October 19, 2017

Major Megachurch Maniacal Missional Madness!

By Chaplain Mike

Headline from Christianity Today: “Multi-Site Churches Go Interstate.”

Subject: Megachurches are now expanding beyond their localities and regions to other cities and states.

Example: “Pastor Mark Driscoll’s megachurch [Seattle, WA] recently announced plans to expand into Portland, Oregon, and Orange County, California, using multi-site campuses that feature live bands and a sermon piped in from the main campus in Seattle.”
They already have an off-site campus in Albuquerque, NM.

Rationale: “Oregon [etc.] needs Jesus Christ” (Mars Hill website)

Context: “The surge is being driven by technology breakthroughs…” (Warren Bird, co-author of Multisite Church Roadtrip). In other words, because we can.

Concern: “If you are a church planter in Portland, it’s a bit like reading the notice that Wal-Mart is coming and you are the mom-and-pop store.” (Pastor Bob Hyatt, Portland)

Critique: “It’s not just an extreme example of the church-celebrity model. It’s complete capitulation. It’s enshrining that into the DNA of the church” (Bob Hyatt). CT summarizes: “Critics fear the out-of-state campuses turn churches into franchises like McDonald’s or Starbucks.”

Questions and Comments:

  • Really? Really?
  • I can’t imagine ever, ever, EVER attending a “service” at a “church” like this. Can you?
  • What kind of an ego must a preacher have and how controlling must one be to do something like this?
  • Is there ever a time to say, “Just because we can does not mean we should“?
  • Is it possible that evangelicalism will reach a point where it has emptied itself of historic memory, tradition, and practice so much that it will cease to be meaningfully “Christian”?

[insert phrase signifying speechless bewilderment and frustration]

Comments

  1. This is old news. Wayne Cordeiro’s church, New Hop has been doing this for years. http://www.enewhope.org/index.php/locations/

  2. This really isn’t a new concept. Church of the Highlands in Alabama has a similar setup with campuses in Birmingham, Montgomery and possibly Huntsville. I think Andy Stanley has done a similar thing in the Atlanta area, though I’m not sure he’s exported it to other cities like Driscoll is looking at.

    I think part of the idea is that it allows for church plants in areas where you don’t have a gifted teacher but you do have people gifted in other areas such as administration, music/arts, hospitality and so on. Plus it allows for a group of churches to sort of be on the same page teaching-wise even as they have more tailored focus in terms of reaching out to the community, small groups and things like that. And some see it as a temporary setup until a teaching pastor that’s local is established. The costs are usually fairly low since you don’t have any full time staff early on.

    It really isn’t my cup of tea either, though. But I just don’t necessarily think it’s an ego thing.

    • So, you are telling me that Portland, Oregon, Orange County, California, and Albuquerque, New Mexico have NO gifted teachers who could give edifying sermons in churches?

      Hmmm. I think what you don’t have, perhaps, are Mark Driscoll clones.

      And by the way, I didn’t read about any plans to move these churches from TV churches to real churches once such clones are manufactured.

      No, it’s pretty much all Mark all the time.

      • The campus pastors preach live about 25% of the time, so it is not all Mark all the time. And while it is not in the structure of MH for campuses to break away from the video preaching, many pastors have left MH with the full support and encouragement of MH to plant new “real churches”, as you are calling them.

        • haha, “full support” is only in public. In private MH throws a fit. Trust me, people don’t leave the fold and maintain their ties there.

          • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

            By “people” do you mean pastors, Marie, or just anyone at MH? I hang out with MH friends on a weekly basis despite having left and having left making some trenchant criticisms of theological and cultural issues I had with the church. Now maybe ex-MH people would say I’m the exception that proves the rule but for those of us who were old-school and saw MH through 1999-2006 the bonds of friendship are more important in my circle than taking a strictly pro or con position. I make my concerns about MH in my own way and don’t soft-pedal them but I frankly can’t wait to hang out with my MH friends when I can because they’re my friends. I think that among the old-timers there are more ex-MH people hanging with MH than may initially appear.

          • My comment was meant to refer to pastors, but it’s not a seamless transition for ordinary people either. I still have a few friends who go there, but most have stopped speaking to me.

          • Respectfully Marie, there have been a number of MH pastors who have left to plant their own churches, usually within the Acts 29 network, and with the full support of MH – not just “public” support. I can think of three cases off the top of my head, there may be more. Althoug.h, yes, there are also those who have left under less gracious circumstances, as well.

      • Orange County: the home of Calvary Chapel / Chuck Smith, The Vineyard, Chuck Swindoll, Saddleback Church / Rick Warren, Crystal Cathedral, and even TBN.

  3. I’ve visited a church where the pastor was at another site, projected on a screen. Gotta say: It doesn’t feel too far different from the churches where the pastor on the screen is likewise on the stage in front of you, only smaller. Live-stream or not, you’re basically watching a sermon on video.

    I have no problem with watching sermons. I’ve listened to Driscoll’s sermons via podcast. But I don’t make the mistake of believing that this makes him my pastor.

    What kind of relationship can you, as a member of a church, have with a pastor when he ministers at an entirely different site? Doesn’t matter if it’s out of state, or in the same town: You don’t know him, he doesn’t know you; how can he really be said to be shepherding you when he doesn’t know his sheep at all? Jesus knows His sheep. But a Max Headroom pastor has no relationship with his viewers.

    Therefore, whenever he offers advice, offers correction, offers direction, or even offers blessing, he’s speaking entirely hypothetically. At best he’s shepherding the folks in his home congregation, and you’re applying his advice to them secondhand. At worst he’s too busy to even know them, and he’s shepherding imaginary people, if anyone. This hardly resembles Jesus’s relational purpose for the church.

    The guy needs to package and distribute his sermons… and leave the shepherding to local shepherds instead of trying to be everybody’s virtual pastor.

    • Totally. It’s now going to be possible (has been for awhile?) to call someone “my pastor” without ever having met him. An irony I find is that I got the impression at one time that a lot of people in Driscoll’s movement were fed up with consumer culture and Christian products being sold as synonymous with life in Christ. Evidently the critique wasn’t strong enough to keep it from commodifying preachers and their particular style.

    • I agree – not your pastor (I actually have all kinds of problems with the titles used today). I actually go to, have gone to lifechurch.tv, a multicampus church based in OK. It’s different, for sure. I tend to think of Craig (He’s the head pastor of LC.tv) as the teacher of the church and not my pastor because, well, he’s not my pastor. Each site has it’s own leadership with a main, youth, kids, missions, small groups pastors. But for me, the place I found my pastor was in my small group. The guy wasn’t on staff but deffinately pastored me and mine and, in many ways I was pastor to others.

      All that to say. Yeah, it’s weird. I have seen Jesus working there. I have seen the church being the church there. I have concerns as well.

    • FRANCHISING!!!!!! The only thing Driscoll’s new chruches are missing are the drive up window and happy meals!! :p

      • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

        The big M logo for Mars Hill sometimes bears an uncanny resemblence to the other big M logo now that you mention it.

        • How is this “franchising” really any different than denominationalism? What are you supposed to get at a Lutheran Church if not Luther’s Gospel? Doesn’t the Baptist church have name recognition and brand like qualitiies? What about the “quality” control via standardization of the Roman Church? How about Thomas Cramner’s Homilies?

          This isn’t that different, just more of the same.

          • Pastor Brendan…what about the unity that Christ prayed for? What Driscoll is doing only contributes to more division. Instead of moving in this direction what about if churches worked together to achieve a common goal instead of competing against each other. I’m the agnostic here…this doesn’t affect me as much but is that possible?

          • Suzanne says:

            I was thinking the same thing. Isn’t the “franchise” church pretty much like a denomination. Instead of everyone using the same order of service, out of the same hymnal, they watch the same service on the jumbotron. I think it would be strange to go to church and watch it on a screen, but then, I like a more traditional service, not all the rock star Jesus stuff.

      • If Mars Hill could take over the ailing Crystal Cathedral, they COULD have the drive-up window.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        FRANCHISING!!!!!! The only thing Driscoll’s new churches are missing are the drive up window and happy meals!! :p

        Give him time…

  4. It may be old news, but is seems to be gaining momentum at both the national and city-state level. For example at the national level you have the Driscolls of the world. At the city-state level, local churches are becoming regional churches through this multi campus model.

    It draws a crowd, but I don’t understand it. At some point why don’t everyone just watch church from their own bedroom? I don’t quite understand the difference between watching service on TV or computer and driving to a local strip mall to watch church on a giant screen.

    • Gives new meaning to Bedside Baptist.

    • The church in America is just another channel on your cable TV menu, or another store at the mall.

      Facebook = Fellowship.

      The year is not 2011 but 2525.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “In the year 2525,
        If Man is still alive;
        If Woman can survive,
        What will they find?”
        — Zager & Evans

    • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

      Arguably this just means that Driscoll’s church model is so relevant and missional it’s getting to the point that Pat Robertson and TBN trailblazed decades ago.

      • Ha — if the Church becomes any more relevant, it’s going to relevant itself right out of existence!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Nothing gets old faster than Over-Relevance.

          Except Pretentious Over-Relevance.

  5. Isn’t this what is known as listening to a talking head? Don’t waste your time! How about taking the same amount of time and get to know a few of your neighbors and love them as Jesus would? Now that looks like Jesus!

    • I suppose it’s possible for satellite campuses to have their own local focus, but I have doubt it would work too well. This smells like “church as club.” Also, I wonder if there are marginalized peoples around the main campus that are being overlooked by the church. If so, I have a hard time believing it is pleasing to Jesus that big money is being spent to take the show to other cities where more churched will be churched and entertained while again people in the shadow of the steeple are marginalized and forgotten. When Jesus said that one day He will separate His sheep from goats, and some “goats” will cry out about all the things they’d done for Him. He says He’ll tell them they didn’t clothe the naked, feed the hunger or house the homeless. If Christians are not loving neighbors (the ones Jesus calls “the least of these”, not the one who looks, talks and acts like you), I think we are missing the real Jesus of the bible and settling on the one of our making. At least, I used to.
      Also, Craig Groeschel (Life Church) has been using the multi-campus model for several years.

    • In this new “arrangement” I would be curious as to how marital advice, and other counseling is going to take place? All by screen through and not in person.? No personal interaction, talking face to face, hand shakes, etc.. It seems like this has the potential to be fantasy. Is this an evangelical mega church equivilent to pornograghy? And can you just wait at how other mega churches and other fundgelicals will respond. 😯 Its going to be a race. THE FUNDGELICAL 5000 which is a competition between Saddleback, Bethlehem Baptist, Willowcreek, McLean Bible, etc.. to fight tooth and nail to make sure that they get there first, becuase THEY are the only ones who have the gospel cornered. I’ll grab popcorn, pull up a lawn chair and watch the differing fundegelicals duke it out.

      • “Is this an evangelical mega church equivalent to pornography?”

        Oh wow. That strikes me as a really powerful point. Porn isn’t real sex, a picture isn’t a real person, and a sermon on a screen isn’t real church. Where’s Neil Postman when you need him?

        • Rev Ricky says:

          And again I am floored by the arrogance of this group. I get it – it isn’t your cup of tea. Are some of these churces perfect no – guess what – it isn’t my cup of tea either – but the question is – are needs being met? Does Mark Driscoll have a personal relationship with the congregation – no. Does Mark Driscoll need to have a personal relationship with the congregation – not necessarily. Many of these churches have staff on site that do the shepherding work. Whether you like titles or not – there are often ministers of ‘shepherding’, ministers of ‘youth’ or ‘families’. How does the marriage counselling happen – by someone on staff who is trained to do it – how else? ‘The equivalent of pornography’ what a blatant, mean-spirited, ungraceful comment. When David Wilkerson died – this site lauded him and his work when in actuallity he embodies everything you rant against. The “cross and the switchblade” – where do you get a copy of it? Oh yeah – the Christian bookstore (evil as that is). His church in Time Square – a rose by any other name…a mega-church. I have no problem debating methods and structure – but make sure it is done with a modicum of grace. Billy Graham doesn’t have a personal relationship with those he has ministered with – but was his work wrong? Oh – and I found out about this site by buying the Internet Monk’s book – where? 2 guesses – at a Christian bookstore – if they are so evil and should be done away with – is it not a bit hypocritical to be marketing through these dens of “fundgellicals’ (that term is about as clever as the KJV only title of “NIV – New International Perversion” – very clever aren’t you parents proud!). Oh – one parting note – many of these “fast-food” churches are leaders in ministries to the poor and the dispossessed. They will be readilly welcomed by Christ as being ‘good and faithful servants” – they may even take the time to know and love their neighbours – as hard as that might be to fathom.

          • Amen. This hall has turned quite Pharisaical

          • I’m sorry that that rubbed you the wrong way. It probably was an overly provocative way to make the point. But the point itself–which is about replacing reality with pixels, replacing flesh and blood with moving images (ironic, given the iconoclastic heritage of Protestantism)–stands.

