‘Pressfield explains: “The artist must be like that marine. He has to know how to be miserable. He has to love being miserable. He has to take pride in being more miserable than any soldier… because this is war, baby. And war is hell.” I believe this is a powerful idea and one every man, every leader. and every change agent must learn in order to perform and push through tough seasons of life and leadership.’
John Bryson of Fellowship Memphis
“The first thing to know about your penis is, that despite the way it may see, it is not your penis. Ultimately, God created you and it is his penis. You are simply borrowing it for a while. While His penis is on loan you must admit that it is sort of just hanging out there very lonely as if it needed a home, sort of like a man wondering the streets looking for a house to live in. Knowing that His penis would need a home, God created a woman to be your wife and when you marry her and look down you will notice that your wife is shaped differently than you and makes a very nice home.”
Mark Driscoll on women being penis homes.
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.
Acts 18:9-11 NIV
Dr. David Nicholas Final Sermon on January 16, 2011
Its my understanding that Acts 29 was founded by David Nicholas who pastored Spanish River Church in Boca Raton, Florida in 1998. David Nicholas has largely been written off by Mark Driscoll, but he deserves credit. David Nicholas who is a friend of Tim Keller I believe passed away on January 25, 2011. Mark Driscoll largely took the organization and became fixated on church growth. Starting on September 17, 2007 with the Raleigh Boot Camp Acts 29 began using Great Commission Ministries for fundraising and leadership training. In 2012 Matt Chandler was appointed the president of Acts 29. I believe this coincided as a result of the blog by Paul and Jonna Petry called Joyful Exiles being launched. In that blog people learned how the Mars Hill by-laws were rewritten and how Paul and Bent’s reputation were threatened. The offices and the movement were moved from Seattle to the Dallas/Ft. Worth Texas area. Specifically I believe the office is in Flower Mound at The Village Church. In August of 2014 Acts 29 kicked out Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Seattle from its membership. Mark Driscoll received the following letter:
As the Board of Acts 29, we are grateful to God for the leadership, courage, and generosity of both you and Mars Hill in not only founding the network but also sustaining it through the transition to this board three years ago. The very act of giving away your authority over the network was one of humility and grace, and for that we are grateful.
Over the past three years, our board and network have been the recipients of countless shots and dozens of fires directly linked to you and what we consider ungodly and disqualifying behavior. We have both publicly and internally tried to support and give you the benefit of the doubt, even when multiple pastors in our network confirmed this behavior.
In response, we leaned on the Mars Hill Board of Advisors & Accountability to take the lead in dealing with this matter. But we no longer believe the BoAA is able to execute the plan of reconciliation originally laid out. Ample time has been given for repentance, change, and restitution, with none forthcoming. We now have to take another course of action.
Based on the totality of the circumstances, we are now asking you to please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help. Consequently, we also feel that we have no alternative but to remove you and Mars Hill from membership in Acts 29. Because you are the founder of Acts 29 and a member, we are naturally associated with you and feel that this association discredits the network and is a major distraction.
We tell you this out of love for you, Mars Hill, Acts 29, and most significantly, the cause of Christ, and we would be irresponsible and deeply unloving not to do so in a clear and unequivocal manner. Again, we want you to know that we are eternally thankful for what you as a man and Mars Hill as a church have meant to our network. However, that cannot dissuade us from action. Instead, it gives added significance and importance to our decision. We hope and pray that you see this decision as the action of men who love you deeply and want you to walk in the light—for your good, the good of your family, and the honor of your Savior.
Shortly after sending this, we will be informing the members of Acts 29, your Board of Advisors and Accountability, and your elders, as well as putting out a public statement on the Acts 29 website. It brings us no joy to move forward in this direction, and we trust that the Lord will be at work in all of this.
In sorrow and with hope,
The Board of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network
Acts 29 describes itself as:
Acts 29 is a diverse, global family of church-planting churches characterized by:
- Theological Clarity
- Cultural Engagement
- Missional Innovation
Acts 29 believes:
Acts 29 stands in the tradition of historic evangelical confessionalism. While we believe it is vital that the elders of each of our churches determine where they stand on doctrines of second importance, we do wish to make known our convictions on the following five theologically-driven core values:
- Gospel centrality in all of life
- The sovereignty of God in saving sinners
- The work of the Holy Spirit for life and ministry
- The equality of male and female and the principle of male servant leadership
- The local church as God’s primary mission strategy
Acts 29 wants to be known for the following:
Acts 29 will ensure that we are known for:
- Planting churches that plant churches
- Pursuing holiness and humility
- Being a radically diverse and global community
- Praying for conversions through evangelism
This is how Acts 29 defines success:
Acts 29 will succeed to the extent that it:
- Recruits church planters dedicated to leading church-planting churches
- Assesses men based on core competencies to lead church-planting churches
- Develops men who are planting or leading church-planting churches through coaching, training, and support
These are Acts 29 priorities:
Our Priority as Acts 29 in the coming year is Healthy Leaders. It is a vital topic and one we overlook at our peril. It’s too easy for leaders to become unhealthy, and that will always cause collateral damage. Obviously, nothing we do can guarantee health, but giving it appropriate profile will encourage us to be alert to the issues.
