from Pastor Thomas Hurst:
We’re Still in Core Group Phase
As we walk down the path God has laid out for us, we want to share with you a bit of a paradigm shift: Bellevue is now in “core group” phase.
Exactly what Hurst means by "Core Group Phase" is impossible to know but what it cannot possibly mean is that the Mars Hill presence at Bellevue is less than roughly six years old.
Pastor A. J. Hamilton wrote the following about Mars Hill in Bellevue:
Bellevue was an A29 church plant which then converted to a MHC campus and exploded in attendance. We then sent their campus pastor out to plant another church in San Diego and an existing A29 planter took the role. It is no wonder that Bellevue has aggressive church- and campus-planting strategies that other campus leadership teams look to for best practices.
Then there's Mark Driscoll's sales pitch for why Jesus loves church mergers and you should, too:
Mars Hill Bellevue
In the mid-2000s, a Mars Hill elder planted church on the Eastside of the greater Seattle area called The Vine. This plant was led by a Mars Hill pastor at the time, Jesse Winkler. The Vine started with a small core group from Mars Hill and eventually grew to be somewhere between 100 to 200 people.
Many people from that area were still driving into Seattle to attend Mars Hill in Ballard, and the number of people grew so large that we decided to consider planting a church east of Seattle. We met with Winkler and asked him if he wanted to continue as an independent church with us planting another one far enough away from his church so as to not drain his people, or if he wanted to become a Mars Hill Church. He took some time to fast and pray, seeking God’s will, and was convinced God was asking him to partner with Mars Hill to lead one church made up of people from The Vine and Mars Hill. The Vine church became Mars Hill Eastside in 2008, which eventually became Mars Hill Bellevue.
After the merger, the church saw immediate growth, going from 200 people to over 500 people almost overnight. Some Sundays, men were asked to stand outside in the wet and cold of Seattle to listen via speaker because we couldn't fit everyone into the small funeral home in which the church met for the multiple services. Since then, there has been much fruit, as Mars Hill Downtown Bellevue just moved into a new building in the heart of Downtown Bellevue and is seeing over 2,000 people worship Jesus and serve the surrounding community, hundreds of which are a result of new Christians who met Jesus and were baptized at Mars Hill Bellevue.
Additionally, Mars Hill Bellevue, along with some other Acts 29 churches, helped fund Westview Church in San Diego, California, with Pastor Jesse spearheading that plant. And the church has sent a core group of a couple hundred over to our newest location, Mars Hill Sammamish (which I’ll talk about later in this post).
So what's in the link?
The Bellevue church started four years ago, after merging with The Vine in a Redmond funeral home. It was a quiet launch, but it was only a few weeks before the church outgrew its space. Three years ago it moved into a remodeled gym at Eastside Christian School, near Bellevue College, but the group has been in pursuit of a more permanent situation since. Pastors discovered the John Danz building about two years ago. The church overcame a number of obstacles, including raising $2 million dollars to renovate the space, before its grand opening yesterday.
In the '70s and '80s, the Danz building played home to one of the biggest four movie theaters in the area. In the past 10 years, its served as a Good Guys and an Underhill's furniture store. It now has a new purpose. Pastor Mark Driscoll was so moved by what is going on in Bellevue, he committed to preaching a couple evening services a month at the new location. "This is a fantastic place," he said, spectating the growth. "I feel like I'm a kite, and God's a hurricane."
And while we're at it here's a post published September 2, 2010.
Jesse Winkler is planting Westview Church | www.westviewchurch.com
Jesse planted The Vine church in Seattle, Washington in 2005. In 2009 The Vine was adopted as one of the sites of Mars Hill Church and God put a calling on Jesse to move back down to Southern California and plant a church in Rancho Penasquitos of North County San Diego. Jesse is married, has four children and has been a guest speaker at The Resolved Church a number of times. Currently Pastor Duane is serving as one of Jesse’s virtual elders until he is able to find and develop qualified elders. Jesse is currently having soft launch vision and core group gatherings and is officially launching in November 2010. Here’s a word from Jesse about it:
But somehow after roughly eight years of Mars Hill having some kind of leadership presence in Bellevue through Acts 29 partnership and later assimilation ... Thomas Hurst says that Mars Hill Bellevue is currently in "core group phase". Does the core group phase last eight years?
Is this Pastor Thomas Hurst the same Thomas James Hurst who took the cover photo for Mark Driscoll's Confessions of a Reformission Rev? Because if so Hurst has been in a position for the last eight years to know that Mars Hill has had a presence on the Eastside that goes back long enough that today's Mars Hill Bellevue can't realistically be said to be in "core group phase" now by any stretch of the imagination. Eight years is a long time to just be in "core group phase" and Driscoll's reference to how well Bellevue was doing earlier this year suggests that Driscoll himself didn't consider MH Bellevue in core group phase when he said about Mars Hill "We're not a wealthy church" or when he told us about how Jesus loves church mergers and you should, too.