What did the elders know and when did they know it?

What is the responsibility of elders to the truth, to the members and to God?

The following is a call to the Elders of Mars Hill Church to examine themselves and a call to their brothers and sisters in Christ to challenge them in their responsibility:

These are some of the qualifications for elders / deacons – see 1Tim 3 and Titus 1 – these are prerequisites and an ongoing code of behavior: here are some to consider: Self-controlled, Able to teach, Not violent but gentle, Not quarrelsome, Has a good reputation with outsiders, Not overbearing, Not quick-tempered, Above reproach, Holds to the truth, Sincere…

They are to hold themselves and one another accountable to these. It should go without saying but it needs to be said: holding all accountable equally, without partiality. Can each elder look at himself in the mirror and before God and assert he has made truly independent judgments of his fellow elders in terms of accountability and treated them all equally? Or, has he “trusted” others and just gone along with the group?

In light of that let’s recall the troubling episode surrounding Pastor Driscoll’s comments about Ted Haggard’s tragic sins and spouses. Pastor Driscoll was called to account, over a period of time, by a large group of people. Ultimately he confessed (which is good) he was wrong ( were the comments about spouses incorrect teaching, not gentle, quarrelsome, hurt his reputation with outsiders, overbearing, reproachful, untruthful, insincerely unloving – any or all of these?) – So, Mark himself, at the promptings of outsiders (at the threat of picketing) determined his behavior and actions were unacceptable. Where were his fellow elders? Why was he not held accountable by those closest to him? This is just one example – but the most public and verifiable.

There have been reports of bullying and elders that changed votes after a call so that votes could be unanimous, comments made that there has been “errors on both sides”, votes were cast without truly understanding matters that were voted on, voting according to another’s recommendation without doing the work of studying an issue, abdicating responsibility due to lack of time on the elders’ part and acceding to artificial timetables and acceptance of the violation of the bylaws. One comment reported was “the new bylaws were just formalizing what was already going on…” which would mean that the old bylaws were being violated. Some of the charges against Pastor Bent were determined to be false – what happened to the false accusers? Are these reports true? They certainly have a “ring” of truth about them and each, by itself, can be discounted and rationalized by the perpetrators but the truth is known by the elders and their willingness to operate in that culture is a violation of Christian character.

Godly men have been fired, a godly man has been shunned and directed to be treated as an unbeliever and his reputation and motives savaged and judged by men in such a culture. Each elder willingly participates in that culture and conjoins his reputation to the reputation of those actions – each owns personally the errors, damage and sins of that process. What is the responsibility of the elders with respect to the operation of the church? MH has gross revenues of $9-12 million annually. Those offerings are entrusted to them – the elders – partly based on the expectation that those godly men are exercising oversight and accountability. The change in the bylaws, the minimal time for deliberation, indeed no deliberation as a group, and light manner in which the elders abdicated their oversight authority reflects on their judgment and should rightly be questioned. Two elders did – and they were fired. This is a glaring example of the methods and character of the 5 self-selected executive elders that now effectively control the finances of MH. All these facts were known when the elders voted “unanimously” to remove their own authority and concentrate the power in the hands of these five, self-appointed without term. Does it remove their responsibility? They must think so…but from here it looks like the elders are responsible but they no longer have control.

Interestingly, weekly giving figures used to be available to the members, now it is not. The management of the church has become increasingly less open to the members.

Each individual elder has endorsed this culture of heavy-handed bullying by acts both of commission and omission and it does not reflect well on them or their church and they are responsible.

(While every effort is made to know things correctly we see through a glass darkly and if facts are available that contradict the discussion above we earnestly invite correction – the desire is for truth and right understanding.)

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8 Responses to What did the elders know and when did they know it?

  1. Dustin says:

    “Interestingly, weekly giving figures used to be available to the members, now it is not. ”

    Weekly giving figures are still available on the member’s web site

  2. Lets be honest says:

    Dustin:

    You are not being honest. The figures have not been published weekly as they were prior to this incident. Even what has been published is vague and does not tell members much.

    It is time, especially now that the elders cannot even hold the holy 5 to account, for members to know what is happening in this arena. Many questions have not been asked because the members have been fooled into believing that all the elders accounted for the spending.

    This has not been the case for the last couple of years and we members need this corrected. The elders did not approve much of the debt (even under the by-laws) and this is just not what we were sold as members. If the church has 25% equity in its properties, something that Pastor Mark touted recently, then that means that it have leveraged its properties to the tune of 75%. Remember that the West Seattle was a gift and the Wedgwood property was received at 50% of its value. So what we know about the level of debt we are careening into as a church?

    Nothing.

    We are told nothing about the finances except how short we are on the budget. We are not told what is actually spent or how much is spent on what or how much debt the fab 5 are plunging us into.

    So, Dustin, at the very least. Be honest.

  3. solz says:

    To be fair, the figures for the first two weeks of January have been posted, the down side is that such posting suggests an approximate $155,000 deficit for the first half of January 2008. If this dismal pace continues for the month, we’ll already be in a $300,000+ deficit for the first month of 2008.

