the next level of multi-site churching-Thabiti Anyabwile

Thabiti Anyabwile writes,
The writer, picking up on the typical multi-site church slogan, "One church, multiple locations," asks a critical question: "But what does it mean to be "one church," spread across hundreds or thousands of miles?" Good question.

This model of doing church calls into question all of our assumptions about pastoral ministry. It calls into question whether the relationship between pastor and congregation is at all essential. It begs the question of whether preaching really is central to our gatherings (at least live preaching from a flesh-and-blood preacher). And I'm curious about the approach to governance or polity used by such churches. How is a group in Bangkod involved in the decisions of groups in Southern California?

Rev. Geoff Surratt, co-author of The Multi-Site Church Revolution and a pastor at Seacoast Church, a church with six sites in Georgia and one in South Carolina, makes this case for multi-sites over and against traditional church planting: "Multisite locations grow faster, reach a place of health and are self-sustaining much faster than traditional church plants."

As far as I can tell, the jury is still out on that contention and there is nowhere near a significant enough number of such churches to actually assess the benefit or harm. Moreover, fast growth and self-sustaining wouldn't be at the top of my list for reasons to adopt this strategy. "Healthy congregation" might, but then the critical issue is what's meant by "healthy." Franchising a personality, selling his favorite oatmeal cookies along with his most recent book, and fostering absentee pastors doesn't readily strike me as healthy for the local church.

I guess central for me is this question: Why franchise an individual pastor in this way? I can understand how one might have satellite campuses in the same metropolitan city/area, and how a pastor and elders may be able to serve that church faithfully. I can't quite fathom why a local church pastor should be "godcast" each Sunday to a location 1,400 miles away.

Two things seem troublesome about that at its core. First, it would seem to promote a celebrity culture and idolization in the people of God as they gather to hear each Sunday--not a local pastor pouring out his life for a people that he lives with--but a "superstar preacher" being beamed in from some remote location. Second, it would suggest (and I want to be careful not to assign motive where I can't see a person's heart) that the person's approach to ministry makes spread of "our" message, appeal, method, and personality far too central to the work of the kingdom. It hints at the kind of pride that says "we're the ones who have it right and our guy is king, so let's export our guy to the ends of the world." It runs the risk of confusing the messenger with the message and building a business empire upon them both.


joe said…
The blogger thinks something ios lacking if we are seperated by 1,400 miles. Yet, I'm willing to bet this blogger lives more than 1,400 miles from me. Still, he is communicating effectively with me through "media." He then questions whether a pastor should "franchise himself" which bascially means "the same exact thing somewhere else," while that is exactly what he has done with a blog. He typed it on his computer and sent it to mine. He 'extended himself" through media. He has spoken beyond the realm of those that can see his face, hear his voice and smell his breath. My guess is that when video blogging becomes as simple as keyboard blogging, he will opt to use that method to "franchise his message."

These questions arise with all new "media." Marshall McLuhan said that "media" is an extension of ourselves. A shovel and extension of our arms, a megaphone an extension of our voice, a telegram an extension of our thoughts.

People had the same objections to the use of radio and television in communicating the Gospel. Yet,if it were not for radio and television, very few of us would have been effected by Billy Graham. Not only have his words been an influence on a generation of Christians, but his lifestyle. Although millions have never been close enough to him to smell his breath, they have seen him as an elder in the Body whose life is a model for Christian living. The "media" of televison and radio simply extended him to others.

Using these types of 'media' to enhance, promote and spread the message are a continuation of the work God gave to humanity in Genesis. "Take the earth, subdue and replenish (mulitiply) it." Handwriting and then the printing press multiplied the message of the apostle Peter, Paul and the Gospels, until today where we can have the "extension of God's Words" on our telephone due to "media."

God Himself used "media" when He put His words in the form of a book. Why didn't He keep Jesus, Paul and Isaiah right here with us where we could see them and feel them? Yet, he gave it to us through "media."

That the blogger communicated his message to people further than 1,400 from his physical location betrays his own logic. Why should I listen to someone 1,400 miles away? What can he know about me and how can he influence me? Yet, he is somehow convinced that there is something valid in his "media of choice."

There is a difference however. He does it alone, perhaps in a corner of his bedroom. For all we know he never sees the light of day. Those he is questioning for their "media of choice" meet together in a room with other human beings sharing a common communinity expereince, they volunteer their time in that room, they surely drink lattes together, their children go to classes together, they talk to other people in that room, they sit next to each other, they pray with other people in that room and they join together with other people in that room to accomplish more together than they could apart for the spreading of God's kingdom in a world that is full of darkness.

I sat in the vidio venue at the Billy Graham Crudsade in Flushing Meadows. I met some wonderful people, worshipped to Michael W. Smith on the screen, saw Mercy Me on the screen and loved it. I had great time of fellowship with the people I was with and watched people all around me head to the front of the screens to meet with human beings after answering Billy Graham's inviatation. "Media" extended Graham beyond the realm of his voice. Being there while Billy Graham spoke live was one of the highlights of my life!

To follow this logic of not being able to extend yourself through media would mean we would have to eliminate microphones in worship. His posture is that we should not extend ourselves with media beyond the people that can touch.

What the blogger does not take into consideration is that the Bible is "media." It is not God Himself, but God extended his words to others through it. "Media" and the use of it is from the Lord. He was the one to model it for us.

And let's not forget that Jesus preached from a boat to address the large crowd. He extended himslef through acoustics and visibility, but not a soul could actually touch him from where they were. This was the first 'multi-media venue.' Do as Jesus does.

Blog Thyself!
Video Thyself!
Extend Thyself!

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