RICO Lawsuit Filed Against Former Mars Hill Church Leaders and Alleged Co-Conspirators

Earlier today, Warren Throckmorton posted RICO Lawsuit Filed Against Former Leaders of Mars Hill Church. You can find a PDF of the 42-page complaint at this link. Filed by Brian and Connie Jacobsen, and Ryan and Arica Kildea, it names Mark Driscoll and John Sutton Turner, along with other alleged co-conspirators.

This RICO lawsuit against leaders of what was Mars Hill Church has been in the making for a long time. RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations. This is an extremely serious matter, and I believe there is a significant amount of information about alleged wrongdoing available. I spent at least 300 hours during 2014, researching and analyzing details in order to produce a case study on Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll. If I remember correctly, it’s about 70,000 words – the equivalent of about a 160-page paperbook book.

On the first blog page of that case study is a summary of my reasoning for why I believe this type of lawsuit against Mars Hill leaders is justifiable; the allegations are not trivial matters. And note that I wrote most of the material on that page December 1, 2014. I originally put it on my blog as an article: Capstone 2-6: A Lawsuit Against Mars Hill Church Could be a Just Cause Because … I think you’ll find the entire article informative, but here is the key section of that page and post, just as it appeared over a year ago: Continue reading


Capstone 2-8: Conclusions: Lessons to Learn from the Meltdown of Mars Hill


Since January 2009, I have been developing a curriculum for churches, social enterprises, start-ups, and non-profits. I’m covering topics that help their participants identify and avoid problems which will harm people, as they seek to create healthy endeavors that are designed to help people through personal and social transformation. And this past year, Mars Hill Church became a sort of “negative checklist” for this project, helping me ensure that I cover the system of potential problems that could arise, along with practical solutions and preventive measures.

My studies led me to conclude that, basically, just about everything that potentially could go wrong at every level and aspect of Mars Hill Church’s existence as a tax-exempt, non-profit, multi-campus, church-and-ministry-network entity, did go wrong. And, overall, no one heeded the warning signs, or the witnesses from both insiders and outsiders.

So, what was once a 15-branch multi-campus entity, valued at $28 million on their books, ended up in dissolution. It left the scene as brick and mortar, but there are still significant questions about potential ethical and legal issues hanging over the heads of the former executive leaders, board members, and staff – plus over each and every surviving spin-off/start-up congregation that was due to receive “seed money” from the shutting-down of Mars Hill and distribution of its remaining assets. Those issues may well still boomerang back upon these men and their followers, but so be it. That may become an unavoidable consequence of their avoidable decisions.

Although I’ve had Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church on my radar since 1997, I’ve only been paying very close attention to him/it since March 2014. This article offers a series of conclusions related to their personal/corporate meltdowns in 2014, based on my research writing.

Continue reading

Capstone 2-7: Mark Driscoll’s Culture of Contempt

I am nearing the finish line to my Mars Hill Case Study – which turned out to be a 10-month research project totaling over 50,000 words. The few remaining posts deal primarily with my conclusions, with some last recommendations mixed in here and there. This particular article focuses in on what I have distilled from considering some of Mark Driscoll’s toxic behavior patterns and the underlying characteristics that disqualify him from positions where he is given authority over people and/or is commended as being a public role model. (For extensive information on those personal issues, see the Case Study page 05 Leadership Problems.) I have not seen evidence of repentance necessary to even consider suggesting he should be restored to leadership. Rather, there is a continuing evidence stream of his contempt.

Contempt involves an arrogant attitude of superiority about one’s self, beliefs, abilities, opinions, etc. This in turn leads to bullying actions like scornful comments and sarcasm, reviling and mocking, minimizing and invalidating, and other forms of put-downs and control. You may be able to hide contempt for a while behind a veil of “charisma” or “edginess” or “relevance.” But sooner or later, the core of contempt will ooze out of the depths of darkness in such ways that can no longer be disguised. A pattern this deep is not accidental or inadvertent. It is practiced and intentional. Care to claim that it’s Christlike – even if there are likewise instances of appropriate attitudes and ministry?

Continue reading

Case Study on Mars Hill Church Meltdown Posted

I have just posted a series of pages that captures six months of my research work about failures of pastoral, organizational, and non-profit systems at Mars Hill Church.

I have reduced duplication, reorganized the material, and hopefully made it far easier to navigate. I still have a few links to add and related articles to finish, as time allows, but this represents the bulk of the research I have done to date.

To access the material, click on the main page for Mars Hill Church Case Study. There you will find a complete Table of Contents, with links to the subpages.

