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Mars Hill Albuquerque?

I’ve gotten so far behind in reading blogs that my Google Reader article count just says “TILT.” I got a few minutes a few days ago and found a month-old Linkathon from the BrianD blog [link] that mentioned that Mars Hill Church has opened a campus (their term, not mine) in Albuquerque [link, link].

I have mostly ignored Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill; I don’t think they’re doing anything special. They’ve surfaced twice in my reading: once in Andrew Beaujon’s book Body Piercing Saved My Life [link], and again in Lauren Sandler’s book Righteous [link]. For the record, I think Sandler asks better questions and gives better coverage of Mars Hill; Beaujon’s is the friendlier, more readable book.

Anyway, everything I’ve read about Driscoll/Mars Hill suggests to me that they’re a by-the-book megachurch with a Reformed sheen, and like most megachurches they’re personality-driven, and will probably face a terrible crisis when Driscoll dies or does something awful.  Please note: I’m not wishing anything evil on them (any more than I do say Crystal Cathedral), I’m just saying I think I’ve seen this movie before, and this is just the first reel.

I’ve read through the article at the second link above, the one BrianD actually linked to, and I can’t see anything in the justification for starting this new enterprise that doesn’t sound like management-speak larded with Christianese. What they’re actually doing at the Lobo Theater, in the Nob Hill neighborhood (not actually downtown, but east of UNM) three times each Sunday is watching the service from Seattle on a one-week delay. So this isn’t a church plant; Mars Hill, for all its use of language out of the Book of Acts, isn’t recognizing a calling for a young pastor and sending him out as a missionary. Instead this dynamic new leader will be a branch manager of a new franchise that isn’t just marketing the same message, but exactly the same words the folks at Seattle are hearing.

I’m not a fan of video campus churches generally; I think they tend to make the pastor of the home church less accountable to the people who attend the church in the  same way a radio or television ministry would have twenty-five or fifty years ago. They tend to weaken the church as a local church and make the preacher more of a media personality. I don’t understand why if the folks at Mars Hill thought so highly of Dave Bruskas and had such a burden for Albuquerque they didn’t sponsor him as a missionary.

And I can’t figure why they’d pick Albuquerque; it’s not like Albuquerque doesn’t already have its fair share of big impersonal churches and forward-thinking church-concept churches. It already has Calvary Albuquerque, Hoffmantown Church (formerly Hoffmantown Baptist), Sagebrush Community Church, Legacy Church, First Family, and a number of places with names so interchangeable I can’t remember them from the last time I saw them on a billboard on I-25. Rio Rancho already has an Orthodox Presbyterian church and Albuquerque has Redeemer (Reformed). I really do wonder what deep spiritual need Mars Hill thought was going unmet in the Albuquerque metro area that could be met most effectively by seeing Mark Driscoll once a week on a movie screen.

Regardless, simple curiosity demands I hie myself down to the Lobo Theater one Sunday morning soon and see what’s going on. I’m still open to the possibility that Mars Hill is the new wine and I’m an old wineskin, or whatever.

  1. October 31, 2010 at 9:49 am

    The church that became Mars Hill Albuquerque was previously known as City on a Hill.

    From my understanding, Mars Hill Seattle went to the church leadership and made their proposal for the church to become a Mars Hill Church campus. Dave Bruskas, the senior pastor, became a Mars Hill elder as well as the campus pastor.

    • October 31, 2010 at 2:52 pm

      That’s interesting. I wondered what had happened to the church that was already meeting at the Lobo Theater.

      Did either article mention City on a Hill and I just overlooked it?

      I guess in review this reminds me less of a company opening a branch office and more of a merger. I still think it’s strange for a church to go from having a live pastor to watching a video feed.

  2. BrianD
    November 2, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    We’ve covered it before in the Linkathon and it’s been discussed at Phoenix Preacher. I know the Mars Hill Church blog has done articles on the Albuquerque campus.

    You should go visit MHC ABQ (or whatever they call it). Talk with Bruskas.

    • November 2, 2010 at 9:42 pm

      Yeah, probably so. I’m trying to figure out how to work it in vs. visits to the Calvary Albuquerque video church in Santa Fe and a certain Reformed Baptist church in Phoenix.

  3. minimus
    November 3, 2010 at 8:31 am

    A girl at UNM just told someone from our church “I like going to Mars Hill because I had hide in the crowd and no one asks me about my life.”

    If that’s true, that is consistent with what I would expect from a video church.

  1. November 2, 2010 at 7:13 pm

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