Update: Mars Hill Albequerque

picture-1Mars Hill church announced yesterday that its first out-of-state campus will be in Albequerque, New Mexico.

This summer, City on a Hill Church in Albuquerque will become a Mars Hill campus. We will partner together in an effort to reach as many people as possible with the gospel of Jesus. Over the past three months, the Executive Elders of Mars Hill and the pastors of City on a Hill have spent many hours in discussion, prayer, and study in order to reach this unanimous decision.

Hence, the debate about Mars Hill’s campus strategy will continue. This was a surprising revelation in light of the fact that City on a Hill is already an Acts 29 church, led by a very gifted and godly leader, David Bruskas. Dave and I have assessed church planters together, and he is a godly, mature, and masculine man I would be happy to follow and lead with. His transitioning of his church in this direction was certainly not a haphazard, rash, or convenient decision.

In a letter to fellow Acts 29 pastors, Bruskas explained the change this way:

We are convinced this partnership will allow us to do two things we couldn’t accomplish by remaining an independent church. First, we believe we will be able to introduce many more people to Jesus in our city through the proven air war and ground war of Mars Hill Church. Second, we anticipate the planting of many Acts 29 churches throughout our region by becoming a hub for gospel advancement. Our objective is to see 10 Acts 29 churches planted from the platform of what will become Mars Hill Church Albequerque… My conviction is that this new venture will benefit City on a Hill Church, Mars Hill Church, and the churches that comprise the Acts 29 Network.

What new thoughts does this development bring to the mix?


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  1. My only concerns on this are those of pragmatism. Yes, we are to be missional, yes, adventurous, yes, courageous for the gospel. At times, though, with Driscoll, that seems to veer over into pragmatism and doing “what will work best” for the Gospel.

    There’s obviously nothing inherently wrong with this, and Dave Bruskas is speaking in those same terms in his email as well.

    As stated on the last thread, Personally, I think we can trust MHC and A29 to plant campuses where needed and autonomous churches where needed. It is encouraging that they’re planning on planting churches out of this campus. I wonder if that is a strategy that will go with each campus.

    I wonder what this does to the job description of “campus pastor”? Is he now supposed to be a church planting scout for the surrounding areas as well? Just curious if this will be a new model, or if this is unique to Albequerque.

    Also, to reply to some of the posts on the other thread, . . . I think some of us are placing too high a premium on contexualization. Yes, there are many diverse cultures in our country, it’s amazing how different all church work is in Boulder, CO, than in Omaha, NE. It’s very different.

    But, most contexualization in American, in my opinion, is done by the right man for the job being himself. Mark D. is just being himself, and speaking about things that are going on in his life, and what he feels the Spirit is leading him to preach into his culture.

    I don’t see how that doesn’t transfer to Albequerque, or wherever. Also, it seems that they’ll be doing some more editing before they send out the messages now, so if there is a “Seattle-centric” section of his preaching (which I’ve rarely heard by the way), they could always take that out.


  2. You’ve never heard a seattle-centric section of his preaching? Are we listening to the same guy?

  3. I would add that contextualization starts way before the application section of the message is preached. The scripture, the timing and the big idea that undergirds each sermon should be significantly shaped by the particular people who will receive the message. I would argue that these particulars should look different even within the city of Omaha (i.e., affluent suburbanites v. Midtown hipsters v. South Omaha ethnic communities), much less across time zones.

    I am not arguing that contextualization concerns should trump the discussion here, but I am arguing that they should not be so easily dismissed.

  4. I am a little bummed about this. I have been listening to Dave’s podcasts and I think he is a great teacher. In a prior comment, I said that I thought the multi-site thing was beneficial because great church planters would plant churches in addition to the Mars Hill campuses. Double the Kingdom impact. But now, they are doing a merge strategy – merging two great pastors to HOPEFULLY have a 10-fold impact in the years to come. I guess we’ll see if pans out that way.

    Perhaps Dave, being more of a Prophet-preacher type (instead of King-leader) he is hoping to leverage the benefits of Mars Hill to do what he’s not good at. But its still confusing, because he won’t ever get to preach full-time. So, perhaps he is a Priest-pastor which means he might slip into a counselor/shepherd role.

    Either way, I trust their (Mars Hill Church and Dave) godly discernment in this matter over mine.

