How Mark Driscoll pockets the money he gives to Mars Hill 47

Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill have been defending some of their actions relating to the deceptive marketing of the Real Marriage book by claiming that Driscoll had given much or all of the money he had made from the book to the church. Driscoll told a meeting of church leaders that he and his wife were “tithing 100 percent” of their earnings to the church.

Just like the #1 New York Times ranking, it’s a claim that’s accurate but untrue.

Yes, Mark Driscoll has given some of his book money to the church, but almost all of it is funneled back to him through a tax vehicle called a Charitable Remainder UniTrust (CRUT for short). If you endured with me through the inurement post, I think you can make it through this one, too. I’ll tell you what a CRUT is, what we know about Driscoll’s CRUT, then we’ll go through a timeline of Mark Driscoll’s multi-state corporate entities to show you what he is doing with his book money.

How CRUTs work

Perhaps the best way to explain a CRUT is to take each term separately.

Charitable. A donor selects a nonprofit charity as the ultimate beneficiary from what is considered a donation. CRUTs are a common mechanism for nonprofit organizations to manage donations from wealthy donors, so there’s nothing inherently dishonest or unethical about them. They were created by an act of Congress, so they are entirely legal and they help a lot of great organizations. If you’ve ever seen offers by charities to help you with estate planning and planned giving, a CRUT is one of the things they will offer to create for you. Driscoll’s CRUT, which was created in Colorado, is registered to the same address as Mars Hill Church, so we can assume that the church is the official charity for this CRUT.

Unitrust. We need to take the terms out of order for the next step to make sense. At least once a year, the CRUT must distribute a percentage of its assets to what is termed the “non-charitable beneficiary.” This is a person (or persons) that was living at the time that the CRUT was established, and is living at the time of the annual distribution. Most CRUTs designate the person establishing it as the non-charitable beneficiary, so it functions as an annuity or pension for the rest of that person’s life. The CRUT must pay between 5 percent and 50 percent of the value each year. The rate of distribution cannot vary once the CRUT has been created, hence the uni in the title.

For example, let’s say you establish a CRUT with $500,000 with a 10 percent annual distribution rate. At the end of the first year, you’d get a check for $50,000. Let’s say, though, that the CRUT had invested its assets well so that at the end of the second year its assets were worth $750,000. You’d get a check for $75,000 at the end of year two. On the other hand, the market may have done poorly, so you could get a check of $30,000 if the assets were valued at $300,000.

We don’t know who the Driscolls have designated as the non-charitable beneficiaries, though, given that he has said that he could retire and live off his book income, it is certainly one or more members of his family. In Elephant Room One, Driscoll, who was supposed to be moderating a discussion between David Platt and James MacDonald on wealth, seemed to argue with Platt about the need for parents to set aside wealth for their children to benefit them to “a thousand generations.” (Watch at around 8:50.) Driscoll also owns a Washington corporation called Lasting Legacy, which, based on its title, may be his vehicle for protecting his income for his children. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it does show that he is intentional about saving money from his endeavors for his family, and a CRUT is a perfect way to do that.

Remainder. Why do charities promote CRUTs if the money is paid to the donor? Because they eventually get value from it when one of two things happens. First, if the recipient of the annuity dies, whatever is left in the CRUT goes to the charity. Second, when payouts or market fluctuations deplete the value to 10 percent of the original donation, the payouts cease and the 10 percent goes to the charity. This is the remainder after either death or depletion. In our $500,000 example, the charity would know that it will eventually get at least $50,000, though it may get much more if the donor dies before the balance reaches that threshold.

One of the reasons donors use CRUTs is that they can protect large influxes of wealth from immediate taxation. So rather than having to pay taxes on $500,000, the donor would pay taxes on the $50,000 paid in the first year, though that payment will vary from year to year. One explanation of the system described the donor as “renting” the charity’s nonprofit status, with the rent being the eventual 10 percent remainder. (This is a simplified layman’s explanation. Don’t go out and start a CRUT based on what you read here. Consult a real expert first.)

What we know about the Driscoll CRUT

Thanks to research assistance by a helpful PP reader and the work of Wenatchee the Hatchet, we know a little bit about the income and ownership structure of Driscoll’s various personal corporate entities. To spare you some of the details for now, you can review the timeline of how these came to be a little later in this post.

For now, it is sufficient to understand that Driscoll’s Real Marriage book was published in early 2012, though he would have received his first income in the form of an advance from the publisher in 2011. The book is copyrighted to On Mission LLC, which is 75 percent owned by On Mission CRUT, and 25 percent owned by Living Legacy LLC.

For the 2012 tax year, On Mission CRUT reported income of $464,340. This is almost certainly from the Real Marriage advance. If we assume that Driscoll’s literary agent collects a standard 15 percent commission and that the advance was split 75/25 by On Mission LLC, the owner of the book (with OMCRUT getting 75 percent), we find that the probable advance for the book was around $720,000.

This is in line with my estimated royalty earnings of around $500,000 from just the New York Times listing alone. We know from the contract that Result Source coordinates with the publisher to ensure enough copies are printed for its initial mass purchases, so the publisher would have known that the NYT campaign was going to happen when it negotiated the advance with Driscoll’s literary agent. We learned from NewSpring that it was Noble’s literary agent that suggested the Result Source campaign, and it’s  likely that Noble and Driscoll share the same agent, cross promoting each other’s books, as they do. I think that Driscoll’s agent negotiated the advance with the publisher and promised that the church would contribute the money necessary for the RSI campaign, promote it in a sermon series, and create a national Real Marriage tour to promote it long after its January release. If the publisher was assured that all that would happen, a $720,000 advance to Driscoll would not have been a terribly risky bet.

