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

Worship leader, visit and learn how your Internet connection can make your life easier. It's a paid website with over 100 practical articles about contemporary worship as well as weekly resource links and downloads.


Anonymous said...

This sounds all good cosmitically but what are we accomplishing. We have superficial churches filled with hurting people and people who really do not have a relationship with Christ. Only a relationship with a Country Club Setting. Kind of like a social club. Mega Churchs incubate lukewarm believers who do nothing with their faith. They are not pressed. They can barely see their pastor. The Pastor is more like a manager and not truly Pastoring people. The Mega Church Pastor only preaches, and moves certain programs. It seems the face to face issue was thrown out a long time ago. The early church full of true believers shook the world with a handful. We have churches in 1 state with 30,000+ who can not even budge a community. God's will was not for Mega Churches. This is man's idea. Such as the Papacy, or other religious dictatorships.

Shem said...

I think this anonymous poster raises some genuine concerns which may be shared by others. It's perhaps significant that they didn't feel able to give their name...

Interestingly, I believe many people may be attracted to mega churches because of the desire to remain anonymous. When you're in a large crowd, it's much easier to 'blend in', and once you feel comfortable with the environment, it's easier to invite non-Christian friends, knowing that they won't feel the tiniest bit as awkward as they would have done if you'd have taken them to a small 20-person house church, complete with rainbow-strapped acoustic guitar and all of the other embarrassments.

However, those attending mega churches wishing to remain anonymous may have a shock coming... because of their size, they tend to have excellent teaching. (Or, perhaps, their size is as a result of the excellent teaching.) This Spiritual nourishment is often what people are hungry for in smaller churches. And once your anonymous person starts to grow in their faith, they'll find more missions, projects, ministries and small groups to join in a mega church than in most small churches.

To say "Mega Churchs incubate lukewarm believers who do nothing with their faith" is a little generalistic.

Mega churches provide 'anonymous' believers with the opportunity to hide in the shadows if they wish to. But they also provide many opportunities to get involved, get pastored, get discipled and make a difference to their communities.

Anonymous said...

What a terrible idea. Churches are about more than showing up, and people are ill-served by a corporate model of spreading the gospel. The writer says this must be a "God-thing" because it is successful. Guess WalMart is a GodThing too. This is precisely the kind of thinking that is corrupting the American church, and further alienating those who need the gospel the most. IntegrityWorship (always best to get the difficult bit over with in the title) and other such entities are the true beneficiaries, because this way they can concentrate their pool of suckers to sell the rights to bad music.

You can't be a pastoral presence from a giant screen. There will be no multimedia in heaven.

It's so clear that this about economies of scale and building a prosperous empire, not about committment to each other as individual children of the living God. Christians can justify this howver they want, but this is acquisition, not shedding ties to material riches.

Brandon said...

I'm not certain we can simply paint this with a broad brush and outright deny what might be yet another example of the Holy Spirit moving the church in a new direction. With that said, I have reservations - many of which echo the comments already posted.

Large does not necessarily incubate lukewarm believers - small church can do the same thing. We have small congregations within my home town (numbering 20, 30 and sometimes 60) which are spiritually dead and devoid of a meaningful heartfelt relationship with our Savior and Lord. To assign broad labels based on numbers comes dangerously close to the sin David committed in numbering his troops.

The moving of the Holy Spirit transcends time and numbers - he is infinite and eternal. Let's judge this (and ANY fellowship) by its fruit - are there committed believers being spurned by one another in love and good deeds? Are people seeing JESUS, not just a video screen, pretty graphics, and flashy music? Are lives CHANGED? This is the crux of a Christian life.

I understand the fear of such a move. Personally, I think it's unsustainable. The new church is and will be about relationship. I find it odd that we've seen articles recently talking about the emerging church and the importance of small, intimate and less "produced" services. This seems to fly in the face of those principles. It's very difficult to warm up to a video screen - see, feel and hear compassion or rebuke.

Time will allow this concept to show itself of God, or of man.

Becky said...

