How Mark Driscoll Gamed the Publishing Game

Years ago, Rick Warren finagled his way onto the bestseller lists. Before Purpose-Driven Life came out, Warren had hundreds of churches lined up to buy thousands of copies, all of which he bought through Pastors.com and resold to said churches. It was so effective that Warren’s marketing rep and Zondervan left his job there and wrote a book about the process. Warren vehemently disavowed that he’d done anything unethical. Instead, the 35 million copies he’d sold was not marketing but “God’s supernatural and sovereign plan.”

Rick Warren

Nevertheless, as a result of PDL, bestseller lists changed their rules — some removed any book that showed large, bulk sales, while other lists put an asterisk by those titles. Also, they pulled books like PDL off of non-fiction and put them in their own category of “Self-Help and Advice,” since those are often the books with bulk sales.

Authors know that “non-royalty sales” don’t count toward bestseller lists. Those include, for instance, books that authors or their organizations buy at the author discount, usually 40 or 50% off the cover price.

Bestseller lists are important, even today. I once had a book contract that had a $10,000 incentive if my book made the NY Times or Publsihers Weekly list. (It didn’t.) Those lists are meant to gauge how many real, individual readers are buying books.

Now comes word that Mark Driscoll and his church hired a firm that used a thousand different credit cards and thousands of individual names — the names were supplied by the church — to drive Driscoll’s marriage book onto the bestseller lists. As a reward, the firm was paid $210,000 by Mars Hill Church:

According to the terms of the contract between Result Source and Mars Hill, “RSI will be purchasing at least 11,000 total orders in one-week.” The contract called for the “author” to “provide a minimum of 6,000 names and addresses for the individual orders and at least 90 names and address [sic] for the remaining 5,000 bulk orders. Please note that it is important that the make up of the 6,000 individual orders include at least 1,000 different addresses with no more than 350 per state.”

The purpose of this instruction appears to be a way to outsmart systems put in place by The New York Times and other list compilers to prevent authors from buying their way onto best-seller lists. Result Source apparently uses other techniques to work around the safeguards of the best-seller lists. According to its agreement with Mars Hill, “RSI will use its own payment systems (ex. gift cards to ensure flawless reporting). Note: The largest obstacle to the reporting system is the tracking of credit cards. RSI uses over 1,000 different payment types (credit cards, gift cards, etc).”

Read the rest of the story here.

I don’t know that I need to provide any further comment on this other than to say that for someone so committed to the Lord’s work, Mark seems to be very consumed with worldly success.

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You can find all of Tony’s books HERE, and you can sign up to be the first to know about his next book, Did God Kill Jesus? HERE.

  • Silva Helmer

    An more interesting question in my mind is: Why are we so obsessed with the best seller list? A lot of what is there is dreck (in my opinion). Yet – if something is on the best seller list, or reviewed in the New York Times, or “Recommended for You” by Amazon, we are much more likely to buy it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      Publishers are interested because getting on the list guarantees more sales.

      • Silva Helmer

        True – but readers are also interested. I find myself looking at the best sellers list in the newspaper to see if there is anything new that I might find interesting. And getting on Amazon’s “New and Noteworthy” list is a near guarantee of increased sales. That’s us reacting to the list, not the publishers.

        • http://hopefullyknown.com/ Tamara Rice

          Rachel touched on this, but making any of the lists means another book deal … and probably a better one. And though often the best literature is not on the lists (because sometimes huge numbers of people love bad writing with a can’t-put-down plot), at least it’s still a legitimate measuring stick of what people loved and what was popular. (Or at least it’s MEANT to be.) And it’s bragging rights and status from that week forward. It’s not getting a literary award. It’s something you can achieve by reader’s love for you. So I guess my question is … what author’s book didn’t make the list that week because Driscoll cheated his way onto it? What author didn’t get an awesome book deal, because some publisher put all their efforts and money into Driscoll that week and tossed their project aside in favor of his? These are the questions for other writers. Who lost in all of this? Because there is at least one author out there who must have and that’s pretty messed up.

          • Silva Helmer

            Good points all. But the real question I’m asking is if the bestseller list is really measuring what it intends to – popularity of a given author. Or is it really just measuring the marketing aplomb of the publishing house?

