Quest Church has purchased the building formerly known as Mars Hill Church. Full transparency: Here’s why and how.


Update: Quest is currently renovating our new space and will be hosting our first service in our new location on Sunday, September 13.

I have some big news to share – news that will likely solicit mixed emotions for many people.

If you’re an internet junkie, it’s possible that you may have already heard as I’ve been receiving my share of texts and tweets. About two weeks ago, Quest Church – the church I lead – purchased Mars Hill Church (Ballard). Yes, that Mars Hill Church.

Since then, there’s been a trickling of blogs, online news, and television reports that have covered this. As such, there’s also been a trickling of criticism of why we would do business with MH, questions about the transactions, and simply, erroneous info about Quest on the blogosphere.

No, Quest is not a social gospel church. No, I’m not a socialist. No, we’re not an emergent church. No, I’m not an Angry Asian (OK, only sometimes). No, Quest is not a cult. No, I was not in a boy band in the 80s. Blah blah blah.

Because Quest deeply values transparency and integrity, I thought it would be good to answer the most common questions we’ve received thus far. We have nothing to hide and would actually ask for your help to clarify any false information or rumors that you may hear. We share this because of the highly sensitive firestorm surrounding MH this past year. We share this because we covet your support and prayers.

First, the official press release:

Quest Church has purchased the building formerly known as Mars Hill Church. Here’s the official press release:

Quest Church, a local Seattle church, has purchased the approximately 40,000 square foot building formerly owned by Mars Hill Church in Ballard (1401 NW Leary Way). Quest Church plans to move into the space later this year. Until that time, Cross and Crown Church, the congregation that was once Mars Hill Ballard, is renting the property from Quest Church. [read full release]

How did Quest get started?

Minhee and I planted Quest in 2001. After moving on from a Korean-American church in the suburbs in Lynnwood and a tough season on food stamps, unemployment, and then numerous months working as a custodian at Barnes & Noble, we hosted anyone and everyone that might be interested in this vision of a new church called Quest on a Saturday evening in December 2000. Thankfully, five people showed up. Add Minhee, myself, our daughter, and our 2nd in Minhee’s tummy because all churchplanters know that you count anyone and everyone. So, that makes 9! This group eventually became a small group bible study that met on Thursday evenings. This small group eventually became a very small Sunday worship gathering that labored for numerous months until we launched our church on October 2001.

I’m not trying to be facetious. There’s nothing fancy about Quest. We’re an incredibly imperfect church seeking to live out the Gospel. The foundation of Quest is the Gospel of Christ. This is what shapes and informs how we try to live out our faith. What that looks like to us is a commitment to our five pillars of mission: soul, community, reconciliation, compassion and justice, and global presence.

How did Quest manage to pay for this building?

From the beginning, it’s been part of our DNA to live out our convictions of justice, mercy, and compassion. To be about the whole Gospel. It’s for these reasons we started a non-profit community cafe and music venue called Q Cafe; We invested in local food banks, other church plants, global initiatives, etc. We also birthed an advocacy and drop-in center for those struggling with homelessness in Seattle called The Bridge Care Center. And while One Day’s Wages isn’t part of Quest, it’s a humanitarian organization that my wife and I founded in 2009 and thus far, we’ve raised over $2.6 million dollars for those living in extreme poverty around the world and 100% of all of those donations (minus credit card fees) go directly to partnerships.

So, how did Quest purchase the MH property?

Well, if you search the internet, the terms of the transaction is already public. We purchased the building for $9 million dollars and no, we didn’t have $9 million lying around. This was doable because we sold our current church property (under contract) for $7 million dollars. This, in itself, is a separate post because there’s a significant component of both grieving and celebrating the history of our current space. There will be many tears for our community in the coming months as we make this transition.

Quest began with nothing but after numerous years of renting space from Interbay Covenant Church, they did the most incredible, incredulous, Kingdom minded thing by dying to themselves, and gifting their entire property and church to Quest. After three years of discussions, prayers, and more prayers, Interbay merged and joined with Quest in 2007. Their generosity and Kingdom vision made this possible.

How did this come about for Quest?

Quest has been looking to relocate for over three years. We’re not a large church but three years ago, we were struggling with space. Since then, we’ve actually doubled in size (nearly 1000). We scoured the entire city for the right property, in the right neighborhood, for the right budget. Result: Nothing. We scoured the area for leasing possibilities because we weren’t married to owning property. Result: Nothing.

