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 5,500 +
Weekly attendance 15,000 +
Website www.marshill.com
History
Founded 1996
Founder(s) Mark Driscoll, Lief Moi and Mike Gunn
Clergy
Pastor(s) Mark Driscoll
Laity
Music group(s)
Citizens
Dustin Kensrue
Ghost Ship
Kenosis
King's Kaleidoscope
The Sing Team

Mars Hill Church is a Christian megachurch based in Seattle, Washington and with 15 locations in 5 U.S. states.[1] Services are offered at its 15 locations; the church podcasts content of weekend services, as well as conferences on the Internet[2] with more than 260,000 sermon views online every week.[3] In 2012 approximately 14,000 people attended services at Mars Hill Church locations every week.[4] As of November, 2013, Mars Hill had 6,568 actual members.

History[edit]

The early years[edit]

Mars Hill Church was founded in spring 1996[5] by Mark Driscoll, Lief Moi and Mike Gunn.[6] 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.[7] They outgrew the apartment and started meeting in the youth rooms of another church.[5] The church had its first official service October 1996, with 160 people attending;[8] attendance quickly fell to around 60 because of discussions about the visions and mission of the church.[9]

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.[10] Later that same year Mark Driscoll was invited to speak at a pastors' conference in California.[11] The speech Driscoll made inspired many and had great influence on the emerging church movement and changed the focus from reaching Generation X, to reaching the postmodern world.[12] The speech resulted in overwhelming media coverage of Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll,[13] 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,[14] 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.[15] 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.[16] In the fall of 1999 the church had grown to 350 in attendance every week and was able to pay Driscoll full-time.[17]

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."[18]

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.[19] 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 as well as other multimedia improvements to the church's web site to connect the campuses.[19] Later in 2006, Mars Hill acquired two new properties, in West Seattle and Wedgwood which later became their West Seattle and Lake City campuses.[19][20]

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[21] 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 #1 New York Times Bestseller, 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.[22]

Church locations[edit]

Mars Hill Church, Bellevue location

Mars Hill Church currently meets at fifteen locations in a total of forty-two services each week.

Locations in Seattle:

Locations in Washington state:

  • Bellevue. Pastor: Thomas Hurst. This is currently where pastor Mark Driscoll 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]

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.[26]

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.[27]

In 2006, Mars Hill Church claimed $31,110,000 in assets.[28]

Acts 29 Church Planting Network[edit]

Main article: Acts 29 Network

Acts 29 Church Planting Network[29] 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.[30]

The Resurgence[edit]

TheResurgence.com[31] 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.

Criticism[edit]

Some 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 subsequently disciplined and fired shortly thereafter. Church leadership instructed members of the congregation to shun the two former elders as unrepentant.[32][33] 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.[34]

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 & author Mathew Paul Turner. The documents include a discipline contract as well as an email from church leaders to the congregation directing them to shun him.[35][36][37]

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.[38]

The church subsequently responded with a series of posts on its blog. [39]

Singer-songwriter Mary Lambert formerly attended 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. [40]

In March of 2014 it was revealed that Mars Hill Church took $200,000 of church money to pay a marketing company, Result Source, to fraudulently 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 fraudulent marketing of Real Marriage as well as plagiarism in this and previous works have triggered a lengthy response from Ministry Watch, a ministry watchdog organization.[43] The tax-exempt status of Mars Hill Church could be jeopardized by Mark Driscoll's illegal use of a nonprofit organization to gain a personal return via his On Mission LLC which was created in the state of Colorado to “manage book royalties, printing and publishing.” [44]

In March of 2014 over twenty former Mars Hill Church pastors led by long term and prominent Elder Dave Kraft, challenged Mark Driscoll's behavior as abusive, unbiblical and lacking accountability within Mars Hill Church. [45] That same 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. [46]

