Thinking About The Ethics Of Multi-Site

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94 Responses

  1. Jim says:

    I’ve made fun of multi-sites here before, but I’m really not comfortable with the author giving himself permission to assign motive.

  2. I don’t do this often, but I agree with Jim. 🙂

    I just don’t see this as an ethics issue … not that i don’t like to beat them like a candy stuffed Pinata, but I think the view may be a bit extreme. (Imagine that coming from me.)

  3. Perhaps the ethics problem is on the pewsters.

  4. Michael says:

    Obviously, I’m in agreement with the article…but I also believe that the ethical issue in the pews is as great.

  5. Jim says:

    C’mon MLD,

    You know that you agree with me 90% of the time, but where’s the fun in that? 🙂

  6. Nonnie says:

    I don’t see a problem with a “brand” (denomination/movement) locating in different places. A big church sending out a a ministry team to start a church in a place where a church is needed. That is what church planting is all about.

    What I cannot get my head around is a new “church” opening up that is basically an internet broadcast of the celebrity pastor that everyone comes to see. led pastor/master of ceremonies to keep things moving. That, I just don’t understand.

  7. Jim says:

    Michael,

    Is it fair or right to judge the hearts with such certainty of every pastor who does multi-site?

    I say we have no right to do so.

  8. Michael says:

    Jim,

    I don’t think either the author or myself would assign bad motives in every case.
    I would say that in the majority of cases, motives are definitely mixed.

  9. Steve Wright says:

    One cannot expand their holdings without eventually encroaching on others that are less able to maintain or further their own ministry.When we take from others to satisfy our unnecessary desire, we carry out a great injustice.
    ———————————————————–
    This is a huge error and a fatal flaw if being used as foundational to the belief against multi-sites.

    I see this same mindset expressed in economic issues constantly by some, and it is just as wrong there too.

    We do not have a pie of fixed size that we seek to divide. We can grow a larger and larger pie without anyone losing part of their slice as we do so.

  10. Jim says:

    The author seems very confident is his ability to identify motives. Sorry, big red flag for me.

  11. Michael says:

    Steve,

    I think you’re dead wrong.
    In most communities the pie is only so large and is already sliced pretty thin.

  12. Bob says:

    Not sure how I feel about these sites.

    On one hand there is nothing wrong with expanding the places where people can hear the words of God.

    On the other hand why aren’t these brilliant teachers making and sending disciples to do the work?

    Best I can say.

    Oh, I’m sure there’s some jealousy lurking somewhere in my depths. Let’s be real with ourselves.

  13. Reuben says:

    Steve,

    You are flipping things around, applying conservative economics to the church is out there…

  14. covered says:

    I agree, Steve you seem to be taking the position of Walmart in that there’s a need and doing the right thing is filling that need. I disagree with that idea as the size of the pie is the same only the size of the slices get smaller.

    What’s difficult is when the motive seems so greedy like in our young friend in the Bay Area who’s dripping with pride and ambition vs. guys like fyi who appears to genuinely care and who seems to care about God’s people.

  15. Steve Wright says:

    You guys find me the community with 100% Christian faith, AND most importantly 100% commitment and satisfaction with their local churches and ministry and then we can talk about shrinking pies.

    That argument that I take issue with is an argument about church planting for a denomination in the general sense, not just multi-site video.

    Like MLD says, his Lutherans don’t care of there are 1000 churches in a city, if there is not a Lutheran church then they will plant one.

    When someone expresses an opinion with “one cannot” then that is a pretty broad stroke

  16. Steve Wright says:

    Conservative economics??? How about just economics. Some of you are so bent on labels that you pigeon-hole arguments (and those who make them) rather than study the issue as a whole.

    The possibility of a growing economy is now simply a conservative idea???? Good grief.

    Like I said, and I’m not even into multi-site, the ARGUMENT here is bogus. You don’t steal from other churches. The people are the Lord’s sheep and He leads them.

  17. Nonnie says:

    Does anyone think there is a need for another CC in OC? I’m always amazed when I hear about a new one starting up. I know there are parts of the country where there are no CC’s. I know there are places all over the world where there are no CC’s and here in the UK there are communities asking for a CC pastor to plant a church. But Orange County still needs more?

  18. covered says:

    If jc (small letters signifying jon courson not to be confused with the real JC:)), decided to go multi site in this neck of the woods, there are many good churches that would fold. One of the first to go would be someone from the same tribe who hates how “his” sheep will drive over 80 miles to see and hear little jc. I will admit that the fascination with little jc has always amazed me.

