Forbes: Mars Hill "The Enron Of American Churches," Driscoll "the toxic leader du jour"

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Jim's picture

"But after 18 years of stunning growth, an escalating string of bad news finally started driving churchgoers away. Mars Hill leaders last Sunday said attendance and giving had plummeted so fast that it would have to close several Seattle branches and cut its staff 30 to 40 percent."

Jay's picture

Contrast this Bible verse:

Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. - I Tim. 3:7

With this description:

As the Daily Beast wrote about him back in 2012: “He’s developed a reputation as a testosterone-oozing Calvinist bruiser who shouts down his congregation, swears from the pulpit and sometimes seems to think that if you’re not cut out for the locker room, you’re not cut out for heaven. If you’re a woman, you’d better make sure you keep your husband fed and serviced.”

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jim's picture

Nondenominational megachurches are one example. They often can be free-wheeling, Wild West-style operations, unencumbered by national bureaucracies. That frees them to respond to grow quickly … or to grow malignantly.

The Mars Hill case also reminds us that Caesar-style leaders usually set their organizations up for glory—and then for civil war. When Julius Caesar accumulated too much power, the good-intentioned desire among some leaders to restore true republican rule resulted instead in the end of republican rule and a few years of bloodshed. You see that dynamic again and again, from Caesar’s own time, to Penn State in the wake of Joe Paterno’s firing two seasons ago and Mars Hill today. Personality cults end badly, because anyone objective finds themselves mauled by loyalists trying to hold the cult together.

With toxic leaders, there are no happy endings, no matter how hard you pray. You just have to move on. That may seem especially sad to those Mars Hill congregants who want Driscoll to undergo a disciplinary process so that that a newly mature, repentant and humbled version of himself might someday take the pulpit. But a number of psychologists have told me that the truly toxic leaders, the ones who manage to cause trouble on the scale of a Driscoll, are tragically irredeemable as managers. Oftentimes, the disciplining process only teaches them new ways to exploit the system while pretending to obey it. (Bear in mind that Driscoll himself has been claiming for years that he’s been making progress on his shortcomings.) Sure, there may be redemption stories for toxic leaders, but those usually involve them learning to relieve their stress through knitting, by adopting a rescue dog, or by finding some way to be of productive service without being in charge of large budgets and large communities.

Comment: Consider the common themes in the Driscoll, Schaap, MacDonald, and Mahaney histories

Bert Perry's picture

OK, I'm going to assume Forbes' writer is right when he notes that those subject to toxic leaders just need to move on.  Now, as I approach this within the Gospel--about repentance from sin, restoration, and the like--this would mean one of two things if I'm reading it right:

1.  The toxic leaders within fundagelicalism are actually outside the Gospel.

2.  The toxic leaders within fundagelicalism have committed sins that ought to permanently exclude them from church office.

I would have tended to adopt a milder version of #2, that the sins committed by the Driscolls of the world require them to demonstrate their repentance over a period of time before reassuming responsibilities.  But that said, Mars Hill may not be able to work without Driscoll, so they literally cannot wait to have him back.  The whole enterprise collapses without him.

And along the same lines, I'd guess a certain portion of those at Mars Hill, and hence a certain portion of those leaving, will have no other pastor but someone exactly like Mark.  So we need to pray for them to be converted to the Gospel and aligned with the church, not Mark Driscoll.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

mmartin's picture

To compare MH & Driscoll with Enron is a valid comparison.  Ouch!!

If you open the link above to the article in Forbes, the article immediately below that is also about MH and Driscoll.  It talks about the bigger shame is how the subordinates & followers allowed someone like Driscoll to be in power by being willfully ignorant.  There have been repeated and continual signs all over the place for YEARS and yet people still went ga-ga over Driscoll. 

It is true - the followers and subordinates of Driscoll bear much of the blame for this mess.

Even now people in Driscoll's world say that if he "repents" and sits in the corner like a good boy for six months he can come back. 

Really!???!

This man clearly is not fit to be a leader - never mind a pastor.

Fundamentalism seems to be the favorite punching bag by too many people, but those people are Willfully Ignorant as well.  Yes, fundamentalism has its problems, but clearly does evangelicalism too.  From Driscoll & MH to James MacDonald to Sovereign Grace, scandal, abuse of power, & hurt are not limited to only one side of the isle.  We are all humans with a sin nature.  Power can corrupt anyone, even those cool missional & relevant evangelicals.

