Wenatchee the Hatchet has a copy of the 2011 agreement between Mark and Grace Driscoll’s LLC (On Mission, LLC) and Thomas Nelson to publish Real Marriage. Dusting off my Mars Hill sources, I conclude it is legit. In it, we learn:
-The Driscolls received an advance of $400,000.
-The book had a working title of “A New Marriage with the Same Spouse.”
-Mars Hill could have gotten thousands of books through Driscoll at an 80% discount. Instead, Mars Hill’s contract with Result Source called for the church to purchase 11,000 copies at an adjusted retail price so the numbers would count toward the New York Times best seller list. According to this contract, those royalties went to the Driscolls via On Mission.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that being the pastor of a church willing to develop a marketing campaign for your book (see that also at WtH) which includes a preaching series (with research done by consultants) and full support from a marketing team (paid for by tithes) is a really sure way to become wealthy.
It is my belief that the reason we have such poor giving by our Church is the lack of stewardship in the Church staff. Churches with excellent stewardship see greater giving because people know that every dollar they give will go towards the mission of the Church. It is very clear this has not been the case at Mars Hill Church. Sutton Turner
Turner’s March 17, 2012 memo outlines his perception of Mars Hill Church as “a very broken and fundamentally financially unsustainable organization.” Turner identifies numerous problems including a culture “that is plagued by poor stewardship, entitlement, December’s Hail Mary strategy, and using of the Church to build a personal ministry.”
Turner delineates reasons for his opinions throughout the memo. For now, I want to focus on two issues, the Result Source campaign and what Turner called the “December hail Mary strategy.”
On the Result Source expense to rig the New York Times count of book sales, Turner notes that the church spent heavily on that campaign along with launching six new locations.
Then you put on top of these 6 churches launches a RM campaign and you basically have a company going to World War III. It is all hands on deck, spend whenever is needed and let’s win the War.
The decision to “spend whatever is needed” is an unexamined aspect of the Real Marriage campaign. Mars Hill Church had finished 2011 strong because of the 2011 “December hail Mary strategy.” Over the next 3 months, the church burned through that money to the point that in March Sutton Turner woke up in the middle of the night and wrote a doomsday memo to his colleagues. Media and communications staff were given the tasks of promoting the Real Marriage book, including scheduling and servicing speaking engagements, all on church time. In the memo, Turner complains about this aspect of Mars Hill culture:
Many times these personal ministries are done during staff time and using church resources. This actually encouraged when I first came on staff as it was explained to me that staff was able to take MHC time to do consulting work to supplement their income. At the very highest levels of the organization this was taking place and reproduced throughout the organization. So as a result, all staff members saw this as acceptable and now the established culture within Mars Hill Church.
There is no higher level of the organization than Mark Driscoll and Sutton Turner had already participated in that culture by signing the contract with Result Source in October 2011 to rig the bestseller lists. On one hand, Turner is correct that ministers should not use the church to benefit them financially, but on the other hand, he had gone along with just such a scheme on a massive scale. At the end of the memo, he returns to the launch of six churches and the Real Marriage campaign as being a prime factor for the hole they were in.
The hole we are in today was set in course when we decided to plant 6 churches in 5 months on top of the Real Marriage campaign. Too much work for an 8,000 in weekly attendance church to undertake when there was a culture within the church staff of poor stewardship and a church body that did not financially support the church.
Another aspect of this memo that really stands out is the admission that the December end-of-the-year giving campaigns were designed to make up for giving shortfalls. Turner wrote:
From what I can tell by this past year’s budget, we have had a strategy of completing a Hail Mary every December with a big giving campaign. This has allowed the negative monthly ﬁnancial performance to continue while we count on a Hail Mary giving push in December to make up for the annual deﬁcit. Givers are giving to grow the body and plant more churches, but given our spending habits, their gifts just help us catch up. With the growth of the church, the 2011 version only allows for enough cash to run through June 2012 and is not a sustainable plan for December 2012.
Even though the church told the congregation that the December offerings were to be over and above tithes in order to fund extra projects, the money was not used in that manner. Even though Turner complained about this fundraising style, the church maintained the “December hail Mary strategy” during the end of the 2013 with glowing descriptions of a Jesus Festival to be held in August. That idea was discarded without notice very early in 2014.
Closer to the time of Turner’s memo was the 2011 end of the year appeal for $6.4 million for, among other things, the planting of four churches (happened), and to fund an animated children’s series (never happened). However, by March 2012, Turner was sounding the alarm that the church was in serious financial shape. He summarized the predicament with the following image:
If Mars Hill Church is now in “the most serious budget challenge in our history” then things now must be much worse than anyone has stated publicly. Given the rapid acquisition of properties, Mars Hill could be very low on cash and be in danger of the same kind of problems that existed in 2012. My guess is October is a deadline of sorts along the lines of point #3 above.
My suspicion is that the past is prologue to the current situation. Turner predicted that the situation was unsustainable and it appears he was correct.
I will probably revisit this memo in a future post but for now, let me end where I began. I believe Turner was correct when wrote:
It is my belief that the reason we have such poor giving by our Church is the lack of stewardship in the Church staff. Churches with excellent stewardship see greater giving because people know that every dollar they give will go towards the mission of the Church. It is very clear this has not been the case at Mars Hill Church.
