Dear Mars Hill,
The Jensen family has some big news! If you don’t know our story, Amy and I met in high school in Jacksonville, Florida. Amy was a brand new Christian, and I didn’t know Jesus yet. Shortly after we met, Jesus saved me. While Amy and I were in college together, Jesus called me into ministry and to pursue starting a church someday. After graduation, we moved to Seattle and I began interning for the Acts 29 network. During that time, Pastor Mark asked me to start a college ministry at the University of Washington. Miraculously, in just a few short years, God made Amy and me parents, made me a pastor, took a small Bible study and turned it into a church of hundreds, and gave us an epic building in the heart of the University District. Trust me, it hasn’t all been roses, but God has been amazingly faithful and gracious!
Now here’s the big news: Amy and I believe Jesus is calling us back to Florida to plant another church. Three weeks ago, after much counsel and prayer, we discussed this with Pastor Mark and the other executive elders. Their response has been nothing but gracious. We could not have asked for more than we’re getting right now, and we are so grateful for the generosity of Mars Hill. It’s very clear that the executive elders have done everything in their power to make sure Amy and I know we are welcome at Mars Hill. There has not been any pressure to leave, only invitations to stay as long as God would have us here.
At this point, what is most overwhelming for us is the people we are leaving. Seattle has become home to us. Mars Hill has become our family, and leaving family is hard. An unpaid internship turned into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be personally invested in by some of the best men I’ve ever met. I thank God for them and their unending patience with me—I am by no means the easiest guy to lead! Knowing they are in our corner means more to me than any other support we will get on this new adventure.
Thankfully, none of this news has taken Jesus by surprise. He has been preparing the right family to take our place. My friend Pastor Justin Holcomb will be taking over as the lead pastor of Mars Hill Church U-District starting May 20. He and his wife, Lindsey, and their two girls are already a part of Mars Hill U-District and are such a blessing to this church. I could not be more excited, as Pastor Justin is the right man for the job and a significant upgrade for the U-District church. He has the right experience and gifting to lead the church to another level of fruitfulness in the future. He has already led a massive college ministry, been a professor at the University of Virginia, and crafted the leadership development pipeline for all of Mars Hill Church. He also oversees the Resurgence (Re:Train, Resurgence books, theresurgence.com, and conferences). Pastor Justin and Lindsey co-authored Rid of My Disgrace for victims of abuse. They are a very gifted family. Amy and I believe God has been preparing the church for significant growth and change as he has brought some of the best leaders to the U-District team. By God’s grace, the church is in a very healthy place for a transition like this. We very much look forward to seeing what his Spirit will do.
May 20 will be our last Sunday at Mars Hill. Shortly thereafter, Amy, Knox, and I will be moving back to Jacksonville where we will be close to family. We plan to stay there for several weeks as we scout and pray through which city in the Southeast we will plant in.
I’d like to close with a passage from 2 Corinthians 2 that has been extremely helpful for us. In it, Paul speaks of leaving an open ministry opportunity because his spirit is not at rest. Then he thanks God that, wherever he goes, Jesus is leading him and he can be fruitful anywhere. We’re trusting Jesus as we leave this open ministry opportunity. We can’t wait to see what he is going to do, both here in Seattle and wherever we land next.
When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia. But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
It’s all about Jesus,
Pastor Matt, Amy, and Knox Jensen