  5. So, if I understand all that “biblical leadership” jargon correctly, you believe it’s possible that Dave is trading his prophet-preacher card for a king-leader card and the draft rights to a priest-pastor card? Personally, I think he should have held out until Mars Hill Seattle also threw in a biblical-leadership-category to be named later. Something like a Patriarch-elder would have been fine.

  6. Bob,

    I guess a definition is in order there. . . I haven’t heard him very often giving announcements for certain events, or calling out gov’t. folks in Seattle, etc. . .

    mining the culture of Seattle for illustration and instruction. . yes, for sure. But, those are things that I think have an impact anywhere.

    Maybe I’ve missed something. . . .

  7. Bob and Clatterbuck,

    I’m not arguing against contexualization. I guess what I”m saying is. . . the fact that we all listen to Mark’s podcast in two different time zones and are impacted by it, show that he probably won’t have much trouble playing in Albequerque. 🙂 His podcast is listened to internationally with no campus pastor to explain anything afterwards, or anything like that.

    So, I think it’s a bit pretentious to think that Mark “can’t work in Dallas” or whatever. . . He already is, and it affective at it.

    We all need to be good at contexualization. Mark Driscoll is one of the best.


  8. I am curious about the Mars Hill churches that are starting.
    Is there a desire to be indigenous? Or self-supporting within so many years?
    Is Mars Hill funding the City on a Hill Church now?
    If so, are they hands on or off when that church decides staff, vision, etc?
    I am sure that the identity of the individual churches are remaining intact.

    Not too many people seem to be fans of big government, at least in Nebraska, and just a surface level look at Mars Hill global, seems to be similar. Will we be calling Driscoll a socialist or communist dictator anytime soon? Just kidding.
    I will have to spend more time looking at this before forming any conclusions good or bad. However, getting to listen to Driscoll every week can not be a bad thing.

    Will A29 be going to struggling A29 plants and offering this as a way to revitalize?
    Sorry for all the questions, but this is an intriguing idea with pros and cons on both sides.

  9. Aaron,

    I don’t think people are arguing that this franchise method isn’t going to work and I agree that Driscoll’s preaching has had a big impact on me here in Omaha.

    The simple point is this: I would not trade Bob for video Driscoll any day of the week. Not simply because I like Bob, but because he knows me, knows Omaha and knows the particular idols of the local culture I swim in. My hope that this new MHC venture aims at filling gaps and not creating very good situations where great ones already exist.

  10. Just to summarize, maybe somebody can help if I have this wrong. It looks like MHC is going to start picking strategic cities and setting up strategic centers. The goal is not to start mini-MHC but A29 plants from those centers. It would be great to hear more explanation from Bruskas, although obviously that is not owed to any of us. One big challenge here is the confusion that is going to come in defining what is MHC and A29. Does anybody else see this as an issue? It is confusing to me as someone not active in A29, why not give ownership/resources to A29? Kind of begs the question of whether there are leadership/vision differences.

  11. Jon, you are right on. Just got off the phone with Bruskas, can’t share much because it was a personal conversation between friends, not “on the record” for blogging. But I do get the sense that the strategy is to use campuses to establish strategic bases for church planting.

    Ah, Jon, you have yet to figure this out: there is no such thing as A29. A29 has no staff. A29 has no headquarters. A29 has no budget. A29 is a peer-to-peer network of like-minded churches and church planters. Every tangible asset A29 has (directors, websites, bootcamps, etc) is funded and hosted by MHC.

  12. Clatterbuck,

    What if you could have both?

    We have a campus at our church where the teaching is 50/50 live and video. Now, the MHC campuses will be 90% video, but the point remains. . .

    I think the multi-site strategy is a good one. I don’t think video preaching is hard on contexualization, or personal touch, because that goes on with the campus staff regardless. There are other problems I see with the multi-site format, but watching Mark Driscoll on the big screen is not one of them.

  13. Hey Bob, I just got off the walkie-talkie with JC, not Justin Curtis, Jesus…..and I can’t say verbatim what he told me, but it was something along the lines of……”every little thing…gonna be alright!”
    Not trying to kill the discussion, I just thought it was sweet how Bob dropped that.

    I also want to add that I think you guys are raising some good questions about contextualization, shepherding, future church planting, and discipling new leaders. One of the ways that I like to measure the “quality” of any emerging leader, is to look to some of the older leaders that have gone before and listen to what they are saying about guys like Mark. I know men like Piper, Mahaney, Keller, and many others have acknowledged and encouraged the wisdom and God-given spiritual giftings of Mark, and that goes a long way for me personally. And I know that doesn’t make him unable to make a bad decision, and that he’ll probably continue to fight against his self-admitted heart idols of pride and arrogance, but it’s encouraging to look around at the spiritual giants of our day and see that they love what God is doing through MHC and Mark Driscoll. And I wouldn’t doubt that he hasn’t tapped resources like such men as Piper who is now in his 10th year or so of seperate satellite campuses.

