Pressures, Mars Hill Steps Up Solicitations, Lays Off Staff

In the face of financial concerns, Seattle mega church Mars Hill Church has laid off staff and stepped up efforts to collect donations as the end of the fiscal year passed yesterday. According to ex-staff and sources inside Mars Hill church, on June 20, nine staff were let go amid concern about a sudden “budget crunch” from the church’s executive elders.
Mars Hill wrote about the action yesterday in their weekly communication to members:

Last week we had to make the very tough decision to transition a number of people off of staff from our ministry support departments, as well as some staff at a few of our local churches. These are all faithful people who served and worked hard for the church, and we regret that we had to make these changes. If you know any of them, please reach out to offer your prayers and support during this transition, and please continue to pray for the church as we navigate through a tough season.
At this week’s Staff Chapel, we had the opportunity to invite these friends back so that we could honor them and pray over them. It was a meaningful time of worship and reflection as a church family. We are so thankful to have had the opportunity to show these staff members how deeply we care about them and appreciate the contribution they have made toward Jesus’ mission at Mars Hill. While they may no longer be on staff, we love them and they are still a part of our church family.

One staff who was laid off told me that the budget crunch caught the executive elders by surprise and was related to a dramatic decline in attendance and giving.
A current member told me that he received 5 solicitations within the space of three days requesting year end donations. Ex-members and those who have not attended in many years have also received multiple requests for gifts to assist the church raise giving levels. Internal documents supplied to me showed that per member giving was down at all but one of the 15 Mars Hill campus locations.
In one solicitation, executive pastor Sutton Turner said about the church’s situation, “We are ending our fiscal year at one of the most trying times for our church in recent memory.”
Meanwhile, Mars Hill leaders continue to be under pressure over their use of moneys designated the Global Fund over the last two years. A petition at change.org calling for Mars Hill to disclose how much of the Global Fund was spent on international missions has now reached 342 signatures.

Change.org Petition Seeks Disclosure of Mars Hill Global Spending

A petition calling for accountability has been posted at Change.org and directed toward Sutton Turner, executive pastor at Mars Hill Church and Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.
Titled, “Mars Hill Church, tell us how much “Global Fund” money was spent on “international” outreach,” the petition briefly calls on Mars Hill to disclose the way Global Fund money was spent:

To:
Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, Dan Busby
Mars Hill Church, Sutton Turner
Mars Hill Church, please tell us how much “Global Fund” money was spent on “international” outreach. We donors, members and ex-members deserve transparency from the leadership at Mars Hill Church.
Sincerely,
[Your name]

At this writing, the petition has 20 signatures and is seeking 1,000.
Click here for more on Mars Hill Global.

Dear Mars Hill Church: Can You Answer One More Frequently Asked Question About Mars Hill Global?

How much of the Global Fund did you spend on international outreach and how much was spent on U.S. outreach during FYs 2013 and 2014?
On June 3, I posted a question for Mars Hill Church: Where did the Global Fund go? Yesterday, Mars Hill Church addressed that question and a few more by placing a frequently asked questions page about Mars Hill Global on their website.
Here is the answer:

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GLOBAL FUND?

Since 2009, the term “Global Fund” has been used to help us distinguish between donors who attend our churches and donors who follow us online. Donations to the Global Fund were originally used to “start new Mars Hill campuses, plant new Acts 29 churches, and equip leaders at the Resurgence Training Center (Global Newsletter from 7/7/2009).” To reduce any confusion the name may have caused, we have since consolidated the “Global Fund” into the “General Fund (Local & Global)”, as that is where your gifts have always gone.

While it is nice to have a clear admission that gifts to the Global Fund have always gone to the Mars Hill General Fund, it would be nicer still if the Mars Hill executive elders would own and explain their contribution to the confusion. Clearly, the name was confusing and it is incredible for Mars Hill to admit that the church gave donors two giving options but the gifts have “always gone” to one fund in spite of the designation of the donors. Why have a Global Fund associated with Ethiopia and India if the money donated to it really just went to the General Fund and was mostly spent in the US?  Isn’t it fundamentally deceptive to have two funds with different names which really just go to the same purpose?