            • http://hopefullyknown.com/ Tamara Rice

              It’s a really good question, Silva. My answer would be that, absolutely even in ethical marketing strategies, large houses have a clear advantage. My print publicist friend at Simon & Schuster books her authors on Anderson Cooper–that has to affect sales. (I’m guessing the print publicists at tiny houses almost never get that kind of publicity for their books.) But STILL there is a certain amount of merit in the ability of an author to land a deal with the kind of publishing house that offers that level of marketing. So, yes, the marketing factors in and that’s not always fair. But as long as we’re speaking of ethical marketing practices (review copies, well-timed interviews, and the like) there is a sense in which how good your manuscript is WILL impact how good your publisher is and what kind of marketing they can offer you. But again … that’s merit and not popularity … and the list is meant to reflect POPULARITY. So your question is still a really good one. It’s just that at a certain point merit does impact popularity. So it’s a tough call as to whether or not it is TRULY unfair that Penguin, for example, can offer their author a better shot at making the NYT than Harvest House. :)

          • http://inspiredrd.com InspiredRD

            That was my first thought too. Who gets left off the list when this happens?

          • http://rachelheldevans.com Rachel Held Evans

            Yes.

      • Orton1227

        Yeah, but in regards to Chirstian theology books, it’s an automatic turnoff to me to see it in the best seller list. I’ve created the association that if it’s in the reason, it’s for a good reason. Hordes of Americans don’t flock to buy books that challenge them to live more like Jesus, do they? Maybe PDL was that way, but I never read it because of my best seller list bias. Maybe that makes me horrible.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

          You’re in the minority.

          • Orton1227

            Is that a good thing? Haha. It definitely seems like being in the minority in life is generally a good thing. For example, I didn’t like “Gravity” at all.

            • Ric Shewell

              Being in the minority might be good for your soul, but it limits your engagement with a large number of people.

              • Orton1227

                And that’s ok with me. I’d rather pour deeply into a small amount than weakly lead thousands.

    • http://rachelheldevans.com Rachel Held Evans

      Making the list can be a huge boon for an author – because then you tend to generate more media interest in the book + it all but guarantees the opportunity to write and publish another one. So most authors certainly like the idea. (With the last book, we just focused on trying to have a strong opening week, which kinda sorta worked. Made the list for ebooks twice and it definitely helped me score another book deal. But we didn’t hire anyone to help us game the system.)

      This has been a dirty little secret in publishing for a while now. I thought NYT had figured out how to protect against it by not factoring in bulk orders, but it looks like this agency works around that by ordering with multiple credit cards. That’s just sleazy if you ask me.

      Frankly, I’m a little relieved to know that Mark Driscoll’s “amazing” sales don’t actually represent millions of people who have bought into his teachings on gender. The idea of a bunch of “Real Marriage” books stacked up in a warehouse is….nice. :-)

      • http://thenonessentials.blogspot.com/ Sean Chandler

        Have you ever attempted to use your current clout to engage him directly on his views of marriage?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

          I don’t know about Rachel, but on my last several trips to Seattle, I have attempted to meet Mark for a beer. I’ve been rebuffed by his handlers each time.

          • http://thenonessentials.blogspot.com/ Sean Chandler

            That is unfortunate to hear. : /

          • Lamont Cranston

            There’s a good indicator of whether or not to trust a preacher – does he have “handlers”.

            • http://austacular.com/blog Austin Franklin Thomas

              or does he drink beer

          • Nathan

            Why do you think that is?

          • http://rachelheldevans.com Rachel Held Evans

            Hahaha! Mark meet with a woman?! With opinions?! I don’t think so…

            • dave

              See, there you go again. It’s all gender politics, isn’t it.

      • http://thenonessentials.blogspot.com/ Sean Chandler

        Another thought, given that he had to provide 1,000s of names and credit card numbers, I was under the impression that these were pre-orders which weren’t supposed to count rather than books sit in a warehouse.

      • Teer Hardy

        Rachel, I feel the same sense of relief knowing that the amazing sales were literally purchased and not purchased by the masses. As someone who has aspirations of writing a book, this “inside knowledge” of how the system works makes it seem as if the entire system is rigged (which it might be). It will be interesting to see how Driscoll and Mars Hill respond when the next book is published.