  14. Ah, so A29 is just a figment of my imagination. Like so many other things. But I already kind of knew that.

    Do you get what I’m saying though? So maybe it is all semantics, but why fly some things under the A29 banner and others not? Just confusing because I’m a little slow, that’s all.

  15. this new revelation begs another question: is taking churches that are already up and running and converting them to satellite churches not akin to shuffling the deck, as i believe is the analogy bob uses with regards to front door church plants that merely take disgruntled members from other churches?

    i will assume (especially because bob seems to respect him quite a bit) that david bruskus deeply cares for his congregation and his city. therefore, if he is making this decision i am sure that it is with their interest in mind.

    that said, nothing has changed in my issues with MHC’s goal of 100 church’s. this feeling is actually a bit stronger since it now seems to me that the count of growing churches appears (at least in this instance) to be more of an acquisition of sorts. don’t hear me saying that i think that MHC’s goal is acquisition and building a name for themselves. but it just seems, as i stated previously, to be a shuffling of a deck. am i misunderstanding it as such (fully acknowledging, of course, that more church plants can come of this move b/c bruskus is now freed up)?

  16. I still have mixed feelings on this change, especially since it is much more close to home for me than most of you. City on a Hill is my church when I go home to Albuquerque, and for me personally I am not excited to watch a sermon on the big screen instead of seeing a real live person get up and speak on Sunday morning. It’s definitely not that I don’t like Driscoll, I frequently download his podcast and listen to it. It’s not that I don’t trust Dave’s decision, because I agree with Bob that he is full of wisdom. It isn’t even the contextualization issue that many of you have brought up, I think most of us would agree that Driscoll is a solid teacher who can reach many audiences. For me, this comes down simply to the fact that I would much rather hear a sermon live and in person than on a screen.
    Another issue that I think might have been brought up already is that not everyone likes Driscoll’s style… I’m interested to see what will happen to COAH’s attendance once they make this switch. I know a couple of people who are planning on leaving the church once this change is made and returning to a different church which is much less gospel centered.
    Would it change anyone’s opinions on this if Coram Deo were the church switching over to be a MHC campus? I’m interested to hear how that would change people’s reactions and opinions.

  17. Paul, nice burn on Tyler :).

    Contextualization- can Mark speak effectively to the culture of Albequerque? Yes and no, imo. I think he will speak to the issues and hearts of those in A- just as much as those in Seattle, and just as much as Dave Bruskas would. Take Bob’s congregation- he’s got a mixed audience of Christians and pagans, intellectuals and non-, natives and immigrants, young and (okay, very few) old, etc. Does he speak directly to every person’s situation? Of course not. He proclaims and unpacks God’s word as effectively as he can in our common language (as does Mark). The application of God’s word to our lives is done in missional communities by leaders who know the stories, joys and struggles of those in the group, just like they do in Seattle and like they would in A-.

    Derrick- how is the mission of the church adversely affected by Driscoll on video? You and I would agree, I think, that spiritual life extends to contexts other than the pew on Sunday morning. Do you have any thoughts on how Dave shepherding his community in A- through personal relationships and the evangelism and discipleship that occurs within those relationships is hurt by Driscoll on video?

    One concern in my mind is that this encourages consumer Christianity. Can you see the congregation voting on who to watch that week- Driscoll, Keller, Piper or Carson? American Idol, preacher style!

    Also, is the ability to preach required of elders in 1 Tim 3 and/or Titus 1? They both say ‘teach’ (esv), but does that mean preach, from the pulpit? If so, how will the local elders in these campuses fulfill that requirement?

