What to Plant?

October's issue of Christianity Today has an interesting article on the ongoing discussion between opening campuses and planting churches.

Now, for the record, I'm a church plant guy. But that line is getting more and more blurry as more and more churches tweak the "multi-campus" model. No longer is the old "theater" church campus the norm (that's the one where the people sit in an auditorium and the pastor gets "beamed in" onto a big screen.) Many churches are turning to a more blended approach.

My problem with multi-site churches is this: why are we not raising up pastors? Why are we not raising up people who can teach and preach God's Word? According to Thomas White, of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary "And when you're showing a pastor on the screen yet have a campus pastor: is the campus pastor not fit to teach? If he is, then why is he not teaching? A church plant would be better."

In my view, multi-site churches have the dangerous possibility of becoming cults-of-personality. When we begin following the man instead of the Word, we start slipping away from what church should be. If the senior pastor never gets to meet the vast majority of members, there's a problem. If the "church" is fostering an anonymous, slip-in-and-slip-out mentality, then it's not working.

But... and this is a big one, I'm starting to see some reasonable arguments in favor of some model of multi-campus churches. Larry Osborne from North Coast Church, Vista, Ca.: "It depends on leadership. If I have a gifted communicator, I tell them to plant. If I have someone who is a good shepherd, I suggest a multisite." That actually makes some sense. Not every pastor is a Billy Graham, and if there is still a strong pastor at the site, maybe this makes some sense.

The best argument I've seen is what I'll call the "interim" argument: campuses might make sense if they evolve into churches. Bob Hyatt from Evergreen Community in Portland, Or. says: "Multisite is a step towards church planting... It's something new in a new space, yet doesn't have to be instantly self-sustaining." That actually makes a lot of sense to me.

I don't think this argument (if it is one) is going to be settled anytime soon, but, it's good to see that ideas are continuing to flow. What do you think?

(Thanks to Tyler Braun, who's tweet got me reading the article, which I have quoted liberally.)


  1. Great thoughts Mike. I would lean more towards Church Plant as well. I definitely think we need to be raising new leaders - giving people the opportunity to grow and develop. Part of the quote suggests that multi-site is a step towards church planting. I think some churches multi-site to keep the current church culture in place. They don't particularly want the multi-site to develop it's own personality.

    I too have the same concerns about a huge ministry all based around one guy. They are nearly afraid to hand responsibility to someone else because they're afraid they'll loose their congregation. If they are the only reason the people are there, then there's something very wrong to begin with.

  2. Excellent point, Alastair. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss", huh? Why can the new place not build a culture of it's own? As long as it is, I think it's a good thing. If it's simply trying to "be" the home church, not so much.


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