Mars Hill Church
Mars Hill Church was a Christian megachurch, founded by pastor Mark Driscoll. It was a multi-site church based in Seattle, Washington with 15 locations in 5 U.S. states. Services were offered at its 15 locations; the church also podcast content of weekend services, and of conferences, on the Internet with more than 260,000 sermon views online every week. In 2013, Mars Hill had a membership of 6,489 and average weekly attendance of 12,329. 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. 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, merging with other congregations, or disbanding, effective January 1, 2015.
- 1 History
- 2 Church Locations
- 3 Growth, Influence, and Disbanding
- 4 Church Leadership Controversies
- 5 Response to Controversies and Report Investigation Findings
- 6 Mars Hill Closure
- 7 Acts 29 Church Planting Network
- 8 The Resurgence
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
The early years
Mars Hill Church was founded in spring 1996 by Mark Driscoll, Lief Moi and Mike Gunn. 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. They outgrew the apartment and started meeting in the youth rooms of another church. The church had its first official service October 1996, with 160 people attending; attendance quickly fell to around 60 because of discussions about the visions and mission of the church.
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. Later that same year Mark Driscoll was invited to speak at a pastors' conference in California. Driscoll's speech influenced the emerging church movement, and changed the focus from reaching Generation X to reaching the postmodern world. The speech resulted in media coverage of Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll, and put Driscoll in connection with Leadership Network.
The church continued growing. Inspired by Alan Roxburgh, Driscoll settled on an emerging and missional ecclesiology, 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. 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. In the fall of 1999 the church had grown to 350 in attendance every week and was able to pay Driscoll full-time. Prior to 1999, Driscoll operated as an unpaid pastor for three years.
In 2003, Mars Hill Church moved into a renovated hardware store in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. 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. Later in 2006 Mars Hill acquired two new properties in West Seattle and Wedgwood, which became their West Seattle and Lake City campuses.
Since then, new Mars Hill locations were added using a multi-campus "meta-church" structure, connecting Driscoll's sermons via high-definition video to the remote campuses during weekly worship services. This format 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 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 (Oregon), Rainier Valley (Seattle), Sammammish (near Seattle), and Orange County (California), the same day as the first sermon in the "Real Marriage" sermon series, based on Mark and Grace Driscoll's book, Real Marriage.
On October 16, "black-clad demonstrators" gathered in front of the Mars Hill Church in Southeast Portland to "protest the church's stance on homosexuality." Approximately 20 protesters, "some of whom wore kerchiefs to cover their faces, shouted profanities at adults and children," and briefly blocked the entrance of the church. Mars Hill Church Portland lead pastor Tim Smith expressed disagreement with the conduct of the protesters, but expressed defense of their right to free speech.
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.
Prior to disbanding on January 1, 2015, Mars Hill Church met at twelve locations, mostly in Seattle and Washington state, with three out of state locations in New Mexico, California, and Oregon. A few locations were closed or consolidated on October 12, 2014. After January 1, 2015, each church location dissolved into an independent congregation. The original Mars Hill Church location in Ballard remains the site for the subsequent church plant which grew out of the remaining members of Mars Hill, Ballard; now called Cross and Crown Church Seattle, led by former Mars Hill Downtown pastor Matthias Haeusel.
Growth, Influence, and Disbanding
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.
In 2006, Mars Hill Church claimed $31,110,000 in assets.
The Mars Hill Church network officially disbanded Thursday, January 1, 2015. Eleven of the Mars Hill Churches became independent churches and the remaining churches were dissolved. Prior to the churches disbanding, Mars Hill transferred the majority of its content from its website to www
Church Leadership Controversies
Structure and organization
As a result of the large growth of the church, their bylaws, which outlined how the church was organised, were rewritten more than once. The outcome of this process led to changes in leadership organization in November 2007. The new bylaws installed lead pastor Jamie Munson, 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 served as directors. This 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."
Church reorganization in 2007
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. 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.
Controversy over disciplinary contracts
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.
Recent Leadership Controversies
In 2014, Mark Driscoll was urged to step down by nine of the Mars Hill pastors in a private letter. The letter quoted respected evangelical pastor Paul Tripp as saying, of Mars Hill Church, "This is without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with."
In 2015, after the disbanding of Mars Hill, an executive elder of the church stated that "There has been much talk about the abusive and coercive culture at Mars Hill. What many people do not realize is that some of the very people who were calling for an end to this type of abuse were using abusive tactics." The executive elder stated that he was blackmailed by a staff who asked for more severance pay. He also stated that "former Mars Hill elders were working to file formal charges against me also. I was told that a former lead pastor was approached to lead a group of people who hoped to force my resignation so that I 'could not help Pastor Mark Driscoll'." 
