Field Trip to Mars Hill: My Response

Recently Dan Borvan posted an essay on a visit to Mars Hill Downtown Seattle : A Field Trip to Mars Hill that deserved a more detailed response than I could give on a blog comment. I live in Federal Way, WA and am on the staff at Our Savior’s Baptist Church. I do not attend Mars Hill regularly but have visited the Ballard campus 2-4 times a year over the past 5 years. So my comments here are not meant to represent Mars Hill’s practices or beliefs but are more of a reflection from my own experiences borne out over several visits.

I frequently tell people my age (53) that if they visit Mars Hill they won’t like the music. It’s loud. It’s often unfamiliar although some of they lyrics might be. The musical style at Mars Hill is a reflection of the Seattle music scene. It’s very indie rock. I believe that it’s loud so that it has more of a concert feel where everyone sings but you don’t hear others (or even yourself) singing. Mars Hill’s emphasis on young men seems to fit here where many men either don’t like to sing or are self-conscious about their singing.  My reaction to the brief worship times at MHC have been pretty uniform. I weep. As I witness hundreds of young men and women singing (many do sing even if I can’t hear them) I am moved by the sincerity of their worship. I find myself weeping with joy for the future strength and vitality of the church.

In our many visits my wife and I have rarely been greeted by anyone that wasn’t a ‘host’ (greeter). That has never bothered me. The Ballard campus is huge. It’s a crowd. And I don’t exactly fit the target demographic! I’ve concluded that MHC is not trying to duplicate my suburban Sunday morning church experience with its stress on being family but rather uses Sunday to gather the crowd for worship and biblical teaching. Their stress on Community Groups is where people connect, serve, and function as family.

I have come to deeply appreciate the weekly worship response time following the message with more singing and the Lord’s Supper. At MHC they serve communion by having people walk forward to stations where people are holding the elements. You take a piece of bread, dip it in either a cup of juice or a cup of wine, and eat. Again, watching hundreds of people stream forward in an act of worship, reverence, and repentance moves me to my core. I find it extremely worshipful. I have visited other churches (Imago Dei) that practice weekly communion but have the elements at several tables.  Here people approach the tables and pause to pray. Some kneel. Families might approach together, pray together, and eat together. I very much prefer this intentional act of going forward to participate from the more passive feeling of passing trays through the rows. I do not find this style of serving the elements self-focused or detrimental to community.

I am grateful for the ministry of the Mars Hills and Imago Deis of our time and enjoy any opportunity I have to worship with them and to partake in the Lord’s Supper with them. They are my brothers and sisters in Christ. I love them. I learn from them. I pray for them.

4 thoughts on “Field Trip to Mars Hill: My Response

  1. Jesse Duckett

    Joe,

    I appreciate your write up. I think you touched on the areas that draw so many of our younger people to MHC. It’s strange how music turned up so loud allows so many to finally drop their personal walls (sometimes fortresses) and worship unabashedly.

    Jesse

    Reply
  2. secondchair Post author

    Thanks for your comment, Jesse. You’re right. When I’ve been to MHC people are worshiping because the music is loud, not in spite of it. This not to say that the music has to be loud in order to worship or that it is always loud at MHC. There are quieter songs where people also worship. My point is that we can’t just say: Loud music – BAD! Or even that my musical preference is better (or more spiritual) than yours

    Reply
  3. Steve

    It’s all about marketing. You throw some thing out there and if it “sticks” you go with it. Your statement, “Again, watching hundreds of people stream forward in an act of worship, reverence, and repentance moves me to my core” is of concern. I recall the Reverend Moon had a similar reaction with his followers. Were the MHC people worshiping or were they just following the crowd?

    Reply
  4. secondchair Post author

    Are you comparing the preaching of Mark Driscoll to Moon? If Jesus is being preached (and he is) then I trust the Holy Spirit to woo and convict people of their sin and need for a Savior. These are not glassy-eyed automatons responding to mush. MHC is as doctrinally sound as they come. No cultish false teaching there. And Driscoll’s leadership style is one that pushes back against the cult of leadership – unlike some more- traditional churches.

    Reply

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