          • Rev Ricky

            Don’t take this the wrong way, but I banged my head against the wall in this type of environment for almost 10 years. I saw a lot of aspects of how unhealthy Christianity can be a times. I appreciate this blog because it tells me that I am not the only one who sees through the smoke and mirrors. And I’m still trying to figure out what I believe.

            Last Christmas I was having dinner with my family and my Mom (You know how Mom’s are…great instinct, etc..) came out and basically asked, “You don’t go to church anymore do you?” I wasn’t prepared for the conversation but I had to tell my Mom how I no longer believe in God, and explain some of the reasons why. It crushed my Mom. She commented how evangelical Christianity has really screwed me up. I don’t deny that evangelicalism has caused me harm.

            But I can tell you from expereince…have you ever tried to get invovled in some of these mega churches? Ever tried to get help? I tried for the longest of time to get into a Bible study when I finally got into a Men’s group I realized how phoney it was going to be. It was a lot of “let’s play church!!” and very little of guys just talking about how they deal with work stress, career difficulty, sexual mistakes, family problems,etc.. People hid things from others….that was how one survived. I saw how this was a part of the evangelical culture going back to my time in Campus Crusade for Christ. It’s how it is….

            By the way I picked up my copy of “Mere Churchianity” at the Banres and Nobles in the Washington, D.C. area. The local Family Christian Stores didn’t carry it.

            I’m sorry I wish I could tell you how reassuring evangelical Christinaity can be…but in my life it didn’t work out.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Isn’t this what is known as listening to a talking head?

      “Same as it ever was,
      Same as it ever was,
      Same as it ever was…”
      — Talking Heads, “Once in a Lifetime”

  6. Richard Hershberger says:

    The common observation is that multi-campus megachurches are de facto new denominations. I’m not really sure we need more denominations, but what are a few more thrown into the mix?

    What get me, though, it the question of church governance. I belong to a church with a congregational organization. My local congregation owns the property and pays the bills. The members sit down in one room once a year to vote on the budget and other major matters, and elect a board of directors (we call it a “council”) to keep things running throughout the year. And speaking of money, there are checks built into the system to keep track of itfrom the time it is placed in an offering plate onward. (Here’s a tip: who counts the plate in your church? It should be done by at least two people at a time, not the same two every week, and preferably not salaried staff. If at least the first two criteria are not met, seriously consider redirecting your giving.)

    So how does it work with these megachurch neo-denominations? It appears that the sermons are in the direct control of the senior pastor. I strongly suspect that the real estate is owned by the central entity, and that it directly controls hiring and firing of staff. How is the central entity organized? Is there a board of directors, or is it the senior pastor’s personal kingdom? If there is a board of directors, how are they selected? Is it an independent board chosen by the membership? Or is it a self-perpetuating body with vacancies filled by the board itself? Or by the senior pastor?

    I have a sneaking suspicion that the church governance, de facto if not de jure, is to give the senior pastor power over the church which no Pope ever dared dream of. The only check on this is that, like any cult of personality, the whole system depends on one charismatic person, and will likely collapse when he retires or dies. Some churches are responding to this challenge by becoming hereditary monarchies, but that depends on junior having at least some of what it takes to carry on.

    Why anyone else would want to be a part of this is beyond me, though I am sure that the production standards are excellent.

    • Most all these churches are built on a corporate governance model. Board of directors is self-perpetuating, and most always controlled by the senior pastor. First rule of mega churches is to get rid of any congregational governance model.

      That is also why most all the mega churches do not have a connection to a hierarchical denomination.

      • Corporate governance model? When is the outsourcing to China going to take place? Is that possible?

        • Easy – that’s where the counseling component comes in. Got a marital problem? Financial issues? Just use the link on our website and chat online to India or the Philipines. :p

          • So presumably the on-site building will be a mega-church model, and the worship band will be local, then they’ll pipe in the sermon from the main site and the collection will be taken up afterwards?

            But who’s going to be in charge and – more specifically – where will the money go? Will it really be like a franchise, and the local outlet pays a percentage of the takings?

            I just – this is mind-boggling to me. I love you guys over in America, but this whole love-affair with technology you’ve got going on is getting out of hand.

            :-O

    • I’m Catholic, and I was thinking the same thing vis-a-vis the pope doesn’t even have this much direct control over the “message” that Catholics hear. Probably in an entire year, maybe one in twenty Catholics hear something the pope says (whether a homily, an encyclical, a comment on a plane, etc.).

      Occasionally a bishop will ask all the priests in his diocese to read a message during Mass, but this is rare and usually involves taking a special collection for disaster victims around the world.

    • David Cornwell says:

      Mini-denominations (or maybe mini isn’t so correct) with an all powerful bishop residing from the main cathedral (however this might be an insult to a real cathedral). I hope these people aren’t complaining about Rome.

    • I’m not a member or attender of Driscoll’s church but can speak to the governance of the church (and in turn the entire Acts 29 network that Driscoll helped spearhead). Governance is by a Christ first and under him a board of elders, in the case of Mars Hill, I believe (from a friend who was a member) it is now several (3-4) dozen elder/shepherd/pastor men. Mark Driscoll would be considered “the first among equals,” but saying that he has complete control over the message and the church is way overstating things. In fact, his sermon plans (for example, he’s currently in his 2nd year of preaching through Luke) are brought before the elders for approval (normally, from what I’ve read Driscoll himself say, a couple of years in advance of the actual sermon/sermon series). All decisions are made (budgetary or otherwise) through the approval of the elder board, not through Driscoll himself.

      Does that mean that I’m a fan of his multi-site megachurch explosion? No, I’m not a fan. Do I wish that they would plant indigenous churches instead of satellite campuses? Of course. Are people coming to know Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection through the work the Holy Spirit is doing through Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll? I think you can’t deny that the answer is unequivocally yes. So, even though I have great hesitation about the methods, let us also remember the fruit being borne and remember that we are to be “of one mind, having one love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

  7. Ragamuffin says:

    Why is my comment still awaiting moderation? Did I do something wrong?

  8. One more reason to stay away as far as possible from Mark Driscoll .

  9. Josh in FW says:

    We believers need to pray hard and pray often for the men leading these mega-church organizations. Fame is a very dangerous drug. I’m afraid that there are multiple scandal stories in the making. Whether we like it or not, non-believer put us in the same category as the Megas.

    • That’s a very good point (praying for them). The Lord’s Prayer is to OUR Father not MY Father. Those of us who think the Megas are going astray I think have a responsibility to pray intercessory prayers for them as well as for ourselves (confessing both of our sins) just as great leaders such as Ezra or Daniel did. Let’s pray that God’s name will be “hallowed” in his covenant community.

    • One of the dangers to megachurches is that it attracts hungry, and driven personalities. Some of the mega church pastors I heard I can’t imagine them being humble and willing to sit on the sidelines. Sometimes I got the feeling that the stage wasn’t big enough for them. Power corrupts…and Christians are fools if they think they are above it or temptation.

      • Mark Driscoll is a narcissist, plain and simple. Of course he wants more power and control. Why is anyone suprised by this??

    • Oh there have been plenty of scandals, they just haven’t been of a sexual nature (yet) and have been pretty well covered up. That place is a cult. A creepy, megachurch cult.

      • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

        Well those well-covered up scandals wouldn’t be related to the boondoggle in Ballard, the 2007 firings related to the by-laws, or scrubbing the name of a co-founding pastor from MH public image. Those have all been covered either locally or nationally.

  10. What’s good for General Driscoll is good for the C.H.U.R.C.H.

  11. Up in Canada, the model has been in play for some time in the the form of the The Meeting House. Currently they are in 10 sites, and other than the main campus they meet primarily in movie theatres. Each campus has its own worship team and site pastor, but the preaching comes from the central campus. They have a strong emphasis on “home church” which generally meet mid week. From my experience from my area, the home churches are led by very capable people who have strong discipleship gifts.

    So in this model, there is a preaching pastor, a site pastor, and a home church pastor. As far a meeting spiritual concerns, I imagine it is the home church pastor who plays the largest role in this.

    From the website…

    At The Meeting House, we don’t believe church is at its best when we are all facing one direction listening to someone talk from the front. Real church happens when we turn our chairs inward and face one another—when we spend time asking questions and studying together, caring for one another’s needs and encouraging each other to live out the teachings of Jesus.

    Is it my cup of tea?

    Probably not, but I can understand why it is Canada’s fastest growing church.

    • I should add, here is what preaching Pastor Bruxy Cavey commented on Internet Monk a couple of years ago about this very model…

      …Our model of video teaching on Sundays is not a stand-alone idea, or else I would be skeptical as well. That format can only work because of what has not been mentioned yet in this thread – we function along a house-church model first and foremost. Our “Home Churches” (as we call them) are real church to us. Some churches call their Sunday services “church” and would also say they have a “small group program” during the week. Our community reverses that approach to say that we are a collection of house churches who also run a “Sunday service program” on the weekend. For us it is in Home Church where mutual discipleship, accountability, fellowship, prayer, study, and support happens. We see Sunday’s extra singing and teaching as a a dietery suppliment, but not the main meal of our church community life. I realize this is not the only way to do church life together, but hopefully this helps explain why video teaching on Sundays is not a big deal to us…

      • That sounds like a very interesting model. I would definitely give it a try.

        I find it very interesting that Canada is officially a secular nation yet it seems far more Christian in its actions than the US. Hats off to them.

      • It totally diminishes the meaning of corporate Lord’s Day worship. Did you hear what the pastor called it? “Sunday’s extra singing and teaching.”

        And I still cannot see myself ever listening to a video sermon. Pastoral preaching and teaching must be grounded in local relationships and community life.

        In the model as you describe it, I would take the house churches and do away with the “Sunday service program” completely. I would see it as entirely unnecessary.

        • Kenny Johnson says:

          I really like Bruxy and respect a lot of what his church does, but I’m largely in agreement with you. I don’t know why they can’t just plant new church’s.

          But in defense of Bruxy, why can’t their home church service be the corporate Lord’s Day worship? I’m sure that’s what Bruxy would argue.

          Greg Boyd, another pastor I like also does video preaching and even supports an online church. Again, not a fan of this approach, but I love Greg.

  12. I think this approach is aberrant to what it means to be a fellowship of believers.

    1. Every community has its own needs and gifts. I don’t see how this reaches that part of what it means to be community.

    2. Pastoring is not preaching. I’d be interested in how the not “educating” folks role is covered. How does someone bring the face humanity to the community?

    3. Granted I’m sacramental in my approach and these guys aren’t in the least but how about marriages, deaths, and baptisms. How does “my pastor” provide counseling in the great changes of life, humanity in personal tragedies which help me believe his sermons are real, and bring the grace of God near to my household when he is 1000 miles away?

    In the interest of full disclosure, I live in Charleston, SC – mere blocks from one of Seacoast’s satellite campuses. I haven’t figured out the difference between this and a “diocese” with only the bishop being a really involved senior preacher – if the central church is handling payroll, discipline, and property. Just saying.

    • Don’t they have campus pastors? As far as I know, every multi-site church (Seacost, Mars Hill, Northpoint, etc…) has a campus pastor.

      • I can only speak to my limited knowledge of Seacoast. They do have pastors assigned to locations. My understanding is that these pastors function much as American vicars do. They are not free to make their own decisions for their congregations and funding goes to and from the central church. Much of the decision making is made from the central church as well. It has very limited autonomy although might not consider it so.

        On the positive side, the outpost near my home is in a lower income area (although strategically on a pass through street from two more wealth areas for high visibility) and I’m sure receives funds for their outreach ministries from the much wealthier central church.

    • It almost does seem to be creating a functional episcopate of sorts. Or, even a presbytery. The only difference is that there is not equal representation on governing boards for all campuses.

      • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

        I was at Mars Hill circa 1999-2008 and, yep, it is funcationally an episcopate. Maybe from 2000-2004 it could be described as a presbytery but it’s been an episcopal government since at least 2007 in terms of by-laws. Campus pastors handle all the local congregational concerns and ministerial work while Driscoll’s sermons cover 75% of the preaching content on Sundays by way of a Ballard sermon which is then taped and sent to other campuses subsequently. Campus pastors are generally assigned to preach one sermon a month directly to their flock. Before I left (just before the four months of Peasant Princess) the best sermons I heard weren’t Driscoll’s but the ones by the campus pastors.

        The campus pastors are the ones who have an actual connection to the local congregation, can do things like pastoral counseling, and so on. As they see it the advantage of the system is that they get to be the local pastor who handles the shepherding tasks while also not having to constantly also developing the teaching material for every Sunday. In churches that get this large that division of labor makes sense from a pragmatic standpoint but as someone else pointed out here if this sort of church developed out of dissatisfaction with a consumeristic approach it has ironically landed in the same spot.

        Mars Hill would not officially consider itself a Reformed Baptist denomination but that’s more or less how I see them. I’ve got friends and family there so I have no eagerness just to knock them but my own convictions led me to a Presbyterian church in the last four years. The trouble with the neo-denominational multi-site churches to me is that they are reinventing the wheel on all sorts of issues where they wouldn’t have to if they steeped themselves in a bit more of church history than American evangelicalism.

