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Can church be satellited?

posted by xscot mcknight

A question for you and I hope a brisk, informed conversation. But first a brief explanation. I have been hearing of late, from a variety of quarters, that more and more churches are starting “satellite campuses” and, in effect, “satelliting” their church to another location. Thus, a big, local church DVDs its service on Saturday night and then that service is played the next morning in a variety of other local settings. What do you think of this practice? What are its effects — on other local churches? on spiritual formation? Does anyone have local experience with another church doing this in your area?



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Cleve Dawsey

posted January 31, 2006 at 6:42 am


What’s the difference betwen that and staying home to watch a church service on television? That’s been going on for years.



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Baggas

posted January 31, 2006 at 7:12 am


I don’t have a major problem with churches having “satellite” campuses, or multiple services in different locations, but my feeling is that it still needs to be “live.” Watching a DVD of a worship service just isn’t the same as actually being there. The practice is just starting to catch on here in Australia too.



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Mike

posted January 31, 2006 at 7:22 am


I think that preaching/teaching (in particular) needs to be *less* centralized. It’s bad enough that most churches have only one person doing the same one-way communication week after week after week.



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Tony

posted January 31, 2006 at 7:52 am


No thanks!
Nothing can replace face-to-face, hands-on Christianity! This smacks of idolatry–personality driven, lifeless. Definitely not for me! Like the story of Jacob (his outwitting Laban) you get what you put before the people (sheep); “reap what you sow”–time will reveal the mistake this is in the “fake” Christianity it produces. It’s not real–it’s too easy to put off! (We have been conditioned not to take anything we see on the screen as real; remember 9-11, everyone was saying–”It’s just like a movie”.) The Gospel is serious–God was manifest in the flesh, not via satellite!



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Scot McKnight

posted January 31, 2006 at 7:56 am


Cleve,
I see a big difference between TV (which is never designed to replace local church attendance — at least in word) and satellites for the satellite sites function as a local church with parts of the service, most notably the sermon, done by someone not present.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 31, 2006 at 7:57 am


Tony,
This is the point, isn’t it? Incarnation respects the limited, personal, in-the-flesh presence.



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Lukas McKnight

posted January 31, 2006 at 8:04 am


I would say, for me, it is inauthentic. But others may have a better experience, so I wouldn’t rule it out for everyone.



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted January 31, 2006 at 8:30 am


Scot,
I would agree with your statement “Incarnation respects the limited, personal, in-the-flesh presence”. It seems to me that the existence of such practices only happen because the core issues of what it means to be a community of faith have not been deeply engaged the begin with. If the core of the service can be canned and distributed, what does that ultimately say about how we view the nature of our practice of faith?
There are many factors that play into this, but the one that stands out to me is individualism. By making the “spiritual formation” static, leaving no room for the dynamics of communal formation, we isolated each individual to engage (or not) the message on their own.
However, it begs the question: How different is this from more sermon/services with a live preacher? All too similar, sadly.
Peace,
Jamie



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Mark Perry

posted January 31, 2006 at 8:50 am


As with many issues, this one is not so clear cut. On the one hand, watching a video is not significantly different from contemporary forms of worship where people “watch” the band. In other words, this seems to be the logical conclusion of a more passive form of worship. On the other hand, the key people interaction does occur as a congregant is seated with many others. Additionally, I suspect those congregants are then involved throughout the week in small groups and face-to-face ministry. Is it possible that video dependent sermons could lead to less pastor dependence?



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John Byron

posted January 31, 2006 at 8:54 am


Scot,
Although satellite church services would not be my preference, I do wonder what the difference is between DVD centered services and epistle centered services? My point is that the Pauline churches seem to, at least to some degree, centered their meeting time around listening to an apostolic letter being read. In Thessalonica in particular we do not have any clue as to what kind of access they had to scriptures and who would be able to competently comment on them if they did possess them. Is there much of a difference between the 21st century and the 1st century except that the medium has been improved with technological advances?



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Bob Hyatt

posted January 31, 2006 at 9:24 am


I think this is a hugely important question for the church in America… I sum up my thinking on video venues as: “Good problem, terrible solution.”
It’s great that some churches are filled and don’t know what to do with all the folks that are coming their way. My contention is that if you have the resources to plant a video congregation, you have the resources to plant a church and it would probably be better for everyone involved if a local community was allowed to be a local community.
Steve McCoy and I (and others!) went around on this for awhile sometime ago at his blog, and on mine.



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Bob

posted January 31, 2006 at 9:30 am


The fastest growing church in my town is a satellite church. They have no teaching pastor and yet have one of the most community-minded, mission-minded congregations around. They’ve done some great work with Katrina and have a city-wide Men’s and Women’s series (also DVD based) that is quite successful.
Mark, I agree that it leads to less pastor-dependence. It puts more responsibility on the shoulders of “common folk”. The in-the-flesh pastors around here hate them.



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Lukas McKnight

posted January 31, 2006 at 9:45 am


Good example, Bob; it seems that churches like this can do great work, but I just doubt that they are for everyone.



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Grant

posted January 31, 2006 at 9:53 am


I’m witnessing Bob’s ‘phenomena’ in my town as well. I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, the venues I have seen have live worship, teaching from DVD, and a ‘campus pastor’ who frames the teaching into application for their context.
In that regard – spiritual formation gets the focus from the pastors as opposed to preparing the ‘show’ every week. They can focus on the question of how do we get this stuff from the head to the heart. Which in my opinion where most of us fail in the first place.
On the other hand…does video venue create another personality/consumer driven economy/DNA in the church? Am I going because the teacher is funny, entertaining, and I can dance to it? Or am I going because that’s where I’ve found a meaningful connection point/merge point with God?
Don’t know if there is as clean of an answer to it as we’d like.



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AP

posted January 31, 2006 at 9:55 am


Genuine churches can exist via satellite, but the word spoken must be incarnated in some way. If the Word is made flesh, then the word (small ‘w’) should be made flesh in/for the Church, as well. The Bible preached is God speaking and since God speaks in these last days through his Incarnate Son, then the Bible should be incarnated, as well. Of course, since the church is the body of Christ, it is best made flesh through the community and not just one person.
Satellite feeds do not incarnate the word. In fact, it presents another obstacle. But, like others have mentioned, some typical local churches have one person doing all the speaking–which accomplishes the word made flesh part, but neglects the community part.
I suppose one style neither guarantees nor nullifies the ability for the community to incarnate the word.



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Michael Kruse

posted January 31, 2006 at 10:41 am


I don’t share the aversion to the satellite idea that others seem to experience, especially if we are talking primarily about the teaching portion. This is partly because I think the once a week worship service is waaay over emphasized. Worship happens throughout the various activities of each day of our lives.
If the idea is to go to a satellite sermon once a week and call that “being the church” then it is useless. Of course, going to a live service once a week a calling that “being the church” is also useless.
You might also want to check out another option. Cyber Church.
http://www.alphachurch.org/
This raises some similar issues.



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Steve McCoy

posted January 31, 2006 at 10:45 am


I don’t like the idea, but I wish our church was growing so fast that we had to wrestle with the idea. :)
I see the preaching moment as irreplaceable and dynamic. God can certainly work through less than ideal means (does He have a choice?), but I don’t think God answers our prayers for workers for the harvest with video screens, DVD’s, etc. I think I could see it as a temporary band-aid for growth problems, but not a solution.
It is very different from watching at home since you still have local pastors, local worship (usually), and a community of believers.



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Lukas McKnight

posted January 31, 2006 at 10:48 am


Let’s not forget, though, new media and all it can bring; one may see satellite feed as an obstacle, but others may love it. If it extends the kingdom, is it really bad?
As well, I think of the NOOMA videos and the messages they bring- impersonal? Perhaps. Effective and powerful? Aye!



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john alan turner

posted January 31, 2006 at 10:58 am


This conversation seems to reflect a sentiment that I thought we were past: the idea that your Sunday morning experience IS your church experience for the week. If you’re involved in true community — meeting regularly with a small group of people to “do life together” — then your small group can choose to go watch a DVD of a great communicator with several dozen other small groups on a Sunday morning. As long as everyone understands that one environment does not replace (or displace) another, what’s the problem?



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Michael Kruse

posted January 31, 2006 at 11:03 am


#20 What he said. Amen.



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Brent

posted January 31, 2006 at 11:22 am


I’ve had a wonderful experience with attending the satellite campus of a larger church in Atlanta. The do put on a high tech (i.e. if sitting in the back it almost seems like a real life preacher is up front) production replete with a live band leading a contemporary worship service. Now I grew up in a small Baptist church in the mountains of NC so I really wasn’t moved by all the bells and whistles. In fact I was really a little put off by them at first. What kept me coming back was the power and the relevancy of the messages that I was hearing, and to the extent that these were powerful and relevant messages it didn’t matter if I was listening to a live preacher or the recorded message he gave at the mother ship the week before.
I think another crucial component of a satellite church is how well it does establish that sense of community among its attenders. This one does a fairly good job of getting people in the door and moving them into more intimate and smaller community groups. That for me has been where the real spiritual growth has occurred.
So for me the experience has been wonderful and I wouldn’t write them off completely. I think that they do face a unique set of challenges and if all they are doing is popping in a DVD in and then sending people home they probably aren’t worth the time and effort.



