Why did Mars Hill Church come to Albuquerque?
It certainly isn't because it made sense. It's over 1,400 miles away from Seattle. It’s the wrong time zone. It's not even a state connected to Washington to ease logistics. Most people in Albuquerque hadn't even heard about Mars Hill or the Resurgence
. It wasn't necessarily a captive or high-demand audience.
But the Spirit of God seemed to be moving, and we try to go where the Spirit of God is going.
"Pastor Dave is a Barnabas for how much he encouraged them. … When you see a guy of this caliber, you try to get him on your team. You see them as an asset to the work of the gospel."
We had known Pastor Dave for a long time, and anybody that knew Pastor Dave absolutely loved him. Pastor Dave was already an Acts 29
pastor. He had spoken
at Boot Camps
. Any time someone spent time with him, it was to their own benefit and edification. You could always tell where Pastor Dave was in a Boot Camp or conference because there would be ten to 15 young guys around him asking questions. They sponged off him the wisdom of God. He is a Barnabas
for how much he encouraged them. I think I had an hour total of conversations with him and absolutely respected him and looked forward to talking with him in the future.
When you see a guy of this caliber
, you try to get them on your team. You see them as an asset to the work of the gospel. That was why we had him in Acts 29. When looking at the holes we had in staffing and ministry, Pastor Dave could fill any of those holes very well. He would be a huge addition to the team. This was a guy we wanted on our team.
So we made him the offer to be a MH campus pastor, he took it back to his team of elders. Through much discussion and prayer they agreed that this was the right move. They saw the moving of the Holy Spirit and saw that Pastor Mark's preaching abilities were going to resonate with New Mexicans. He's got the background and the ability to speak to them as if he's one of them.
The road ahead wasn’t easy though. Seattle is one of the worst places to launch anything nationally. We had to work through all the difficult logistics of how to work across time zones. Do we do a Saturday service? Do we try to stream it live? But if we do it live, the earliest we could do a service in New Mexico would be 10 am. But if we got into Texas later, the earliest would be 11 am, and the East Coast would be a noon service. So that wasn't going to work. So we really had to work through logistics and settled on a week delay. So then we had to determine if all of Seattle was going to be on a week delay or just New Mexico. Then there was the website and supplies and training and administration and insurance and myriad of things we had to address before could get started.
But it was perfectly clear that we were supposed to be here through the Spirit's prompting, the elders at City on a Hill, the respect and admiration we had for Pastor Dave, and the general understanding that God was moving us out of state.
"There is a lot more fear, superstition, oppression here. It's a dark place. I think Seattle’s dark. Maybe the whole world is dark, but Albuquerque seems to have more palpable presence of evil."
In hindsight, we can see that God was moving because of what we've seen. We've grown from 275 regular attendees when we launched one year ago to over 550 a few weeks ago. We've also baptized
56 people this year, and just since July, we've had 24 baptisms
and countless testimonies of lives changed
. Even before I came down here, the campus was going through the summaries of the Doctrine series
– super-truncated sermons on very large theological ideas to assist everyone becoming members, and Pastor Dave told me people were getting saved every week.
Being the first out-of-state campus makes the Albuquerque campus different in several ways. The people here are actively friendly. You don't get a lot of that in Seattle. This is not the dark clothes, the indie rock, and the head bobbing for worship you hear Pastor Mark talk about. Yet in Albuquerque, it's not like that. People on the street will say "hi" to you and they're not asking for anything; they're genuinely pleasant. There is sunshine. So there is a general connection to enjoying the beauty of God's creation because you can see it outside of cloud-light. Albuquerque is totally diverse: There are Native Americans, Hispanics, Whites, Asians, African Americans. The city is extremely diverse socio-economically as well and all of this is represented within the campus.
The enemy also seems to work differently here in Albuquerque. I felt that in Seattle, Satan's work was more of an Angel of light; there he seduced with sex, prosperity, and general affluence.
Here, he seems to be more of the roaring lion that Peter talks about
. He's walking the streets seeking whom he will devour. There is a lot more fear here. There is a lot more superstition. There's a lot more oppression– outright blatant oppression. It's a dark place. I think Seattle’s dark. Maybe the whole world is dark, but Albuquerque seems to have more palpable presence of evil. I see that it comes from the Native American cultures having fear and shame as a driving force in their beliefs, a lot of it stemming from the domination of the Conquistadores
and the presence of the Catholic church. There is just a lot of fear, and it comes from our enemy. I didn't experience that in Seattle the last 10 years. Not like I did this last year in Albuquerque.
"The sun is shining, it is gorgeous outside, and people are … not just coming to church, they're coming to church and meeting Jesus. They're inviting their friends and family.
There is a lot of God’s grace here, too. In Albuquerque there is a real appetite for community and membership. As I talk to church leaders, they want to see a Mars Hill in their neighborhood. They want to see community groups expanded into their areas. They want to see connectivity between themselves and other churchgoers at Mars Hill. They serve the community well.
Mars Hill Albuquerque grows in the summer. We have never experienced that in Seattle. The sun is shining, it is gorgeous outside, and people are coming to church. And they’re not just coming to church, they're coming to church and meeting Jesus. They're inviting their friends and family. Every single Sunday this summer, I had to see at least a dozen new faces. We have barely been here a year, and we're growing.
students have come back in the fall and have adopted the 7 pm service as their own. We've gone from about 70 to 80 people at that service to upwards of 130. It is not just the numbers that have grown, but the connectivity has grown. They love one another. They serve one another. They pray for one another.
I've gotten to anoint people with oil, who people in the church come forward saying they're sick and asking their elders to anoint them
. I see a deeper expression of worship.
I didn’t believe it would happen when I first got here, but the Spirit was moving powerfully, and people were getting saved. God's goodness shows that we came at the right time. It's incredible.
Pastor AJ is in charge of operations at the Albuquerque campus. He first joined MHC staff almost a decade ago and was Pastor Mark's assistant at one time. Later, he became a pastor in the Preaching & Theology department before moving to the Albuquerque campus. For more from Pastor AJ, you can watch his testimony and read his writings for the Resurgence.