Update 10/24/11: Pastor Scott Hagan at Mars Hill Community Church, the church in question, has also written a letter clarifying things from his end.
At Mars Hill we like to be generous with everything we've been given. For over ten years, we've made all of our sermons available for free online, invested significant time and money to help raise up thousands of leaders around the globe through theresurgence.com
, and given millions of dollars to plant dozens of churches through Acts 29
. Recently, this has grown to include such things a free Leadership Coaching and Campaign
research to help other churches and ministries grow. We love other churches and ministries, and we love giving generously to serve them.
By God's grace, our ministry has grown to the place where we're recognized by people all over the world. With this kind of recognition, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the influence that God has given us to tell people about Jesus.
Sadly, in addition to giving things away, we’ve also had things taken. We’ve had churches cut and paste our logo, take our website code and copy it completely, had ministry leaders cut and paste documents of ours, put their name on them to then post online as if it were their content, and even seen other pastors fired for preaching our sermons verbatim.
We're not the only church called Mars Hill, and occasionally there arises confusion between us and other churches that share the "Mars Hill" name, particularly as we now have our churches in four states. This was the case recently when one of our members called us to find out if we had planted Mars Hill churches in the Sacramento, California area. We had not, but when we went to these churches’ websites, it was obvious to us how people could be confused. Each of these three connected churches in the Sacramento region—planted in 2006, 2007, and 2010—bore the "Mars Hill" name and their logo was substantially similar to the logo we've used since 1996.
When cases like this arise in the business world, it's customary for a law office to send a notice asking the other organization to adjust their branding to differentiate it. This is commonly referred to as a cease and desist letter. On September 27, 2011, our legal counsel sent such a letter to these three Mars Hill churches requesting that they change their logo and name. In hindsight, we realize now that the way we went about raising our concerns, while acceptable in the business world, is not the way we should deal with fellow Christians. On Friday we spoke with the pastor of Mars Hill in Sacramento to apologize for the way we went about this. We had a very productive conversation and look forward to continuing that conversation in the days and weeks ahead.
We made a mistake in not calling these churches prior to sending the letter. We should have picked up the phone before sending any other communication.
Unfortunately, rather than hearing from the church in Sacramento, we began hearing that the matter was instead being speculated on by a blogger who did not verify any facts with us and, as a result, provided an inaccurate version of what transpired. This blog post from us is intended to alleviate any confusion.
As a clarification, we have not sued any churches and have no plans to sue any churches.
We have not sent any similar letters to any other "Mars Hill" churches, and we are not planning on asking any church with "Mars Hill" in their name to change their name.