Last month we decided to put an end to the word “campus” in the Mars Hill vocabulary. It’s been a long time coming, and now, with new locations in the works from Everett to Orange County, the timing is right to make the change.
During our June meeting, the Mars Hill Board of Directors agreed to replace “Mars Hill campuses” with “Mars Hill churches.” This is more than a shift in semantics. The adjustment is the product of a lot of discussion, study, and deliberation involving the entire Mars Hill eldership and experienced theologians like Gregg Allison and James MacDonald.
Referring to our locations as churches rather than campuses helps articulate our theology (what we believe about God and his Word), our ecclesiology (what we believe about church), our ministry, and our mission.
There are no “campuses” in Scripture
The word campus is not in the Bible. Not that it has to be. You won’t find podcast or MacBook in your concordance either (or Trinity, for that matter); that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop using these critical tools for ministry. But the Bible does give us a word to describe a body of believers gathered together on mission for Jesus: church.
In addition to being more biblical, it’s also more natural to describe our locations as churches (the term campus usually refers to academic institutions or offices) and more accurate, because every location is a church.
Every location is a church
Every Mars Hill church fulfills the biblical criteria for a church. In Vintage Church , Pastor Mark and Gerry Breshears review these criteria in great detail. Here’s a brief summary:
- The church is made up of regenerated believers in Jesus.
- The church is organized under qualified and competent leadership.
- The church regularly gathers to hear God’s Word rightly preached and to respond in worshipful ways.
- The church is where the biblical sacraments of baptism and Communion are performed regularly.
- The church is unified by God the Holy Spirit.
- The church is a holy people. When they sin, they repent of their sin. If [a professing Christian] should fail to repent, the church and its leaders lovingly enact biblical church discipline in hopes of bringing the sinner to repentance and to a reconciled relationship with God and his people.
- The church is a loving community that devotes itself to fellowship.
- The church is an evangelistic community where the gospel of Jesus is constantly made visible by its preaching, its witness of the members, and its Spirit-empowered life of love.
None of our churches embody all of these characteristics perfectly, but all of our churches can accurately be described as churches because these critical elements are present.
Ministry: united as one
Though by definition we may be many different churches, the Mars Hill Network of churches remains a single, united church. We share a common infrastructure, a common mission, common teaching, and a common belief that we can reach more people by working together rather than existing separately.
Mission: making disciples and planting churches
Planting new Mars Hill churches is not all that different than traditional church planting. A leader or team of leaders gathers a core group, finds a location, maintains operations, and shares the gospel with the surrounding community. Our plan is to continue to plant churches both in the traditional sense and within the Mars Hill Network. We consider both methods to be effective in fulfilling the mission God has for us.
Making the adjustment
The Shoreline campus, for example, is now Mars Hill Shoreline, or Mars Hill Church in Shoreline, or simply Mars Hill Church. And rather than campus pastor, Steve Tompkins is the lead pastor of Mars Hill Shoreline.
We’ve still got some updates to make to our websites, logos, and signage. And who knows how long until we get used to the new vocabulary in normal conversation. It will take some time for perception to catch up with reality. But regardless of what you name it, we’re calling all of Mars Hill to plant more churches of various types and in many contexts in order to make disciples of all nations.