The One Man Ministry

There have been a number of posts within the past week on multi-site or video venue churches. Check out some posts with varying opinions and thoughts by Bob Hyatt, Brent Hodge, and Eugene Cho.

There are a number of multiple site churches across the country, and the number continues to grow. I think it would be fair to say that technology has allowed this to become the new “model” for growing local churches. It gets really expensive to build bigger and bigger buildings, so instead churches today just buy small venues in different parts of town and pump a video feed in there.

Generally speaking, a multiple site church has a different worship band and different campus pastor at each location. The one thing that is the same across all the sites is the speaker. Usually the speaker is recorded and played back or a live video feed is produced.

Before I say anything else, let me first say this: within a Biblical framework, I want Christians to be doing whatever is reaching people. That is my bottom line.

Now for some opinion:

I have my concerns with the multiple site churches. When I think of the more well known churches that are doing this I can immediately name off their senior pastor//the guy who is speaking most consistently. And I think that is a problem. It is has always been a problem for evangelical Christians. We love to put teaching pastors on pedestals.

It is far too common for churches to explode with growth due to having a dynamic leader and then fall a part when that leader gets older and then retires. Generally it doesn’t take too long for that church to disappear. And we are ok with this? I sure hope not.

If multiple site churches are going to live and die based on the ability of a teaching pastor to be dynamic enough to allow his/her teaching to reach through a video feed then I think we have missed the mark. The multiple site church model relies on the ministry of one man for its ultimate success. I know not everyone has the gift of teaching and clearly some men are extremely gifted teachers, but putting all the focus on them is not healthy for the pastor or the church.

What if…instead of putting up a video of the church’s teaching pastor at every location, the teaching pastor was involved and engaged in raising up other teachers and leaders to teach at the other church sites? That is the kind of church that is much less likely to wilt after the senior pastor moves on. It is also the kind of multiple site church that is the honoring the pastor who doesn’t need to be put in the spotlight all the time.

I know my opinion isn’t popular. I know this because more and more churches are going to this type of church structure.

I am really curious about what your thoughts are though.

  • http://shapingthespace.net David

    I said a few things on Brent’s blog about this. I’m in a small but growing church which is looking at multi-site church models as part of a long term plan, but we are more fans of the Hillsong model where your point in raising people up is prioritised. Even if they did video teach more often than they currently do, Brian only preaches probably 40% of services these days…and do many people outside the church know the names of the other key Hillsong preachers?

    Having said that, I like the multi-site video church model from a few perspectives – but the primary one at the moment stems from the desire to be a good steward of finances. I’ll leave that there 🙂

    • http://manofdepravity.com Tyler

      So how is a multiple site church much more cost effective than a one location church?

      • http://shapingthespace.net David

        Ah – I didn’t mean it was more cost effective than a one location church, but rather that it was more cost effective than a multi-site church which didn’t use the video model. This is primarily through the need for fewer paid staff (more volunteers though) than if a live model was used.

        In our specific situation (ie: location, demographic, etc), the difference in costing for a video-site vs a live-site would be over $100K per year.

        It’s then a tough call as to whether that money should be used to pay one/two people in a satellite church, or to feed into the wider mission work we already undertake…

        I certainly don’t have the answers, and love the discussions that have been going on to glean wisdom from around the wider church. Thanks for hosting it!

  • http://ash-nits.blogspot.com ash

    i don’t know that i have that much of an opinion one way or another but i’ve attended a church that does this: Sea Coast Church in South Carolina (Greg Surratt) and I’m aware that Andy Stanley does a bit of this too as he has multiple campuses, although I think he travels b/t them and doesn’t ALWAYS teach. But in the world of technology it’s a unique idea and I will say that if it works, it works.

    the first point you made about explosion, pastors and retirement or whatever the case will be i think is not just a problem for “multi campus” churches. it’s a problem for ANY church and esp any church that gets huge, whether they have other locations or not. i actually think that point is irrelevant for the specific purpose you speaking about

    i know that my observation of the Sea Coast church is that there are other leaders who take a vital role in pastoring and leading the church throughout the state loc. it’s simply a situation of how you conduct the affairs of your local body and how you keep up w/ the other campuses, making sure they have leaders who are available to their own people. And when preaching time comes, who cares if it’s really just one guy? b/c if the leadership for the other churches is built, they’ll be ready to step in when the time comes.

