City Guide: Seattle

Matthew ThompsonBy Matthew ThompsonSeptember 18, 201930 Minutes

No city has it all, but Seattle comes awfully close. It’s easily one of the most beautiful places in the country, plush with majestic mountain ranges, picturesque views and beautiful lakes. A sunny day will give you 360 degree views of the Olympics, Mount Rainier and the Cascades. Coffee is a way of life for people here. Nowhere else will you find as many quality coffee shops than in the greater Seattle area. Throw in a booming economy coupled with a passionate Seahawks fan-base and it’s easy to see how the Seattle became the fastest growing city of the last decade. But for the nearly 300,000 people who have moved into the area since 2010, some have inevitably run up against the phenomenon called the “Seattle Freeze”. It’s notoriously difficult for transplants to make new friends and find their inner circle. Luckily, this wasn’t our experience. Despite having one of the lowest Christian populations in the U.S., an incredible group of churches have emerged that are changing the narrative. We found that when we moved to Seattle, these churches provided an opportunity for us to go deeper in relationships than we ever have before.

Be the church, reach the city

Over the last 7 years, Reach Church in Kirkland has grown like a wildfire. More and more people are discovering the church organically through word-of-mouth, due to the incredible culture they’ve created. At Reach, you won’t find a show or a community of perfectly put together people. Rather, you’ll discover a church that is wholeheartedly authentic and genuine, where people are open and honest about their own struggles.  They believe that God has a radical love for you. Whatever your current state is and whatever baggage you might bring, he still loves you. But he doesn’t want to leave you there. Reach is committed to making space for everyone to experience belonging, healing and purpose through Jesus Christ.

Reach is known for its strong foundation and diversity of values. They are committed to reflecting the fullness of the message that Jesus came to bring. This includes not only a strong belief that God still moves in supernatural ways (and that he will), but also that the Bible is true in content and the divine word of God. The leaders of the church go to great lengths to make you feel welcome. Lead pastor Brian McCormack not only loves his congregation and is incredibly personable, but he’s the same person off-the-stage as he is on-stage.  He has this rare ability to relate to a diverse group people in the room and meet them where they’re at, often acknowledging those who may be struggling with their beliefs or exploring Christianity. In doing so, he also encourages people to wrestle with hard questions. This not only sets the tone for a pressure-free environment, but it also makes it a safe place for everyone to be open without judgment.  In terms of teaching, Pastor Brian carefully and diligently explains Scripture by providing historical, grammatical and literary context. Reach often goes through the books of the Bible, but takes detours if they feel like God is speaking to them about something. Most recently, they did this for both the Mental Health and Please Come Home series.

Reach hosts a wide-range of events and gives you every opportunity to get involved. They have classes, one-time meet-ups and small groups that meet throughout the week in homes. This not only helps you build life-long friendships, but it will inspire you to go deeper in your faith.  One member said that Reach “truly understands the meaning of community”, while another said that they “really experienced what the body of Christ looks like living in real community”.

To live by faith, to be known by love, to live by hope

In April of 2019, the Los Angeles-based Mosaic planted a new local church in Downtown Seattle. Known for their innovative culture, Mosaic has been a leader in terms of framing the biblical message for this generation. They believe that relevance to culture is not optional. Across all locations, Mosaic has always been incredibly conscious to not create stumbling blocks for people that are new to their church. They’re sensitive to the potential triggers that people have due to off-putting church experiences in the past. This approach has really informed aspects of their culture and it’s helped remove all the barriers so people can experience Jesus freely. As a result, the church has become a magnet for millennials and young people.  In this story, Carolann shares her experience of what this culture is like for a newcomer and how this remarkably brought her from atheism to faith.

Sundays are filled with excitement and a bustling vibe that spills out onto the streets outside Mosaics new location, Gold Bar near South Lake Union. In a short period of time, the church has become known for being a passionate bunch. Beginning with their first Seattle event in October of 2018 and continuing through the early days of the church, they’ve established one of the most high-energy churches in Seattle.  They’ve also put together an awesome worship team, who leave everything out there to go after the Spirit of God, expecting he will meet them.

When it comes to the message, Mosaic Seattle features a combination of live preaching from campus pastor Lawrence Fudge and video streams from Pastor Erwin in Los Angeles. Erwin has a unique style of preaching that is incredibly thought-provoking and challenging. He has a deep understanding of the human soul and leverages that to show how scripture provides the answers to so many things we’re searching for in life.