On several occasions Driscoll has said that all or most of his book income goes to Mars Hill. For example, he said this in 2009:

Mars Hill gets half of all the royalties so the books that I publish, about 75% of the revenue goes to Mars Hill Church, not me. Not me.  Because I’m worried about this issue, greed, shameful gain.

Though this statement predates the On Mission CRUT, the 75 percent figure perfectly matches OMCRUT’s 75 percent ownership share of Driscoll’s books. This is surprising, because the claim that most of the money is going back to the church doesn’t match his more-recent claim that his book income is sufficient for him and has family to live off. Simply giving half of it away probably wouldn’t give him enough income to live off comfortably, nor would it provide for his children and grandchildren.

Just before the Real Marriage book was released, he told Mars Hill leaders that “Grace and I are tithing 100 percent of any proceeds we receive from that pre-sale campaign back to Mars Hill Church.” At the time, it seemed strange that he would refer to a 100 percent donation as a tithe, especially because a tithe means just ten percent.

Now that you understand how his CRUT works, those statements make more sense. In a sense, everything that goes into the CRUT is donated to Mars Hill. Once money enters the CRUT, Mars Hill is guaranteed a payout, though it doesn’t know when. That minimum payout, as you know now, is 10 percent — a tithe. By using the CRUT, Driscoll can say that he donated 100 percent to the church, though it does truly constitute a tithe, because 10 percent is all that Mars Hill may eventually get.

By putting his book money into a CRUT, Driscoll can reassure us that the church is getting the lion’s share of his earnings, though the church can’t actually touch his gift until the CRUT has paid most of the money to the Driscoll family, assuming, as we hope, they live long enough for that to happen.

The lesson is that next time you hear a celebrity pastor claim that he’s giving his earnings back to the church, you need to ask, “How, and when?”

Timeline of Driscoll Inc.

Here’s the timeline of what we can establish through public records of how all of these entities work:

On or before Jan 28, 2011 The On Mission Charitable Remainder Unitrust is established with Driscoll as the trustee.

Jan 28, 2011 On Mission LLC is created in the state of Colorado to “manage book royalties, printing and publishing.” Driscoll contributes $125 of $500 and OMCRUT contributes $375, giving us the 25/75 ownership split.

Sept 30, 2011 OMCRU Investments LLC is filed with Colorado Secretary of State, and is set up to manage property and investments. The manager is Mark Driscoll, and OMCRUT owns all of the initial $500 in capital.

Oct 10, 2011 This is the first evidence of the Real Marriage campaign. This is significant for its proximity to the Sept 30 activity, and suggests that these entities were being created in anticipation of having to manage the large income from the book.

Oct 13, 2011 The Result Source contract is signed.

Late November, 2011 Driscoll describes the Real Marriage campaign to his church leaders and expects them to help him push the book.

End of 2011 On Mission CRUT reports income of $464,340 for the 2011-12 tax year.

Jan 3, 2012 Real Marriage is released.

April 17, 2012 Lasting Legacy LLC is registered in the State of Washington with Mark Driscoll as the governing person.

Dec 6, 2012 OMCRU Investments LLC is registered in the State of Washington with OMCRUT as the governing person.

Dec 6, 2012 On Mission LLC registered with the State of Washington with OMCRU Investments and Lasting Legacy as governing persons.

Feb 21, 2014 On Mission CRUT is noted as having income of $4,643.

UPDATE 5/29/14 I hadn’t noticed this earlier, but the last-reported income of $4,643 is exactly one percent of the 2011 income of $464,340. This suggests that the CRUT paid out the standard 10 percent to the Driscolls in 2012, which would have been $46,434. (The date of the $4,643 isn’t indicated on the report, except that it was before 2014.) If the Driscolls tithed this back to Mars Hill via the On Mission CRUT, they would have made a contribution of $4,643, which is exactly what we see reported. IRS regulations do allow contributions back into the CRUT from the original donors. Is it possible that Mark Driscoll is tithing his tithed book income back to himself?

47 thoughts on “How Mark Driscoll pockets the money he gives to Mars Hill

  1. Hank Mar 16, 2014 1:18 am

    You are getting closer…

    1. Mark has said that MH gets all the profits from books sold AT MH churches. Books sold on resurgence, or any other format go all to Mark personally.

    2. One of those trusts is used to pay more than just Mark’s salary…

    Keep digging.

  2. PastorJeff Mar 16, 2014 8:37 am

    How sad it is that so much regarding these men has come down to the words of Deepthroat from Watergate, ‘follow the money.”

  3. Luke Mar 16, 2014 1:42 pm

    Fascinating stuff and very informative. Thank you for researching and sharing!

  4. JR Mar 16, 2014 10:56 pm

    I am in the wealth management industry and have been involved with several of these structures. You are absolutely right, they give the donor plenty of air cover from a tax/asset protection standpoint and more importantly are great PR tools as the donor gets to claim they are “giving” the money to charity (because technically they are). One case I helped build had a high profile college coach “donating” a large amount of his income to the universities endowment program using a CRT. He became a local hero – exploding his paid public appearance opportunities. What nobody realized is that he saved WAY more in taxes than the endowment will ever receive. Also, just to be sure the family doesn’t get the short end of the stick, these plans are typically built in conjunction with a life insurance policy so that the family is made whole again at the donors passing.

    What’s mind blowing to me is that pastors are now turning to this level of sophisticated planning to shelter and conceal the massive amounts of money they are bringing in. Times they are a changin’!