  19. Ixtlan says:

    @9
    There is a limit to the size of the pie. I would think that you might find some issues of your own if a multi-site moved in down the street. We can talk all we want in an idealistic fashion about “winning our community” to Christ, but the reality is most churches are growing from people either moving into the area, or transferring from another church.

    @10
    I don’t see this as assigning motives so much as asking some legitimate questions. If I can overlay my own experience into this discussion, I have to at least question what is driving the establishment of a multi-site church in areas that are already saturated with churches.

    If we are really serious about spreading the gospel, is there much if any consideration toward assisting churches that are already established in a community rather than trying to reinvent the wheel?

    And speaking of motives, weren’t you doing some work reagarding SGM, or do I have you confused with someone else?

  20. Xenia says:

    I more or less agree with the essayist, although I too would hate to assign evil motives in all cases. It would hard not to use the word “ambitious,” though.

    It sounds like social Darwinism to me, may the most efficient/coolest/richest church win and may the rest fade away into obscurity, a well-deserved obscurity according to some of these men.

  21. covered says:

    Ixtlan, who is your last question on motives directed to?

  22. Ixtlan says:

    that was in response to #10, Jim.

  23. Michael says:

    “It sounds like social Darwinism to me, may the most efficient/coolest/richest church win and may the rest fade away into obscurity, a well-deserved obscurity according to some of these men.”

    Exactly…combined with the capitalistic mantra of letting the market decide who is offering a better product.

  24. covered says:

    I’m kind of leaning toward Xenia’s direction. Where I came from in OC there are many CC’s yet I have two friends who just opened shop within 5 miles of each other one opened in the same small city where another CC has been established for years. Sort of like eating their own…

  25. Xenia says:

    A few things to consider when evaluating a church. Does most of the effort go into broadcasting / promoting the pastor? Is a lot of money spent of getting his voice on the radio and his face on the TV screen, either broadcast television or on the screen of some satellite “church?” If you look at the church’s website or the pastor’s blog, is it all about him? How many photos of him can you count on the homepage? When asked to give a history of the church, does he give his own biography instead?

  26. Ixtlan says:

    Xenia has struck gold. Survival of the fittest is by definition unjust.

  27. Jim says:

    Ixtlan,

    I made it my goal in life to reform SGM, due to their practices. I don’t know the motives of their leaders.

  28. Jim says:

    Ixtlan,

    If I sinned (I did) in my war against SGM, does that forever disqualify me from saying that something is sin?

  29. Ixtlan says:

    Thanks Jim. Why are/were you involved in the reform of a church organization? Isn’t it a matter of ethics, justice and injustice? I don’t see an assignment of motive in this post, but like your work with SGM, it identifies areas that should be considered for reforming.

    Sometimes unethical actions, which is an injustice, is perpetrated by those because of their ignorance. That is giving some the benefit of the doubt as ill will in ecclesiastical matters are very hard to prove.

  30. Ixtlan says:

    BTW, Jim (are posts 28-29 crossed), I’m not looking to disqualify your voice here. I see many parallels to your work and Michael’s. The common thread that I am reading here is there are some serious issues with ethics in the church.

  31. Andrew says:

    For all those saying the writer of the article is assigning motive, I think you forgot that who ever it is who wrote the article, he/she is putting himself/herself into the equation and using the inclusive term “We” when assigning this motive. Is it possible that this person would know more about his/her motive than anyone else here? Maybe not everyone has this motive but you can pretty much count that at least some do.

  32. Steve Wright says:

    I would think that you might find some issues of your own if a multi-site moved in down the street.
    ———————————————
    I am surrounded by mega Calvarys and also had a celebrity start a new work this year 2 miles from our church. (He has since moved to a neighboring town).

    I really doubt the people who go to our church would trade it for watching Greg on a video screen (especially when they can watch the real thing not too far away)- and if they did, God bless them.

  33. Steve Wright says:

    I have never expressed strong support for multi-site. But the title of this article is the ETHICS and that opens a different discussion.

    How about the ethics of radio? We have a local radio show, but local for us means a potential audience of a few million listeners on this station (not to mention whoever listens over the internet). I just want to share the word with as many people as might want to listen. But yeah, at the end of the program we encourage anyone in the area to come and visit us.

    Selective outrage is not pretty, nor is hypocrisy. How can I speak against the “ethics” of multi-site?

    Or put another way, do those of you who agree with the article condemn our ethics as well and if not, why?