It is clear from both 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 that there is nothing extraordinary about leaders among God’s people. The requirements for elders (a.k.a bishops or pastors) is that they live exemplary lives. They lead by showing others what it means to be a disciple in the everyday. The one distinguishing mark of a healthy leader is his ability to teach, i.e. explain how the gospel shapes and defines our lives as the people of God.
Therefore, Healthy Leaders are first and foremost examples to the flock of what it means to be a sheep! Here are 3 key traits:
- Healthy leaders are SECURE in the GOSPEL, finding their identity and rest in Christ
- Healthy leaders are IMMERSED in COMMUNITY, joyfully blessing others and humbly serving the church
- Healthy leaders are ENGAGED in MISSION, sharing God’s love for the world & passion for Christ’s fame.
Acts also holds to the Lausanne Covenant of faith which was developed in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974.
As of July 2014 Acts 29 has planted 503 churches on six continents. There has to be more current information as that is dated but I ran into some roadblocks in researching. The organization gets its name from the book of Acts. As you know Acts only has 28 chapters and this is designed to be a continuation of the Book of Acts. There are 11 church planting networks within Acts 29, those networks are:
- US North Atlantic (led by Bryan Laughlin)
- US Southeast (led by Brian Lowe)
- US South Central (led by Dusty Thompson)
- US Midwest (led by Noel Heikkinen)
- US West (led by Brian Howard)
- Latin America (led by Jay Bauman and Francisco Bendfeldt)
- Europe (led by Philip Moore)
- Australia & New Zealand (led by David Fandey)
- Southern Africa (led by Ross Lester)
- Emerging Regions (led by Kevin Peck)
Is Mark Driscoll’s DNA Gone? Not at all….
It is my contention that despite how Acts 29 was founded it is deeply and intrinsically flawed. There is a belief by some that since Mark Driscoll is out of Acts 29 that all is well. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mark Driscoll I believe was a by-product of his warped theology which he believed. His warped theology allowed for him to threaten to beat people up, be profane and call women penis homes. Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Seattle were kicked out of Acts 29 in August of 2014.
But what has happened in Acts 29 since Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill have departed? There have been a couple of deeply troubling issues that I think reveal that Driscoll’s DNA still remains in the organization. In May of 2015 a scandal erupted at ground zero of the Acts 29 network of The Village Church in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. In that scenario The Village Church attempted to impose church discipline on Karen Hinkley who annulled her marriage to Jordan Root. Jordan was sexually attracted to children and addicted to child pornography. The Village Church pursued Karen and slandered her name publically. She was shunned and had Flower Mound pastor Steve Hardin texting her at all hours of the day or night. Eventually Matt Chandler and Josh Patterson flew out to North Carolina and repented and apologized. Its my understanding that they spent the day talking. I wrote this post about how I was impressed, and I do that to state that I am committed to being fair and to the best of my ability – accurate. However, I also have to state that its my understanding that no one else in The Village Church repented to Karen Hinkly. Her small group didn’t reach out and offer to repair the damage and renew a friendship. Matt Younger and Steve Hardin never did so either. Nor did any of the Elders at The Village Church. The problems in The Village Church remain and its my belief that they are the legacy of Mark Driscoll’s theology and how he grew and set up the Acts 29 network. But there was another recent incident which revealed how Mark Driscoll’s DNA still taints the organization. Another indicator of the lack of transparency played itself out with Darrin Patricks’ The Journey in St. Louis. In that situation Darrin Patrick was removed and there are more questions than answers over what happened. Is the ultimate sin for the former Chaplain of the St. Louis Cardinals to privately like and admire the Chicago Cubs? Was there an affair? Or was there an internal coup that took place? Honestly I do not know and The Journey’s statements are ambiguous and leave a person only with more questions than answers. In un-healthy theology systems of which Acts 29 falls there are often two sets of rules There are the rules for the people in the pews and there are rules for people in leadership. The leadership is often exempt by many of the rules they impose on others. Its a pyramid scheme to say it kindly, and to be more blunt a theological version of Kim Jong Un’s North Korea.