In response to the first comment: If the megachurch is bringing people to a saving faith in Christ then why criticize the methods? There's nothing Biblically wrong with megachurches or satellite churches. You'll find lukewarm Christians in any size congregation. It has a lot more to do with the individual than the methods of ministry. Likewise, whether a person comes to Christ or not depends on the conviction of the Holy Spirit, not the person or people sharing the message. Our job is to get the message out and let God do His work. It amazes me that even in the smallest, most corrupt congregation, God can still change lives, and it has nothing to do with the members of the congregation.

I've been in small churches most of my life, and wish I had some of the opportunities for ministry that many larger churches have. The Body of Christ is made up of many parts, however, and God has a purpose for each congregation, regardless of size, and each believer.

I commend the Seacoast church for being relevant and meeting the people in today's culture. If in fact they are preaching sound theology and leading people to Christ as it seems they are doing, then wonderful!

And to Don Chapman, I look forward to seeing how God uses your talents and insight at Seacoast church. Your worshipideas e-mails and website have enhanced my ministry and the ministry of others I work with. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

The "other" anonymous sounds like s/he has a good case of "quantity vs quality" syndrome.

I've been affiliated with several organizations where people who, faced with dwindling numbers, deluded themselves into thinking they were better off with just a few "quality" members rather than more members.

Vikki said...

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. Let’s not rely on what we hear or suppose. We should go check it out for ourselves. Then we can speak with some authority. And the church that was such a terrible idea might suddenly become, if we are willing to admit it, a pretty cool idea that we wish we had thought of first. In the least, we could pray for the success of the “new church on the block” and the mission it is trying to accomplish.

You go, Don! You are accomplishing great things.

sweetswede said...

Perhaps some mega-churches do really incubate lukewarm members; I can't really say, there are not really any mega-churches in my area.

However I would like to say this. There are mega-churches with pastors who are preaching a fluff gospel with the one goal of increasing membership. There are churches that are just social clubs, and that have lost the main focus. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are some smaller churches doing that also. But I feel the church needs to be careful. We should ask such questions as "Are people coming for the Gospel, or for the flashy graphics?" "Is the Gospel being toned down in order to please more people?" "What is getting accomplished for the Kingdom by having a 10,000 member church as opposed to 100 100 member churches?".

We need to be a church that doesn't make the only focus growing, but isn't afraid of growing either.

I also feel that Vikki made a valid point in that the church down the street isn't our competition, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Goldcane78 said...

As I read these posts, I commonly wonder the background of each person. This usually helps me understand their reasoning and gives me a little insight into their commits. Therefore, I will tell you a little of me before I continue.
I am an ordained minister who has served in multiple areas. I have served in: a Mega church, we generally ran about 5,000 each Sunday, a small country church, running 30 each Sunday, to a traditional church plant, grew to running 40, and then where I am now, a church generally running around 100. In these churches, I have served as Music minister, Pastor, Youth Pastor, children’s pastor, and now a worship leader.
The first time I was introduced to a Satellite church was when I was serving at the Mega church. Our philosophy was One Body, One Service. The problem with our philosophy: We GREW and GREW and GREW! We built a building Million-dollar worship auditorium that would seat 1600. First Sunday we moved in, we had 1800 in service. Now we had no choice to add a second service, the very thing we wanted to eliminate and the reasoning for building in the first place. We added a third service and were running to almost 3500 each Sunday. Time to build again, our Rehoboth. We added a Satellite to handle our overflow. It worked great. We used it until our building was complete.

Ok, now after this long into, what I believe or just want to say:
While the satellite church has many “problems”, so does the “traditional” approach of the church. I have found that both churches can and many times do produce “lukewarm” Christians. Both approaches can have a PREACHER and not pastors. (I believe the bible talks about two separate roles.) I know GREAT pastors, (under Sheppard), who have horribly boring “lectures” they call sermons. I have seen the same in the other since as well.
I have seen if your church has a Pastor-Teacher the worship attendance will grow and grow. I you have a Pastor-Sheppard then your church will grow closer together and experience steady growth until he is not able to Sheppard anymore people.
The issue is not the Approach (packaging) of the church. The real issue is what is inside that count. We are all called to spread the gospel in any way we can. I support any church that has a vision to reach the world. As I’ve told my church, “If it doesn’t violate scripture, I don’t have a problem with it. GO FOR IT!” So good luck Don, and GO FOR IT!