        • Thanks, this is a good perspective.

        • Good inside information! However, if Dricsoll’s campus pastor preach monthly, that’s a heck of a lot better than I even thought. I agree, though, they are functionally Reformed Baptists with no significant doctrinal differences. They just don’t like the “Baptist” label, like most evangelicals who hold Baptist theology.

        • The campus pastors start out with a stronger connection to their people, but they eventually become drones of the main campus (if they don’t, they’ll be quickly fired), it can be kind of creepy to watch.

          I left MH in 2008 as well, though I doubt we ever knew each other 🙂

          • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

            I was at the Lake City campus when I left at the end of the Jonah series in 2008. We probably didn’t know each other but after nearly twelve years of being at or around MH we may know/have known some people in common.

    • These types of mega churches are more representative of business/commercial interests than anything else. Man I couldn’t tell you how hard it is to plug into some of these mega churches. I went on a megachurch fundgelical retreat once and I remember the driver of the car telling me how hard it was for him to get in a Bible study. He signed up for 5 Bible studies at a time, each week for a few monthes before he finally got into one. My own experience was hard, and a nightmere. If God exists he wont be found in a megachurch model. What is worshiped there is the church itself.

      • You think plugging into a mega church is a nightmare? Try fitting into a tight knit small church!

        • I did that in Wisconsin and it was nice to be able to know the Elders, Pastor, etc.. on a first name basis. There were other problems but getting plugged in was not one of them. That was nice and I longed for that as I had to deal with mega chruches, etc..

          • I’ve known people who left our small church because they couldn’t get in. So they went to the local mega church and found a way to plug in…and it changed their lives, marriage, and spiritual health. My point is the problems at mega-churches are no different than the problems at small churches.

  13. I’ve been following the Anglican tradition and during the years following the reformation upwards to the mid 1800’s, it was not uncommon for priests to literally read a sermon written by a bishop somewhere else to their local congregation. It was mandated for a time in the early birthings of the Anglican church because so much poor preaching was taking place. The priest was still physically active in the community. It was designed to help with the “educating” of the congregation.

    It sees in some ways to be the opposite of what we are discussing.

    Would we have the same level of yuck if it were the other way around?

    • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

      I was also thinking of the “Book of Homilies” bit in the early decades of the English Reformation. If I remember correctly, the sermon was to come from the Book unless the priest had a license from the Bishops to preach on his own. Mostly, this was due to how poor the education and competence of the clergy was in the years immediately preceding and following the reformation. I.e. this was a temporary solution to curb bad teaching and preaching.

      I find myself wondering if this was a 16th and 17th century equivalent of what Driscoll and others are doing with piping in the sermon to satellites. Is there a problem with the quality of preaching in American Evangelicalism to the point where this sort of thing is necessary? It seems that we’ve talked about this problem on this site a lot: Man-centered preaching that is either Legalism in disguise or the Prosperity Gospel heresy. I know I’ve experienced a lot of that.

      That said, the folks who are doing the piped-in-sermon model aren’t typically the one’s I’d trust with the job of reforming and improving the quality of preaching.

  14. “What kind of an ego must a preacher have and how controlling must one be to do something like this?”

    How do you know that is a factor?

    This is an interesting trend.
    Imagine: Some people may actually coming to Christ and/or growing in Christ through these sites. The outrage!!!

    • I’ve heard the reasoning “but people are getting saved!” used to defend pretty much anything. The ends simply don’t justify the means. Of course, know one can truly no Driscoll’s motivations here, like you say. I simply hate the idea that the whole service is focused around what this one man has to say. For one thing, the idea that a church service is all about the sermon is an idea that I’d like to see die. It’s really a complete buy-in to the modernistic thinking that every problem or every issue comes down to the transmittance of information. This is simply a more gnostic version of it.

      • What “means” are unchristian? Which are unjustified? I am speaking of the multi-site aspect, not how various services are conducted, although I would include what truth is being emphasized in the services.

        • Well, personally, I can think of a lot of things that I’ve seen that are un-Christian. As far as this particular issue, I don’t think turning churches into a brand or a product is a good thing in the long run. If you attract people because you’re the next big thing, eventually, some other next big thing will woo them away from you.

          I also think there is a lot of hidden costs, if you will, in the typical mega-church model. I’m good friends with plenty of people who were either on staff or in volunteer leadership positions at various megachurches, and I’ve got to say, I think those type of institutions are like people-eating monsters that are always demanding more and more from people. If your method of evangelism is routinely harming people in the church, something is wrong.

          • “If your method of evangelism is routinely harming people in the church, something is wrong.”

            I don’t disagree, and it is a good point. There may be a “feed the machine” mindset in some of these churches.

            However, is that more of a personnel/leadership problem, not necessarily a multi-site problem.

            I am more concerned about the widespread obsession with “leadership” skills than I am with multi-sites. But I am open to criticizing multi-sites if certain facts can be presented that it is nothing but harm.

          • When I went to a megachruch I never got the feeling that the church was interested in me and how I was doing. Instead I felt like I was a warm body that could be thrust into a ministry (usually Kids Quest, etc..) that I was not interested in. It felt so phoney to have people I didn’t know well come up and say, “Hey you look like you would be great at working with kids/greeting/tape ministry, etc…” and try and sell me on signing up. You had no idea how much that pissed me off when that was all I could get out of a church, and given how hard it was to get in a Bible study. I and everyone is but a number. This was in my fundy days.

    • And some of us are Christians today because our ancestors were “converted” at the point of a sword, but that doesn’t justify that particular method of spreading the gospel.

      • I second that. Ends does not justify the means. God uses our worst for His best at times, but that does not mean for us to seek our worst.

      • You are comparing the use of technology with “the sword”? Really?

        • Absolutely! Both can be used for good causes. Swords are not inherently evil, and neither is technology. But both can be used highly manipulatively. Our society today (rightly) looks down on the manipulative use of swords, but for some reason manipulation itself has not gone out of style.

          • Your logic is therefore a sword as well. The fact that you comparing the threat of death to a TV preacher at a church you have to choose to attend by getting up, taking a shower, then driving yourself to the church… is a blatant attempt to manipulate the argument

          • The illustration simply establishes that the ends don’t justify the means. It’s a perfectly reasonable point.

        • Comparing is not equaiting. What I am doing is saying the same erroneous principle can be used to justify both, and that is using the ends to justify the means.

    • “Imagine: Some people may actually coming to Christ and/or growing in Christ through these sites. The outrage!!!”

      That approach has brought us everything from the Inquisition to “If you died tomorrow” tracts to giving away iPods to a randomly drawn name during services to baptizing Jewish children without their parents knowing.

      I think people come to Christ in spite of these things, not because of them. I am not sure at all that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between a lot of things a church does and the number of people who come to God.

      • I agree. That old “If one single person gets saved….” rationale is an appeal to a real lofty goal…and doesn’t really establish any causal relationship. Nor does it refute the criticism that it’s actually hurting more people than it helps.

        Of course, for awhile we’ve been doing Whatever It Takes to garner as many converts as possible(including water down and erode the message itself), and the results are in: ranks of shallow non-followers of Jesus who said-a-prayer-and-meant-it.

        • Maybe saying a prayer and meaning it are enough?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          That old “If one single person gets saved….” rationale is an appeal to a real lofty goal…

          It’s also what Mike Warnke’s fanboys said in his justification when they circled the wagons after Cornerstone exposed Warnke as a fraud.

    • Rick, the trouble with this is that it makes it sound as if the congregations would be coming for the Rick Warren Experience (TM) with the piped-in sermon and the rest of the week – well, what happens, exactly?

  15. I thought this comment of Anne S was pretty good over at CT:

    Anne S

    June 27, 2011 3:00pmI find the whole notion that a city won’t have sound teaching until So-and-So arrives vaguely arrogant as well. I live in the SF Bay Area, which is also known as one of the “least churched” areas, and it gets tiresome hearing about all the cool pastors, church planters, and evangelists who are going to come and “save” where I live. There are *many* issues here (and in other least-churched areas) and the problem is not a lack of sound doctrine or biblical pastors willing to serve the community. The issue is, IMO, a lack of *softened hearts* and a need for the people of the church to be less absorbed in the world around us. We need true Holy Spirit revival, not another guy coming to save the day. By all means, please pray for us! We need revival! But I’d honestly rather see existing churches grow, and locals grow into leadership roles, rather than name-brand folks coming to town to establish another outlet.

    there are several others worth reading there (CT)

    Sad to say, our church has flopped on our last two church plants around the KC metro area; I fear that we will go the multi-site approach as well, though I hope not.
    GregR

  16. Kelby Carlson says:

    It’s this kind of thing, more than his aggressive Clavinism and complementarianism, that really doesn’t endear me to Driscoll and his ilk. i’ve grown up with this Suburban evangelical expansionist technocracy and I’m sick of trying to exist in it.

    • Kelby Carlson says:

      That should be Calvinism. And this isn’t limited to major mega churches, trust me. Both churches my family and I have attended in the last five years have done this kind of thing. I’m not at all opposed to *actual church planting* (the church I will be going to in college is a new plant), because they operate on different assumptions and with different tactics.

      • Suburban evangelical expansionist technocracy is historically a Wesleyan distinctive which Calvinists have fought against. Driscoll, the poster boy for the multi-campus model, may be a Calvinist, but I’d like to see some stats on the rest of the practitioners. I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of the rest of them are not Calvinists.

      • Jonathan says:

        Kelby,I suggest that your reference to Driscoll’s “aggressive Clavinism” was more to the point. It reminded me of that master of Clavinism, Cliff Clavin, who wrote in the Institutes, “They did a study between postal workers and chimpanzees. They proved chimps were 32% slower. Of course, they were better with public relations.”

  17. This seems like the next logical step for the mega-churches. Yes, the next logical step, IMHO, in the wrong direction.

    But I think we can evaluate it without disparaging the people involved. Judging actions I have no problem with, but before his own master he stands or falls so let’s not speculate on “What kind of an ego must a preacher have and how controlling must one be to do something like this?”

    Giant via-video churches are a mistake, let’s leave it at that. Hopefully with this extreme swing of the pendulum people will wake up and begin to see how absurd this movement is getting.

    • How do you know ego is a factor? What if the motive is based on seeing how some people are responding and growing in Christ?

      • That is my point; we don’t know that ego is a factor. We CAN evaluate these churches on the basis of what the NT says a church should be but we CAN’T judge the heart motives of those involved.

        • If you’ve followed Driscoll AT ALL, you’d know ego is a factor. Its nearly impossible to miss his narcissim.

          • Yeah, speaking as someone who spent an unfortunate number of years as part of MH, the idea that ego might NOT be a factor is kind of funny, mostly sad, but funny too.

    • I may not have all the evidence for an open and shut case, but I will still stand by my question. To insist that it must be my face on the screen, my teaching and no other—I really can’t think of any legitimate justification for that, at least in America.

      • I don’t think things have to be all one way or the other. Why can’t it be a good man trying something and making a mistake. Yes, mega-churches have a problem moving beyond exhibition and into real fellowship. Yes, hopefully these experiments will fail so that people will join churches having true intimate fellowship. But the fact is that many of these mega-church leaders are very gifted by God and having people hear them is not a bad thing. And even if there is some pride involved, so what?

        “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,”

        • “Why can’t it be a good man trying something and making a mistake.”

          In some cases, it could be. This is not one of those cases.

          • You know that how???

          • I spent too many years at that church. I have almost nothing good to say about that place and regret ever setting foot in there. There are still some fantastic people involved but Driscoll is not one of them. Most of the fantastic people have already left anyway.

  18. OK, I actually went and read the CT article. I read this line and I threw up in my mouth a little:

    Distant campuses, like the one in Asheville, North Carolina, are more like church plants. That’s because a church’s brand name can have limited appeal.

    The church’s “brand name”” Seriously? I guess we’re not even trying to disguise our rampant consumer mindset any longer. They probably should start handing out coupons for the church’s cafe soon (actually, one megachurch I visited gave me a coupon for a free coffee at their cafe – the first one’s always free!). They might as well be talking about opening up a new restaurant or something.

    • Curious- in what city did you get the coupon?

      • It was a church in Springfield, MI. My wife and I were out there for one week for a campus ministry training thing, and we decided to go there on a Sunday.

    • We went to a church which handed out cafe coupons if you parked at a nearby off-site parking lot and rode the shuttle to the building.

      yeah.

      • Savannah says:

        That sounds like the megachurch down the street. You can eat your meals there at their restaurant, meet your friend for coffee in their coffeeshop, shop in their Christian bookstore, or get your hair cut and styled in their hair salon.

        Yeah.

        • William C says:

          Are you sure than you haven’t confused that church for a Wal-Mart store?

          • Savannah says:

            I wish. lol

            For some crazy reason, I find it very disturbing. Pretty soon their members will never have to leave the compound.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Pretty soon their members will never have to leave the compound.

