Dear Mars Hill Church,With much gratitude, much love, and many bittersweet tears, I am resigning from my staff role as Executive Pastor of Mars Hill Church, effective September 30. Jesus has called me into a new vocational season, and I informed Pastor Mark and Pastor Dave of my decision late last week. As I take some time to reflect on my twelve years on staff, I want to thank you for the privilege it has been to serve you, and praise God for the grace he has shown me.
I love Jesus.I first showed up at Mars Hill in September 1997 as a 19-year-old who didn’t know Jesus. Total pagan. I had just moved from Missoula, Montana, for a change of scenery. I didn’t come to Seattle to find Jesus, but Jesus sure found me. Pastor Mark was preaching through Romans at the time, and I saw my sin and experienced the grace of Jesus. What’s cool is just a few weeks ago I got invited back to Missoula to preach to nearly 4,000 people and share the grace I have experienced.
I love my family.At the age of 21 I met my wife in the pews of Mars Hill. We became friends, eventually dated, and were married a few months later. Crystal is amazing, a true gift from God, and in the following five years we were graced with four beautiful children. Mars Hill is the only church we’ve know together as a family and we intend to keep it that way as long as possible.
I love Pastor Mark.One man more than any other has had a profound impact on my life, and that man is Pastor Mark. It was under his preaching and leadership that I met Jesus, was baptized, and was later called into full-time ministry. His friendship, his counsel, his patience, his leadership, his love for the church, his love for my family, and his love for Jesus are brilliant. I am eternally grateful for the impact he has had on my life and I look forward to continuing to build our friendship.
I love the staff and elders.Over more than a decade on staff at Mars Hill I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best men and women anywhere. They love Jesus, they love the church, and they are some of the finest leaders around. Thank you all for your continued sacrifices and faithfulness.
I love the people of this church.Mars Hill is made up of thousands of people whom Jesus has brought together as part of his church. The passion for Jesus and his mission is incredible, and I’m absolutely honored to be counted as one of your pastors and fellow servants of Jesus. Thank you for making my work a joy.
I love Mars Hill.Mars Hill Church is the thing that ties all of these stories and relationships together. I’ve enjoyed a front row seat for every moment as we’ve grown from 100 to 10,000 people. I know I’m biased, but I believe this is the best church anyone could be a part of. I still plan and hope to be a part of the church for a long, long time. My family and I will continue to worship at Mars Hill, and I’ll still be a pastor, serving on the Board of Directors in an unpaid role. Between now and the end of the year, I will be taking a bit of a sabbatical to rest, regroup, and capture more of what Jesus has done; I hope to make some progress on a leadership book I’ve intended to write for some time. My time on staff at Mars Hill Church has come to an end, but the Munson family is not going anywhere, and we’re so excited to see what Jesus does in the next fifteen years. If it’s anything like the last fifteen, we’re all in for a great ride and grace beyond our expectations. I love you, Mars Hill. It’s all about Jesus,
Pastor Jamie MunsonP.S. Keep in touch on Facebook and Twitter. Read Pastor Mark's letter and vision statement after the jump.
Dear Mars Hill Church,I am writing this letter to provide my perspective on Pastor Jamie’s transition as well as directives for how to respond and proceed. In seasons like this we need the elders, staff, and church to trust the senior leadership of Mars Hill. To help nourish that trust, Pastor Jamie and I are posting our letters together to demonstrate our unity and friendship while keeping no secrets and simply telling the truth. At his recent annual review, Pastor Jamie was given high performance marks and asked to return in his current role of Executive Pastor at Mars Hill Church. After a season of prayerful consideration, he informed his review team that he felt God was calling him to pursue a new ministry and business venture. He was again invited to continue in his current role on staff at Mars Hill Church, or move into another role in the organization. With great affection for the church, he has since come to the conclusion that the time has come for his transition off of paid staff. I want to make it emphatically clear: there is no disqualifying sin or error of any kind in Pastor Jamie’s life. This is in no way connected to anything negative. He is, by God’s grace, "above reproach," as he always has been. I also want to stress that there is no relational friction between Pastor Jamie and myself. In the days leading up to his decision, my children were at his house playing and vice versa, as has been the case for years. Our wives, Crystal and Grace, were in contact as friends as they always are. Jamie remains one of my nearest and dearest friends, a brother in every sense of the word, and personally I assure you we had no conflict and are as close as we’ve ever been. For example, on our recent family vacation I missed him and simply called him so I could check in on my friend. I deeply enjoy Jamie and intend to remain close friends with him and his family, as do Grace and our children. Nothing has changed personally in our relationship. Jamie is the same godly, humble, helpful, enjoyable man of God he’s always been. In this, we’ve both shed a few tears and are committed to our ongoing friendship. Here is what I am asking from you. Please pray for the Munson family. Please pursue the Munson family. Bomb them with love and affection. Make sure that Crystal and the wonderful Munson kids feel the embrace of Jesus through the affection of Mars Hill. If you are their friends, keep being their friends. I have known Crystal since she was in college before she and Jamie met. She is wonderful. We adore and enjoy her. She is as committed to our church and the mission of Jesus as anyone at Mars Hill. Let’s ensure that in this season of transition her friendships and community remain stable, steady, and supportive. Correct any gossip or rumor you hear that is negative and untrue. Celebrate the fact that Pastor Jamie is Mars Hill 1.0. He is exactly why Mars Hill exists. A lost young person meets Jesus and grows to be a godly leader, spouse, and parent who loves and leads well by the grace of God with humility and passion. He has given us every day of his life since he was 19 years of age. Mars Hill does not exist as a church of more than maybe a few hundred without God’s grace through Pastor Jamie. If a book were written about what God is doing among us, at least one whole chapter would be devoted to telling the story of God’s grace in Pastor Jamie’s life. This is a wonderful opportunity to honor and celebrate the grace of God through the Holy Spirit in the life of Pastor Jamie and his family. As part of the honoring of Pastor Jamie, people in and out of Mars Hill who want to thank the Munson family and give them gifts and such can do so by sending them digitally to andrew [at] marshill [dot] com or physically to:
Mars Hill Church Attn: Andrew Myers 1411 NW 50th Street Seattle, WA 98107This way everyone who so desires can say thank you in their own way. Note: The remainder of this blog post contains more specific leadership directives regarding our future for those in and out of Mars Hill who are interested.