In June of 2014 a petition went online to ask Sutton Turner of Mars Hill Church as well as Dan Busby of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability where the money raised through Mars Hill Global Fund actually went[47] since early reports showed that money raised through the Mars Hill Global Fund went to finance the purchase of a building in Everett, WA.[48]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ "Mars Hill Church Media Library". Mars Hill Church. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  3. ^ Ronald E. Keener. "Seattle is among the least churched cities in America". Church Executive. Retrieved October 4, 2008. [dead link]
  4. ^ Sutton Turner. "Jesus Just Stepped On The Gas". Church Executive. Retrieved February 4, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Driscoll, Confessions, p 38.
  6. ^ Driscoll, Confessions, p 54.
  7. ^ From the section Story of http://www.harambeechurch2.org/aboutHarambee.php
  8. ^ Driscoll, Confessions, p 76: "Between 160 and 200 had shown up for our big kick off service."
  9. ^ 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..."
  10. ^ 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."
  11. ^ "Generation X...Three Myths and Realities" (PDF). Leadership Network. Retrieved 2008-11-09. [dead link]
  12. ^ Driscoll, Confessions, p 98: "And it shifted the conversation from reaching Generation X to the emerging mission of reaching postmodern culture."
  13. ^ 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..."
  14. ^ 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."
  15. ^ Driscoll, Confessions, p 110-111.
  16. ^ 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."
  17. ^ Driscoll, Confessions, p 113-116.
  18. ^ Tu, Janet I. (2007-11-18). "Firing of pastors roils Mars Hill Church". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2008-12-17. 
  19. ^ a b c "Mars Hill - History". Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  20. ^ "Mars Hill Church | Lake City » Welcome to Mars Hill Lake City". Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  21. ^ Parishioners connect at new campus of Mars Hill Church
  22. ^ "Zondervan Acquires Online Community-Building Resource for Churches - The City". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2009-01-07. 
  23. ^ Bhatt, Sanjay. "Mars Hill Church to move into historic Methodist Church building downtown" The Seattle Times. August 6, 2012.
  24. ^ Holden, Dominic. "Pastor Unexpectedly Quits Mars Hill Church" The Stranger. March 14, 2013.
  25. ^ Hinch, Jim (February 6, 2014). "Megachurch Mars Hill lands in H.B.". Huntington Beach Wave. p. 6. 
  26. ^ "Top Churches to Watch in America". The Church Guide. 2013. Retrieved 20 Apr 2014. 
  27. ^ Vaughan, John N. (July 2007). "America's 50 Most Influential Churches". The Church Report. Christy Media. Archived from the original on 26 May 2007. 
  28. ^ Kiley, Brendan. "Church or Cult? The Control-Freaky Ways of Mars Hill Church". The Stranger. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  29. ^ Acts 29 Network
  30. ^ http://www.acts29network.org/acts-29-blog/a-note-on-some-transitions/ Retrieved 2012-03-28.
  31. ^ TheResurgence.com
  32. ^ http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=445277
  33. ^ Worthen, Molly. "Who Would Jesus Smackdown?". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-06. 
  34. ^ "Gospel Coalition 2009 - Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth". The Gospel Coalition. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  35. ^ http://matthewpaulturner.net/jesus-needs-new-pr/mark-driscolls-church-discipline-contract-looking-for-true-repentance-at-mars-hill-church-sign-on-the-dotted-line/
  36. ^ http://www.slate.com/articles/life/faithbased/2012/02/mars_hill_pastor_mark_driscoll_faces_backlash_over_church_discipline_case_.html Retrieved 2012-03-12
  37. ^ http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Mars-Hill-church-again-a-source-of-controversy-140996563.html Retrieved 2012-03-12
  38. ^ Brendan Kiley (2012-01-31). "Church or Cult? The Control-Freaky Ways of Mars Hill Church". The Stranger. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  39. ^ http://marshill.com/2012/01/27/church-discipline-in-the-bible Church Discipline in the Bible]/
  40. ^ "Mary Lambert: The voice behind Macklemore's 'Same Love'". 
  41. ^ "Mars Hill Church Admits To Buying Pastor Mark Driscoll a Spot on the New York Times Bestseller List". 
  42. ^ "Can Megachurches Deal With Mega Money in a Christian Way?". 
  43. ^ "Partially Penitent Pastors - Updates on the Seemingly Endless Driscoll and Furtick Sagas". 
  44. ^ "How Mark Driscoll pockets the money he gives to Mars Hill". 
  45. ^ "DAVE KRAFT, MARS HILL CHURCH AND MARK DRISCOLL". 
  46. ^ "Stories of Repented Mars Hill Pastors". 
  47. ^ "Petitioning Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability". "Mars Hill Church, tell us how much "Global Fund" money was spent on "international" outreach."" 
  48. ^ "Mars Hill Global Helped Pay For Mars Hill Everett’s Building". 

References[edit]

External links[edit]