  5. Soli Deo Gloria Mar 17, 2014 8:45 am

    I will say that there is some good reasons to be encouraged by Driscoll’s open letter of apology to his church: link to renuemag.com

    Hopefully this will be a precedent of honesty that Driscoll will continue and will resonate with others.

  6. Ryan Mar 17, 2014 2:52 pm

    James – I’m sure you’re preparing to write on this, but how do you see Driscoll’s admission that using Result Source is “…manipulating a book sales reporting system, which is wrong” affecting Noble, Furtick, etc.. who are known to use the same program?

    It’s encouraging that Driscoll plans on removing his “NYT Bestseller Tag” but how do you interpret it if others choose or choose not to do the same?

  7. Pingback: Mark Driscoll Gives It All to the Church? It Depends on What His Definition of “All” Is. | The Wartburg Watch 2014

  8. Shawn Deal Mar 18, 2014 9:32 am

    Really impressed by the apology letter linked above. Here’s hoping more and more “celebrity pastors” follow his example. I really like that he’s focusing on being a pastor of the local body God has placed him in, in essence sacrificing a lot of financial gain. That’s not easy to do, but he’s obviously focusing on being a leader in his family, a leader in his church, and everything else, takes not only a back seat, but not even in the same car.

  9. Mark Groen Mar 18, 2014 11:50 am

    I was unimpressed by the apology letter. He didn’t say it was wrong to use offering from the church and all he did was give himself a promotion to pastoral father instead of “angry prophet”. He also gets to cut back and spend more time with his family. What a rough punishment. How ever shall he endure?

    Leave it to a celebrity pastor to take a scandal and make it something positive for himself.

    Also, he claims to have been going through this transformation to a “father” over the year or more, yet his stunt (which involved a self promoting LIE) at Strange Fire was less than a year ago.

  10. Tim Lawing Mar 18, 2014 7:50 pm

    This is America. He wrote it, he should be able to profit it from it.

    Paul was a tentmaker too, in fact, Paul said our pastors are worthy of ‘double honor’.

    When Bill O’Reilly writes a book, he makes a ton of money.

    Why not the man of God?

    No one I have surveyed here in Seattle cares and we all love the book.

    What is your purpose Mr. Duncan?

  11. Russell Mar 18, 2014 8:19 pm

    Did the church use tithe money to purchase Paul’s tents ? From my understanding of the argument. It’s not that they make money from writing, but the way they “used” the church to do it. If pastors pen a work and have it published and place it out for sale on Amazon or eBay, or even in the church book store( I know maybe questionable) that’s perfectly acceptable from my point of view. Using the church as a marketing tool is not.

    • Brett Burner Mar 19, 2014 2:25 am

      Why begrudge a pastor from earning from his skills? Can he not sell his own book at church? Churches provide housing allowances, traveling budgets, and more…why can’t a church come behind their pastor (I assure you Mars Hill has a self-thinking board) and provide a means (whether via marketing or a tax shelter) for him to earn some money from his efforts? If a church grows larger, we expect the church will provide a larger salary for their pastor…why can’t they do it creatively?

      Not your pastor, not your church. If it is…trust in God who sets up rulers and authorities. If you aren’t willing to, find a church where you do trust the leadership…but then TRUST the leadership.

      A lot of fretting going on over this. So many better things to focus on.

  12. Junius Mar 18, 2014 10:41 pm

    Ah, yes. Paul sold his tents from the temple, right?

  13. Tom Mar 19, 2014 12:40 am

    Russell, if you tell your church you are giving all of the money to the church but through complex trusts the church gets just a small percentage and you save in taxes, it’s the skin of a truth stuffed with a lie.

  14. Junius Mar 19, 2014 9:28 am

    Brett,

    If you really don’t see an issue with this, then I am at a loss for words.

  15. Mark Prez Mar 19, 2014 10:53 am

    So Technically, Paul could have profited from writing Romans, Ephesians, etc…they are HIS letters…therefore to assume a man called to pastor (shepherd) can write what they claim is Holy Spirit driven and then profit from it is unconsciousable. Yes, Paul was a tent maker at different points in time, but, Paul did not write letters inspired by the HS to profit from and build a large home in which to reside in and thus have a retirement package to look forward to, because Paul’s riches were Heavenly. Sad, that people even purchase these books. As if Furtick, Noble, Driscoll have anything worth adding to what we all ready have in God’s Holy Words.

  16. Brett Burner Mar 19, 2014 2:44 pm

    The don’t buy books from Christians. They cost money to produce. They take time to write. Not all of Paul’s letters were written from jail…they were written while he was serving in churches, some which were supporting him to be able to operate without having to work.

    Understand, I am a publisher (and I am very conscious and concerned about integrity and maintaining ministry over business). Paul’s letters were not nearly so distributed in his day as books are in ours. Paul wasn’t making a career of writing letters either…they didn’t take him months and months to write. Many pastors often take a hiatus from church duties to work. Rick Warren made so much [unprecedented] money from Purpose Driven Life he chose to pay back every cent he ever earned from the church. Can he make money on his books now? What about pastors whose books do only marginally? (which is the greater majority of books, selling under 5000 copies).