    Members were told that they were “disobeying God in their giving” at the end of last year http://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=4583 yet to my knowledge the giving for the critical months of November and December have not been published; thus it is unknown whether the sinful disobedience continued till years end (though the sinful, disobedient giving apparently continued in January 2008). Our “head pastor” Jaime reported that we were approximately behind by $350,000 in our most recent fiscal year–beginning July 1, 2007– (which a calculater suggests was closer to a $380,000 deficit) http://www.marshillchurch.org/audio/1107_voxpop.pdf

    This bit of financially troubling news was covered in both the West Seattle blog and The Stranger http://slog.thestranger.com/2007/12/mars_hill_financial_woes

    Perhaps we made up our deficit in November and December (who knows? where is it published?), even though our budget was a bloated 40% higher in the first four months of fiscal year 2008 than it was in fiscal year 2007–$3,245,000 in 2008 compared to $2,295,000 in 2007 (see above references for calculations). Though our attendance increased, it certainly did not increase at the extreme rate of the budget balloon; interest on newly purchased real estate is expensive after all; attendance increased approximately 20%, or half the rate of the budget increase.

    But our equity is increasing! Or was before the real estate slow down anyway.

    Many mature members have resigned, we’ve added spiritual babies, which is good; good if they grow to maturity but let’s face it, mature people invest, babies take. If these numbers are off, I welcome correction, along with the (to my knowledge) unpublished numbers of November/December 2007.

  4. melancholymember says:

    “Many mature members have resigned, we’ve added spiritual babies, which is good; good if they grow to maturity but let’s face it, mature people invest, babies take. If these numbers are off, I welcome correction, along with the (to my knowledge) unpublished numbers of November/December 2007.” Darned Good Point, Solz.

    Member for years…every year it seems we get some form of “holy cow, members need to step up.” Past two years it has been “Sinful members…give.” You would think that such consistent shortfalls would be considered in the Pastoral Budgeting.

    That being said, I think the more critical issue raised is the consistent sinful behavior by Mark, and by the elders.

    Well, at least they are consistent and predictable.

  5. torduange says:

    the shortfall was made up, and this was stated explicitly in a very recent sermon (either the first or second ask anything sermon). the staff (that includes the exec. elders) took yet another paycut along with exhorting the members to give.

    ‘bloated’ does not accurately describe the mars hill budget. it is quite modest.

    the most recent projected budget has to take into account six campuses.

    you all seem to think that just because 20 percent more people show up, there’s only 20 percent more cost attached. they haven’t made stupid decisions with the buildings selected as campuses, not in this town of insane real estate prices.

    i am not a member, but there is a lot of self-righteousness in these recent blogs and comments. and it is mega-depressing. mark’s not the freaking church. one of the primary reasons for the multi campus approach is so that MARS HILL will continue spreading the Word, not ‘mark driscoll’. the other pastors preach, and the seats are just as full when they do so– which is why they are trying to put together even more opportunities for pastors other than mark to preach.

    i feel like none of you give a hoot about all the thousands of regular attendees and members who give of themselves to support God and this church, instead dismissing them as ‘spiritual babies’. how remarkably arrogant and presumptuous. and how vain to presume that the few (and it was only a few, which is either awesome or upsetting depending on your view of things) who left are the only ‘quality’ or ‘mature’ members mars hill possessed.

    sigh.

  6. Lets be honest says:

    Torduange.. you do make some valid points. I for one do not desire to see Mars Hill come crashing down nor do I think that every person attending is immature.

    However, the new by-laws reduce the accountability of the few men at the top to themselves alone. If 4 of them stick together, there is nothing short of a miracle that can challenge them. The elders and the rest of the directors have no ability to intervene.

    Given this fact and the fact that the members have no idea about the expenditure of the money beyond what was budgeted versus what was collected, it is quite reasonable to ask questions regarding these matters.

    There is nothing wrong with questioning. But we should not have to. There should be full and open disclosure. Just as there should be about the circumstances of the firings of Pastors Paul and Bent, including the charges and the false charges.

    But no. we are told to be quiet and trust. But while you blindly trust please keep faithfully giving.

  7. solz says:

    Tordange, I echo LBH’s comments, I hope Mars Hill doesn’t habitually suffer deficits and I am glad that the elders are once again taking pay cuts to help alleviate this repeated problem. It would be nice to know the actual figures from Nov/Dec as well as an actual budget showing the expenditures. Again, everything may be fine but it is concerning when it becomes a semi-habitual ritual of condemning the church at large of sinning in their giving when deficits hit, especially in light of a greatly expanded budget; coupled with the new lack of accountability by 5 lifetime self appointed elders and it’s a bit disconcerting with the absence of full disclosure.

    I still am interested in hard numbers rather than “somewhere in a sermon” and also wonder if the deficit was completely caught up, especially in light of the poor numbers for the first half of this month. If you know those numbers please provide them.

    I did not state nor imply that all the members, or even a majority, are spiritual babies, simply that new attendees (especially new Christians) are typically less mature than many of the people who left, some who were pillars of the church. I would ask you to verify your assertion that only a “few” left; what is your source on that? I know of dozens who have left and are meeting together and that excludes others who have left and gone elsewhere; again I don’t know how many members left because that information is not disclosed by the church leadership, do you know something the rest of us don’t? You seem to suggest that you do.

    You are correct that Mark isn’t the church, Jesus is the bridegroom (or head pastor in MH lingo) of His bride, the church, and all members (and believers as a whole) make up a royal priesthood. Each member has something to offer and elders should not fear and refuse to openly engage and discuss with those members who seek sincere answers; even if the subject matter makes them uncomfortable.

  8. solz says:

    As I understand it, financials have been promised in the near future, so that’s good news. I’m a little confused as to relevant dates, I seem to remember the fiscal year beginning in July, so I’m not sure why it’s now indicated that there was no deficit for the year when it seems it’s still mid fiscal year but at any rate, I’m glad more disclosure has been promised.

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