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Going Forward

Dear Church Family,

These are difficult days for our church, and I know many of you are frustrated and hurting. I love you very much and am grateful for the privilege to be one of the many men leading you through these times. I want to share with you some more of what is going on at our church, so that you are not in the dark.

We all know there are problems at Mars Hill. Our church is broken and needs healing and change. Behind the scenes, there is progress being made to help our church become godly and healthy. Let me share with you a few of the initiatives that are now in place.

The Board of Advisors and Accountability has established a Board of Elders (BoE) increasing involvement from the eldership in major decisions impacting Mars Hill Church.

This Board of Elders is comprised of seven Mars Hill Lead Pastors and one volunteer Pastor who serves as its chairman. The chairman is also one of the independent members of the Board of Advisors and Accountability which provides a direct link between the two boards.

The charter organizes our work into three areas:

  1. Financial - Our church is in a financial crisis right now. Very difficult decisions are being made regarding the stewardship and allocation of our resources. The BoE will speak into these decisions from the perspective of front line pastors who are working to lead the ministry of a Mars Hill Church on the local level. Longer term, the BoE will meet with our auditors, review and vote on budgets and key financial policies. A final approval of budgets remains with the BoAA as is required to be in compliance with ECFA standards.

  2. Elder Transitions - The BoE will receive, investigate, report and make recommendations to the BoAA on any charges brought against an elder in the church. They will also arbitrate in situations where the charges brought against an elder are contested. Very importantly, you should know the BoAA has approved a significant change where charges against an Executive Elder will be first investigated by the Board of Elders, followed by a decision from the independent members of the BoAA. This affords increased accountability of the Executive Elders with the rest of the eldership. I believe it is important for you to know this was a change that Pastor Mark, Pastor Dave and Pastor Sutton initiated themselves as a sign of mutual submission and accountability.  

  3. Culture at Mars Hill Church - Throughout this difficult season, much is coming to light about our church that we believe Jesus wants to change. The BoE has requested input from the entire eldership through their local church elder teams for recommendations of change. Nothing is “off the table” from bylaws to structure. Godliness and health from the ground-up is our aim. Given some time, and with much prayer and a commitment to put these goals into practice, we will see our church transform from what it has been, into a culture of love and grace. The BoE will monitor and compile an assessment of our church’s values and culture as a point of accountability that we are moving in a godly direction as a church. (Romans 15:5-6)

All structure, bylaws and other systems in place at Mars Hill are being considered, but before major changes are addressed the accusations against Pastor Mark Driscoll must be resolved.

  • There is a process – Each member of the BoE has been tasked with interviewing those who have made allegations, as well as Pastor Mark himself. We are committed to doing a conscientious and thorough examination of the issues, and then will present our findings to the independent members of the BoAA to act upon. Pastors Mark, Dave and Sutton are not involved in this process other than being interviewed. We are moving quickly, because we realize the serious nature of these allegations. We are also proceeding with caution, so that we carefully come to a just conclusion and godly course of action. We will follow the very clear standard given to us from 1 Timothy 5 in how we address charges against an elder. Some have questioned my, and other BoE members, impartiality in conducting this investigation. I want you to know that I and the other board members know that we will stand before the Lord and give an account for our service to His church. Ultimately His opinion of how we conducted ourselves in faithfulness to his word will be are our guide (1 Timothy 5:19-20, Matthew 18:15-17, Proverbs 18:17, Deuteronomy 17:8-9).

  • The process has begun - The members of the BoE have been assigned their interviews and have already begun having these conversations. We have had many hours of meetings together and interviews with the people involved.

  • The process will take time - We believe that these interviews will take several more weeks to complete after which a report and final conclusion will be provided by the independent members of the Board of Advisors and Accountability. Those members will be meeting with us during the process.

  • This process will be difficult - There are many emotions surrounding these interviews and we pray for peace for those interviewed, as well as wisdom and discernment for all those involved. The BoE is committed to conducting a thorough investigation. We will not shortcut this process to ensure we are able to come to a truthful and just conclusion.

How you can you help in this season?

  1. Pray for the BoE. I have accepted a position to serve on the Board of Elders with the blessing and cooperation of the elders here at Mars Hill Sammamish, as have my brothers serving with me from other Mars Hill churches. Pray that God would grant us wisdom and courage to follow wherever Jesus leads in this process. (James 1:5, 3:17)

  2. Please be patient and give this process a chance to work. We are already hard at work and believe that this is a sound biblical process that urges all of us to patiently and prayerfully wait for the committee’s recommendations. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

  3. Continue to serve, give, and love one another in Jesus' name and for his sake. Every person, every effort, every dollar invested now could be what helps us become a more godly and loving church in the future. Don’t faint. Don’t lose heart. Don’t become weary in doing good. Jesus will prevail. (Galatians 6:9, Romans 12:9-13)

  4. Please do not hash out disagreements on these matters in social media. My heart in making this request has nothing to do with how it makes Mars Hill look, it has everything to do with how it makes the gospel look to non-believers. When non-believers see us fighting amongst each other in such a public way it does not commend Christ to our cities. Please remember that your pastors want to talk to you and walk with you in this time and any disagreements you may have with other brothers and sisters are best when discussed in person.

I know there are examples like this from all over Mars Hill but I wanted to share a story from Sammamish: Last week in the foyer after one of our morning services a gentleman who serves faithfully at our church came up to speak with me. He me told me how sorry he was that our church is experiencing such pain right now. He went on to let me know that he and his family are planting their flag and intend to stay. He said that what he was most afraid of was leaving too soon and missing out on the great things God would do in and through Mars Hill Church. That conversation made me think about the day when Pastor Thomas asked me to consider becoming the lead pastor at the new Mars Hill Church in Sammamish. I felt inadequate and anxious. Almost everything inside me said there are easier directions to go, and safer places to land. After a while I realized that I was more afraid to miss what God might do in me and through me on that journey than I wanted to feel safe and adequate. I planted my flag and said yes to God. Thanks for letting me pastor you through this season (James 1:2-4, 2 Corinthians 12:10, Philippians 1:6).

Pastor Alex Ghioni, on behalf of the Board of Elders

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