    I don’t approve of the marketing tactics they used, but then self-admittedly, Mark Driscoll didn’t either. But if the church spent money on it…you have to trust that they did so willingly. And you have NO IDEA how much the church is benefiting from it…the article above that spawned this thread admits that. And it is not really your business unless you attend the church. And if you do, then ask for a financial accountability from your board (which should be readily available on this and other spending)…and then accept the answer. Or go to a church where you CAN accept an answer from your leadership EVEN IF YOU DO NOT FULLY AGREE! Church unity requires a measure of trust. Your pastor is not your shepherd if you don’t let him lead…

    And there is nothing wrong with a retirement package. Yes we trust in God, but we ought also to invest and provide an inheritance for our children. Aren’t pastors supposed to provide an example?

    And it is ignorance to think we can’t glean from the wisdom of men commenting on the word of God. We do it every Sunday in verbal form. And we have benefited from commentators over centuries…Augustine, Martin Luther, Matthew Henry, Andrew Murray, Charles Spurgeon, A.B. Simpson, A.W. Tozer… Or do you have to be dead to qualify?

    • Mark Prez Mar 19, 2014 6:59 pm

      Sorry Brett, totally on an opposite side here…the publishing industry in terms of “Christian” literature has done nothing more than supplant the Bible with nonsensical writings. Whereas, some of those whom you reference, Augustine, Luther, Spurgeon…add knowledge to the understanding of scripture, what you fail to account for is that the celebrity pastors that are often critiqued here at PP and other blogs is attributed to the lack of transparencies from those whom use the church to further their agenda, ultimately making the pastor the focus instead of the cross. Your response is slightly defensive since you come from the side of the industry that represents this foray into “bestsellers” from Christian pastors. Moreover, one does not have to be dead to qualify as you ask…one merely has to be scripturally sound in both doctrine and interpretation. Anything less is an abomination (Jeremiah’s words, etc, not mine). When you have well recognized seeker sensitive pastors like Andy Stanley whom state unequivocally that they are from a Biblical standard, LEADERS, not Shepherds, and no one other than the bloggers yell “time out”, something is horribly wrong. You probably know of some of the history behind PP, and if so, you might understand better the concerns of pastors whom lack accountability. It is epidemic in the evangelical world. Now, to close, retirement plans. See, as a former investment banker, this is a rather novel instrument created this century to enrich the banks, etc. So you ask what is wrong with these plans? The pastors discussed in these blogs are those whom live in homes bordering $1 million plus (check the tax records, easy to do….Andy Stanley $1.4 million, Janzten Franklin, $1.7 million, and on and on and on it goes) and thus are enriching themselves to live lives of luxury outside the ministry other than being a well rounded speaker at events throughout the year. Also, as pointed out astutely here at PP, these same pastors hide most of the information behind trust funds and other means. This is a clear sign that it is not of God, but of man. Meaning they are not qualified to preach/teach. I believe I may have only commented one other time on PP, but healthy dialogue goes a long way. This site has done a great job in analyzing and fairly pointing out what the body should know. Driscoll? Why is there not more concern from the elder bodies of those in high profile ministries? If we really saw the money, the retirement accounts, the hidden assets, tithes and offering would disappear. You ask also, why not trust the finance committee and those in deacon type positions? Easy..they are men. They have deceptive hearts. And if they themselves make decisions and agree that it is ok to hide all information from the body, then they are a part of the problem. Trust can not be something earned by hidden books. Trust is that you can openly see the whole picture of finances from start to finish. There is much wisdom being birthed from PP. Please continue adding your comments. It takes time, but important to challenge one another to understand why there are such profound and deeply felt feelings from those disenfranchised from the evangelical church.

      • Brett Burner Mar 19, 2014 7:45 pm

        Unfortunately, I find more anger here than anything, and that saddens me. Who cares if Mark Driscoll buys a million dollar house if he makes a million dollars selling books? You wouldn’t care if he was a novelist. Tim LaHaye made millions off Left Behind (not getting into theology here). He’s a pastor…is that okay? It’s not your business. If Mark were an artist and people bought his art would it matter? What if he were a musician and Christians bought his albums? It sounds as if more people care that he has a means of making money.

        And why are you, or PP, the policemen to decide if Driscoll, Stanley, Warren or Billy Graham have the correct theology? Should we be the policemen to decide on your theology? And blog about you if we disagree?

        My job is to love you, God’s is to Judge you. “The Lord…loves Justice” Psalm 11:7. Can’t you trust him?

        Note: I am not being defensive about being a publisher. I make very little money at it and have no celebrity or high profile authors or pastors. I am just pointing out that I understand the industry and there is more involved than you might imagine. There are literally THOUSANDS of titles published every year by pastors…it seems only the ones that are “successful” at it are wrong.

        Honestly, I think this site dos more harm than good. It stirs up bad feelings from people that need to forgive those whom have harmed them (real or perceived). I know something about that too. I have been through it in some churches… As a result I have learned a lot about forgiveness, getting over it, knowing how to trust God where I simply do not have the authority address issues…and finally, to have the understanding that blogging about these things in a public forum is SO wrong…it is divisive, slanderous, and biblically unsound.

  17. Tim Lawing Mar 19, 2014 9:02 pm

    Billy Graham drew a salary last year at BGEA of over $137,000. In the past, his salary has been as high as $400,000 in 2004 and he was retired! (Charitynavigator.org)

    Franklin has doubled dipped in the past getting TWO FULL TIME salaries: one from BGEA and the other from Samaritans Purse for a total of over $1 million.

    NOT ONE TIME HAS THERE BEEN A BLOG ABOUT THIS.

    YOU ARE A HYPOCRITE AND ONLY GO AFTER CHURCHES THAT ARE “CULTURALLY RELEVANT”.

    Newspring, Elevation, Mars Hill are winning more people to Jesus than Franklin Graham.

    Go bark up a new tree.

