Three Signs Your Megachurch Is In Trouble

It’s been a bad few months for Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll. Plagued by ongoing plagiarism scandals, best-seller list beefs, recent protests, and Neanderthal message board posts from the past, the Mars Hill kingdom that Driscoll helped build—some 15 churches and roughly 13,000 members in five states these days—has never looked shakier. Haven’t been following the apparent downfall of Seattle’s premier megachurch? That’s OK! Here are three of the most-recent signs that Driscoll and Mars Hill are in trouble.

A Leader in Exile When a religious organization you founded kicks you to the curb—and writes a plea for your resignation from the church you built—it’s a pretty clear sign things aren’t going well. And that’s exactly what happened last week between Driscoll and the Acts 29 Network, the worldwide band of more than 500 churches he helped create. In a letter to Driscoll obtained by faith blogger Warren Throckmorton, the Acts 29 Board writes, “Because you are the founder of Acts 29 and a member, we are naturally associated with you and feel that this association discredits the network and is a major distraction.”
Lying About Tithing The thing about a “global fund,” is those writing checks often assume their money will go to global causes. But as Mars Hill has recently admitted, money given to the church’s “global fund” by online donors has somehow found its way into the Mars Hill “general fund.” In response to an outcry from donors, Mars Hill issued a statement blaming the whole thing on a misunderstanding of what Mars Hill means when it says global (no, really), and offering to make sure that funds intended for international efforts actually find their way to Ethiopia or India, where Mars Hill is actively “planting churches.”
Exodus In early July, as Throckmorton and others have detailed, Mars Hill abruptly laid off staff and went on a fundraising blitz to close out the fiscal year. Why? Because, according to Throckmorton’s reporting, the ongoing drama at Mars Hill has (predictably) led to a “dramatic decline” in donations and attendance. In a weekly communication to members posted in full at Patheos.com, the church’s leadership admitted that they “had to make the very tough decision” when it came to the layoffs. “If you know any of [the people who got laid off],” the letter continues, “please reach out to offer your prayers and support during this transition, and please continue to pray for the church as we navigate through a tough season.” That’s one hell of an understatement.

mdriscoll@seattleweekly.com

Art Credit: "Eviction" by Luis Prado and "Protest" by Juan Pablo Bravo from The Noun Project

 
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