            Until their Great Pastor calls “White Knight”.

            Or “The Planet Is About To Be Spaded Under and Recycled. Join Bo & Peep Behind Hale-Bopp.”

            But until then, they’ll never be contaminated by all those Heathen outside the compound. Except for recruiting drives, they won’t even have to meet or hear or see any.

  19. In the CT article, there’s this bit here:

    “The reason for the new campuses is simple, according to the Mars Hill website.

    “Oregon needs Jesus Christ,” claims the introduction of the new location. “The city of Portland is known for many things, but the gospel of Jesus is nowhere on the list.””

    Does that rub anyone else the wrong way? Does that strike anyone else as really, super arrogant? And really dismissive of the Christians and churches already in Oregon? “Oregon needs Jesus Christ”–and we shall give Him to them. How generous! How magnanimous! Mars Hill is descending from on high in Seattle, and now the Oregonians shall finally have Jesus within a commutable distance! “Portland is known for many things, but the gospel of Jesus is nowhere on the list.” But after Mars Hill gets down with them, they will be? That’s quite a power they have there in Seattle–the power to succeed where all other churches have failed.

    Granted, every church plant, ever, has (more or less) been for the purpose of preaching and living Jesus in a particular area. And there’s no area in the world that doesn’t need Jesus. And it could just be the fact that Mark Driscoll’s style annoys me. But MAN, that statement just jumped out at me as really presumptuous and arrogant.

    • I’ve experienced this kind of arrogance before. On his blog, my former pastor said he was saddened that his church had recently had new people on Sunday who went to other churches. I pressed him on this. He didn’t think there was anything wrong with those other churches except for the fact that they didn’t have the specific ministry area that his church does. I told him he was needlessly insulting other churches that do other ministries (that his church doesn’t do), and he even acknowledged this but still refused to let go of the original statement.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      Yeah, that jumped out at me, too. But I see some of the attitude whenever the subject of church plants comes up. Church plants are assumed to be a good thing in pretty much any circumstance. Why is this? I live in the godless liberal northeast United States. I am also a short drive from a wide range of church, ranging from Eastern Orthodox through any flavor of Evangelical you would care to find. So what would be the purpose of a church plant? It could be that there is some unchurched segment of society that has escaped the notice of any of these churches. But even if that is the case, wouldn’t it make more sense to work with an established church to minister to these folks, rather than reinventing the wheel? And, of course, in reality the target audience far more often is people already going to other churches. The whole thing smacks of ego and, dare I say it, $$$.

      • Aside from you slander about “$$$”, you bring up good points about church planting. “Why not work with existing churches” simple, people don’t like to change. Even if their lack of change is what’s causing their downfall they will hold tenaciously to their mode of life. It is simply easier to start new churches and let old ones die out, than to go to the old ones and wage a change war. Some pastor do try to go into existing churches and change them, success is hard won if it is ever achieved.

        Personal disclaimer: I am in an old small church and I am trying to readjust the church to be outreach oriented.

        • sarahmorgan says:

          In regards to answering the question “Why not work with existing churches?”, I would say it’s far less about people not liking to change, and much more about people not liking other people telling them what they should be doing….even proclaimed church people fight hard to hang onto their perceived autonomy and won’t submit to anyone they don’t trust (whether it’s a new-in-town pastor or God Himself).

        • The Guy from Knoxville says:

          Pastor – sounds like you have a bit of a dislike for folks who have “had it” with church and dare to say so. Why is it so bad that an older established church want to maintain some sort of a traditional approach to things? “The way it used to be” is not, in and of itself, a bad thing – do some things need adjustment or change? Sure they do but you don’t have to go in and totally transition (destroy?) an existing church to accomplish ministry! If that’s the goal then you’re better off starting a new plant. The older churches can do ministry effectively but it’s a bit harder in the society we live in these days however, it can be done…. think 10th Presbyterian in Philly, PA – traditional to the core – packed out every week, ministry out the whoo hoo between Sundays in many areas – don’t tell me you can’t do this with an older established traditional church – I don’t buy it and will not because it’s simply not true!

      • Richard:
        I so wish it was a simple as working with an existing church.
        We in the Episcopalian church for years have tried that, and in many dioceses the liberal faction now has the upper hand and is engaging in behaviour that is seriously wrong.

        So we find ourselves having to leave and plant new churches.

    • Michael-

      Remember for some people Christianity can be an industry. Banks handle the flow of money, Wal mart sells cheap goods across the country, McDonalds sells Big Macs and McNuggests, and for some Christians they feel like they need to sell Jesus as a product and brand name in a cetain way. I saw this happen at a mega church I sued to attend in the Washington, D.C. area. They were talking about circling the DC area and creating “a spiritual Belway” around the 495. I finally got the nerve to send the pastor an email and ask him, “Instead of launching all these campuses, have you thought of partnering with local Pysberterian/Methodist/Assembly of God/ etc..It would be awesome to see some unity..”

      The response I got back is, “McLean Bible is an independent, conservative Bible believing church committed to getting the gospel out to the unreached in DC.” And I thought…so McLean Presyberterian doesn’t do that? National Communtiy Church doesn’t do that? Vienna Presyberterian Church doesn’t do that?

      I’m out of Christianity now…but I grew so tired or all the arrogance that many fundys have. In the process of launching all these churches they are forgetting that one of the strongest prayers Jesus had was for unity!! And for people to come together. Why do “Bible based” pastors such as Mark Driscoll not get that? I would hate to be a Christian in Oregon and see this circus play out. I feel equally as bad for seeing the local church squashed out in a social darwin experiment of survival of the fittest. Either way it just seems ugly.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “Oregon needs Jesus Christ,” claims the introduction of the new location. “The city of Portland is known for many things, but the gospel of Jesus is nowhere on the list.””

      That’s because all those Churches and Christians already in Oregon are not Mars Hill. There can be no salvation outside of Driscoll’s Megachurch.

  20. Facts on the ground: 85% of evangelical churches are plateaued or declining. The vast majority of growing churches uses the multi-campus model. …and I smell pragmatism at it’s worst. Pragmatism has always been the trademark of revivalistic Wesleyanism, but it is disheartening to see it infecting the reformed community.

    I have never been to a satellite campus service, but I intend to visit one soon. I probably shouldn’t judge without experiencing first, but I just do not understand the spiritual advantage of a satellite campus over a new church plant. It makes no sense. Granted, some churches need to die off, and satellite competition will kill them, but is that the best solution? Are our churches declining for lack of technological strategy or is the problem a spiritual one?

    I propose that the multi-campus model is just a gimmick facilitating our running from the real problem: We do not want to address how we can more effectively be shepherding local congregations toward greater spiritual health. We justify this by evaluating health by highly non-spiritual criteria.

    • “I smell pragmatism at it’s worst.”

      On the other hand, maybe the are just effective in spreading the gospel.

      • …judging by the numbers that show up? How many of those are new converts? How many of them stick with it? This soteriological utilitarianism is the rallying cry of evangelical pragmatism. But we are called to make disciples, not converts. It’s about building the gospel into people, not spreading it to more. People built up in the gospel will naturally recruit more for the process independent of or through technological strategy.

        • Hopefully “not by judging by the numbers that show up”.

          Are they not making many disciples?

          If you have some facts that indicate these church do terrible in that aspect, please share. I am open to such data. I just don’t think we need to criticize it because it is not our cup of tea.

          • Cup of tea? I’ve yet to visit one, who knows I might enjoy it. But I highly doubt it. Granted this model attracts large numbers of people, so for them it works. I just don’t see why. Is it not necessary to have a pastor who preaches as a part of your local congregation? If this is no longer necessary, what then is still necessary in order to consider something a “church”?

          • What if that local pastor preaches periodically (which does happen at many of these churches)?

            Likewise, if you have fellowship, singing, and the sacraments, and a campus pastor who directly cares for that flock, is that not “church”?

          • Doesn’t the fact that you even mention the branch pastor preaching as a positive remedy helps to underscore the case for him preaching all the time. The kingdom of God is not built on effective homiletics, but on faithful proclamation. Good public speaking is not the enemy, but it is not an ordained means of grace either. If the branch pastor is a fully capable preacher, why on earth not have him lead the church on his own? What is the spiritual benefit of remaining under the control of some distant mother ship? If its there, I’d certainly like to see it.

          • does the proclamation have to be made by the campus pastor? Isn’t the main thing that it is proclaimed?

            preaching may be a means of grace. Wesley thought so, but that is another issue.

            what is the problem with remaining under the control of a distant mother ship?

          • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

            I’d bet dollars to donuts that the majority of numbers growth are folks who were previously attending other churches. That’s the dirty little secret of church growth: it’s mostly a revolving door. New converts and churching the unchurched are much smaller numbers. Good indicator of that: 1st-time baptisms (rather than re-baptisms)

          • Everyone I knew at my last mega church came from another church, save one person.

          • Rick,
            You asked for facts that indicate mega churches “do terrible” at making disciples. Do you remember Willow Creek/Bill Hybels announcing their internal study in 2007? Willow Creek is one of the nation’s largest churches and it’s “association” has campuses and affiliated churches in multiple locations. Here’s a link if you want to know more: http://www.outofur.com/archives/2007/10/willow_creek_re.html

            I’m not at a megachurch now, but my church has three services each Sunday morning, each with different music/worship styles but the same preacher. Our town made the news again this week for our huge and sudden influx of marginalized, international residents. We have many people in the shadow of our steeple who need people to love them–to show them they are no less important and loved by Jesus. But roughly 2,000 people come in and out each Sunday, many enjoy their SS clubs, eat donuts, sip coffee, hear a good message—and then drive by the marginalized on their way home. I don’t know that smaller churches do any better. But the bigger the crowd, the more people walk in/walk out without beginning to own the life of a disciple–to love God with all heart, mind, and soul–and to love neighbors as much as you love yourself. At least that is my story–until I found God from a puddle of tears, a hand raised, and a desperate plea to know if He was real.

            Peace.

          • Kris-

            Yes, I followed that Reveal Study as news about it got out. It was interesting, and certainly a valid concern, as is the pulling of people from other congregations.

            However, those issues are more about certain tactics, rather than the overall strategy.

            I have yet to see that these problematic tactics/methods are the only way for such churches, so I am not yet convinced the overall idea is wrong.

          • Hi again, Rick,

            I don’t wholly agree. Willow Creek seems to be as much about overall strategy than only tactics. I read Axiom by Bill Hybels and I thought it sounded like a highly efficient, successful corporation. I’m not meaning to disparage Hybels or Willow Creek, but if you read his books and his humble admissions from the Reveal Study, if you know that they removed all crosses so that unchurched were not intimidated by a “church” (Shane Claiborne wrote about that from when he worked there), etc….it’s more clear to me that this is strategy and tactics. Is it wrong? I don’t know. But it doesn’t seem like the wonderful productions each Sunday and many programs are making disciples (as admitted by their own Reveal Study). And, in fairness, I am a skeptic who is beginning to wonder if there is any church that does.

            Peace!

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Everyone I knew at my last mega church came from another church, save one person.

            That’s not a church, that’s a sheep-rustling operation. Break out the running irons and start re-branding the flock!

  21. I have an idea: How about multi-campus churches working on a model to slowly transition satellites into independent congregations? This has the advantage of training new ministers by integrating them into highly successful organizational practices of the mother church, yet allowing their development to continue until they are ready to take the reigns themselves. Why is nobody considering this? Because once you “own” a campus, releasing it on it’s own is like giving up power. Impossible to do.

    • If people begin to come because a certain pastor has a speaking/communication style that easily reaches people, challenging them, and helping them grow in the faith, why would a church then move away from that speaker?

      • The only possible answer to that, that I can think of, is IF you value some kind of relationship between teaching pastor and audience. Something higher and deeper than “teacher/ instructed ones”. If that isn’t a priority, if knowing even in part, the person who is giving the message, if that is NOT important, than sure, multiply out and set up a multi-site video sermon to whatever number of sites you can afford.

        Driscoll’s abilities , or disabilities, as a teacher aside, I think this kind of methodology runs counter to the thread in the NT that Paul usually knew who he was talking to, and vica versa. He was known, and made an effort to know those he taught. I’m not seeing that in this blur of bytes and gigawattage.

