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Dear Acts 29 Members

We're excited about the future of Acts 29. In a recent letter to the network, Pastor Mark Driscoll detailed some changes to the network leadership that will position us to plant more churches and make more disciples. We've posted the letter below.

February 6, 2012

Dear Acts 29 Members,

This letter is intended to provide some clarity about where we are, and Lord willing, where we are going. I hope you find it encouraging, compelling, and unifying.

Under the leadership of Pastor Scott Thomas we just completed our most amazing year of God’s grace yet. In the US alone we are now over 400 churches! This is a wonderful gift of God. I want to sincerely and personally thank Pastor Scott for juggling so many duties so graciously.

Our prayer is that this tremendous momentum continues, fueled by God’s grace. Through prayerful discussion, we believe some adjustments are required to maintain this momentum.

In some ways, think of Acts 29 (A29) like your local church. As a church grows, it has ceilings of complexity that have to be dealt with. Larry Osborne has the helpful analogy that as something grows the game changes from a decathlete doing it all, which is most church plants, to golfing foursome of buddies who work together as an informally organized team, a basketball team where the lead pastor functions as the point guard on every play, and football team with different coaches, specialized teams, and playbooks. Tim Keller, Lyle Schaller, and others have noted the kinds of transitions that happen as a church (or in our case network of churches) grows:

  • Communication: It moves from informal and verbal to formal and written 
  • Leadership: It goes from many people to a handful of people making decisions 
  • Teams: It moves from one team to many teams 
  • Leaders: The teams can no longer be led by generalists, as every team is a team of specialists 
  • Financing: Everything gets more complicated and costs more money 
  • Planning: It takes much longer to plan events and changes because there are so many people and variables involved 
  • Organization: There is a stacking that must take place as a flat organizational chart leads to miscommunication, chaos, and confusion 

Thankfully, our game has changed. Praise God! It means we’re growing. And, by God’s grace, we hope to keep growing. Last year, 157 US churches were planted by A29. Last year we had 382 church-planting applicants, and right now we have 550. At our current pace, Lord willing, we could be over 1,000 US churches running perhaps 500,000 people on Easter 2016, if not earlier. So, much will need to change to welcome all those churches into Acts 29 and all those people to Jesus Christ.

For starters, here is what is not changing. Nobody is losing their job at A29 Central. Everyone has worked hard and performed well, and we want to help them do even more. We are not changing our assessment process under Pastor Tyler Powell. This is perhaps the strongest thing we have at A29 insofar as systems go, and we have hired a second staff to assist Pastor Tyler with his growing workload. We are not changing our approval process—networks will continue to host boot camps and assess planters as we have. We are not changing coaching—Gospel Coach, created by Pastor Scott Thomas, will continue to be used to help ensure our pastors and their families are holy and healthy.

Here is what is changing.

My Investment

By God’s grace, I envision a lasting legacy for Acts 29 with thousands of churches planted across dozens of denominations reaching hundreds of thousands of people. With all that is going on in my life and ministry I do not want to drift away from A29 in any way, as you are a priority. I have cut back many of my duties and travels so I can focus on growing as a leader and help to grow Mars Hill, Resurgence, and A29. I want to give more time and energy to those entities, not less. I want those three entities to serve one another and benefit church planting and evangelism across A29. This will include Campaign resources from me to help other pastors through Mars Hill, helping interested A29 pastors publish blog posts and books through Resurgence, and also hosting training events for their leaders through Resurgence.

The Acts 29 Boards

Every man who has ever served on the A29 board is a blessing. We have experienced uncommon unity and collaboration. But, going forward, we need multiple smaller boards. In the present state, the board has been too big to meet but once a year. We need real accountability, real brotherhood, and the ability to move faster.

The following are three changes that will take place on the A29 board.

1. The Board of Acts 29 will be myself, Pastor Matt Chandler, Pastor Darrin Patrick, and Pastor Dave Bruskas. Each man has been able to hand off their network to full-time staff, thereby freeing them up to go to the next level of leadership and help me work across all of Acts 29 and serve all of the networks that comprise the A29. Each man also has a church staff that is large enough with sufficient funding to do more than one network and help invest in others. Furthermore, Pastors Darrin and Matt can help me be in community with wise counsel from A29 and navigate the ever-increasing complicated waters of the broader church and culture, and represent us in the media and at events, as well as through preaching and publishing. Pastor Dave runs the entire ministry side of Mars Hill and can assist me with the details of running Acts 29 centrally.

With Pastor Scott’s encouragement and the board approval, this means I am resuming the presidency of Acts 29. I want to invest every resource and relationship at my disposal to serve our church planters. Consider this primarily the “Prophet” board. This board is not closed and other men may join it in years to come. This board will be meeting soon in California, long before our annual retreat, so that we have a clear battle plan for the next season of Acts 29.

2. The Network Directors board (ND) will be the collection of leaders from each network in Acts 29. This includes men such as Jeff Vanderstelt, Eric Mason, Chan Kilgore, Tyler Jones, Justin Anderson, Harvey Turner, Hunter Beaumont, Rick White (for Matt Chandler), Bill Clem (for Dave Bruskas), John Ryan (for Darrin Patrick), Ray Ortlund, Ed Marcelle, Matt Adair, Chris Atwell, and Steve Timmis.

These men will oversee the church planting boot camps and assessments, regional training and events, Gospel Coach, and each month give a report to the Acts 29 Board so that we are abreast of what they are doing and can know how to serve them in growing their church and network.