        • http://rachelheldevans.com Rachel Held Evans

          I wouldn’t give up on the whole publishing industry. Lots of good folks there. And plenty of books sell well on their own merits, along with creative (and ethical) marketing plans. It’s not impossible to make a living at it….just hard. :-)

      • Nathan

        And next we can pray for a fire at the warehouse.

      • dave

        I’m sure the plagiarism didn’t help either. (eyes rolling)

      • Keri Wyatt Kent

        Having a best seller will not just get you another book contract, but a more lucrative one than if your book has mediocre sales. A best-selling author gets larger advances. So I don’t know his motive, but I do know that being on the best-seller list means more money for future titles. And Rachel, yes, the idea of all those Real Marriage books in a warehouse is indeed a lovely image.

    • http://theartofsimple.net/ Tsh Oxenreider

      It’s also sorta like winning an Oscar – from now on, you can stamp on any future book, speaking engagement, or project, “from NYT Bestelling author…” And for whatever reason, that piques interest.

  • Steve Alaniz

    I love the Mars Hill response. They’re basically saying “Don’t hate the playa, hate the game!” What a circus.

  • Eayer1130

    I’m not a huge fan of Driscoll either, but this seems like an attempt put into bad light Mars Hill and Driscoll. The article itself is a bit confusing. It seems like the company was paid $25,000 to help market and the rest of the money seems it was used to purchase the books itself (albeit through the company). What would be the difference of this and any other marketing campaign?

    • Orton1227

      It’s lying.

    • RustbeltRick

      Because the book enters the best-seller list under patently false pretenses.

      • Ric Shewell

        I’m no fan of Mars Hill, but who’s job is it to make sure that the best-seller list cannot be exploited this way?

        • http://hopefullyknown.com/ Tamara Rice

          The list makers. And they are trying. And as soon as they create new safeguards and ways of catching the bulk sales, these unscrupulous firms find ways around it. They are always playing catch up.

          Similarly, someone on Twitter wanted this to be the NYT’s fault and not Driscoll’s. So–by that logic–we’re now blaming people whose homes get broken into for not having better security systems. What these firms do is just barely this side of legal. That needs to be understood. It borders on fraud and these list-makers have put a lot into trying to safeguard against them.

          • Ric Shewell

            I agree. If there’s a weakness to exploit, then people will do it, and I think it’s a gray-area when it comes to ethical or not ethical. If the bottom line is dollars, then investing 25k to exploit a weakness is justifiable. I guess Mars Hill is saying that the bottom line is exposure, so legally exploiting a weakness in the market is justifiable as well.

            • http://hopefullyknown.com/ Tamara Rice

              And that lack of ability to draw a line in the sand of ethics and stand on the side that does not exploit is precisely what’s wrong with Mars Hill and Driscoll himself.

              • Sharla Hulsey

                …and with much of evangelical Christianity. Don’t think it’s limited just to these high-profile megachurch preacher/authors. Unethical behavior on the part of the pastors of small fundamentalist churches does damage to the cause of Christ, too. It could be even worse in those cases, because a person might write off such breaches of ethics in the high-profile folks like Driscoll as a consequence of fame; but when it’s a small-church pastor in a small town, it’s firsthand experience that may well do real damage to real people and their faith.

                • http://hopefullyknown.com/ Tamara Rice

                  Truth.

    • http://www.throughaglass.net Kari

      In addition to what others have said about it being deceitful, my big problem is a church spending money to put their pastor on the bestseller list.

    • dave

      The real difference is, when a political party does it, or a rock band does it, this approach generates a buzz and a perception. When a pastor does it with church funds, it’s ugly ambition.

  • Ivy Beckwith

    What amazes me is how many of the commenters on the WORLD article think this is an ethical practice. To me its not only manipulating the system but lying about the popularity of the book.

    • http://hopefullyknown.com/ Tamara Rice

      What amazes ME, Ivy, is how many other writers I saw defending this as “marketing” on Twitter yesterday–writers who could never, ever afford to do this unethical and crazy thing for their own books and should rightly be outraged on all counts. It boggled my mind.