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Brian Trapp

posted January 31, 2006 at 11:43 am


I don’t really have a problem with the satellite feed as long as it’s live. I’m not a big fan of the “recorded” message being rebroadcasted as it seems like the Holy Spirit works better through the live, dynamic, active preaching of the Word. But that may be just a personal preference and I’m sure churches that use recordings are very effective.
My home church in Louisville is doing the multiple campus thing as well, but we aren’t using satellite feeds or anything like that. We currently have two campuses with different service times and the pastor preaches at both. But we are about to expand with multiple campuses, each of which will have its own lead pastor who will preach, with the main pastor rotating in and out. This seems better to me, as (1) it keeps the preaching personal and gets the staff out to meet all the people while (2) maintaining a full-time person at that campus to meet the needs of the people.



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paul delsignore

posted January 31, 2006 at 11:46 am


I think Satellite services, in terms of listening to Preaching (even in a community setting) removes the important dimension of ‘presence.’ Personally, my attention is much more in-tune to something being presented ‘live’ rather than on a screen display.
I also think that the opportunity to interact with a preacher after a sermon is beneficial. I attended Tim Keller’s church in NYC for ten years, and he always had Q&A sessions after a service… this was a great way to work through the practical implementations of a sermon.
paul
______________
sketches in sacred vapor
http://www.pauldelsignore.com



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len

posted January 31, 2006 at 11:48 am


I’ll offer you a snip from a 190 page document drafted by the Church of England.. I agree passionately with their sensibilities in this. I’ll post the link at the end.. beginning at page 20..
“The Anabaptist writer and practitioner, Stuart Murray Williams, has been the most trenchant critic of the tendency of older church plants to copy the outward forms and style of their sending church, without asking whether the new mission context was different. This can result in failure to let the shape and form of the new church be determined by the mission context for which it was intended. The call for new kinds of churches can become subverted into the production of more churches.
“The science of genetics helps us understand a difference between creative reproduction and cloning. When the genes of an individual are combined in offspring with new genes from an external source, the result is a genetically unique creation in the next generation and not a copy. So it is with good church planting in practice.
“The planting process is the engagement of church and gospel with a new mission context, and this should determine the fresh expression of church.
“To exclude either the theological essentials or the new mission context is to miss what is necessary for plants to take root and lead to a contextualized church.
“Looking back, some clone plants began as culturally inappropriate entities and so aged rapidly and took on all the unhelpful attributes of the parent. Some failed to survive and failed to reproduce further. … {but] where the mission context was the same, creating similar church was sometimes appropriate..”
http://www.cofe.anglican.org/info/papers/mission_shaped_church.pdf



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Marc

posted January 31, 2006 at 11:49 am


The Meeting House is a large “seeker sensitive” church in Ontario that “satellites” its services to several locations on Sunday morning. It’s a live feed (as opposed to a recording) and I imagine they have a couple of thousand people attending at each of their 5 locations. I don’t know what the effect is, but by the sounds of it the teaching is sound and people are growing…



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tatiana

posted January 31, 2006 at 11:59 am


Nooma videos. Hmmm. Still trying to figure out what I think of those.
My instant reaction to the idea of satellite church is… “Ugh, sick.” I am uncomfortable with a congregation depending entirely on technology for their gatherings, and uncomfortable with church being a show that people come to watch.
However, if I think about it a bit more I do see the value in that it could help church bodies break down into smaller groups that are more geographically-oriented (rather than thousands of people streaming towards one “megachurch”). I think that the “program” of a Sunday morning service is hardly the most important part of a congregational gathering. In fact, it might be refreshing for congregations to put far less focus on the planning and preparation and carrying out of programmatic elements and put more time and energy into real fellowship, taking communion, praying with one another, and caring for the needy among them.
That said, I think I WOULD still find the practice disconnected, frustrating, and just plain weird.



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JM

posted January 31, 2006 at 12:43 pm


This has nothing to do with satellite churches, but it does mention a satellite phone provided by the Evangelical covenant church. It’s about Mike Holmgren’s wife and daughter.
http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news;_ylt=AmOWDKBH5IvbwMu_sqPdZzs5nYcB?slug=cnnsi-fantasticjourne&prov=cnnsi&type=lgns



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Jpb

posted January 31, 2006 at 1:09 pm


I had the opportunity a year back to check out a popular church here in Southern California (not Saddleback). I arrived late, and because the main room was full, I was escorted to a different room with a “live feed” of the service. Although live, I still felt very separated from what was going on. However, I must admit that there were others around me who appeared to have no problem with it. Either way, I wasn’t a fan, and can’t imagine what it would be like to not only be there, but be watching something that happened at a completely different time. I equate to a sports game: it’s great to watch the game you taped, but to actually be at the game is a whole other experience – I’d rather be at the game.



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J.R.Dollins

posted January 31, 2006 at 2:56 pm


I attended a growing church in the midwest a few years ago before we were transferred by my employer to another location. This church had a main sanctuary service and a satellite service in the gym. All of the worship and pre-service prayer and announcements were independent as well as the invitation (if appropriate) and closing songs etc. The sermon was a live feed from the main sanctuary. This was very wierd to me at first, but I really liked the way the church geared the different parts of the service around the sermon to distinct crowds. The church also did a good job of facilitating small groups. It should be noted that the gym service was contemporary and the sanctuary service was more traditional. The church grew in this manner.
To Jpb’s point in #28:
I agree that the atmosphere at a game is great and unique and cannot be duplicated in another location. But I enjoy watching away games at home with my friends where we can freely add our commentary and we can view the game from myriad angles which we would not have access to if we were at the game. I also enjoy watching the most popular games where the best teams and athletes compete from home with friends because I could never afford to attend all of them.
I think you understand what I’m gettin’ at.
in Him,



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Bob

posted January 31, 2006 at 3:08 pm


Hmmm… Listening to this, I’m not sure I’m talking about satellite church in the same way. It sounds like you guys are saying a satellite is just a way to expand your church without expanding your location. Instead of bigger, you make more. But it is still the same entity.
What we have in my town (comment #12) is a new church with its own identity (as an expression of the local community) that does not have its own teaching pastor. So it uses taped messages.
There’s a big difference between the two.
On the “live” preacher thing. The only thing that is important about live is the charisma and personality of the speaker himself. The message should not be contingent on that. (Do you read sermons from the past?)
If it is, maybe you have a cult of personality?



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Van S

posted January 31, 2006 at 3:23 pm


There are a number of satelite churches here in Minneapolis/St. Paul. If we privelege preaching as the central act of the worship gathering, then sateliting makes sense. It feels inauthentic to me and doesn’t allow for as much participation, but if we value information above presence, and monologue over dialogue, then why not? I agree with the sentiment articulated above, that we should be thinking of ways to decentralize, rather than increasingly centralize. This continues the bad trend of clergy/laity distinctions, catering to consumer tastes, and the franchizing of the local church, rather than discernment in context.



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Randy

posted January 31, 2006 at 4:08 pm


Comment #10 mentioned how the Pauline churches centered around reading apostolic letters. If thats true then wouldn’t they have loved to see a face with voice/facial expressions? Think if you had nothing else, would it suffice?



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Jpb

posted January 31, 2006 at 4:36 pm


J.R.Dollins, point #29, thanks for your input. I get what you’re saying and it gives me more to chew on.
Regarding #30, I did not intend to mean that sermons should be “live” in order for it to be effective or even worshipful. I do read sermons from the past, but not for what could be considered “Sunday worship” (more so because I am not reading/hearing them in the context of the body of Christ). The sermons encourage, inspire, challenge, and teach me, and so I do not disregard them nor do I disregard a taped message of such kind. I simply stated that I appreciate a live pastor more than I do a taped one as I imagine a church would have enjoyed seeing Paul more than they would simply reading his letter. Preference, but not crucial.
I also enjoyed the comments in #31, and have a few thoughts and/or questions. Why exactly is a church “satelliting” itself? Is it because of size? I also wonder why a church would set itself up without a pastor, a leader, a shepherd of the flock. This doesn’t appear wise. Yet, I can hear someone saying that the pastor on the DVD is “shepherding” the flock, but the question is still with me as to why another pastor could not take on this responsibility. Was an elder from the ‘main’ church incapable of doing this? Even temporarily? Just some thoughts.



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Bob

posted January 31, 2006 at 4:44 pm


JpB,
I agree. I wonder if we’re confusing the teacher with the pastor/shepherd. They are different gifts yet we seem to always look for them in the same person. Far too many elder boards delegate shepherding to the teacher. But if anything, the elders should be the overseers/caretakers/shepherds of the flock.
But then we’re getting off the topic.