    • http://manofdepravity.com Tyler

      “If it works, it works.” I would say to that, almost anything can “work.” The desire to be good enough should never be anything a church is looking for.

      I totally agree that putting a teaching pastor on a pedestal is a problem for any church, not just a video venue church. I guess I see it as more of a problem for video venue churches because they have the ability to expand to more places and more cities.

  • http://tangzine.wordpress.com Matt Ralph

    While I like the idea of large churches branching out into smaller campuses that can better serve a local community, I’m uncomfortable with the idea of going to church to watch a pastor preaching on a video screen.

    It’s hard enough for me to convince myself to go to church in the first place; if I was watching my pastor preach on a video screen I could just as easily go online and find videos of sermons.

    Besides, most pastors have big enough egos to begin with. Why inflate them any more?

    • http://manofdepravity.com Tyler

      “Besides, most pastors have big enough egos to begin with. Why inflate them any more?”

      That seems to be a pretty big generalization to make, at least for me. I think the video venue can certainly work for a lot of people, but there are others that it won’t click for. Obviously it seems like you are someone who it wouldn’t click for.

      I do think there is a big difference between going to a video venue church and watching something online though. Online is from home, a video venue is with the body of a local church.

      • http://tangzine.wordpress.com Matt Ralph

        I’m not saying having a big ego is necessarily a bad thing. I just think churches leaders need to guard against the inflation of egos.

  • http://brentinworship.com/blog brent(inWorship)

    Good stuff Tyler.

    On your 3 concerns, I agree with you 100%. The difference for me would be in maybe what I would consider the absolute focus to all this happening.

    I think people can mistakenly think of Multi-Site or church planting and immediately think “video”. “Video” in church campuses is the “what”…not the “who”. There is method (what) and there is values (who). As a church, our values are based on the great commission and the great commandment. This cannot change. This cannot be overlooked.

    What now tends to happen is then we look at all the methods (what’s) and determine how they are good or bad. Pro’s and Con’s. This is extremely valuable, but in the end, doesn’t really matter. What works one place will not work others. The personality of one church, will never be the personality of the other. What should never change is the purpose and the “Who”.

    In my post yesterday, a commenter made the statement “Reverend Superstar”. I think we all can relate to this. Either working with one or seeing one in action. These are the man that are such a stron image in their churches, that most often, the image is greater than the “who”. In all of your concerns, this man fits the bill and will ultimately lead his church down a dangerous path.

    Now, add in video. Complete failure. BUT, don’t add in video, still complete failure.

    Here’s my point. Video is only a broadcast tool. It is not the message. It is not the “who”. If it becomes this, the church that has used this tool has failed. Video should only, ever, be used if it can appropriately broadcast the “who”. If it can’t. Run screaming, cause it will fail. Even worse, it will point your church away from the “who”.

    Video is irrelevant, in my opinion. It is one conduit, one method of many. The church needs to raise up teachers and leaders. There needs to be humble participation in all aspects. the church needs to keep God the center of it all. IF they then choose to have those leaders/teachers on video. Cool. If not. Cool.

    • http://manofdepravity.com Tyler

      I guess partially what I see happening is that the video becomes the who, or the person on the video becomes the who. It is the same guy almost all the time. Video lacks some of a personal touch. It makes a pastor seem like who we see on tv, instead of the person who has his car parked in the parking lot. Small difference, but a key one.

      I wish churches would see video as a last resort. We should first be seeing how we can plant a new campus with a leader who is capable of leading well, rather than using video to be effective.