However, very little has changed since he wrote those words. The church has steadfastly refused to disclose Global Fund spending, the church attempted to keep information about the Global Fund hidden, executive personnel costs are closely guarded secrets, and up until recently, members and some elders could not get a look at bylaws. It is still true that “churches with excellent stewardship see greater giving because people know that every dollar they give will go towards the mission of the Church.” Perhaps even Turner would agree that, even in the present season, “this has not been the case at Mars Hill Church.”
Pubishers have three options when plagiarism and/or errors are discovered. Such problems can be ignored, corrected or in extreme cases the book can be pulled from publication. In the case of David Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies, there were so many errors that correction was not a viable option so the book was pulled by publisher Thomas Nelson. In the case of Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage, Thomas Nelson elected to correct the errors. I found several such errors in Real Marriage, most of which Thomas Nelson corrected (e.g., here).
An error I did not find was identified by Peter Lumpkins when Real Marriage was released in January 2012. I recently learned of this error and plan to add it to my grid of other problems. In summary, Lumpkins discovered that Driscoll added a word to a quote as if the word was a part of the original quote. The quote was sourced properly but Driscoll added a word to make it more supportive of his premise.
On page 172 in Real Marriage, Driscoll says the following:
The lengthy quote is from Tremper Longman’s book on Song of Solomon and is footnoted. However, in Longman’s book, as Lumpkin demonstrates, the word “oral” is not a part of the quote. Longman says: “Thus, this may be a subtle and tasteful allusion to the intimacies of sex.” (p. 195).
In another place in Real Marriage (p. 186), the same sentence is cited but the word “oral” is in brackets. This is a better practice but given that the word is unbracketed here, many readers would probably believe the the exact quote is as Driscoll presented it.
Lumpkins discovered another problem but it appears that the publisher corrected it. Go read his post for the details.
On Monday, I pointed out that Mars Hill Spokesman Justin Dean claimed a role in helping Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage get to #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list. Dean’s bio on a website called Innovate4Jesus touted the accomplishment even though it is now known that the book was guaranteed an appearance on the NYT list due to the work of consulting firm Result Source. Result Source used subterfuge to purchase books in order to lift Real Marriage to the top spot on the list. Earlier today, Innovate4Jesus scrubbed Dean’s bio of reference to the bestseller campaign. On Monday, Dean’s bio appeared as follows:
Now it looks like this:
No explanation given.
Innovate4Jesus appears to have a cozy relationship with Mars Hill Church. Mark Driscoll has several videos embedded on the site and there is a Mars Hill channel. While this probably won’t last long, Driscoll’s bio on the site also touts the NYT Bestseller status of Real Marriage.
In his bio at a website called “Innovate4Jesus,” Mars Hill Church Spokesman Justin Dean touts his experience helping to get Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage to #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List:
On the Innovate4Jesus website, “#1 New York Time Bestseller” links to the January 22, 2012 NYT list for “Hard Cover Advice” books on which the Driscolls’ book Real Marriage placed at #1 for one week. See below for the text copied as it is now on the I4J website.
ABOUT JUSTIN DEAN
With over thirteen years of experience, Justin has been recognized as an innovative, entrepreneurial, results-focused leader in the marketing, advertising and public relations industry. He has held senior management roles for some of the most revolutionary start-ups, as well as larger organizations such as Cox Enterprises, Home Depot Supply, and Autotrader.com.
Marketing projects led by Justin include several best-selling books including a #1 New York Times Bestseller, award winning advertising campaigns, and web tools used by millions of users every day.
Justin currently leads the communications and social media teams for one of the largest, fastest-growing, and most innovative churches in the country. He enjoys technology, design and connecting people to new things. You can find him in Seattle, WA where he lives with his wife and three kids.
In a tweet earlier this afternoon, Becky Garrison asked Mr. Dean to elaborate on his role in the marketing campaign. I am also curious about how Mars Hill staff (was it just Mr. Dean or were others involved?) were included in the marketing campaign. The relevance here is that paid church staff were apparently involved in promoting the Real Marriage campaign. As has been widely reported (e.g., here and here), Mars Hill Church contracted with Result Source to purchase books valued at over $200,000. In the contract with Mars Hill Church, Result Source guaranteed that their method of gaming the New York Times Bestseller list would result in Real Marriage hitting #1 on the Bestseller list or else the additional $25,000 fee would be refunded.
Dean’s bio raises questions about who actually implemented the campaign. Dean seems to imply in his bio that he was in charge. I am also curious about how much time paid Mars Hill staff put into assisting Result Source or in other ways helped get Driscolls’ book to the status guaranteed by the contract. If staff assisted in gathering names and addresses for use by Result Source, or assisted in other functions related to the campaign, then it is likely that the real cost of the Real Marriage campaign greatly exceeded the $210,000-250,000 figures frequently reported and which are based simply on the Result Source contract.
Dean may have been involved in other ways such as developing ads or promotional material and those materials may have been very good. However, since it is now known that the Result Source campaign guaranteed #1 status, taking credit for the result seems to be a hollow accomplishment to tout.
After the many mixed signals Mars Hill Church has sent about the Result Source-Real Marriage campaign, it is surprising that anyone associated with Mars Hill Church leadership would extol it.