Importantly, our networks are not geographically limited unless they want to be. We want to in every way expand and not limit the ability of missional movement leaders to plant wherever they can. With the transition of Elliot Grudem, who was overseeing this board, Pastor Scott Thomas will be the president of this board. Consider this the “priest” board. This board is not closed and other men may join in years to come. This board recently met with Pastor Scott twice since Elliot’s transition from Acts 29 staff back into an Acts 29 church and will continue to meet.

3. The back-of-house work will be done by staff at Mars Hill and other Acts 29 churches. This includes such things as retreat organizing, PR, branding, website, media interaction, fundraising, legal counsel, etc. Mars Hill Executive Pastor Sutton Turner will be the president of this board. Consider this the “king” board. This board is not closed and other men may join in years to come.

I know that many of you are unfamiliar with Pastor Sutton. He and Pastor Dave Bruskas are the two executive elders running all of Mars Hill. He was the executive pastor at a large church in his past experience, has an MBA from Harvard, and when we hired him, was the CEO of the business empire of the prince of Qatar, overseeing $38 billion in assets and 1,500 employees. He will help Acts 29 get to the next level organizationally.

The senior “king” on staff for Acts 29 will be Matthew Aiken, who has been on staff with Pastor Scott. We will increase his duties in an effort to help him get to the next level of leadership. We will also hire a new assistant for Pastor Scott Thomas to maximize more of his time for Acts 29 in order to focus on the Network Directors and Gospel Coach.

The Next Season

From the beginning, Acts 29 has existed to serve missional churches, helping them and encouraging them to make more disciples and plant more churches. We do not limit what men can do. We multiply what men can do. We will always live in the tension of pursuing both theological precision and missional conversion. If I’m honest, I fear we may drift more toward precision than conversion, and I want us to excel at both. We want to make a difference and not just a point.

The following is a list of items I want focused on this year and would appreciate prayer for. As you read them, you will recognize we are not changing our beliefs or brotherhood. I just want to help promote and tell the stories of changed lives to help our churches grow by focusing on the air war and trying to catch it up with our ground war:

  1. New A29 logo, branding, and look
  2. New A29 website with the goal of being the best church planting website. This will include content from A29 members, taking some of our City discussions and sharing them with the world for coaching, pulling in content from outside our tribe, and lots of practical “here’s what we are learning” pieces from Acts 29 Network Directors
  3. Fundraising, as we do not currently have a viable way to fund the number of churches we want to plant
  4. New church launch marketing. Every week I want a story with photos on the blog promoting the new churches launching that week. The following week, I want follow-up stories telling about changed lives and showing photos of launches to celebrate the grace of God. I will ask every A29 pastor, starting with me, to use their blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc. to push this content. We can easily hit millions of people each week with free viral advertising for new churches, which will help increase attendance at all A29 churches.
  5. A manifesto on our core convictions: gospel-centered theology, Spirit-filled or empowered lives, complementarian relationships, and missional churches. I have a rough draft, 100-page version of this completed for Board review and rewrite. Once vetted through the Board we’ll send it to the Network Directors to go through with Pastor Scott. We’d then post it on the City for all our men to go through before we went public with it.
  6. Events, including our Annual Retreat, which we fully intend to keep, and including boot camps, network training events, and our one day planting meeting in Orange County as an added bonus day to the first National Resurgence conference at Mariners church, which will feature Greg Laurie, James MacDonald, Nick Vujicic, Craig Groeschel, Lecrae, myself—Miles McPherson and Rick Warren penciled in and awaiting final confirmation.
  7. An annual report sent to every A29 church telling the stories and showing the fruit of God’s work through us to keep churches prayerful and generous toward church planting.

For the record, the Board will be covering these issues and putting together proposals for the Network Directors to speak into before we vote.

It’s a big opportunity, and a big responsibility.

I pray this lengthy email is encouraging and clarifying. Every one of us Acts 29 pastors is volunteering their time and pooling their talents and treasures to reach people, make disciples, and plant churches. It’s a great honor to be on mission with you with Jesus!

A nobody trying to tell everybody about somebody,

Pastor Mark Driscoll

1 Comments

Craig Greatman

on Feb 8, 2012 :: 7:00 pm

This is exciting and encouraging. As we have begun to enter into the process of applying with Acts 29, we have noticed the proactive, affirming, yet rigorous approach to enlisting partnerships. We are hopeful and prayerful that Acts 29 will continue to lead the way in coaching and guiding church planters. Your passion is awesome! Thanks!

Name:


Pastor Mark Driscoll founded Mars Hill Church in Seattle in the fall of 1996, which has grown to over 13,000 people including new sites in New Mexico and California. He co-founded the Acts 29 Church Planting Network, with three hundred churches in the U.S. and internationally, and is founder of The Resurgence.

Outreach magazine has recognized Mars Hill Church as the ninth most innovative and fifteenth fastest-growing church in America. Outreach magazine has also ranked Mars Hill Church number two of America's top multiplying (church-planting) churches. The Church Report has recognized Pastor Mark as the twenty-second most influential pastor in America. His sermons are downloaded more than a million times a year and he has been recognized by Christianity Today, Inc., as one of the most influential young preachers in America. Seattle magazine has named Pastor Mark as one of the twenty-five most powerful people in Seattle.

Media coverage on Pastor Mark and Mars Hill varies from National Public Radio to Mother Jones magazine, the Associated Press, the New York Times, Blender music magazine, Outreach magazine, Preaching Today, and Leadership magazine to ABC Television and the 700 Club.

His writing includes the books The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out and Confessions of a Reformission Rev.: Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church, Vintage Jesus, Death by Love, and Vintage Church. He also contributed to the book Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches, and made a chapter contribution to the book Above All Earthly Powers, edited by Dr. John Piper.

Most enjoyably, Mark and his high school sweetheart, Grace, enjoy raising their three sons and two daughters. You can read his full bio here.