Guest / Limited Access /
Multi-Site Churches Go Interstate
John & Joseph Photography Inc.

Mars Hill Church is coming to town.

Pastor Mark Driscoll's megachurch recently announced plans to expand into Portland, Oregon, and Orange County, California, using multi-site campuses that feature live bands and a sermon piped in from the main campus in Seattle.

The move is part of a trend among megachurches to extend their brand of church to new communities, in hopes of reaching unchurched people with the gospel. But critics fear the out-of-state campuses turn churches into franchises like McDonald's or Starbucks.

The reason for the new campuses is simple, according to the Mars Hill website.

"Oregon needs Jesus Christ," claims the introduction of the new location. "The city of Portland is known for many things, but the gospel of Jesus is nowhere on the list."

Bob Hyatt, pastor of the Evergreen Community in Portland, agrees that people in his city need to hear about Jesus.

But he has some doubts about Mars Hill's method, which seems to him more like corporate expansion than church planting. "If you are a church planter in Portland, it's a bit like reading the notice that Wal-Mart is coming and you are the mom-and-pop store," he said.

Hyatt is also concerned about the long-term health of the out-of-state campus model. Rather than building up a local body of believers, he said, these campuses are dependent on having a celebrity pastor for their survival.

"It's not just an extreme example of the church-celebrity model," he said. "It's complete capitulation. It's enshrining that into the DNA of the church."

Mars Hill isn't the only megachurch to cross state lines.

Lifechurch.tv, based in Edmond, Oklahoma, has 14 campuses—10 ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this IssueSyria's Christians Back Assad
Subscriber Access Only Syria's Christians Back Assad
Church leaders say the embattled president should stay on.
RecommendedRussia's Newest Law: No Evangelizing Outside of Church
Russia's Newest Law: No Evangelizing Outside of Church
(UPDATE) Putin signs new restrictions that limit where and how Christians share the gospel.
TrendingBen-Hur
Ben-Hur
A new twist on the tale of the Christ.
Editor's PickA Lament for Louisiana After the Floods
A Lament for Louisiana After the Floods
As I grieve the tragedy in my home state, I’ve found solace in a surprising place.
Christianity Today
Multi-Site Churches Go Interstate
hide thisJuly July

In the Magazine

July 2011

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.