      • Mary DeMuth

        Most authors do not have the $ to buy their way onto the list. Beyond that, this practice is underhanded, shady, and ultimately shows more about the author’s ego than the merit of the book. A true bestseller is a beautiful thing, based on viral word of mouth. It is typically not manipulated.

        • http://hopefullyknown.com/ Tamara Rice

          Hear, hear.

      • http://rachelheldevans.com Rachel Held Evans

        Oh I think it’s totally shady. And I’m generally open to creative marketing ideas. This company exists to game the system in ways that are unethical, and to use church money to do it…yikes.

        • dave

          I finally agree with you on something!

      • dave

        I agree with you. What bothers me most is, this isn’t a political party, or a rock band rigging the charts to create a buzz. It’s a pastor using church money to enhance his prestige.

  • http://hopefullyknown.com/ Tamara Rice

    I guess I have some questions before I’d lump Warren and Driscoll together. You said yourself the list-makers didn’t have guidelines regarding this practice until AFTER PDL. Now it’s been brought to light and frowned on and people must hire firms privately like Driscoll did and pay them a boatload of money to know and outsmart every safeguard that has since been put into place. (Don’t forget the whole using giftcards thing that is in the contract, so the purchases can’t be traced–that part is appallingly and tellingly manipulative.)

    I’m not saying what Warren did was awesome at all. However, when comparing the two, my questions would be:

    1. Did Warren ever hide the fact that his church bought X number of copies?

    2. Did Warren specifically buy the copies for his church in order to land the book on the bestseller list?

    Because in both cases with Driscoll the answer is absolutely yes he did hide it and yes he did it in order to get on the list. It’s all there in black and white. So, unless I’m absolutely wrong on those two counts about Warren’s bulk purchase for Saddleback, there is a fine line (only a fine one, I admit, but it’s still there) between their actions.

    • RustbeltRick

      Ideally, a book makes the list based on the popular appeal of its content. If a book like PDL makes the list simply because a book marketer figured out a way to move units regardless of content, the list itself becomes a joke (which is why the NYT reacted so strongly to Warren’s machinations). Warren employed a marketing trick to make the list, then he can claim “my book is on the list” which infers that the book is so incredibly helpful that people are rushing to stores to get it. In fact, they weren’t quite doing that. It’s deceptive.

      • Silva Helmer

        Arguable most major publisher use marketing tricks to get their books on the best seller lists. So the question is: is the list really a measure of popular appeal, or has it become just a measurement of which publisher/author can employ the best marketing tricks?

        • RustbeltRick

          There are clear lines between ethical marketing tactics and unethical tactics. Saturating the airwaves with commercials urging people to buy your product is ethical, if annoying; buying mass quantities of your own product in order to get on a best-seller list is clearly unethical.

          • Silva Helmer

            Agreed.

          • Sharla Hulsey

            Stories like these and recent firsthand experience has led me to believe that there are certain “Christian” leaders out there who appear to think ethics are irrelevant when there are souls to be saved (or books to be sold to people who, presumably, will get their souls saved by virtue of having bought those books).

            • silicon28

              Come to Charlotte, NC and listen to / read the local news as they continue to explain / expose the Steven Furtick Elevation cult behavior going on here… Ethics? Not with this little group of pastors keeping each other “accountable” while no one else has a clue as to their game. Driscoll, Furtick, Ed Young Jr., Perry Noble… the latest class of Elmer Gantry types getting rich off of Jesus… Embarrasses some of us to share the same name they claim…

          • dave

            May I tell you about Dianetics? :P

            • RustbeltRick

              Exactly. I used to work for Waldenbooks in the 80s, and I remember the only people buying Dianetics were the Scientologists who came in and bought multiple copies.

              • Headless Unicorn Guy

                The all-time master of juicing a book was L Ron Hubbard.

                Worked kind of like this (and explains Rustbelt Rick’s observation):

                1) Elron’s books (from Dianetics to Battlefield Earth series) are all pubbed through Scientology-owned Bridge Publications.
                2) Command Intention LRH goes out from Flag to all Orgs: All Scientologists — Pre-Clears, Clears, and Operating Thetans of all Levels — are to buy the book. Multiple copies, if possible (but not too many per Scientologist).
                3) Pre-Clears, Clears, and Operating Thetans turn in their excess copies to their Org, who ships them back to (Scientology-owned) Bridge Publications.
                4) At Bridge, the returned books are inspected, damaged dust jackets replaces, and shipped back out to the bookstores.
                5) Repeat steps (2) through (4) and build up sales numbers until the book makes it onto the NYT best-seller list.