  34. Solomon Rodriguez says:

    “Steve,

    I think you’re dead wrong.
    In most communities the pie is only so large and is already sliced pretty thin.”

    Yup it’s called Oversaturation

  35. Andrew says:

    How about the ethics of radio?
    _____________________________________________________________________

    Maybe this is a topic for another discussion but I think when you see Christian brothers suing each other over the rights of broadcasting stations and satellite networks, I think if you pull the bed covers out and take a look, you would probably find some greed, etc…Just my humble opinion..

  36. Ixtlan says:

    @33
    I see your point, however, I think there are some different ethics that should guide both radio ministry and planting a multi-site.

    Years ago I used to listen to this guy teach on the radio. He did not ask for money, he did not invite people to his church, he simply aired his teaching and left it at that. To me, that looks like a pastor who had the right motive and was willing to stay within rather strict guidelines. The church was Calvary Chapel Vista and the pastor at that time was Brian Brodersen. Come to think of it, I don’t recall The Word For Today doing any promoting either, but it has been so long since I’ve listened.

    As to your last question, why don’t you narrow it down some if you really want a thoughtful answer.

  37. Steve Wright says:

    So inviting people to visit your church at the end of a local radio program is unethical? Yes or no.

  38. Steve Wright says:

    As an aside, you do realize that if you even mention your church’s name in the program you are doing a form of advertising, right?

    Like all those stadium billboards don’t say BUY coke. They just have the name of the product out there. Product placement, name recognition and branding.

    If you “simply” aired the teaching for the sole benefit of radio listeners at that time of day, then why even mention the name of the church and pastor?

  39. Speaking of radio, anyone who listens to the Jesus Christ Show on KFI Sunday mornings might take note that there is a one minute interjection called “the Ah Ha moment” just a short ‘homily”

    That is my pastor – somehow, someone put the producer in touch with him to do 13 segments. I think it was something they were going to rotate around to other pastors. Well, for now it looks like he has the role for the indefinite future.

    He does mention our church, doesn’t ask for money – how much can you do in a minute? But we have had quite a bit of phone and email contact.

    Anyway, I think it just proves that Jesus is a Lutheran. 🙂

  40. Solomon Rodriguez says:

    “Maybe this is a topic for another discussion but I think when you see Christian brothers suing each other over the rights of broadcasting stations and satellite networks, I think if you pull the bed covers out and take a look, you would probably find some greed, etc…Just my humble opinion..”

    More than some Greed, how about lots of it!!!

  41. Steve Wright says:

    To be clear, we don’t ask for money. I do welcome people to email me with a comment or question. However, I have received more comments from Youtube and just our church’s website’s archive of teachings than I ever knowingly have from the radio.

    And for those wondering..the radio is very cheap and far less than what we use for helps our missions each month.

  42. I understand what Steve says about increasing the pie – however new churches don’t seem to get that concept.Like getting new folks to become Christians and growing your church that way.

    I mentioned last week Joe Sobolok (however you spell his name) new church. I don’t know if it was the one Steve is talking about – but it is in Lake Elsinore. My point was why do they bring in the big named singers each week? Well, it’s not to attract the unsaved – they don’t know who Bryan Duncan or Two or More are. No, it is to build there own church from the other churches. “wow, let’s go hear the cool singers – we only have Maude singing at our church.

  43. Bob Sweat says:

    MLD

    I used to listen to the Jesus Christ Show during my time in Yorba Linda. It’s syndicated now, so we can listen up here in Sacramento.

  44. Steve Wright says:

    MLD – yes, that’s the one. He moved about two weeks ago.

  45. Steve,
    Look how many emails I send you every time I listen online. 😉

  46. Steve Wright says:

    Anyone who listened to my brief comments at the time of Chuck’s passing knows that the Lord used The Word for Today radio program to grab me, a brand new Christian looking for a local church (with two failures already under my belt) to take me and plant me at Costa Mesa for 8 years.

    http://www.calvaryle.org/Chuck%20Tribute.mp3

  47. Steve Wright says:

    MLD, you are my biggest fan! 🙂

  48. Rob Murphy says:

    Paul said – and was consistent – that he didn’t care why Christ was preached. He even hints that God himself may be a bit haphazard in marketing His own name, according to Acts 17:27 His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us.
    As I read, “perhaps feel their way toward him” doesn’t seem to hint at “oversaturation” or ‘conservative principles of economics’ (“zero sum theology”), but it makes room for all of us and each of us, with our personal brand of “weird” to find others who are “weird” like us and allow us to ‘feel our way toward God’ in our particular weird way. Some of us are weird about looking at a video screen for our worship time. Some are weird that they dig it, some are weird that they don’t.