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Ron Fay

posted January 31, 2006 at 5:09 pm


In a quick follow up to #32 and response to #10, in E. R. Richards latest book, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition, and Collection, he argues for Paul sending companions with the later letters who are able to interpret Paul’s intention in the letter and give some “face time” to these congregations.
Personally, I think the only way satellite compuses could truly work is if the model of the church was one of multiplication, such that each person trains others to do their job and to do it better than they could. This enables God’s gifting of people to actually be used in the church (radical concept, huh?). This type of intentional apprenticing (got this term from a sermon in CO) allows people to move into areas that need help and allow pastors to oversee only 1) serious problems and 2) the elders.
However, too foten a satellite campus is an excuse to be the same church just 50 minutes away because I don’t feel like driving. The satellite church becomes lazy and often the people never use their gifts since there is no overshepherd to train and encourage them.
Just my thoughts.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 31, 2006 at 5:21 pm

Michael Kruse

posted January 31, 2006 at 5:27 pm


I think we need to stretch ourselves a little. Can any one show me from the New Testament where worship is described as a group of people sitting in rows or or in a semi-circle with one person doing an information dump (i.e. sermon) to dutiful dumpees?
My understanding is that meetings were in households with maybe 20-40 people. Someone taught, and based on 1 Tim., it appears that some were especially devoted to this task. However, the teaching was a dialog with people asking questions and offering insights. (In fact I was just reading again about 1 Cor. 14:34-35 about women being silent was because they were asking uninformed questions and needed to be better educated by their husbands at home before they jumped into such dialog. There were also cultural taboos involved here but I digress.) I can easily imagine them recieving a letter from Paul or other apostles and then dialoging about its contents. I can see them revisiting a letter for several weeks. They probably used the time to write letters to the apostles as well.
My point is this, satellite usage may not be the best way to expand our present models of being the church. But that begs the question of whether or not our current models are the most helpful.
I could envision a network of house churches possibly doing a once a month joint worship service via satellite. (Using a variety of teachers?) The other three weeks a month would be devoted to the smaller group study. This would allow the body to stay connected at a broader level but remain focused on being small bands of pilgrims. It would remove the need for a large worship facility and overhead. There could be different teachers each month.
There are places around the planet that do any number of innovative things to empower the church to be the church. We just assume that our modes are the “norm” and all these other Christians would (should?) do what we are doing if not for various limitations. Yet our model is not given in scripture. Why is our Western Christian model the default one? I fear that to often we have become prisoners of our own minds.



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Duane Young

posted January 31, 2006 at 5:57 pm


“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us (2 Cor.4:7).”
I have no experience; I have no prejudice against those earnestly following a leading to gather this way. I will exercise the judgment of charity and assume that the focus is on the treasure and not the vessel(s).
“The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit (Jn.3:8.)”



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Matthew Westerholm

posted January 31, 2006 at 6:10 pm


As a worship pastor at a church that does video campuses, I really appreciate the amount of thought that is being shown in this discussion. I’ve rarely seen commenters who have been this careful to quote and list and respond as here and at reformissionary.
To quote John Piper: Nowhere “…in the New Testament do we get detailed instructions on how to organize the church for pastoral care and worship and teaching and mobilization for ministry. There were elders in the churches… and there were deacons, and there were goals of teaching and caring and maturing and praying and evangelizing and missions. But as far as details of how to structure the church in a city or in an area or even one local church with several thousand saints – there are very few particulars.”
This flexibility should be a call to the elders and the congregation of every church to fast and pray for God’s leading in matters that are not defined in the Bible – like videocasting or no video, multi-campus or single-campus, single services in big buildings or multiple services in little buildings, hymns with organ or praise choruses with drums, a single preacher or teaching team, and on and on . . .
Have the pastors/elders of each church that does video gone through this process, or have they simply parrotted what they’ve seen work elsewhere? Only the Lord knows. I’ve got my judgement seat questions to answer, they have theirs.



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hamo

posted January 31, 2006 at 6:48 pm


I haven’t had time to read all comments, but will offer my thoughts.
First reaction – puke.
Further thought – puke… no not really. Reality is there are very few genuinely gifted teachers around. Maybe it is good stewardship of resources to do this.
It does raise the questions, ‘what is church?’ ‘What is a gathering for?’
If the dvd is used to help people encourage and disciples each other then it is probably a good thing. If the dvd is simply a church’s way of colonising an unreached Christian market and appeal to an unreached consumer group then it is probably not so good!
I do like the idea of churches with multiple campuses, but with diversity of expression.
A local church near us clones itself (and does it well), but cloning does not respect the diversity in the different host communities.



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Anonymous

posted January 31, 2006 at 6:51 pm


Backyard Missionary » Blog Archive » Can church be satellited?

[...] Great question here by Scott, asking if churches that ’satellite’ themselves by DVDs are developing a healthy practice or are creating a monster. [...]



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blind beggar

posted January 31, 2006 at 7:38 pm


It seems to me that the existence of such a practice (satelliting their church to another location) could be based on three faulty premises: 1) the church has bought into the premise of “bigger is better.” Planting a new church would drain away members, so the church perpetuates itself by establishing satellites. 2) The pastor and leaders don’t have faith or trust that God is capable of gifting and raising up others who can lead these satellites. 3) The church is built on the personality of the pastor and there is fear that the satellites will not survive without that pastor being the focus.



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Jacob

posted January 31, 2006 at 7:45 pm


I like all the concerns on here. I’ll just reiterate one I’ve only heard a couple of times, which I think is important, and that is the chance for people to respond to what is being said. I haven’t gotten to look at Doug Paggitt’s new “Preaching Reimagined” book, but I’ve heard some of what he has to say on the subject, and I think it’s interesting. Our Western Protestant Christianity has made preaching the center of the worship gathering for generations, now. I don’t want to discount preaching, but it’s not the only thing out there. The funny thing to me is that people here have demonstrated that all the things that do contribute to what makes up a church are not all dependant on having a live, in the flesh, preacher. Not having the preacher actually present wouldn’t be a big deal, then, if the teaching portion of a church gathering were not the central issue.
Anyway, I’m getting on a tangent. I’ll go back to what I said, which is that people should be able to respond to the teaching. If we can do it by watching a message on DVD and then discussing it amongst ourselves, I don’t have a problem with it. If we watch the DVD and then go home, I’d say it is a problem. But then so also, if we listened to the sermon and then went home, it would be no less a problem. Maybe we need to take another look at what preaching should look like. For if it looks like one guy (or girl) giving a speech for everyone to try and process individually, then there’s no difference between that one speaker being up front or a hundred miles away. If you have a chance to respond, then my only question is whether it is necessary to have the speaker present in order to respond to him. I think it would be beneficial, but people have already demonstrated there are other ways.



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jason allen

posted January 31, 2006 at 9:54 pm


I don’t know what I think about it yet. The local church of which I am a part has talked about it. Our first step is an overflow sort of space. It is basically multisite except it is on the same campus.
Here is my question about it though. Does it continue to propagate personality cults? Why not, instead of using video at another venue (with elders, pastors, whatever there), just actually plant a church. Why does this one guy have to be the one on the video? I understand what Driscoll and others have said about these weary pastors getting to focus in on their real giftings (which apparently isn’t preaching) and I have sympathy toward that. But isn’t teaching one of the qualifications for a pastor?
So at the end of it all, do we perpetuate a personality cult when we do this sort of thing? I really am interested in your feedback.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 31, 2006 at 10:12 pm


I want to weigh in on this, but it is more of a “it doesn’t sit right with me” than “this is clearly wrong.” Why does it not sit right? (If you’re in a hurry, skip to my fourth point: it is my most important one.)
First, the local church is local not generic. I agree that we can gain from sermons in the past and taped in sermons — that happens to the good for many. But, over time, it negates the intensely local and personal nature of gospel work in a local community. As a steady diet I see it as seriously problematic.
Second, I agree that there is lots of personality cult in this sort of thing — or at least the temptation to do that. I’ll admit that some pastors are extremely gifted preachers. They become celebrities — but that is not what it is about.
Third, to be a pastor is to be a pastor of a local church, and that means limitation and specificity and contingency — you can’t “can” pastoring into a one size fits all.
Fourth, here’s where I really differ from some: is there no Christian presence in that community already? I can see piping in sermons into areas where there is no Christian witness; to add to the already-too-many offerings of “brands” of Christianity annoys the snot out of me. I don’t see why churches think the non-denominational church down the street that is doing well is not good enough — why can’t they trust that church to carry on the witness in that community? So, my point is this: if this sort of thing simply adds one specific brand of a form of the Christian faith that already exists there, then the church that is adding to that problem should be embarrassed for building its own kingdom rather than to the kingdom of God.



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Geoff Surratt

posted January 31, 2006 at 10:28 pm


Great discussion with good points on all sides. The church I serve began opening satellite campuses four years ago. (My first reaction; puke. So they put me in charge of offsite campuses.) We’ve been able to reach several thousand people through these campuses that I’m not sure we could have reached any other way. In the same period of time we have helped plant 25 autonomous churches with varying degrees of success. With few exceptions our campuses have seen more “success” (stability, baptisms, viability) than the church plants.
One of the fears we have had is the personality cult question. What we’ve seen, however, is that speaker on the DVD is actually becomes less important if the message is biblical and applicable to the audience. Our primary speaker took a 12 week sabbatical recently and our campuses were not adversly effected by his absence.
I don’t believe that satellite campuses are for everybody or for every church, but we’ve seen at my church and at churches across the country that multi-site is yet another way to make disciples of all nations.



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Tim Keller

posted January 31, 2006 at 11:00 pm


Dear Scot– Satellite/video services ‘don’t sit right’ with me either, though never say never on something like this. If there is a disaster in NYC (again) and people would not be able to travel or go out I could see having to video stream services to people in their homes for an indefinite period. I also think that the video-feed sermon is good temporarily, until you get another or bigger facility, until you call a new pastor at that site for it to be another church, etc. Of all your reservations, I think your fourth reason is actually the weakest. There are almost never enough Christian witnesses in a community. If you have 100 people coming to a church and you start a second church nearby, the new one will take a few people away from the first congregation (say, 10-15) but the second church will take in 40 or 50 new unchurched people who would never have gone to the first church. Every church can incarnate the gospel to only a limited (always different) range of people. So the first church loses 10-15 but the kingdom gains 40-50. If you are mainly interested in maintaining your tribe, starting new churches or services in a community is a threat. If you are, however, interested in reaching more people overall, starting new witnesses in the community is important.