                Now THAT’s Juicing a Book!
                Compared to Elron, these preachers are amateurs.

      • http://hopefullyknown.com/ Tamara Rice

        With all due respect, RustbeltRick, I don’t need the point of the lists explained to me. I get it and I don’t love what Warren did. But I had two questions. You didn’t answer them.

        • RustbeltRick

          My apologies, I meant to post in the general conversation, and not to you.

          • http://hopefullyknown.com/ Tamara Rice

            Thanks for explaining. Understand, I am equally outraged by how this affects the lists. I consider it a form of fraud. But Warren’s clear intent to fraudulently make the list isn’t totally evidenced here, so that’s why I posed the questions.

            • Guest

              just a little touchy there…

    • Rich Jones

      To answer the questions, no Rick Warren didn’t hide it. and no he didn’t do it to land the book on the list. Saddleback has had a practice of sponsoring ’40 day campaigns’ for quite some time. The PDL book quickly became a part of that practice. At the time Saddleback Resources (which is now pastors.com or purposedrivenresources I think) marketed the campaign to thousands of other churches as an outreach or spiritual growth curriculum. Those churches purchased the books as part of the campaign and distributed them to members/attenders and others who were interested. All of this was very open and a part of Saddleback’s ministry to help other churches. All of that to say, Mark Driscoll and Rick Warren couldn’t be more different. In fact the only thing they seem to have in common is that they pastor large churches. Warren has always been very transparent with his finances and the church’s finances; ministering with integrity. Driscoll, not so much. Just my thoughts on it…

  • Jordon Wright

    “The purpose of this instruction appears to be a way to outsmart systems put in place by The New York Times and other list compilers to prevent authors from buying their way onto best-seller lists.” I have to wonder if the people of Mars Hill Church realize they’re funding Mark Driscoll’s unethical attempt to “outsmart” and game the systems to get onto the New York Times best selling list. I also wonder if they’d care. If the reaction of Elevation Church members to Furtick’s scandal is any indication, I sincerely doubt it.

    • KLR

      You know, I have 2 siblings in different areas who love the Lord and have been immensely impacted by Mars Hill. Please be careful anytime you say things like, “I’d wonder if they’d care” as if they were somehow duplicitous in any wrong doing. This is the Bride of Christ, remember? We should have each others backs. I’m not condoning Mark Driscoll, but I am defending the many, many people who call Mars Hill home and who follow Jesus.

      • Jordon Wright

        I was simply inquiring why we’re not hearing more outrage from members at Mars Hill. I know there are blogs featuring former members spilling the beans about Mars Hill, but they seem to be in the minority. This is not Driscoll’s first brush with scandal. For example, it was just a few weeks ago we were talking about his supposed plagiarism.

        When you say you’re “defending” the people of Mars Hill, you’re setting it up as if I’m attacking them. I’m not. I’m simply saying it’s odd that within these churches where there is a ‘cult of personality’ with charismatic leaders like Driscoll or Furtick, where they’re taught to support the vision (which is supposedly from God), we’re not hearing from church members who are raising questions. Is it happening? I hope so. I certainly would be outraged if my pastor used $210,000 of my churches money to get himself onto the NY Times best seller list.

      • silicon28

        Sorry, but your chopped logic needs to be called out. He’s their pastor / shepherd / leader. If they won’t speak to correct him (And we’ve all seen how that particular “accountability” works in that specific situation as the story of Paul and Jonna Petry has shown us), then they are as duplicitous as his leadership is. I’ve physically been to Mars Hill – (once, and that was enough by the time I left 1/2 way through Driscoll’s rant that he was calling a sermon) and as far as your “bride of Christ” metaphor goes? I’d frankly say that this particular example is flirting with the description of the 19th century poet Robert Southey… “I could believe in Christ if he did not drag behind him his leprous bride the Church.”

        This is NOT the witness the Church of Jesus Christ needs, regardless of how you think your siblings have been impacted by it…

      • dave

        I think people ought to leave Mars Hill. Mark Driscoll is too unaccountable.

