In a recent Christianity Today article (High-Tech Circuit Riders: Satellite churches are discovering a new way to grow the body of Christ), Bob Smietana writes that there are
almost 1,000 U.S. churches [embracing] a multisite approach, according to the Leadership Network. Sometimes called a "satellite" or "franchise" model, going multisite is seen by advocates as one of the leading innovations of the 21st century and by critics as a sign that the church has sold out to consumerism—becoming just another big-box retailer, selling salvation with convenient hours and a discount price. The answer, as usual, lies somewhere in between."
If the answer lies somewhere in between, what is it?
I read that CT article with great interest, both because I once started a church plant myself in my family room and felt the struggles and anxieities that only church planting pastors feel (you know what I mean!!), and also because the church we have been attending in the last year is a megachurch (2,000+) that is starting a "satellite" campus in the city near them (they are an affluent suburban church, and they are placing the satellite in the high school of a small, blue-collar city near them).
I keep going back and forth on the issue. The city they are satelliting to has no church that offers the quality of worship and the "Christian services" that this church can offer through a satellite--thus attracting some who would not normally go to church. This is a good thing--a church seeking to reach a community with offering its excellent ministry.
But I'm troubled by the start-up campaign: It is all about making the Sunday worship event successful--nothing really about creating Christian community. They need greeters, worship leaders, communion servers, Sunday school teachers, etc.
The reason I bring that up is this: Satellite churches are in danger of making the Sunday worship event so central to ecclesiology that they miss becoming a transformative kingdom community. It's all about seeing a good show--excellent worship, a first-class sermon shown via DVD, an excellent children's program.
I'm afraid of the church becoming a show where many come to watch, but few come to mature. I'm afraid of a church where the pastor is nothing more than a speaker, worship is nothing more than a concert, and church is nothing more than the building where you go watch this stuff.
technorati: emerging church