Through this process, we had hoped to remain close to our current location since we had been here for nearly 14 years and built many relationships.

We hoped to remain close to our homeless advocacy center in Ballard.

We hoped for a much larger space. Our current building is about 15,000 square feet and we were looking for something as close to 40,000 square feet and within our budget. We were literally told by some real estate folks that it was “impossible”.

We had hoped to find a church building to ensure a smoother transition.

No one could have imagined the situation at MH turning out the way that it turned out. When we first heard that the building would be available on the market, we met with their team and they expressed their desire to sell to a church if possible. They received a total of 10 offers – 9 from developers with tenants in tow and one from Quest. We weren’t the highest offer but we offered flexible conditions. They were true to their word for which we are grateful.

This was more than we could have imagined. It’s only 1.2 miles from our current space; 40,000 square feet. We are closer to the Bridge Care Center, and while we’ll be doing a great deal of painting and rebranding, the facilities are in great shape. And, umm, there’s a Trader Joe’s right across the street.

How do you feel about Mars Hill Church?

There are lots of mixed emotions here so let me simply share couple thoughts. And let me ask for your grace in navigating a delicate issue – in a season where many in the MH community are still hurting.

Mark Driscoll and I go back a while. While we may not be close friends, I consider him a brother-in-Christ and our churches are literally neighbors. I first met him in 2000. He invited me to preach at MH and I did – way back when they were renting space at First Presbyterian Church of Seattle. Minhee and I weren’t at a church back then. We were lonely and isolated after moving on from our previous church to prepare to plant a church. It was a difficult season. When Minhee gave birth to our 2nd child, we had no community which is why it meant so much to us that Mark and his wife, Grace, prepared and delivered a home cook meal. OK, so it wasn’t Korean food but no one’s perfect. His wife, Grace, was so kind to us and I’ll never forget that. Mark later invited me to consider joining his staff and after a month of casual courtship and an intense two hour theological UFC thrown-down on the issue women in leadership at Red Robin (which I believe I won), we parted ways. That was fifteen years ago.

Since then, I’ve had mixed feelings. At times, rejoicing over their growth and stories after stories of lives changed. Other times, if I’m truly honest, jealous of their growth and impact. And then other times, cringing at some of the jagged words, social commentary, and rumors of wounded people. I publicly questioned Driscoll’s views about Ultimate Fighting Jesus and even wrote a review of his book, Real Marriage – for which I was taken to task by some mentors and well known pastors. Yes, I was a little immature back then.

But I never saw it coming. Who did?

I truly grieved over what transpired at MH – for their church, for those who have been hurt, for those who remained, for many on the staff who were laid off, and yes, even for Mark and especially, his family. Our churches have some significant theological differences but they remain our sisters and brothers in Christ.

No, I’m not suggesting a free pass. There’s no escaping the issues that came to light. Leaders must be held to a higher standard. Churches – because we don’t exist alone in a city but impact the standing of other churches in that same city – must do the hard work of self-examination.

The scrutiny and critique were warranted but there’s a fine line and it was incredibly painful to witness some folks reveling in the pain and demise of MH. The threats to his family? Unacceptable. People publicly disclosing his home address? Vicious.

I know that there are many who are still hurting. I have read and personally heard some of the stories of deep wounds and I hope for healing and restoration in their lives. I pray for healing for the Driscoll family. I pray that God does something in Mark – believing that God is not yet done with him.

How is Quest unique or different from MH?

While most Seattle churches know about Quest, many outside of Seattle have no idea who we are. While I’m not fully certain of all the inner workings of MH, here are some unique convictions about Quest – some of which could be said of MH.

