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Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

January 12, 2013 at 6:47 AM

Mars Hill’s grand opening downtown: ‘Thank God for TiVo’

Mars Hill’s new home (Photo: Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons)

Seems like everyone in Seattle will be glued to the TV Sunday morning for the Seahawks-Falcons playoff game in Atlanta. Well, not quite everyone.  There’s a concurrent event that, for some Seattleites, takes precedence over a football game — even a playoff.

Tomorrow morning, Mars Hill Church will be celebrating the grand opening of its new location in the historic First United Methodist Church building in downtown Seattle.  As Mars Hill posted on a Facebook page created for the event, “Thank God for TiVo and DVR.” The Hawks can wait.

The beautiful old building on Fifth Avenue and Marion Street is prominent real estate for such a young church (Mars Hill was founded in 1996). But then again, in a short span of time, Mars Hill has become one of the largest Protestant churches in the country, with around 14,000 people attending weekly services at its 14 locations.

Mars Hill, like virtually all megachurches, is more than just big; it also adheres to a conservative theology. For example, Mars Hill does not allow gay people as members, and it emphasizes traditional gender roles for women. That might seem at odds with the culture of liberal Seattle. Indeed, the majority of megachurches — over 70 percent — are located in the more conservative southern half of the United States.  So how does a megachurch like Mars Hill thrive here in the Northwest, one of the most secular and progressive areas of the country?

[do action=”mega”][/do]

Sources: Hartford Institute for Religion Research and U.S. Census Bureau


What’s surprising is that Mars Hill is hardly alone in Washington. Take a look at the interactive map above. It is color-coded to illustrate the number of megachurches per capita for each state.  As you can see on the map, Washington has the highest ratio of megachurches per one million population outside the South, and ranks 8th among the 50 states.

If you’re thinking all of Washington’s megachurches must be in more conservative areas east of the Cascades, you’d be wrong. The great majority are in King County and Western Washington.  In fact, the Seattle metropolitan area has one of the largest concentrations of megachurches in the United States, according to a 2010 article in the Journal of Cultural Geography.  You can take a look at the table below to see where all of Washington’s megachurches are located.

Why do you think conservative megachurches have flourished in the mostly liberal and secular Seattle area?  Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.


The table below lists Washington’s megachurches, where they are located, and the typical attendance. Each column is sortable by clicking on the heading.


Antioch Bible Church Remond 3500
Bethany Community Church Seattle 1800
Bethel Church Richland 2400
Calvary Chapel Spokane 2600
Calvary Comm. Church Sumner 3000
Calvary Fellowship Church Mountlake Terrace 1900
Canyon Hills Comm. Church Bothell 2100
Cascade Community Church Monroe 2000
Centro Cristiano Ministries Manson 2000
Champions Centre Tacoma 5500
Christ Memorial Church Poulsbo 2000
Christ the King Community Church Bellingham 4000
Christ the King Community Church Burlington 17000
Christian Faith Center Seattle 8000
Church For All Nations Tacoma 2000
Church of Living Water Olympia 2100
Cornwall Church Bellingham 2300
Crossroads Bible Church Bellevue 2100
Crossroads Comm. Church Vancouver 4000
East Lake Community Church Bothell 4500
Eastridge Church Issaquah 1900
Eastside Foursquare Church Bothell 2300
First Presbyterian Church Spokane 2500
First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue Bellevue 2203
Gold Creek Community Church Mill Creek 2389
Grace Community Church Auburn 2000
Life Center Tacoma 4811
Life Center Foursque Spokane 4500
Lighthouse Christian Center Puyallup 1800
Living Hope Church Vancouver 5200
Mars Hill Church Seattle 13109
Mount Zion Baptist Church Seattle 2500
New Heights Church Vancouver 4000
New Life Church at Renton Renton 2733
New Life Fellowship Comm. Church Everett 2700
New Life Fellowship Comm. Church of Seattle Bothell 3000
NewLife Church Silverdale 2500
North County Christ the King Comm. Church Lynden 1950
Northwest Church Federal Way 1800
Nortshore Baptist Church Kirkland 2400
Overlake Christian Church Redmond 3000
Puyallup Foursquare Church Puyallup 3500
River of Life Fellowship Kent 2000
Saint John Baptist Church Tacoma 2000
Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church Seattle 1800
The City Church Kirkland 6300
University Presbyterian Church Seattle 3869
Walla Walla Seventh Day Adventist Church Walla Walla 1800
Washington Cathedral Redmond 2000
Westgate Chapel Edmonds 2000
Westminster Chapel Bellevue 3000

Source: Hartford Institute for Religion Research

Comments | More in Demographics | Topics: religion


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