One of the controversies swirling around Mars Hill this summer has been the so-called "Global Fund" that didn't go so global. From a story The Stranger ran about Mars Hill back in August:
In a July 2014 letter, Mars Hill admitted that millions of dollars donated to its Global Fund, which appeared to be bound for projects in Ethiopia and India, actually went into Mars Hill’s general fund, which raised questions about how much of the general fund goes towards Driscoll’s salary. Driscoll’s handlers have declined to answer questions about the scandal, but journalist Warren Throckmorton, who follows Mars Hill closely, reported that unnamed church insiders estimate less than 5 percent of the Global Fund actually made it overseas.
Today, Throckmorton has posted an internal Mars Hill memo about the real purpose of that Global Fund: marketing and spin.
That's not selective quoting or some kind of perverse interpretation. The entirety of the "benefits" section of the memo is explicitly and cravenly self-serving:
The Global Fund could be beneficial in a number of ways, besides the obvious gain of increased funding:
• For a relatively low cost (e.g. $10K/month), supporting a few missionaries and benevolence projects would serve to deflect criticism, increase goodwill, and create opportunities to influence and learn from other ministries.
• Many small churches who may consider joining Mars Hill hesitate because they do not believe we support “missions.” While we need to continue to challenge the assumptions underlying a claim, the Global Fund would serve as a simple, easy way to deflate such criticism and help lead change in these congregations.
• The ability to communicate and interact with supporters of Mars Hill Global provides an avenue for promoting events, recruiting leaders, and developing Mars Hill core groups in strategic cities.
So the plan was to raise money for poor people overseas, take a little sliver of it for "highly visible, marketable projects," and quietly keep the rest. Also from the memo:
Of the money that comes into the Global Fund, designate a fixed percentage internally for highly visible, marketable projects such as mission trips, orphan care, support for pastors and missionaries in the third world, etc. (ten to fifteen strategic operations in locations where Mars Hill wants to be long term). This percentage should be flexible (not a “tithe”), and not communicated to the public.
Throckmorton reports that the Global Fund raised over $2 million in fiscal year 2013. According to the memo's example, Mars Hill planned to send $120,000—that's six percent—of that money overseas, primarily as a marketing strategy.
Back in July, people were pissed to find out that only around five percent of the Global Fund was estimated to have made it overseas.
When they find out that was the plan all along, they should be furious.
Thanks to reader Nancy for the heads up.