Mars Hill Bellevue Pastor Thomas Hurst Resigns

During the 10:30 am service this morning, lead pastor Thomas Hurst announced his resignation. It was announced that Hurst wanted a break from ministry saying that today was his last day as pastor. Hurst then told the congregation that he wanted to be the guy to lead the new Bellevue Church but that he is tired and just can’t do it. The Hursts don’t plan to leave the church as members but Thomas is going to step aside as pastor. Hurst said the church leadership is looking to find somebody to preach the Bible for the new church.
Hurst is listed as a member of the new Bellevue Church board which will take over for the closing Mars Hill Bellevue campus.

Mars Hill Bellevue Pastor Thomas Hurst Calls Church to Rebuild From Top Down or Close

Mars Hill Bellevue’s pastor Thomas Hurst posted a message to his Bellevue congregation which has appeared this morning on various Facebook pages and Reddit.  The note is reflective and interesting for those who are trying to make sense of the many recent moves at Mars Hill. To read the entire note, see the Reddit posting. I will pull out a few points of interest to me but with little commentary. The note is striking in that Hurst does not criticize much. Rather he calls leaders to repentance.

While we must always keep a long view of God’s story, we absolutely cannot in any way overlook, dismiss, ignore, or pretend that we are not where we are and that we, the leaders of this church, past and present, from top to bottom have to take individual and collective responsibility for where we are today as a church without excuse. We must own our sin, seek repentance and reconciliation. We must do this not so it will allow us to leave the storm, but because the storm will not leave us until we repent and change.

Hurst rightly says the process of dealing with the many allegations will not be a “quick fix.” This is because there are many allegations, and the people called to examine them are busy, some with full-time jobs. In addition, he does not believe the church should curtail evangelism activities. Hurst asserts:

At the same time we are still called as a church to preach and teach the word and manage the day-to-day needs of 15 churches that exist in five states. Do not get me wrong – this process has to be our highest priority, but we must also keep the preaching of the gospel, reaching people, and loving them well as a high priority also. We cannot rush through this process by assuming all the accusations are insignificant or label them as criticism, nor can we shutdown the church to only focus on accusations. We must do both at the same time, with the leaders we have today and of whom are best suited to help us walk through this healing process in an honest, faithful, detailed way. I believe the men we have today are the best men right now.

I suspect he would get some debate on that last point from some of the ex-Mars Hill pastors and perhaps some of the current ones. However, Hurst assures the congregation that he will speak up if he comes to believe the elders charged with examining the charges are not doing so fairly. Hurst disagrees with the method of raising charges used by the nine elders who wrote their letter quoting Paul Tripp. However, he adds:

Also, I want all of you to know that I do not believe there is anything wrong with these men having different convictions or beliefs about the state of our church, the quality of leadership that currently exists, or what steps we should take to be healthy. While I don’t agree with them on every issue and I may even stand on different sides with my own convictions, that does not make these men bad or wrong in their convictions, and it does not preclude them from continuing in their current roles as elders. It makes us brothers disagreeing on how best to battle for the same thing – owning our sin and seeing healing and repentance in and outside our church so the Gospel can go forth without barriers from within.

In many organizational conflicts where leadership is on one side and a group calling for change is on the other side, another group emerges composed of people who can see good points on both sides. Often they see enough good on each side that they cannot align with either one. They see the conflict as the problem (“barrier from within”), and hope to resolve that without one side losing. Here Hurst validates the nine pastors who signed the letter calling for Driscoll to enter a restoration plan, even as he expresses disagreement with them on certain unspoken points. Hurst closes his note by calling for a new foundation and expressing hope that the church will change or close:

Lastly, in the end there are only two outcomes I will continue to partake in – seeing our church faithfully rebuilt, with love and grace from the top down, or turning off the lights and locking the doors if God brings our church to an end. As a Christian who has experienced God’s ability to move mountains in the hearts of men, I do not think it is very wise for us to look at yesterday and then presume we know what tomorrow will bring. God will show us what tomorrow will be and we will make our decisions then. In the meantime we are family and I have hope for our family because I have hope for our God.

