I am excited about the future of the church. Every week, I meet sharp young leaders who are passionately pouring themselves into seeing the Kingdom on Earth expressed through the local church. At the same time, when I read articles about the fastest growing segment of society being those who don’t give God or church a second thought, I realize that we have to sharpen our game considerably if we want to see the local church prevail in America. To paraphrase Paul, we need to discipline ourselves mercilessly lest after having preached to record crowds on Christmas Eve, we lose our communities to apathy.
To start the conversation I have identified five trends that I see in the American church that, if unchecked, will shipwreck us. These trends are not pointed at any particular church; these are simply my observations and opinions based on 30 years in the trenches. I am feeling a little Old Testament minor prophetish, so I apologize in advance if there is a negative tone; my only goal is the expansion of the Kingdom and to see the church prevail.
Let’s get started with one near and dear to my heart:
Since co-authoring The Multisite Church Revolution in 2006, I have seen multisite go from an obscure mega-church phenomenon to the hottest growth strategy in the country. It seems like everyone is “one church in many locations.” Pastors are almost apologetic when they admit they are a mono-site church. “We’re adding a new location as soon as we break the 50 barrier, I promise.”
Multisite is a great tool for some churches to fulfill their God-given mission. It is not, however, the right direction for many or even most churches. Multisite can be a drain on leadership and budgets, it can feed an already overfed pastor ego (more about that on Friday), and it can be very difficult to undo. (Once a site is launched, it is really hard to un-launch.)
In one city in Orange County, California, at least three churches have video campuses located within blocks of one another. And these are not wildly dissimilar churches; in fact, on many weekends, they are probably all singing the same songs. Are each of these churches responding to a God-inspired mandate to open a new site, or are they simply jumping on the latest bandwagon? And are these new sites really reaching new people with the Gospel or just giving the already convinced more options on Sunday morning? If we are serious about reaching beyond our walled garden into the open field of the unconvinced, we have to be laser sharp about the methods and motivations of our mission.
For a church that is experiencing rapid growth or has a God-inspired passion for a unique outreach into an underserved community, multisite is a brilliant way to expand the Kingdom. I am excited about the innovative ways churches across the country are attracting new Christ-followers to the Kingdom using a multisite strategy. But for a church that is just looking for a new growth curve or the next big thing, multisite is a terrible idea. It is never a good idea to attempt to give birth when you aren’t pregnant.