06 Partnership Problems

On This Page:

  • 06-1. Key Associations and Contractual Partnerships
  • 06-2. Acts29 Network
  • 06-3. Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA)
  • 06-4. The Gospel Coalition
  • 06-5. ResultSource, Inc.
  • 06-6. Tyndale House Publishers
  • 06-7. Concluding Thoughts

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06-1. Key Associations and Contractual Partnerships

In this section, I will give summary descriptions of situations existing that three non-profits and two for-profit entities have with Mars Hill Church. I originally researched these as “Commenders” of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church. Their endorsements, publications, speaking engagements, etc., contributed to maintaining a reputation of righteousness when serious issues were ongoing underneath that façade.

Non-Profit Associations

  • Acts29 Network (also listed as Acts 29, with a space before the number)
  • Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA)
  • The Gospel Coalition

Contractual Partnerships

  • ResultSource, Inc.
  • Tyndale House Publishers

These entities appear on the Mars Hill Church Organizational System Graphic, found below and also in section 02-11 on subpage 02 Organizational System. See that link for detailing of the other kinds of entities on the graphic.

Click on the image to view a larger version.

This is what looks like an all-in-one chart. But even this is not really comprehensive. While it is packed with details about entities and activities directly related to Mars Hill Church, I can’t guarantee that I have included all elements that are organizationally a part of their system, or that their spokesmen would agree with my categories or the titles I’ve used.

Here is the color code for the element boxes in this illustration:

  • Bright turquoise = non-profit corporations that are part of Mars Hill Church.
  • Light blue = campuses and constituents.
  • Dark blue = Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) that are part of Mars Hill Church.
  • Bright green = for-profit corporations that are part of Mars Hill Church.
  • Grey = Categories of activities or associations.
  • White = organic elements in Mars Hill that do not have their company or corporation – though some may have their own webpages, like Mars Hill Media, or separate websites, like The Resurgence.
  • Bright yellow = outside for-profit companies with contracts from Mars Hill-related personnel or divisions.
  • Light yellow = outside non-profit agencies and networks that Mars Hill Church has/had some kind of key association with.
Mars Hill Church Organizational System ~ Version #3 ~ December 12, 2014

Mars Hill Church Organizational System ~ Version #3 ~ December 12, 2014

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06-2. Acts29 Network

In 1998, Mark Driscoll was a co-founder with David Nicholas of this network of church-planting churches. So, there is a long history of influence and interactions among Mark Driscoll (who served as its President), Mars Hill Church (which supplied a large portion of the budget at times), and Acts29 members (with many church planters being highly influenced by the “cultural and spiritual DNA” of Mars Hill). Mark Driscoll stepped down as President on March 28, 2012, and Matt Chandler replaced him. The Acts29 Board removed Mars Hill Churches from membership on August 8, 2014, over a series of accusations and confrontation – with a lack of “repentance, change, and restitution” that led to the Acts29 Board’s conclusion that Mark Driscoll was unfit leadership due to “ungodly and disqualifying behavior.” This is why there is a broken line for the Acts29 Network box; the relationship is broken.

The Acts29 Board has received some criticism for not having dealt decisively in the mid- to late-2000s with ongoing allegations about Mark Driscoll’s apparent abusive behaviors and character disqualifications. They are also recipients of questions about the influence of Mars-Hill-like strong-arm tactics taken by other Acts29 members.

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06-3. Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA)

In September 2012, Mars Hill Church became an accredited member of ECFA. and they noted that “Mars Hill is the third fastest-growing and 28th largest church in the United States.” This gives some idea of the attention ECFA has given Mars Hill. ECFA also states elsewhere that “21 of the 100 largest churches in the U.S are accredited by ECFA,” and advertises that Mars Hill is one of these (ECFA: Enhancing Trust for Churches, page 32). Their 3rd Quarter 2013 Focus on Nonprofit Accountability newsletter (page 8), features Mars Hill Church and a quote from Mark Driscoll because they became ECFA’s milestone 1,700th member:

“At Mars Hill, we are dedicated to utilizing the resources entrusted to us in faithful adherence to our mission to make disciples and plant churches in the name of Jesus. In proactively submitting ourselves to the scrutiny of ECFA, we openly state our commitment to proclaim Jesus to our communities with utmost ethical honor.”

Pastor Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church – Seattle, WA

Although apparently ECFA has commented on the unethical nature of the Mars Hill/Real Marriage contract with ResultSource, Inc., it doesn’t seem there’s been any other notice or censure or action made public about scrutiny of Mars Hill by ECFA. And, as of September 15, 2014, that same quote from Mark Driscoll appears elsewhere on the ECFA website, such as “Read what others are saying about ECFA.”

In 2014, Mars Hill Church Executive Pastor Sutton Turner is noted in the acknowledgements section as one of only 10 members of the ECFA’s 1st Annual Church Stewardship Survey Advisory Panel. The attention given to Mars Hill is understandable. However, has it also put ECFA into a conflict of interest when it comes to potential “policing” of a member who pays to belong to this certification network?

[Update: The quote is now gone. According to an article by Rob Thain Smith posted December 27, 2014, The ECFA has purged their web-site of Mark Driscoll, but still certifies the integrity of Mars Hill Church. See also the ECFA category tag for more from Musings From Under the Bus site.]

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06-4. The Gospel Coalition

Mark Driscoll was a founding member of The Gospel Coalition, which began in 2005. He was also part of its Council. He resigned from its Council on March 28, 2012, as part of his revision of priorities that also included his stepping down from the Presidency of Acts29 Network.

