Would Jesus start a multi-site church? This is the question that stuck with me when I finished watching the video of two multi-site guys and one who is theologically against multi-site. However, none of these three men ever ask this question. In fact, as engaging as this video was, there are a lot of questions that they never address that I’d love to hear them answer. Watch the video and then join the discussion. Are there questions you would’ve asked?
Here are a few of my questions:
1. Would Jesus start a multi-site church? If He had the technology then that we have now would He have used it? Jesus was incarnational and attractional but I don’t see Him as being attractional in the same way that MacDonald and Driscoll are attractional.
2. Would Paul start a multi-site church? When Paul said I have become all things to all people so that by all means I might save some does “all things” and “all means” include video venues? If he could’ve spoken via video to the Church in Colossae, Philippi, Ephesus and Galatia all at the same time, would he? Isn’t Paul’s statement largely about contextualization and not about indiscriminately using everything the culture uses when communicating ideas?
3. Is multi-site capitalizing on celebrity (and even creating celebrity by putting someone up on a video screen) rather than capitalizing on the power of the Gospel to transform lives? Is ecclesiology here dominated by a personality or by the Gospel and by the Ghost?
4. Is Driscoll’s question about how many time slots Dever makes available to the next generation of pastors to preach even valid? After all, he is comparing Dever’s church that has 900 people and 75 opportunities a year for younger pastors to preach versus Driscoll’s church that has 7,500 attendees and about 300 opportunities. If Dever’s church was the size of Driscoll’s but with the same proportion of opportunities for training and equipping others, then he would be providing nearly 650 opportunities a year for others to preach. This isn’t an argument for or against multi-site, but rather to say that the comparison Driscoll uses breaks down when logic is applied. If this were a valid argument he should’ve just said “Well, I have more people than you so my strategy is better than yours.” or “You have less people and this is a two-to-one argument so clearly we win.”
5. Is multi-site a better use of resources? There has been a lot of angst in recent years about “buildings and budgets”. Perhaps we could even ask, “Would Jesus start a church with a million dollar building?” much less if He would invest hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars on video equipment. Talk about proportions, maybe we should be comparing Dever’s budget for service, mission, and evangelism with multi-site and see how much is caught up in overhead, salaries, buildings, and tech. On second thought, let’s not…I’m tired of churches comparing themselves to one another based on numbers.
6. Is it possible, as MacDonald suggests that the video venue is less about the celebrity speaker than a one campus venue is about the live pastor? Are Driscoll and MacDonald suggesting that Dever’s congregants are more consumeristic than the congregants of their multi-site campuses? That’s unsubstantiated and slightly offensive, isn’t it?
7. Driscoll talks a lot in his books about the combination of missional and attractional and I completely agree that a church can be both. I even agree that I see Jesus as both incarnational and attractional. However, I fear that the video venue and the celebrity pastor skews more towards attractional than it does to missional. Sure, their services and their bands and their videos enable them to mobilize more people because more are attracted in to hear the Gospel. But is there a cost associated with that? I don’t know…I’m just asking questions.
8. Could they have maybe spent more time talking about Dever’s point about ecclesia? The other two really pounced on that one, right? Maybe they could’ve invested more time in that portion of the discussion. It was really the only theological approach to the conversation. What does that say when two multi-site guys (whom I respect) are quick to dismiss a theological point and redirect immediately to a discussion about numbers, churches, influence, etc. MacDonald even said he does video venues where he has some credibility already established. It seems their ecclesiology is heavily weighted on a personality. Going back to my question about Paul, I don’t think he would’ve wanted to establish a church in any town that was inappropriately dependent upon him. It’s even likely that the Gospel spread so rapidly in those days because other than a year here and a month there and a letter here, Paul mostly equipped others who would equip others who would equip others.
9. What does introversion have to do with anything?
Well, I have more questions and a few answers but I want to hear from you [and from Dever, Driscoll and MacDonald]. You can probably tell from how I framed my questions that I am skeptical of the long-term success of multi-site though I’m not completely opposed to it in some cases. I also don’t fully agree with Dever in that there should only be one service. Instead, I just want to have more than a 12 minute discussion about this from some of these guys who I’m sure have thought (and hopefully prayed) long and hard about the decisions they have made in how to shepherd the sheep entrusted to their care. I praise God for what these three men are doing and I raise these questions because if I ever find myself needing to make these decisions, I want to have spent due diligence in thinking through the Christological, ecclesiological, and missiological implications of such decisions.