Terry Kelly said...

My questions are 1)what ministry were you involved in previously, 2)what prompted you to leave that ministry to help the satelite church, and what kind of hole did your decision leave in the previous ministry? I have been at the same ministry for almost 15 years, and have had several opportunities to better myself. However, sometimes we have to look at the overall impact of our decisions. The Next Big Thing may be pleasing to the eyes, but God also needs tallented, anointed people blooming where they're planted as well. Just a thought.

Billy said...

Who are we to judge how other christians worship or experience God! This is why we have big, small, traditional, contemporary, Lutheran, Cathlolic, etc... churchs! As disciples we are here to plant the seed, God will make that seed grow when He sees fit! Everybody is different and God knows that. When we start putting rules on what worship is supposed to like like, we limit our ability to be effective! Do you think God really cares how big or small his church is? Remember, when two or more are gathered in HIS name, God is present. God didn't give us eyes to keep them shut.

Goldcane78 said...

By the Way, Anonymous:
Have you looked at your current churches in your community? All churches have hurting people with out relationships to Christ. THAT’S THE PURPOSE OF A CHURCH. It’s a hospital for the sick, not a country club for the Saints. Would you seek medical help from someone who a total stranger. May the first visit you would but if that doctor did not build a relationship with you, you won’t come back. We are a relational people!
People do not need to be pushed into salvation. That creates unsaved believers. GOD HANDELS THE SAVING! I’ve been commanded to tell not save.
People are sick! They need medicine. Don’t take this the wrong way but the Bible is not the only medicine. If someone is hungry, give them a hotdog. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. If they need a friend, be a friend. Why would I tell somebody that God loves them and not take care of their immediate needs? How many Micro churches have the ability to run a free clinic? There is power in numbers. I’m not saying we only need MEGA churches but they do have their purpose.
Next time you say something is not God’s will be sure you have scripture to back it up. I find nothing saying God only want micro churches. I seem to believe when he spoke on the Mount of Olives there were Thousands!!! in attendance. NOT GOD’S WILL???? Maybe not my will.

Ryan said...

When I read the several comments posted here already, I start to worry and wonder about why people aren't attending churches in the first place. We are here to be united in the one common goal of sharing Jesus Christ as Savior. Maybe the methods might be different, but Paul himself said, "I have become all things to all people so that by all means I might save some.

Yes, there are problems with mega-churches becoming mega-churches because of their fluffy teaching, but as Perry Noble from NewSpring church has written just a few weeks ago, it is a myth hat "in order for a church to grow it has to be liberal in it's theology."

I've listened to his sermons and boy, let me tell you, they're not fluffy.

I also think that while it might be great to have a relationship with the pastor, that's not the way the Acts-based church worked. Everyone ministered to everyone. We should utilize our elders and deacons and whatever we have to be able to foster relationships within the church so that the pastor can take care of things like leadership, growth, and vision, and not get burned out because he's the only one taking care of relationship issues within the church.

We need to "encourage each other, and build each other up," instead of immediately put down ideas. So, Don, I'm sure you have left well-trained people back at New Horizon, and I'm excited to see how God will work through you in the coming days!

Mike said...

Many today equate Church growth and superficial professions of faith to true discipleship. Just as in the time of Jesus, people are willing to believe as long as it costs them nothing. This "lowering the bar" brings in plenty of people who are content to call themselves believers as long as the church building is as pleasant as their local mall; the worship service is as entertaining as what they find on cable TV, their time spent with the brethren doesn't conflict with any other hobby, and their financial contributions do not impede their ability to consume more goods and services. We are seeing a manifestation of the lie in American culture that says "you can have it all" --you can be a disciple and not give up the world, but somehow still honor and please God? God have mercy on us. When Jesus returns will he find faith on earth??

George said...

I'm fascinated by the perpetual stream of Believers (and I sincerely believe they are) who throw up extraneous roadblocks to themselves and fellow kingdom builders.

They tend to be negative and sarcastic - what I would term in the business world as "no-men" - like if you went to an information desk at a mall and asked for some direction and the attendant told you they doubted they could help you.

