Megachurch Methods: Pastor Fired Because He Wouldn’t Sign Non-Compete Clause

Yesterday, I posted the statement of Dalton Roraback. For many years, Roraback was a member of Mars Hill Church and recently had started mentoring community group leaders at the church. However, because he asked questions about the pastors’ salaries, Mark Driscoll’s efforts to manipulate the New York Times best seller list and other matters, Roraback was forced out of his position at the church. In his statement, Roraback mentioned Phil Poirier, a former elder at Mars Hill’s Everett franchise. Poirier was the pastor over community groups but was removed from his volunteer position when he declined to sign an annual review. He did not sign the agreement because of a clause titled, Unity of Mission. This clause reads:

6. Unity of Mission

An Agreement between each member of the Full-Council of Elders, Executive Elders and the Board of Advisors and Accountability of Mars Hill Church.

As Pastors, we commit together that we will serve the best interests of our Savior Jesus Christ, and our church, Mars Hill Church. If and when any of us feel led to serve the Lord somewhere other than at one of the church locations of Mars Hill Church, we will submit our opportunity to one another and our Executive Elders first in accordance with Proverbs 11:14, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

Together this day, we commit that our next church ministry will not be within ten miles of any location of Mars Hill Church, except with the express consent of the local pastors of the nearest church, the sending church, if different, and the Executive Elders of Mars Hill Church . We are, as Ephesians 4:3 says, “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We care about the church, the testimony of our church, and the dear people who attend our church.

We would not want our actions to cause confusion or harm by making the people of Mars Hill question our love for the Lord, the purity of our church, or their decision to worship Christ here.

We acknowledge that as we adhere to this commitment, the Executive Elders and the Board of Advisors and Accountability will commit to do everything within their power to offer and support a church plant outside of the radius stated here.

This is essentially a non-compete clause but one which Poirier rejected. I call it a non-compete clause because Mars Hill appears to view churches within a ten mile radius as a competing church. His letter about this matter to the executive elders (Driscoll, Turner, and Bruskas) is below:

 To the Executive Elders at Mars Hill Church,

I am thankful for the years that we have had at Mars Hill.  We are grateful that God led us here, and for all that we’ve learned. The abundant evidences of His grace are everywhere. We are joyful in that.

My experience as an elder at Mars Hill has been challenging yet fruitful, difficult but rewarding. To serve Jesus here has been a privilege and I’ve taken that responsibility seriously, knowing that in the end I must give an account to Jesus. We have only One to please; we cannot fear man.

At the end of my annual elder evaluation I was asked to agree or disagree with the Unity of Mission statement. Before God, I cannot in good conscience, and with integrity, agree with that statement.

Concerning the recent events and allegations against the leadership at Mars Hill, it seems that if we are to restore trust in those we shepherd we need to start with developing trust between the Executive Elders and the Full Council of Elders. This statement seems to indicate the exact opposite.

In the combined meeting we recently had with Pastors Dave and Sutton and the Everett and Shoreline elders, we were advised that the culture at Mars Hill was going to change. The culture of fear, anger, coercion and manipulation was going to be a thing of the past. While there was a glimmer of hope that this was actually happening, a statement like this one, where we are forced to agree or be dismissed, seems to be coercive. This does not reflect godly respect for one another. There appears to be a lack of trust in the Full Council of Elders.

I do not believe that requiring elders to sign this statement is biblical; in fact, it appears to me as a unbiblical legalism.

We all recognize the requirement in Hebrews 13:17 for the church to obey and submit to their leaders, but this passage was never intended to give license to the elders to use it as a hammer to manipulate, control or to rule out of fear and intimidation. In contrast, we have the biblical mandate in I Peter 5:3…not to be domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

I love Jesus and the people who call Mars Hill their home, so I cannot, in good conscience, resign the office of elder that God has placed me in; however, I will respectfully submit to your decision if you choose to remove me from this position.

Thank you for your careful consideration of this letter.

Your brother and fellow servant in Christ,

Pastor Phil Poirier

The elders did indeed remove Poirier from his position.

The non-compete clause is relatively recent in the history of Mars Hill. According to one source, the executive elders requested that elders both paid and non-paid, sign an agreement with a non-compete clause beginning in April 2013. The initial language looked like this:

“An Agreement between each member of the Full-Council of Elders, Executive Elders and the Board of Advisors and Accountability of Mars Hill Church.

As Pastors, we commit together that we will serve the best interests of our Savior Jesus Christ, and our church, Mars Hill Church. If and when any of us feel led to serve the Lord somewhere other than at one of the church locations of Mars Hill Church, we will submit our opportunity to one another and our Executive Elders first in accordance with Proverbs 11:14, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

Together this day, we commit that our next church ministry will not be within ten miles of any location of Mars Hill Church. We are, as Ephesians 4:3 says, “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We care about the church, the testimony of our church, and the dear people who attend our church.

We would not want our actions to cause confusion or harm by making the people of Mars Hill question our love for the Lord, the purity of our church, or their decision to worship Christ here.

We acknowledge that as we adhere to this commitment, the Executive Elders and the Board of Advisors and Accountability will commit to do everything within their power to offer and support a church plant outside of the radius stated here. “

The complaints about the language above was significant enough that the executive elders revised it slightly.  Elders are expected to agree with this clause on a yearly basis or face the possibility  of dismissal (as in the case of Poirier). The agreement was changed to the following (compare this to Poirier’s clause):

“Unity of Mission
An Agreement between each member of the Full-Council of Elders, Executive Elders and the Board of Advisors and Accountability of Mars Hill Church.

As Pastors, we commit together that we will serve the best interests of our Savior Jesus Christ, and our church, Mars Hill Church. If and when any of us feel led to serve the Lord somewhere other than at one of the church locations of Mars Hill Church, we will submit our opportunity to one another and our Executive Elders first in accordance with Proverbs 11:14, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

Together this day, we commit that our next church ministry will not be within ten miles of any location of Mars Hill Church, except with the express consent of the local pastors of the nearest church, the sending church, if different, and the Executive Elders of Mars Hill Church . We are, as Ephesians 4:3 says, “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We care about the church, the testimony of our church, and the dear people who attend our church.

We would not want our actions to cause confusion or harm by making the people of Mars Hill question our love for the Lord, the purity of our church, or their decision to worship Christ here.

We acknowledge that as we adhere to this commitment, the Executive Elders and the Board of Advisors and Accountability will commit to do everything within their power to offer and support a church plant outside of the radius stated here.”

Poirier’s letter is interesting in that he mentions the culture of fear within Mars Hill Church. Apparently, two of the three executive elders have acknowledged that such a culture exists. However, by this action, as with Dalton Roraback, the executive elders have reinforced that fear, in essence doubling down on actions that lead to the perception that Mars Hill is an unhealthy place to hold a job.

Thanks to a creative reader, here is a map of where ex-leaders can’t worship if they leave Mars Hill:

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Forced Out for Asking Questions: Dalton Roraback’s Mars Hill Church Story

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