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Mark Driscoll's Integrity Questioned By 21 Elders, Supporters Urge Christians to 'Set Aside Judgement and Pray'

( [email protected] ) Sep 26, 2014 11:54 AM EDT

Mark Driscoll
Pastor Mark Driscoll

Controversy continues to swirl around Mark Driscoll as the numerous allegations 21 former Mars Hill Church elders brought against him cause many to question the influential pastor's  integrity and leadership style.

"What did Driscoll know and when did he know it?", Warren Throckmorton,  a psychology professor who has long documented the saga of the Seattle-based mega church, asked on Patheos.

Driscoll has been accused of hiring a marketing company called ResultsSource, using church funds to artificially boost sales of his book "Real Marriage" and finagle place on The New York Times bestseller list.

"May 2104 - Mark told elders that he was not aware of the ResultSource agreement but had chosen to admit knowledge of it for the sake of the team in his letter to the church, and that others had made the decision to work with ResultsSource," reads a letter of grievance from the elders.

"He claimed that another elder and Mark's publishers made the decision to work with ResultSource without his knowledge. He insinuated that he had learned about the ResultSource agreement only after the story broke on World magazine."

The elders also assert that Driscoll claim Driscoll had agreed to work with ResultSource "as early as July 2011." However, the agreement to work with the company was signed by Mars Hill executive elder Sutton Turner, who resigned Saturday from his elder position and from the staff of the church.

Driscoll appeared to take full responsibility for the issue in a recent apology letter.

"First, a marketing company called ResultSource was used in conjunction with the book Real Marriage, which was released in January 2012. My understanding of the ResultSource marketing strategy was to maximize book sales so that we could reach more people with our message and help grow our church."

"In retrospect, I no longer see it that way," Driscoll told the Mars Hill congregation. "Instead, I now see it as manipulating a book sale reporting system, which is wrong. I am sorry that I used this strategy and I will never use it again."

But critics argue that Driscoll's apology is not altogether truthful, as he received internal warnings from Mars Hill staff before Turner signed the contract.

"Regarding the July 2011 date mentioned by the former elders, I have seen an e-mail which appears to support that date, although I am not at liberty to print it," Throckmorton wrote Monday.

However, he revealed a memo, written by ResultSource in 2001 which suggests that Mars Hill staff were concerned about the agreement before Sutton Turner signed the deal and reveals that Driscoll was fully aware of the possible ramifications of the strategy.

The memo asked: "Is it OK for Mars Hill to take a financial risk with the giving campaign?," and "Is is acceptable for Mars Hill to pay $20 for a book when on mission is purchasing them for $7 for the 'Real Marriage' events?"

Going "full bore" with the campaign meant "committing to 11,000 copies of the book," with 4,000 bought through bulk purchases. Buyers for the 4,000 copies needed to be found.

The memo also delivered a warning: "If this information was ever made public it could be viewed by the IRS or someone muckraking that a large giving campaign was set up for the personal profit of Mark Driscoll.

"As a result of this giving campaign, you will make a royalty of everyone of the books that is given away. So in a sense it could be conjectured that you're making money directly off of a Mars Hill fundraiser."

Supporters of Driscoll, who is currently on a six-week period of "reflection" during which he will not communicate or answer charges in the secular media, urge Christians to show the pastor grace and mercy amid the mounting controversy.

"Yes, Mark is not perfect. Yes, he has things in his life and ministry he should be working on, as do we all," writes blogger and pastor Tony Warriner.

"But I have to say, I know of no other pastor or public figure that is SO willing to confess his sin and apologize publicly. Mark has done this on several occasions in response to criticism from his inner circle and beyond, with great humility. Yet the shots still come from small-minded people who can't see farther than their own...navels."

Warriner also cites the thousands of people that have come to Christ through the Mars Hill Ministry and under Driscoll's discipleship and encourages Christians to put aside their judgement, and pray instead

"So put away your judgment. And if you have to be concerned about what's happening in Seattle with Mars Hill Church, why don't you pray for them. Pray for Pastor Mark and his family. I can't begin to imagine the pressure, the spiritual opposition, that they are under as they lead one of the most significant revivals of our time, in one of the darkest places on the planet. Pray. Stop posting on Facebook and pray. And pray blessing. Prayer wisdom. Prayer discernment, strength, righteousness. Pray for the peace of that house of worship."