One reason The Gospel Coalition (TGC) is included here is the important role Mark Driscoll played as one of the prominent pastors involved, but also because TGC seems to have a track record of defending their own vociferously at times, but remaining relatively silent about standing with and advocating for any alleged victims of spiritual abuse by those in their network. For instance, this pattern seems to have been applied to support for C.J. Mahaney of Sovereign Grace Ministries and  Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church, and against Tullian Tchividjian.

Also, TGC co-founder Tim Keller made a most remarkable statement that was included in an August 23, 2014, article from the UK magazine, Christian TodayAs 21 former Mars Hill members file charges against Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller says brashness was ‘obvious to many’.

Tim Keller, a distinguished evangelical and senior pastor of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, was quoted by the paper as saying: “He was really important — in the Internet age, Mark Driscoll definitely built up the evangelical movement enormously.

“But the brashness and the arrogance and the rudeness in personal relationships — which he himself has confessed repeatedly — was obvious to many from the earliest days, and he has definitely now disillusioned quite a lot of people.”

There has been significant criticism of Tim Keller and The Gospel Coalition as a result of this statement. If this was so “obvious to many” about Mark Driscoll “from the earliest days” (and he co-founded Mars Hill Fellowship in 1996) and Mark Driscoll was a founding member of The Gospel Coalition (giving Tim Keller connections with Mark Driscoll since at least 2005), why was no disciplinary action of any kind apparently taken by TGC with one of their own? Couldn’t their apparent inaction amount to complicity in the harm that came to hundreds precisely because of his personal relational style which Tim Keller doesn’t quite call out as sin, but seems to imply? To my knowledge, Tim Keller has not amended or expanded upon his extraordinary statement in any way, nor have I seen any kind of public response to the criticism of him or TGC as a result of the quote.

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06-5. ResultSource, Inc.

This is the company that apparently was paid over $200,000 to purchase sufficient books in specific numbers of small and medium lots to ensure that Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll would achieve New York Times Bestseller List status – which it did, for one week only. But then the achievement could be tauted elsewhere, gaining prestige for Mark Driscoll and his ministries in teaching and writing.

A turning point on this came with a March 8, 2014, article by James Duncan on Pajama PagesOn Driscoll, it’s called inurement, and it’s probably illegal. This exposed the contract with ResultSource, Inc. This was followed up on March 16, 2014, with, How Mark Driscoll pockets the money he gives to Mars Hill. This new post examined Charitable Remainder Unitrusts (CRUTs) and how the Driscolls’ On Mission CRUT plays into the picture. (See a series of links at the bottom of the second article for additional related articles.)

Not long after questions began being raised about the process and payments made for this status, ResultSource, Inc., pulled down most of their website other than a notice of a contact email address, which is still there as of September 7, 2014. T

he ECFA eventually responded to questions and challenges to them about whether this Bestseller status scheme was illegal and/or unethical. (See Warren Throckmorton’s March 14, 2014, article, Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability: Buying Place on Best Seller Lists Violates Standards.)

Mark Driscoll’s eventual response was noted in a March 17, 2014, article from Christianity Today – Mark Driscoll Retracts Bestseller Book Status, Resets Life. The entire situation raises questions/allegations of potential inurement, including whether tax-exempt donations were used for this contract that provided “private benefit” to Mark and Grace Driscoll by achieving a bestseller status what would increase prestige and, assumedly, sales of their book and thus higher levels of royalties.

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06-6. Tyndale House Publishers

Tyndale House Publishers is apparently a for-profit enterprise (I could not verify yet whether it is a corporation, LLC, etc.) that is “substantially owned by Tyndale House Foundation.” It figures into the organizational system of Mars Hill because of its publishing partnership with Resurgence Publishing, Inc. Tyndale House’s publishing of TITLE  by Mark Driscoll brought them under scrutiny when Janet Mefferd raised questions about plagiarism, and she and then others provided more extensive documentation about citation errors, unattributed copying of material from the work of others, etc. Tyndale House stood behind Mark Driscoll and their partnership with Resurgence Publishing, noting in this July 1, 2014, press release that they still intend to publish Mark Driscoll’s latest book, The Problem with Christianity.

If I remember correctly, there have been about eight different publications by Mark Driscoll (and one from Mars Hill Executive Elder Sutton Turner, which he states he will correct) with alleged problems of plagiarism. Tyndale House was the only one to essentially deny any problem; the others all took steps to correct problems with attribution, copying, etc. To research the exact numbers for yourself, and to list what other publishers and publications were involved, use the search function for “Tyndale House” on Warren Throckmorton’s blog. It will give you over 15 articles from December 2013 through August 2014. And see a summary here: Mark Driscoll’s Citation Errors At A Glance.

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06-7. Concluding Thoughts

An organizational system involves more than just internal divisions within an enterprise. It involves associations with outside entities, such as business companies, networks, collaboration partners, the IRS, other regulatory agencies and civil authorities. In an organic system, what affects one part of the body affects the whole body, for better or for worse. Some of the organizations mentioned in this section can be seen as “Commenders” of Mars Hill Church organizationally and/or Mark Driscoll personally. I would suggest that those bear at least some complicity in propping up people and systems that inflicted harm on others. Those in their leadership may need to consider what responsibility they do and don’t bear for the roles they have played. (See the series on Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse, dealing with topics of culpability, complicity, recovery, and taking responsibility.)

Also, if my schedule forces me to take a break from this Research Guide series, let me stress again that I hope it helps you search for resources to answer the questions you have about the situations of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church. Be a Berean – search these things out for yourself, sift and sort the documentation, process your thoughts with others, discern and decide what it means you believe you must do as a response. You may come to different conclusions than I have, but I believe I will have fulfilled my role if I have equipped you to think critically about these important concerns for all who follow Christ and for all involved with churches or other kinds of non-profit ministries and agencies.