Some Thoughts on the Multi-Site Movement

The newest fad in the church today is the concept of multi-site churches. According to this concept, churches plant new churches complete with their own support staff and music team, but without a pastor. Instead, the Sunday morning message is streamed in from a pastor who may be located thousands of miles away, and is broadcast on a video screen.

Although the fad is just now catching on, it isn't a new concept. Several years ago I became acquainted with several people who were a part of a multi-site church. Instead of a pastor, they sat around a tape player and listened to the messages from a church in Houston that furnished tapes to several such groups around the country.

I'm no expert on the multi-site movement, and certainly don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water, however I have several concerns about the philosophy behind the movement.

The first concern is illustrated by the Houston church mentioned above. The multi-site concept presents a pastor who is larger than life. Don't even think about shaking his hand after the sermon. You might never even see him in person. You won't run into him at the grocery store, or see his kids playing t-ball. He lives hundreds of miles away from you, the church, the fellowship, and the accountability of the local church. The pastor of the church in Houston began as one of Dallas Seminary's most distinguished graduates, but over time became one of its most notorious graduates. I believe much of this can be attributed to the lack of accountability that comes with having a pastor who is bigger than life.

I believe the multi-site church also demonstrates an overemphasis of one person's spiritual gifts. Many of the pastors who lead these multi-site churches are extremely gifted communicators. Craig Groeschel of LifeChurch.tv in Edmond, OK (and Phoenix, and Tulsa, and Stillwater...) is a prime example. But are we to believe that he is the only great communicator of God's truth in the tri-state area? It seems to me that we are overemphasizing the talent of the messenger over the message.

Throughout Scripture, God seemed to use the most unlikely messengers so this mistake wasn't made. God promised in Isaiah 55 that his Word would never return to him void, but would alway accomplish the purpose for which He sent it out. The talent and giftedness of the speaker is not nearly as important as the content of the message. But the multi-site concept seems to indicate otherwise. Either that, or it insinuates that there is only one person in the area that can communicate the truth accurately. Unfortunately, that's the road the Houston church mentioned above started down, and that's a dangerous road to hoe.

Along with an overemphasizing of one person's spiritual gifts comes a deemphasization of other spiritual gifts. The multi-site concept seems to indicate that a talented communicator of God's word can't be found in a 500 mile radius, but that other pastoral staff and musicians are growing on trees.

The most ironic challenge I see with the multi-site church is its complete inability to be culturally relevant. This is ironic because the multi-site church is supposedly the most culturally relevant church. What could be more hip than cranked-up music alongside a message from cyberspace?

The multi-site church might meet the culture on a broad level, but has a complete inability to meet local cultures where they are. It doesn't take a cultural expert to know that the culture of Phoenix is different from the culture in Oklahoma City. The only way for a multi-site pastor's message to fit each of the contexts to which he's preaching is to water the message down to the point that the impact is lost.

The multi-site church is likely to be the future of the church in America. But until some of these issues are addressed, someone else can take my spot on the bandwagon.

11 comments:

OSUcowboysSuck said...
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russellsancto said...

osu, get some perspective and apologise.

OSUcowboysSuck said...
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nexenrod said...

Chris you seem to have hit a nerve or two with you post....however, let me say I enjoy your blog and find your postings entertaining and insightful.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for putting up with the Good, the Bad and the Ugly on your site!

Chris Freeland said...

Thanks for your comments. And for creating an entire blog in response to my site. I even apprecaite the picture, although you got my bad side.

On your next post, it might help for you to write about some of the reasons you hate me so much. At least then the other visitors to this site could see the validity behind your insightful post.

russellsancto said...

hi chris, for the record i found your blog entry very informative. I agree that ministers need to live and work among their congregations so that they can be a blessing to their flock and vice a versa.

OSUcowboysSuck said...
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OSUcowboysSuck said...
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Claude Henry Smoot said...

osucowboyssuck

Out of curiosity, do you profess to be a believer?


Chris

I, for one, enjoy your blog, keep it up.

Scott Hill said...

Chris we have a lifechurch.tv here in Temecula, CA. On thier Christmas float this year it said
"if you hate church you'll love us"

I blogged about them over at fide-o a few weeks back apparently one of them read it. I hope they want to ask me some questions about what I think.

Chris Freeland said...

I hope they do too.

My in-laws are in Edmond, Oklahoma where Lifechurch.tv is based. There are billboards all over town that say "Hate church? Us too..."

I've got a chip on my shoulder, but their billboards don't seem very "inclusive" to me. I thought inclusivism was the sola scriptura of the postmodern movement. :)