Multi-Site Church?

Posted: March 28, 2008 in church, consumerism, ministry, theology

I’ve been kicking around the idea/concept of multi-site churches lately. One of the questions that keeps rattling around is this: Why not simply plant a new church? Why not be indigenous?

One church here in Houston simply “bought out” another church, changed the decor and called it a new campus, complete with piped in sermons. Another church I know took over a dying congregation, repainted and called themselves multi-site, though the church was still the same church, the same people. Only now they have a new campus pastor. What’s more, there are churches that offer the chance for your church to become one of their campuses. And that’s not to mention the new phenomenon of Internet Campuses. Can you be part of a church online? What more can Internet Campuses offer besides the media (sermons and songs) side? What and how do they do it?

I go back and forth on multi-site. I can see much good in it. But I get shaky when I hear people say, “Yes, we’re a franchise of X church.” Franchise? Really?

Doesn’t the multi-site movement beg us to ask some fundamental questions? What is a church? Is it simply a place where things happen, certain services rendered? Can a preacher in Texas actually pastor a church in Chicago simply because they get a video of him each week and he shows up in person every two months? What does this say about the incarnation? What about community?

What do you think? Leave a comment or email me. I’d like to know. Part of me really wants to like the idea of multi-site churches. I want to be convinced! But so much of me sees the multi-site movement like the McDonaldlization of church.

  1. hoythappenings says:

    Maybe you should begin by telling us what good you see in a multi-site church and why you want to like the idea of it.

    As you can tell, I’m no fan but I reserve the right to hold off on critiquing the corporatization of church until you explain what good there is in it. 🙂

  2. One thing that has always seem interesting to me about the “multi-site” trend is that it really isn’t a new invention. For better or worse, there have been local congregations under the oversight and supervision of a central pastor/overseer.

    I have a hard time envisioning Rev. Ed Young as a bishop, but thats truly what a bishop was, and still should be if not over-bloated as an administrator/CEO of his area. I think the basic idea is sound: A local congregation and it’s leadership is responsible to/and is trained by a more experienced person. That overseer is (at least should be)responsible for seeing that the leaders under him don’t get off the page in their teaching, and generally supports them (Paul’s epistles anybody?)
    But like you, I would a big problem with piped-in sermons all the time. The teaching of the body needs to be that of the Church handed down from the Apostles through the Scriptures. But the *life* of the body needs to be local, brothers and sisters in fellowship. High-Tech delivery works against that.

    Of course, my own branch of the church is very fond of a structure involving bishops (I’m an Episcopalian), and yet we, as a whole, have totally forsaken the Apostolic teaching. That wonderful institution of “Bishop” has not exactly preserved the “faith once delivered” for us ! I suppose no “institutional structure” can. I solicit your prayers for us.

  3. Joe says:

    Hey, I commented under “hoythappenings” which is my wife’s wordpress moniker. However, it was me that left the comment. Sorry for the confusion…and waiting for your response. 🙂

  4. Sean says:

    Response coming Monday, Joe, after Russ Debenport joins the conversation.

  5. Casey says:

    To me multi-site still seems like rearranging the seats on top of the titanic, just in a new pattern.

    Hey, are you doing anything for lectureship (ACU) this year?

  6. Russ says:

    Sorry for the delayed response, brother. Have been in Canada this week (they do have the internet in Canada… I’ve just been too busy).

    Advances in network connectivity, video, etc… seem to be driving this topic. I see the church following the trends of the corporate world: dispersed organizations, matrix management, etc… My impression so far is that we are losing something very important in these virtually connected churches, friendship and proximity. I believe “being with” someone is an important aspect of the local church. When this sort of connectivity is replaced with flat screens and laptops we lose some of the texture of relationships. Or maybe I’m just too old school.

  7. Russ says:

    Oh, and Mr. Sawyer, we will be praying for the Episcopal Church. Peace.

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