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Joel Workman

posted February 1, 2006 at 9:02 am


A lot of great comments here and wonderful discussion. I can’t help but wonder if part of the issue when it comes to people’s differing views on whether satillite communities are a good idea or a bad one might come from what we think as the reason(s) for gathering in the first place.
I know within my own community of faith–the place where I worship, learn, and interact–there are mulitple mindsets as to why we are gathering on a Sunday, or whenever.
To me, Sunday morning corprate worship is not the point, but a piece of a larger puzzle that involves interactive dynamics and a relational faith journy. If corporate gatherings are the main culmination of the experinence of being a part of the church, then this satellite concept looks much worse than if I see corporate gatherings in the context of a life within the community.
If corporate gatherings are integral, but communication is clear about what we are doing there and why it’s important then maybe this can be a beneficial time of learning to worship within the context of others and the practice of being attentive. I just think that too often the church approaches corporate gatherings as the thing that will meet most, if not all of their spiritual needs, and I’m not in agreement with this perspective.
This may not be the view of anyone commenting here, but I think, in my own experience I have seen many people who are dissatisfied with corporate worship for one reason or another and it often comes down to an inappropriate expectation about what corporate gatherings are for.



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Steve Lewis

posted February 1, 2006 at 7:18 pm


Quick response here – I don’t think there’s necessarily anything “wrong” with this. However, I think we should ask a serious theological question before we go into the pragmatics of it all. That question goes a little like this: Does our decision to go to a multi-site video sermon model reflect something about our theology of the body of Christ? When we reach capacity in our current building (whether that’s 300 or 3,000), and we explore this option, are we limiting God from raising up other teachers in the body to build up the church? Again, this isn’t automatically wrong, but it does make me wonder if we’re more into gifted teacher worship than Jesus worship.



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Jpb

posted February 1, 2006 at 7:23 pm


I chatted with a buddy last night about this whole topic, and to my surprise (and maybe some of you already knew this), he mentioned that John Piper does a kind of satellite church service. He said he was sure there were elders present at each location (and if some of you know more about this than I do, please chime in), but it made me look at it differently. Piper brings solid teaching and spiritual formation to each sermon he preaches, and I could see people wanting to attend a satellite church just to continue hearing him. Is that going to church for the personality? For the teacher/teaching? Or could issues be involved where you are unable to find the quality of teaching, pastoring, and even fellowship that you can find at a satellite church. I would have to admit that I would be more up for attending a satellite church with Piper preaching than some guy I don’t know… is this wrong? I’m not sure yet. :)



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Scot McKnight

posted February 1, 2006 at 9:31 pm


Jpb,
Teaching/preaching is part of it. To the degree that a locala church has folks sitting and listening, to that same degree a DVD can get an element of the teaching done. It lacks local application; it lacks personal interaction at some level.
But you’ve touched on an issue: for many folks going to church is about going to hear the sermon and participating in the worship.



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Michael Kruse

posted February 1, 2006 at 9:36 pm


I posted a link at by blog about the multi-site idea Mars Hill in Seattle is proposing. William “Beau” Weston, a Presbyterian Sociologist who has written some books on Presby History posted the following in response.
“I wrote about the Special Commission of 1925 in the northern Presbyterian Church in the Machen years. One of the most prominent members was Mark Matthews, who was always described as pastor of the “largest church in the denomination, Seattle’s First Presbyterian,” which had 8,000 members. I visited Seattle a few years ago, and could not see how that building, large though it is by the standards of the ’20s, could hold such a congregation. Then I read in Dale Soden’s biography of Matthews that the 8,000 members included all the members of Seattle First, plus all the members of its many daughter churches. This was not illegitimate, as the pastors and elders of all of these congregations met weekly for Bible study and marching orders from Matthews. Still, multi-site churches in that part of the world are not new.”
Is there anything new under the sun?



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Scot McKnight

posted February 1, 2006 at 10:03 pm


Michael,
Daughtered churches with separable pastors, all in a network, is quite different (in my assessement) from live or delayed streaming of a sermon from another site.



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Duane Young

posted February 1, 2006 at 10:19 pm


I wonder . . . , if we assume for the sake of argument that this move is of God and we want scriptural warrant to assure us that it is not clearly “out of bounds,” whether there is a clue in the “regional” description of the church in the NT. If Christians met together in households (small groups?) and not regularly in large groups and yet “the church” was described “at Corinth” or at Philippi or at Philidelphia, etc., might this be “New Testament” in that sense and unifying? How were the “churches” in a city unified? How were they one? Instead of a DVD circulating maybe it was some apostalic fellow circulating among them and knitting them together. Just some stray thoughts. Maybe this “new thing” isn’t so terribly new at all.



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Jpb

posted February 1, 2006 at 11:25 pm


Scot, you said, “for many folks going to church is about going to hear the sermon and participating in the worship,” I must say that this has been my experience of “church”. I have never been to a church where participation is involved. There may be an external class of some sort, but this has never been “church” to me. One of many questions may be, as basic as it is, “what is church supposed to be?”



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dan mcgowan

posted February 2, 2006 at 10:09 am


Here again, we have yet another “issue” that could, if we allow it to, cause DIVISION rather than UNITY.
Our church is about to launch a satellite campus, though we are not seriously considering the use of media to replace live humans… we have not totally dismissed this – it’s far too early to be settled. However, whether we are 100% “live” or not, the thought I’ve continued to return to Isaiah’s challenge to us in 54:2 that we expand the place of our tents… in our case, we are simply following the Lord’s specific call on our pastor and elders to minister to an area that is in a different location in order to reach a growing suburban area with the love of Christ – we are seeking to EXPAND our territory, in other words. Now, HOW we do that is yet to be fully realized. Within 2 weeks we’ll have our services video streamed so that anyone with a computer can watch our services live and in archive format. (By the way, if anyone is interested in hearing more about this, pleaase contact me at dmcgowan@faithpc.org.) Once that is in place we could, in essence, have several “satellite gatherings” of worshipers. Yeah, it’s not “live” – but it’s God’s Word being sent forth, right? I mean, it’s not NON-Biblical to reach the world via current technology, is it???



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Scot McKnight

posted February 2, 2006 at 10:12 am


Dan,
Thanks for this. I like the angle you take, and it is compelling to me — but it has to be taken in conjunction with other ministries in that area.