        GregR

        • i think Driscoll, or whoever is the current celebrity preacher/teacher/minister, only possible because they do have a ‘following’ or a fan base. heck, even motivational speakers have a certain charisma that makes them attractive to those wanting to hear their message or see them deliver it…

          Driscoll’s theology may be conservative Protestantism wrapped in a ‘hipper’, more relevant delivery, but to think of him as some mover-and-shaker in the kingdom a misunderstanding of what is being touted as the main attraction…

          his approach is no different than any TBN strategy & approach. both peddle a slick snail oil product & depending on what you can stomach can be one person’s poison or miracle drink…

          i do not listen to Driscoll or think him of any significance to my spiritual growth. i think his antics & personality more a distraction than attractive. but then i am a victim of that consumeristic church dynamic we are discussing here ;-). i would not want him as a ‘pastor’ or even consider him a spiritual teacher, but others certainly think him the darling of the church empire he oversees…

          if the success of such ventures simply the numbers measurement then i think the church as business model supposedly the more palatable formula for those that find it to their particular tastes. sheep are a curious bunch, no? and we can get a bit bent-out-of-shape when our particular team or star is dismissed by others not so enamored…

          • [addendum]

            about 10-years ago, a group touting themselves as City Takers came from the SF Bay Area to the town i was then living in. it was a prophetic/apostolic signs+wonders type ‘movement’ coming to win the city for Jesus…

            yeah. really.

            i emailed the leader & asked him about the other churches in town that were actively ministering to needs. and some even established for almost 100 years. there is some real investment there. was he coming into town to ‘cooperate’ with the kingdom work already in progress???

            or simply ‘conquer’ the territory in the name of their particular ministry???

            BTW: that effort fizzled out & the Apostle-in-charge retreated back to the Bay Area to do other ministry works of God…

            Lord, have mercy… 🙁

      • Churches built on a celebrity speaker flounder when that pastor leaves, retires, or moves on. I propose a more healthy model is one where leadership succession does not affect church following at all. Driscoll is NOT building that type of legacy. They will be in a bind when he is done, no matter how awesome his successor is.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        It depends. Is this pastor ever going to retire or die? Unless the plan all along is for the church to disappear after that, then it would be a really good idea to build an institutional structure that doesn’t rely on one person.

        You certainly can’t count on replacing him with someone else that the people will like as much, even if you have time to plan the transition. This is a problem with any church that has a long-established beloved pastor. The next guy is set up for a fall, and often doesn’t last a year. The church can weather this if it has institutional stability beyond the pastor. If he is the only reason people are there, they will wander off once he is gone.

      • Oh, and plus, following your logic the speaker with the most effective style belongs in front of the largest group. I think it is more spiritually healthy to place men with character up front. Not that message delivery doesn’t count, but it is definitely secondary to many, many things. Style doesn’t help people to grow; substance does. Style doesn’t reach people; the gospel does. Style doesn’t challenge people; leaders do.

      • Isn’t that a form of idolotry? Isn’t the pastor getting worshipped?

  22. Virtually every televangelist has been practicing this for some time, including Billy Graham. Granted, we may not agree that the purpose of televised church services are necessarily a substitute for participation in a local body of believers, but they are certainly treated that way by some who watch and support them. At least this elevates the process from an individual sitting alone in front of a TV in their home to a gathering with other believers.

  23. First we offshored our jobs and destroyed our economy and our country.
    Now we begin to offshore our Churches and destroy the body of Christ.

    To quote a far wiser man than me, “I am neither an optimist or pessimist, Jesus Christ is Risen!”

  24. I recently turned down a job doing the video infrastructure for a church that wanted to create satellite locations. I told them it wasn’t my sweet spot.

    Although I could have used the money and could do what they wanted, I just didn’t see how spending those hours of my life working on the project would result in the Kingdom being any closer, if that makes sense. There is more to Christianity than broadcasting sermons.

    • Good for you…how I wish I knew people like yourself in the Christian circles I once moved in….

    • Long story short.

      I volunteered in a church plant office because I care about people who are messed up and don’t understand church or God or whatever…..I wanted to be able to find r/ships where God’s story in my prodigal life could be of help to them.

      I found myself sitting at a Mac computer organizing songs for the worship leader. Huh?

      And I know, I know……all these little things need to be done. But, I worked in corporate America and I am not the least bit interested in being there again. In any spectrum. On any level.

  25. Margaret Catherine says:

    Stop, take a good hard look at what cults of celebrity (be they large or small) have recently visited upon the Catholic Church, and be VERY wary of the type and amount of importance you are placing on any one pastor. For your sake and for his.

  26. It’ll be a BIG success here in Orange County, CA.

    People here love the success model. Bigger, better, more celebraties, no dying, just working your way up the ladder.

    It’s Rome without the vestments.

    Yep…it’s working really well here in Orange County.

    • What?

      “Rome without the vestments” ?

      I guess you mean the Roman Catholic Church; while I get the Lutheran dig, I suggest you visit a typical parish church to see how fundamentally different it is from the megachurch model. No one’s working his way up any ladder where I worship.

      • David Cornwell says:

        I’ll have to agree with you on that Jonathan. I’m not Roman Catholic but the RC churches that I’ve been around have been anything but based on a megachurch model. The priests that I’ve known were first of all pastors, knowing and caring for the people. These were community churches that served the people and worshiped God. I loved working with them. I can’t say the same for some of the fundamentalist leaning Protestants. Neither did the Pope appear on a huge tv screen at Mass.

        • Jonathan says:

          Thank you, David.

          Speaking of huge TV screens: You can’t see this happening in a Catholic Church because of the nature of our worship. You can’t pipe in a Mass. Sure, you can televise one worldwide, but the Mass – and all the sacraments of the Church – involve physical participation. You don’t just see and hear a sermon. You touch the holy water, you kneel, you respond to the priest’s words, you exchange the sign of peace, you stand to pray, you (usually) get off your seat to take the Eucharist, which you eat and drink. Or you have it administered to you in your home or hospital room. You simply can’t get that piped in.

          But if one’s service is almost exclusively a sermon….well, this seems like the next step.

          • As I have stated before, this is among my most fundamental objections, not only to the multi-site, franchise model, but to evangelical services period. “Worship” is something completely different than the common conception of a song service and teaching message.

          • Is that connected to what the main dish is? Be it a sermon, Eucharist, Music, the Word. The truth is that the sermon is the main dish at the evangelical worship service and I would say that is true with the Baptist’s as well, while Episcopal, Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, etc all have a different main course. Some of them lend themselves to this type of ministry, some don’t.

            I feel I can argue both sides – pro/con from my experience but the big question I have is can be lock arms as brothers and sisters to do the work of Christ / bring the Kingdom? Is there any common language we share?

        • Well, David, apparently the Pope is on Twitter now 🙂

          Great, the man is in his 80s, and he’s more hip than me 😉

      • What I meant is that the theology is basically the same.

        Sure, they look very different, but in the end, it’s a lot of God and a little bit of me.

        Only it usually turns out to be the other way around.

        I grew up a Roman Catholic, and I have spent many years visiting non-denominational mega type churches in Southern California.

        I’m not making this up.

    • I’m currently listening to a series on grace online and I wrote this down yesterday:

      “Look, you’re the justified ones. How do you know you’re justified? You’re gonna do the right thing in the right circumstances for the right reasons and be hurt by it! Ouch, no one wants to hear that!”

  27. Funny this should come up. I just saw a new “meet up” group for a church plant in our city. The very young planting pastor states that “_______ needs Jesus.” There are churches of every possible stripe in this city that have been preaching the gospel for a long time. To phrase his mission like that struck me immediately of audacity, pride and a total lack of the work of the Holy Spirit. I wonder how “successful” he will be. He also emphasized that this church would be about taking advantage of the latest technology.

    Next town over also has a satellite campus for one of the bigger mega churches. I would not attend. Seems a sad business to me, but everything seems to be centered on technology.

    • i think technology is a neutral tool in whatever end use is being managed. however, it is attractive to the ones that want to ‘magnify’ both their presence as well as their persona…

      could be that is why Jesus chose the non-electronic age to preach the good news…

      Every time I look at you I don’t understand why you let the things you did get so out of hand. You’d have managed better if you’d had it planned. Now why’d you choose such a backward time and such a strange land? If you’d come today, you would have reached the whole nation. Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication. Don’t get me wrong, don’t get me wrong, don’t get me wrong now. I want to know, I want to know, I only want to know: Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, who are you what have you sacrificed? from Jesus Christ Superstar

      • Technology is rarely neutral. Once it reaches a critical mass, everyone is required to buy whatever the “latest version” is. Try driving a horse and buggy on the highway…

        • morally neutral. technology is, well, it just ‘is’…

          what & how ‘it’ is used makes for a litmus test of motivations for those making specific application of its features…

          people ‘use’ technology just like they use other people. sometimes it is simply easier to use technology since it is impersonal, but then all technology has as its end purpose, people…

          we created it. we use it. we abuse it. we chastise it. we praise it. we are addicted to it (your implication). yes, but it only has effective attraction from those that buy into it. same with any consumable product and/or service…

          • sarahmorgan says:

            Granted, it’s sometimes difficult for me to conclude that technology — especially audio and video tech — is ‘morally neutral’ when it has the capability to enlarge the perceived presence of a single person to dimensions that many people interpret as ‘god-like’. Even music — which people still argue the moral neutrality thereof — can’t do that. And I say this as a musician and technophile.

  28. Matt Edwards says:

    This is where we are at with modern technology and there is no going back. We can bury our head in the sand and wag our fingers at those who are more in tune with the communication media of our day, but what is that going to accomplish? As soon as you have more than 200 or so people in your congregation, it doesn’t matter if you have a talking head in the room or a talking head in a room thousands of miles away–it’s still a “pastor” with whom you have no personal relationship.

    I’m a pastor near Seattle, and I’ve often felt like the small business in the shadow of Mars Hill’s Wal-Mart. How can we survive? Just like small businesses survive in a Wal-Mart economy–by offering something people can’t get at Wal-Mart. Maybe we’ll have to stop relying on things like high-powered preaching and rock-star worship (they’re nothing compared to what people can get at Wal-Mart church). Instead, we might have to rely on things like the Holy Spirit and relationships (Yikes!). If satellite church is fake, then offer something real.

    People may start attending a church because of its marketing, but they will only stay in a church if their life is changing. If people are building relationships and seeing life-change in their small church, they will not leave to go to the megachurch. So, I would see Mars Hill’s coming to my community as a challenge–can we help bring about the same life-change that Mars Hill can? It shouldn’t be too hard if we are “competing” with a talking head on a screen and not a flesh-and-blood person.

    On another note, people in Washington and Oregon are notoriously skeptical of all things that reek of corporations. We buy and think local. I suspect that the Mars Hills satellite campus in Portland will consist mostly of California transplants.

  29. This is sad to see. There are times where I wish Christianity could just be a warm loving, hospital environment Not a commerical based business franchise. But a genuine community of loving, warm and sincere individuals. A place where one could come broken and be loved. Where someone like me could ask away and work through my doubts and difficulties. This has the potential to be very legalistic and a lot fo smoke and mirrors. I saw enough of that when I was a Christian.

    What really saddens me is the huge disconnect today between the Bible and Christianity. if the Bible is true and can be followed…then where do the broken, the downtrodden, the hurting, etc.. go to? This would be the last place I would want to attend.

    • Suzanne says:

      How true. Because going to the commercial based business model church is like an overweight middle aged woman like me going shopping at Victoria’s Secret. It’s really cool stuff but it just reminds me that I’m not a shapely beautiful buxom twentysomething, and no amount of the the clerk assuring me that they have things even for “women my size” will make me feel like I belong there.

      • Suzanne: the one-size-fits-all message, or method, or marketing strategy part of the success equation…

        i think the un-gospel dynamic one which a rather narrow targeted demographic that appeals to a valued category of the populace way over the top in how their ‘version’ of the gospel is promoted…

        i do believe there is room for different ministry efforts wanting to address certain needs. but deliberate marketing efforts made to attract that golden church-attender-in-pew ‘buying’ into ‘our’ ministry is unconscionable IMHO…

        where does the leadership draw their line being inclusive? worthy of ‘our’ ministry funds/efforts? the less glamorous of saints made to feel like 2nd class citizens in a machine meant to be advertised as successful, current, relevant, blessed of God (“the numbers don’t lie!”)…

        Lord have mercy… 🙁

    • Eagle,
      This is the difficulty I have with church as we do it in 2001 America. There are many hurting, marginalized, dirty (gasp), hungry, homeless people in the shadow of our steeple. There are people inside the church who hide their infidelity, addictions, and other “big” sins so that they won’t be judged and run out. I was hurting deeply a year and a half ago, but two ladies and one pastor I told never called me to check on me. They knew I’d been blindsided and was bleeding from confessions of infidelity in my marriage, but they didn’t love me enough to care to reach out to me in pain. I heard more from them when I was a happy, “perfect” Christian.
      What are we doing? Why does our way of doing church — and living Christian — look so different than Biblical Christianity?
      Peace to you!

  30. William says:

    I don’t know if you’ve seen this video of James MacDonald, Mark Driscoll, and Mark Dever on this subject of multi-site campuses. It’s beneficial in that you get to hear some arguments from both sides, but it mostly just confirms my theory that MacDonald and Driscoll are jerks.

    http://vimeo.com/13082622

    • That video was terrible. They didn’t give Dever a chance to talk or articulate his criticism.

    • It was depressing to see how much of the video degenerated into “my church is bigger/better than yours” kind of rhetoric.

      • John, I think it was that way from the beginning and it also ended that way. There was some useful dialogue in the middle, mostly from questions initiated by Mark Dever. But it was mostly ego and testosterone from the other two. Maybe a delusion of grandeur.