Current Acts 29 Connections to Mark Driscoll
One of the current and ongoing issues I detect is that there are many parts of Acts 29 who still have strong connections to Mark Driscoll and support him. Its especially concerning for me because I think it reveals how many evangelicals honestly struggle with discernment and critical thinking skills. For example I believe that Josh McPherson who is the Senior Pastor of Grace City Church in Wenatchee, Washington still promotes him as well. What makes this all the more troubling is that Josh is the NW Regional Director of Acts 29. This is going to be a long, and ongoing issue and still reveals the toxicity of the organization. It can also reveal that Matt Chandler has a difficult time controlling and keeping the organization on the same page. I honestly have wondered going back to Josh McPherson if there were any talks, or meetings that occurred with him, in which Acts 29 told him to drop his connections to Driscoll due to his position. Like anything I write here if I am wrong I invite correction.
Acts 29 in the Washington, D.C. Area
This blog grew out of a traumatic incident from Redeemer Arlington which today is part of the Acts 29 network. There are several Acts 29 churches which this blog is interested in writing and reporting on. Those churches are the following:
- The Transit (Alexandria – led by Jeff Tooms)
- Reston Community Church (Reston – led by Matt Morgan)
- Sojourn Fairfax (Fairfax – led by Justin Pearson)
- Christ Covenant (Culpepper – led by Joe Holland)
- Redeemer Church of Arlington (Arlington – led by Eric Simmons)
- Portico Church of Arlington (Arlington – led by Jason Conner)
- Union Church (Washington, D.C. – led by Shaun Cross)
- Redemption Hill (Washington, D.C. – led by Bill Riedel)
- The Well Community Church (Silver Spring – led by Matt Klingler)
- Redemption City Church (Frederick – led by Bliss Spillar)
In the Washington, D.C. area and corridor these ten churches are going to be covered and monitored. Of these churches some I have already mentioned or covered. For example I have written 72 articles that have featured Redeemer Arlington when it was either a part of Sovereign Grace or now Acts 29. Someone who Jordan Kauflin discipled taught me why rape and sexual assault is a serious issue in the United States military. No one else is going to endure the hell I went through. Redeemer Arlington is involved in planting Union Church which is led by Shaun Cross. You can watch Shaun preach off Redemption Hill’s website here. Starting today I am creating a category for Union Church due to its affiliation with Redeemer Arlington.
I knew Justin Pearson when he lead the small groups ministry at McLean Bible. I find it amusing, in all honesty, that when you read his history he downplays or writes off McLean Bible. Yes McLean Bible has issues, I have already written about them, and there is so much more I plan to explore. However as I reflect back on things I recall an incident where Justin Pearson yelled at me when I met with him and raised concerns about the small group ministry. This was downstairs next to the coffee shop before church one Sunday back in 2005, or 2006. As I reflect back on my life that was the only time I recall a pastor yelling at me. When I had my faith crisis which consumed half my thirties I hammered Justin Pearson a couple of times on Facebook. I asked him if he was going to impersonate Mark Driscoll and talk about the Biblical basis of blow jobs. Afterward I realized that I had gone too far and it led to me approaching him when I sought forgiveness from 140 people. You can read about Sojourn Church here.
I have also written about Bill Reidel’s Redemption Hill Church as well. Redemption Hill was planted with support of Crossway Fellowship in Manassas, Virginia. Both Crossway and Redemption Hill are members of the Evangelical Free Church of America. It is my goal to turn this blog into the premier resource about the Evangelical Free Church of America. Both churches are members of the Eastern District which is led by Eddie Cole.
Issues in Matt Chandler’s The Village Church
One of the things I have learned about corrupt churches or organizations is the following. There are seldom isolated incidents in these churches. Its why blogs like SGM Survivors exist in documenting the issues in Sovereign Grace. When Matt Chandlers’ The Village Church came down like a hammer on Karen Hinkley for annulling her marriage to a child pornography addict I doubted at the time that was the only story out of The Village Church. It turned out to not be the only story out of The Village Church. At Amy Smith’s blog Watchkeep a number of former members of The Village Church left comments about how they were treated. There are seven additional stories, and in doing the analysis I believe there to be a lot more under the surface. Its my goal to flush them out and have some discussions about The Village Church polity.
Acts 29 Church Implosions
Over at the blog The Wartburg Watch they told the story of an Acts 29 church called Countryside Church in Michigan City, Indiana which was theologically hijacked and re-planted as an Acts 29 church. The gem of the story was reading about a handicapped child being perp walked out of a church, and “Gospel Centered” looting as the church was imploding and defaulting. The idea of people running and looting a church not only brings memories of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, but should we be surprised that such a thing happened in an organization that has Mark Driscoll’s DNA in the network? It is my belief that stories like Countryside are not the only ones that exist. I have heard rumblings and rumors from credible sources which will not be named of additional church implosions. I have heard that some implosions have occurred in California, Nevada, Colorado and a few other places. I would love to tell a few stories abut an Acts 29 implosion which occurred in the United States.