    Since I’m in the same town as Pastor Steve, I can say we’re in an interesting community where church swapping / steeplechase is an expert level Christian hobby. My hope and prayer for all the folks who have come and gone and come again and gone again from church to church to church is that in all their ‘feeling their way toward God” that something will stick and their hearts will find a home where they’ll grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. If that’s a place that stares at a video screen, then good.

  49. Steve Wright says:

    Considering that we have Rob’s dad preach at our annual men’s conference, and Rob asks a couple of our guys to lead worship at their place when a need arises, our two places are probably not the best examples of fighting for market share. 🙂

  50. Jim says:

    I think that if I accuse an author of assigning motives and I’m incorrect, I’m assigning motives. It’s possible that I’m reading the last paragraph wrong, and if so, I apologize to the author.

    Proof that being in agreement with MLD leads to self doubt…. 🙂

  51. Rob Murphy says:

    @49 -Market share – that’s when we see each other at Stater’s and I let you go first because I stole your cart and feel guilty?
    We get along swimmingly and CCLE has been a huge help this year in sharing worship leaders with us while I’ve been out with health stuff.
    I don’t know about fighting for ‘market share’, but I’d like to talk about some free agent trades… 😉

  52. Chile says:

    I do think we are ethically obligated to provide churches that are as healthy as they can be, at least set up to be able to move in the direction of increasing health for the people in their church.

    Often it is said that a person can choose what kind of church they want to attend, “vote with their feet.” While that is true, it’s also not true.

    It is not true that a family can just keep uprooting themselves to find a healthier church each time their church makes decisions that that are either sinful, or simply moving away from building depth and community in the disciples who are there. A family/individual who has to “vote with their feet” has to change their friends, uproot their kids, lose history with people, sometimes change employment and often move where they live. This is no small undertaking. After doing it only one time, it becomes untenable to do it again.

    Therefore, while the members/attenders bear responsibility, they also don’t. I believe the major responsibility lay on the shoulders of the leaders of the churches.

    I am currently watching a large church that is moving towards multi-sites, along with another church that was built as a multi-site. Here’s what I’ve observed:

    1. The resources of money being used “efficiently” seems to be the main reason given for such a move. But the reality is the resources of people are being stretched so thin that actual ministry suffers.

    2. The leaders become more and more COO’s in their area and less and less actually ministering to people. The net result is people are not really pastored anymore.

    3. People are unable to to know and be known. Now, I can hear a legitimate push-back of how small groups accomplish that, but remember they are run by a local volunteer who is often not a vetted wise leader with gifts, calling and abilities in that area. I’m a big believer in people pastoring one another, but anyone with a leader title needs to fulfill qualifications for being an elder.

    Result, as I see it: The ministry becomes shallow.

    At this point it becomes a great temptation to assign motives of “more people more money” being the underlying push. Taking care of the people who are actually there seems to be a lost ministry/art. But when the church takes care of the depth of care of those who are there, then the breadth of the ministry is determined by God … the people go out and share the gospel with their lives and sometimes their words. The outsiders know … they can see the difference, even when we can’t.

  53. Chile says:

    Re: Jim @ 50 said,

    “Proof that being in agreement with MLD leads to self doubt…. ”

    Oh, that’s funny!

  54. Xenia says:

    To be clear, I am not (necessarily) being critical of large churches. If a church is a holy, god-fearing place that preaches the Gospel and models love for God and neighbor in a humble way, let them grow!

    A large church is not my personal preference, for sure, for a variety of reasons.

  55. Xenia says:

    As far as multi-site goes, I can see some *temporary* value in beaming a church service into a wilderness area, with the understanding that eventually a live person would be willing to move there and become the local pastor and the TV screen can be folded up and stored in the broom closet.

  56. Patrick says:

    I think we have to start with addressing what a church is.

    Biblically, it would be a place where God’s people gather to hear the Scriptures rightly taught and the Sacraments rightly administered.

    The vast majority of these satellite campuses do neither and are nothing more than motivational gatherings where one can hear about either what they must do or how they can find God’s destiny for them or some other tripe. This of course is spread from the sending church which isn’t much different.

    In all of this, the old is cast away as irrelevant and not in step with the Spirit, so people turn from hearing the traditions that have come down through the Church that has gone on before us.