    • Mark Prez Mar 19, 2014 10:36 pm

      Would have to agree w/ Pastor Jeff…so barking up a tree…I would have to say that the term “winning” people for Jesus is not good grammar…I do not know of any instance whereby WE can WIN people to Jesus…it is not a winner takes all, winner-loser. As we find with Calvin, Luther following behind…it is Jesus that calls. Pray tell…how does a church or pastor WIN people to Jesus? Assuming you were using terminology that is just that…bad grammar and nothing more…let’s recognize something here…Jesus does not need Elevation, Mars Hill, Newspring. We are not as high and mighty as we claim in our wondrous sermons on Sunday. To even slightly think that there is anything we can do is mindless in terms of scripture. How God weeps to see our haughty selves proclaiming our success at “winning” people to Jesus. See…the blogs provide a certain level of discussions…but wow…isn’t it wonderful to have different opinions…but there are those whom just have to get a little…what’s the word…hmmmmmm…not gonna say it…read what Jeremiah said…he used quite colorful language…and look at Ezekiel 34 whereas the “shepherds” were called to task…basically taking from the church…so…let us go to scripture and take a long long hard look at the overall picture…ok…barked up that tree I did!!!

  18. PastorJeff Mar 19, 2014 9:41 pm

    Tim, I think you are making the point of those who are calling out these pastors. You were readily able to find exactly what Billy and Franklin Graham make. No one, including those in these churches, has a clue how much these pastors are making. Plus comparing a para-church organization to a church is apples and oranges. People can complain about how much the Graham’s make if they choose, but the issue is, we know what they make. It’s the lack of transparency, and the apparent desire to hide behind legal devices such as trusts as to avoid revealing potential assets and revenue that have to do with church money that is the bigger issue

  19. David Mar 20, 2014 12:34 am

    One thing that should be taken into account is that pastors don’t own their sermons (link to christianitytoday.com). The church owns the sermons. If the pastor is paid by the church and sermons are part of their employment, they are “for hire” and the intellectual property belongs to the church.

    I don’t know how things change if a pastor takes time off (perhaps without pay) to write a book, and then uses that book as the source of sermons.

    What would happen if pastors didn’t make any money off of their books (if they were written while employed by the church)? How would things change if any profit made off the books went back to the church? Are pastors “double dipping” by getting paid by the church _and_ receiving money from their books?

  20. Brett Burner Mar 20, 2014 3:04 am

    Mark, Scientists will quote you what time the sun will rise. the know full well it is the earth turning. Your argument is pure semantics.

    You talk about the haughtiness of these pastors. While I see it in SOME of these guys, I do not see it in all of them. And it is just as present in the small church…and the home…and the parachurch, etc. Mark Driscoll, etc., are labelled as “celebrity pastors”…well so was Calvin, Luther, heck, even Paul and Peter (“I follow Cephas, I follow Paul…”). I don’t here these guys referring to themselves as such. Maybe for some it goes to their heads. Mark offered a nice apology for that. For goodness sake, accept it! But don’t look down on these guys and assume they are arrogant just because they have crossed a threshold of popularity.

    If you became popular, you might find it pretty unfair if everyone began examining every aspect of your life, every comment, every penny you spent unwisely. And God forbid anyone get a solid look into our heads!!

    Grace, my friends, is the operative word. I don’t find it here. You were given it. Offer it.

    Proverbs 6:16-19
    16 There are six things the LORD hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
    17 haughty eyes,
    a lying tongue,
    hands that shed innocent blood,
    18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
    feet that are quick to rush into evil,
    19 a false witness who pours out lies
    and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

    All this stirring up, dissension and slander is just plain wrong. I can’t be the only one that sees it…

    There are so many better, unifying things to focus on…

  21. Junius Mar 20, 2014 1:40 pm

    Brett,

    It’s not about being popular. Men such as Driscoll are leading thousands of souls in their faith. The ought to be held to the highest standard possible. If you believe in the Gospel, there is no room for error amongst pastors and shepherds.

  22. Brett Burner Mar 20, 2014 3:59 pm

    Sorry Junius,

    If you believe in the Gospel, there is Grace. What are you saying…be perfect or else you’ll be blogged about and slandered? Men fail. Expect it form yourself, expect it form me, expect it form your pastor. Then have grace. Mark Driscoll is accountable to God, and he is accountable to a board of elders. He is certainly not accountable to you.

    I will say it again: Stirring up conflict and dissension is wrong. This site, by bearing the role of policeman, MUST be held to the standard it is requiring of the pastors it is criticizing. In that case…THIS SITE is biblically wrong! It is making angry people angrier. For goodness sake…teach forgiveness! Grace! Not divisiveness.

    Take a lesson from the Pharisees: Drop your rocks, and “go out one by one”…

  23. Junius Mar 20, 2014 4:56 pm

    A little leaven…

  24. Humblylearning Mar 20, 2014 7:43 pm

    Brett, I have some constructive thoughts for you, and these thoughts are not meant in any way to be personal, and I hope you’ll consider these thoughts without immediately disagreeing with them. God Bless. 🙂

    It seems as if what you’re saying is the same thing a lot of other people who don’t like the facts presented on this website say. The typical line of argument is always “Only God can judge” and “we should all be coming together instead of being divisive”. The first argument doesn’t seem to line with scripture. I’ve used this verse with a previous person on here before and I’ll use it again. 1 Corinthians 5:12 “12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?” It seems pretty clear as day in that verse that we are supposed to judge and help correct our own. And not to mention, 2 Tim 3:16 describes the Word as profitable for correction, so shouldn’t we use it to help correct others for the betterment of the Body of Christ? And interestingly delving deeper into this thought, if God is the Word according to John, then by using the Word, it seems technically God is the one doing the judging, not us as individuals.