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sam stilley

posted February 2, 2006 at 6:17 pm


Hey, I found this on Steve Mcoy’s blog. Scott, what do you think about this situation
Comments
Since Driscoll doesn’t allow comments on his blog, I’ll post my thoughts here. It seems to me that “multi-site churches” are those that grow in number faster than they can disciple leaders. Unless Mark wants his entire ministry to revolve around him, why not raise up pastors for each additional service and location?
I’m going to make fun of Driscoll’s “multi-site church” for the same reason I laugh at TBN. Pre-packaged, one-size-fits all church-in-a-box is Evangelical Globalization. I’ll always prefer the mom-and-pop operations where the pastor knows my name.
Posted by: stepchild | 01/31/2006 at 06:35 AM
I concede that a few churches grow so fast (some by God’s blessing, others by the cult of personality) that managing it all is very difficult. I will also say that mega churches can be a healthy place to grow up in the faith. But “stepchild” has caught part of my problem with this idea. Where is the leadership trained to preach? Is no one capable? Why not plant other churches, cast vision for starting other churches, with their own unique place in the community and kingdom? The last paragraph in his post is sad. Pastors who can’t handle preaching need to start selling insurance (or get their PhD). ;)
Posted by: Joe Thorn | 01/31/2006 at 08:43 AM
I agree with both Stepchild and Joe. We planted a church in metro-Atlanta and the “biggies” were doing the multi-site then. We begged one of them to help us but they were putting all of the $$ in the multi-sites. I realize that the “Personalities-pastors” are much better draws than me. I would rather hear them myself. I just wish they would pour their lives into other like Stepchild was saying.
My one question is what happens (I hope it never does!) if one of those Mega-church pastors dies? What if they are killed in a accident? What happens to the multi-sites? They are so persoanlity driven, I’m afraid they will not continue. I hope I’m wrong.
Posted by: Kevin Bussey | 01/31/2006 at 09:08 AM
I sum up my thinking on video venues as: “Good problem, terrible solution.”
It’s great that some churches are filled and don’t know what to do with all the folks that are coming their way. My contention is that if you have the resources to plant a video congregation, you have the resources to plant a church and it would probably be better for everyone involved if a local community was allowed to be a local community.
Steve and I talked about this before here on his blog and on mine.
Posted by: bob hyatt | 01/31/2006 at 09:23 AM
I don’t have much to add to this discussion that hasn’t already been said. I agree 100% with Steve and those who believe that video-church, while maybe a permissable option, is not a preferable one. Community is one of the most important aspects of church, for deep accountability, discipleship, encouragement, and godly fellowship. In my experience, that was lost in video churches, but it was also hardly present in the mother church in this case (Fellowship Church, TX). I see nothing wrong with watching videos of sermons as an additional growth tool in your spiritual walk, but not as your ONLY means of growth. For most people, the Christian walk requires deep interaction with other believers in order to flourish. In a gigantic church atmosphere, where you’ve never met any of the 5000 other people in the building, and they feel like it’s not even necessary to have a live person doing the teaching, that personal aspect is lost.
So I do feel like the best option is for our popular pastors to really invest in and train up godly men to share the load and divide the masses in order to give them personal care. On the other hand, when I honestly look at myself and my own church, we’re facing a similar problem. We’ve got 3 services on Sunday mornings, all preached by our head pastor, and we’re currently looking into building a new worship center to hold more. If one week someone got up and told me that they’d like everyone on my end of town to start attending a church plant with a different preacher, I’d have a hard time being willing. I’m sure I would go, but I wouldn’t like it. It’s not that I worship our pastor or his personality, but his preaching really is effective in my life and situation. That’s part of why we chose this church in the first place. (Of course, if they asked me to attend another building where our current pastor was just simulcast onto a big screen, I’d be even less likely to go.) So that’s just another thought to add to the mix. What’s the answer to that?
Posted by: Joni | 01/31/2006 at 09:38 AM
I think the answer (just my opinion here) is that we make it a value from the very beginning of our churches to always be growing, but through developing leaders and church planting to never allow the size of our congregation to reach the point where we are spending massive amounts of money on infrastructure and just keeping the machine working.
If people know this is a value of the community and that someday, they might be asked to take part in a church plant to multiply the impact of this community they love, I think they’ll be able to handle that a lot better. Besides… they can always get the “mother ship’s” messages on podcast :)
I know this is a touchy issue for many. It’s hard to say “I think more smaller churches are better than fewer bigger ones” without those in the big churches feeling that as a condemnation of sorts… but it’s not. Just my feelings/opinion as to what’s best for the Body as a whole… I recognize that big church “works” on a lot of levels and for many people.
Posted by: bob hyatt | 01/31/2006 at 10:51 AM
Unfortunately (not only for Driscoll, but for others doing this kind of thing) it comes off as more ego-driven than ministry driven, and Driscoll already has to combat enough criticism about being ego-driven.
Posted by: Paul | 01/31/2006 at 11:19 AM
I applaud the intent to reach out to the unchurched. However, implicit in the distribution of the video teacher/preacher is the message that “unless you are as gifted as Mark or fill-in-the-blank, then you are not qualified to teach/preach in this church.” Who’s interests are served when individuals, who may have God-given teaching gifts, are intimidated by this unnaturally high expectation of giftedness and quietly remain in the pews or committee meetings.
Posted by: Nancy | 01/31/2006 at 11:27 AM
You know, I have not yet met one person who likes the satellite feeds. Not one. I know a number of people who have experienced it, and all have trouble with it. Now, I know that many people do like it. (Heck, a lot of people even like the Left Behind series, but I have not met any of them either – except for Steve).
I would like to hear from some who do like it. Who thinks this is the way to go.
Posted by: Joe Thorn | 01/31/2006 at 11:42 AM
I do think there is a place for video venues–To jump start a church. My brother attends Johnson Ferry (Bryant Wright) in Marrietta, GA.
They started a Video Venue church last year but only to jump-start the church. After a year the “Pastor” began to take over the preaching\teaching duties. They have started several churches. Bryant even said in a “state of the church” address that he would even have a different style worship and separate pastor meeting in the chapel the same time he was preaching if it reached new people.
I like his mentality.
Posted by: Kevin Bussey | 01/31/2006 at 11:52 AM
Agree with everything that’s been said thus far. I would only add this simple prayer.
Prayer: Lord, please don’t let the Monday Morning Insight guys find this thread. Amen.
Posted by: Stuart | 01/31/2006 at 12:37 PM
Well since few seems to be looking at this idea positively… I think that God raise’s up leaders to lead his people how he wants. We may all have ways we think things should be done, but God has a way that He is going to do it. Be that with a few gifted Pastors or an army of them. It does not seem like satellite churches are buildings with just a video screen in which people roll in watch and leave. Each location has its own worship team and team of pastors, only the teaching is presented via video. I would believe as these churches grow (though it sounds like many think they will not I guess), if God calls righteous pastors in these locations to take over instruction the main church would follow Gods will in making that transition. It seems like that would only save resources for further plants.
It also seems to me that it in some ways follows what Paul, and early leaders would have done. If Paul had the technology to send a video to his church plants instead of a letter would he have? Didn’t those churches exist with leaders in place who then in turn received and studied Paul’s letters of instruction with their churches?
Leaders should be raised up if they are called by God, if they are not, and forced into something they are not called by circumstance it seems they can cause more harm by working outside of Gods will. If the preaching is righteous and Gods chosen continue to come, I just don’t see how we can be against the attempt because of preconceived notions rather than be for the lifting up of the name of Jesus.
Posted by: Anthony | 01/31/2006 at 12:51 PM
It seems that while Mars Hill is expanding their footprint in Seatle, they are at the same time centralizing. Centralizing the teaching, the finances, personel decisions, and all the rest of the administration and leadership. I am convinced that centralization is not what Jesus had in mind when he told his disciples in Acts 1:8 that they needed to go to the ends of the earth. As a matter of fact when they didn’t spread out, God allowed persecution to disperse them. The sad thing in Acts is that the apostles stayed in Jerusalem and other Christ followers spread the gospel. The leaders stayed centralized and Jesus hand picked Saul to lead out in expanding the kingdom.
There is no doubt that Driscoll believes in planting churches, but there is also something very wierd about the whole thing. I personally could not sit at home while most of the people I am pastoring watch me on video. It does not sound very incarnational.
Second, I will be watching very closely to see if video venues will out last thier personality-gifted teachers.
P.S. – It is annoying that Driscoll doesn’t allow commenting (interaction) – but it seems that he is very comfortable without interaction from those he wants to communicate.
Posted by: Chris Bell | 01/31/2006 at 12:54 PM
Really good disscussion here, I just wanted to throw out a question and see what everyone thinks.
We live in a highly personality driven culture. I understand and probably agree with the argument that if you have the resources to do the multi-site thing you should just plant another church, but in a culture that is attracted to personalities do you think as many people would come to the new church plant as the would the video site campus? I know this is a problem and agree that if one of these guys who are being streamed all over their cities gets hit by a truck then the whole thing is likely to come falling down, but I am still not seeing any alternative given the culture we are trying to reach. So this is where we are left with the question would we rather do what will reach the most people in the culture for the Gospel (emergents should like this) or do we just say lets stick with the old format because its more personal?
Posted by: Ryan | 01/31/2006 at 02:17 PM
Ryan, I’m working on a post near that issue. I don’t know if it will be up today or not. It’s a good question.
Posted by: Steve McCoy | 01/31/2006 at 02:23 PM
This topic is being discussed at Jesus Creed too.
Posted by: Steve Walker | 01/31/2006 at 02:40 PM
My issue is not with the personality cult as much as it is with the M.O. of these churches; with their practical ecclesiology.
Posted by: Joe Thorn | 01/31/2006 at 02:46 PM
but in a culture that is attracted to personalities do you think as many people would come to the new church plant as they would the video site campus?
Which people are we talking about? Do the unchurched know who the celebrity preachers are? Do they care?
It seems that in many ways, this is another way for the larger to eat the smaller… Because let’s face it: just putting up a video feed of a big name preacher won’t make the unchurched beat a path to your door.
So really we’re talkingabout starting things for Christians… and that freaks me out a bit.
My contention is this: This makes for good short term, church planting results but probably for not-as-good long term body maturity results. Not only do I see this model having a problem developing competent preachers and teachers, but elders and leaders as well… It seems as though part of the maturity process for a church body is going through the steps of re-inventing certain wheels for themselves, learning certain leadership lessons over and developing their own unique community, people growing to maturity and into real leadership in a body, and that body as a whole, listening to what God is saying to them and having the freedom to work that out as a local, organic entity.
More preachers, not less. More churches, not less.
The franchizing of big name churches is (IMHO) an unhealthy trend.
Posted by: bob hyatt | 01/31/2006 at 03:00 PM
As an outsider, I’ll dare say it: I don’t consider these churches. At best, they are missions. I don’t mean to suggest they can’t be good things, but if they are intended as a long-term approach — versus a way to establish a new church — I just don’t see how they can be considered a church in the fuller sense of that word. The presence of the pastor (hierarchy) with the congregation in worship is more than just a holdover from the “old, unsophisticated” days. It says something about who we are as Christ’s people, as the Church. I’m concerned whenever I read about these franchises that the pastors, having grown up routinely in denominations that don’t emphasize ecclesiology, don’t realize that they are making choices about more than just practical, pragmatic things when they opt for a video feed of themselves to an auditorium.
Posted by: JACK | 01/31/2006 at 03:13 PM