Calling all prodigals to come on home

Over the years, Churchome has been incredibly influential and somewhat of a pioneer in changing the narrative in how Seattleites view church. Formerly named the City Church, their name change reflects the heart of who they are: that every woman, man, boy, girl -- every age would find a home in God. You’ll discover quickly that this is not a church that will cast down judgment to outsiders coming in the door. The doctrine of grace is a defining value for their church. Because of this, Churchome has been incredibly successful at helping newcomers and those exploring their faith have a true encounter with Jesus for the very first time.

In the early 2000s, Pastor Judah Smith started to develop quite a following amongst college students at the University of Washington. As a youth pastor in his early 20s, his high-energy preaching really caught on with young people. Full of charisma, he set out to address what college students were going through at the time and the things they cared about, pointing them to Jesus as the ultimate answer.  In 2009, Judah eventually took over as the lead pastor of Churchome and has brought that same energy to the entire church on Sundays. He has a gift for observing all the ways that we think and act, which will help you develop a better understanding of yourself. Typically Judah preaches out of the Kirkland location in the morning and his messages are then broadcasted through their other campuses in University District, Downtown Seattle and Bothell.

Churchome has also been a huge blessing to Seattle for those looking to find community. We know many people that got plugged in when they first moved to Seattle and it changed their entire experience in the best way.  On their app, you can search through over 150+ groups that meet during the week throughout the Seattle area. There is something for everyone - men’s groups, women, co-ed, young, old, married, newlyweds -- so you can find the right fit for you. In addition to this, Churchome has been very effective in cultivating community through the annual Six Week Journey. Every January, the church picks a book of the Bible to go through with the entire congregation, to which hundreds of small groups pop up to get together, bond, and review the teachings each week.

Over the years, Churchome has also played a big role in serving the city and addressing people’s needs. Embracing the true heart of Jesus, Churchome launched a program called Jesus Is, which sparked a number of volunteering projects all across the city. Since being renamed Uplift, Churchome has made these projects easily accessible through their app. Every month, there are opportunities to plug in and give back through helping people groups that are in need such as the homeless and women & children in transition.

Love God, Love People, Change the World

Another community that has been turning heads in Seattle is Mosaic Community Church (unrelated to the Mosaic above). Located in Green Lake, they have some of the nicest and most generous people in the entire city. From our time around the community, we were blown away by how committed they are to building the church and doing life together. Living out the generosity we see in Acts 2:42-47, their church has been able to spontaneously raise money for people in need and specific causes on a regular basis.  Most recently, their 300+ member community was able to pool together the funds to move out of their temporary space and into a permanent building which will be a blessing to the neighborhood in Green Lake. This type of generosity isn’t just inspiring from a financial standpoint, rather it shows the profound impact this church has made on people’s lives and an eagerness to build something together as a family. Many of the members also played a big role during construction and renovation.

Spaced out across Ballard, Bellevue, Greenwood and surrounding towns, Lifegroups offer people a chance to meet up for potluck dinners, worship, prayer and to serve the city. These small gatherings provide an opportunity to go deeper in authentic relationships than you ever have before. One member said that “the community aspect honestly saved my life”. Another commented that, “I was nervous because I knew absolutely NOTHING about God or church but I immediately felt loved and accepted by everyone I met and never felt ashamed for not having grown up in the church. People are so kind and genuine and never pressured me into believing things that I was hearing for the first time and really let God lead me in my walk with Him.”

One other aspect of Mosaic that really moved us was the worship culture. Not only can you feel the tangible hunger in the room, but you see people having genuine encounters with God.  The worship team often leaves plenty of room for the Holy Spirit to move. Sometimes this leads to extended, spontaneous worship. One person said of their experience, “I was moved to tears yesterday during worship to witness the body of Christ alive & vibrant and His word preached!

Deciding on your next church home

Being based in Seattle, we’ve spent plenty of time around all of these communities and they all bring something slightly different to the table. Each community is special and depending on where you’re at in your journey, you’ll have to decide which one is the best fit for you right now. Few people enjoy spending months church hopping, so our hope is that this city guide (coupled with our search platform) will help simplify your search experience. In our time in Seattle, we've been able to witness the life-changing transformation that so many people have undergone through these catalytic churches. Once you find your place, we highly encourage you to lean in and get as involved as possible in order to build deeper relationships and grow in your faith.

Browse churches in Seattle