    People also like to invoke the Pharisees a lot when it comes to Biblical criticism, but if I’m not mistaken from what I recall reading, their problem was that they were being prideful and arrogant in how good they thought they were being. It doesn’t seem to be a problem however, to humbly and gently remind someone who might be in the wrong of what the scripture says. Gal 6:1 “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”

    Now to your second point that’s commonly argued on this website, I would offer these questions to you on divisiveness. Is it possible that constructive Bible criticism can help unify us more? Is criticism in and of itself always divisive, or can it be edifying? I think a problem a lot of people have reading some of these blog entries and other people’s responses is that they automatically assume the tone is anger when facts that aren’t always positive are pointed out. My point being, it’s inaccurate to assume correction is always spoken with a tone of anger, when the Bible itself says it can be done with gentleness as seen in the last verse I used. Not to mention that we’re all also speaking behind screens, so it’s very difficult for any of us to know what tone we’re speaking in. I can only speak for myself and tell you that I’m speaking from a gentle quite tone right now, but everyone else can only speak for themselves.

    I’d like to offer one final thing for consideration. There was a time when even Paul had to correct Peter for his hypocrisy. If Peter can be held accountable to the Word, then no preacher of today is any better, and by all means, none of us are any better. Which is why your push back and other people’s pushback on here is definitely welcome to make sure this isn’t just a sea of agreement. Quite unlike sometimes how some of these mega-pastors command complete loyalty and agreement to their “vision” in their congregations. It would seem we should all challenge each other to elevate higher to the standard of the Word as followers of Christ, and if you ask me, I think that’s the most positive and unifying thing that can be done.

    Sorry if this was really long, and thank you if you read most or all of this post Brett. God bless again. 🙂

    • Brett Burner Mar 20, 2014 9:00 pm

      HL, thank you for your comments. You’ve written effectively and I receive your “tone of voice”. Again thanks!

      To respond, I’m going to go slightly our of order…

      I only invoked the Pharisee’s to point out that there seems to be a lot of rock throwing. I wasn’t calling anyone a Pharisee. Apologies if it came across that way…though there is a danger in being the one’s that say “we are right, you are wrong”.

      Regarding divisiveness… Yes, constructive Biblical criticism CAN help unify us. But I haven’t seen it here. No one is offering solutions…they are only complaining about how horrible these men are for their earnings. And they are stirring others up into anger who can do nothing about it but say “Yeah, that’s right!” It is becoming a mob mentality. Constructive criticism isn’t done in a public forum, it is done first behind closed doors.

      Finally, and most importantly, yes…we judge those within the church. But there are appropriate limits. It’s not a license to just single out some Christian we disagree with. There is an authority involved in this kind of judging. I can go to a friend or family member. If I am a bible study leader I can go to those serving under me. As a deacon or elder, the area widens. Authority and correction comes with a Relationship!

      Look at David. You don’t go to the king and start chewing him out (he displayed the proper behavior with Saul). Joab, however, had a relationship with him, shut the door and said, “Why are you behaving this way?” Even moreso, Nathan the Prophet had the authority to come before him and declare “You are the man!” It wasn’t just anyone’s place. Paul had authority and relationship with Peter. Nobody is above reproach…but that doesn’t mean it is up to anybody to correct anybody.

      I’m not justifying the money these men make, or all of their deeds. I AM saying this is not the place for it. We don’t know how decisions are made within these churches, or how they have chosen to honor their pastor for his hard work and dedication. The authority is not among those on this site to complain about it.

      The Word is WONDERFUL for correction and reproof. But no one is using it. Scroll up. No one. No solutions, no benefit of the doubt, no grace.

      There are far better ways to unify the body of Christ than I have found displayed here. I would hope for a better direction.

      Again, I appreciate your heartfelt response above. I hope I have responded in like kindness!

  25. Unreformed Mar 21, 2014 2:33 am

    Mr. Duncan,

    I really appreciate this breakdown… Brilliant work man. Considering the timeline it is deadly incriminating for a man who’s excuse as per Saturday was “misunderstanding” what the Result Source thing was… It shows a strategic premeditation for something that they say didn’t really understand completely… So unclear that they were scurrying around setting up LLC’s in bordering states

    I really want to know how he can use lapdog admin at Mars Hill, Sutton Turner to bankroll his marketing ploy on the order of near a quarter million dollars of church tithes, funnel hundreds of thousands of earnings from commercial ventures through the same church as a tax shelter and not A. Have compromised the churches tax exemption status and/or B. committed tax evasion.

    But Sutton is a Harvard guy who managed sheik money… He probably has most of their asses covered. At least now its clear why Jamie Munson was so unceremoniously booted out the door around then and Sutton was suddenly and swiftly installed… Cuz he was game.

    BTW i remember reading your adoption experience with Perry Noble right after my wife and I went through the discipline buzz saw at Mars Hill… And subsequent shunning. It brought some much needed perspective on just how rotten these places can get… As much as I know how scary and crazy it must’ve felt.. I hope it is worth something that it helped us get clarity. I hope that is well back in your rear view and you’ve got clear skies on your horizon.

