Friday, February 02, 2007

the limits of moleskins and multi-site churches

I realize I'm being counter-cultural to the prevailing emerging church atmosphere here but I'm totally psyched because early Monday morning I'm planning to fly to San Diego to attend Leadership Network's now sold out Multi-Site Conference. Speakers will be

I wasn't going to go but just a couple of days ago, Leadership Network (LN) and my church graciously offered to foot the bill. So after some mad scrambling I've got all my reservations in place.

I've done some writing for LN on multi-sites and am intrigued by this movement. In a few days, LN will be releasing the results of the largest survey ever done of multi-site churches that will provide evidence that the movement is making a genuine difference. (I had opportunity to review the survey results pre-pub.)

As I've mentioned earlier, I think of the multi-site strategy the same way that I think of megachurches and the same way that I think about my brand new moleskin journal.

They are just tools.

Writing in my moleskin won't make me profound.

Pursuing "one church in many locations" will not necessarily make a great church.

Growing a megachurch will not necessarily result in greater kingdom impact.

They are all just tools. The choice to go multi-site is a choice of efficiency and I do not believe it's a choice that all churches should make. And if it can be shown that a quest for efficiency hampers kingdom effectiveness, then efficiency must suffer. But - so far - no one has demonstrated that a large organization cannot supply the multiplicity of small contexts that are absolutely crucial for spiritual formation.

Irrespective of church size, everyone who becomes a part of a community that calls itself "church" must find their church within the church. They must find the one or two people with whom they can establish confiding relationships. They must find the ten or fifteen people with whom they can establish spiritual community. They must find the group of people with whom they can partner for spiritual service within and without the church community. And these small, personal contexts can be found in churches of 200, 2000, or 20,000.

The question of the kingdom-impact of a church does not primarily toggle on its organizational strategy or size. The answer to this question is determined in the hearts of the folks in the church community. It's determined by the strength of individual's horizontal relationships with those within and without the church and by their individual and corporate vertical relationships with God.

I plan to live blog the conference.


Noel Heikkinen said...

As a long-time reader of your blog, I would love to connect with you while you are there. If you have time, that is. No problem if you are all booked.

You can connect with me by emailing blogATnoelheikkinenDOTcom

Stephen said...

I'd love to do that! I'll email you.

Michael said...

WOW. In this post you articulated what I have been praying through re: my church and living out the call of God to love Him, and others. Thank you for helping me see that it's totally okay to spend time w/ just a handful of folks within my church, where I can find and live in community. Good stuff - thank you!


Stephen said...

thanks michael! i'm glad you found it helpful.

djchuang said...

I'm so glad the good people around you are covering the costs for you to be there -- I'll be there too! Look forward to seeing you and your live-blogging :) Oh, and Leadership Network already did release the biggest report on multi-site churches "2007 Survey of 1000 Multi-Site Churches" --

Stephen said...

dj, I didn't know! Thanks for the heads up! And I'm glad to hear you'll be in San Diego. See you there!