Mars Hill Church

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This article is about the church in Seattle, Washington. For the church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, see Mars Hill Bible Church.
Mars Hill Church
Location Seattle, Washington
Country United States
Denomination Non-denominational
Membership 6,489 (2013)[1]
Weekly attendance 8,000–9,000 (2014)[2]
Website www.marshill.com
History
Founded 1996
Founder(s) Mark Driscoll, Lief Moi and Mike Gunn
Clergy
Senior pastor(s) Dave Bruskas[3]
Pastor(s) 16 lead pastors, over 40 additional pastors[3]
Laity
Music group(s) Ghost Ship
Kenosis
The Sing Team

Mars Hill Church was a Christian megachurch, founded by controversial pastor Mark Driscoll. It was a multi-site church based in Seattle, Washington with 15 locations in 5 U.S. states.[4] Services were offered at its 15 locations; the church podcasts content of weekend services, and conferences on the Internet[5] with more than 260,000 sermon views online every week.[6] In 2013, Mars Hill had a membership of 6,489 and average weekly attendance of 12,329.[1] Due to controversy in 2014 involving founding pastor Mark Driscoll, the attendance dropped to 8,000–9,000 people per week. The church merged three of its Seattle locations and cut 30–40% of its staff to deal with decreases in giving.[2] On October 31, 2014, lead pastor Dave Bruskas announced plans to dissolve the church's 13 remaining campuses into autonomous entities, with the option of continuing, merge with other congregations, or disband, effective January 1, 2015.[7]

History[edit]

The early years[edit]

Mars Hill Church was founded in spring 1996[8] by Mark Driscoll, Lief Moi and Mike Gunn.[9] The church started at the rental house of Driscoll and his wife Grace with the blessing of Antioch Bible Church and the exodus of about 30 of its students.[10] They outgrew the apartment and started meeting in the youth rooms of another church.[8] The church had its first official service October 1996, with 160 people attending;[11] attendance quickly fell to around 60 because of discussions about the visions and mission of the church.[12]

In the spring of 1997 the church expanded to two evening services. The transition to two different congregations resulted in some anxiety and stir by members who didn't want the church to grow bigger, but it resulted in growing attendance.[13] Later that same year Mark Driscoll was invited to speak at a pastors' conference in California.[14] Driscoll's speech influenced the emerging church movement and changed the focus from reaching Generation X, to reaching the postmodern world.[15] The speech resulted in media coverage of Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll,[16] and put Driscoll in connection with Leadership Network.

Structure and organization[edit]

The church continued growing. Inspired by Alan Roxburgh, Driscoll settled on an emerging and missional ecclesiology,[17] and a complementarian view on women in ministry. The church installed the first team of elders and they took over much of the work teaching classes, counseling and training new leaders.[18] Furthermore the church started a course for new members, called the Gospel Class, to ensure that members were focused on the mission of the church and that they agreed with the central doctrinal statements of the church. The class has been running every quarter since.[19] In the fall of 1999 the church had grown to 350 in attendance every week and was able to pay Driscoll full-time.[20]

As a result of the large growth of the church, their bylaws, which outline how the church is organised, have been rewritten on a few occasions. The outcome of this process in November 2007 led to changes in leadership organization. The new bylaws installed Lead pastor Jamie Munson and preaching pastor Mark Driscoll and pastors Scott Thomas and Tim Beltz as "executive pastors" who led the objectives of the church "under the authority of the Board of Directors" on which the executive pastors also serve as directors. The change precipitated the firing of two pastors.

"Mars Hill leaders said in forum postings that one fired pastor was removed, in part, for "displaying an unhealthy distrust in the senior leadership." They said the other was removed for "disregarding the accepted elder protocol for the bylaw deliberation period" and "verbally attacking the lead pastor" — charges the fired pastor denied, the leaders added."[21]

Multisite church[edit]

Mars Hill Church, Ballard campus, c. 2012

In 2003, Mars Hill Church moved into a renovated hardware store in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.[22] In 2006, in an effort to reduce the overcrowding at its services, Mars Hill opened its first satellite campus in Shoreline. This change also marked their transition to a multi-site church, using video sermons and other multimedia improvements to the church's web site to connect the campuses.[22] Later in 2006, Mars Hill acquired two new properties, in West Seattle and Wedgwood which became their West Seattle and Lake City campuses.[22][23]

Since then, new locations of Mars Hill have been added using multi-campus "meta-church" structure connecting Driscoll's sermons via high-definition video to the remote campuses during weekly worship services. This format has allowed each location to retain local leadership and ministries while under the leadership of the main campus. A fourth and fifth Mars Hill location opened in 2007 and in 2008, a sixth location was added in downtown Seattle. A seventh campus, in Olympia, Washington, opened in Fall 2008[24] and an eighth campus, the first outside of Washington state, opened in Albuquerque, New Mexico in Fall 2009. The church launched four new churches on January 15 in Portland, Rainier Valley, Sammammish, and Orange County, the same day as the first sermon in the "Real Marriage" sermon series, based on Mark and Grace Driscoll's book, Real Marriage.