Driscoll has me convinced…but since I can’t get his video feed in NC I think I’ll just stay home and watch some other TV preacher. Afterall, if I need pastoral care I’m sure there is a form letter (Insert Name) Ministries can send me.
Seriously though, arguing for video venues indirectly gives anybody who wants to use the above arguement plenty of credence. This kind of pragmatism isn’t healthy for the Body.
Posted by: Darren Fox | 01/31/2006 at 03:37 PM
Bob
I have to disagree with you. “The unchurched” (I hate that term) do know the influential pastors in their area. You do not have a church that is considering multi-site campus format unless they have been quite effective in their communities and become well known. Throughout much of Seattle many unchurched know who Driscoll is and that is the draw people. Not to mention Driscoll and many others and Mars Hill have done a great job at getting into the community and making themselves known.Through word of mouth, hype and friends, many want to come and here for themselves what is going on. So it is faulty to assume we are talking just about Christians being taken from one church to another, we are talking about how to get the Gospel to as many people as possible in a culture that is driven by the sensational. I am not sold on the mult-church thing either but lets not trivalize the issue to being like a Wal-Mart coming in and gobbling up all the mom and pop shops. I am most concerned about the gospel and people hearing it, if that is by video than I am open to it. Churches that do go down this route will face many obstacles in trying to forge community and foster spiritual formation, but lets not be a bunch of indy cynics and just say it will not work just because it is big.
Posted by: ryan | 01/31/2006 at 04:00 PM
Doesn’t Piper have a satelite campus? I am all for letting the elders lead out, but Driscoll’s personality is huge for that church.
Posted by: blake w | 01/31/2006 at 04:16 PM
I appreciate this topic, mainly because it helps me sharpen my thinking on multi-site, which we have. Thus far, I think I’ve discovered about 9 critiques of multi-site:
1. Personality-driven / pastor-centric [very true]
2. Evangelical globalization (?) “one-size-fits-all” [not really sure this is a reality]
3. It’s not as good as church planting [may be true, but doesn't argue effectively against multi-site on those grounds alone]
4. Lack of community [pretty good start]
5. Centralization [not sure this is bad]
6. Pragmatism [potentially bad in the long view]
7. Lack of leadership development [not sure that this is reality]
8. Smaller is better, not a critique, just an opinion [biblically, not sure this is true]
9. Faulty ecclesiology [yet to be seen]
If I were in a church utilizing multi-site (which I am) and desired to lead away from multi-site, then which of these 9 would be a good place to start?
Biblically, what would be the case that multi-site is a wrong-headed approach? BTW, don’t think Acts 1:8 will work. Even after the church was scattered there remained centralization in both Antioch and Jerusalem.
BTW, Joe, I have a Ph.D. and preach each weekend — it must be God’s grace (smiling).
Thanks for the thoughts, and I’ll be checking this out to see the responses (and respond to the responses).
Posted by: Eric | 01/31/2006 at 04:34 PM
“There is nothing new under the sun.” It’s good to see the same people holding the same opinions as the last time we talked about this. I still believe what I said then, video venues can be defended biblically (see the Piper quote on my comment), and can be considered wise based on a church’s circumstance.
Now, whether churches are making this decision carefully and prayerfully, cannot be seen. There are many WRONG reasons for having video, most of which have been articulately surfaced in this discussion.
Posted by: Matthew Westerholm | 01/31/2006 at 04:53 PM
I was wondering when you were going to surface Matthew. How did you like what Driscoll said?
Posted by: Steve McCoy | 01/31/2006 at 05:05 PM
It seems as though there are two issues that people are weaving in and out of. The first is whether a church should have a central venue with satellites around it. This is not bad in and of itself. There have existed denominations for centuries. One could think of a multi-site church as a mini-denomination. There is networking and support between them, I’d imagine. Biblically, sure, a case can be made.
The second issue is the video feed. My own thought is that if I want to see a movie, I’ll go to a theater, not a church. I’m not the megachurch’s first fan to begin with, but the concept of watching a video for 40 minutes in the middle of a worship service seems like it would stifle the spirit. I’d be sitting watching a training seminar video, not experiencing a sermon. Someone mentioned incarnation earlier. The Word preached is an incarnational experience, or supposed to be. This type of model would be too passive for me.
Posted by: P.o.C. | 01/31/2006 at 05:11 PM
“Sorry kids, but Dad’s too busy to make it to dinner. Besides, there are so many of you! But don’t worry, we’ve got video of him eating breakfast that we can watch on the monitor we’ve set up in his place.”
“It’s exactly like a gourmet restaurant, (e.g. cooks, waiters, fancy menu) with the exception that the food is reheated after being prepared and frozen by our master chef earlier in the day.”
So I’m obviously not a fan of videochurch. It has nothing to do with whether or not it “works” (is that really the standard by which we want to measure our ministries?), and I don’t think it’s biblically right or wrong. I think it is a bad idea because a church is supposed to be a spiritual family. I don’t like the message it sends to everyone (the members and the community) about what church is.
ChurchCasting is old news. These days, the megachurches are more than churches. They are Brands. For their version of church planting, many of them are currently marketing “church-in-a-box.” Ed Young has “Fellowship Connection,” Erwin McManus has the “Mosaic Alliance,” and Rick Warren has well, whatever they call theirs. These brands actually sell franchise licenses (they call them “subscriptions”).
Want to start a new Fellowship-type church? Just subscribe to Ed Young’s program, and they’ll send you everything you need: Bible study materials, Ed’s preaching on DVD, even a sound system and video projector! We’ve been approached by a couple of these churches who want to reproduce themselves this way internationally. So I’m not being sarcastic when I call them “prepackaged, one-size-fits-all” canned churches.
To me, Driscoll’s post reads like he’s trying to convince himself that “multi-site” church is a good idea. Or maybe he’s making a sales pitch for his own brand of PrestoChurch.
Posted by: stepchild | 01/31/2006 at 06:46 PM
“One could think of a multi-site church as a mini-denomination. ”
I realize my background probably makes me react to this a bit differently than some, but this also strikes me as part of the challenge. I’ll set aside the global issue of reconciling this with our Lord’s prayer. For now, I would just like to address this quote from the perspective of experience. Do people find that these multi-venue churches start behaving like a mini-denomination? If so, what do people think of that (working on the assumption that the church was originally part of some denomination)?
Posted by: JACK | 01/31/2006 at 07:01 PM
The comparison wasn’t meant to be a concrete one. However, there are similarities. A denomination with a more episcopal polity (Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist) have bishops that set the overall rule and tone for the entire network of churches. A multi-site church operates under the guidance of the Personality Pastor and perhaps a group of sub-pastors. He sets the rule and tone for the whole network. Of course, Catholic churches don’t broadcast Benedict’s Sunday Mass during their services.
But the concept of a church network with a single spiritual guide (or group) at the helm can be traced all the way back to the apostles. There is room for the comparison.
Posted by: P.o.C. | 01/31/2006 at 07:14 PM
In fairness, there are seldom two church who do “multi-site” exactly the same way. While I do have a real problem with the idea of watching the sermon on video, that really isn’t my main issue as it may just be a matter of preference for me (Not sure yet).
My larger issue is ecclesiological. Satellite campuses aren’t churches. If the congregants are truly a community of faith being led by the Spirit, the time will come when they will catch their own vision for what their church can or should look like. They’ll begin to formulate their own ideas about how best to fulfill the mission. They’ll have very different ideas about how to spend financial resources. But those dreams and ideas and that vision will always be contingent of the plans of others. Others, who, for the most part, don’t worship at the satellite, don’t know the people, and have no idea what the Spirit is doing in their midst.
Of course, if the people worshipping at the satellite aren’t a community of faith led by the Spirit, then they’re just people showing up to watch TV, and all that stuff about having their own vision and dreams and ideas is probably moot anyway.
Posted by: Stuart | 01/31/2006 at 08:05 PM
Why question is, “why do it?” I agree with the Piper quote that we don’t have spelled out what it is all to look like at a local level in every detail. But I just want to ask, why video it instead of planting something new? Why multiple campuses?
It would be easier to believe that satellite campus is not about the focus on one personality if we actually had live preaching from different people. For me, the issue isn’t really about the video per se, b/c I would have the same questions about the pastor who preaches at one campus to travel to another. (why not multiple campus with multiple teaching pastors?)
Does that make sense? Maybe this has been discussed and I just missed it so forgive me if it has.
But has anyone seen a reason given for multiple sites instead of church planting?
This is especially surprising in my mind from a guy who is so in favor of church planting.
I know there are some who attend (even lead) multiple church campuses here. So can someone help me to understand this. Does my question make sense?
Posted by: jason allen | 01/31/2006 at 09:23 PM
I recently stayed at the house of a couple who went to North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga. They loved the satellite format, and praised the fact that each location had a pastor in charge of it. He doesn’t preach, but he is there for the congregation that attends that satellite. It’s just that Andy does the teaching. Often these churches have pretty good pastor-teachers, and think it’s beneficial for all the satellites to sit under the same teaching.
Personally, it doesn’t attract me. But that’s personal. It’s been said that this model works well. They’re right. NPCC has more campuses than some churches I know have members (exaggeration, but it feels that way sometimes). If it works for them, then wonderful. For me, I say raise up leaders who’ve sat under that great pastor-teacher, and send them out. Plant new churches, not satellites. I’m with Joe Thorn who asked at the beginning, “Where is the leadership trained to preach?” That’s what I’m wondering, and praying nobody is overlooking.
Posted by: Joe Kennedy | 01/31/2006 at 11:03 PM
P.o.C., my point was a bit different. Maybe I’m mistaken, but aren’t these multi-site churches part of existing denominations? I know you may have not meant the comparison to be a concrete one, but I’m asking whether it in fact might be a fair one. And if these multi-site churches are part of existing denominations, I must admit it only further raises the question to me about the ecclesiology that is embodied by these multi-sites.
“A denomination with a more episcopal polity (Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist) have bishops that set the overall rule and tone for the entire network of churches….. Of course, Catholic churches don’t broadcast Benedict’s Sunday Mass during their services.”
I wasn’t going to take it there, but since you have I think it is fair to comment. To elaborate on my point before, the fact that the sacraments in the Catholic Church cannot be performed remotely says something about the Catholic Church’s ecclesiology and how it understands the way in which the Church is the prolongation of Christ’s mission throughout time. Catholics could just broadcast the Holy Father’s mass and homily and then distribute hosts that have been consecrated previously. But the Church doesn’t. There is something about the physical presence, about what that presence is all about, about how Christ is made present through our presence, that the Church understands and so constructs its liturgy accordingly. (Same with other sacraments. No confession by phone, for example, because there is something to the hearing of the words of absolution in the presence of another that is important to the understanding of the sacrament.) Even in the Catholic understanding of what constitutes a particular Church of the universal Church and the relationship of the Bishop of Rome and the local bishops and their clergy emphasizes that there is something important about physical presence in how we understand ourselves as Christians and members of the Body of Christ.
I offer all that up, not to promote Catholic ecclesiology, but just as an example of what I meant when I say that the decision to set up a multi-site church isn’t a neutral one when it comes to ecclesiology. I think others have made this point as well and from different angles.
Posted by: JACK | 02/01/2006 at 12:01 AM
Well said, Jack. I agree.
Posted by: P.o.C. | 02/01/2006 at 07:03 AM
At the center of this discusion is the question: “What is the best way to expand God’s Kingdom through the local church?”
Eric, in response to the centralization of the chruch in Jerusalem and Antioch. It is evident that Peter, James and other apostles remained in Jerusalem. But what was the command v. 4-8. Wait for the Spirit, then be my witnesses to the ends of the earth. I see the apostles desire to centralize in Jerusalem as contrary to God’s command.
