A fast-growing church in Seattle that's popular with the twentysomething crowd launched three new campuses on the same day.
Mars Hill Church drew hundreds of people to its new worship sites in Albuquerque, N.M.; Federal Way, Wash.; and at the University of Washington on Sunday.
The added sites bring the total to ten campuses for the more than 7,000-member church, which first went multi-site in 2006.
Mars Hill is just one of few churches willing to take the risk of launching multiple new campuses at once. Just south of Seattle in Vancouver, Wash., Living Hope Church started five new sites at the same time in 2006.
The church's lead pastor, John Bishop, likes to call it the "dangerous church" model.
"Dangerous churches should be the norm," Bishop told author Greg Ligon in A Multi-Site Church Road Trip. "Dangerous churches put everything on the line for the one thing that matters most: reaching lost people."
Mars Hill has taken on a similar ambitious approach, making no stops to make Jesus known.
Albuquerque campus pastor Dave Bruskas says they plan to launch five more Mars Hill churches in the Albuquerque/Sante Fe Metro area alone and also plant 25 additional churches.
"Our heart is to reach a city that will impact a region that hopefully will influence the world," Bruskas said in a video post on the church website.
The new campus in Albuquerque, which is located in the Lobo Theater a block away from the University of New Mexico, is the result of a partnership with City on a Hill. Founded in 2001, City on a Hill had an average attendance of 300 to 400 people, the majority of whom were 24-35 years of age. It was replanted as an Acts 29 church in 2007. Acts 29 is a network of church planters founded by Mars Hill founding and preaching pastor Mark Driscoll.
In a unanimous decision, leaders of both churches, including then City on a Hill lead pastor Bruskas, decided to partner in an effort to reach more people with the Gospel. The church officially became Mars Hill Church Albuquerque in July.
While Mars Hill has avidly embraced the multi-site approach, using satellite and internet technology to broadcast sermons to the different locations, the church has avoided the internet campus route.
According to Ligon of A Multi-Site Church Road Trip, around 35 churches have launched internet campuses and he predicts they'll become more accepted as legitimate in the coming years.
But rejecting the idea of an online campus, Driscoll said, "I believe technology is in no way a substitute for life-on-life, face-to-face, actual Christian community where the eight characteristics of the church are present," according to A Multi-Site Church Road Trip. The eight characteristics include regenerated church membership, rightly administered sacraments and the Great Commission to evangelize and make disciples.
"At best, we might call an internet campus a ministry of a church, but to call it a church is without theological merit," he said.