    I would have a smaller problem with satellite campuses IF they had Word and Sacrament, but alas, that’s not cool these days.

  57. Andrew says:

    Word and sacrament and church discipline rightly administered.

  58. Nonnie says:

    Re Xenia’s 55:

    If a church could send a team to a “wilderness” place to facilitate beaming in a service, I really don’t see why they could not just send a man on that team that they believed God was calling and gifting, to pastor the new church plant. He could be the one to speak with, internet talk with the big shot pastor and even get help on sermon preparation, etc. if need be.
    I’d rather “bond” with a live human being as “my pastor” than a celebrity, across country, on the big screen and his minion master/pastor of ceremonies.

    IMNHO, these beamed in services are merely show biz, not church. Is that “pastor” (talking head) going to bury your father, is he going to marry your daughter, visit you in hospital? How could anyone call a guy on a cinema screen their pastor? Teacher? Sure. Pastor…don’t think so.

  59. Ixtlan says:

    Been out for a while.
    @32
    “I am surrounded by mega Calvarys and also had a celebrity start a new work this year 2 miles from our church. (He has since moved to a neighboring town).”

    Not the same as a multi-site venue, moving down the street, and I not counting the Greg Laurie Show.

    @50 LOL!!!!!

  60. Steve Wright says:

    My point was that if we are still able to limp along out here despite the churches surrounding us within our own tribe, I don’t see how someone coming in with a video screen is going to lull the masses away either – whoever that someone might be.

  61. Thinking back, didn’t many CC church plants start as Bible studies using Chuck Smith tapes? That seemed to work well – did anyone complain back then?

    “OMGosh – I just saw a crate of Chuck tapes being delivered!”

  62. Nonnie says:

    Steve, my point is that men like you are ministering and truly pastoring the folks that come to the church. Your life is being poured into their lives and you all are a community of believers serving one another in Christ. That is apples and oranges to a video church. YOU are a pastor/teacher….a talking head on a screen can only be a teacher. Huge difference.

  63. Ixtlan says:

    And my point is that while it is an important aspect, there is much more here than market share. The celebrity driven multi-sites creates a culture that injects another image into the mix. Think that one through for a while and consider it. There is also the disconnect with the one whom is teaching from his satellite audience, I means congregation. The personal connection is at risk of disintegration. I think Xenia, Chile and Nonnie identified some of the issues quite well.

    Gotta go out again.

  64. Steve Wright says:

    Thank you, Nonnie. However, I am not fishing for compliments. I am trying to ask why and how such a new video-site is a risk to an existing church. In keeping with the theme of the blog article and the “ethics” of taking from other churches.

    Put another way, if a pastor is not doing the things you describe, and some new video church shows up and “takes” half the congregation – who’s fault is that? And if the pastor is doing the things he should be doing, then how is he or his church going to be hurt?

    I’m not arguing FOR multi-site in opposition to planting a new church with a new pastor. Far from it. But this article brought criticism from a whole new “ethical” angle to which I object.

  65. Nonnie says:

    Steve, my “argument” isn’t the same as your. My “beef” with the video “church” is just that it’s not a real church. Where is the pastoral care, the sense of community? What are the people gathering around…..Christ or the celebrity? The whole things leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Even if they put one where there was absolutely no other church, I believe it should be a real person, not a celebrity pastor beamed in. I wasn’t approaching it from the same point of view as you. (and I certainly didn’t think you were fishing for compliments.)

  66. Steve Wright says:

    Yes Nonnie, the criticisms against the multi-site video are significant and I believe have much merit – and have been discussed here before.

    In full disclosure – we have a multi-site with video. It is on the other side of our property across the alley – more commonly known as an overflow room. 🙂

    But they know where to find me after service! 😉

  67. Nonnie says:

    Quite understandable for a church with a small building, but on the same property site. The key word (in my mind) is “overflow.”

  68. “more commonly known as an overflow room”

    Bragger! 😉

  69. Steve Wright says:

    MLD, if you saw how small our sanctuary is – you would know it ain’t bragging. 🙂

    However, it is impossible to expand the building, even if we did want to.

    I have noticed that some people prefer to sit there, whether or not we are full. I think it is because they know I sometimes spit when I get excited preaching….

  70. Michael says:

    I know of two communities right now where there is one church for every 200 residents, there is little hope for expansion and the video screen guys are coming.
    The areas are not underserved or starving for the gospel…the plan is if they come in with a good enough show they can capture the market.
    In both situations there are underserved populations within the same distance, but without the financial demographics.
    It’s unethical, it’s sub Christian, and I don’t really give a hoot in hell who that upsets.

