Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Coast-to-Coast 2007 Multi-Site Conference: Day 1

Ok, so I said I would be live blogging this conference from San Diego, DJ announces this, and I see DJ Chuang today and he notes that I'm not lugging my laptop with me.

I meditate on this throughout today the first day of the conference and realize that I'm not - in fact - technically "live blogging" the conference since I am only blogging my thoughts at the end of the day which - incidentally - has been a very long day as it began at 3:30 AM today when my alarm went off to catch a 6 AM flight.

So here we go. Some of the best things I heard today came from Larry Osborne, who is the senior pastor of North Coast, who is hosting our conference here in Southern California. He has a lot of insights into the church in North America and into the multi-site movement.

Why the Big Get Bigger

He compared mega-churches to big box stores such as Best Buy and Home Depot. He said, "Big Boxes (be they stores or churches) draw crowds because of their quality and options. But they can only stay big through personalization." Our culture has shifted so that the consumer is more focused on quality and options and is far less loyal. This means that someone might leave a mega-church at the drop of a hat if a better church comes along.

What Mega-Churches missed

He explained that church leaders like huge crowds but he asked us, "When was the last time you heard someone say, 'Hey, I get to go to a huge stadium event tonight!' Leaders like it big but church folks like it small.

Mega-church leaders also underestimated the limit of drive time. There is a natural limit to growth in that folks are simply not usually willing to drive over 25 mins to come to your church, even if they've visited the church, like the neighbors who invited them, and like the church.

Finally, the mega-church is just not designed to accommodate what Osborne called "cultural balkanization." He explained that by that term he meant the degree to which North American culture is not homogeneous but is increasingly become variegated and tribal. The mega-church just isn't programmed to adapt to so many conflicting congregant desires. He suggests this cultural change has been precipitated by the automobile and the resulting death of neighborhood, the service industry (McDonald's etc), FM Radio, Cable TV (and he could have said the Internet), and - finally, mass customization.

The multi-site church has the potential to address these shifts by allowing a structure

  • defeats the drive-time issue by bringing church closer to those that it wishes to reach,
  • can address the cultural tribalism of our culture by allowing one church to be multi-cultural, and
  • allows more opportunities for volunteers, for leadership, for interactivity so that church can be even more personal.
Osborne does not present an unwarranted triumphalism about multi-church, but sees it as a tool that can be used to more effectively address our current North American cultural situation.

Osborne's talk reminded me of Mike Frost's emphasis on incarnational ministry versus attractional ministry.


Anonymous said...

Groover here:

I spent most of my Christian experience since college in the "mega church" (10,000) people on Sunday.

There is no "mega church." There is one place where people gather, but the "church" is the weekly small group. People fall into groups; married, single, college, high school, seniors, etc.

In my church, there was strong bible teaching. However, there was very poor discipleship/ mentoring (call it what you like). I almost never socialized with those outside the college department. In this world, "church" was simply (18-24yo's)...which is a very isolated world & life view.

The issue of driving is important. It is very difficult to cultivate any type of meaningful relationships when those in your "small group" live 10-50 miles away from each other.

Like always, the core issue is that of leadership--and in this case, I am referring to one man being able to train up another in the ways of Christ. IMO, the church has utterly failed in this area. Leadership must be more than one man being able to explain what a particular passage means. It's sad the world seems to have more wisdom here than those who claim to model themself after the Lord Jesus.

brad said...

hi groover,

you said..."Like always, the core issue is that of leadership--and in this case, I am referring to one man being able to train up another in the ways of Christ. IMO, the church has utterly failed in this area."

...is this in reference to the 'mega-church' model alone? i'm just asking for clarification as i'm not certain of how specific or general your statement is meant to be. i believe any model, be it mega-church, multi-site, home church, etc., can excel or neglect what i'll call healthy discipelship or 'train(ing) up a man'.

i appreciate your thoughts in regards to 'small group' and the church.

hey stephen, just curious if it's warm there. thanks for keeping us updated on the conference.


Anonymous said...

Hi Brad
Excellent point...I can only share from my experience.

From ages 20-25 I was in a mega church (10,000 people on Sunday)

Ages 25-28 (out of my home state) a smaller church and then a very small church (88 people)

Ages 29-34 church size 600 then it split. Back to the mega church of my college years.

Ages 34-38 no steady church attendance

Ages 39-42 size about 1,200

In all of this, yes, without a doubt, there was very poor training outside of the teaching format. As for training, I mean in the most Hebrew of ways. I feel the church has bought the Greek model of learning found in most school systems, that is to deposit information in audible format (sermon).

There has been very little actual training similar to the father-son model or discipleship model of Jesus and/or the older man investing in the younger man for a period of time.

It's just not done which raises many more questions and brings me full circle to leadership which assumes purpose and understanding of foundations.

How can you lead someone where you haven't gone? Too many leaders have head knowledge and too little life understanding that reflects a biblical world & life view, which translates to the practical areas of life--relationships, finances, investing, art, ect.

I just see too many who can break down the notes (teach, give sermons) but don't really play the instrument well themselves...but are in a position to tell others how to play.

Doesn't make any sense.

brad said...

hi groover,

thanks for your clarification. i really find myself agreeing with you in regards to hebrew vs greek or eastern vs western/euro-centric style 'teaching'.

are you familiar with ray Vander Laan? he speaks extensively about this as well as living his life in this discipleship model (hebrew). also, john eldridge writes from an extremely practical point of view in regards to initiating men through deep relationship with someone who has actually walked the walk before them.

i believe that these two men are really pressing forward in this field, with a loud call to followers of Jesus.

also, i believe stephen has blogged a little about his extensive experience in his local church in trying to implement a relational/mentor format.

thanks groover for your response:)


Anonymous said...

Brad...thanks for the Ray Vander Laan name. I liked what I saw on his site; http://www.followtherabbi.com

These are good words:
For us to know Jesus—and thus God the Father and the Holy Spirit—more intimately, we must carefully assess our 21st-century culture and Western attitudes in relation to and in light of the 1st-century world of Jesus. We must immerse ourselves in the culture of Scripture and Jesus of Nazareth. And we must learn to "think Hebrew"—in the way that the original writers of the Text thought.

I see much of our church culture like the frog in water...being boiled to death and not even aware!

Dan Price said...

"Leaders like it big but church folks like it small."

I guess this sentence seems like it contridicts itself in my mind. There are plenty of small churches in the US, but it sure seems like a lot of people go to large churches. That in in itself means a lot of "church folk" like a large church.

I know that with our church about 50% of our people were previsouly unchurched. They like coming to our meeting, seeing what we believe and what we value and being able to remain annonymous until they are ready to decide to pursue more intimate community.

What are your thoughts on this?

Hey nice meeting you the on tuesday too! I know Noel said that talking with you was worth the price of admission.

Noel said...

Don't forget flying for 15 hours, Dan. It was worth flying for 15 hours.

djchuang said...

Stephen, great to hang out with you, and I like your meditation and notes.. in the end, aside from the immediacy of live-blogging, well-written notes (and concept papers) are much easier to read and have longer shelf life :)

Stephen said...

dan, sorry i'm late with a response here! I believe that everyone one must find their church within a church. That is why I resonated with this particular phrase from the speaker. If you don't find the one, the three, the 7 and the 12 folks within which you become relationally wedded, then you aren't a part of the church.


Stephen said...

joe (groover), thanks for your comments!

Noel and dj - I loved hanging with you guys as well!