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Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Multi-Site Church Model, Part 3

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.

7 comments:

Tom said...

Neil, I would have to agree. Currently, I am the lead pastor for a new church plant in Toledo, Ohio. The seeds for this new start began as a satellite ministry of a larger congregation whom we still have a healthy and strong relationship with. However, the satellite, couldn't achieve any missional momentum. Rather than a child, the satellite was an appendage with no purpose of its own.

A core group of us made the decision with the blessing of the larger church, to cut loose and plant in a new location. In the short 5 months since we launched, there is a significant understanding of and commitment to mission with a vision to launch several new church plants out of community in the years to come.

Tom Schaeffer
www.CrossTheThreshold.com
http://1035online.blogspot.com

Joshua Tucker said...

I think I agree. This model is also difficult because it is heavily dependent on one charismatic, highly talented person. What happens if that person falls into immorality, leaves for another work, or dies?

I guess many Churches have tried to augment this by adding home groups to the mix. I know some people who are part of the Village Church in the Dallas area as part of a satellite plant, and it seems to be helping them grow spiritually. The speaker, Matt Chandler, is terrific with the Scriptures. So in an actual model of Church I'm not sure it's terribly unhealthy.

However, I agree with you that it's not easily reproducible. Also, the teaching of a congregation comes almost solely from one person. That means that your Christian walk will likely look like his own, whatever version it may be.

Thanks for the thoughts.

Jp said...

In keeping with this analogy I believe it to be too early to make this judgement for the multi-site movement.

Grandchildren let alone forth generation may take a decade to emerge.

You may be right in the long term, and certainty we should be looking strategically at steps to develop missional leaders whether they we termed as 'campus' or 'lead pastor'

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