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Our Story

Then and now, our story is one of passionate vision, God’s faithful direction, and the great generosity of others.

Jesus, Taco Bell, + a Big Rock

In the late 1990’s, our founding pastor, Rob Bell, was an assistant pastor at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Late one night at Taco Bell, he and his wife Kristen had an idea and a dream: the idea that church could be about desire, longing, and connection, and the dream that it be those things without fluff or hype piled on.

Along with some friends, they decided to give it a shot. Calvary gave their blessing, and the first Mars Hill Gatherings took place on February 7, 1999.

For the first year and a half, an extremely generous family from our community let their building be used for free. It had a triangle of windows on one outer wall and a big room we could meet in. [“The Hangar”, as the room became affectionately known, was so named because you could probably store airplanes there.] When it was becoming clear that The Hangar was bursting at its parachute seams on Sundays, another extremely generous family offered to give Mars Hill their mall.

So our community began gathering on Sundays in an old anchor store of the former Grand Village Mall, with kids rooms just down the hall from where the food court used to be. And we’ve been here ever since. But the Mars Hill story isn’t about buildings and it’s not about history. It’s about people. People hungry to live out the way of Jesus. People working to put flesh and blood on the resurrection now. It’s about people with ideas and dreams, and it’s about the raw mystery that brings them together to make a church.

No matter who you are and no matter where you’ve been, you are welcome to discover the way of Jesus as part of our community. Join us!

Where’d the name come from?

At a big rock in Greece, a place called Areopagus, the Apostle Paul explained the way of Jesus during a meeting of the leading religious and philosophical thinkers of his day: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth… he himself gives everyone life and breath… he is not far from any one of us.” [Acts 17v24-27] Areopagus translated into English is “Mars Hill.”

Associate pastor troy hatfield standing beside the stage with his guitar during a small gathering
What We Believe
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