Now, Mars Hill leaders claim that the term “Global Fund” has been used since 2009 to help them distinguish between donors who attend Mars Hill churches and those who don’t but watch sermons online. However, this answer raises more questions because elsewhere Mars Hill Global is defined differently than now on the FAQ page. In a video that precedes every sermon from November 24, 2013 to April 27, 2014, executive pastor Sutton Turner said that both Mars Hill members and those who watch online should give to Mars Hill Global.  Watch (transcript follows):

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcseC6KpSBk[/youtube]

Howdy Mars Hill Church, pastor Sutton Turner here and I’m in Ethiopia, and I just want to thank Jesus for continuing to use Mars Hill Church to make disciples and plant churches. Mars Hill Global is the arm of Mars Hill Church that makes disciples and plant churches all over the world. We not only do church planting, but we help better equip church planters. Most recently, we shipped and now distributed a thousand Bibles into Amharic which is the language here in Ethiopia, and we launched a project to translate Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Doctrine book into Spanish. We have people from over 29 different countries that are giving on a monthly basis to Mars Hill Global.
So whether you’re a member of one of our Mars Hill Church locations in the United States or you’re one of 100,000 podcasters every single week, we encourage you to pray about giving above and beyond your tithe to Mars Hill Global. Thank you and let’s see more materials translated, more pastors sent out, more churches planted, and more people saved by Jesus Christ.

Clearly Turner here distinguishes between the General Fund (“tithe”) and Global Fund (“beyond your tithe”). There are several other videos posted throughout 2013 and 2014 which contain similar messages. Clearly, Mars Hill Global Fund then was about more than distinguishing between members and non-members. Members were asked to give to the fund and were able to designate gifts to the Global Fund until May of this year. Furthermore, the annual report for Fiscal Year 2013 defines Mars Hill Global differently than the FAQ does now:

In this annual report, Mars Hill Global is defined as something that Mars Hill Church does (“participate in the worldwide mission of Jesus”), not a way to distinguish between members and non-members.

When Mars Hill Global transitioned from being a platform to give money for The Resurgence, Acts 29 Network, and Mars Hill church planting efforts, the definition changed. Those who went to Marshillglobal.com in the latter half of 2012 were greeted with this screen:

With this definition of Mars Hill Global, it makes sense that people would expect that donations to the Global Fund would go toward “international ministries.” However, now we find out that all along the donations were going into a general fund and used to fund Mars Hill franchises in the United States. Furthermore, when donors gave money via the website, they had a choice to give money to the Global Fund and designate their location. Watch this demonstration of how the website worked prior to May 2014.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/a4EFX3-RXyg[/youtube]

As the video demonstrates, Mars Hill donors had an option to designate gifts to a Global Fund until May of this year. Now, donors who want to give to international missions through Mars Hill must do so by giving to the General Fund and hope that the leaders will allocate money to that end.  In fact, the FAQs address the fact that there is no direct means to support the international efforts of Mars Hill.  According to the FAQ:

CAN I DESIGNATE MY GIFTS TOWARDS INTERNATIONAL MISSION EFFORTS?

To better support Jesus’ mission and to allow us to effectively and efficiently steward the resources that God has provided us, we encourage all donors to send in their gifts unrestricted so that we can apply them where they are needed most. We believe scripture clearly calls us to be on Jesus’ mission, whether here in the U.S. or in other countries. As such, every donation is a contribution towards our efforts to carry out his mission, here in the US as well as India, Ethiopia, and around the world. Your support means more people are saved by Jesus Christ, more people are growing as disciples of Jesus, and more churches are being planted, no matter the location. You may contact giving@marshill.com if you’d like information on sponsoring specific needs and projects.

At the end of the day, the question remains: How was the money spent that donors designated to the Global Fund? Given that most of the promotional videos for Mars Hill Global were about Ethiopia, it seems reasonable that donors would expect that a large amount went there. However, unless Mars Hill provides a report, there is no way to know.
One reason this issue is important is due to Mars Hill’s accreditation by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Ultimately, the ECFA may be the only leverage that the public has to get this information. ECFA’s standard 5 requires organizations to be transparent and provide an accounting of project based giving upon request.