    Respect,

    B-Dub

  26. PastorJeff Mar 21, 2014 7:46 am

    Brett, as with some others, I think you miss the point. It’s not just about the large sums of money. It’s the lack of transparency regarding the clearly large sums of money. The question is, are Christian leaders to be held to a higher standard than a secular one? More importantly, should a Christian leader be holding himself to a higher standard? There should be no place on earth more open and forthcoming regarding finances than the church of Jesus Christ. What exactly do we have to hide, since by and large, we claim truthfully all we have is His anyway? I have no issue at all with a pastor being comfortable in his provision from the church, they should be taken care of. But remember, these multi-million dollar homes are being paid for with money given to the church. Every pastor can take a housing allowance that is not subject to federal taxes up to 45-50% of his total package. And no one inside these churches have a clue as to how much that package is for these men. I have no issue with any pastor making money from a book, but don’t rig the system to get your name on a best seller list through books purchased primarily by the church(or your friends in other churches with a quid pro quo arrangement) and then reap the benefits of speaking engagements billing yourself as a best seller. By the law, it may be true, you were on a best seller list-one week. But none of these books are best sellers. I disagree with Rick Warren on many things, but he is a shining example as to handle a situation such as a best selling book and financial windfall. He pays back every dime the church ever paid him, tithes 90% on the profits as the 10% is more than enough for him to live on comfortably, still lives in the same house he has for 20 some years and drives an early 2000’s pick up. No private jets, helicopters, security guards, mansions, fleet of cars, ets.) All of what is being done by many of these men may be legal(certainly no legal actions yet), butb the question is, is it ethical? It is how a Christian leader, or Christian in general, should pursue such things? The practices are at best questionable, most definitely shady, and maybe in some cases illegal. And since the accountability structures in so many of these churches are silent, who else but a blog such as this is going to stand up and say, this is wrong?

    • Brett Burner Mar 21, 2014 2:02 pm

      Pastor Jeff,

      I don’t mind asking the questions. But I object to the angry gripe fest. Post the questions, but with all the facts, and be willing to be wrong.

      If a million of my friends buy my book, is it not still a bestseller? Aren’t churchgoers customers? Does no other publisher claim being on the NYT bestseller list even if they land there for a week? I sure would!

      Again, I disagree with coercing the means of getting there. I wouldn’t be comfortable with that. But selling books is a business.

      And if I know I am about to make a lot of money, I am very likely going to put a trust together. I wouldn’t think of advertising it to the world…I’m just building a tax shelter. People do it. Do it legally and it is not an issue.

      And some of these multimillion dollar homes are being bought with books revenues. No one is checking the congregation at the door expecting them to drop $20 on the way in.

      And here I ask again: If church leadership decides that is where they want to spend their money, are you prepared to accept it? You want transparency in leadership…but most people equate that with meaning they want to approve every financial decision the church makes. You will not agree, I assure you.

      I agree with your sentiments on Rick Warren, but if he kept 90%, is he wrong? It’s not for you to decide whether he wants to throw that money into a trust fund to benefit his great-great-grandchildren or buy a corporation with it.

      Again, I’m all for asking questions, but slander? No. Dissention? Stirring up controversy? Judgement without authority? Absolutely not. Read the posts. People are just plain angry. Prove me wrong…post an article about overcoming hurt from bad pastoral situations… forgiveness… grace. I assure you…I’ve been through the hard stuff. But I had help understanding these things. And my spiritual walk exploded once I found that freedom. Without it…I’d be another angry poster…

  27. RevMCW Mar 21, 2014 3:44 pm

    If you watch this video from 2010 with Driscoll, Francis Chan, and Josh Harris you can see Driscoll’s envy of Chan’s success as an author and then how he attacks Chan for wanting to walk away from the megachurch to be an unknown disciple maker again.

    • David Mar 21, 2014 9:39 pm

      @RevMCW thanks for that video. It was awesome from about the 9 minute mark on. The thing I noticed was that Chan was talking about a classic understanding of holiness and seeking God; simplicity, suffering, and poverty. It is _not_ a popular message in our current culture. Jesus was the one who told us to take up our cross, but for those of us (myself included) fully vested in a rich culture, our faith is one of comfort. In order to choose a life of discomfort is looked at as counter-cultural (which it is) and doesn’t preach too well.

      I see and hear that ‘disconnect’ between Chan and the others. Chan is at a much different place and it is hard convincing those that have, to some extent, bought into our cultural mandates to understand someone who wants to give it all up so he or she might follow Jesus. Perhaps the biggest question is the one they were discussing…can we authentically follow Jesus when there are others in great need and we choose not to sacrifice? Does love ever make demands on our lives of comfort? Chan says yes and he is living his life in a response to that demand. Maybe somehow he can be an example.

      I pray that Driscoll can be an example as well. I pray his time away from conferences, social media, etc. will be a time of reflection and renewal. Perhaps during that time God will take him deeper than ever before. Maybe he will write another book outlining his journey and new understandings of God, and perhaps make it available for free (like Chan did with Multiply). Wouldn’t that be an awesome story to be told!