      • http://ronpai2.wordpress.com ronpai

        “I wish churches would see video as a last resort. We should first be seeing how we can plant a new campus with a leader who is capable of leading well, rather than using video to be effective.”

        If this happened then it would be a church plant and not a “satelite church” or “Video Venue”. Unfortunately, when we plan a video venue, we are not planning a plant. One Message, Many Locations.

    • http://brentinworship.com/blog brent(inWorship)

      I completely agree. Video should be a “LAST RESORT”. It should never be the reason multi-site exist.

  • http://www.russhutto.com Russ

    Used to be a whole lot more common for “pastors” to physically travel between locations, especially in rural areas. Wasn’t that many years ago when Doctors made house calls.

    Times change. So does technology.

    The point isn’t whether video is effective or not. The point is whether true community is built in an environment where God is lifted high and HIS Biblical truths are shared.

    Be it by video, a live teacher, a book, or by a dancing ninja monkey juggling flaming knives it doesn’t matter, and to make a sweeping generalization that it isn’t right…well…it just isn’t right.

    We live in a video generation. Some are going to leverage that to reach people. Others are going to be indifferent. And still others will start a new witch hunt because they can’t grow with the times.

    Proof is in the fruit. If people are learning and growing in God, new believers are being baptized, and they are truly connected in community then why slam it?

    If people are going to worship at the altar of personality, to get their pastor fix, then by all means, slam away!

    Good discussion going on here.

    • http://manofdepravity.com Tyler

      “a dancing ninja monkey juggling flaming knives”

      HAHAHA. I would tithe more than 10% to see that 😉

  • http://mikeymo1741.blogspot.com Mike Mahoney

    Great points, Tyler. I agree wholeheartedly.

    Brent, I have to respectfully disagree. Video is not irrelevent. Video is not the “what.” It is totally the “who.”

    If the church has invested in raising up a “campus pastor,” then why can’t he preach? If they can raise up worship leaders and small group leaders and Sunday school teachers and everyone else that a good, thriving church has, then why not a preacher?

    Two words: Name Recognition.

    “We love to put teaching pastors on pedestals.”

    I love this. Below is a link to a great post, but the jist is this: Believers should not be putting pastors on pedestals. Pastors should be putting believers on pedestals. They should be doing the raising, not being raised. And I’m saying that as a pastor.

    I look at this trend toward multi-venues the same way I look at baseball expansion. Yes, more people can go see games, but the talent pool is only so large, and the quality suffers. But I guess we can all watch the game on the Jumbotron.

    http://fernandogros.com/?p=1298

    • http://brentinworship.com/blog brent(inWorship)

      “If the church has invested in raising up a “campus pastor,” then why can’t he preach? If they can raise up worship leaders and small group leaders and Sunday school teachers and everyone else that a good, thriving church has, then why not a preacher?”

      This implies that they don’t already. For instance, our church has multiple teachers. Whether we do video or not, multiple teachers would be involved.

      Tyler’s main concern is the “single” person becoming an unhealthy figurehead. This doesn’t have anything to do with video, but video can truly enhance that issue.

      I still think the issue here is not video. It is leadership. I agree with Tyler’s concerns, but I don’t believe video is to fault, but can very much so become a part of the problem.

      If I play a video of a blank wall. The video is not the “who”. There is no “who”. Message and content are heard from a live person(s) as much as they are on video. If the message is “single, pedestal person”, that will happen live and on video.

      I think this discussion is more a concern for the “pedestal preacher” than multi site. Multi-site is only a ways to enhance those issues. Those issues need to be talked about and dealt with, because the “pedestal preacher” will destroy all churches…not just the video venue.

    • http://manofdepravity.com Tyler

      I think blame for why we put pastors on pedestals can go 2 ways.

      1. People need to realize a pastor is only a messenger from God. He/she sins and makes mistakes as much as anyone else. Yet God called them to that role. No one is forcing people to look up too much to a pastor…so just don’t do it. We shouldn’t pass the blame off for why it happens and instead start with our own hearts.

