On Easter weekend, former Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll made his comeback at Trinity Church in Phoenix, Arizona. However, the happy occasion was dampened by protesters warning congregants of the pastor's past indiscretions.
According to a report from KCTV5 News, protesters gathered outside the building holding signs that read: "Trinity = Mars Hill" and "Where'd all the Money Go, Mark???" in reference to the accusations surrounding the pastor's time at the now-defunct Mars Hill.
Protester Bob Sluys, a former member of the Seattle-based church, according to a report from KCTV5 News, told parishioners as they entered the building, "Ask Mark, but he won't answer! His [Driscoll's] empire was built on the back of unpaid labor, volunteers, abusive culture, and all for Jesus' fame."
Over the past year, Driscoll has been accused of plagiarism, fostering an abusive work environment, a divisive leadership style, and most recently, civil racketeering regarding donor contributions. The latest suit, filed by Brian Jacobsen, Connie Jacobsen, Ryan Kildea and Arica Kildea alleges Driscoll and former Mars Hill executive elder John Sutton Turner, demonstrated a "pattern of racketeering activity" in how they ran the now-closed church by "soliciting, through the internet and the mail, contributions for designated purposes."
The lawsuit also alleges the church leaders "fraudulently used significant portions of those designated contributions for other, unauthorized purposes" and paid $210,000 to a company called ResultSource Inc. to land Driscoll's book, "Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship and Life Together" on the best-seller lists of The New York Times and others.
However, speaking to KCTV5, the pastor dismissed such allegations and denied the charges in the RICO lawsuit.
"I don't know anything about that," Driscoll said. "Haven't been served, nothing has been done. At this point it's false and malicious, and I would reject and refute all of that, and I'm very excited it'll all be cleared up."
He added that he's excited to start a new chapter at Trinity Church, where he plans to simply "open the Bible and preach and teach Jesus."
In a recent Twitter post, Driscoll maintained a positive demeanor despite the protests surrounding the church's open house, writing, "Great meeting all that visited our open house from around the valley as well as those from outside the area."
He later wrote, "Enjoyed preaching the Gospel and meeting many new friends at @TheTrinityChrch open house yesterday."
The 45-year-old pastor first revealed he and his wife, Grace, were opening a new church in Phoenix back in February.
"We have moved to Phoenix...we love it here, making new friends, excited about this city and the future that God would have us play in serving the people here along with some other great churches in the valley," Driscoll said in a video, in which he appears next to his wife.
"Lord willing, we're hoping, trusting, praying, planning and also a little bit worrying about planting a church here in early 2016," he added.
Driscoll admitted that the church does not yet have a permanent building, but explained that "Once the church is established, a class and process for spiritual church membership will be offered."
According to the church website, Trinity Church hopes to be a place where "lives are transformed through learning the Bible and loving people."
"Our church aspires to celebrate and honor other churches in Phoenix and beyond, partnering with them for the cause of God's Kingdom," it reads.