Balanced and intelligent thinking, please.

 

Jay's picture

mmartin wrote:
Even now people in Driscoll's world say that if he "repents" and sits in the corner like a good boy for six months he can come back. 

Really!???!

I think it's only six weeks, not six months.  Not sure about that, though.  It's not long enough either way.

As an aside, that Financial Report is interesting.  According to page 7, it looks like approx. 55% of the church's expenses went to salary and personnel.  If I were donating to an NPO where the percentage was that high, I'd be very concerned about the organization's priorities as laid out on this document.  Yes, NPO executives can do very well in terms of salary, but it should not be anywhere near 55%.  A follow up question would be why that percentage is so high when many of the elders/deacons are MH are volunteers and unpaid.  Something's out of whack with their finances.

Furthermore, IIRC, a significant portion of the questions about finances are about what the breakout is per line - so they spent 12MM on salary and benefits. What, exactly, are those salary and benefits?  And why is it so much?

This is where websites like www.charitynavigator.com and www.guidestar.org come in handy.  I'd really like to see a copy of the management letter that went with their audit, but I very much doubt that will be made available.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

Jay, 55% is not unusual for salary at churches, especially those without a mortgage.  You have utilities, mortgage, insurance, office supplies, supplies for VBS/Sunday School/etc..--and then salaries and benefits.  At least 50% of the total budget is typically salaries and such for a church.  The tax designation is "charity", to be sure, but the goal to be served is the preaching of the Word of God, not handing food out to the indigent--that's the "deacons' fund", no?

Regarding Sunday School expenditures, though, I have trouble envisioning parents taking kids to hear Driscoll's often rather profane rants.  Tell them all week not to use those words they learned on the school bus, have the pastor undo all that work in a half hour sermon.  Ouch!

What occurs to me here is a simple question that Julie Anne hinted at in the thread on Mr. MacDonald; how many former deacons, elders, pastors, employees, and  members at megachurches who have been keeping their peace for years are going to gather some courage and speak up now?  Some of it will be eminently fair, some of it will be complete slander, I'd guess, but I've got to wonder which churches will have their past exposed in the next few weeks or months.

It could get very, very ugly soon.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

While I am no fan of Mark Driscoll, I  would caution the stone throwers to remember that we have our own skeletons. While they are not as prominent as Driscoll, we have men who have been guilty of disqualifying sin who did penance and returned to ministry.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

mmartin's picture

In reviewing the MH financial statements, the items that jumped out to me:

$5.3M Cash.  This is up $2M from the previous year

$12.3M Notes Payable with annual payments of at least $3.6M.  They have a large, I would assume, mortgage.  They have funded quite a bit of their ministry with debt.

$28.7 Property & Equipment assets.

$24M Tithes and Offerings.  This is a ministry flush with income and cash.

$12.5M Personnel Costs.  This is just over half of the annual Tithes & Offerings.  Seems high to me, but I really don't have anything to base that on.  The cost of benefits can be quite high and I don't know how many employees this ministry has on its payroll.  I have read previously that MH pastors are paid very well.  I would expect Driscoll to have a nice share of this pie.

This is an extremely profitable ministry that is a Cash Cow!

Jay's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

While I am no fan of Mark Driscoll, I  would caution the stone throwers to remember that we have our own skeletons. While they are not as prominent as Driscoll, we have men who have been guilty of disqualifying sin who did penance and returned to ministry.

I've seen this sentiment a lot lately, and I'm wondering why is a typical reaction to Mark Driscoll's flameout.

I don't think anyone here is out to "get" Driscoll or who really believes that he did no good.  But I don't understand why we should be so hopeful (for lack of a better word) that his ministry endures.

Do we really take the pulpit so lightly that it is more important that a big pulpit is filled, even with someone so obviously and grossly unqualified, than it is to have a small ministry that is actually rooted and grounded in the truth?  Where the pastor does live a life that is in line with what God demands, and who is faithfully teaching every week for years?  Who would God praise?  Are we really so celebrity driven and people focused that we would prefer the man God rejects, like Barabbas?

