Aquidneck Island Worship

a community that worships in spirit and truth

A Few Thoughts after visiting Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, MI

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending Rob Bell’s church, Mars Hill, in Grandville, MI.  For those who don’t know, Rob Bell is on the map, but not formally associated with (I think) the Emergent Church Movement, primarilly because of his Nooma vidio series which packages sermons in 11 minutes of beautifully constructed part-music video, part film short, part straight up face to face teaching.  I’ve only seen the first one so far (Rain) and it was terrific.  I will definitely collect more of them and use them for small groups.  But anyway, about the church.

Mars Hill in Grandville is a paradox.  They were given a mall, which is a dream come true to a post-modern church plant.  But what they did with it is the surprising thing.  I had google directions and was riding in a taxi to the church.  When we got there, we saw the mall but no signage anywhere.  It looked as if, apart from the cars outside, it may have been abandoned.  No advertising.  It wasn’t until I got out of the car and walked up to the front door that I noticed, in clear but unassuming text on the glass doors, “Mars Hill bible Church, South Entrance” and an arrow inward.  I came in through the back, about an hour before the second service.  I wanted to get the lay of the land and meet a few people – check out the merchandise.  After walking the length of the mall and noticing that all of the manaquin stalls were more or less windows into different children’s ministries, I popped over to the welcome table and get to know a few friendly people there.  I asked where the coffee and CDs were, the staples (I thought) of the postmodern church.  To my shock there was no “coffee ministry” or bookstore.  They did sell the Nooma DVDs and a few worship CDs (literally 3).  There were on sale for a couple bucks.  It suddenly dawned on me that I was in a mall with no commercialism.  It was as if Jesus had come through and kicked out the money lenders.  Oh yeah, and Rob Bell’s very popular book, Velvet Elvis, wasn’t for sale there either because most of his sales happen outside the church.  They told me that the church attendance was about 3500 and the weekly podcast footprint was about 35,000 – more or less a virtual church.  But lest i come on too strongly in favor of this anti-commercial vibe, I should say that I would have been blessed to have a good stiff cup of free coffee, as a newcomer.  It’s a social thing too, I think. 

The worship was great, but the congregation was surprisingly reserved.  For so many young people in casual clothing, I am accustomed to a lot more ruccous, clapping, hands in the air, etc.  There was some of that, but it seemed as if people were wary about creating an image of false enthusiasm.  Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but I, as a newcomer, felt a little subconscious to raise my hands (strange, right?).  Maybe that says more about me than about the church.

1 Comment»

  Mark wrote @

Did you also notice how they don’t ask for money during the services? In this age of commercial enterprises disguised as churches, I find that to be extraordinary!

Rob Bell gets it and not many others do.


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