Now Playing: Your Pastor

Slate Magazine's Andrew Park did an article the other day regarding the recent trend in some large churches to build separate campuses, and then have the sermon beamed in via video. I read the article with interest, and have to ask a question:

Who does that serve?

Now, before I get into this, I know there might be a reader or two here who belongs to just such a faith community. I do not mean to belittle or degrade the experience. I'm just asking a question. I understand that there are pro's and cons on both sides of the issue.

In his article, Park refers to a blog on Christianity Today, which quotes Eddie Johnson of Cumberland Church in Nashville, which is part of the larger North Point Ministries in Georgia. Eddie compares his church to Chik-Fil-A. To quote Johnson, "Just like that Chick-Fil-A owner/operator, I'm here in Nashville to open up our franchise and run it right, I believe in my company and what they are trying to 'sell.' "

Now, I'm all for a little "church marketing." As Gospel Light is growing, my mantra has been for years "If we want to be a big church, we need to start operating like a big church." I think it's important to get our message out there, and make ourselves accessible to people. I mention it in the blog. I tweak the website to get more hits. I tell people. We run ads. But that's' a far cry from using Chik-Fil-A as your model, no? Since when is Jesus a brand?

So I have to ask if the benefits of this kind of ministry outweigh the costs? Supporters of video campuses will say that this type of ministry reaches more people, that it frees up the "campus pastors" from the "burden" of writing a sermon each week, and it attracts people who might not come into a church otherwise. While I certainly agree with the first point, I question when preaching the Word of God becomes a "burden." I mean, if preaching is a burden to a pastor, should he maybe think about another line of work?"

Detractors will say that these campuses a basically sheep-stealers, that people will fly to the fancy buildings will flashy media systems, and huge resources like moths to a flame, leaving the storefront and house churches high-and-dry. Or that what kind of church is it really when the senior pastor is an unapproachable celebrity? Or are we diluting the ministerial ranks in the same way expansion and the DH rule have diluted baseball, by building these huge facilities that need multiple pastors who can't even preach the Word?

Personally, I like the fact that I can call up my senior pastor on his cell and discuss anything; that I can have breakfast at his house, or have his family over to a barbecue; that there are many preachers in our small congregation - not just the senior pastor, but other pastors, leaders and youth as well. I like knowing everyone in my congregation; who they are, where they live, and who their families are.

I have no problem with media; I've just added a podcast page to our church website, and we're looking into streaming video. I'm all for reaching people. But when the itch to reach more people comes about, I prefer the old fashioned approach - planting a church. After all, didn't Jesus command us to make "disciples" off all nations? He didn't tell his disciples "Hey, sit back and watch me!" He told them to go out and "do what you see me do." So shouldn't pastors and leaders be growing the next generation of pastors and leaders?

What do you think? Do you belong to this kind of church? How is it working for you? Leave a comment if you have something to say, and consider subscribing at the top right.


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