Seattle-based church finds potential refuge in Spokane

Controversial megachurch obtains location during months of financial challenges

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Seattle-based church finds potential refuge in Spokane

Mars Hill markets their potential location on Division Street.

Mars Hill markets their potential location on Division Street.

Photo by Nicole Ruse

Mars Hill markets their potential location on Division Street.

Photo by Nicole Ruse

Photo by Nicole Ruse

Mars Hill markets their potential location on Division Street.

By Nicole Ruse, Editor-in-Chief

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Mars Hill Church, a controversial multi-church group based in Seattle, is “planting” a church in Spokane after months of controversies, low membership and financial woes.

Membership is declining at numerous Mars Hill churches due to recent allegations toward the lead pastor, Mark Driscoll, who was accused multiple times of bullying members, lying and abusing power within the business side of Mars Hill, such as mismanaging church funds.

“Storm clouds seem to be whirling around me more than ever in recent months, and I have given much thought and sought much counsel as to why that is and what to do about it,” said Driscoll in a update posted on the Mars Hill website on August 24, 2014. “Some have challenged various aspects of my personality and leadership style, and while some of these challenges seem unfair, I have no problem admitting I am deserving of some of these criticisms based on my own past actions that I am sorry for.”

Mars Hill, founded in 1996 by Driscoll and Mike Gunn, began as a Bible study group committed to spreading the word of Jesus. The duo then saw a potential for growth in the mainstream and social media limelight.

Mars Hill Church has over 900 videos of church sermons and music videos on YouTube. Their top six videos alone total over 880,000 views, a feat uncommon among many mega church groups.

In addition to their online presence, they previously held sermons at Century Link Stadium in Seattle and opened churches from Portland, Oregon to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Tens of thousands of members attend their Sunday services in person, as well as online – maintaining their presence in the United States, as well as globally via the Internet.

At the end of August, leaders at Mars Hill announced that attendance and church donations are plummeting, forcing them to close numerous churches in Seattle and cut their staff by as much as 40 percent.

At Mars Hill Church in Spokane, however, pre-planning stages are in full swing.

Pastor Miles Rohde of Mars Hill Spokane said that since last fall, Mars Hill has been working toward building a core group of Christians to launch the church.

“Currently we have just over 120 adults, and their nearly 40 children who make up our core group,” said Rohde in an email. “We spent the entire summer going through membership classes, Community Group leader training and providing training for various volunteer positions we need to fill prior to launching as Mars Hill Spokane.”

Pastor Rob Bryceson of First Covenant Church in downtown Spokane decided to auction off their church building on Division Street in 2013 due to financial issues. Bryceson confirmed in a phone interview that Mars Hill church offered to purchase the building in a lease to agreement in October 2013.

According to an article in the Inlander, Bryceson said the church was going to sell its building to Mars Hill Church for $1.25 million.

When asked for confirmation of the amount, Bryceson refused to comment, saying it was “private information.” Rohde did not comment on the figure by deadline.

Correction: Mars Hill was founded by Mark Driscoll, Mike Gunn and Lief Moi.