        [Note to others: Yes, I know. That’s over the top. Get used to it.]

        Driscoll and MacDonald did address some of my concerns about wheter this holds to a missionary model of a church–that is, whether it spreads the gospel to a new area, builds, and produces a church that becomes autonomous from the mother church–and both did insist that their model is superior to Dever’s in the event of their deaths (Driscoll: “You’re a pastor-centered model; we’re a mission-centered model.”) But I’m not convinced.

        I’m also not convinced by Driscoll assuring us that he’s a “total introvert” or a “major introvert” or that he’s “just part of the set design”. He may as well have kept saying that he’s ‘umble, like Uriah Heep.

      • Doesn’t that remind you of middle school students arguing about how…well..I better not say it here on this blog, but you get my drift 😉 Its nice to know that is what this has reverted to….

  31. Good to see Internet Monk is providing red meat for the angry mob trapped in the echo chamber!

    • Brendan…what bothers you? Is it the viewpoint here? The cynicism? How its said? I would like to hear you out on this issue…

      • If you can’t surmise that by reading the comments, then we really have nothing to talk about.

      • Check that, actually I will reply. View points don’t bother me, slander and backbiting within the church does. The uncanny ability for iMonk readers to see into the hearts and surmise the motives of evil doers is astounding. Also the ability to speak authoritatively without actually having anything close to first hand experience or an objective view point is also amazing. The amount of seething hate, misinformation, and arrogance in these comments is sickening.

        Apparently we can all tolerate Martha’s expose on praying to the Saints but Anathemas are pronounced on churches doing their best to preach the gospel…especially as most of the American Evangelical church is failing at its primary mission.

        • Pastor Brendan, I’m surprised that you’d offer your distaste for Roman Catholic practices in order to support your argument. You may have lost points.

          • yeah. confused a bit by his posts. anti-Martha? pro-Driscoll? okay with mega-church model? an iMonk lurker still unconvinced of its ethos? a valid skeptic maybe???

            a Protestant champion promoting anything it historically protesteth?

            i would bet Pastor B. has some very strong anti-religious sentiment he must feel justified in his own eyes. i think the religously correct term is ‘righteous anger’. on the same wavelength as the Apostles or early Church Fathers or the Reformists. maybe Jesus Himself?

          • I was not being anti Martha or anti Catholic… I was pointing out the historical irony.

          • I appreciate the criticism Joseph. Perhaps you can teach me your mind reading tricks.

        • An exposé? I”m flattered! Should I have the trenchcoat and press pass tucked into the hatband?

          Asked my sister (more or less Church of Ireland via Anthroposophism from Catholicism) for a suggestion as to what I could do next and she recommened I do something on the angels, from the angle of “Dr Steiner’s Foundation Stone meditation”

          So rattle your chakras, get your higher levels vibrating, and away we’ll go for Michaelmass (at least)! Ach, du liebe!

          😉

          • can’t wait, Martha!

          • Martha, I loved your post. I look forward to reading your next. My point was that its ironic (and a bit hypocritical) for protestants to have glowing praise for a Roman Catholic presentation of a doctrine in congruent with our own theology, and yet be so overly critical of an evangelical attempt to do something within our evangelical frame work.

    • There is some anger, but there are also a lot of thoughtful and insightful comments. And if you stick around, you might discover that more than a few of the people who are angry have been hurt, sometimes badly, by their experiences in evangelical churches. Doesn’t necessarily make it right any more than the bad behavior they experienced while in those churches was right, but it does serve to give some perspective and might help you work at understanding the dynamic instead of just railing against it.
      Peace.

      • If I stick around? I’ve been here for 4 years. As for the “perspectives”, claiming that pastors are just doing it for the money or their ego is not a perspective but out right slander. It is also slander to claim that these churches are only after numbers and don’t care about ecclesiastical unity. And while I’m not at a mega-church I happen to personally know a mega-church pastor, board members, and congregants therefore, I find some criticism of this comment thread to be a personal attack against my friends. I know how their mega-church operates and why they do the things they do. I know how they connect people in small groups. I know how they become a home for people who feel out of place in church. I know they are more successful at reaching people in recovery mode either from substances, relationships, or life.

        As a small church pastor I also know that every single criticism stone lobbed at the mega church is done by people in glass houses. Sometimes the only difference I see between the small church and the mega church is at least the mega church is growing. Smaller churches haven’t been doing their jobs and have many times become entirely self-focused. I’ve heard WAY more stories about failure and pain in the small church than I have from mega churches. But reading the comments on this post would lead me to believe the mega-church is the enemy.

        • With respect, other people have had different experiences than yours, but they are not necessarily less valid. And I certainly wasn’t singling out churches of any particular size; hurt can happen anywhere. Peace.

        • Pastor Brendan…my experience in evangelical Christianity was far from re-affirming, pleasant, and faith inspiring. To the contrary some of these places helped kill my faith, or could not provide answers when I needed them. My experience with evangelicalism led me to the following conclusions.

          1. That Christianity has no grace.
          2. That Christianity is not for the broken like me but for self rightous who have all their shit together.
          3. That a Christian has to be 110% certain about everything and not have doubt.
          4. That a Christian has to engage in contests to appear to be ubber spiritual. You get more brownie points for the more mission trips you serve, Bible studies you lead, etc..
          5. That a Christian feeds the beast and divorces themself from people who are hurting and outside “the bubble”
          6. That to be a Christian you have to be dishonest to fit in and survive. I saw Christianity as a threat to my charachter and identity.
          7. That to be a Christian meant engaging in the culture war in this “us” vs. “them” mentality.
          8. That to be a Christian meant executing your wounded. Which I did to one person and which Christians did to me.
          9. To be a Christian meant one had to be intellectually dead.

          Now I’m glad you had a positive experience…but not everyone is that lucky. Depending on the day I’ll look at Christianity to be either a cancer on the earth or a mere nuisance. But my expereince in evangelicalism really burned me. On top of having one Christian put a job in danger one of the lowest points was burying my Irish-Catholic grandmother and thinking of what fundegelicals said about Catholics while I was going through the funeral rites. I’m glad you have a pleasant experience mine was not. If I can work out my thoughts and feelings and decide to go to church again…it will certainly not be a mega church.

          • I would say for you size is not the determining factor but culture. I’m sure there would be plenty of small churches from which you would have as much disdain for. There are churches of all shapes and sizes that are unhealthy. There are also churches of all shapes and sizes that are a great place for healing. My ranting and raving is merely to point out the hypocrisy of those who claim that mega-church size is the problem. It’s not. People are the problem.

        • Pastor Brendan,
          In all fairness, I think I’m not the only one here who feels the “church” in mega- or small form is struggling to make true disciples. Surely I’m biased by my own experience. I grew up in a Christian home, went to church every week, learned all the stories and about Jesus. I made the right decision–saved myself for marriage, didn’t get crazy in college, went to church. Got married, adopted three beautiful babes, worked in Christian publishing, led small group, attending bible studies…You know, I was the good Christian girl.

          Until my marriage was in sudden, real crisis and all that I had ever learned in church was not enough. I’ve been in small churches, big churches, I’ve represented authors talked about regularly on this site.

          The point is, I believe I was hurt deeply by the way “church” is done. Why do we not look more like disciples and the early believers? Why do we think programs and service within the church is the way to go when marginalized peoples are dying within the shadow of our steeples?

          I’m not pointing fingers at any one person. I’m the sinner who missed the point for all those years. I’m the one saved by grace. I’m the one you seem to be mad at. “Cup of tea” — no, mega church Christianity is not my cup of tea and increasingly neither is any other kind of churchianity.

          Peace.

          • No, I’m not mad at you at all. I’m upset about the presumptuous criticism and broad brush slander that’s going on in this thread. I get the fact that people are hurt in church, I feel as if the forum is scapegoating the “purpose driven” model instead of laying the blame at our own feet. BTW I am not a “purpose driven” pastor, nor do I believe in church growth models. Churchianity is everywhere and is killing the church…but it is also HERE in this thread and on this blog. I’m ranting and raving about hypocrisy and no one else can see the emperor has no clothes.

          • Hi again, Pastor Brendan,

            I agree that Churchianity is everywhere, even here at the iMonk. While I have appreciated a place where I find more like-minded people than not, I often wonder why discussions go to denominations and traditions. I read something this week about Anabaptists and one main point has stuck with me. It was that they make no allegiance to anyone or anything except God the Father and Jesus the Savior. I’m not Anabaptist. I’m not longer “non-denominational.” I am just a sinner saved by grace, a follower of Jesus, a child of God.

            Peace!

        • “claiming that pastors are just doing it for the money or their ego is not a perspective but out right slander.”

          This goes for Dan below as wel. as Pastor Brendan. We absolutely ARE supposed to judge people’s hearts, to some extent, and to call ego out when it is indeed ego. To say we aren’t is to demean Jesus’ ministry.

          I say this because it’s common to hear a comment like this, especially when someone’s defending their favorite preacherman. How much evidence do you need to stack up before a serious question needs to be posed about motives? Do you just endlessly say “don’t judge, don’t judge?” I don’t personally think Driscoll is trying to score big money or something, but it doesn’t seem like a stretch to believe there’s a bit of ego involved in projecting your sermon on a screen states away to people you don’ t know when there are capable preachers there already. All that aside though, cause that’s not the main issue for me, there are assumptions at work that need some interrogation. Most of the comments here are trying to do this honestly, not simply offer “seething hatred” as one commenter put it.

          It sounds like for you, the mega-church model is correct until proven otherwise. As you’ve probably discovered, most people here think the opposite. Just know that critics of megachurches are not fly-by-night negative Nancies, nor are the criticisms poorly thought out, nor have they been adequately answered for most of us. Nobody, I don’t think, is saying “nothing good ever happens in a mega-church.” Nor are all people in megachurches evil. The problem is that there are some very alarming trends among that need to be addressed, not swept under the rug because “people are getting saved” or “they’re serving their community” as we’re often told. As wonderful as these things are, they’re not capable of whitewashing serious problems. I realize it gets a lot more disgusting than Mars Hill, but no one is above critique, and that sometimes mean harsh critique. Ideally, it would come from inside a church/movement itself. I’m less likely to criticize when there appears to be some potential self-correction built in. That rarely seems to happen because in most attractional evangelical churches there’s an understanding that we must line up and be on board with everything. Success is the name of the game, and if we have to break a few eggs, so be it. Critics are “divisive.” Jesus is often an addendum to the vision.

          As well, most of the responses to criticism of mega-churches that I’ve heard(in general, not on this thread) are not so much legitimate rebuttals but a total lack of acknowledgement that their could even be such a problem. Either total bewilderment, or childish “it’s your own fault” and “you’re just jealous” type of accusations. This is the blindness that “success” causes, and it only further confirms for many that what is being produced are substance-less shadows with totally bizarre priorities. At least among those who are the most vocal. Suspicions aren’t exactly alleviated when the best a movement has to offer in its defense is the kind of consumeristic vacuousness we often hear in support of megachurches.

          Mars Hill I don’t think should be lumped in with places like Willow Creek or Lakewood, and this blog has been historically fair to it, I believe. But megachurches get far more attention and approval for being successful than they do for the ways in which they are legitimately Jesus-shaped, so it’s a good idea to practice some serious scrutiny.

          With all this said, I understand you’re frustration about the comments. People ain’t exactly kind on this issue. It can start sounding like an echo chamber, but then that’s why it’s valuable to have dissenters voice their opinion. Keep in mind that this is a place many have come who’ve been cast off by the system that produced mega-churchianity.

          Nate

          • It sounds like for you, the mega-church model is correct until proven otherwise. As you’ve probably discovered, most people here think the opposite.

            No I don’t. I think it is seriously flawed! And thank you for proving my point about not judging other people. You have seriously misjudged me. You have presumed to understand my motives and even my feelings, but you could not have been more wrong. Imagine that since you could do that with me, with whom you had some interaction, what are the chances you’ve misjudged people you’ve never met? I need to reiterate, I don’t like the mega church model! But I don’t think the alternative is any better.

            Keep in mind that this is a place many have come who’ve been cast off by the system that produced mega-churchianity.

            I don’t need iMonk 101, I’ve been here for awhile (4 years). I’m being the voice of criticism in this post as a reminder that we should not be hypocrites.

          • This is the quote that led me to judge your views: “I find some criticism of this comment thread to be a personal attack against my friends. I know how their mega-church operates and why they do the things they do. I know how they connect people in small groups. I know how they become a home for people who feel out of place in church. I know they are more successful at reaching people in recovery mode either from substances, relationships, or life.”

            Perhaps I did misjudge you. I stand corrected. And yeah, judging is a dangerous game, but Jesus did it anyway. If we can’t interpret people’s intentions, there is no longer any give and take whatsoever. Obviously there’s going be mistakes, when we start to draw conclusions about human motives. But saying we shouldn’t do it is “shut-up-and-fall-in-line” talk as often as it’s legitimate correction.

