Update on the Status of the Mars Hill Locations

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.

Mars Hill,

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.


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 herehere 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.

It's Official: Mars Hill Sammamish to Join Bellevue Church

I reported last week that Sammamish elders were talking to Mars Hill Bellevue (Bellevue Church in January 2015) about merging. According to this City posting by Bellevue elder Jamie Skelton, the decision to merge has been made.

From Pastor Jason Skelton:
Mars Hill Family,
Over the last two weeks, we’ve announced on Sundays that Mars Hill Church will be coming to a close at the end of 2014. Its last act will be to plant new independent churches. Bellevue will be moving forward as an independent church, with hope to retain the best of Mars Hill Church and grow in areas where God is calling us to change, mature, and grow.
We are also excited to announce that after much prayer, our friends from the Sammamish church will be joining us. Together, we’ll have one church on the Eastside. Many of you know we planted Sammamish out of this Bellevue church and we’re excited to reconnect with old friends, worship together as a larger family and join together on mission for Jesus on the Eastside.
Your elders are currently praying about how to best structure and lead this church moving forward. We need your ideas, suggestions, and prayer as we consider this. Over the past several weeks we’ve met with many leaders and volunteers to share some direction and learn more about questions that you may have.
If you want to learn more about this new effort, please join us this Sunday, November 16th at 12:30p for our Eastside Vision Meeting. We’ll be sharing details as they become available on vision, structure, location, and also provide outlets for feedback and questions.
We look forward to seeing you this Sunday
On Behalf of the Bellevue Elders,
Pastor Jason Skelton

If my email inbox is any indication, this will not be a welcome announcement to many at Sammamish.

Mars Hill Sammamish In Merger Talks With Bellevue Church

Mars Hill Sammamish meets in a building that must be sold to satisfy debt and thus has no place to meet as of December 31. Currently, despite resistance from some involved, leaders at Sammamish are in talks with Bellevue Church to merge. Today, lead pastor Alex Ghioni posted this on The City:

From Pastor Alex Ghioni:
Last week the news was released that Mars Hill Church will be dissolving as an organization by December 31, 2014. Each of the Mars Hill local churches will have the opportunity to become an independent church in the area where they are meeting. As you already know, our building is being sold and we will no longer have access to meet here after December 31, 2014.
Our elder team has been working tirelessly to explore other options in light of these circumstances. Currently we are in discussions with the pastors in Bellevue exploring an opportunity for our two churches to join together and establish one new independent church on the Eastside. We want to take the helpful things we learned from our years at Mars Hill and leave behind what was broken, ineffective, and ungodly. We believe the Eastside has room for another solid gospel church, that holds to a high view of the scriptures, supports the bold preaching of the gospel, reformed theology, missional mindset, and loving community. This could be one of the great redemptive works that God brings about from our current difficult circumstances. The elders want to enlist you to pray along with us that God “…may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified…” (2 Thess 1:11-12 ESV). We’ll be communicating our progress as quickly as we have new information.
We realize that others of you will perhaps be looking for a church closer to where you live. The elders want to help you and pray for you as you make those plans and decisions. We love you and want God’s best for you and your family.
In any event, we are hoping that we will remain together as a family until the end of the year. God has done great things in our lives individually and collectively. It makes sense that we take the time together to remember and celebrate his work in and through our church. We hope you’ll stick with us as we honor Jesus and encourage one another over the next 8 weeks.
Toward that end, we have decided that for the duration of the year we are going combine our services into one Sunday morning service at 10am. The heart behind this change is to give some additional time for you to connect and enjoy the relationships that God has built throughout our church family here in Sammamish. I look forward to seeing you and celebrating our Savior together with you in the weeks to come as we wait for what God has for us next.
With the affection of Jesus,
Pastor Alex

The building Sammamish is meeting in was given to Mars Hill by the former church owners. I wonder if they ever imagined that their building would help pay for severance pay for the executive elders of Mars Hill Church.

Mars Hill Ballard Building For Sale

Mars Hill Ballard is also for sale.

Earlier, I reported that Mars Hill Sammamish is on the market. The tweet above links to a listing for Mars Hill Ballard.
Tomorrow is the first day of the planned combination of Mars Hill University District (also for sale, although I have heard it sold), and Mars Hill Downtown with Mars Hill Ballard. They will be meeting in a building which is on the market.
The listing, like the Sammamish one, hopes for a buyer which will lease the building back to the church. The church clearly needs cash and is willing to give up assets in order to maintain the location. It may be that there are potential buyers who would prefer to own something for their money rather than simply donate it to Mars Hill Church.
The building is also on the market as a possible lease situation with another tenant using the building from Monday through Saturday.
According to the listing, Ballard has a new name — Ballard Big Box. In fact, none of the listings for Mars Hill properties have the church name on the listing.

Mars Hill Sammamish Building For Sale

Yesterday on this post, a commenter left a provocative message that I decided to investigate. First the comment:

You should know- They’ve already determined what the outcome of the charges assessment will be. Mark will be out of the pulpit for a longer period of time than what has already taken place, and he will be placed on a restoration/spiritual care plan. He will be rebuked lightly and publicly, but he will not be disqualified.
One additional piece of information that was sad to hear- Mars Hill has sold MHC Sammamish. They haven’t told the congregation yet, but they have decided to sell and close that church in an effort to save Bellevue.

I haven’t found out much about the first claim but I did learn something about the second one. Mars Hill Sammamish is listed for sale.
Initially I emailed Sammamish pastor Alex Ghioni and asked if he could confirm or deny the sale of the building. He forwarded the email to Justin Dean who emailed today to say:

Pastor Alex forwarded me your email. I can confirm the Sammamish church has not been sold.

However, it is listed for sale:
According to the listing (for more information on the building see this pdf), the current owner (Mars Hill) wants to continue to occupy the building for an unspecified length of time:

Sammamish Church 
Current church owner to lease back long term

In contrast to the statement of Justin Dean, a source in the church told me the building was sold without the knowledge of the Sammamish congregation. The listing agent Steve Pelluer declined to confirm either story.  At present, the official position of Mars Hill Church is that the building has not been sold.
Mars Hill Sammamish used to belong to Evergreen Christian Fellowship. The first service as Mars Hill Sammamish was January 15, 2012.
UPDATE: After I emailed Alex Ghioni to ask about the sale of the Sammamish building, he disclosed to the congregation that other plans were in the works for the building (see his City post here). Thanks to an anonymous commenter for providing the information.
UPDATE: Mars Hill Ballard is also for sale.