Response to Controversies and Report Investigation Findings
Mark Driscoll's Leadership
In October 2014, a group of elders released their investigation of the accusations with "some 1,000 hours of research, interviewing more than 50 people and preparing 200 pages of information." The report concluded that Mark Driscoll had never been charged with "immorality, illegality or heresy," and considered "some of the accusations against Pastor Mark to be altogether unfair or untrue." Additionally, many of the "other charges had been previously been addressed by Pastor Mark, privately and publicly. Indeed, he had publicly confessed and apologized for a number of the charges against him, some of which occurred as long as 14 years ago."
In response to the allegations, several prominent pastors publicly defended Mark Driscoll, including mega-church pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, and Gateway Church's founding pastor Robert Morris. At the 2014 Gateway Conference, Morris told the audience that he counseled Mark Driscoll directly, and that media reports were largely untrue. Morris cited recent media reports of lead pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church as experiencing similar coverage. At the conference, Mark Driscoll was invited up to the stage where he told the audience that he received death threats and that his children allegedly had rocks thrown at them. Driscoll stated that "I'm just trying to figure out how to be a good pastor to my family first."
On December 28, 2014, Rick Warren gave the final Sunday sermon at Mars Hill encouraging its remaining members to "give grace" to its leaders, "You need to be grateful for all the ways that God used Mars Hill Church. Be grateful for all the ways God used Mark Driscoll." Driscoll had previously delivered a sermon at Saddleback Church the weekend Rick Warren grieved the loss of his son.
Result Source Contract for the Real Marriage Book
In March 2014, controversy arose over the marketing of Mark and Grace Driscoll's book Real Marriage, based on their experience of counseling couples in the church, which later became a sermon series in the church. The church had contracted with the marketing firm Result Source, which utilized "bulk buying" to affect metrics on the New York Times Bestsellers list.
On March 28, 2015, a former elder of the church revealed that Driscoll had not been involved in initiating nor signing the contract with Result Source. The elder stated that the business relationship with the marketing firm was initiated by a pastor who resigned shortly thereafter, and remaining church leaders disagreed over the completion of the contract, stating that it would reflect badly on the church and Mark Driscoll.
The church was also affected by a series of controversies in 2013 and 2014, including allegations of plagiarism. However, the publisher Tyndale House denounced the allegations stating that Mark Driscoll adequately cited the work of Peter Jones. "Tyndale rejects the claims that Mark Driscoll tried to take Peter Jones's ideas and claim them as his own." 
Mars Hill Global Fund
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. The church reported that "Mars Hill Church began to use the term 'Global Fund' to solicit gifts restricted for 'capital development and expansion'. As communicated in the Global Newsletter on July 7, 2009, the Global Fund was used to raise resources for the following purposes: 'start new Mars Hill campuses, plant new Acts 29 churches, and equip leaders at the Resurgence Training Center'. In the 2009-2011 time frame, over 80% of the funds given to the “Global Fund” went to Acts 29 church planting, with additional funds used for the Resurgence Training Center and church planting in India." Additionally, "subsequent to June 1, 2012, in early July 2014, Mars Hill Church sent approximately 6,000 letters and 3,765 emails to individuals who had made gifts as a global donor subsequent to June 1, 2012. In these communications, Mars Hill Church offered to redirect the donor’s gifts, made as a global donor during this time period, specifically for planting churches in Ethiopia or India." 
Mars Hill Closure
The church reported in September 2014 that attendance and giving had significantly declined since the beginning of the year due to public controversies. Executive pastor Sutton Turner resigned in September, citing financial issues and personal attacks.
Acts 29 Church Planting Network
Acts 29 Church Planting Network 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. In August 2014, Acts 29 removed Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from the network.
TheResurgence.com was an outgrowth of the teaching ministry at Mars Hill Church. The intent of the ministry was 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.
The Resurgence website ceased operation mid January 2015, approximately 2 weeks after the disbanding of the Mars Hill Church network. Although the website is no longer accessible the content is available as part of the Mars Hill Church archiving effort. The Resurgence section of the archive is located at: resurgence
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- 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."
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- Driscoll, Confessions, p 98: "And it shifted the conversation from reaching Generation X to the emerging mission of reaching postmodern culture."
- 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..."
- 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."
- Driscoll, Confessions, p 110-111.
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