I have thinking about this quite a bit over the past few months and have decided to weigh in with some thoughts. I'd appreciate any other opinions on this as well. The new trend in church growth is for successful churches with popular pastors to start new congregations in other places by broadcasting their preaching via video to the new site. These sites usually have a campus pastor and small groups. Sometimes, they have live worship and sometimes it is simulcast in as well. Multi-site churches are springing up all over and I have to admit that I don't get the appeal.
I understand the desire for good preaching and to be connected to a successful, well-resourced church model. Americans love to be around and hear from "winners" and successful people. But, getting up on Sunday morning week after week to watch a guy in another city preach on a video screen? You cannot possibly know him and he cannot possibly know you. His message is not contextualized to your context, your community, or the gathering at the satellite site. Sure, you have a campus pastor, but why can't he preach? If he did preach the message and person of Jesus Christ, would people not come because he wasn't the celebrity preacher? If that is true, then why are they coming? I am not against a hub church doing this for conferences or on occasion to disseminate information or vision, but every week?
If we are appealing to America's desire for celebrity now in the local church, that is a problem. Why can't we raise up leaders who can preach and lead? What does it do to the faith of people who are a part of a video-venue multi-site church? Would it reinforce passivity and spectator Christianity? How are the dynamics of biblical community affected by this approach? I agree that it might seem appealing in the 3-5 year span, but how can this be sustainable in the long run?
My wife says that she doesn't see much difference between the video venue church and the megachurch. Good point. If people like megachurches they will probably like video venue churches. But, what does that say about our view of church? At least in the megachurch the man preaching is around. He is a real person, not a TV character. But, if the average person can't know the pastor of the megachurch either, then that is also a problem.
Anyway, I obviously have a lot of questions about this and my opinion of the multisite video venue church is not good.
What do you think? What are the implications of this? Why would people want this? What affect will this have in 10-20 years? Interested to see what others think.
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:Update: I wrote this post this morning and after engaging in discussion with readers in the comment stream, I am learning a lot. I pecked the post out on my phone and just intended to present my initial impressions on the growing surge of multi-site, video-venue churches and some questions that I had about it. Going back and reading it now, those questions presented in machine-gun-fire-staccato makes it look like my opinion against this is much harsher than it actually is. I tend to start from a strong position on something, which is what inspires me to learn more about it while trying to keep an open mind. I'm weird that way. Thanks to all those so far who are attempting to answer my questions and help me see a broader view on why this is working well for many people. No doubt, the way that we have done church in the past has problems and I definitely do not want to shut down creativity. I just wonder where this will lead long-term.