So, we took the whole fam on a western swing to Moab, UT, the Grand Canyon, and Albequerque to visit a campus of Mars Hill Church.
MHC is in Seattle, WA, but they've been planting campuses, ( I think there's 7 in the Seattle area) and now they have one in New Mexico as well.
First off, let me just say that these guys are studs to be doing ministry in a very challenging, economically depressed, hurting area. You could really feel that, being at the church, that there's alot of pain in that area. . . I commend the Pastors for leaving more comfortable positions (some in Seattle) to come and minister to a hurting people. At some level, all Pastors are doing that, but some areas are harder than others, to be sure.
This church meets at the Lobo Theatre in the University District in Albequerque. They had a great setup, with some challenges, like the kid's ministry was in a different building than the church gathering, and a former concert venue does not give itself to all the trappings of a church.
This church was very friendly. My wife has told the story on her blog about how helpful the men in leadership were to her and my family (I was parking the car). They really did the welcoming/connection/visitor thing very, very well.
MHA is usually a video campus. They show Mark Driscoll from Seattle (1 week later) for the sermon time, while having a very strong local pastoral leadership that leads the people throughout the service, and runs classes throughout the week, etc. . . .I"m going to avoid the discussion on this kind of church leadership set up (perhaps another time) and just say that the local guys were very present and inviting, and in charge. No one seemed to waiting to take their cues from Mark Driscoll. . .the people sit under his preaching. . . . and the local guys flesh that out.
My critique for MHA, any church campus, or church emulating another church, etc. . . Is that I felt like the speaker that day was trying to emulate Mark Driscoll. The video was not shown that day (I think Mark was on vacation) and a leader from their church was preaching. To be fair, it wasn't their campus pastor, he was teaching at a different church (ironic?) that day. But this guy was a young leader who preached the Word faithfully that morning.
The problem with trying to emulate another speaker though, is that frankly, you can't. This guy wasn't plagarising or copying verbal ticks or anything. . . but he spoke for an hour, opened with alot of history on the scripture passage, and ended with 5 or 6 points of application. For those of you who don't know, this is how Pastor Mark teaches. It takes a certain kind of speaker to be able to hold attention for an hour, (Pastor Mark doesn't even always do it for me), and if you can't. . you shouldn't try.
These guys are really strong leaders, operating in a hard area, plowing hard soil for the Gospel. I have a ton of respect for them and what they're doing. I would just say, that when the preaching is live, and Pastor Mark is not being shown on video, these guys should be themselves and change up the service, do different things, etc. . . use their gifts.
I really don't want this series of blogs to turn into church evaluations. . . . that is a regrettable part of American church life, and I don't want to propagate a spirit of evaluation among us as brothers and sisters.
So, hopefully my thoughts on these churches can be understood as "things we can learn, and yes, appreciate in our local body".
My lessons from this church: #1 The ministry is suffering. There's no minstry of the gospel without a certain level of suffering and entering into someone else's broken life, (as Jesus did for all of us) And I"m not just talking about church staff when I say that. It's true for all of us, where God has placed us. Thanks to the MHA guys for fleshing that out. #2 Be Yourself. God has given each of us gifts for Him to use for His glory.