USA Today on Multi-site Churches


USA Today reports on the burgeoning multi-site church phenomenon. Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, and Ed Stetzer are interviewed in the article. Here’s how the report describes it:

It’s not the traditional American mom-and-pop church, where the same pastor counsels parishioners, visits when they’re ill or marries or buries them. . .

This form of high-efficiency evangelism allows thousands of worshipers to hear the same message from a lead pastor or a member of his team, in person or by video at three, five, even a dozen or more locations. Meanwhile, others take over the one-to-one side of ministry — counseling, ceremonies and small-group guidance. . .

The multisite model can prompt culture shock.

“I do miss having a pastor at the door shaking hands in the ‘check-out line,’ ” says Lauren Green, drawn to join Redeemer by Keller’s preaching. “But I realize that model of a personal relationship with a particular pastor is probably gone.”

The article is by no means all negative. Read the rest here.


  • Nathan

    “I do miss having a pastor at the door shaking hands in the ‘check-out line,’ ” says Lauren Green, drawn to join Redeemer by Keller’s preaching. “But I realize that model of a personal relationship with a particular pastor is probably gone.”

    Sad comment. A shepherd knows his sheep. A shepherd leads his sheep. I know that Jesus is the Great Shepherd, but are not pastors to model shepherding of God’s people? I also realize that shepherding is at many levels, leaders of small groups, etc., but to claim to have a pastor who appears on a video board and is not with his people is very sad.

  • Jeff Patterson

    The “check-out line” comment is an apt description. Seriously, it seems that most people just say “Nice word, pastor” and smile because that’s what we’re supposed to do. It’s personal, but can it be pastoral? Kinda like a cameo, it seems.

    Also seems that there is a way to do video venue in a way that empowers Gospel community, and there are also ways to do it that are simply fad or consumerism. Emphasis > format, IMO. Has to do with core assumptions of theology and practice.

    Could the difference be in the Gospel-centered emphasis of the preaching, coupled with adequate pastoral support structures? I have to hesitate to choose one just because of media or presence. (Not that anyone did on a comment here.)

  • Jada

    Hmmm……Nathan, I would have to agree.

    My husband and I are church planters and at this point can one really say, “I am the pastor of these churches.” Or are they, instead, more of a CEO/Spokesperson, albeit very good teachers.

    I have been a part of mega-churches. We even contemplated planting a multi-site church, but truly felt that wasn’t the way to go.

    I have a hard time with it. I realize that most have Campus Pastors, but are they teaching, too. Or is it just the ‘superstar’ pastor doing the teaching?

    Shepherding does comes in many forms. However, preparing, writing and delivering a sermon is only one part of shepherding. There is SO MUCH more to it……

    I truly believe in empowering and equipping the saints to take care of one another, so it is not that I believe the Senior Pastor should do it all. However, something about this just doesn’t sit well with me.

    Just my thoughts…..

  • BPRjam

    Is it idolatry? I find myself consistently wondering if the Paul’s letters used by the churches in the first century can be considered similar to this video preaching. Were people idolizing Paul, or did they recognize a Spirit-filled word and decide they wanted more of that? And didn’t the “I am of Paul” vs “I am of Apollos” problem rear its head even then? Idolatry of personalities is not a new problem introduced by multi-site churches.

    I’m by no means decided on the issue, and am generally negative on the multi-site church movement, but as I’ve thought more deeply, it seem that this model might not be as far off the beaten path as I originally thought.

  • yo

    BPRjam, are you actually equating these yahoos with the apostles? They aren’t inspired men with a “Spirit-filled word.” They are but scribes interpreting a text. If they claim to be anything more than that, then they are false prophets.

  • Nathan

    So these mega-church pastors can be compared to the Apostle Paul? Sorry, but I do not think you want to go there. I understand your Paul or Apollos remark but these guys are not apostles.

    The other issue here is that Protestants, mainly Baptist and Independent churches, are amazingly (especially for the Baptist’s) moving towards Episcopal forms or government. These guys are not pastors, they are bishops. And they have their “priests” that do the mundane pastoral work. This is no longer congregationalism as it has been historically known.

  • Ali

    I actually think the Paul/Apostle comparison has some validity, but only so far. For instance, Paul can write “Imitate me as I imitate Christ”, but most of the congregations don’t know the preacher well enough to do that. The apostle’s letters weren’t an every week affair.

    Also, Paul was in a position where his preaching was not “drawing crowds” like these preachers – in fact, he said he wasn’t a great speaker at all, compared to others. He actually had to fight to be heard. So…the comparisons have to be mitigated with other factors.

  • Lucas Knisely

    The primary example we have for missionary work and church planting is the Apostle Paul. Making a comparison/parallel to him is not some wild stretch that some here are making it out to be.

  • Kristen

    Paul may have been a missionary, but this article deals with the issue of head elders, so I am not really sure why you are making the connection to Paul alone. The NT has several references to the work of the overseer (sheperd) as being the head elder. Paul was not the “head elder” of all these churches, as the connection you are attempting to make to Paul with these multi-site preachers. I see nothing wrong with a multi-site preacher, or evangelical speaker, missionary, or church planter, but these churches need to still have ruling/preaching elders that are doing what the Bible has called them to do in shepherding the souls the professing beleivers that attend under their care. Our churches are already are growing toward an imperonal lack of accountability and call to Biblical relevence in the lives of members. We do not need yet another step in that direction. People are relational! They need meaningful relationships, accountabilty, shepherding, and teaching from church leaders, and the Bible does have a formula for this. Matthew Henry speaks about Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist in the following way- God will have communion with us and reveal Himself to us, but we must come to Him obediently in the ways He has called us to approach Him and worship Him.

  • rey

    We are seeing the emrgeance of a Catholic hierarchy with rabidly Calvinist theology. A Calvo-Catholic church is emerging with Driscoll as pope.

  • BPRjam

    By no means am I equating these elders with Paul. To believe I referred to such is a terribly uncharitable reading of what I wrote.

    However, the principle holds – that someone may be drawn to a Spirit-filled word is a Christian universal. So, are preachers inspired? To the extent to which they share the gospel message in a cogent way, yes. One has too narrow a view of inspiration if only the Biblical authors can ever be considered inspired.

    The multi-site churches that I have visited and examined (4 to date) have extensive networks of site-specific “shepherds” for taking care of the local community. On the other hand, I’ve rarely met an elder of a church over about 600 (examined 7 to date) in primary service attendance who is consistently in touch with “shepherding” the people in the church. However, I’m departing from the article somewhat in my post.

    So, my point in alluding to Paul is this 1.) idolatry of personalities is at least as old as Christianity 2.) people will always be drawn to those extraordinarily gifted by the Spirit to preach and teach, and will give some sense of authority to those preachers/teachers (similar, but not identical, to the way in which Paul was given authority), and 3.) the way in which that authority is exercised might not be too far from older, established, and not unsuccessful models.

    All this to say I’m still a bit negative on multi-site church models, but there may be a contemporary reworking of a very old church polity happening here, which deserves a more thoughtful conversation.

  • Ali


    To go back to my earlier comment, Paul was not considered a great speaker and deliberately downplayed rhetoric.

    Was he idolised? Yes, but so were others and in 1 Cor 1 he condemns this.

    So, I think you need to take a hard look at the differences as well as the similarities, and when that is done, there is quite a lot of distance between Paul and the sole preachers of modern day multi-site church. (And don’t get me started on 1 Cor 14!)

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