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Hill, Ballard Campus, Seattle, Washington, USA
Hill, Ballard Campus, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Non-denominational. They are members of the Resurgence
movement and the Acts
Comment: We have received a comment on this report.
A rather plain industrial unit that has been converted. The
mid grey exterior blends well with the surrounding units, making
it look just a little more modern than its neighbors. Inside,
a rather dark entry lobby opens into a huge auditorium.
This is not the Mars Hill Church where the best-selling author
and Christian speaker Rob Bell is pastor; that one is located
in Michigan. There are six Mars Hill campuses in the greater
Seattle area; of these, Ballard is the largest, claiming a weekly
Sunday attendance of around 4,000. Mars Hill takes its name
from the hilltop in Athens (Areopagus) from which the Apostle
Paul preached (Acts 17:22). Mars Hill is part of the emerging
church movement and is intensely focused on outreach to the
unchurched. They are passionate about actively engaging with
communities not normally welcomed in church and giving them
straight, no-compromise, orthodox Christianity. Their beliefs
may be summed up as follows: Sin is the problem, Hell is hot,
Jesus is the answer, the Bible is true – while allowing
room for differences regarding secondary matters.
Seattle, on Puget Sound, is generally thought of as having a
damp, raw climate. Actually the climate is mild given the city's
northerly location, although it does rain about 50 percent of
the time. The city is the birthplace of the Starbucks coffee
empire as well as other upscale coffee house chains. Seattle
has a rich cultural life, especially in music ranging from grunge,
collegiate folk, jazz, and symphonic idioms. Formed for the
most part through annexation of surrounding communities, Seattle
boasts a wide variety of neighborhoods each with its unique
character. Mars Hill Church sits in just another light industrial
and commercial zone.
Pastor Mark Driscoll, co-founder of Mars Hill Church and its
lead preaching pastor.
The date & time:
January 27, 2008, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
It looked really packed at the front, probably a few hundred
people. Further back about half the seating was used.
Did anyone welcome you
No. I worked out that the parents with children were going one
way and followed the general flow through the other door. After
my eyes became adjusted to the light in the lobby, I saw that
the door to the main hall had two serious looking gentlemen
standing either side of it with "Mars Hill Security" on their
shirts. This is the first church I've ever been to that had
bouncers. They didn't seem to be stopping anyone, though, so
I decided to chance it.
Was your pew comfortable?
Firm, comfortable chairs with good leg room.
How would you describe the pre-service
Loud music was playing.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Well, good morning, Mars Hill!"
What books did the congregation use during the
None. Words to the songs were projected – at least eventually
What musical instruments were played?
A band called E-Pop played keyboard, guitars and violin.
Did anything distract you?
I spent too much time trying to read the preacher's t-shirt,
which was partly obscured by his jacket.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Like an in-house indy-rock band. I'm still not sure if it was
intended to be congregational worship or a performance. Before
the sermon no words to the songs were projected, and most people
seemed merely to be watching the band, or perhaps meditating.
After the sermon words came up, but even so I think only the
people at the front joined in. I was about half way back and
didn't notice anyone around me singing.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
10 Mark Driscoll preached with the enthusiasm of a newly
baptized Christian. Everything he said seemed fresh and exciting.
His topic was "Grace," and he held a Bible which he
said his wife Grace had given him. (With a topic like that,
he just had to work that fact into the sermon.) I noted that
the Bibles on sale in the church bookshop appeared to be replicas
of the preacher's Bible.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
He expounded a theology of grace going back to Augustine, differentiating
between common and special grace. He explained that the Bible
enumerates 14 ways in which God's grace transforms the Christian's
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The sermon was heavenly, and the band was very good (if you
like that style of music). But the most heavenly aspect of all
was an announcement to the effect that newcomers were not expected
to put any money in the collection baskets. "If you're
new here," they said, "we don't want your money!"
Alas, I had no place to deposit my Mystery Worship card, but
I'm not complaining.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The Mars Hill bouncers at the door.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A member of the family on the seat next to me said, "Excuse
me, could we get out?" I did lurk briefly by the community group
helpers afterward but they were quite busy signing up new Christians.
How would you describe the after-service
Absent. To be fair, can you imagine how difficult it would be
(Seattle is Starbucks country, after all) to serve up several
hundred grande mocha decaf lattes, or to risk the wrath of the
local population for not doing so? No coffee is safer all around,
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 I don't think this is really the church. There seems
to be a big focus on the community groups. I had the impression
that Sunday services at the different campuses are probably
just events to bind the community groups together and provide
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
The main feeling was that I ought to be growing more, and that I ought to be praying for God's grace to work further in my life.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The fresh and exciting sermon.
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