Lawsuit Against Mars Hill Church Leaders – Resource Bibliography (UPDATED)


The two main purposes of this post are (1) to list and describe five key potential legal issues that are relevant to a probable RICO civil suit against at least four key leaders from Mars Hill Church, and (2) to compile links to research resources that provide historical background, analysis, and/or interpretation of those issues. Continue reading

Capstone 2-6: A Lawsuit Against Mars Hill Church Could be a Just Cause Because …

Introducing My Post

This post presents my case for a civil suit against Mars Hill as a biblically reasonable move to halt the corporate shut-down and (hopefully) bring about justice for those treated unrighteously, give relief for abuse survivors, and reinfuse integrity into a Christian witness in the public square.

I have studied Mars Hill Church intensively off and on for months now. I’ve concluded the organizational and spiritual situation there is dire. So, when it comes to writing capstone articles based on my research into Mars Hill Church, this is one of several posts that I’ve felt the most “fear and trembling” about. Their paradigm is excruciatingly complicated and the meltdown extremely messy. And so, I really have felt the weight of responsibility to consider various angles carefully when evaluating whether a civil suit against Mars Hill is warranted. I have concluded that it is. Continue reading

Capstone 2-5: Trends, Turning Points, and Tipping Points in Spiritual Abuse Survivor Communities (2014) – Part 2: New Observations, Analysis, Interpretations

It’s been nearly two years since I last posted an article about emerging trends. Overall, it looks like some of the trends I noted before are seeing further development and perhaps differentiation as far as subgroups who are affected. For instance, de-churched Christians are starting to be divided into post-Christendom “nones” (who do not profess a particular religious or denominational affiliation, but consider themselves “spiritual”), and post-Church “dones” (who have given up on enduring church services where everything has been same-old, same-old for decades).

Other trends seem to have become more intensified. They definitely look to be moving toward longer-term influence in driving change. So, they’ve moved up a notch to turning points or perhaps even tipping points. Here is some of what I believe I’m seeing emerge from the fog of observation and gradually into more clarity of interpretation. Continue reading

Capstone 2-4: Trends, Turning Points, and Tipping Points in Spiritual Abuse Survivor Communities (2014) – Part 1: Setting the Stage

Futurists, Scenarios, and Spiritual Abuse Survivors

All the futurists I know do a lot of general research and reflection on culture and change. But at some point the information needs to be narrowed down to help specifics client or group figure out how they want to navigate the issues that are most relevant to them. One of the ways futurists do that is through scenarios. Scenarios take into account the information gathered on trends, and related analysis, and put them into a realistic story form that seeks to capture the emotional impact people will feel in struggling to cope with unavoidable changes. Rather than dictating answers to the client’s questions of “So what?” (meaning) and “Now what?” (resolve to act), the futurist facilitates a process for the client to discern and decide his/her/their own answers to them. The scenario doesn’t have to be about distress and disaster to be effective. Various kinds of conflict can be effective sparks for discussing where the client is at in the midst of these changes, and what is plausible in moving on from there. “Success” can create change just as much as conflict can. Continue reading

Capstone 2-3: “Decisive Moments” and Trajectories of Transformation

Dans les champs de l’observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits prepares.

(“In the fields of observation, chance favors the prepared mind.”)

~ Louis Pasteur ~ Lecture at University of Lille ~ December 7, 1854

Intuition and Intention, Perception and Preparation

The idea of intuition fueled by preparation is nothing new. What Pasteur commented on 160 years ago related to science was reiterated 60 years ago in the arts by photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. The thing that Cartier-Bresson was known for was clicking his camera at the exact right second to capture “the decisive moment” – something that showed the essence of the subject’s identity, or perhaps a turning point in someone’s decision-making process – but in a way that helps the viewer intuitively sense what is likely next. His influential book, Images à la Sauvette, images “on the run,” was published in 1952. Providentially, his “photos on the fly” book is about to be republished in French and English editions this December, making it available again for the first time in 60-plus years. Check out some of Cartier-Bresson’s iconic photos and see what you think about what he saw when he thought … and what clicks. I have reflected over the years about this idea of a decisive moment, and wondered how it applies to skills of strategic foresight – futurism. Continue reading

Capstone 2-2: Restitution

Thought #2 ~ For Current and Recent Mars Hill Leaders:

“If you do not show genuine pastoral care now for parishioners harmed in your past, why should anyone think you will do anything different or better in the future?”

From the number of personal stories, articles, and comments posted in social media, it seems obvious that Mars Hill Church has produced a lot of “walking wounded.” Some remain inside the system. Others have gone out or been forced out. While disciples must discern and decide for themselves where, when, and how they will move forward, what do we do if we see they have been hurt in a situation – or will be harmed if they enter it or stay in it? And what will you do if you were part of the system that harmed them? Continue reading