In fact, in Acts 8 it says everyone was scattered except the apostles – the very ones Jesus told to go to the ends of the earth! Even when Peter was lead to Cornelius he returned to Jerusalem . . . In Acts 9 we see the conversion of Saul the very person God used to scatter the chruch and who God used to continue to expand his kingdom. And in ch. 11 we once again see that those who were scattered by the persecution were spreading the gospel and starting the chruch in Antioch. It was not the ones in Jerusalem that God used. It was the scattered.
Furthermore, I see no evidence that the church in Antioch sought to centralize Christianity in Antioch. They were the “sending” church and the first place people were called Christians. Finally, the Jerusalem church appears one last time confirming that God has indeed spread his church even among the uncircumcised gentiles. The Jerusalem chruch is left watching what God is doing instead of taking an active role.
Related to this particular post, the strategy of using video venues promotes the idea that we must centralize to be most effective.
Successful movements are formed around beliefs and not a particular person or group of people. For instance the civil rights movement was spearheaded by M.L. King but it was the beliefs he held and shared that sustained the movement not the individual. As Christians, we are the only movement that can have it both ways. We have a strong belief that sustains us, and we also have the Holy Spirit who leads us.
Wade Burson understands this. If all of the stuff happening with the IMB trustees centers on him and not his belief about being cooperating conservatives it will begin and end with his tenure as a trustee and nothing will change.
The medium of video venues tells people (believers and unbelievers)that the person they are seeing on the screen is so special that no one else between here and the mothership is capable to teach God’s word to the congregation. The medium of communication sometimes says more than the actual words spoken.
I believe Driscoll could have a larger impact by training leaders and starting more churches.
sorry for rambling . . .
Posted by: Chris Bell | 02/01/2006 at 10:11 AM
Chris, thanks for your thoughtful response. I didn’t think it was “rambling” at all. I would simply and humbly suggest that Acts 15 promotes the idea that Paul and the church at Antioch understood the centrality of leadership in Jerusalem. And I’m not quite convinced that the apostles disobeyed Christ’s command, since Scripture doesn’t confirm that suggestion (the reference in Acts 8 was not condemnatory). I would also add that Antioch was the place to which Paul returned following His missionary journey, so there is some form of centralization in that respect as well. Perhaps your definition and my definition of “centralization” is different, and we’re probably speaking of different things.
Secondly, some have equated multi-site with “no leadership development,” if I am reading correctly. To the contrary, leadership development is an absolute necessity for multi-site ministry, in my (often humbled) opinion. In order to overcome the real obstacle of community, the “mothership” (smiling on that one) must develop and train pastoral leadership so that the atmosphere for community within the satellite may sustain the tight bonds of fellowship.
Also, I find it interesting that some have suggested that a gathering of believers who worship Christ together and seek to live for Him and reach others for Him do not constitute a church because of a video screen or because of their connection with the “mothership” (again, smiling). I have a difficult time finding biblical support for that kind of ecclesiology.
Also, the question arises, “Why do it?” Perhaps for some churches it is the style, content, etc. of a particular preacher. For some churches it may be that the resources of the “mothership” are more accessible to the satellite community. For some churches it may be that they believed it was the best answer to a growing congregation that had no more room. More than likely, it is a combination of these and other issues. I believe wholeheartedly, however, that the vast majority of these churches envisioned this approach to be a faithful way to exalt Jesus and expand His kingdom.
We may not “like” multi-site ministry. We may believe that there is a “better way” to do church. But these churches are doing it (moving from theory to praxis), seeking to be faithful to a “missional” strategy, seeking to follow a biblical paradigm by sending men and women to a geographical place for God’s glory. That they use a video screen with a talking head, IMHO, does not diminish their faithfulness to Christ’s call.
Thank you all, again, for allowing me to think through these issues. I am still listening.
Posted by: Eric | 02/01/2006 at 12:25 PM
Stepchild said “To me, Driscoll’s post reads like he’s trying to convince himself that “multi-site” church is a good idea.”
You have hit on the head. Mark is selling himself on an idea he hates but nevertheless is doing.
At early Acts 29 conferences and other Young Leader events, Mark continuously talked about never letting his church go above 1200-15oo. If it started to get there, there would be a plant with one of the leaders from his church planting it (i.e. Gunn and Harambee). This anti-megachurch idea was central to his philosophy of growth.
This is the irony. I have no problem with Mark thinking differently than his early days. But, I think he may still have a part of himself that hates what his church has become (in this sense only). Our convictions always come back to bite us, when we act contrary to them.
The other irony regarding Mark’s blog is his belief in midrash (but, I cannot blame him for not having all the Markites and Anti-Markites comment on every post, since they sit at home waiting for his next statement).
Posted by: Rick Bennett | 02/01/2006 at 01:20 PM
Stepchild said “To me, Driscoll’s post reads like he’s trying to convince himself that “multi-site” church is a good idea.”
You have hit on the head. Mark is selling himself on an idea he hates but nevertheless is doing.
At early Acts 29 conferences and other Young Leader events, Mark continuously talked about never letting his church go above 1200-15oo. If it started to get there, there would be a plant with one of the leaders from his church planting it (i.e. Gunn and Harambee). This anti-megachurch idea was central to his philosophy of growth.
This is the irony. I have no problem with Mark thinking differently than his early days. But, I think he may still have a part of himself that hates what his church has become (in this sense only). Our convictions always come back to bite us, when we act contrary to them.
The other irony regarding Mark’s blog is his belief in midrash (but, I cannot blame him for not having all the Markites and Anti-Markites comment on every post, since they sit at home waiting for his next statement).
Posted by: Rick Bennett | 02/01/2006 at 01:20 PM
It is an interesting phenomenon that BISHOP Driscoll is defending, and there’s no question that the idea is spreading. I mentioned on my blog a church in Charleston SC that has “satellite” locations in several other cities, up to 3 1/2 hours away. Where does it stop?
It sure seems like personality/celebrity driven church to me (as opposed to Word centered- even if those involved are great and orthodox teachers.
Posted by: Alex | 02/01/2006 at 01:48 PM
Alex, I’ve said before that the next step was satellites at great distances. I didn’t realize it was already happening. Thanks for that info.
Posted by: Steve McCoy | 02/01/2006 at 02:39 PM
http://www.seacoast.org/
Posted by: Alex | 02/01/2006 at 03:03 PM
Steve, check out http://www.lifechurch.tv they have 5 campuses in OK, one in AZ, and one in Fort Worth, TX. All of them have the same video feed. I also remember an article in Vision magazine awhile back when this phenom began.
Anyway check out thier website they define in a short paragraph what they mean by one chruch in multiple locations.
Posted by: Chris Bell | 02/01/2006 at 03:07 PM
Hey guys,
I really hesitate to throw this out because I don’t want to be thought of as a guy who is trying to impress people with what God has done in our midst. I am a pastor in desperate need of God’s forgiving and empowering grace and am becoming less and less impressed with myself. Currently I am in a sweet but painful season of repentance over the coldness of my own heart. Even as I write I am fighting back tears (honestly!) at my own lack of holiness and desire to be accepted by people more than God. In short, I suck but God is good.
I love small, neighborhood churches and have given my life to assessing, training and coaching guys who will plant smaller, missional churches that will rock their part of the world with the gospel. My heart bleeds for church planting! But, I would like to throw out our situation as a church that is staring down the barrel of the whole video venue deal.
And, I only lay the numbers out to help you understand the tension of our situation. I am not trying to be super-planter and convince you guys that I am great. I firmly believe our church plant was in the right place at the right time. Glory to God, not to me or our elders.
Our church is just over 3 years old and almost 900 people are attending the services. My vision when we parachuted into our city was to plant a neighborhood church and then plant other neighborhood churches. We would get to 250 or so and then give 50 people to a planter and “rinse repeat step one.” This was a great plan except it didn’t work. The problem is that there are very few guys who can plant a church. Our network assesses hundreds of guys every year and I can tell you that few in our estimation are called to do it. This is evidenced by the 70-80% failure rate. I saw this in our own context as we simply didn’t have guys with the calling and skill- set to give people to. The other issue, whether we like it or not, is that believers and un-believers are attracted to those with ” 5 or 10 talent” teaching gifts and tend to want to attend churches with that level of teaching. I am not implying that pastors who only have “2 talent” teaching gifts aren’t as important or godly. I am saying what is the obvious: The larger the church the more “talents” the pastor is likely to have in the area of teaching.
I am are absolutely committed to church planting as is Mark (we serve together on the board of Acts 29 that has planted a ton of churches in the U.S. and beyond). The problem in a growing church is that as soon as you give 50 or 100 away, the seats are filled back up in a month. The truth is that certain churches grow because God intends them to in order to bless the world. I think this is the “right” reason for mega-churches who can be a resource center (training, funding, etc) to the city and perhaps world. There are a lot of jacked up mega-churches that function more like a mall than a mission center. But, that is another discussion.
We have three guys on our teaching team, although I preach about 70 percent of the time. There are many reasons for this but for the purpose of this discussion I will say I teach the vast majority of the time because it is my best gift to the church.
Here is our reality:
We were at three services in a smaller building so we moved our morning service to a high school with twice as many seats and moved back to two services. Now, only 4 months later we are having to go back to 3 services. We bought a building and will probably be at 4 services in the fall. Also, we are planting a church in the fall as well, taking several people and a staff member to do so.
The elders believe that a large majority of people who attend come to hear me preach. I hear it all the time from unbelievers (like last night when my wife and I had dinner with Eric and Amy). I hate it, but it is the truth. I don’t want to set myself up as master teacher and I loathe the reality of the whole situation. It reeks of celebrity-worship, plays into consumerism and messes with my already far-too-large head. But, it also reeks of reality. Down through church history God has seemed pleased to use the teaching gift to draw people to himself. This is not a new thing, though it is weird for me to be in this position. I was a godless rebellious teen whom God saved from small rural town in Illinois. Nobody who knew me “then” can believe that I am the pastor of this church. Our elders and wife know my heart and how uncomfortable I am with all of this.
We have a great church and my teaching gift is certainly not our only “draw”. But, I am coming to grips with the reality that this gift is significant and I don’t need to apologize for it. Stay accountable to God, my wife and elders for it… not think of myself too highly for it… not think that gifting equals character for it…but also not apologize for it.
I hate the thought of my ugly mug on some video screen and I share the ALL the concerns that were posted here. But, I gotta tell you that the thought of preaching 4 and 5 times a Sunday doesn’t look very appealing either. Some of you would say, “Just let the other guys teach.” The problem is that they are both working 60-70 hours a week on other important matters for our community. When they preach they have to take 20 or so hours away from their important work. We are a young church (26 is average age) and so we don’t have a ton of money to hire staff. You get my drift? Right now, and maybe for a while, the elders say I need to be in the pulpit the majority of the time using the gift God has given me.
Here are the questions our elders are wrestling with:
Do I just burn out to stay authentic with the people? Or, is this video thing a way to maximize my gift? Which is more authentic, using video or slipping out of the service early to drive to the other location we meet at in order to be with them live? Can I physically and emotionally handle preaching 4 and 5 times a Sunday? Will we be able to afford to hire more staff so I can teach less? What happens if I get in a car wreck? How can we lead our people to value other teaching gifts, even if it is not as edifying to them?
Sorry this got so long. Thanks for reading.
I’ll check back in periodically to see if I can further the discussion
Peace, brothers and sisters,
Darrin patrick