        Imagine any church board meeting, where they have $200,000 just sitting around, waiting to be used to advance the kingdom. Can you think of anything else to do with that tithe money? Or is hyping his plagiarized book really the best, most creative, way to advance the gospel?

        I don’t buy it. People should leave that church, and give elsewhere.

  • Tom LeGrand

    The justification is that any techniques are justified if it gets the message out there. That’s a very common justification in many things, including the ways that some churches approach evangelism.

    Perhaps the bigger issue is the “message” that Driscoll, Ed Young Jr. or others are trying to get out there. It is disturbing that pastors are working so hard to sell books on a topic that they are not truly qualified to address. It doesn’t matter what seminary you attended (or are attending), you are NOT qualified as a marriage counselor when you finish. At best, you are trained to listen to marriage issues and make suggestions about those issues. These guys may be qualified to give advice on THEIR VERSION of marriage, but that’s it.

    We have far too many pastors speaking as if they are qualified on certain issues when they clearly are not. And yes, I do include myself in that category at times.

  • Stephen Peairson

    Mark Driscoll’s frat-jock persona and crass style of preaching stopped being amusing to me around the time he became hyper critical and even condemning of Brian McLaren and others in the emergent movement. I knew my own identification with emergent and great appreciation for McLaren could make me more sensitive to criticism so I tried to avoid announcing any verdicts on Driscoll or his products at that time. I also had a group of “new Calvinist” friends who thought he was so great that I sometimes wondered if I might be missing out once I started rigorously avoiding his sermons, podcasts, and books. Now in recent months there are the revelations about plagiarism and this embarrassingly craven and expensive scheme to manipulate attention for his book and I feel like my original instincts were correct. The thing that was always uniquely wrong in this case stems from my realization that by comparison, while I might disagree with someone like John Piper, I’ve never felt the kind of negative and divisive energy that has always come off Driscoll in waves. Interested to see Driscoll’s response and what the fall out of all this will be going forward.

    • nokoryous

      I think your Piper v Driscoll comment is spot on, something I’ve been trying to put my finger on about Driscoll. That said, I think the matter at hand is at once disreputable and over-hyped.

      • dave

        I think Driscoll’s book is the only thing here that is over-hyped!

  • CanIbeFrank

    This may how one games the system in a capitalistic society and it may
    be a very standard practice for some segments. But, at what point did
    Jesus say that we’re to follow the shady methods of the world and do
    whatever we can to make a buck? Actually, this type of situation WAS
    addressed in the Bible–you know, when the moneychangers set up business
    to ostensibly provide a service to the faithful but in reality greed ruled their actions. And we all know how Jesus reacted to that, don’t
    we?

  • Larry Barber

    Getting on a best-sellers list is a good way to guarantee that I _won’t_ read it.

  • JohnnyVoxx

    Consider reading St. Augustine’s “Confessions” or St. Teresa of Avila’s “The Interior Castle” or Thomas a Kempis’ “Imitation of Christ” or Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange’s “Three Ages of the Interior Life.” All these authors were under vows of poverty when these works were written, they were vetted over hundreds of years and have stood the test of time, as have the works of all the 36 Doctors of the Catholic Church. There is only one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, the one referred to in Matthew 16:18, as founded by Christ on Peter and the Apostles. Please do not deceive yourselves any longer with these modern “pastors” of these so-called “churches”.

    • Aquinasbot

      Amen!

  • http://morechrist.blogspot.com K.W. Leslie

    Bulk purchases shouldn’t be counted when it comes to best-seller lists.

    If booksellers are gonna game the system, they should have to manufacture individual names and credit card numbers, same as the scalpers who bulk-buy concert tickets. At least they should have to work for their subterfuge.

    • http://bookwi.se/ Adam Shields

      that is what happened here. 7500 names for non-bulk, 90 names for small bulk that would still make the list. Over a 1000 payment methods

      • http://morechrist.blogspot.com K.W. Leslie

        True, but small-bulk shouldn’t count either.

        • http://bookwi.se/ Adam Shields

          It probably won’t any more. But I think by small bulk they mean less than 10. Which is pretty small.

  • Briana Meade

    This borders on ridiculous. I can’t believe that Driscoll used these type of tactics. It is so underhanded.