  28. PastorJeff Mar 21, 2014 4:31 pm

    Brett, does the church who gives the money have a right to know how and where it’s spent? The way these churches get around full disclosure is they don’t have memberships, so they are not legally obligated to share a comprehensive breakdown of monies spent. Many call their “attenders,” owners. If I own something, I want to know what’s going on. The fact that some book money(an advance, because sales are not paying for million dollar homes) may go toward a house does not cancel the fact that a huge sum of the pastors package also does as well. None of these guys are selling a million books. The books are barely selling at all or they would be on the best seller lists more than 1 week. Even Driscoll is admitting now they rigged the system to get on the list, and I applaud him for that. But that doesn’t change the fact it was done, and is still being done by many other pastors. It’s like a shell game. Again I ask, should a Christian leader be held to a higher standard than a secular one? Do the people who give the money have a right to know how it’s spent? Guys buying homes in a trust’s name so as to hide ownership? Making large honorariums speaking at each others churches? Buying each others books? Waiting to preach on the topic of the book until after the book is for sale so as to promote the book? In the world, it’s all legal. But is it ethical for a Christian leader? Blind trust from congregations and zero accountability from “boards of accountability” just doesn’t seem to be working, so you have folks doing very detailed research and blogging about facts that are not being challenged. The secular media is now hopping on board. Until these practices change, it’s only going to get louder, and that’s not good for anyone, especially the church of Jesus Christ. To many unbelievers believe Christians are all about the money due to the multitude of prosperity “preachers” that are so prominent today. Having guys who are supposedly legit living the same lifestyles with no transparency only accentuates that opinion

    • Mark Prez Mar 21, 2014 4:47 pm

      Pastor Jeff.. concur … and to add…I just do not sense any ill will nor anger nor bitterness at PP. I think Dr Duncan has done a fantastic job communicating and allowing comments to post …. but anger?? Not certain why Brett continues to argue points that have already been fully outlined by a variety of posters. Publicly traded companies, owned by the shareholders, file 10Q’s (Each Quarter), Annual Reports, and the salaries, options, etc are all fully disclosed surrounding upper management. As a shareholder you are entitled by law. Churches?? They hide everything except the infamous pie chart. Ministry is in fact the highest calling…reading what is outlined by scripture, the calling is one in which one would not wish on their worse enemy in terms of what that shepherd must be prepared to face here on Earth. It is more than how one speaks, or motivates. Why do any of us care???? As Brett asks ! Well, for one, outside of the Western culture where we embrace materialism/image/etc,…the message being presented by those called in China/India/etc whom face daily potential persecution, live with virtually nothing, but serve as Christ was a servant. Mega pastors whom call themselves leaders and not shepherds are allocating resources to lifestyles that is not of the Kingdom to come. They are taking riches on Earth because church attenders don’t know any better so they give their money to further the kingdom,…and that is not happening…but again…those whom disagree will keep picking apart the theme here which goes back to the fact that Driscoll is not being forthright and yet he maintains millions of followers, probably more than Christ back in the day. Scary thought. When was the last time if ever that Driscoll washed the any feet of his church attendees? Be a servant first and then everything else will fall into place. Driscoll would make more of a mark if he himself was discipling 12 men to go forth…oh well…who has time for all this when so many are perishing without the Lord. Money?? Materialism? The Church has corrupted itself with more than what they need. That is the bottom line. And hide behind tax records where no one can see any clarity. Of course non profits have to disclose and those documents are available to view online from the government. How sad that we have all these Christian organizations that pay their beneficiaries salaries considered obscene…hundreds of thousands of dollars…where oh where will it end??? IT HAS NEVER BEEN MORE PROFITABLE THAN TO BE INVOLVED IN MINISTRY DURING THIS LAST DECADE AND COMING DECADE.

  29. Brett Burner Mar 21, 2014 6:59 pm

    So how much should a pastor make? Who are you to decide? when is it too much? $80,000? $120,000? $200,000? Who says? You would all be more comfortable if they made nothing and left nothing to their own families.

    It is surprising to me that no one here admits to slander. No…it’s sad. You say you are not angry. But all I read is “These churches…”, “These Mega-pastors”, “These boards…” “When was the last time Mark…”. You’re angry. And you are lumping all deeds together. And you are suspicious of everything. Just because I place money in a trust doesn’t mean I am hiding it. Just because a board makes a decision you do not like doesn’t mean they are all yes-men and corrupt.

    And I know PLENTY of large churches that are fully transparent with their money.

    You know, what it feels like, what I am reading and based on the responses I see…you WANT to gripe. You are not ready to let your frustrations go and trust God. Driscoll didn’t need your help to comer to his decision. He needed God’s help…and it came.

    With every post, I am saying this is wrong. The response is: “But they’re bad!” And I say again: This is ungodly dissension and slander. Hold yourselves to the standard you want these pastors to follow.

    Let it go. It is God’s place to deal with it. I don;t agree with it all either…but my time and energies are better spend.

    Gentlemen, I am appealing to you: Let it go. Pray…pray hard for them. As God to reveal it to them, or to reveal it otherwise to yourselves. Then go be effective. Stop tearing down churches you don’t agree with and get on to work God is calling you to.

    Can you really, truly and honestly say that God is CALLING you to be the herald to call out pastors whose actions you don’t like? You can back it up with scripture? That is the standard you will have to hold up for yourselves.

  30. PastorJeff Mar 21, 2014 8:25 pm

    Brett, you noted that you know some big churches that disclose everything. That’s the point, most churches disclose everything. My package is listed in the yearly budget and every quarterly financial report. It’s there for everyone to see. It’s common practice, except when the money apparently becomes so large we don’t want anyone to know. Why would the business world be more transparent than a church? Why would charitable organizations be more transparent than the church? What orginization on this earth should be more transparent than the church? Why would any Christian organization hide anything? How much is too much, well, that should be up to the church, but in these churches, no one knows except an elite power structure, with many made up by other mega-church pastors also not disclosing anything. God and His house are called to operate in light, not darkness. Yes, pray for them. But what is unbiblical about asking questions about such things? What is unbiblical about searching as to why these groups choose to operate in secrecy instead of light? Why not just open the books and come clean? That resolves the major issues. What is there to fear about being open and honest about such things in a church?

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