SANTA ANA, Calif. – The Orange County version of Seattle-based megachurch Mars Hill has a new home in an unconventional setting, it was announced Sunday.
Although members of Mars Hill Church Orange County have been meeting at various locations on Saturday evenings since August, the church doesn’t officially launch until January.
This coming Saturday evening, Dead Man’s Party, an Oingo Boingo tribute band, plays at The Galaxy Theatre, a mostly punk rock concert hall in Santa Ana. On Sunday morning at 10 a.m., the somewhat crusty building becomes the site of Mars Hill Orange County’s first church service in its newly leased facility.
The fully operational concert venue will be the regular meeting place for the congregation on Sundays, the church’s pastor, Nick Bogardus, told The Christian Post. The theatre’s owner agreed to a shared-space lease with the church that now includes more than 200 regular attenders.
Bogardus, who is an Orange County native, is no stranger to The Galaxy Theatre. Before fully committing his life to Jesus, Bogardus ran a music management company whose bands often played at the theater. He also worked in the music industry with the theatre’s current owner, John Reiser, a respected Orange County businessman in the food and music business, he said.
Bogardus and his wife had been looking at church locations for quite some time and had earlier ruled out the Galaxy.
“I said no at first because of my background in the music industry. I'd been to The Galaxy and my last experience of it was it being in serious disrepair,” Bogardus said. “It's amazing what has happened since John Reiser took over the venue. He has made great improvements and has big plans for the room. We also have a great facility for children's ministry on the same property as The Galaxy.”
Mars Hill Church currently has 10 locations and has more than 10,000 people in attendance on Sundays. The Orange County church will be the third plant outside of Washington state. Albuquerque was planted last year. Plans call for Mars Hill Church Portland to open the same day in January.
Founding Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll is scheduled to give a sermon at the Orange County facility during the next Sunday service on Nov. 6.
Bogardus explained how Mars Hill services are given, which include watching Driscoll and other pastors on large video screens.
“Our preaching is a mix of Pastor Mark, me, and other Mars Hill pastors,” he said. “Pastor Mark preaches about 75 percent of the time, both live and by video, and I or other pastors preach 25 percent of the time, but what's the most important is that at Mars Hill, no matter who preaches you're going to hear the Gospel and about Jesus.”
Bogardus said the theater comes with challenges as well as unique benefits.
“Mars Hill is used to having church services in non-traditional venues. One of the church's earliest service locations was at The Paradox in Seattle, similar to Chain Reaction in Anaheim, only in a worse neighborhood,” he said.
“Most recently, the Mars Hill Church in downtown Seattle bought an old hip hop club famous for drugs and violence. They've had girls who used to dance in the go-go cages come to church there and meet Jesus in the same room. I look forward to the same things happening at The Galaxy.”
Bogardus, who served as the director of PR/Media Relations at Mars Hill in Seattle, explained that Driscoll is coming to the church to begin a new series for Mars Hill.
“He will be preaching about Jesus and we will be doing baptisms – right down where any other night of the week is usually a mosh pit,” he said. “I love that.”