I have never been optimistic about the ministry of Mars Hill.  You can look up my initial comments from SharperIron on Driscoll, if you want the proof.  So I don't get why there should be weeping and gnashing of teeth now that his business and multimedia empire, rooted and founded in a narcissistic personality and what could be charitably described as a cult of personality, is collapsing.  God still has good men in Seattle.  The gospel will still go forth, even if there aren't.  And if God has seen fit to end the ministry of someone who unqualified, I think that gives us reason to fear for ourselves (cf 1 Peter 4:12-19).  But if Driscoll is half the mess that has been made public, then shouldn't we be glad that he is removed from ministry?  That he can't continue to damage the name of Christ or people who are interested in Jesus by giving them a distorted and pugilistic form of the faith?

Someone help me out here, because maybe I'm the only one who feels this way.  If the man is not qualified, then why shouldn't I be relieved he's out?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

Ron's point is much appreciated, and....quite frankly....yes, I would agree that we ought to be gracious because our own ox is going to be gored as well, and I also agree with Jay that where indeed "we" have pastors who disqualify themselves by their behavior, we ought to welcome that ox being gored.  After all, it's not like megalomaniacs in the pulpit bring lasting honor to our Lord, is it?  Don't we all know people who stay away from churches for life, depriving themselves of the comfort of fellowship, because of what they've endured from church leadership gone awry?

If indeed this sad episode brings about a large-scale examination of those who fill many pulpits--in megachurches and elsewhere--it could be a very painful lesson, but one that is good in the long run.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Jay wrote:

I don't think anyone here is out to "get" Driscoll or who really believes that he did no good.  But I don't understand why we should be so hopeful (for lack of a better word) that his ministry endures.

Actually, in my case, I don't particularly care if *his* ministry endures, but I would like his *ministry* to endure.  Like others have expressed about the church at Hammond, I would prefer to see the church clean house in the right way, and get the right man for the job, rather than collapsing completely and starting over.  In this case, I'll admit to having a dog in the race, because I have family in one of his satellite churches.  I've been to precisely one service where he preached, and while I didn't care for the "grunge"-style music, I thought that particular sermon was dead on.  I think there are a number of true believers in his church, and I hope the church can eventually head the right direction.  Maybe it can't, but I'm not going to hope against it.

From what I understand, in some parts of the greater Seattle area, the choices (not including cults and apostate churches), if you don't want to drive 45 minutes each way, are often between extreme KJVO or broader evangelical (i.e. broader than Driscoll).  If some of those Mars Hill campuses can be turned around, they will still be a better choice than much of what is available.

Dave Barnhart

Jay's picture

dcbii wrote:

Actually, in my case, I don't particularly care if *his* ministry endures, but I would like his *ministry* to endure.  Like others have expressed about the church at Hammond, I would prefer to see the church clean house in the right way, and get the right man for the job, rather than collapsing completely and starting over.  In this case, I'll admit to having a dog in the race, because I have family in one of his satellite churches.  I've been to precisely one service where he preached, and while I didn't care for the "grunge"-style music, I thought that particular sermon was dead on.  I think there are a number of true believers in his church, and I hope the church can eventually head the right direction.  Maybe it can't, but I'm not going to hope against it.

From what I understand, in some parts of the greater Seattle area, the choices (not including cults and apostate churches), if you don't want to drive 45 minutes each way, are often between extreme KJVO or broader evangelical (i.e. broader than Driscoll).  If some of those Mars Hill campuses can be turned around, they will still be a better choice than much of what is available.

I think that part of the reason why he is/was so popular is because he presented Christianity as something other than childish or weak.  There is very much an element of "manly Christianity", of saying it like it is, and calling a spade a spade that, frankly, has been refreshing to hear from what little I have seen, and I think that's where some of his popularity grew - because people are tired of 'gentle Jesus, meek and mild', and they wanted something stronger, and more war-like (again, for lack of a better term).

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Jay wrote:

I think that part of the reason why he is/was so popular is because he presented Christianity as something other than childish or weak.  There is very much an element of "manly Christianity", of saying it like it is, and calling a spade a spade that, frankly, has been refreshing to hear from what little I have seen, and I think that's where some of his popularity grew - because people are tired of 'gentle Jesus, meek and mild', and they wanted something stronger, and more war-like (again, for lack of a better term).