  • http://austacular.com/blog Austin Franklin Thomas

    I’m with Rachel Held Evans. This makes me feel a little more comfortable about the state of the church, since it means less people are buying the bullshit that this guy is selling.

  • http://tracimsmith.wordpress.com/ Traci

    Oooooh. So. Interesting. So… *just today* I listened to Seth Godin’s talk from On Being (from a long time ago, I listen to podcasts when I’m in the car, which isn’t often) — anyway, a big chunk of the talk is dedicated to a fascinating discussion about meaning and quality vs. mass appeal. I loved one quote in particular that was something to the effect of “Instead of focusing on ‘how can I get this to the most number of people’ we should be asking the question ‘what is the *least* number of people I need to get this to (or products I need to sell) that will allow me to continue to do what I want to do.” Mass producing trash does not = success according to Godin (or me or you, either.) PS Here’s the talk. You’d dig it: http://www.onbeing.org/program/seth-godin-on-the-art-of-noticing-and-then-creating/5000

  • toddh

    I like the oft-used pic of MD looking like he wants to strangle some someone… :)

  • Bhojraj Bhatta

    The day I heard Driscoll proudly claim that he never takes more than one hour to prepare his sermons, I stopped following his activities knowing that this guy is not what most people think he is.

  • Spencer Phillips

    Plus, the book is awful.

  • Andrew Dowling

    It’s not like one needed extra proof Dricoll is a complete scumbag . . .

  • $25021989

    Did the names Driscoll/Mars Hill provided to RSI consist of current/former church members, attenders?
    - Were they made aware that their names or other personally identifiable data were being tied to phony or deceptive credit card/gift card scams/purchases?
    - Were church tithes & offerings the source of the funds used to fuel the RSI image-builder machinery?
    - Were church members informed or asked for approval before this scheme to “stack the deck” was pursued?
    - Does Driscoll even care? (After all, “any publicity is good publicity” – so the saying goes.)
    - Compared to all the other deplorable behaviors we have witnessed over the years, is this any surprise?
    - And since Driscoll’s own elders and fellow mega-church pastors go along with all of his shenanigans over the years, can we expect any of these back-slappers and yes-men to call him out now?
    - Is it any wonder he continues to act with impunity, as if he is made of teflon?

    • Jared James

      To the first two questions, I’d say an investigation might be merited. To the last two, a firm no should suffice.

    • dave

      Church money was indeed used to rig this scheme, as the contract was signed by their executive pastor!

  • BrendtWayneWaters

    Don’t approve of either man’s actions, but two things:

    (1) Digging up barely relevant ancient history about Rick Warren makes you sound like Ken Silva.
    (2) Adding personal negative data to the mix kills what little credibility this post had after the Silva-channeling.

    It’s OK if a post is short now and then. No one of import will decry you. Stay on point and you’ll convince others not already in the choir.

    • JoeyS

      Wait, this isn’t Ken Silva-esque. Bringing up Warren was simply to tell the history of why these lists set up the parameters they do. It was context, not witch hunting.

      • BrendtWayneWaters

        Because without that “context”, what Driscoll/MH did would have seemed perfectly fine? Puhleeeeze.

        The Warren stuff *was* related; but relevant, not so much.

  • americanwoman343

    Not to mention, that the book itself is so dreadful! Shaming his wife, reading all sorts of things into the Bible to justify the patriarchal, hierarchical marriage ideas he has…that this is what he did to promote it is the last straw!

  • Vanessa Perron

    Really? Big Deal!!! It’s an amazing book by a Godly Man who loves Jesus and wants to help marriages thrive. Witch hunting at it’s best!!

    • CanIbeFrank

      Why did you capitalize “Godly Man”? Initial caps on non-proper nouns are normally reserved for deity.

    • dave

      If only he hadn’t plagiarized parts of it…..

      Hmmm…. now that’s a problem, isn’t it.

  • http://timfall.wordpress.com/ Tim

    Good work laying out the progression from PDL to Mr. Driscoll’s “best-seller”. This whole episode prompted me to write my very first parable: The Mega-Pastor and the Best Seller List – a parable”

  • BrotherRog

    Holy Sleezy Shenanigans Batman!
    – Roger Wolsey

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

    Confidence men.

