Mars Hill Now Calls Their Multiple Sites “Churches”

Today (August 8, 2011) Jamie Munson (Executive Pastor and President of Mars Hill Church) announced via blog post that Mars Hill Church

decided to put an end to the word “campus” in the Mars Hill Vocabulary.

What will they call their sites now?  Answer: “churches.”  Why the shift from using the word “campuses” to “churches”?  Answer: it’s “more biblical.”

Munson writes that

the Bible does give us a word to describe a body of believers gathered together on mission for Jesus: church.

Does this mean that Mars Hill has rejected the multi-site structure in favor of (what I would argue is) a more biblical church structure?  Answer: No.  Munson explains:

Though by definition we may be many different churches, the Mars Hill Network of churches remains a single, united church.

They’re different churches by definition, but remain a single church(?).  In other words, Mars Hill has recognized that it’s not biblical to call their multiple sites “campuses” (they’re more than that; they’re churches) but will still leave what they are now calling their multiple “churches” under one, unified church-governmental structure.  It’s still multi-site; only, now, it might be more accurate to call it multi-church.

It was only a matter of time before someone in the multi-site movement admitted that their multiple sites were actually multiple churches.  Props to Mars Hill for being the first (that I know of) to do this.  It’s honest.  But it’s also telling.  If Mars Hill is right, and multiple campuses are actually multiple churches, then we really are dealing with the age-old question of whether local churches are supposed to be autonomous or whether its okay for multiple churches to be governed by a hierarchy that functions at a higher level of authority than the local congregation itself.  It really is the old debate between Congregationalism (e.g., Baptists) and Connectionalism (e.g., Presbyterians).

In my opinion, this is the most significant development in the multi-site movement to date.  Will other multi-siters follow suit?  Time will tell.

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