North Church is considered a brand new church to many, yet the congregation may go further back than people may realize. Some individuals who consider North Church their home have been together for over 15 years under four different names meeting in four different locations. Others have come together very recently. The name North was adopted in January 2015. Our history is, well, complex.
North Church began as Midtown Fellowship on April 9. 1999. Heights Cumberland Presbyterian Church sent a group of 32 adults,16 children and two brave youths into the heart of Albuquerque to make disciples in the heart of the city. The group first met in a building which was formerly was used by the Social Security Administration. The small group expanded during that first year and moved to a storefront at 1319 San Pedro NE.
Within a year, the leadership of Heights Cumberland Presbyterian released the satellite gathering to constitute Midtown Fellowship as its own independent church in April 2000.
A New Name in an Old Theater
Midtown Fellowship moved from the Fairgrounds Area to Nob Hill in 2003. The name of the church was changed to City on a Hill. The very first service of the newly-titled church was celebrated in the historic Lobo Theater on March 28, 2003. With a hint of foreshadowing, this first service was delayed by protests located outside on Central Avenue in response to the new war in Iraq. Our church would grow up in the context of the cultural, political and social changes taking place in our city.
A Network to Join
With a dream to start more churches, City on a Hill applied for and received acceptance into the Acts 29 Network in July 2007. Acts 29 - a diverse, global family of church-planting churches characterized by theological clarity, cultural engagement and missional innovation. New relationships between churches across the country were formed. n particular, City on a Hill became acquainted with Mars Hill Church in Seattle.
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times
Mars Hill Church invited City on a Hill to become her very first out-of-state campus in late 2008. After much prayer and deliberation, the elders of City on a Hill unanimously agreed to become Mars Hill Albuquerque. City on a Hill was legally dissolved and became Mars Hill Albuquerque on July 1, 2009.
The first year as Mars Hill Albuquerque was transitional and bittersweet. Some long-time members left for other churches as new people came. New staff joined the church while others departed. Overall, it seemed as if the church were stuck in a state of equilibrium. As new people entered the front door of the church, they passed those on their way out.
Shortly after, the church stabilized then began to grow rapidly. Within a 30-month period, over 600 people were baptized. New leaders were developed, new Community Groups launched and new services were added. Before long, we outgrew the Lobo Theater and began to look for a new home. We were fortunate enough to find one near the busiest intersection in the state of New Mexico.
Mars Hill Albuquerque moved to our current location at 4700 San Mateo NE in November of 2011. The church continued to grow rapidly, but hardship and heartache loomed just around the corner.
Beginning in November 2013 and persisting for nearly an entire year, Mars Hill Church was engulfed in conflict and controversy. This season culminated when an internal investigation revealed that preaching pastor Mark Driscoll had acted in arrogance, responded to conflict with anger and harsh speech and led the church in a domineering manner. Mark Driscoll voluntarily resigned from Mars Hill Church on October 14, 2014. Mars Hill Church dissolved on December 31, 2014.
The Mars Hill Campus leadership teams were encouraged to consider some options: Become an independent church, merge with another church or network or disband. The leaders of Mars Hill Church Albuquerque made the decision to become an independent church moving forward, currently known as North Church.
Back to the Future
North Church launched publicly on Sunday, January 4, 2015. Many changes from the past are evident. There is a new vision, new mission, new values and some new leaders. Our new ByLaws are available here. There is also a desire for more change. The North Church pastors realize that they too had led at times in a harsh, arrogant and domineering manner while serving Mars Hill Albuquerque. They wish to be transformed into leaders who are humble, gentle and serving. Some things haven’t changed though: We worship Jesus. We do life together in smaller communities. And we love Albuquerque.