Whatever Happened to the Mars Hill Church Jesus Festival? And the $3 Million?

Wenatchee the Hatchet asked the question on August 1, but I don’t see an official answer anywhere. Asking around, a former member who was in training to become a Community Group leader told me the Jesus Festival (slated for August 22) was canceled in the Spring after the news broke about Mark Driscoll’s New York Times scandal.  I can find no official announcement but there has been no publicity about the event since Spring. The Jesus Festival was one of the reasons why Mars Hill needed to raise $2 million “over and above” tithes at the end of 2013. According to Mars Hill website:

During these 40 days of prayer and 5 days of fasting, we are praying for $2 million over and above our donors’ tithes to fund these endeavors in 2014. We believe Jesus has given the vision, so we trust that he will graciously provide the means to do it through his people. If the Holy Spirit leads you to give during these focused days of prayer, please visit marshill.com/give.

What were the endeavors?

1) MARS HILL GLOBAL

Pastor Mark first met church planter Pastor Arjuna Chiguluri in 1998, and Mars Hill Church has been working with and supporting Pastor Arjuna and Vision Nationals in India since 1999. In the last couple of years, we have expanded our Global efforts and are privileged to support church planters and evangelists in Ethiopia who have shared the gospel with over 11,000 people, of which 890 people have been saved. Over the next decades, we want to see Mars Hill Church grow into a worldwide movement and see 1,000 churches planted throughout India and Ethiopia. This is an ambitious goal, but as Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). For more information, go to Marshill.com/global.

The page linked here is the Mars Hill Global page. In this description of Mars Hill Global, there is no mention of church plants in the United States, just India and Ethiopia. In fact, mention of Mars Hill expansion comes later in the appeal. If the money was always supposed to go to Mars Hill expansion in the U.S., then why not mention it here?

2) JESUS FESTIVAL

In the summer of 2014, Mars Hill will be hosting an evangelistic, outdoor outreach, aptly titled The Jesus Festival, at Marymoor Park in Seattle. This will be a family friendly event with activities for the kids, music, and amazing gospel preachers. This will be a great opportunity for outreach in the community and to build unity among the Bible-teaching churches in the Seattle area.

Apparently, the money came in (closer to $3 million), but the festival is off, called off months ago. Shouldn’t the people have been consulted? They gave toward a festival but didn’t get one. As late as February, Mark Driscoll was still promoting the festival as a free event. In a February 5 email to the church, Driscoll wrote:

From Pastor Mark Driscoll: Heaven is going to be a party and we need to practice for that party. Over the next few months, you’ll be hearing a lot more about our first-ever Jesus Festival, August 22 at Marymoor Park near Seattle. Everyone at Mars Hill churches far and near is invited for this unique opportunity to grow together and evangelize within the surrounding community. We’ve never done anything quite like this event, but picture a huge outdoor celebration with live bands, food trucks, fun stuff for the kids, open-air gospel preaching, baptisms, and a summer night filled with the worship of thousands of brothers and sisters praising Jesus together. Pastor Dustin Kensrue will be leading us in worship, and as the date gets closer we’ll announce some special guests who will be joining us as well. Thanks to your generosity as a church, the whole thing will be free, which will make it very easy to invite non-Christian family and friends.

Keep on picturing.

3) LEADERSHIP TRAINING The two key missional distinctives of Mars Hill Church are planting churches and making disciples. In order to reach the world with the good news of Jesus, we need biblically literate, gifted leaders. In order to train these leaders, we need a school. In the fall of 2014, we are hoping to offer a 1-year Bible certificate program. Eventually, it will be a fully accredited Bible seminary to help train future leaders and to grow existing leaders in knowledge of the Bible and sound theology

This apparently is going to get underway this Fall. Nonetheless, this is a puzzle. Why does the church need money for this since the schools are supplying the professors and Mars Hill has the space. Presumably they are getting rent. If anything, this should be a money maker for Mars Hill Church.

4) 5 MARS HILL CHURCH PLANTS/REPLANTS

In the new year, our Mars Hill family will be replanting churches in Olympia, Tacoma, Everett, and Huntington Beach to move them into bigger and better buildings, and we are planting a brand new location in Phoenix. Our hope is that thousands will come to meet Jesus at these churches and become disciples.

According to the Mars Hill website, Mars Hill Global Fund helped pay for these campus expansions. Everett and Tacoma have sent “thank you notes” to the Global Fund, and the Fund FAQs also mention funding for Phoenix, Bellevue, and Spokane. So the $2 million went to these churches too?

5) OUR MOST EVANGELISTIC CAMPAIGN

As the Western World becomes more secularized, the Church is becoming more ostracized. Simply put, Christianity is a threat to many of the sacred cows in American culture. Pastor Mark is currently working on a sermon series and book that will tackle many of these issues, including gay marriage, the exclusivity of Jesus, the authority of scripture, etc. This series springboards from an extensive sociological study on thousands of Americans’ opinions on Christianity that was conducted by a top research firm, and will focus on the objections that real people really have.

This must be a reference to the now-postponed book, The Problem with Christianity. The book was slated to be released in the Spring, then it was pushed back to the Fall and now there is no date for release while Tyndale is waiting for “the best season.” The research for this book was done in Spring 2013 and already paid for by the time of this appeal so it is unclear to me how this campaign would require additional donor funding. If anything, according to the messaging about Mark Driscoll and his books, the sales of the books should provide additional income to the church. Unless they don’t.  In any case, this isn’t happening this year either. All in all, I suspect the main beneficiary of these donations (as with the Global Fund) was U.S. expansion of video franchises.


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