Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Next Big Thing Part 2

Last week we talked about the new multi-site church movement that's happening all over the country, and specifically about Seacoast Church in the southeastern part of the USA.

The brand new book "The Multi-Site Church Revolution" by Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon and Warren Bird talks in depth about this phenomenon, and I recommend it to anyone who's interested.

Most churches are familiar with the multiple services format (i.e. 9am & 11am.) Multi-site can be thought of as an extension of this idea.

There are two points I'd like to make that might help churches to prepare and participate in this new wave.

1. You don't have to be a mega-church to be multi-site. You can replicate yourself and reach the community in other, less costly and time-intensive ways. Imagine small home churches that are in cahoots with a larger church, sharing resources and maybe even the pastor's video sermon or podcast. Or how about an office Bible study that's supported by a larger ministry.

The Biblical idea of "church" does not mean a physical building with sanctuary, pulpit and organ, but the Body of Christ. I like how Hillsong London leadership addressed the congregation as "church" when I recently visited (as in "church, we need to reach out to others..." etc.) When you stop thinking buildings and start thinking outside the box, the possibilities are endless.

The multi-site book I mentioned talks about a fire station church! "North Little Rock fireman Jeff West attended an equipping class about taking his faith to his community and workplace. The class was taught at his church, Fellowship Bible Church of Little Rock, Arkansas.

"Jeff's mind went immediately to the community he knew best: firefighters. 'What about fire stations?' he thought, aware that a lot of firefighters are stuck at their firehouses on Sundays. Jeff also knew that his church would soon be opening a video venue on campus. 'Why couldn't we do the same thing in our firehouses?' he asked himself." The book goes on to tell of how Jeff's vision became reality - in 2005 the church was supporting up to 20 local fire station churches!"

2. The multi-site revolution will be a call for churches to get their act together. You hear much whining in the press about how Walmart is destroying mom and pop stores all over the country (my, how we Americans love to whine!) In nearly every issue of a Christian retailing magazine I read letters from mom and pop Christian bookstores who bemoan the fact that big-box stores are putting them out of business.

Walmart isn't exactly guiltless, but what you might not realize is that many of these little stores don't have the business sense to stay open past 5 o'clock, or don't sell some contemporary Christian music because it's "too worldly." By the time these stores realize we're living in the 21st century it's often too late - as a customer, I just might want to shop at 9pm and pick up the latest Kutlass CD.

Likewise, churches, if you insist on operating like it's 1963, you might not be too long for this world. If you're just now considering using contemporary music in your worship, you're 20 years behind. If your church is full of politics that strangle your ministry, you just might be put "out of business" by churches who are more concerned with seeing people reached for Christ.

As a blogger put it on the WorshipIdeas blogsite last week, "I have to wonder when we will start supporting each other and leave all the tearing down aside. It might be a good idea to go visit a multisite video church, sit through an entire service or two and even speak to some of the members before deciding that these newfangled churches are superficial and kind of like a social club."

Love it or hate it, we're living in a new world.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

The Next Big Thing

What would happen if Rick Warren started a church in your town?

Would it suck the life out of other churches, much like Walmart sucks the life out of mom and pop stores when it builds a local supercenter?

Get ready, because this just might be The Next Big Thing: multisite video churches. Back in September 05 I wrote about Seacoast Church and how they're taking over the South. When Seacoast plants a church, they do it right - supplying the new plant with graphics, signage and ministries to make it appear like it's an established church of five years, not to mention a tried and true methodology that works.

While some churches are sitting around, twiddling thumbs, debating whether they should or should not be relevant, reach out, have contemporary music or [fill in the blank], churches like Seacoast have a successful strategy of meeting needs and people are flocking - they had 11,000 people at Easter between 10 campuses!

What's interesting, and how a Seacoast church differs from a typical church plant, is how the churches are structured. The plant considers itself part of one congregation and watches a sermon video from senior pastor Greg Surratt. They call it "one church, many locations."

The video thing might seem weird at first, but after 30 seconds of watching you're engaged. I had visited a local megachurch recently that televises on screen the pastor as he preaches. I found myself watching the video instead of the live guy, simply because I sat so far back I could see the video image better!

Each plant has live worship and a campus pastor who doesn't have to preach [although he may from time to time] but is more like a shepherd.

The video venue movement appears to be a God-thing - it's happening all over the country..., Northpoint and Willow Creek to name a few. Saddleback started their first video church at Easter with 1800 attending the first Sunday! Not simply a growth strategy, the multisite church movement is about fulfilling the Great Commission.

What I find interesting is the concept of "the genius of the and," a term coined by Jim Collins in his book "Built to Last." With a multisite church you have the resources of a megachurch with the feel of a smaller church (grow larger AND grow smaller), a brand new AND a trusted brand, a staff with generalists AND specialists.

In his article ""The Multi Site Church," Greg Ferguson says "new churches usually begin with one church planter, a generalist who has to oversee everything. If there is a team, it might include those over broad areas: a worship leader or perhaps a children's pastor.

"The multi-site church, however, allows you to start a new location with the existing staff in place. Instead of hiring more generalists, you add specialists such as technical arts, administrator, or director of creative arts for children. The big win is that now all locations have the benefit of the generalists, and the added specialists."

Most impressive are the results - these churches have a high percentage of converts. 1/3 of the congregation at Seacoast Greenville are new believers.

Next week: what the multisite movement means to you - how to adapt and how to participate.

For more info, check out the new book "The Multi-Site Church Revolution" by Seacoast's Geoff Surratt at

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