Learning, Growing, & Communicating Under Criticism

by | April 24, 2015 | Executive Pastor, Mars Hill


For the past several weeks, I have been planning to discuss the lessons I have learned from events and mistakes at Mars Hill Church on my website. Earlier this week, I wrote three separate blogs regarding the ResultSource decision in 2011 at Mars Hill. Today, I planned to focus on Mars Hill Global. However, last night I received a call to explain that Mars Hill’s former attorneys did not want me to post any more blogs and also to remove what has already been communicated this week.

Iron Sharpens Iron

In a previous blog, I wrote that if you leave an organization because decisions are made that you do not agree with, then you should not go to social media and blog about it. If Mars Hill was still a church, I would not be discussing these things in a public way, but the church’s epic implosion was historic. In our modern day, a church of its size, influence, and scope has never failed in such a public way nor experienced such unprecedented circumstances. Unless, we study the leadership, events, decisions, victories, and failures—the whole history of Mars Hill Church—it may very well be repeated. My goal in discussing these events is to get a better and more full account of what transpired. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another,” and I believe that this is just such an opportunity for sharpening other believers. I want to spare another church from facing the challenges Mars Hill faced. I also want to spare another pastor and church family from walking through what we did.

A Little History

When the criticism of Mars Hill Global began in the Spring of 2014, I wanted to communicate about what happened with Global, its history, the financials, and my mistakes. Unfortunately, I was not permitted to discuss these things just as I was not permitted to discuss the ResultSource situation in the detail that I felt it deserved. There was actually a division on the Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) as some men wanted to put all the blame for both Global and ResultSource on me, but I am thankful for men who did not allow that.

Eight difficult, grievous months have passed since I resigned; four sad, yet hopeful months have passed since Mars Hill held its last service. I began to work on each of these topics through blog posts several months ago with the wisdom, counsel, prayer, and blessing of many friends who are former elders and staff members at Mars Hill.

After the first blogs were published, many people asked me, “Are you stabbing Pastor Mark, Pastor Dave, Mars Hill and … in the back?”

Since leaving Mars Hill in September, I have been in frequent contact with Pastor Dave Bruskas, Matt Rogers, and other pastors with whom I directly served, board members with whom I served, and many other top leaders with whom I have served shoulder-to-shoulder while at Mars Hill. Many of these men remained at Mars Hill after my resignation and some still faithfully remain at Mars Hill selling assets and closing the organization. Our ongoing contact has been as friends, not in any managerial or oversight context with regards to Mars Hill—I’m thankful that Jesus has allowed our friendships to extend leaps and bounds beyond that. We are family in Christ.

Let me be perfectly clear: I love these people very much and appreciate all the blessings that I receive from the Lord through our friendships. They have personally and pastorally helped me walk through a very difficult personal attack about which I will communicate in an upcoming blog post. What we went through at Mars Hill was an unparalleled, life-changing, heart-wrenching, soul-searching difficulty and we grew together as friends and brothers by the grace of God. Many people have moved on to new states and started new careers, and we have remained in contact.

While I was painstakingly writing out my story and the lessons that I learned from Mars Hill, I have discussed many things with these men. I have asked for their advice and feedback on how to say certain things. Some have graciously coached me on how to write the truth from my perspective while attempting to not demean anyone in the process. I have not given anyone editorial rights, but I have asked for advice from my friends and brothers. While it may be shocking to some, their advice has been void of any ego and they supportively encouraged me to tell my story even if it did not benefit them.

Many years from now, we will still be friends and brothers and that will be great favor from the Lord to me. So please know that my writings are simply an attempt to help others, especially pastors, learn from my mistakes. I am not in any way trying to dishonor or “stab anyone in the back,” including (and especially) the church that I love, once known as Mars Hill.

I love the men with whom I got a chance to serve and that brotherly affection will continue into the future.

Going Forward

As an executive pastor, I have learned over time that you cannot lead a church staff like a business. You are a pastor with business acumen. Jesus has sanctified me significantly over the last four years. I am not the man I was then; the Holy Spirit has been faithful to make me more like the Son. I pray that I can continue to work out my salvation with fear and trembling for God is at work in me, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13). May I be able to say that with each passing year until Jesus calls me home.

As I’ve said, I do believe there are helpful lessons to be shared that might prevent what happened at Mars Hill from ever happening again. Consequently, I will not be able to fully comply with the request of Mars Hill’s former attorneys. However, I will rework the Global blog post content this weekend and remove many of the financial numbers that people are so eager to know.