One change that is sweeping through the Western church today is the multi-site model, where one church spins off several branches or sites. This phenomenon is so popular that a recent book by Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon and Warren Bird called A Multi-site Church Road Trip has the audacious subtitle: Exploring the New Normal. According to their book, on a typical Sunday in 2009 some five million people—almost 10 percent of protestant worshippers—attend a multi-site church in the US or Canada. Leaders at some forty-five thousand churches are seriously considering the multi-site approach according to a recent survey by LifeWay Research. Before you jump on the bandwagon, I want you to think about a few things.
What does it mean to be a multi-site church? Basically, it is one church meeting in more than one location. Some use the term “campuses,” or “services,” others call them “satellite churches,” “polysites” or even “house churches” or “missional communities.” With such a wide range of descriptions I imagine one could say that our organic church networks or even CMA as a whole could represent this idea, but I personally believe that would be a stretch. Listening to those considered the forerunners in this model, it is clear that they mean one church in multiple locations…not multiple churches like we would articulate.
There are, of course, variations on this theme. Some are video-venues where different styles of worship are offered at different sites, sometimes even on the same campus, but the same sermon from the same preacher is beamed in to them all on a larger-than-life screen. Others are spread across a city while some branch out across a state and a few go even interstate. Some are on the internet; a few are even branching out internationally. For some it is a way to grow their church when there is not any possibility of building a larger facility. For some it is a way of building a network of churches. Many like it because they can have church for a variety of different tastes. Some even would call it church planting, while others say that it is counterfeit church planting. I heard one person describe the Mars Hill Campus strategy as "Just add water and Driscoll and POOF you have a new church." For the next few blog entries I will weigh in on this subject. All seat backs and tray tables must be in their upright position. Fasten your seat belts.