Chances are you know of churches (maybe you attend a church) that operates in two or more locations. The multi-site or multi-campus church is a fairly new phenomenon that is growing. Pastors as diverse as Mark Driscoll, Andy Stanley, and John Piper lead multi-site churches. In some such churches the preacher will preach at each site, driving between them like a modern-day Wesleyan circuit rider. More typically the sermon is simply broadcast on a large video screen in the secondary sites, with everything else being live (ie the worship band, an on-site pastor to talk to people and oversee the service, etc.) Of course, such a practice can be taken to greater and greater extremes. There is a church in Charleston, SC called Seacoast that has satellite campuses all over town and even has them three and a half hours away in Greenville, SC, as well as a couple around Columbia, SC and one in Savannah, GA. Where do you draw the line?
Mark Driscoll has written a defense of the practice on his blog. He argues, correctly, that as a church grows and begins to use large screens, many people are watching the preacher on the screen anyway. The argument that a video sermon is impersonal could be applied to any church of a particular size. Of course, there is debate about the appropriateness of mega-churches in general for some of these reasons. Our American tendency is to think that bigger is better. But is that always the case? It’s a complicated issue.
Can a church really be, as one local congregation advertises, “one church, two locations?” Or is it functionally two churches? If so, is the pastor a bishop? Or, on the other hand, is this a helpful use of technology that allows a church’s ministry to flourish and reach more people? I’m open to different perspectives on these issues…. what’s yours?