You see, just down the street is another giant church with bright, gorgeous signage out front. If you're going on purpose to whatever church that was, it's clear when you've arrived! There's no mistaking it. Mars Hill on the other hand... well... we pulled in the parking lot, and as any fool can see, it was clear we were there when we saw their sign:
After figuring out we were at the right place, we thought maybe they forgot to put their name in the giant white nothingness next to the green circle thing -- don't you just hate it when you convert a mall to a church building and absent-mindedly space small details like your name on four giant signs outside? But no, it seems intentional. There on the door, in teeny, tiny, white letters is the name "Mars Hill Bible Church"!
Which starkly contrasts with virtually every church in the area (which, as an aside, is totally intentional of Mars Hill, if you ask me. It's a response to the icky in-your-face evangelical culture in which many of us grew up and were disenchanted by). The inside had a similar vibe. A lone table with free bagels (sliced into quarters... smart) & coffee. Muted colors everywhere. Meticulously designed interior with wall art, sitting areas, lounge, and sculptures. They pulled off an amazing balance of welcoming guests without the appearance of trying too hard.
They have something like 3,000 active members, which does not include visitors and regular attenders who haven't signed up as official members. So clearly, like, it's working for them. Mars Hill gave me something to think about - what if hospitality is more about the environment we create? As demonstrated in this awesome vid:
I learn so much from comedy! But here's what hits me. Being hospitable, on Mars Hill terms at least, is paradoxical. In giving people ample freedom to come and go as they wish, they feel welcome. It's intentional yet subtle. It happens in the way we design our buildings and parking lots, and also in our body language, word choices, and presentation. To be sure, part of this seems contextual - it probably depends on where you are in the country. Welcoming people in Grand Rapids is different than Seattle. But my sense is that more and more people, everywhere, want to be welcomed without knowing they're being welcomed. But that's me - what do you think?