Project reporting.  The standard provides that “on written request,” every accredited organization “must provide a report, including financial information, on any specific project for which it sought or is seeking gifts.” Project reports communicate project results to donors and are a further evidence of the ministry’s accountability.
A “project” generally occurs when a donor places a restriction on a gift as to purpose, or a ministry accepts contributions that are solicited for a specific area of ministry, such as a program or project. Solicitation for project-related gifts may occur via fundraising events, through direct mail, Internet solicitation, by radio or television, and in other ways.
Unrestricted contributions have no implicit or explicit time or donor restrictions and are available to be used at any time and in any exempt area or operation of the organization. Therefore, project reporting does not apply to unrestricted gifts.

According to this ECFA guideline, unrestricted contributions are not subject to the same reporting requirements. Mars Hill appears to be making a case via the FAQs that the giving to the Global Fund was always unrestricted. Certainly they prefer it to be that way now according to the information provided above.
But was the Global Fund giving unrestricted during the 2013 and 2014 fiscal years? To me, it seems that since donors had an option to give to the General Fund or to the Global Fund and the Global Fund was being defined at the time as the church’s means to participate in the “worldwide mission of Jesus,” then Mars Hill is obligated to provide an accounting for at least FY 2013 and 2014 in accord with Standards 5 and 7.2 of the EFCA guidelines. I have asked the EFCA if they intend to require this accounting and they have yet to comment, saying only that they can’t comment while an organization is under review for compliance related issues.
In the mean time, perhaps Mars Hill will add the unanswered question to their FAQ and end the suspense.
 

More Evidence That Mars Hill Global Was About International Missions from 2012-2014

At one time, Mars Hill Global was a platform for people to give to Resurgence,Mars Hill Church and Acts 29 Network. However, by August 2012, the branding had changed as the materials below demonstrate. The means to give to all three was changed to The Connect Desk and Mars Hill Global became the ministry to provide for “church planters internationally.”
Currently, Mars Hill Church has declined to provide me with information about their use of Mars Hill Global donations for FY 2013 and the months up through the end of April. This period of time is relevant because Mars Hill changed the way they marketed Mars Hill Global early in FY 2013 (calendar year 2012). In August 2012, this notice was placed on the domain marshillglobal.com.

current webpage (soon to be removed I suspect but I have a copy) on TheResurgence.com explains what happened.

The 2013 Annual Report reinforced this change by only reporting international mission accomplishments.

Up until May 2014, a donor could give to a Global Fund which was tied to the Mars Hill Global website, which was tied to numerous videos of efforts in Ethiopia and India. Only recently, after my reporting on this subject, have we learned that the Global Fund helped pay for the down payment and start up costs for Mars Hill Everett and other franchises.
 
 

Kudos to Mars Hill Church

Brief note to give credit where credit is due.
On June 8, Matthew a commenter on one of my posts about Mars Hill Global noted that Mars Hill claimed to translate the Bible into Amharic. However, as Matthew noted, there are already good translations of the Bible in Amharic. I wondered if the claim was used to make it appear that more was being done than actually happened. Translation is a major undertaking, much more involved than printing an established translation.
The Mars Hill folks must read the blog because the reference to translation has been altered. In fact, there is an explanation given. This deserves a positive mention. Instead of simply removing the page as has been done in the past with embarrassing information, the Mars Hill folks corrected the error and provided an explanation.
The page used to say:

We have also had the privilege to translate the Bible into Amharic, Ethiopia’s native language. What a blessing it was for Mars Hill Global to be able to give away 1000 Amharic Bibles to brothers and sisters across the world.

This looks like a deliberately misleading statement. However, this statement has been changed on the page now:

Note the explanation just above. In my experience writing about Mars Hill, such corrections are infrequent. Often pages just disappear. However, in this case, they provided the correct information and provided an explanation so that people who consult this page will understand the change. Well done.
Now Mars Hill, how about telling us where the Global Fund went?


 

Sutton Turner and the Tale of Two Mars Hill Globals

With each new publication about Mars Hill Global, it seems that church leaders verify my suspicion that much of the money donated for international outreach over the past couple of years has been spent on expanding Mars Hill United States franchises.
In a new video, executive pastor Sutton Turner defines Mars Hill Global as a family connected to Mars Hill Church through Mark Driscoll. In this video, Turner reveals that Mars Hill Global is helping Spokane get off the ground, and in the past helped the Phoenix franchise launch. In a prior post, I noted that Mars Hill Everett’s pastor Ryan Williams thanked Mars Hill Global for helping buy their building. He was almost two years late with his thanks but better late than never I guess.
In this new video, Turner makes sure we know that Mars Hill Global is a bunch of people who give to support church planting locally and internationally. Watch:
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D88NBSgOb4I[/youtube]
Transcript:

