Geoff Surratt has posted a response to an article made up of some blog posts I did a while back about the multisite church model. I appreciate his tone and would love to meet him and converse more about the subject. In his response, however, there are a number of things that are not adequately reflecting my own thinking. It may actually be better to read all the blog posts to get a complete picture of what I think, as the article is only a portion of my thoughts.
I will respond to his response simply to clarify, but will probably let things stand where they are after that. We are brothers and, while we do the kingdom work differently, we are both serving the King and I am glad about that. Everyone that I know who speaks of Geoff speaks highly of him, so I have nothing but respect for him even if we do church differently.
Anyone who has actually read my books or knows me would understand that I do not believe that a church must have a preacher up front (whether or not he or she is in another room several blocks away). I also do not think that a church must have independent resources or not rely upon a larger organization in order to be a church. My thoughts are that in order for the church to spawn a multiplication movement it must have its own independent ability to reproduce and not be dependent upon another organization. I have no problem calling a congregation a church if it is dependent on a larger organization. Whether the pastor is preaching in front of the crowd or several blocks away is irrelevant to me as to whether or not it is a church.
Actually, I do not see a Sunday worship service as paramount to defining a church. If the people are just an audience it isn't a church in my book. I have always said a church is "a spiritual family together on Christ's mission." Of course a multisite church can be a church, but I do not think the Sunday service is what makes it so.
I have committed my life to releasing church multiplication movements. That is what I was writing about, and I do not think multisite releases true multiplication movements...addition, but not multplication. I believe multiplication is proven true when the fourth generation and beyond is manifested, something we have yet to see from the multisite phenomenon. But hear me when I say that church addition is a good thing, especially when the churches are started by transforming people from lostness in to light. Transferring membership from one church to another doesn't really count as even church addition, does it?
Now to be fair, there is a difference in my mind between multisite and video venue, and in my article it is the video venue approach that I am taking issue with the most. I do believe it accentuates our dependency upon personalities and encourages our consumeristic problems and celebrity status in Christendom. I know good men are preaching the gospel in this way, I am not doubting that, in fact many people I consider friends are using this method. I don't question that in some cases lives are being changed and leaders are being developed. I do think, however, that there are longer term implications that should be considered when looking at this approach.
I do have one curiosity though: Is multisite "church planting" or is it "one church in several locations"? It seems like Geoff wants it both ways, and I'm not sure that is helping to clarify the issue. Why is it called church planting when we are counting missional results, and then it is one church when attendance and offerings are being counted? I am not questioning whether or not a multisite church is a church, but I do not think it is a good church planting model, and certainly doesn't release multiplication movements. It is really the logical conclusion of 20 years of church growth strategy, but when compared to church multiplication strategy it is not so sound. Addition is still better than division and subtraction, but multiplication is the only way we will fulfill the great commission to the ends of the earth.