      2. Churches are to blame too. They choose to keep running the same pastor up the pulpit, have the same pastor make every key decision for the church, allow that pastor to write books, go on tour, and speak at conferences. I’m not saying that every pastor that does this is falling into the sin of pride, but I don’t think it can help our fallen natures.

      • http://brentinworship.com/blog brent(inWorship)

        Regarding #2. I really like the model I am seeing more and more, of co-leaders(leadership teams), and multiple teachers. All working together, no “Senior” or “single” leader.

      • http://manofdepravity.com Tyler

        My push back to multiple leaders or shared leadership is that it often results in disagreement and then one of those leaders leaving the church and starting his/her own church. I say that mostly from personal experience.

        • http://brentinworship.com/blog brent(inWorship)

          Ya, but there’s lots of “what if’s” in these conversations and reality is that our responsibility is to”be where we are” and live that out in integrity. I can’t answer for someone who goes and does something like that, but I can answer for what I allow to be done right here, where I am.

  • http://mikeymo1741.blogspot.com Mike Mahoney

    Brent, you’re right. I think there is much more of a propensity for this, however, in a video venue.

    This implies that they don’t already. For instance, our church has multiple teachers. Whether we do video or not, multiple teachers would be involved.

    Are you saying that sometimes there is a live preacher and sometimes it’s beamed in? Or are you saying that there’s a different person on the tube each week?

    If I play a video of a blank wall. The video is not the “who”. There is no “who”.

    But you don’t play a video of a blank wall, do you. There’s a man on it. (That’s like me saying there was no video in the first century church…) And so, it becomes a “who.” Yes, technology is neutral. Technology is a means to an end. But what is the end? Is there really only ONE person who can edify the body? If that’s the case, then we haven’t been doing our jobs. The model of Jesus and the New Testament church is clearly one of discipleship.

    Churches are to blame too. They choose to keep running the same pastor up the pulpit, have the same pastor make every key decision for the church, allow that pastor to write books, go on tour, and speak at conferences.

    YES! We create our own monsters.

    We have five pastors at our church, over different ministries. All of us preach on Sundays. Our senior pastor probably does a third to half of the weeks. (and I think that’s about right) Plus we have a couple of non-pastors who happen to be excellent preachers. So when the church plant we are planning for August happens, we’ll have plenty left!

  • http://brentinworship.com/blog brent(inWorship)

    “Are you saying that sometimes there is a live preacher and sometimes it’s beamed in? Or are you saying that there’s a different person on the tube each week?”

    I am saying both. In the multi-sites I follow (Northpoint, Seacoast, Mosaic) They do both. Sometimes live, sometimes video. Mix of main campus teachers and campus pastors. I like that.

    “Yes, technology is neutral. Technology is a means to an end. But what is the end? Is there really only ONE person who can edify the body? If that’s the case, then we haven’t been doing our jobs. The model of Jesus and the New Testament church is clearly one of discipleship.”

    I really don’t think you and I disagree with this. Maybe we are just seeing this through different lenses. My methods would be different, but my values would not different

  • http://mikeymo1741.blogspot.com Mike Mahoney

    I am saying both. In the multi-sites I follow (Northpoint, Seacoast, Mosaic) They do both. Sometimes live, sometimes video. Mix of main campus teachers and campus pastors. I like that.

    I have no problem with that model, if the “live” preachings outnumber the “video” preachings, and the senior pastor overseeing all of the congregations wanted to share somethings with everyone occaisionally.

    I really don’t think you and I disagree with this. Maybe we are just seeing this through different lenses.

    I think we agree as well.

    Pastor Nick Champlin in Florida often says “we look at the world out of our own windows.” I really agree with that statement. I come from a tradition of small, in-the-flesh churches. I dislike (what I see as) the impersonal nature of large churches. So my comments will be tempered with that worldview.

