Mark Tolson uses spiritual bullying tactics to force his victims to remove their stories

This email titled "Heavy but Hopeful Heart" was sent from Mark Tolson on December 2, 2022. Mark is the Asia Field Director and also one of the 5 VBM Executive Directors.

While on the surface this email may look innocent and well-intentioned, you can decide for yourself how many of the observations noted below are accurate.

See also:

He sends it to a husband and wife, but he does not simply send it to them in order to apologize personally. Mark also includes VBM general director Travis Snode and the couple's pastor.

Also, please be aware that there have been other attempts to silence victims of abuse and those who have exposed corruption and coverups. This has been done by other VBM directors and even Pastor Trent Cornwell himself.

If Vision Baptist leaders continue to try to bully, threaten, or intimidate more men and women into silence - we will publish your ongoing attempts to silence victims and whistleblowers.

Here are a few things you may discover as you read Mark's email below:

  • Mark states that he is reaching out to them "privately" which may be interpreted as "not on public social media for all to see" or it could be interpreted differently. Whatever the case, Mark includes their pastor and VBM general director Travis Snode bringing in other authority figures to add pressure to this couple when a simple "private email" to this couple directly between them and Mark alone would have more than sufficed.
  • Mark admits no personal wrongdoing on his part. Instead only offers general references to the organization failing them in "some areas" and that the culture is changing and things are better now because of the new structure and added accountability (there was no Board of Directors formed at the time his email was sent and the Pastoral Advisory Committee had and still has no power to keep the VBM executive directors accountable).
  • Mark has been personally involved with "so much has been changed and updated" even though Mark himself is one of the major problems that perpetuates major problems that have been identified by multiple people over the years.
  • Is there gaslighting going on trying to cause this couple to doubt or question their reality and experiences when he says, "As time passed, you evaluated your time there and found... Although there are always two sides to a story... not to challenge your accounts..."?
  • Mark wants to deal with "grievances experienced" and repeatedly focuses on the issue as a problem that the couple has about the way they viewed their own experiences and it is now simply a matter of soothing their hurt feelings and reconciling with anyone in their agency at VBM that they might have outstanding oughts against their brethren. He does not admit that there are any real or serious problems with leadership itself, only the grievances experienced or felt by the people who cannot seem to get over whatever problems they perceived.
  • The only reference to Austin Gardner, the former president of VBM, is to hint that if the couple has lingering bitterness towards Austin that he is gone and not a problem at VBM anymore. VBM leaders can do nothing about helping hurt, angry, or bitter people if they cannot get past Austin hurting them since he has left.
  • What seems noble "(I have no plans to make a private matter public.)" could also be interpreted as a veiled threat because he knows that he has dirt on them which he assumes they would feel very embarrassed about if he DID decide to make the matter public.
  • The above statement is issued right before he asks the most important reason behind his email - "*Please consider taking down your internet posts, and let's have a conversation.*"
  • Mark could have emailed them privately and asked to talk and for them to consider reconciliation. He did NOT have to pressure them into removing their personal stories of abuse trying to warn others about himself and the other abusive leaders at VBM who learned to be that way from Austin Gardner who left.
  • Notice the love bombs of "I deeply love and respect you both"... "I love both of you."
  • Notice the spiritual bullying and how he uses Bible verses to apply "spiritual pressure" to get them to do what he actually wants them to do, which is to take down embarrassing evidence about them.
  • Notice the many times he uses exclamation points.
  • Notice the manipulation and pressure tactics at the end using God and then others to get them to do what he wants - "As brothers and sisters in Christ, reconciliation and unity is something I know that will honor God. We have so many connections that overlap, and I know they would also be pleased to see restoration."

[bold emphasis added]

Dear ______ and _________,

First, thank you for taking the time to read this email. I have included your pastor _______________ and Travis Snode, General Director at VBM, in this email for transparency, accountability, and spiritual guidance.

I write this email with a heavy but hopeful heart. Please excuse any imperfect communication.

The purpose of this email is to address on ongoing situation, I love both of you, and thus want to talk about it, not just ignore it.

Both of you have been a part of the ministry of VBM for a time. Both of you have a story about your time at VBM. As time passed, you evaluated your time there and found several things you experienced, witnessed, or heard that were not part of a healthy culture. In some areas, VBM, as an organization, failed you. I have talked to you, ________, on the phone about this at one point, trying to live out "...weep with them that weep" (Romans 12:15). So yes, I admit there were things in our culture that needed to change. I told you at the time I was committed to change. Those in the current leadership, including myself, have recognized this and are committed to making a healthy and God-honoring culture in all areas. And I believe much is changing! God is very gracious and merciful to us!

We have a new structure and accountability. So much has been changed and updated after over a year's work in which I have been personally involved.

Although there are always two sides to a story, the purpose of this email is not to challenge your accounts but to try to find common ground on how to deal with grievances experienced. Thus, I would like to open the door for reconciliation with any grievances you have with VBM and work towards reconciliation.

I imagine with the hurt you are feeling, it may seem impossible, but "if it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." (Romans 12:18)

I know you have been hurt deeply. I want to be sensitive to that. I hope that past experiences won't describe present realities! Instead, I want to try to help heal the hurt for the glory of God! I am reaching out to you privately because this is the best way to work through such a tough situation. (I have no plans to make a private matter public.)

So what am I asking? I want to ask you:

  • Please consider taking down your internet posts, and let's have a conversation. We hear you. We are willing to listen. Maybe you felt there was no other way to be heard and that was your only option, or you felt backed into a corner; if that was the case before, please know this isn't the case now, and I am opening a door for reconciliation. I want your voice to help us do better.
  • Please consider reconciliation. We are willing to work through this process with anyone on our board with whom you all have a grievance. If they are no longer with us, we can do nothing about that. We also know it takes a while to regain broken trust, but we will work at it!

As brothers and sisters in Christ, reconciliation and unity is something I know that will honor God. We have so many connections that overlap, and I know they would also be pleased to see restoration. May God be glorified in even this!

____________________ I am open to your counsel and seek your advice. I deeply love and respect you both.

There is a good chance that one day all of us will be sitting in the same church singing hymns to our Lord and Savior, and I pray that all of us could be doing so with a clear conscience and restored relationships.

In His Joyful Service,


"Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21)