I can certainly buy that.  In the sermon I heard, he certainly didn't shy away from calling out sin, and he was in no way wishy-washy about bringing scripture to bear or goring a few oxen.  Whatever his faults, he certainly didn't seem interested in preaching to "itchy ears."  But that's anecdotal, and just one sermon.

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

dcbii, one might posit that Driscoll is catering, to a degree, to the itchy ears of those who are in the men's rights movement, although in his defense, he's infuriated them at times, too.

But that said, if indeed he's committed sins worthy of removing a pastor for at least a time, and I tend to agree with that assessment, the thing that comes to mind for me is that when (Lord willing) Driscoll repents, six short weeks is not enough time to demonstrate that he's turned over a new leaf.  And six months will have Mars Hill on the ropes.  It's a really ugly situation.  Like others, I don't want the good results of that ministry to be destroyed, but I really don't see much of a a way around the reality that Mars Hill really exists in terms of Mark Driscoll.  He suffers, they suffer.  Same thing with a LOT of megachurches.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

ChristyM's picture

to get TO a MH church - reference the local paper that quoted members driving to the Tacoma branch from Kent (a good 30 minutes even on Sunday morning).  My husband has a long commute so yes, we are VERY  thankful our little congregation is here in our area.  BTW we are NOT KJVO, nor broadly evangelical.  Having to meet in facilities rented from the SDA is part of our struggle and lack of visibility but we are a struggling congregation of under 75.  It might take some looking but there are sound, "not weird" Smile churches in the area. 

 

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

ChristyM wrote:

to get TO a MH church - reference the local paper that quoted members driving to the Tacoma branch from Kent (a good 30 minutes even on Sunday morning).  My husband has a long commute so yes, we are VERY  thankful our little congregation is here in our area.  BTW we are NOT KJVO, nor broadly evangelical.  Having to meet in facilities rented from the SDA is part of our struggle and lack of visibility but we are a struggling congregation of under 75.  It might take some looking but there are sound, "not weird" Smile churches in the area. 

Glad to hear it!  I don't live there, so while I have visited the area, my experience is mostly 2nd hand.  I figured there might be some good congregations somewhere.  Sometimes you have to know the right people to ask, though!  When my wife and I were first married, we did the "try out" thing when moving to a new area, and it often took a while to find and settle on something that wasn't "weird."  The internet certainly makes that task of searching easier, but often the character and ambience of a church can't be known very well without visiting, and I have found it's much easier to visit after a recommendation.

(And yes, I don't doubt there are people that travel a long ways to get to a MH church.  Some people are looking for that just as much as some of us are looking for something else!)

Dave Barnhart

josh p's picture

Our experience in western Wa. Is as described above. KJVONLY only and all the fixins

Don Johnson's picture

Now the thread is really drifting.

Yes there are a lot of kjv only style churches here. Personally, if my choice was kjv only and Mars Hill type churches, I would choose the kjv only one.

Fortunately there are some good churches that are neither of the above. I'm pretty sure I know the church ChristyM refers to above, there are others. Anyone interested in connecting with some of the better churches in the NW should attend our annual regional FBFI fellowship. I think we will be in Wenatchee next March, although plans are as yet not finalized.

And for the few readers across the border, there are a few good churches in BC as well.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

ChristyM's picture

was selected partly for "walkability" - most everything we truly need is within walking distance if gas gets crazy expensive(r). Exception was church.  I said in a pinch the SBC church was on the same bus line.  DH said if absolutely necessary we COULD walk to the KVJO church.  I said no I could not. 

ChristyM's picture

are in the Fair City if that helps pinpoint our location Smile

 

Jay's picture

But why on Earth would anyone voluntarily set foot in a KJVO church and all it's accompanying doctrinal problems over a more "liberal" (read: Cons. Evangelical type) church?  That idea strikes me as very weird.  I'd take deviations in praxis over deviations in doctrine anyday, myself.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Don Johnson's picture

But really, I will take a Hyper-inspiration view before a Deficient inspiration view every time.

Christy, your hint confirms my surmises.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bert Perry's picture

Aaron, ugh.  Sounds like a lot more of P.T. Barnum than the apostle Paul, to put it mildly.  I know that "the world" probably pulls these tricks to "juice" a book's placement on the NYT list, but people in the church?  Ugh.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.