Mars Hill Global is a family; a family that is connected to Mars Hill Church through Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Bible preaching. Each week there are almost 250,000 people from all over the world that download, watch, and listen to sermons and other content from Mars Hill Church.
In 2007, I began listening to Mars Hill podcasts while living in Texas and continued as a podcaster when I moved to the Middle East. My family and I were amazed at the work that Jesus was doing through Mars Hill and the number of people that were meeting Jesus and growing in Jesus each week. It was amazing. I wanted to be more than just a podcaster, I wanted to participate with prayers and financial support as part of the global family of Mars Hill Church so that more people would meet Jesus and more churches would be planted.
Together you and I are both a part the global family of Mars Hill Church. Mars Hill Global mission is the same as Mars Hill Church, making disciples and planting churches all over the world. Currently,your gifts support our 15 Mars Hill Church locations in the United States, evangelists in Ethiopia in church planters in India. It’s a blessing to have a global family who supports what Jesus is doing around the world.
As I mentioned, I’m here in Spokane Washington where we hope to plant our 16th Mars Hill Church location. It’s our prayer that this church building originally constructed in 1926 will be the new home of Mars Hill Spokane. I want to ask you to begin praying about this opportunity; an opportunity for a new Gospel work in an old vintage building, a building that will be home for a new family of believers to meet, worship, and fellowship in Jesus’s name. This new work doesn’t happen without your financial support. You help plant Mars Hill Phoenix earlier this year. Now we’re praying about this opportunity to plant Mars Hill Spokane.
I invite you to continue to pray and give, so more people can be saved by Jesus, more people can grow in Jesus, and more people can be on Jesus’s mission in Seattle, Albuquerque, Spokane, the United States, Ethiopia, India, and the ends of the Earth.

All of that is fine. If people who don’t go to Mars Hill want to donate money to Mars Hill’s General Fund, then, of course, that is up to them. However, what about the people who donated money to the Mars Hill Global Fund when it existed? Shouldn’t they know where their donation went? As some commenters on my blog have expressed, they are surprised that their money went to building in the U.S. One commenter who claimed to donate to the Global Fund wrote:

I have no words! So, we not so rich east europeans give money for poor Ethiopia and India, but surprise, they go for rich americans!!! This is some kind a joke!

Up to May, a donor could donate to something called the Global Fund. And as the next video shows, the source of the donations could be from Mars Hill members in the U.S. as well as from people who didn’t attend Mars Hill. According to this video published in January, Mars Hill Global was the arm of Mars Hill Church which developed resources for international efforts. Watch:
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcseC6KpSBk[/youtube]
Transcript:

Howdy Mars Hill Church, pastor Sutton Turner here and I’m in Ethiopia, and I just want to thank Jesus for continuing to use Mars Hill Church to make disciples and plant churches. Mars Hill Global is the arm of Mars Hill Church that makes disciples and plant churches all over the world. We not only do church planting, but we help better equip church planters. Most recently, we shipped and now distributed a thousand Bibles into Amharic which is the language here in Ethiopia, and we launched a project to translate Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Doctrine book into Spanish. We have people from over 29 different countries that are giving on a monthly basis to Mars Hill Global.
So whether you’re a member of one of our Mars Hill Church locations in the United States or you’re one of 100,000 podcasters every single week, We encourage you to pray about giving above and beyond your tithe to Mars Hill Global. Thank you and let’s see more materials translated, more pastors sent out, more churches planted, and more people saved by Jesus Christ.

Turner’s January 2014 video sounds much more like the way Mars Hill Global was described in the 2013 Annual Report. Prior to May, as noted by Turner in the second video above, a donor, including a member of Mars Hill Church, could designate money separately from one’s tithe (General Fund giving) for international efforts. That was called the Global Fund. In all of the revising of Mars Hill Global’s history which has been going on lately, nothing has been said about where the Global Fund has gone or where that money was spent. Apparently, some of it was spent on Everett’s down payment, and now we learn that some of it was spent on Mars Hill Phoenix and is about to be spent on Mars Hill Spokane. But how much of it went to Ethiopia and India? If I had donated to Mars Hill Global Fund in FY 2013 and/or 2014, I would want to know.