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?
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|
|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|
|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|
|Crossroads Bible Church||Bellevue||2100|
|Crossroads Comm. Church||Vancouver||4000|
|East Lake Community Church||Bothell||4500|
|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 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|
|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|
Source: Hartford Institute for Religion Research