I must be honest and confess that I have not been smiling at the spread of the multi-site phenomenon. I know some do it well, but many do not.
I have friends who used to start lots of churches and lately they have resorted instead to starting video venue services with their own sermons beamed in. To call that a church plant, in my opinion, cheapens missiology. Where they used to spend a great deal of time training new church planters, now they train campus pastors, and there is a difference. It is no longer necessary to train preachers, visionaries or entrepreneur leaders, because the lead pastor can have his sermons beamed into every venue. A strong leader is not as desired as a good manager in starting new campus sites. Even the vision is developed and cast by the lead pastor; the campus pastor simply finds ways to pass it on. This is not church planting as we have known it but worship service addition. Addition is not bad, it is certainly better than subtraction or division…but it is not multiplication.
There are a few satellite church venues that have actually initiated others to date. The number of these “grandchildren” are very few, and the reproduction is actually very slow when compared to CPMs.
Surratt, Ligon and Warren have pointed out in their book about six or so “grandchildren” campuses of the multi-site “revolution” across the country. To date there is not any evidence of a fourth generation church plant or campus. In their book, Surratt, Ligon and Bird site 3,000 multi-site churches of two or more campuses. This would account for probably 10’s of thousands of services on thousands of campuses and of that large number, less than ten grand children can be identified in the US and no fourth generation churches to date. In the book, they state that it is grandchildren that sustain and give legs to a movement, but I argue that it is the forth generation, or great-grandchildren that are the true evidence of multiplication and thereby a movement. The multi-site model is very far removed from seeing this. Currently, this model has only a 1% reproductive rate. This is not enough to maintain any species, so I do not put great hope in this burgeoning “movement.” I believe it will never become a multiplication movement because there are too many values inherent within it that prevent true multiplication from happening—primary of those is the dependence upon the main preacher in a consumer oriented environment.