 It is perhaps ironic to close with a quote from Mark DeMoss who was recently called in to assist the church with crisis management:

We believe what most consider to be “PR problems” are really management problems that have become public.

The bold move taken by the nine pastors has changed the atmosphere at Mars Hill. They asserted their belief that there is a need to rebuild from the top down. Those beliefs have now become public. Now that the problems are apparent, what will the church do? According to Hurst, ultimately the church must be rebuilt from the top down or it should close. For related posts, click the link – Mars Hill Church.

Who at Mars Hill Church Authorized Church Funds to Buy a Place for Mark Driscoll's Real Marriage on the NYT Best Seller List?

Before Warren Smith’s World Magazine article in March, the story about Mars Hill Church paying a consulting firm to boost Mark and Grace Driscoll’s book Real Marriage to the top of the New York Times best seller list was a carefully guarded secret at the Seattle megachurch. Almost three months later, members of the church are still asking their pastors about the deal. Last week, in a meeting of Mars Hill group leaders, members asked pastors Thomas Hurst and Jason Skelton to name who was responsible for the decision to spend church money on the promotion of the Driscolls’ book. According to sources in the meeting, Hurst and Skelton told those present that Driscoll said he was not involved because he had removed himself from the decision. Hurst added that Sutton Turner, who signed the contract (read it here), was new on the job and simply signed papers put in front of him. However, according to the sources, no person was singled out as being responsible for the RSI agreement.
This narrative raises questions about who at the church authorized the RSI contract. Turner’s name is on the contract, and the invoices (see below) were addressed to Driscoll. However, if Driscoll and Turner aren’t responsible, that leaves Jamie Munson and/or Dave Bruskas, who were the other two executive elders at the time.
Relevant to the Mars Hill members’ questions, I have obtained invoices dated five days after the RSI contract was signed. The invoices were sent to Mark Driscoll from RSI requesting payment of RSI’s $25,000 fee. While it is not clear who actually saw or paid these two invoices, they raise questions about the narrative presented in the recent group leader’s meeting and Driscoll’s involvement in the arrangement.


When the RSI-MHC story broke, Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll floated three different statements about the use of RSI to get Driscoll’s book on the New York Times list. As noted in a previous post, the initial position of Mars Hill Church was that the partnership between RSI and Mars Hill was an “opportunity” and an “investment.” Two days later, the Board of Advisors and Accountability of MHC said the arrangement was “common” but “unwise.” Then, several days later, Mark Driscoll said he first saw the arrangement as a way to market books but had come to see it as “manipulating a book sales reporting system” and thus “wrong.” In that statement, Driscoll seemed to indicate that he was aware of the situation.
I asked Mars Hill Church who was responsible for the Result Source agreement and church spokesman Justin Dean replied:

We have received your requests, and will not be responding with any comments now or in the future.

Adding another wrinkle is a note from executive pastor Sutton Turner in response to a member who recently left the church. In response to member concern over the Result Source arrangement, Turner wrote:

As I thought and prayed about your letter this morning, please know that we realize the Results Source decision was a wrong decision and poor stewardship. I am sorry as your Pastor that I failed you. Please accept my apology, I am very sorry.
I pray that I have learned from this and the godly authority that I am under has helped me and will help me in the future.
Please forgive me for my poor stewardship, I take that very seriously as a King.
God Bless you and I wish you all the very best.
Grace and Peace to you,
Sutton Turner
Executive Elder & Executive Pastor

So who is responsible for this expenditure of church funds? The invoices raise the possibility that Driscoll paid RSI’s fee while the church put up the money for the rest of the operation. Sutton Turner claims responsibility but others provide an out for him by saying he just signed the papers. An earlier church statement says Result Source was suggested by outside counsel. As of now, the situation is not clear and the church refuses to provide an official response.
In any case, this topic continues to be of interest to Mars Hill members and I suspect they will keep raising the matter. However, doing so may lead to negative consequences. Recently, one volunteer leader was removed from his position as a coach because he questioned leaders about this issue and executive salaries. More on that story to come.
Read the contract between Mars Hill Church and Result Source, Inc to promote Real Marriage.