I’m not a pastor. And there are many reasons why I am not in this most important and seriously critical office within the church. But I know, even without being a pastor, what questions are thrown at these men at conferences or gatherings:
- So what numbers are you running?
- How many services are you running?
- How many baptism’s have you had this year?
- How many decisions for Christ have you gotten this year?
I can assure you that the first questions are not:
- How faithful have you been to preach word for word from the Bible in your church?
- Isn’t the gospel absolutely amazing? Have you thought about our imputed righteousness lately?
- How have you invested in a young pastor’s life to have him go and preach God’s Word faithfully and expositionally?
- You want to come out with me tonight and evangelize to some people?
Can you can see the difference in the questions? Which questions should pastors be asking each other?
The first set are pragmatic, numbers-oriented questions filled with pride and egocentric narcissism. It is all focused on the breadth of the ministry which is easily manipulated to look good. All man-made branches with no roots.
The second set are humbling, gospel-centered questions that take the focus off of the pastor and put it on Christ. It is focused on the depth of the ministry which is the hard part of ministry. All roots with God taking care of the branches.
So the latest question posed to pastors today demonstrates the latest measure on church success:
- How many sites are you running?
Before I begin to stake my case against multi-sites and broadcasting the pastor on a flat-screen from town to town, let me say there are Biblical pastors on both sides of this issue (as shown in this 9marks multi-site discussion).
However in my investigation the premise behind multi-site seems to generally look the same. A huge seeker-sensitive megachurch has a great CEO leader who is an excellent communicator and motivational speaker. He backs up his points with Bible verses, preaches pretty much the same sermon series’ each year which are all just passed around the megachurch circuit (gotta have the one on how to have a great sex life each year and a continual emphasis on giving to serve the church’s goals), there are rockin’ bands with concert lights and sounds, every pastor in the church dresses the part of a cool, hip youngster, and the message always ends with an insufficient “make Jesus the leader of your life and now you’ve begun your journey as a Christ-follower” (decisional regeneration) invitation.
So what happens when you’ve gone through enough success to saturate a city…you put yourself on a huge flat-screen and duplicate this all on the other side of the city or a neighboring city (usually an affluent side). What is interesting is that although the pastor is video-casting over his message, there is always a live band present and a bunch of happy volunteers.
6 Reasons Against Doing a Multi-Site Church
1) Biblical Use of Technology
I am all for technology. Anyone that knows me knows I love technology. And technology has been absolutely great for pastors and Biblical Christianity throughout the ages from the printing press, to international travel, to radio ministries, to internet podcasting and transcripts of every sermon of great expositional preachers. This has been a blessing to those who stricken with diseases, bedridden due to circumstances, with no local churches at all, or those in places of high opposition to Christianity. But putting your local pastor on a flat-screen is not Biblical. There is no way to hold these pastors to the qualifications set forth in 1 Timothy and Titus or for those pastors to truly “keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account” (Hebrews 13:17).
2) The Pride-Filled Balloon
What is the most important thing, the most central thing, the thing that everything centers around in these multi-site churches? Obviously the huge image on the flat-screen. I guarantee you that an overwhelmingly large percentage of viewers will not have their Bibles in their hands. They are coming to watch a show. They are coming to hear a life-enhancement speech that tickles their ears and makes them ultimately feel good. They will not be hearing a convicting, Biblical message that will have them “take up their cross and follow Christ.”
3) Live Band/Dead Teaching
The big question that exposes the superficiality of it all is “why not stream in the worship music on the flat-screen?” Why put in the work to get together a live band but not grow a live pastor to faithfully preach the Word? The answer…First, most people would not come if not for the rock-concert attached to the service. Secondly, the main communicator wants to increase his influence and success. Lastly, there are no young men being grown to faithfully preach the Word – there is solely the rock-star pastor in control of it all.
4) The Gospel Wasteland
There is little of God’s Word actually preached and if so, there is little substance to it. You will not find a preaching of Biblical repentance or sin or saving faith or imputation or penal substitution or atonement or growing in holiness. You just will not find it without a faithful shepherd there feeding and protecting his flock.
5) The Mistake for Missions
The proponents of multi-site will hide under the veil of missions. They can not call it a different way to do church or an ecclesiology issue because they know that if they do so, it is unbiblical. So to fill their pride and coffers, they label it a different way to do missions . I believe this rationale is simply a way to justify their thinking. You will find out that if any one presses them on really having a conversation of whether it is a correct way to do missions or church, they will simply accuse you of not having unity or putting God in a box. I think that something as important and critical as the church should have us take the time and discuss whether it is truly a Biblical approach or not.
6) The Heart of the Shepherd
This really comes down to the heart of the pastor. Every pastor wants to see people saved, see their church grow in unity and love, and see people regenerated by the good news of Jesus. But all of these things are up to God’s will and not man’s cleverness. A shepherd’s job is to feed the sheep, protect the flock, and be faithful to God’s Word and His calling. Paul called himself a third level galley slave, Luther agreed to the Catholic Church calling him a “privy pot”, and Calvin preached faithfully through every word of God.
Pastors – forget about the numbers, forget about your territory, forget about your influence, forget about your city, forget about decisions, forget about your breadth, and forget about multi-site. Just feed, protect, and be faithful according to God’s strength and leave the rest to Him. For those close to your pastors, encourage them to be faithful, not seek success but to concentrate on those souls that God has entrusted to them. Encourage them to worry about the depth of their ministry and not the breadth as God will surely take care of that.
If you are a pastor and wrestling with the decision of multi-site, you may want to watch this video of Mark Dever, James MacDonald, and Mark Driscoll. You will clearly see which one has a true, humble pastor’s heart and ones are arrogant and egocentric. This video will make your decision real easy to stay at home…