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Why'd We First Put Up a Website? Well, Because We Got Robbed.
In one week in the late ’90s, Mars Hill was a young church, running a couple hundred people a Sunday when we got kicked out of the building we were renting and robbed of our only computer. As Pastor Mark tells it, below, we had no way to get a hold of anyone to tell people we'd moved, and no money or even equipment to print anything to announce it. That’s when a church member told Pastor Mark about this thing called the internet.
We got a notice on Monday saying, "You're kicked out, you're done." The building's been sold, and you gotta vacate the premises immediately. So I got my truck, showed up, we started loading everything up and started moving because we only had a few days to do so.
That meant that the following Sunday, we had nowhere to hold church. …
To be honest with you, I'm shocked that we actually survived because the next day, somebody broke into the church and stole our only computer. It had our entire database so we lost everybody's name, address, phone number. We had no way to notify people that we were moving. And so we moved and couldn't tell anyone.
Showed up to preach downtown and hardly anybody was there. It was one of the most discouraging times of my whole life.
"The worst seasons ended up becoming the most innovative, out of sheer necessity."
Some of the guys approached me … and said, "We need to do this thing called a website, then we can put all the church information on this thing called the internet. Then, when we get kicked out and we're homeless, people can find us because we just change that information." So they went ahead as a team of volunteers and architected and launched the first Mars Hill website and shortly thereafter started putting the sermons online. …
We got the church catalogs on how to buy the tape duplicators and the CD duplicators and it's like, "We can't afford that, we don't have the money." I mean, at that point, we didn't even have a photocopier. We couldn't even make photocopies.
If you have money, you don't have to innovate, you just purchase. That's why churches try to buy cool. "We don't have anybody cool, we'll just go out and hire somebody," and then everybody knows they're not cool because they were for hire.
One thing you'll continually be able to theme and thread together in the story of God's grace at Mars Hill Church, is that things would go very very wrong, very wrong, and then it would force a season of creativity and innovation and commitment and toughness, and then the church would do things differently than other churches and then the church would grow.
The worst seasons ended up becoming the most innovative, out of sheer necessity. When you're flat broke and on the brink of ceasing to exist, all of a sudden, in the grace of God, the Holy Spirit brings to you some creative people or some ideas or resources to do things in a way that other people perhaps haven't done it to that point. And then all of a sudden, it works and it opens up a whole new way of doing ministry, church planting, internet use, sermon delivery, media—all of it.
At right, the original animated gif from one of the first versions of the site, from May 1998.
This clip is a preview of the God’s Work, Our Witness Documentary, which will be shown in all Mars Hill Church services this Sunday, December 4. Find the location nearest you.The documentary gives a glimpse at the ups and downs of the early years of Mars Hill Church. It’s a story that includes didgeridoos during offering, tithing with one-dollar bills, and one really bizarre avant-garde Japanese concert—but more than any of that, it’s a story of how God was incredibly faithful to a group of people who had no idea what they were doing, except that they were committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to building and serving his church.
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