  • Our vision — simple yet profound, mysterious yet plain — is to be the Church. Quest is the expression of a vision and dream of a church where truth is sought, mystery acknowledged, compassion and justice embodied, culture and arts engaged, creativity and innovation fostered, diversity and multi-ethnicity embraced, authenticity and community pursued, and sharing the love of Christ the great cause. We are a Gospel-centered church. By Gospel, we mean, the good news of Jesus Christ who came to demonstrate the love of God the Father, and who is at work around Seattle and the larger world through the presence of the Holy Spirit. By Gospel, we are speaking of a Jesus that ushered in the Kingdom of God. The Gospel not only saves and reconciles us to God, but also pursues and ushers the Kingdom of God – here in our city and around the world.
  • We are a church that support women in all levels of leadership. We currently have four women who are pastors in our church – 3 of whom are ordained and 1 in process. Gail is our Executive Pastor. Liz has a fancy spancy Ph.D in Ethics. Brenda has a Doctors of Ministry and is also a professor at Seattle Pacific University, and Katey was first a college student when she arrived at Quest 13 years ago and is an amazing leader that shepherds our Children & Family Ministry. They are all incredibly gifted and talented women who love Jesus and I am so privileged to serve with them. We’re also blessed to have two female lay elders on our team.
  • We are an urban, multiethnic, multigenerational church that is compelled to the ministry of reconciliation. Our staff is diverse and our congregation – while we have a long way to go – is one of the most diverse churches in Seattle.
  • We are a church deeply committed to transparency. While we are led by a board of elders, all of our meeting minutes are available to our church membership upon request. Our congregation receives a full financial report (quarterly and annually) and our membership must approve the annual budgets. Staff salaries are all published and made available to our membership. If you want, you could easily know my salary because it was written about in the New York Times.
  • We’re not an island to ourselves. We initially began as an independent church plant. In June 2001, Quest connected with a denomination called The Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). The ECC is made up of more than 800 congregations who resonate with a similar vision and mission. Currently, we receive financial, spiritual, and relational support and accountability from them.
  • We are a church that seeks to be wise in our leadership so as not to build our church around the personality of one person. It’s for this reason (among others) that we have many of our pastors teach from the pulpit although I serve as the primary teacher (about 65%). I also take a three month sabbatical every three years – not just for rest for my soul and my family but as a reminder to me and the church that the church is about the priesthood of believers.
  • We are a church that seeks to be known for what we are for, rather than what we are against. Yes, we have our convictions and at times, that may put us in tension with the larger culture but we want to be known not just for our beliefs but for the manner we engage our city with respect, grace, and love. We have no strategy to be glamorous, famous, spectacular, mega, or even relevant. Our most important calling is to be faithful.

How can I pray and support Quest?

Please join us in prayer. Pray for the transition. Pray for the next few months as we get ready. Pray for our new tenants, Cross and Crown Church. It has been a joy to work with them through this transition and we want to see their ministry flourish as well.

Pray for our ongoing but also new relationships with our new neighbors in our new space. We hope to officially move in by October 2015. And while MH has done good ministry that have deeply impacted thousands of people, there’s also ‘baggage’ and pain associated with that building. I’m not saying this to slam MH but to simply convey what has transpired through the media over the past year. We need prayer to navigate this transition.

Pray for our fundraising. We are taking a big step of faith. We will need to raise $2.5 over the next year to cover the difference between the transactions and cover move-in costs. If you’ve been blessed by the ministry of Quest or simply want to be a part of this, please let me know. You can email me here or visit Our Next Quest.

Through it all, pray that we can bear witness to the Gospel. Ministry in the context of Seattle and the Northwest – like all other parts of the country and world – have their unique challenges. Pray that we will truly take to heart the two great commandments to Love God and Love People. Pray that many will come to know, love, and serve Jesus.

And lastly, pray for humility and wisdom.
And then more humility. And more wisdom.

36 Replies to “Quest Church has purchased the building formerly known as Mars Hill Church. Full transparency: Here’s why and how.”

  1. I’ll be praying for you, your family & Quest, Eugene!… I appreciate your authenticity, humility, stand on empowering women and overall wholistic justice orthopraxy… oh, and your goofiness, too. I knew way back at that 1st Idea Camp that I was in the room with someone who had found favor and was going to do something kingdom big… Stand strong, keep it going!

  2. Eugene,
    I am celebrating with you and The Quest church. Thank you for sharing the news. I hope that this new building will provide even more space for people to know Christ.
    I appreciate your transparency as a pastor, leader, and brother-in-Christ. Truly, if I lived in Seattle, we would be attending Quest (shameless request for streaming in the new building???).
    Thank you so much for your continual support and affirmation of women in church leadership. It’s important for women today and for my daughter’s generation.
    Keep on leading!

  3. From far away (well, California), I don’t think I get what the tensions are. People are associating you with MH because you’re buying their building? I don’t get it. Anyway, blessings on the transition. I know it’s a lot of work.

  4. Eugene – While I struggle a bit with the whole women in leadership thing since Paul was so clear (I am not saying he was right – simply clear), I really appreciate your humility and transparency – and lack of a $1M annual compensation a la Mark Driscoll…. I look forward to making a donation to your church in the next few months. My best wishes in the process.