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Chris Spinks

posted February 2, 2006 at 7:04 pm


Who thought a DVD could serve as a can opener for the can of worms that is ecclesiology?
On the one hand satellites are a way to have “God’s Word…sent forth,” an important role for the Church, no doubt. On the other hand, satellites give the impression that the satellite sites are not viable communities apart from the mother church. I am sure this is not always the case, but it gives the impression nonetheless. Satellites, whether by DVDs o live feeds, seem to maintain ties to the mother church like its predecessors have not (e.g., circulated letters, circuit pastors, church plants, etc.). I’m not sure this is the healthiest way to expand the kingdom with mature citizens. If parents want their children to grow into mature citizens they have to let them go to live a life influenced by the parents but no longer run by the parents. Maybe one day these children will grow up to have children of their own. I get the feeling, however, that churches using the satellite model are a lot like parents who have children so they can develop mini-versions of themselves, never really letting the children grow into their own. I may be carrying this analogy too far. Anyway, there are my two cents.



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Tyler

posted February 3, 2006 at 3:46 pm


This is a pretty full discussion, but as someone who had serious, serious doubts about a satellite church situation, and was then won over by actually going to one, I thought it was worth chipping in.
The church in question was the Meeting House, which is mentioned by Marc in the list above (post no. 25). My wife and I were visiting her family and thought we’d check it out, since she’d been in her teens and had good memories. (This was before they started the satellite churches.) The site I went to met at a movie theatre, and by the time my wife and I walked past all the movie posters and the ushers, (“hello, the service is in theatre 3 on your left”) our theological dubiousness had turned to outright doubt and skepticism.
And then the service started, and I am pleased to say that we were humbled almost instantly. They had a lead pastor on-site, so it wasn’t just a bunch of people coming to a show, looking at a screen, and then leaving. The only bit that was technologized, if you’ll permit the neologism, was the sermon. I don’t know if it was via direct live feed or whether it might have been a few minutes’ delayed – it strikes me that the former would be a nightmare of logistics, so I suspect it was the former. And then we were treated to some of the most humble, biblically insightful, kind, and sound teaching we’d encountered in a long time. The only difference was that the preacher wasn’t right in front of us.
As a preacher, I was really hard-pressed to imagine how difficult this must have been for Bruxy (the teaching pastor there). My home church belongs to the historical black church tradition, which means a lot of call and response, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to preach to a congregation that didn’t talk back – let alone a congregation that wasn’t on site! But just because I’d find it difficult doesn’t mean that it makes God cry, if you know what I mean, and Bruxy delivered a message that I’d have been grateful for if I read it years later. The fact that he was on a screen was no big deal. In fact, it was simply the recognition that this church had grown very, very fast.
My wife and I were so impressed that we called Bruxy to see if he’d meet up for coffee, and – he being a gracious brother – he said yes. We chatted about the whole thing and he talked about the situation the church had found itself in. They had a bunch of people coming to Sunday service. But Sunday service was actually last on their list of priorities, because their primary instantiation of the church was in the local house gatherings that met throughout the week. There was no way they could get everyone from every house gathering to one site every week, since people were spread all over Ontario – each house gathering expanded the territory, as it were, which means they were pretty far-flung. And even if they had done, the resources required to get a site that could have held everyone would have been immense. So, despite the doubts and concerns that plagued them – as have plagued many who have posted above – they decided to give the satellite thing a go.
And it works. It works tremendously well. Because the church’s emphasis is NOT on that single hour on Sunday, the vitality of the church depends completely on the vitality of the house groups. They can’t get everyone together on a Sunday, and they don’t have enough capable teachers to go to five different sites on a Sunday (nor can they space them out throughout the day and have poor Bruxy die an early death by logging 150 miles every Sunday while he dashes between sites). So, while they know it’s important to have centralized teaching, it’s not vital to them that they all congregate under one roof.
Coming away from the experience, I wondered why I was even concerned. If I went to a 1000-member church would I know everyone there? Would I even know to hug the person whose grandmother died the past week? No. You know a limited number of people intimately – we’re finite and have limited capacity. That’s what the Meeting House’s house group base does well. But the body of Christ is a whole, too, and it’s good to remember that on a Sunday. So they do that, as well. I think it actually bears a great resemblance to the early church phenomenon of epistle reading, which John Byron refers to above (post no. 10). And while I agree with John that I thought I wouldn’t like a satellite church, I’ll tell you that we wished we could stay and join up! It was that good.
I agree with posters above that such a sermon isn’t ideal in terms of “incarnating the word,” but really, if that’s the case what are we expecting of our preachers? The point is, at this church the Spirit that was in the Word incarnate was living throughout the week at its house activities (which were utterly vibrant). The focus of the week wasn’t that hour on Sunday. The hour on Sunday was the opportunity to be bigger than 20 people in a house, and to get centralized teaching. And the centralized teaching wasn’t because Bruxy is some slick personality who rules a cult of personality (I think he would be the first to admit this). It’s just because he’s clearly a charismatically (lower-case “c”) gifted teacher. They don’t come along all the time. And if this community only has one, they’re more fortunate than most!
This post isn’t intended to offer blanket endorsement of the satellite model. Indeed, I’d be in much greater danger of sin (pride, judgment, et. al.) if this were a conversation about church “models” – as if the body of Christ were some balsa-wood pre-fab that can be dropped into a community regardless of particularities. Wisteria Lane, anyone? No, I simply wanted to say that I visited one satellite church (actually a misnomer – it’s a house church network that conducts Sunday teaching via satellite sites) and, inasmuch as I am capable of discerning, I saw the Spirit very clearly at work.
And hey – if it keeps people relatively local, and you don’t have 2000 people driving 50 miles on a Sunday…well, that’s a tangential but not insignificant bonus, in my book.
Cheers, all. Thanks for reading this far.



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Dan

posted February 4, 2006 at 6:29 pm


here are a couple of thoughts:
1. How about the whole epistle thing in the NT (and OT for that matter). What I mean is that Paul seemed to send out his letters and then ask that they be read in different venues. (LOW TECH satellite churches?) My understanding is that there are live music and other liturgy elements at the sites.
2. I hate it when i forget my second or third points while writing the first…. maybe I’ll remember them latter….



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