  18. lane,

    i’m not sure what you’re getting at with the question (perhaps you could pair your question with an assertion to help me out), and not quite sure if you are understanding me correctly (though probably of my own fault). though, i suspect we may actually be thinking along the lines, as evidenced by your comment on consumer christianity. because i tried to be clear that i am not at all criticizing this move from the perspective of the alb church. i’m skeptical of the MHC plan. i should add that this one acquisition, as i have called it, is not even whats problematic. i think it would be problematic if all of their satellite churches come in the form of taking assembled churches and converting them into satellite churches.

    thus, as i have stated, a pattern of moves such as this is what i find to be a bad strategy. i don’t necessarily think this one move is bad; i think the overall plan is bad. in fact, i don’t really have much interest in discussing the merits of this particular situation, but rather how this situation fits in with and reflects the plan of MHC. this is why i’m not grasping where you’re going with your questions. could you explain where they fit within the thrust of my critique?

    i am not saying “the mission of the church will be adversely affected by driscoll on video.” i am saying that the mission of the church (now speaking of the church on a more large scale level rather than a particular context) could be adversely affected by driscoll on 100 videos. it is as though you’re going on a walk and each step is thoroughly enjoyable, perhaps downhill and a bit leisurely, until 100 steps later you realize that you have gone in the wrong direction. whats worse is that now you have to backtrack, and this time you must take a difficult walk uphill. this is what i am saying: the plan as it stands could take us to a place that will make the future journey more difficult, handicapping (for a tertiary clarification of what i mean by handicapping see my post in the previous thread) future christians. does that help clarify?

  19. Paul,

    If you go back and listen to Justin Curtis’s last sermon, you’ll remember that his sermon talked about the three leadership roles that Jesus perfectly fulfills – Prophet, Priest, King. We, as spiritual leaders, usually lean towards one of the three. Therefore, we need to depend on other Christian leaders (usually local, but in this case not) for the advancement of the Kingdom. I think Dave may be trying to act in humility by depending on Driscoll to do something he’s not as good at so that it will free him up to do what he’s good at for the sake of the gospel.

    I wasn’t trying to disrespect Dave in any way by making him out to be some sort of monopoly player.

  20. Derrick,

    I asked for clarification because your comments describe this move as problematic and a bad trend, but don’t really say much about why. I went back and reread your comments, and pulled out these statements:

    “a new version of the same trend in christianity of going big and each person getting exactly what he wants out of a church on his own terms”

    “non-christians often don’t reject true christianity but rather the caricature that that is presented in pop culture”

    “is taking churches that are already up and running and converting them to satellite churches not akin to shuffling the deck, as i believe is the analogy bob uses with regards to front door church plants that merely take disgruntled members from other churches?”

    So your assertions seem to be:
    1. going big is not good
    2. consumerist christianity is not good
    3. both of these dynamics in the church turn off those outside the church
    4. this strategy doesn’t seem to result in new converts and real Kingdom growth, merely transplants

    Are those accurate?

  21. Lane,

    #2 & #3 are accurate. #1 is accurate depending on how you define big. if big refers to a large vision

    #4, however, i don’t believe is not fully accurate. yes, i do think there is some mere rearrangement going on, but i do think there will probably be real kingdom growth and new converts. as a side note: the question remains how much additional growth would occur that would not otherwise occur through church planting in the form of raising/training new leaders for church plants. there may be a growth phase (which is definitely a great thing), but i am merely raising a question that i, truthfully, don’t have the capacity or knowledge to answer, which is why i am trying to qualify what i am saying with something like “i fear that…” the question is this: is this strategy capitalizing on a short-term slam dunk (if indeed it is just that), while neglecting potential long term consequences that may or may not materialize? is this the and most well rounded way to grow the kingdom? to put it another way, is this a war strategy with no exit plan (the exit plan being, as i said previously, being weaned from the dvd and replaced with the more solid food that is live preaching)?

    a new idea: since i am starting to tire of how this is thoroughly sucking my study time dry, i propose a second installment of fbs presents topic of the deo (the first essentially just being a conversation about liberation theology with nate and i that spilled over to later include will and kendal as i recall).

  22. strike that 1st sentence i accidentally posted before i wrote the rest. what i was going to say was:

    Big is good in terms of vision, movement or with reference to the unity of churches. but big can have a lot of baggage (though there is certainly some good) with respect to the numbers of people dependent on one person. that is, i don’t think that chuches in converted arenas is the best thing to ever happen to christianity. that is to say “big” can be accomplished as it already is through a network of churches without the baggage of being under the umbrella of one church and effectively one man.

    …sorry about the omission.

  23. There were (and still are) many critics when Craig Groeshel and LifeChurch.tv launched into existence. Many in the evangelical world rejected and opposed this same concept. Has the church seen that this concept may have worth and is retracting their previous criticisms and is using all means to spread the gospel? Or are the same concerns and criticisms applicable here and/or do we look the other way because it’s Driscoll?

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