  71. Michael says:

    Furthermore…
    This video screen pastoring bull… is doing nothing more than reinforcing the cult of celebrity that is the bane of the American church.
    It redefines what church is about and that redefinition is nothing more than a weekly religious performance by a religious performer,not an organic community of believers committed to each other and Christ.

  72. Steve Wright says:

    the plan is if they come in with a good enough show they can capture the market.
    —————————————————
    Then a pox on all their houses!

    1. God help the church member who splits on a good church with good pastoral leadership for the cult of personality

    2. God help the pastor not giving his very best and who thinks the sheep are his right because he was there first and enjoys the privilege today of their attendance.

    3. God help any of us who forget the Lord is the only True Shepherd and all sheep, (including pastors who are also sheep themselves), belong to Him and He leads them as He desires.

  73. Ixtlan says:

    @72

    What you described are three situations of bad ethics.

  74. Steve Wright says:

    @73

    Agreed…and in all 3 situations of bad ethics you will note the new multi-site video pastor is irrelevant to the equation.

    As he should be.

  75. Laura Scott says:

    For good or ill, I am going to say a word to two about the multi-site church. I belong to one. Furthermore, I have also been privileged to be on the teams that have planted two of our campuses.

    While I understand the objections that can come with multi-sites, I also see the benefit of them. If you really want to investigate one up close and personal, just show up and start asking questions. At my church, we do not promote the celebrity pastor mindset. If any of you know me, I have been there and done that and left that behind for good. In all the years that I have been a member of my church, I can only remember two outside pastor/teachers coming to teach. The rest of the time, if our senior pastor is not teaching, it is one of our pastors on staff. We don’t have special guest worship leaders. Our worship ministry team is shared among all the campuses.

    So much for the bigger picture. What you need to see is what happens at the individual campuses. Each campus has a site pastor who forms the community and connections among the flock of that campus. I have been amazed at how those men are used and how they help grow the church. At my campus, we were privileged to have many people come to Christ in the first few weeks of opening and we held a baptism. No one getting baptised refused to get in the tank unless our senior pastor was there. They wept and celebrated with our site pastor who wept and rejoiced alongside of them. He is the one who leads in building our community.

    It is he who leads us in prayer during Communion. He’s the one we go to for counsel, not our senior pastor.

    We put up our church and take it down every Sunday. No one complains. It is what it is and I see the same dedicated people and families doing the work, showing people what it is to be committed to the work of God each and every Sunday. I see our site pastor right in there with us and when he visits the campuses, I see our senior pastor in there doing the work, too. What the people of our neighborhoods see is that we came to them. And our campus grows. Is that not the job we are sent to do?

    It is easy to make suppositions from a distance and indeed, some of the more nefarious behavior that has been mentioned has gone on in both multi-site and celebrity-pastored churches, but not all. Be careful of that broad brush and don’t be shy if you need to take a closer look. If you need to have a real stance on the subject, don’t just read about them or postulate from a distance. Find out.

    And then, if you see or experience things that are not consistent with the work and commandments of God, as a member of the Body, by all means speak out to correct the problem and minister to the hurting.

    There truly is more here than meets the eye.

  76. Scott says:

    Well then, Laura has certainly brought a different perspective.

  77. I agree with Laura Scott and say that the article, though well written and reasoned, is high sounding nonsense. Let the Gospel be preached and let free people make free decisions. The apostle Paul was not that worried about people’s motives or even their desire for gain as long as Christ was preached.

    Stop fighting the free choices of free people when no danger is done to the essence of the Gospel or the nature of the fellowship. Sometimes we rail against the traditional form of a church with the over emphasis on the charism of one man and his public presentation. It is really unnecessary that we extend our critique to his physical locale.

    I hate satellite churches but welcome them. My reasons may or may not be valid they may even be motivated by my own gain. Oh well, Just preach Jesus and him ONLY.

  78. Ixtlan says:

    From the article:

    “One of the things they discovered was that “having a mega-church in the same county was going to have a negative effect on congregations that occupied a similar religious niche.” Evangelical, Pentecostal and Fundamentalist churches located in the same counties as mega-churches were all slightly worse off than they should be, compared to U.S. averages.”

    This thread has been an interesting read. It appears that most don’t even like mega churches (hate them but welcome them lol!!) and yet defend them why? Because the gospel is preached? Is it not being preached in small churches? I think many do so. Should we interpret Philippians 1 universally or conventionally?

