Saturday, February 03, 2007

can a multi-site strategy be a biblical strategy?

I have been reading a review by John Hammett, who is Professor of Systematic Theology of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, of the book The Multi-Site Revolution, which was written by Greg Ligon, Warren Bird, and Geoff Surratt.

While acknowledging that the book is aimed at practitioners, Hammett writes:

"The leaders of this movement need to show more clearly that a multi-site church fits within the biblical meaning of ekklesia before recommending it as fervently as they do. A respect for history should cause them to ponder why earlier theologians never saw this model in the pages of the New Testament. Before adopting a pragmatic solution in response to the need for additional seating, considering the theological implications of the solution is imperative. This book should be building upon a previous work making the theological, exegetical, and ecclesiological case for multi-site churches. But that work has not yet been written. I am not sure that a convincing case can be made; perhaps it can. But before urging multitudes of churches to join the movement, the implications of the multi-site model need to be considered.

Perhaps multi-site churches are a preferable option to building bigger buildings for bigger megachurches. But why adopt what is as of now biblically questionable when the better option of planting new churches is clearly biblical? Much of what this book contains can be easily transferred to a strong and supportive church planting model, which would accomplish many of the same goals as the multi-site church while relieving many of the troubling ecclesiological questions."

I earlier posted some of my own thoughts on the multi-site movement - before I read Dr. Hammett - and I want to give his challenge more careful consideration, but one thing that I'm not sure he sufficiently takes into account is the degree to which our new information situation may inform a paradigm of church that might include a multi-site strategy. For example, here I tried to tease out how the declining cost of information impacts leadership formation. I believe that this trend also may have an effect on ecclesiology.


JourneyWild said...

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, chances are it's a... duck!

I value those who look at the 'rules' of Christianity and work to ensure that we are living within them.

However, on occasion they can over-analyze things. I think this is the case here. If a multi-site campus looks like a church plant, acts like a church plant, targets the unchurched like a church plant, then chances are it's a church plant!

They can call themselves whatever they want, but the bottom line is, church planting principles are being followed. The unchurched are being targeted, new leaders are being developed, and multiplication is happening. If these new congregations prefer to call themselves 'campuses' rather than 'churches', they can go right ahead.

I think it's fairly simple to explain why multi-site churches were not found in the New Testament - Acts is the story of introducing the Gospel to new places. It follows Paul (for the most part), rather than the development of any one church. There is no long-term study of how congregations develop in a particular region.

PS - Just an FYI, it is very difficult to publish comments on your site. It takes several tries with the username/password process before the comment 'takes'.

Stephen said...

Hi Nicole,

Thanks for your thoughts! I do think it's possible for us to get lost in nomenclature. Sorry ab the struggles commenting! One way to attack that is just post anonymously and then add your name and url to the post, but I know that can be a hassle too.

Anonymous said...

So, are you going to blog the Multisite Conference in sunny southern California this week? All those pastors down there roughing it, while the rest of us shiver in the cold - ah, well, it's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it! So are you gonna cover it for us?

brad said...


tim keller, at the 'desiring God 2006' stated that he absolutely believed that a missional church has many forms and can be found in many models. while this isn't a biblical example, it does seem that you aren't alone in swimming 'against the emergent stream' in regards to the possibility of a multi-site church model.