Whither Multi-site

One of the growing trends in church growth today is the multi-site church model. If you’re unfamiliar with the term multi-site Scott McConnell offers the following definition, “multi-site involves starting a site somewhere other than your current [church] campus” (Multi-Site Churches, 17). For clarification, a site is not a church, but part of a local church. Multi-site churches often speak of themselves as one church in different locations.

Before we jump into the fray, let me say upfront that the multi-site model is being used to reach tons of people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is possibly one of the best church models with regards to pastoral care and intentional discipleship. I think this is largely because the model forces it to do these two things well. It also does a great job at multiplying leaders. More sites means more places for people to serve and lead. Once again, the model requires that this be done well or multi-site will fail. It also appears to be a useful method for planting churches. Churches may start out multi-site, but only with the purpose of becoming a freestanding local church. I also have a brother who is a campus pastor at a multi-site, and my parents attend a multi-site. So, I see the value and usefulness of this model.

That being said, I do have some questions and reservations about this model. Multi-site appears to be great at multiplying all kinds of leaders and servants, except a pastor who is able to preach. Now, I believe there are people in the pews of multi-site churches, campus pastors included, who are capable of preaching and teaching God’s Word. I also realize that some multi-site models use live preaching by a campus pastors. However, by and large, the way in which multi-site advocates talk, it would seem that these people do not exists. For instance, in an in-depth interview with 40 multi-site church leaders, the following characteristics were given for an effective campus pastor: leadership skills, a team builder, a salesperson for the organization, and a champion of the lead/senior pastor’s vision (McConnell, Multi-Site Churches, 98–99). There is no mention of the qualification for a pastor to be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2). I recently heard a multi-site pastor mention that one of his campus pastors was gifted in several ways, but was not a dynamic preacher. Where does the text say that one must be a dynamic teacher/preacher to fulfill the pastoral role of being able to teach? And if one were a dynamic teacher/preacher, would this then exempt one from other pastoral qualifications, like being able to lead one’s household well (1 Timothy 3:4)?

I’m also left wondering what the biblical basis for this model is. Is there a biblical argument for this form of ecclesiology? Two final questions: ‘What has been your experience with multi-site?’ ‘What other issues do you recognize with multi-site churches?’

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