    “The profession of shaman has many advantages. It offers high status with a safe livelihood free of work in the dreary, sweaty sense. In most societies it offers legal privileges and immunities not granted to other men. But it is hard to see how a man who has been given a mandate from on High to spread tidings of joy to all mankind can be seriously interested in taking up a collection to pay his salary; it causes one to suspect that the shaman is on the moral level of any other con man. But it is a lovely work if you can stomach it.”

    ~Robert Heinlein, Time enough for Love

  • http://www.MoreThanCake.org/ J.R. Miller

    It grieves me most to know that the “Tithes” of the church are used, not to help the people in the Church, but to market a book… I have no words.

  • Tom

    I live in Seattle and am constantly in the throws of discussions and disputes about Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll. I do not support their ministry and do not agree with Driscoll on almost every theological issue. But I do know that people are fed in his church. I know that people find community in a city that is known for its “chill” among residents. I know that on the ground level there are good things that happen. But also have seen the damage and destruction their ministry can cause. I have had friends disappear in to the churches community that wont invest into the lives of people outside the church. I have had friends walk away from faith because of the teachings there. And I have been put under pressure to answer to the controversy they create because I share the same faith as them. Its a mess.

    But despite all the baggage that comes with my view of the church, I think many people are missing the bigger issue here. I am not surprised that they used a “shady” and even unethical practice to ensure a spot of the NYT best seller list. With all of the other controversies this seems to be on the more mild side. The bigger issue here is that the church spent close to a quarter million dollars to gain accolades for a book written by the pastor. I can’t help but ask the question “What would that money have done for the city of Seattle?”. There is so much need in our city and they could have had a huge impact. Just as an example of this, the Union Gospel Mission is in desperate need of weather-proofed
    blankets, that are nylon backed or quick-wicking wool. Those blankets
    are about $16 each, that’s 13,125 blankets. Or that money could have bought 40,000 meals for hungry families. Or provided dental and vision care for 10,000 underprivileged kids.

    The fact they chose to bolster their own “success” through worldly praise and merit is what strikes a nerve for me. They ignored the needs of the communities around them.

    I have heard it said that your budget is a map of your values. What does this say about Mars Hill?

    • Andrew Dowling

      “But I do know that people are fed in his church. I know that people find
      community in a city that is known for its “chill” among residents.”

      I’m not saying the two are equivalent, trust me, but one could’ve said the same thing about the KKK in its heyday. Most bad organizations have “some” good that they do; doesn’t justify their existence. But your larger point is spot on.

    • $25021989

      “But I do know that people are fed in his church.”

      Fed what?
      That’s the problem.

  • JoeyS

    It seems that a limerick challenge is in order, Tony.

  • Dennis Huxley

    Mark Driscoll doesn’t appear to me to be concerned with the Lord’s work. If he is sincere, then he’s sincerely deceived. I think he’s concerned with Mark Driscoll’s work.

  • Luke Allison

    Hmmm….it seems to me that American evangelicalism has a long history of “scalawag” preachers doing anything and everything in order to precipitate large human movements (they would add “of God”). Let’s just add these to a long and infamous list. I wonder if his desire to have a “bestseller” is about money and prestige or part of the whole “pluck souls from hell by any means necessary” mentality that drives this type of Christian leader? I’m sure Driscoll thinks that this is God’s amazing sovereign hand multiplying his influence over and against the corrupt systems of the world. Who cares about the New York Times Bestseller list, right? Those are all uppity, convoluted, pluralist, inerrancy-denying egalitarian liberal atheists anyway.

    I’m fairly certain that guys like Driscoll, who are absolutely convinced of their very necessary place within creation and God’s purposes, have not given a thought to things like “struggling writers trying to do things honestly” or “the inherent beauty of a true bestseller” etc. Those are concerns for people that don’t have souls to save. Urgency, people, urgency!

  • BrendtWayneWaters

    In light of the recent apology letter from Mark, I look forward to the retraction on your blog that states that this article ignorantly lays too much of the blame at his feet.

    I won’t, however, be holding my breath.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      That’s a good one. That wasn’t an apology. That was an evasion.

      • BrendtWayneWaters

        Q: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?”
        A: Tony Jones

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