    To me, it’s all about the relationships. Our church-model is built on relationships and discipleship. So there’s something about watching a guy on the big screen on a regular basis that doesn’t sit right with me. Because to me, I need to have the same relationship with that guy that I do with everyone else.

  • http://dhcosbyfamily.blogspot.com Daniel

    “What if…instead of putting up a video of the church’s teaching pastor at every location, the teaching pastor was involved and engaged in raising up other teachers and leaders to teach at the other church sites?”

    Awesome…

    But, what if we didn’t stop there, and asked, “What if the teaching pastor was involved and engaged raising up other teachers, and “leaders” to teach everywhere they went? Why does teaching have to be chained to a special religious venue?”

    • http://manofdepravity.com Tyler

      I’m confused…

      Do you want pastors to go to downtown parts of town and just start teaching on the sidewalk?

      • http://dhcosbyfamily.blogspot.com Daniel

        Yeah, and maybe with big sandwich board sign saying “turn or burn!”….

        No, totally kidding….

        What I mean is, why isn’t “teaching” just seen as disciples of Jesus making more disciples of Jesus? Why is teaching assumed to be something that is always done from a pulpit, or stage, or now video screens…?

        We associate teaching with preaching a sermon, but what if our concept of teaching was just something that happened in all kinds of scenarios?

        Sure, gathering is important, but the kinds of gatherings that we are accustomed to having are ones that are built around one person monopolizing the majority of the gathering time…

        The bible paints a very different picture:

        “26What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. 27If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.
        29Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.”

        Here we see a picture of teaching happening through whomever God prompts to stand up and speak, not defined by one person who’s spent all week preparing exactly what they’re going to say…

        It’s a completely different approach to how teaching happens in the gathering, one that relies on the power of the Holy Spirit more than a few highly-educated individuals who are expected to have all the answers….

        Of course, this idea tends to completely freak out those of us who’ve grown up in church circles where that kind of thing is seen as bizarre, disorderly, or “dangerous”… I was certainly one of those people. But the scripture clearly shows us, that the idea is that all members of the Body have something substantial to bring to the table, way beyond just being ushers, or volunteers in the nursery….

  • http://mikeymo1741.blogspot.com Mike Mahoney

    Do you want pastors to go to downtown parts of town and just start teaching on the sidewalk?

    I don’t think that’s what Daniel was asking, but, man, that idea gives me goosebumps!

    And by the way, I’ve done this…

    • http://manofdepravity.com Tyler

      I guess I am pushing back from that comment in what I said. My point is that it is clearly Biblical to meet together as a local body consistently…say once a week on what is considered the Lord’s Day or Sunday. I’m not saying pastors should focus all their time on this once a week teaching, but clearly it plays a vital role in how the local church should meet.

  • http://ronpai2.wordpress.com ronpai

    As a former worship director/leader at a Video Venue I saw a lot of people leave the Venue because they said, “Why watch the video when I can see the real thing across town?”

    Generally Video Venues are made for a strange reason: overflow. This is my experience. It was to cater to people who live across town to meet the church halfway and make more room at the “mothership” for new comers.

    We also planted in the “poor” area of town as an outreach to the neighborhood. The problem that I found, that I shared with Brent (InWorship), is that the message doesn’t translate (i.e. tithing). How can a video speak to another community that is different? A lot will be lost in translation. This is something that I find wrong with the video message.

    I also shared with Brent that I have seen a Video Venue succeed. I was visiting to possibly work at a church in Kapolei, HI which was a Video Venue of New Hope Church. This is a church that is taught by Wayne Cordeiro who is one of those “rockstar” preachers. Anyways, the way that they did it was Wayne would preach, but when he left the island to preach at one of their other churches (australia, the mainland, or another island in Hawaii) the lead pastor preached. This is a preacher that the people knew. This is somebody who knew the families of the church. This is the pastor who always ate with his church after service and always prayed with and for them by name. this worked.