In 2008 the church launched an online community-building network, called The City, to improve communication on all levels in the church. The City was purchased by the Christian publishing brand, Zondervan, before Christmas 2008.[25]

Church reorganization in 2007[edit]

Former Mars Hill Church elders and members have criticized the church for its harshness in dealing with dissent within its leadership, citing as an example an incident during the church reorganization in 2007 where two elders disapproved of and suggested revisions to a draft version of the rewritten bylaws, which they viewed as consolidating power in the hands of Mark Driscoll and his closest aides. Both elders were disciplined and fired shortly thereafter. Church leadership instructed members of the congregation to shun the two former elders as unrepentant.[26][27] Additionally, members who have openly questioned or dissented with Mars Hill leaders have been asked to leave the church. This policy of church discipline was discussed during a lecture given on April 20, 2009 by Mark Driscoll for The Gospel Coalition.[28]

Controversy over disciplinary contracts[edit]

In early 2012 the church once again became a source of controversy over shunning and disciplinary proceeding when a young man under discipline released documents from his disciplinary contract to blogger and author Mathew Paul Turner. The documents include a discipline contract and an email from church leaders to the congregation directing them to shun him.[29][30][31]

In 2012 The Stranger ran an article on Mars Hill Church based on interviews with former members. The article questions some of the church's practices, which, it claims, are more typical of a cult than of a congregation.[32] The church responded with a series of posts on its blog.[33]

Singer-songwriter Mary Lambert used to attend Mars Hill, but going to a church that teaches that sex outside of a heterosexual marriage is a sin caused her to cry after church. The line "I'm not crying on Sundays" from Lambert and Macklemore's song Same Love is her response to the teachings of the church.[34]

Recent controversies[edit]

The church was affected by a series of controversies related to Driscoll in 2013 and 2014, including accusations of plagiarism, paying to get his book on The New York Times Best Seller list, and making crude remarks. Driscoll announced a six-week "extended focus break" in August 2014 while formal charges made according to church by-laws are investigated. The church is employing public relations consultant and former adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign Mark DeMoss to handle the fallout.[35] Driscoll's stepping down was urged by nine of the Mars Hill pastors in a private letter. The letter quoted respected evangelical pastor Paul Tripp saying, of Mars Hill Church, "This is without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with."[36] As of September 5, four of the pastors who signed the letter had resigned or been terminated, including worship director Dustin Kensrue.[37] The church reported in September that attendance and giving have significantly declined since the beginning of the year due to public controversies.[38] Executive pastor Sutton Turner resigned in September, citing financial issues and personal attacks.[39] Driscoll resigned on October 15. [40]

Promotion of Real Marriage[edit]

In March 2014 it was revealed that Mars Hill Church took $200,000 of church money to pay a marketing company, Result Source, to place Mark Driscoll's book, Real Marriage, on the New York Times Bestsellers list. This was done by buying the book using untraceable payment methods such as gift cards to make it appear that the book was sold in far greater numbers than were actually sold to end customers.[41] The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability has stated that buying a place on bestseller lists violates its standards but that because this happened before Mars Hill Church joined they are unable to take action.[42]

Recent revelations of "unethical" marketing of Real Marriage and plagiarism in this and previous works have triggered a lengthy response from Ministry Watch, a ministry watchdog organization.[43]

Former leaders call out "lack of accountability" and "unhealthy culture"[edit]

In March 2014 over twenty former Mars Hill Church pastors led by long term and prominent former elder Dave Kraft, challenged Mark Driscoll's behavior as abusive, "unbiblical" and lacking accountability within Mars Hill Church.[44] That year many former Mars Hill Church pastors participated in a blog confessing their complicit participation in what they described as an unhealthy culture at Mars Hill, specifically an abusive leadership style by Mark Driscoll which they felt had become harmful within the Mars Hill community.[45]

Mars Hill Global Fund[edit]

In June 2014 an online petition asked Sutton Turner of Mars Hill Church and Dan Busby of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability where the money raised through Mars Hill Global Fund actually went[46] since early reports showed that money raised through the Mars Hill Global Fund went to finance the purchase of a building in Everett, Washington.[47]

Church locations[edit]

As of October 2014, Mars Hill Church meets at twelve locations. A few locations were closed or consolidated on October 12, 2014. Mars Hill Church is scheduled to disband on January 1, 2015, dissolving each church location into an independent congregation.[7]

Locations in Seattle:

Locations in Washington state:

  • Bellevue. Pastor: Thomas Hurst. This is where pastor Dave Bruskas preaches live.
  • Sammamish. Pastor: Alex Ghioni.
  • Shoreline. Pastor: Aaron Gray.
  • Everett. Pastor: Ryan Williams.
  • Tacoma. Pastor: Bubba Jennings. Meets in the former First Congregational Church.
  • Olympia. Pastor: Seth Winterhalter.