            For the record, the alternative IS better. It’s just not a matter of smaller churches. the alternative is a unified organism (of any size) that consistently places a higher value on people and the act of abiding in Christ than in numbers, light shows, entertainment, attractiveness, and celebrity.

            Nate

          • Nate you’re setting up a false dichotomy. It’s not judging vs “shut up and fall in line”. I believe we can judge healthy and unhealthy systems for the fruit they produce, but we cannot judge peoples hearts nor should we easily through around terms like “doing it for the $$$”. Judging someone’s heart without actually knowing them is hitting Matthew 7 on the head.

            And your “alternative” is idealized, not always reality. Yes sometimes that works in small churches, but it also sometimes works in big churches. Again, size and methods are not always the problem…people are.

          • Yes I had hoped I made clear that it’s not a size issue. People, yes, or I might state it that priorities are the issue. Mega (“attractional”) churches prioritize numbers, entertainment, and celebrity. The ideal I set up is certainly is never perfectly reached, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be the goal. Perhaps it’s not always reality because the existing system isn’t being heavily criticized enough?

            As for the judging thing – I guess I’ve just come to different conclusions. Matthew 7 is a good word for some people at certain times. I can find the expectation that we judge correctly in Scripture also. We “know” someone to the extent that they choose to put their lives/ministries on display for the world.

    • Brendan, there is a time to provoke conversation. I think we did that. It’s no secret what my position is about practices like this—I’ve been writing about “the evangelical circus” for over a year now and commenting on Michael’s laments and critiques long before that. But what I’m glad for is that some of you felt free to give some push-back and alternate perspectives. Sometimes posts like this aren’t just “red meat for the angry mob trapped in the echo chamber,” but provocations designed to bring those with counter-arguments into the discussion.

      • Ahhh, so you are publicly judging your brother’s heart and tearing him down so you can start a good “discussion.” OK then.

        • I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it. People who seek a high public profile and claim to be setting an example for leadership in minisry invite public evaluation and critique.

          And still . . . I have not heard one good reason yet why a pastor has to send his own image on video screens around a city and over thousands of miles to other cities to deliver a sermon to a gathered congregation in a church service when there are local pastors.

          • How about the fact that God is using him to reach people for Jesus. He isn’t blocking anyone else, he is simply adding his voice to the mix, “so that by all possible means I might save some.” As evidenced by Driscoll’s own actions, when he finds that someone elses preaching is more effective in a certain place, he backs off. It isn’t one or the other, it is “all possible means.” There isn’t only one right way. That is dangerous thinking.

          • I don’t presume to defend the Driscoll types or multi-campus churches. It just seems to me that there has been very little honest discussion. The predominant voice of this thread is “we don’t like them, look how surprisingly dumb and evil they are.” No one is checking attitudes and motives in their own hearts (at least publicaly). There is no humility. But there is plenty of anger and judging.

            • Brendan, you know, at points in the discussion your charge may be true. But what I usually find is this wonderful self-correcting mechanism in discussion that is allowed to be honest—and I disagree with you here; I think it’s been very honest, perhaps too honest. But I love it when people like you and others come in with different perspectives, causing those who have been ranting to pause and maybe back off a bit. If not, at least they are forced to formulate a more solid argument for their positions. We push each other back and forth a little bit. Sometimes we end up with areas of agreement, sometimes not. Honest interaction is messy, and sometimes you might get a cut or bruise. Conversation and working through our thinking on issues is a process and I’m willing to see it through and give participants a little space. I’m not afraid of that, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing, and I certainly don’t think we all have to agree about a lot of these issues.

              I do try to make sure things don’t get out of hand. I have put people on moderation and banned others outright because of intractable disrespect. But as the FAQs say, I’m not a perfect moderator and don’t claim to be. Nor do I claim that I will never fall short in my articles. There have been occasions where I’ve apologized publicly for things I’ve said and other times when I’ve corresponded with participants privately to try and work things out. Confession and forgiveness and growing is all part of this too.

              But I think what you fail to see is that when you say, ‘The predominant voice of this thread is “we don’t like them, look how surprisingly dumb and evil they are,’ you are making an interpretation of the evidence of what you are reading every bit as much as some of us are making an interpretation of what we see with church growth methods and the possible motives and philosophies behind them. We all do that. It is in the conversation that we learn from one another and learn to make more accurate interpretations of what we see.

          • Then CM would you perhaps define “honest conversation” to be more of a therapy session (not in a pejorative sense) than a philosophical discussion? If you have viewed this comment thread as “honest conversation” I would agree with you inasmuch as people have shared their “honest” emotions. But I wouldn’t call this an honest discussion in the sense that people seriously and objectively considered the topic. From my perspective, can you see how I wouldn’t consider this an honest (read: fair) treatment of the topic?

            I do have disagreements with how you moderate and how you handle certain topics. I always have, even since you were “just one of us” when the iMonk was around. But I definitely can respect the fact that you are your own man and are certainly entitled to your own positions, methods, and opinions. I’ve remain faithful to this sight after Micheal’s passing precisely because of how well you (and Jeff) run things here. Consider my previous statement retracted. I was more upset with the commenters but my comment was unfairly directed at you. I apologize.

            I will however maintain my argument against some of the comments in this thread. My perceived judging of their actions I do not feel is on the same level as their broad brush judgmental-ism and slander against all mega-church pastors and members.

      • Here is a good reason why a pastor should send his own image on video screens around a city and over thousands of miles to other cities to deliver a sermon; He is called and gifted by God to do so and He is getting a genuine response in the hearts of those who hear. By his own admission and actions, Driscoll is doing this because it gets good results. In the cases where local preaching is getting good results he goes with that. It isn’t “either/or” it is “both/and.” In other words, “so that by all possible means I might save some.”

        He isn’t blocking anyone else from speaking; he is just adding another alternative to the local mix. I have found that it is those that insist that there is only one right way and then try and block others out who are the real danger to the Church.

        • Dan, first of all I’m sorry but for some reason your comment got trapped by the spam filter. I can’t figure out why it does that all the time, so I check it occasionally. I’m glad I did because I’m glad someone finally addressed my question.

          I get your point, but I will continue to disagree until I can come to a different understanding of pastoral preaching and teaching. I can’t get past the fact that, in my opinion, it must be incarnational, personal, and rooted in a local community and its unique relationships and issues. Can I learn something from watching a video (or reading a book or listening to a sermon recording, etc.)? Of course. But I cannot be “discipled.” Because being a disciple requires a relationship with a “rabbi” who takes me and others into his company and teaches us as a master his apprentices. The Gospels tell us that Jesus called the disciples first to “be with him,” and then to learn and be trained. That, in my view, is what a pastor is and what he does, and preaching and leading worship is an integral part of that. This cannot be done via video.

          • From your definition here, CM, then I would conclude that I have never been properly discipled as I have never had a relationship beyond casual acquaintance with a preaching pastor. Perhaps so. But I don’t think this is the case. We are all called to be disciples of Christ, and we are all called to make disciples. I would contend a primary purpose of a preaching pastor is to empower the congregation to disciple each other well.

            In order to do this, the preaching pastor would certainly need to be actively discipling others (and hopefully be receiving discipling as well) so as to not lose touch with the real world, real people, and real problems his congregation is living with. But I don’t think there is an imperative that he be doing this for every person in the entire congregation. So long as he keeps his hands dirty with at least a portion, and is able to monitor the pulse of the congregation at large I think the pastor should be in good standing.

            Your statement above also implies that a pastor who doesn’t preach (counseling pastor, missions pastor, administrative pastor, on and on …) is no pastor at all. Is this your position?

            But, I’m no pastor and don’t know the job like you do. What are your thoughts?

  32. So I am long time i-Monk reader as well as a long time member of Mars Hill in Seattle. I started attending MH when it was around 1100 people a week in attendance (almost 9 years ago) and have been through all the ups and downs of getting to our now ~10,000. I and my family currently attend one of the satellite campuses in Seattle. While I can’t say whether I would choose to attend a multi-site church if I were new to a city and “church shopping”, I thought I would respond with a few highlights of why we have stayed members at Mars Hill through this transition.

    – The satellite campus provides a much better environment for knowing people and being known. Service size is typically 100 people or so instead of the 1000 people at the main campus.

    – Access to pastors and other leadership is much improved. Again, you are less of “a number” at a satellite campus and can form relationship with the campus pastor or other staff pastors much easier. The campus pastor also has more time to attend to the flock as he is not weighed down with preaching duties most of the time (campus pastors preach about 25% of the time).

    – We feel more connected to our local community. The satellite is only a 3 minute drive, located in the area of town where I live and work, as opposed to the 15 minute drive to the main campus.

    – Although I’m not one to chase a worship experience, honestly the worship experience has been better for me at the satellite. It is much lower key in terms of lights and sound than the main campus.

    – The cult of personality around Driscoll is, perhaps paradoxically, actually diminished at the satellite. People who want to be closer to Mark go to the main campus, those at satellites tend not to be fan-boys, if you will.

    That’s not say there aren’t problems and issues with the way Mars Hill is doing things. We’ve questioned much of it and have many friends who have chosen to leave for one reason or other. It was the right church for us before Driscoll was DRISCOLL and we feel it is still the right place for us at this time.

    I can’t say what motivation someone in OC or Portland or elsewhere would have for attending the MH satellites there, but I’d be happy to answer any questions people have about MH in Seattle regarding how we do multi-site.

    • Theo: what is it then that is the reason for staying?

      the friendships established? the convenience of the satellite arrangement? the coffee? the worship/praise music+experience? the teaching/teacher? the overall atmosphere?

      do you have other church expressions experiences you can contrast it with?

      something significant is the reason any of us invests our relationships in the people/place we choose to call our faith community. and yes, our financial support also…

      i remember one larger, Protestant Evangelical, Baptist-in-name-only independent church i began attending after moving to a new town. i only gave financially to the deacon’s fund as it was truly earmarked only for helping others. i never gave to the general fund & i will never give to a building fund. i eventually ended up only helping out with the Recovery Ministry & giving of my time+talents there. so even in a large church arrangement there was still a place i felt i could invest in. but the main service or any other ‘church’ related functions were not at all attractive to me. i have recently moved to a new town & am searching for a faith community to reconnect with. interesting to talk to a few pastors of establshed churches & recent church plant folks. then to hear of other church plants happening & wondering what is the motivation of these new efforts?

      denominational expansions? sincere belief by the church planters that God did really ‘call’ them here? a clear understanding of what really is needed as a faith community in this specific area? with so many churches here already, will the addition of more really, truly result in the gospel being lived out accurately? is it a good steward use of resources? i am not involved at all in the logistics of starting a church, but it seems so much like a small business start it is uncanny. should it be this way?

      just thinking out loud here…

      • Joseph, couldn’t quite follow what all were questions directed at me and what were general ponderings.

        As for the main reason we have stayed, I would say it is mostly that we made a commitment to this church when we became members and that, despite our concerns with some decisions, none of the changes over the years could be construed as un-biblical (clearly against the teaching of scripture). We are resolved to be supportive of the church in all that it is doing well (and there is a lot), and to be constructive / prayerful in the areas we find the church lacking.

        I grew up in a general conference baptist church (which has since dropped baptist from its name) which was perfectly orthodox in its beliefs and was typically evangelical in style and practices. Basically I learned a lot about what a christian is to look like, but could not articulate what informed that picture very well from scripture. In college I attended a church that would be labeled emerging, although that label was just being formed at about that time. It was very good at challenging people to take ownership of their own faith and to not just coast on the faith of their parents or their upbringing. It was just what I needed at the time, but unfortunately it was also fairly scripture light. When I moved to Seattle, I heard about a smallish church that was really popular with younger people. The big thing that jumped out to me when I attended MH was that it was actually teaching the Bible in a coherent manner. Pastor Mark just started a sermon series through the book of Habakuk. It was the first time in my life that I could competently finish the sentence “Book X in the Bible is about _____”. The first few years at MH were truly life changing: solid biblical teaching with genuine fellowship and community. It was by far the best church I had ever been in.

        The last few years my enthusiasm has waxed and waned a bit. I find Mark’s preaching to be rather repetitive and have had serious reservations about some management issues, but nothing worth leaving over. As WenatcheeTheHatchet said above, I tend to get more out of the campus pastor’s preaching these days than I do from Mark.

    • JoanieD says:

      Those are all excellent points, Theo. Thank you for taking the time to explain that all out for us.

      I have only watched a few Mark Driscoll videos online, but I am not a big fan. (I don’t like some of his attitudes, teachings, and sometimes screaminess.) But, if there are many people who DO want to hear his sermons, this seems like a way to do it. As long as the folks hearing the sermons have a flesh and blood pastor to talk with and people around them to support them in their walk here on earth, I don’t have a big issue with this.

    • Thank you, Theo. I’m glad you gave us an insider’s perspective.

    • “- The cult of personality around Driscoll is, perhaps paradoxically, actually diminished at the satellite.”

      That’s exactly what Mark Driscoll was saying in the video. And it does seem to be a paradox.

