Multiplication Center

Finding That Multi-site Smile

April 20, 2010

Posted by Geoff Surratt

Neil Cole, author of Organic Church and Organic Leadership, takes the multi-site movement to task in an article this week. Neil says, “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 hate to see Neil not smiling, so I thought I’d try to answer a few of his objections. Please go read the article and then come back for my response.

I’ll wait.

C’mon, you didn’t read the whole article did you? Oh well, finish it after you read my post.

Here is my take on Neil’s arguments.

First, multi-site is not church planting

This is one of the arguments against multi-site churches I hear the most. It seems to qualify as “real” a church plant must:

  1. Have a leader who delivers a 30-60 minute speech every week
  2. Not be tied to a larger organization
  3. Rely only on their own resources

Failure to follow these three guidelines seems to mean your church doesn’t count. I don’t know if the lives that are changed, the disciples that are grown, the communities that are transformed count, or who exactly is doing the counting.

Almost all of the multi-site campuses that I’ve been around function like a free standing church except:

  1. They often use the teaching of someone who stands in another room when he speaks
  2. They share resources with likeminded congregations
  3. Their pastors are accountable to other leaders. (Bishops, presbyters, regional pastors)

I don’t understand why where a preacher stands, how a congregation shares resources and accountability for a pastor disqualify a church from being a church.

Second, multi-site churches don’t develop leaders

Neil says, “[In a multi-site church] A strong leader is not as desired as a good manager in starting new campus sites.Seriously? I can’t think of a church in America or around the world that isn’t looking for strong leaders for campus pastors. This argument is a throwback to the idea that only those with strong teaching gifts make good leaders. I have no idea the Biblical or empirical evidence for this; even Paul said that he was a lousy speaker, but he was a phenomenal leader. Campus pastors who don’t deliver a 30 minutes homily on Sunday often need to be STRONGER leaders than those who do. Without the bully pulpit it can be MORE challenging to lead, not less.

As for developing preachers, the church I grew up in only had one preacher. Occasionally we would have a speaker come from the outside and once a year one of the younger guys might speak, but that was it. At Seacoast we currently have six guys on our teaching team plus our campus pastors speak on a regular basis. We also have classes for speakers and a myriad of opportunities for teachers to develop their skills. I’m sure some multi-site churches don’t develop preachers just like some organic churches don’t develop disciples. The problem with blanket statements is that they cover up reality.

Third, multi-site churches are all about ego

Neil indicates that pastors of multi-site churches are primarily concerned with getting more butts in seats and bringing in more money in the offering plates. I have no doubt there are pastors in it for the money and the ego boost, the pastors I know are desperate to reach people with the Good News and help them grow up in their faith. Multi-site seems to be an effective way to fulfill that call on their lives.

One of our Seacoast campuses is located in the poorest, most dangerous neighborhoods in Charleston. They have a free clinic, a food pantry, a Dream Closet, ESL classes, as well as a tutoring program. They also have services on Sunday and watch a video for the teaching. No one at that campus thinks their church is all about the preacher or the Benjamins; it’s about the Gospel and it’s about taking the Gospel to the people. We’ve just found an efficient way of doing exactly what Jesus told us to do, “to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.”

I hope that makes Neil smile.

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