    Laura describes a community, but what was it built on? A pastor on the silver screen? Could this church have been formed a different way? I wonder? What will it be like several year from now?

    Isn’t it telling that Driscoll’s plan is to have individual pastors take over his satellites and have them become separate churches when he is no longer in the ministry?

    If we all become a cluster of multi-site churches, why even bother leaving the house? You might as well stay home and not worry about setting up chairs and a sound system and just do church on-line.

    How are mega-churches going shape American evangelicalism? These are the Walmarts of the church. They are impacting the church culture wherever they set down roots. It is a part of a bigger, better mentality. It is driven by pragmatism and a vicarious need to associate with something bigger than ourselves. That used to Jesus. Some day we may all be wearing blue vests which will be the manifestation of the leanness of our souls.

  79. casual cringer says:

    There are a lot of good thoughts here.

    If multi-site equals video pastor it’s a no brainer. Otherwise y’all are just judging motive. Paul was a multi-site pastor. The circuit riders were multi-site pastors. A lot of missionary churches start out as multi-sit churches.

    If a multi-site church opened up across the street from my church we’d encourage them. We would help them in any way we could. We would also know that in the future we’d be getting a lot of restless souls looking for something deeper. That multi-site church would either grow up or shrivel up.

    And who is this guy some are mentioning in the bay area?

    The worst kind of multi-site churches are those with pictures of former pastors- dead ones. EYUCK!

  80. Nonnie says:

    Cas Cringer said: “The worst kind of multi-site churches are those with pictures of former pastors- dead ones. EYUCK!”

    I honestly don’t see it would make any difference. If he is/was a “great speaker/teacher” that is the whole point of the video church. Those who promote it say there is a “live” asst. pastor who gives the human presence and can marry and bury, and pray for folks. What difference at all would it make if the celebrity were dead or alive?

  81. Steve Wright says:

    I’m going to take my seat next to Rob Murphy @48. Maybe it’s something in the water out here.

    We’re going to love and teach and sing to and serve whomever shows up each week, without condemning the hoppers, without fear of losing the members, and without a single worry of other churches in the area that may exist, (or soon may exist) destroying the work God is doing at our respective places.

    That about right, Rob? 🙂

  82. Xenia says:

    You know, this whole topic lies outside Ortholandia because the multi-site (video church, that is) model is utterly incompatible with Orthodoxy. So why do I care. Well, I do care about other Christians and I hate to see them fed the thin soup that I believe, even with Laura’s testimony taken into consideration, that these operations offer, even if the attendees claim this is their favorite kind of soup.

    Also, I hate what these kinds of buildings do to a neighborhood. Huge concrete barns with enormous parking lots whose interior more resembles a Fry’s Electronics Mart than a traditional church. They have as much exterior appeal as a Fry’s, too. Beauty matters and most mega-establishments are not beautiful. Gone are the lovely little churches that used to adorn most towns or graced the countryside. Maybe not gone, but going because they will not “partner” with the imperialist celeb pastor from the big city.

  83. Laura Scott says:

    Once again, the assumption is that multi-site teaching is largely some form of Christian pablum and that is simply ridiculous. If you really need to know, come and find out.

    Additionally, our campuses are local schools that have generously allowed us to occupy their cafeterias and auditoriums to hold our services in. That way, we are better able to be central to the communities we serve in.

    It’s just different, guys. We are not packaging some pop culture centered form of Christianity. Many of the people I serve alongside would challenge that as they are strong, battle-tested Christians with a solid grounding in the faith.

    At the end of the day, we preach Christ with no other authority than the Scriptures themselves. If that is not good enough for you, that is your choice.

  84. Chile says:

    Re: Casual Cringer @ 80

    The missionary and circuit rider showed up in person. They could know and be known. I think it makes a huge difference.

    I think I’ve just had it up to my eyebrows with efficiency. I don’t think Jesus was efficient. I don’t think working out our salvation is efficient, either. I do think it’s personal … requiring up close and personal contact.

  85. Xenia says:

    Laura, I appreciate your gentle replies and explanations and I imagine you feel that your fellowship, which you obviously love very much, is under attack. But let me ask you a question: what is so great about your video pastor that he must be seen and heard by multiple congregations each Sunday? Is there no one in your own group who is capable of preaching? Why can’t you all have a live pastor, one who knows you all personally and can tailor his message to your particular group and if you are all so fond of the video pastor’s teachings, you could just listen to his tapes at home?

