Attendance and giving at Mars Hill Church “have declined significantly” since January with a “substantial decrease” noted over the past two months, the Seattle mega-church has told members in its regular bulletin, The Weekly.
The church and Senior Pastor Mark Driscoll have been at the vortex of controversy since March, with Driscoll apologizing for his conduct and lately taking an “extended focus break.”
The Acts29 evangelical network, early in August, removed both Driscoll and Mars Hill from membership, and speaking appearances by Driscoll at national evangelical conferences were abruptly canceled.
Such developments can’t help but hurt. The church “was in great financial shape” at the beginning of 2014, but it has been downhill since, according to The Weekly.
“While we were able to end the fiscal year strong, giving and attendance have declined significantly since January,” the church reported to members.
“Specifically, we have seen a substantial decrease in offerings and tithes these past two months, due to the increase in negative media attention surrounding our church.”
Mars Hill was founded in Driscoll’s living room 18 years ago, but grew to 15 church campuses in five states, with such side events as The Resurgence, a major conference featuring nationally known preachers held each October.
While Driscoll is away for six weeks, and ex-pastors’ charges of bullying conduct are investigated, “we are still called as a church to preach and teach the word and manage the day-to-day needs of 15 churches that exist in five states,” Thomas Hurst, pastor at Mars Hill Bellevue, wrote to his flock earlier this week.
Hurst spoke with candor about challenges confronting Mars Hill in its time of trial.
“We cannot rush through this process by assuming all the accusations are insignificant, or label them as criticism, nor can we shut down the church to only focus on accusations,” he wrote.
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