Leadership Vision for Mars HillMy proposal to the Board of Directors (BOD) is that Pastor Jamie Munson remain an elder at Mars Hill Church Ballard. Following a sabbatical through the end of the year to enjoy his family, rest up, and finish writing a book, he will rejoin us as an unpaid board member at the highest legal level of Mars Hill Church. In God’s providence, the same day that Pastor Jamie made this decision, one of our unpaid BOD members had to resign due to escalating demands at his place of employment. So, while this man will remain an elder at his local Mars Hill Church, it opened a seat on the BOD for an unpaid elder, which Pastor Jamie fills perfectly. We need many more unpaid elders and Pastor Jamie helps us to raise the profile of that service. The plan is simply that Pastor Jamie will remain an elder at Mars Hill indefinitely. He has clearly communicated his desire to stay at Mars Hill and serve as an elder and we welcome this. So, Pastor Jamie is still Pastor Jamie. Also, the door to employment is always open to Pastor Jamie. It has been clearly communicated to him by myself personally and by his performance review team collectively that should he ever change his mind, we would welcome him back on staff at Mars Hill Church. Our bylaws require that our Executive Elder (EE) team have at least three members. Pastor Dave Bruskas and I remain on the EE. Thankfully, Pastor Dave and his family recently moved to Seattle after leading Mars Hill Albuquerque. His leadership, wisdom, and experience come at just the right time and we praise God he is on the team. In God’s providence, the sermon he preached at Mars Hill Ballard will air this Sunday at all our other churches, helping you to get to know him better. To fill Pastor Jamie’s vacancy on the EE, I am recommending that the BOD vote for Pastor Scott Thomas to join the EE for at least the foreseeable future. Pastor Scott has served faithfully for many years as an elder at Mars Hill, is among our most trained and seasoned leaders, is already a BOD member, and has served previously for many years as an EE member while also leading Acts 29. Pastor Dave and I both believe Pastor Scott is the best choice for this role in this season. Pastor Scott has been very clear in his love and commitment to Mars Hill and has said he will gladly serve wherever he is needed, which we deeply appreciate. Administratively, Pastor Jamie was our senior "king" and his departure requires very competent leadership to cover his many responsibilities. Thankfully, Pastor Jamie was a great leader and humble man. He surrounded himself with great people. This allows us to not have the kind of crisis that could otherwise ensue. Pastor Dave and I agree that Sutton Turner should function as our highest-ranking "king." Sutton is new to staff, but not to ministry. He is a former executive pastor of a large church. Educationally, he is a graduate of Texas A&M, the SMU Cox School of Business, and Harvard Business School. Professionally, he has recently served as the CEO of a company that has nearly 1,600 employees. Prior to that he served as the CEO of another company that under his leadership grew from 0 to 500 employees in the first year. He and his family moved to Seattle sensing a call to serve at Mars Hill, and we believe he is a gift from God to us for our future. He is currently well into the eldership process so be in prayer for that as well as his many duties at the church. This winter I will be cancelling the normal Christmas series. Instead, I will be spending some weeks on vision. Who is Mars Hill, how do we operate, where are we going? This is clear in my vision for the church and I want to share it with you. I want to increase our passion, hope, giving, and clarity across Mars Hill. I want to preach on the road from various Mars Hill churches, showing the vision, introducing the converts, and letting our people see the evidences of God’s grace in order to fire them up for 2012. In January we start the Real Marriage campaign and launch the book Grace and I have written by the same name for Thomas Nelson. We also have completed, thanks to Pastor Brad House, a small group curriculum that includes study guides and DVDs from Grace and me to help people—both single and married—grow relationally. We are inviting other churches to join us on this big campaign, and in the grace of God I believe 2012 will be the biggest year we’ve ever had. While we celebrate the past and honor the present, we also need to prepare for the future by God’s grace. We’ve been here before, many times before, in fact. As our church grows, we encounter obstacles and hit ceilings of complexity and need to adjust as necessary to get through the next size barrier. This was true at 200, 800, 2,000, and 6,000, just like the experts predicted. At 10,000 we are there again. I’ve been working on the beginnings of a comprehensive plan, as I can see into the future to 25,000 people a week, Lord willing. A finished version of that document will be released once it is revised with input and change from various leaders in the church, as well as wise counsel from leaders of churches larger than ours who have become friends. In the meantime, the data below provides some understanding of where we are and where we are going. There are three major variables essential to understanding a church: theology, philosophy of ministry, and size. Church size affects nearly every aspect of a church; bigger churches are not simply larger versions of smaller churches, but rather very different organizations. There are very few truly large churches in America, contrary to some perceptions. Estimates for the total number of churches in America range from 300,000 to 400,000. Of those, the following are the number of very large churches:
- 10,000 – 15,000 people = 26 churches
- 16,000 – 20,000 people = 5 churches
- 20,000 – 25,000 people = 3 churches
- 25,000 – 40,000 people = 0 churches
- 40,000+ people = 1 church
- Fully 32 of the 35 churches listed as the largest in America are multi-site like Mars Hill.
- The largest churches tend to be concentrated in Southern California, Texas, the Southeast, and around Lake Michigan, including Chicago.