Mars Hill Will Dissolve into ‘Individual, Self-governed Churches’

Each of the locations has an opportunity to become a new church

The Mars Hill Church is dissolving itself, with 13 remaining campuses of the troubled mega-church becoming “autonomous, self-governed entitles,” in dramatic news posted Friday on the church website by Lead Preaching Pastor Dave Bruskas. Mars Hill has been a centralized, top-down operation under Lead Pastor Mark Driscoll, who resigned earlier this month after an investigation sustained charges of “sinful” behavior. It has featured video-led teaching distributed to campuses in five states.

No more.

“This means that each of our locations has an opportunity to become a new church, rooted in the best of what Mars Hill has been in the past, and independently run by its own local elders,” Bruskas wrote.

The remaining congregations — Mars Hill closed three of its campuses earlier this month — will have a three-way choice. Each can become an independent, self-governed church.  They can merge with existing churches to form a new congregation. Or they can disband.

Mars Hill is “essentially disbanding” with Bruskas’ announcement, according to Warren Throckmorton, a Pennsylvania college professor who has recorded the mega church’s tribulations for Patheos. The shut-down Mars Hill congregation in Arizona has already reconstituted itself as the Phoenix Bible Church. Two laid-off Mars Hill pastors in Seattle have recently created a “Gospel-centered and grace-driven” Redemption Church in North Seattle.

The Bruskas letter outlined a transformation due to be in place by the beginning of 2015. It said:

–”All of Mars Hill’s existing church properties will either be sold or the loans on the individual properties will be assumed by the independent church.”  The lenders, of course, must agree.

–”All central staff will be compensated for their work and then released from their employment.”

–”If any funds remain after the winding down and satisfaction of Mars Hill business affairs, they will be gifted as seed money to the newly independent churches.”

–”The existing Mars Hill Church organization will be dissolved.”

The dissolution comes after an eight-month implosion of the 18-year old mega church, cofounded by Driscoll in a Seattle living room.

Mars Hill was dreaming big dreams last winter, raising $2 million for a planned “Jesus Festival” in August at Marymoor Park and another high profile “Resurgence Conference” with big-name preachers in October. Driscoll was slated to be keynote speaker at the annual Gateway Church Conference at a mega church in Dallas-Fort Worth.

The lead pastor first had to apologize for hiring a marketing firm RealSource Inc. to spike sales of a book “Real Marriage” coauthored with his wife, Grace, and get it onto The New York Times bestseller list.  The church paid for the consultant and bought thousands of copies of the book.

As well, Driscoll pledged to “reset my life” and cease making provocative statements on his Twitter account. Driscoll told the faithful that his “angry young prophet days are over to be replaced by a Bible-teaching spiritual father.”

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