Convince Me

I feel like I’m on the verge of becoming a “grumpy old man” (well, let’s face it, I already am one), but I feel like I am watching the Church continue to dabble in error.

I have yet to be convinced in any form or fashion that the “multi-site” movement in the church is profitable in the long run.

Descending quickly to the bottom line, and unflinchingly showing my cards, I’ll declare that any movement to restrain the growth and development of the incarnational church is suspicious to me. Any object or paradigm that comes between the God’s children in need and the pastors who are to shepherd them is problematic, and the reason that the multi-site approach is nefarious is that — at least in part — it is predicated on the idea that the “church” exists in one community, while the “sheep” in another community.

How can this be good?

“But there are pastors who would be located in that community.” Okay, that’s good. What will they be doing? This is where the debate gets really murky, because in some cases they appear to be shepherds who take care of people, in others they will teach.

If they will teach, why not just declare the “site” a plant, and be done with it? Allow it to grow up with its own ethos, its own roots and style, its own giftedness.

Why not allow it to be free?

If the teaching will be “on screen”, then that brings a whole host of other questions. While employing the tools of culture to reach folks, “screen teaching” seems to unnecessarily cater to “passive learning” that some theologians and cultural commentators find so troubling.

In my opinion, it returns me to a similar thought I had a year ago: this is reflective of the church’s priorities. What does it say about us? Does it say we are interested in developing creative leaders and teachers, in allowing the Church to grow and flourish in localized and individual expressions? Or does it say that we are interested in control, in technology over gifts, in haste over patience.

Couldn’t the long-term health of the church be served as well by waiting another 12 – 18 months to develop the right leader for a localized, incarnational expression of the church, rather than pressing play on a DVD or a web stream?

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2 thoughts on “Convince Me

  1. By the way, I love the way this blog looks.

    And I foresee that we are going to have some interesting conversations next week.

    These are fine and valid issues you raise, and I daresay that most anyone who is wrestling with the thought of growing the kingdom via the use of prerecorded teaching ought to be working through the same issues and arriving at some answers before continuing on.

    In our case, here’s what we know: like it or not, we ARE a culture that is accustomed to having information delivered via the screen. In fact, our current community – although not accustomed to seeing their teaching pastor on a screen, because we don’t have that kind of technology – has grown to the numerical degree that they already feel somewhat removed from the TEACHING/SENIOR pastor. He IS available, any time – but in terms of walking among everyone and being able to identify each individual and know that he is their shepherd – well, no. There are just too many people.

    And, by the way, that’s not something we aimed for. They just keep coming. So what do we do? We keep the doors open and we get them into community where there are leaders and helpers and pastors and friends.

    So – here’s the deal with us: we are not deliberately trying to create some sort of two or three or six headed multi-site monster. We see PEOPLE. We see people who are already driving 30 – 50 minutes to attend the services, because they respond to the music, they have community, they believe that the teaching they hear is relevant and true to their spiritual development. And we all see that we are about to add 15/20 minutes to their drive to their physical location, which will be overflowing within two months of opening, because we just don’t have the gazillion dollars it takes to build a huge building…

    So the idea that we could create an environment where these people could BE a community together – still tied to the community they love, with full access to and support from their ‘home base’ – is very appealing, to us (passionate about seeing more people come and grow in Christ) and to them (passionate about the same thing, and feeling called to become part of this new thing).

    The video teaching we believe we will use is a tool; we have a powerful communicator in Brian Hughes. He seems to get the environment, he is gifted and I believe he is anointed for this time. We have questions – Brian is more relevant to the slightly rural bent of Powhatan county, and just heading 15 miles down the road enters real live American suburbia. Will it fly? We don’t know.

    But what we DO know is that we have to leverage what we have: the Holy Spirit, the reputation, the energy, the buzz and the people committed to BRINGING THEIR NEIGHBORS AND FRIENDS TO CHURCH. Like it or not, unchurched folks can be lazy. They want convenience, they want easy (hello, it’s AMERICA). God can change them but we figure He can work within the community and fellowship of believers that He said we ought to pursue.

    So – that’s why. You’re right – in the long-term, what happens? Will it work? Will real community happen? I don’t know. But because I believe STRONGLY that the church exists seven days a week, in the small pockets of community that exists when believers come together, I could care less what it takes to get people in the room. If it’s a weekly revival tent that looks like an itinerant preacher, calling folks in to gawk and talk and just look things over – and then God grabs people and lifts them up and into His kingdom and committed “site pastors” or “shepherds” or whatever you want to call them are THERE and they welcome these folks into relational and spiritual grace – well, then, does it matter? Because church will be Monday night at small group…and Tuesday night at band rehearsal…and Saturday afternoon while serving the needy…etc.

    Them’s my two cents. More like 2,000 cents.

    Can’t wait to see you!

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