No doubt feeling quite spiritual and superior, they throw out phrases and arguments completely irrelevant (there will be no multi-media in heaven) or devoid of scriptural basis (God's idea was not for mega-churches). They also tend to forget to use their arguments on themselves.

I appeal to "anonymous" to reconsider his/her rather pious perspective. God gave us a mark, a tattoo, by which the world could see us as different. That identifier could have been anything God wanted, but he ordained it to be a reflection of what He expressed to us on the cross - His love.

Come down out of your ivory tower and walk the streets with us. Find out we are on the same team. Put your shoulder to the same wheel and help us build God's kingdom as you embrace and love people where they are.

rhonnie said...

Today is the first time I've been on this site. I've enjoyed reading everyone's perspectives. It is too bad that anonymous(#1) sounds so angry and bitter...I'm sure he or she just feels passionate about this subject.
I am the worship leader for a church of 350-400 members. We are in the Bible belt and I've been part of this congregation for 15 years.
We've been through many transitions and have recently transitioned from a more traditional church model to a "Home church" model. We have 10 or 12 house congregations who are led by "shepherds". These small congregations range from 15-40 in size. They are subtly different from cells because they are more autonomous and the "pastors" are given full custodial care and are ordained ministers. These Home churches are not so different from the satellite churches at Seacoast. Yet, each Home Pastor is able to fully care for and be in relationship with their congregation.
We then gather together at our main facility to have "Celebration" services. When we outgrow the ability to all come together at once we can meet at a convention center or in a field. Or maybe we'll multiply and use a "video".
My point is (as previously stated) God uses many different vehicles to accomplish His purposes. I would expect that, by far, most "Mega" churches have some kind of small group program. When I was growing up it was called "Sunday School"...or "Prayer Meeting"...or "Ladies Aide Society". Obviously, for Christians to grow and be discipled it is necessary for there to some small group of people where we can have relationships and accountability.
As believers we are all part of the most humongous mega church...the Body of Christ.
Don't we all have enough to be concerned with in our own "Walk" ? Staying on the path God has set for me is a full time pursuit. I bless everyone who is trying to advance the Kingdom of matter what the methods. said...

Let me temper this by saying that I rejoice in what is happening - the fact that more churches are being planted is good news, And I don't doubt the efeectivenes of mega churches but this latest development (streaming video pastor) concerns me.

It seems like a play toward our culture's penchant for "celebrity" - everyone wants to see the "famous pastor" talk (not the ordinary, every day pastor).

I really think that it's wiser for the parent church to train preaching pastors and send them out to the new plant.

The trend toward celebrity pastors reminds me of the Israelites during the time of Samuel when they cried out "give us a king like the other nations".

lepauley said...

I, too, am watching the Mega-church movement. My husband is the pastor and I am the music leader in a small church in the rural midwest. We are about 40 minutes from the big city which offers a few megachurches. I know that many from our community go to these churches to "watch the show" (not my words, the commuters themselves use this phrase). I have seen musical productions from one of the churches and they are amazing.

Our church has seen steady growth in the seven years we have been here, but we cannot compete with the megachurches as far as production is concerned, so we don't try. We emphasize God's Word and try to base everything, even our ministry methodology on the principles found there.

Coming from the south, we were involved in a megachurch before moving to the midwest, so I have personally experienced church-life on that scale. Based on my experience, the large church does tend to cultivate a large following of "anonymous" Christians. They don't serve in any ministry; they don't wish to be accountable for anything - yet, they will regularly attend the "show". It is easier to hide in a large church than in a small one. Yet, I don't see the idea of non-serving Christians taught in the Scriptures. Name one passage where Christ or an apostle said that we could call ourselves Christian without actively serving Christ in His church.

I love the incredible music that you can find in the big church; it's like going to a music concert every Sunday. You also get to hear a dynamic speaker. And if the church is promoting biblical Christianity, then great! But in my experience, many churches do not - whether big or small.

In the end, we will be judged by God in how closely we followed His Guidebook - not on which fad we followed or bandwagon we jumped on.

Anonymous said...

Go ahead and let Rick Warren start a church in my town, or any town for that matter. The church that stays true to the word of God, will endure and stand the test of time. It may not have 20,000 attendees but the ones who stay will be considered faithful in Gods eyes.