    1. Paul wasnt wrong, merely misunderstood. There are amny, many sound theological arguments for why pauls teachings on women do not apply to the current, modern church. And this can be arrived at without watering down nor compromising the Gospel.

  5. As a former long time MHer at Ballard, I’m thrilled to hear this property is going to you guys!! It’s bittersweet for me to see God’s hand in all of it (meeting your property needs/desires & the downfall of MH), but it makes me so happy to know that people will continue to worship Jesus in that building. Blessings to you and your church.

  6. Thanks for your leadership, friendship, vision and humor. The city of Seattle is becoming a better place through the work of your team and others similarly committed. While I was convinced Mars Hill has to end in to last iteration, and its leader removed, I am praying that Quest (and other area communities) will aid in the the healing in the years to come.

  7. Eugene – your passion and vision hasn’t wavered from the day we met. I’m humbled and thrilled to see where God has brought Quest, and continue to be blessed by the ministry of the church. I can’t wait to see what’s next! The Lord bless you and keep you…

  8. Eugene, deeply encouraged at how you’ve expressed the complexities of this purchase with honest and faith-filled poise. But I’m also celebrating with you guys! Peace.

  9. I believe that you are redeeming this building and restoring it to its purpose of honoring and serving Jesus Christ. As a woman, and a woman pastor at that, so much of Driscoll’s rhetoric was appalling to me — but maybe not as appalling as the support he got from so many other Christian leaders who were willing to look the other way, excuse his behavior and even support it, rather than support women as equal partners. Thank you, Eugene Cho & Quest family. I’d love to just thank and hug you in person!! But from many miles away I will content myself with asking that God richly bless you in your continued kingdom work.

  10. I wish to say that My daughter who was having a hard time while going thru a transitional stage in her spiritual life, she was looking for a church that had a heart for GODS people, that being said it was really hard to find that with out the political traps that are now in today’s churches. I for one was sadden to see how we as elders have let the younger generation down. She came to me and mention Quest church, and because two people she respect and liked were attending this church . She asked me to attend it and give her my thoughts . (Big order for a parent) I attended the Sunday service when they had changed locations on the second week . I was deeply moved by the overwhelming feeling of acceptance and compassion I felt !! The friends she knew greeted her with much love , one was AARON AND THE OTHER WAS BETH , these young peiople I had seen them when they were very young and to see that they were still out going and loving made my heart leap with joy!!After service my daughter was able to speak briefly with Pastor Cho himself and I watched on the sidelines, this young man had a humble and strong love for people of all races. I would like to say THANK YOU !! And my GODS Angels encamp all around you and the other leaders for showing the word in action!! She has found her church and I have my prayers for her answered!! From a grateful mothers heart Blessings

  11. I saw you this morning on the Martin Luther King Jr. tribute and I felt the need to look you up and learn more about you.The words you spoke were heart touching and heart warming, I so enjoyed listening to you and the words you spoke I do so hope that all Americans heard you because your words are truly inspirational and I hope will make all those who heard stand up and bring about change, change that is needed in all cultures, all races and religions, we all need to come together as one nation standing together no matter our color, nationality, religion or any other differences among us, we must stand together and in doing so do it with appreciation of one another’s difference’s. I thank you for your words and I only wish you were a pastor of a church here in Georgia. May God bless you, your family and your congregation. With lots of love and hoping for peace being sent your way. Lisa

  12. I too have come from out of churches that had more concern for the people who sat on the first row then in then showing true compassion for their fellow man or woman or child! My first visit to Quest church was on the second Sunday of their move to the new building , because I also knew some of the members and my daughter who refuse to attend another church until she could find one with true compassion not only in word , but deeds!! I watched from a distance as she approached Pastor Cho, he was so open and genuine that I then felt she had finally had found a church too attend!! I would like to thankPadtor Cho, Pastor Aaron Cho , And of course Beth for being true followers of CHRIST the feeling of welcome permeates the sanctuary !! I had a true WORSHIP with the Lord that day !! Blessings

  13. Thank you for the heartfelt, and thorough explanation of events. Thank you, Pastor Cho, for the powerful preaching at the Refresh conference at Overlake Christian Church, too! I pray for you, your wife and family, and for churches to unite and grow stronger, and most of all, for more to know Jesus!

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