Monday, May 18, 2009

9Marks Debate - The Multi-Site Church

In their latest newsletter 9Marks Ministry features series of articles on the phenomena of a multi-site church. For those unfamiliar with the concept it goes something like this: a successful church wants to reach out. So instead of hiring a church planting pastor and then 'hiving' off a core group to go and plant a new congregation, they choose to rent a facility, erect a large screen and download a satellite broadcast of the successful church. Sometimes they will broadcast the entire service. At other times the local group has its own praise band and they only beam in the sermon. Usually a pastoral representative from the mother church presides.

There are lots of pros and cons to this approach. I was speaking with a colleague the other day and in his opinion its done because of the 'culture of celebrity.' Some people are so enamored with celebrity pastors that they prefer a beamed in image to a real flesh and blood pastor. There's a lot of truth in that but perhaps there is more to it as well.

My first reaction to this is that I find it kind of creepy and problematic. There is an element of celebrity but there is also an element of 'franchising' the church too. The successful pastor and his sermons are the product that is being sold. His church and ministry philosophy is their brand.

I am still working through the essays so I will withhold further comment for now.


Jeannette said...

I tend to agree with your initial assessment of "church franchising," but do you think this might have a legitimate place in the context of world missions? (I haven't read the 9Marks articles.)

Dave Sarafolean said...

Well, it depends. Perhaps it can be used as a means to ground believers in the faith but if the sermon is in English then someone will need to translate. Moreover, what about church membership, church discipline, administering the sacraments, etc.? What about officers (elders and deacons)? These questions aren't easily answered by those who advocate the multi-site model.

Personally, I find it hard to believe that someone who takes 3 or 4 years out of his life to study in seminary would be happy playing 'second banana' to the rock star pastor who is beamed in. At some point it would be just as easy for the the pastor who is presiding at the site take over and provide the necessary oversight.