  86. Ixtlan says:

    @83, 86
    Xenia,
    Well said. If they want that pastor so badly, then drive to his church. Establish a relationship with the shepherd. And you said it well; it is a form of imperialism, which if anyone has read classical literature, is a form of injustice.

    The whole multi-site, mega church phenomena makes me want to become Anglican or Orthodox. Forget the road to Rome, but the road to Constantinople or Canterbury looks somewhat appealing to me.

  87. Laura Scott says:

    Xenia, our senior pastor is not a video screen. He’s a real person who lives in our city and raises his kids alongside of our own. Several years back, he took a weekend off and since it was the end of the year, it was decided to do a best-of from the year’s teachings. Our pastor attended one of the services to see if this would go over well, as he had not ever done it before. He fully expected to see us get up and leave the service. What he found was that the congregation reacted as if he were up there personally. And if you are at the central campus (I always call it the mothership), you can go right up to him and talk to him. I have done so many times. He makes sure to keep himself accessible.

    That was the first seed of what has become our one church in many locations. He is so not what someone in his position is supposed to be here. When he first planted this church in a elementary school cafeteria, this was not on the to-do list. All he and our elders were working for was to find a good piece of property to buy to build a permanent building on. And after nine years of putting up and tearing down our church every weekend, that happened. And we all got to write our names on the beams that built the first building.

    Our senior pastor has seen a lot of the dark side of large churches. Many of my fellowship are like me, people who left our church after a serious split. He never commented directly about those situations but instead, offered some incredible comfort and ministry. He knows the damage that kind of pastor personality cult can cause. So do our elders. When it came time to discuss expansion, our church decided to try the multi-site model with no guarantee it would work. As it is, it does.

    Our senior pastor is a terrific teacher. Is he the only one? No. Several of our pastors are terrific teachers. The thing of it is this: we all believe in this vision. We saw it when a bunch of college students in another city came to us to ask us to open up a campus for student believers in their city. We saw it when a few families who live in a distant country got together to watch our sermons online and it became so popular, they had to find a new building to house all the people who wanted to attend. This past summer, they officially opened their campus in a movie theatre which allowed Sunday morning services.

    What our site pastors do is really build our communities and fellowships. In our various large group ministries, our pastors take the lead, teaching and building from there. Again, they would not work here if they did not believe in what we are doing and although it looks different, there is growth and salvation.

    No one is forcing these men to be here or to conform. They get to do the part of pastoring that they clearly love and share the large group teaching duties with our senior pastor. While I cannot ever conclusively answer all the objections whether they are tradition-based or in some cases ego-fueled, I can say that right now, we are fulfilling our mission to know Christ and make Him known.

    Let the Lord have His creativity in how to reach and minister to people.

  88. Xenia says:

    Laura, again I have to commend you on your gentle responses to our criticisms.

  89. Michael says:

    Laura,
    You have done an excellent job of presenting the exception to the rule.
    I have actually visited Lauras church…before it went multi-site I think.
    Laura wasn’t there that day… 🙂

  90. Laura Scott says:

    Thank you, Michael. I heard you were at services on what happened to be a soccer weekend away for me. I am glad you came. 🙂

  91. casual guy says:

    Nonnie #81,
    I was referring to pictures, paintings, icons of dead people in the front of the church. Looks like paganism to me. I once saw a hall with a row of pictures of former pastors. Most had passed away. It was a way of honoring them (or perhaps bragging on them). But they weren’t in the front of the church holding a place of worship alongside of God. I suppose if they had videos of those centuries-old guys they’d play them during the service. Or perhaps the guys in the videos would say “What in the world are you putting me up there where Christ should be?” It made me cringe to think about it.

  92. casual ignoramus says:

    Chili #85. You’re right of course. I didn’t realize that ‘multi site’ meant video pastor. I thought it meant a pastor visiting his multi site churches. Does Greg Laurie broadcast his sermons to OC or to Riverside when he goes between those churches?

  93. Nonnie says:

    Casual Guy,

    In my 81, I was talking about “video preaching” for Sunday services. My point was that it really wouldn’t matter if the video preacher was dead or alive, since the master/pastor of ceremonies would be introducing the service praying for folks, and doing the personal ministry part of the church. The video pastor (dead or alive) would just be teaching the living word of God.

    For what it is worth, I don’t have a problem with remembering (with paintings or statues, etc) those men and women who have gone before us and encouraged us in our faith in God. Their lives are testimonies to the power of God in broken, sinful people.

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