On the Mars Hill website, an update has been posted about the direction of each of the locations. Where appropriate, I will interrupt the narrative to add any information I have on the location.
As Mars Hill Church closes its doors at the end of the year, and each of the churches plan for what the new year will bring, your local elder teams will work through decisions related to their location. Each church is unique and each elder team has unique decisions in front of them. They will be updating you over the next eight weeks about their upcoming steps.
Several churches have already made announcements this week and have held members meetings to explain where they are feeling led. Below is an update on the next steps of these churches. As we learn more about the future for each church, we will continue to update you.
Albuquerque announced this past Sunday that they have invited Pastor Dave Bruskas to return, and he has accepted the position as their teaching pastor. Pastor Dave will stay to serve Mars Hill Church in the current transition until December 31, including continuing to preach from the Bellevue church until they find a new Lead Pastor.
Read here and here for more on Albuquerque. A reliable source has informed me that Al Lobaina has resigned as pastor but will remain with the church.
BELLEVUE & SAMMAMISH
On the Eastside of Seattle it was announced that the Bellevue and Sammamish locations will be partnering together to form a single new church. They’ll plant the new church in the new year, with a core group of over 1,000 people! This new Eastside church will retain the best of Mars Hill Church, but will be a different church with new leadership and structures. Your elders are currently praying about how best to structure and lead this church moving forward and they need your ideas, suggestions and prayer as they consider this.
I have information on this merger here, here and here. Sammamish leaders were conflicted over the move to Bellevue and explored other options before deciding to merge. Initually, lead pastor Alex Ghioni told his congregation that the church was going to try to preserve the building, but as it turns out, the building (which was donated to the church by the former congregation – Evergreen Christian Fellowship) will be sold to help pay off debt.
Huntington Beach announced that it will not continue as an independent church. Pastor Matt Wallace is pursuing opportunities with like-minded churches in the area from whom he and his family can be sent out to plant at a later time. Pastor AJ Hamilton, who was working towards planting Mars Hill Church Los Angeles, is praying with his family about pursuing other opportunities.
Huntington Beach was on the bubble due to the leaders assessment that giving needed to improve. Giving had not improved which left the church in a questionable position. Then Matt Wallace indicated that he would not lead the new church to independent status.
Ballard has announced that they will continue as a new independent church. Pastor Matthias Haeusel will serve as the Lead Pastor and he and the local elders are working hard to find a new name and the best place to meet each Sunday starting in January. Pastor Scott Harris will be stepping down as Lead Pastor while staying on as an elder and pursuing work in Seattle in order to remain at the church.
Just today, I posted information about Ballard from a trusted source. Ballard’s building has been on the market for awhile, initially with hopes that a buyer would lease it back to the church. This looks less promising now. At one point, church spokesperson Justin Dean said Ballard had been growing in attendance but he later retracted that impression.
Everett has also announced that they will continue as an independent church called Foundation Church, with Pastor Ryan Williams remaining as Lead Pastor. The Everett elders are working towards continuing in their current location.
Click here to read about Everett’s one-page summary of their plans for Foundation Church. Everett’s pastor Ryan Williams famously thanked Mars Hill Global years after the money from the Global Fund supposedly (and secretly) had been given. Now Mars Hill pastors refuse to give an accounting of the Global Fund.
Pastor Ed Choi has said he will continue to lead the people of Rainier Valley, and together with the congregation they have chosen Rainier Valley Church as their new name.
Shoreline will continue under the leadership of Pastor Aaron Gray. He and his elder team will be announcing their new name soon, and they are working towards trying to secure the same location they are in now to meet on Sundays.
Tacoma will continue under the leadership of Pastor Bubba Jennings and the current elders. They have chosen the name Resurrection Church and are working towards staying in their current location. The leadership team in Tacoma is spending time in prayer and seeking Jesus’ wisdom, guidance and discernment for the new plant. They are excited to keep loving Jesus, preaching the Bible and making disciples while learning what it means to be a new independent church.
Tacoma (soon Resurrection Church), like some of the others, has a major issue with the debt on their building. There is some optimism among the churches but most are starting out with lots of debt and very little experience in running a free standing operation.
Pastor Tim Smith has put together a transition team of elders and deacons who will lead the people of Mars Hill Portland in a new church plant starting in January. They are working towards choosing a new name and assuming the loan for their current building.
Last Sunday a transition team was announced (see here). Portland rivals Bellevue for being the church most nostalgic for Driscoll. This coming Sunday, the church will have a camera set up for people to record their good wishes to send to the Driscolls.
From Deacon Kevin Kelly:
Hey There PDX!
I hope that you are all trying to stay warm and dry at the beginning of a threatened winter storm in our area. Please be safe when traveling and plan ahead today.
I wanted to make you aware of a small project that some members have requested. They wish to record short video testimonials, to send to Pastor Mark and his family.
This Sunday, Nov 16th, after second service (and only if you are interested), we will be set up for you to sit and record a brief message of thanks or encouragement for Pastor Mark and his family.
Pastor Miles Rohde is continuing his work in Spokane to start a new church in the heart of downtown. Together with a core team of around 120 people they are moving forward with launching a new church in the new year, named Redemption Spokane.
Spokane was one of the first church’s to file papers of incorporation.
Pastor Seth Winterhalter, along with his pastoral team, will be planting a new church in Olympia called Harbor Church that he says will be “a safe harbor for the broken, hurting, and hopeless people of our region introducing them to their Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.”
I have written twice about Olympia, but don’t have much to add to this description.
Pastor David Fairchild will also continue leading the charge for a new church plant in West Seattle, called Trinity West Seattle. They have 3 elders and 5 elder candidates who will soon be installed to help lead the church. Together they are working out the details of keeping their current location.
David Fairchild is one of the few Mars Hill pastors who has interacted with me since the decision to close the church. He doesn’t disclose much but seems willing to discuss issues with people on the blog. However, when asked about Global Fund, the investigation of Driscoll, and other hard issues, he quiets down.
As an update on Phoenix, which was the first to transition to its own independent church, they are doing well under the leadership of Pastor Tim Birdwell. Now the Phoenix Bible Church, they continue to see growth and many new people meeting Jesus.
Phoenix was the trail blazer and went independent as Phoenix Bible Church when Mars Hill announced it was closing three locations.
In addition to updates on The City, you can continue to follow updates on each church’s Facebook and Twitter through the end of the year, when those accounts will be renamed and transitioned to the individual churches.
We are excited for these new church plants. People will continue to have Bible-believing church homes where they are served and loved, and where they can serve and love others, and that’s something to celebrate. In areas where churches are closing or have closed, we know there are plenty of Bible-believing churches in those areas and we are helping families stay connected in community with other believers.
Our hope and prayer is that these new churches will flourish in connecting people to Jesus in some of the least churched regions of the country. Please continue to pray for each church and their leaders, as they still have a lot of decisions and lot of planning ahead of them.
I will add information to this post as it becomes available.