Locations outside Washington state:

Growth and influence[edit]

A Mars Hill Church elder/pastor delivering a sermon before performing baptisms at Seattle's Golden Gardens Park.

In 2013, The Church Guide released a list of the "Top Churches to Watch in America". The link ranked churches according to how much churches could learn from the ranked churches on particular topics. They ranked Mars Hill Church as #3 to learn from about church growth, #3 for innovation, #2 for church planting, and #4 overall. The list considered data from Outreach magazine's annual lists from 2004–2012 and other sources.[50]

A 2007 survey conducted by The Church Report, ranking relevance and influence, concluded that Mars Hill Church was the eighth most influential church in the United States.[51]

In 2006, Mars Hill Church claimed $31,110,000 in assets.[52]

Acts 29 Church Planting Network[edit]

Main article: Acts 29 Network

Acts 29 Church Planting Network[53] is a separate 501(c)(3) from Mars Hill Church but was founded by Mars Hill in 2001. It is an interdenominational network of pastors and churches from around the world whose focus is to assess and equip qualified leaders, plant new churches, and rejuvenate declining churches. The current president of Acts 29 is Matt Chandler. The offices and leadership of Acts 29 moved from Mars Hill Church in Seattle to The Village Church in Texas in March 2012.[54] In August 2014, Acts 29 removed Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from the network.[55]

The Resurgence[edit]