Acts 29 Connections to Cru and Navigators
I would also like to find out if there is a connection or growing influence of Acts 29 on ministries like Cru. Last December I did a review of all the Christmas conferences by Cru. One of the conferences which I withheld support from is TCX which takes place in Minneapolis. Before many college students Cru promoted Bob Thune from Coram Deo an Acts 29 outfit in Omaha, Nebraska. Cru’s roots are not in Neo-Calvinism, and to place someone before many impressionable college students is deeply disturbing. Cru should be able to practice discernment. I used to attend TCX and it didn’t have a Neo-Calvinism promotion to it at all. You can read the issue at TCX in this post right here.
But the problem goes much deeper and a quick google search reveals the following situations which hints at deeper problems. You will discover that Cru at the University of Texas at Austin is promoting Acts 29. Then you have Kansas State Cru in Manhattan, Kansas promoting Acts 29 material which you can see here. Then there is Brett and Krista Miller of Cru at George Mason University which is not far from where I live. Brett and Krista Miller, as well as Cru at George Mason have a strong Neo-Cal leaning in their tendency to promote organizations like Justin Pearson’s Sojourn Fairfax. That led to this post here, and Brett’s “Gospel Centered rudeness” led to Dee Parsons of the Wartburg Watch writing this post here. So I am curious and would like to know…is there a growing relationship or penetration of Acts 29 into Cru? I pose the same question for the Navigators as well.
Acts 29/Evangelical Free Church Plant Issues
This blog is particularly interested in the relationship between Acts 29 and the Evangelical Free Church. I am currently working through all 17 districts of the EFCA and calculating the growth of Neo-Calvinism/Reformed theology. However there are a number of Acts 29 churches which are planted almost as hybrids. My question is this…if something happens in an Acts 29/EFCA church such as questionable church discipline or the cover-up of the rape of a child…who is responsible? Is it Acts 29 or the EFCA? In such a mishmash of differing denominations who does assume responsibility? The reason why these plants happen I believe is do to access of money. But here are some of the Evangelical Free/Acts 29 churches I have encountered so far in this project.
- Redemption Hill (Washington, D.C. – led by Bill Riedel)
- Christ Community (Daytona Beach, FL – led by Larry Kirk)
- Restoration Church (Port Orange, FL – led by Anthony Orzo)
- Riverside Community Church (Columbia, SC – led by James Walden)
- Resonate Church (Fremont, CA – led by Ryan Kwon)
- Anchor Community Church of Long Beach (Long Beach, CA – led by Mike Gunn)
- The Fields (Carlsbad, CA – led by David Fandey)
As I move through the rest of the EFCA denomination this list will grow substantially, I believe. For example here is the link for the Great Lakes District of church planting resources which actively promotes Acts 29. The Great Lakes District of the EFCA encompasses Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. Another question I have is this…if Acts 29 churches are going to be funded by the NAMB of the Southern Baptist Convention. Is the Southern Baptist Convention meddling in the affairs not only of the Evangelical Free, but are they influencing the theological hijacking of the denomination? But I would very much like to flush the stories in the Acts 29/EFCA hybrids as I do believe they are there.
Additional Acts 29 Stories
There are a number of other issues I would like to write on and they include the following:
- Problems or situations that grow out of membership covenants. Are there people caught up or trapped and unable to leave or resign due to a membership covenant?
- Another concern I have is inappropriate church discipline which I believe to be a serious issues. After all when the mother ship (The Village Church) can’t even get it right what about the other individual churches in the network? The Village Church is ground zero and problems there probably flow down as a part of the organization’s culture.
- I am very interested to find out if Acts 29 has issues with child sex abuse. I honestly hope not but if they do I would like to go there and find out what is happening.
- I am very much intrigued by denominational and organizational structure. How Acts 29 defines itself, organizes itself, evolves and changes are topics that will either confirm many of the issues or above or deny them. Time will be a big indicator on this movement.
The purpose of today’s post was to do a quick overview of Acts 29 history and the organization. The stories are out there and I firmly believe they need to be told. I did a similar approach to the Evangelical Free Church of America and it led to a number of contacts. So if you have a story about any of these issues above I want you to know that this blog is yours, and I will be happy to give you the space to tell you your story. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk. I want to go on the record of stating that this post was emailed to the Acts 29 churches in the Washington, D.C. area. It was also emailed to The Village Church pastoral leadership and staff. With that said, I hope all is well, and know that I love you.