TheResurgence.com[56] is an outgrowth of the teaching ministry at Mars Hill Church. The intent of the ministry is to provide a large repository of free missional theology resources in hopes of serving the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ in culture. Additionally, Resurgence announced that starting in 2008 they began publishing a line of books called Re:Lit (Resurgence Literature) in partnership with Crossway.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "2013 ANNUAL REPORT". Mars Hill Church. 2013. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Mars Hill to consolidate 3 Seattle churches, cut staff". The Seattle Times. September 7, 2014. Retrieved September 7, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Mars Hill Pastors". Mars Hill Church. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  4. ^ Rose Egge (2008-07-14). "Mars Hill Church one of nation's fastest growing". Ballard News-Tribune. Archived from the original on 2008-08-03. Retrieved 2008-10-04. 
  5. ^ "Mars Hill Church Media Library". Mars Hill Church. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  6. ^ Ronald E. Keener. "Seattle is among the least churched cities in America". Church Executive. Retrieved October 4, 2008. [dead link]
  7. ^ a b Connelly, Joel (Oct 31, 2014). "Mars Hill will dissolve into ‘individual, self-governed churches’". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved Oct 31, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Driscoll, Confessions, p 38.
  9. ^ Driscoll, Confessions, p 54.
  10. ^ [1][dead link]
  11. ^ Driscoll, Confessions, p 76: "Between 160 and 200 had shown up for our big kick off service."
  12. ^ Driscoll, Confessions, p 82-83: "Though our church was brand-new, we had already lost focus of our mission [...] Our attendance had declined to about sixty or seventy people..."
  13. ^ Dricoll, Confessions, p 93: "Since we still could not find a Sunday morning location, we decided to split our 6:00 p.m. service into two services [...] When I told our people that we were going to grow beyond 150 people and expand to two services, some of them freaked out."
  14. ^ "Generation X...Three Myths and Realities" (PDF). Leadership Network. Retrieved 2008-11-09. [dead link]
  15. ^ Driscoll, Confessions, p 98: "And it shifted the conversation from reaching Generation X to the emerging mission of reaching postmodern culture."
  16. ^ Driscoll, Confessions, p 98: "I was not prepared for the media onslaught that came shortly thereafter. Before I knew it, National Public Radio was interviewing me, Mother Jones magazine did a feature on our church, Pat Robertson's 700 Club gave me a plaque for being America's "Church of the Week" and did a television story on us, other media outlets started asking for interviews, large denominations were asking me to be a consultant..."
  17. ^ Driscoll, Confessions, p 108: "I began wrestling with his basic concept and came up with the following emerging and missional ecclesiology, which has governed our church ever since."
  18. ^ Driscoll, Confessions, p 110-111.
  19. ^ Driscoll, Confessions, p 112: "The Gospel Class is a series of Bible studies that I taught to ground our people in our essential doctrines and missiology... The class has run every quarter since it began."
  20. ^ Driscoll, Confessions, p 113-116.
  21. ^ Tu, Janet I. (2007-11-18). "Firing of pastors roils Mars Hill Church". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2008-12-17. 
  22. ^ a b c "Mars Hill - History". Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  23. ^ "Mars Hill Church | Lake City » Welcome to Mars Hill Lake City". Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  24. ^ "Parishioners connect at new campus of Mars Hill Church". The Olympian. Retrieved 14 October 2014. 
  25. ^ "Zondervan Acquires Online Community-Building Resource for Churches - The City". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2009-01-07. 
  26. ^ Spangenthal-Lee, Jonah (November 22, 2007). "Fired and Brimstone: Mars Hill Megachurch Has No Room for Two Dissenting Pastors". The Stranger. 
  27. ^ Worthen, Molly. "Who Would Jesus Smackdown?". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-06. 
  28. ^ "Gospel Coalition 2009 - Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth". The Gospel Coalition. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  29. ^ Turner, Matthew Paul (Jan 24, 2012). "Mark Driscoll’s Church Discipline Contract: Looking For True Repentance at Mars Hill Church? Sign on the Dotted Line". Jesus Needs New PR. 
  30. ^ "Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll faces backlash over church discipline case.". Slate Magazine. 10 February 2012. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  31. ^ "Mars Hill church again a source of controversy". KOMO News. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  32. ^ Brendan Kiley (2012-01-31). "Church or Cult? The Control-Freaky Ways of Mars Hill Church". The Stranger. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  33. ^ "Church Discipline". marshill.com. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  34. ^ "Mary Lambert: The voice behind Macklemore's 'Same Love'". Seattlepi.com. Retrieved 14 October 2014. 
  35. ^ Lee, Morgan (August 24, 2014). "Mark Driscoll Steps Down While Mars Hill Investigates Charges". Christianity Today. Retrieved August 24, 2014. 
  36. ^ Bailey, Sarah Pulliam (August 28, 2014). "Pastors' letter on Mark Driscoll: Step down from all aspects of ministry and leadership". Religion News Service. Retrieved August 28, 2014. 
  37. ^ Lodge, Carey (September 5, 2014). "Seismic shift in Mars Hill leadership as three more pastors step down". Christian Today. Retrieved September 5, 2014. 
  38. ^ Connelly, Joel (September 3, 2014). "Mars Hill Church’s attendance and giving down ‘significantly’". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved September 5, 2014. 
  39. ^ Van Skaik, Michael (September 19, 2014). "Update from the BOAA". The Weekly (Seattle, WA: Mars Hill Church). Retrieved September 20, 2014. 
  40. ^ "Pastor Mark Driscoll's resignation". marshill.com. Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  41. ^ "Mars Hill Church Admits To Buying Pastor Mark Driscoll a Spot on the New York Times Bestseller List". Slog.thestranger.com. Retrieved 14 October 2014. 
  42. ^ "Can Megachurches Deal With Mega Money in a Christian Way?". Theatlantic.com. Retrieved 14 October 2014. 
  43. ^ "Partially Penitent Pastors - Updates on the Seemingly Endless Driscoll and Furtick Sagas". Ministrywatch.com. Retrieved 14 October 2014. 
  44. ^ "Dave Krafr, Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll". Davekraft.squarespace.com. Retrieved 14 October 2014. 
  45. ^ "Stories of Repented Mars Hill Pastors". Repentpastor.com. Retrieved 14 October 2014. 
  46. ^ "Petitioning Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability". Change.org. Retrieved 14 October 2014. Mars Hill Church, tell us how much "Global Fund" money was spent on "international" outreach." 
  47. ^ "Mars Hill Global Helped Pay For Mars Hill Everett’s Building". Patheos.com. Retrieved 14 October 2014. 
  48. ^ Hinch, Jim (February 6, 2014). "Megachurch Mars Hill lands in H.B.". Huntington Beach Wave. p. 6. 
  49. ^ Welch, Craig (Sep 7, 2014). "More trouble for Mars Hill: cutting jobs, merging churches". Seattle Times. Retrieved September 7, 2014. 
  50. ^ "Top Churches to Watch in America". The Church Guide. 2013. Retrieved 20 Apr 2014. 
  51. ^ Vaughan, John N. (July 2007). "America's 50 Most Influential Churches". The Church Report. Christy Media. Archived from the original on 26 May 2007. 
  52. ^ Kiley, Brendan. "Church or Cult? The Control-Freaky Ways of Mars Hill Church". The Stranger. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  53. ^ "Acts 29 Network". Acts29network.org. Retrieved 14 October 2014. 
  54. ^ "Acts 29 Network >". Acts29network.org. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  55. ^ "A Message from the Board of Acts 29 Concerning Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church". Acts 29 Network. Retrieved 14 October 2014. 
  56. ^ "The Resurgence". Theresurgance.com. Retrieved 14 October 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]