      • It’s certainly true of the satellite services in Seattle, where the option exists to attend the main campus. I’m not sure what the culture is like at our campuses outside Seattle.

        • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

          What non-attenders won’t be able to know is that by the time a satellite gets set up the pastor will have an often informally established team of members and deacons who have served with him for years, which means that the team cohesion has been around the campus pastor rather than around Driscoll.

  33. While I don’t think this alone would rule out going to a particular church for me, I definitely have known enough sermon-happy celebrity-church-junkies to justify the suspicion that a famous guy preaching on a screen is a recipe for more consumers, not disciples. I also suspect it will reinforce, at least for those who aren’t actively fighting this tendency, the de-personalization of the faith and their own involvement in the community of Christ.

    While I’ve watched my share of Driscoll sermons, I don’t really continue to do so because– get ready– I don’t KNOW him. And I’ve realized that if “know Jesus” is the single most important command of Scripture, surely that must entail “knowing” those I’m in touch with day-to-day, including my pastor and preacher, as the overflow of knowing Jesus. If there’s preaching to be done, let one or two of them can preach to me occasionally. (incidentally, my music listening and food consumption have drifted in this direction also.)

    One other thing: I recall Jared Wilson once voicing his dislike of such technology, for the simple reason that (paraphrasing) “a pastor preaching on a screen is unable to be shot in the face.” His idea was that the Gospels frequently promise persecution in Jesus’ name, and if you remove this possibility, you’re actually less convincing.

  34. Kurt in FL says:

    (I have not read all the comments.)

    I have read iMonk for a long time and have gotten much good from it. I thank you all very much (especially Spencer himself).

    The best posts from this site have been the ones that give HOPE to those living in the evangelical wilderness.

    The worst ones are those that complain. This is one of those.

    I don’t want to go to Mars Hill or any of its video affiliates. I bet plenty of other people in the western US don’t either.

    There are plenty of people out there who need a church, so mom and pop churches will still be needed.

    Leave Mars Hill alone. We’re not talking Joel Osteen here. This is a strongly orthodox church. If they reach people for Christ, great. If you don’t like it, don’t go.

    Keep bringing hope.

  35. For all the people saying that Driscoll et. al. should be left alone, have you read any of Driscoll’s books or heard his sermons? The man has no problem throwing his brothers and sisters under the bus. I don’t buy that these issues should never be talked about. The fact of the matter is that our ecclesiology comes around to affect us eventually. I simply believe megachurch model is destined for failure, and that it’s going to leave a lot of hurt and broken people in its wake. It already has. The thing is, big churches become like big companies – people come and go, get lost in the shuffle, and a lot of the time no one knows the cost of these programs and “visions”. Of course, people can be hurt in small churches, too – I’ve seen that too.

    I actually see the newer megachurches in the last stages of their death throes. A lot of them just don’t realize it yet.

  36. The CT article quotes some individuals using the terms “brand name” and “entrepreneurial.”

    This worries me because words mean things. They are the product, expression and result of certain understandings, views and thought processes. That these phrases are being used as a matter of course tells me that to a significant extent the language and meaning and model of the business world is being conceived and emulated. Add to this the emphasis on numbers, replicability, size and success that was brought out in the video link that someone posted here, and I can begin to see that the corporate or business model has quite a foothold.

    Good things will still happen. God will still work, and Jesus will not abandon His church. However, the adherence to a business model will hamper more than help because the church is not a business or a corporation and never will be.

  37. conanthepunctual says:

    The word that leaps to my mind in this is trust. It’s hard to believe a person or organization trusts that God will provide, trusts that they are not alone in following God (think Elijah), trusts that where there is need, there is God when they believe they are tasked with the answers and work that apparently cannot be trusted to anyone else.

    God’s work in this world is being done through His body: His whole body, not just a few parts. Most of the time we are called to take a deep breath and do the work set before us and trust that God through others is doing the same.

  38. With all due respect, I think the question about evangelicalism “ceasing to be meaningfully Christian” as a result of multi-site churches in other states or towns is a bit over the top. More hierarchical, more denominational perhaps, but not “ceasing to be meaningfully Christian.”

    If the commercialism or “money-drivenness” of the church bugs you join the club. Small churches can be just the same way. Whenever you have a building, utility bills, a paid full time pastor and/or staff, you’re going to spend time fussing about money and how to get more people in the seats. Pragmatism is going to have an upper hand. Compromising on Jesus-centered spirituality so as to not offend the crowd or the few choice families or donors is going to be the order of the day.

    If you are fed up with how traditional, institutional churces are run, there are options out there. You can get together with some of your friends and start your own, see how it works for you.

    Let the other people do their thing, but you do yours, following Jesus as best you know how.

    • Amen, Ben. I’m getting kind of tired of the perfect all-wise critics that think they know so much better. Instead of tearing down those that are out there doing it, why don’t they get off their duffs and show us how it is done???

      • Maybe some of have “gotten off of our duffs” and realized it simply doesn’t work.

        I don’t care if a person wants to go to a megachurch. There’s nothing wrong with great programs in and of themselves. In the end though, they simply fall flat. And yes I’m just speaking from personal experience, and yes, I’m jaded, but I’m getting tired of perfect all-wise pastors telling us how things should be done.

      • Read Eugene Peterson’s memoir, The Pastor. In my opinion, he has shown us all. You will find many such positive examples in the archives of Internet Monk.

      • Lots of people are doing just that. It just doesn’t show up on the giant video screen and the loudspeaker.

  39. Is it possible that evangelicalism will reach a point where it has emptied itself of historic memory, tradition, and practice so much that it will cease to be meaningfully “Christian”?

    Yeah … and I’m worried that point might’ve been several years ago …

  40. Evangelical capitalism at its best! Ego swelling to huge proportions! Church is being built around a man/personality, not Christ. Build it around a man and his ministry and when he is gone, down it goes. When Christ builds it, it is around Him and intimacy/relationship with Him. We are so far off base in the U.S. it is pitiful. Superstars are all we want. Sadly, not Jesus. After reading this, I need to go to the restroom and hurl!

  41. Scott Miller says:

    I went to a local church here in KS where they had different worship services, based on music style, in different parts of the church campus. After the worship the pastor would be on the screen in the smaller contemporary worship service in the gym. I never got comfortable with it. I kept thinking “if I wanted to watch TV I could have stayed at home”.
    There were problems when the closed circuit TV system did not work. Then what? The pastor assigned to the contemporary service didn’t have anything prepared. In fact, while he was more laid back, he also didn’t have the speaking ability of the pastor on the screen. Overall a weird experience for me, and we went elsewhere.

  42. I just don’t get why Driscoll draws such a crowd, regardless in what state his followers live. People want to be verbally abused? I have known many people who followed domineering leaders because doing so made them feel like they were special, tough, and among the elite. The shepherd model was thrown under the bus long before Driscoll went virtual.

    • Some of the individuals who drive reformed theology bother me. When…I ask will they drive it off a cliff? Already so many people are hurting and the capacity to hurt more people is there. One other thing that bothers me is how Mark Driscoll and others seldom have accountability. At least Greg Boyd calls John Piper on the carpet, and for that I am thankful. But seldom do many reformed leaders have accountability. Already Mars Hill and other mega chruches are personality driven. Take away the pastor the church withers and goes into a spiral. Case in point New Life Church after Ted Haggard.

    • There is a lot of thinking in evangelical circles that the “truth should hurt” or if you’re not mad at the pastor after a sermon, he’s not doing his job. I don’t know how many guys I’ve heard say things like this – it’s a lot though. A pastor will occasionally need to have some harsh words, but I don’t think it should be the norm. To me, it’s like a parental relationship. There’s something wrong when the vast majority of words coming from a parent’s mouth are disciplinary in nature.

      • touche……or smell like disappointment and anger….

      • Savannah says:

        How about just mean? I was never a fan of Driscoll but thought he had his good points until he made that very nasty comment directed at or about Gayle Haggard (and I was no fan of Ted Haggard’s either, btw). I found that one of the nastiest and most distasteful things that I’ve heard from a Christian pastor. I don’t know how people stomach him, period, let alone thousands.

        To each their own, I guess.

        And I absolutely think the character of these megachurch celebrity pastors does matter, which is evidenced in their words and actions. They get reported by the media and hurt the Kingdom they seem to be so concerned about building when thay are hateful and malicious.

        Driscoll doesn’t just make verbal gaffes. He actually seems to delight in his disrespectful attitudes and words.

    • Part of Driscoll’s draw is his persona. His image of Christ is masculine to the extreme. He makes no bones that he feels that most of today’s pastors are wussies. He is a big fan of Mixed Marshal Arts fighting. Hence, he has a big base with men (needless to say).

  43. Is it just a coincidence that most of these multi-site churches were started by former “youth pastors”? Driscoll, Hybels, Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Furtick, etc.

    Does anyone think that is significant?

    • Ross-

      As youth pastors, they saw the things that would reach the next generation(s), and now that those generations are adults, we are seeing those methods. Andy Stanley discusses that in one of his leadership podcasts.

      Likewise, the youth leaders of today will be helping shape how the next generation of adults will experience church. If we want to tweak things before they go in unhealthy directions, we need to look at what is happening in youth ministry

      • Or get rid of it. The whole “youth ministry” with separate “youth pastors” thing has only been around a few decades and is an American invention. This is really a case of “reaping what you sow”.

    • Actually, I don’t think Driscoll was ever a youth pastor, really. It’s been a while since I’ve read his books, but I believe he started having a service on Sunday evening that was mainly college kids. Then he starts Mars Hill. He basically said in his book that he couldn’t find a church that he liked, so he decided to start his own.

      • Maybe not. This guy says Driscoll “ran the college group” at Antioch Bible Church before taking 30 of the students with him to start Mars Hill:

        http://www.harambeechurch2.org/aboutHarambee.php

        I guess I was assuming he started out as a “youth ministry” guy.

        • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

          Since Mike Gunn was one of the three co-founding elders of Mars Hill he’d be in a position to know. I would suggest, given my history at Mars Hill, that it’s smart to combine Driscoll’s account with Gunn’s account and keep in mind that Reformission Rev is a necessarily selective history of Mars Hill from the perspective of the top dog. He’s not likely to mention that ten years ago the idea was very seriously proposed that rather than have individual congregations get bigger than about 160 to have church plants so that community isn’t lost. That waws obviously abandoned almost immediately after it was proposed. I can respect Mark’s committment to doctrinal consistency but the pragmatism afoot in the church growtth approach has meant that the two of us ended up locking horns with a Pelagian despite the apparently sturdy rules about membership.

          But I will say that not all youth pastors are necessarily on the same track. There are denominational restrictions in some settings on whether a person will be allowed to be a pastor straight out of seminary. The analogy could lbe deployed as varsity (adults) and junior varsity (youth group). The youth pastor I knew refused to make that distinction and was drilling into me and other teenagers the necessity of exegesis and hermeneutics over against “feeling” stuff and this was at an Assemblies of God church!

          So I know (now) I got a youth pastor who was the exception that proved the rule but I know Mark “just” well enough to say that whatever youth pastor stuff he did his real passion would be talking with someone for a few hours about John Murray’s The Imputation of Adam’s Sin or about N. T. Wright’s response to the Jesus Seminar or Spurgeon sermons. Disagree with Driscoll however much you want but unless you’ve had a chance to really talk with the man don’t lump him in with the youth pastor stereotype.

  44. I once visited a multi-site church with streaming video. The video cut off a few minutes in and they had to impovise a prayer meeting for the rest of the service.

    We can get tons of technology everywhere everyday. If anything, I think a church should go light on technology in its services to offer a break and stability from the hectic instant-message google-search modern life (I’m not saying those things are inherently evil; I’m a computer programmer).

  45. >>Is it possible that evangelicalism will reach a point where it has emptied itself of historic memory, tradition, and practice so much that it will cease to be meaningfully “Christian”?<<

    It is. And I'm afraid we're right in the middle of that process.

  46. I just feel that with a place like Mars Hill, the multi-site issue is the least of their problems. I get that they’re at the forefront of the multisite model right now, so it makes sense to talk about them if you want to talk about that. I just can’t seem to care much about that when I know that what is underneath is much darker and more damaging than video sermons.

  47. My problem with the sermon via some sort of remote telecast is that it deprives the local pastor and his congregation from experiencing the word being planted in their own garden so to speak. When a pastor labors in the Word, it bears fruit in his congregation and his life and provides the basis for being competent to counsel. I gave my first sermon about a month ago at the invitation of my pastor. It completely transformed my vision for the necessity of pastors being immersed in the Word in order to be effective in the church.

  48. What does it say about our ecclesiology that in these campus churches every other aspect of church life is local (even including the rest of the Sunday morning service like the music teams). Why is the preaching singled out as being the one thing piped in remotely? To me, this is the logical end of the elevation of the sermon above everything else in Protestantism (and more specifically, evangelicalism) as it developed over the centuries.

    • With all the technical complexity and talent required to pull off contemporary music, and with the expectation of our modern ears for almost studio-quality live sound, one might assume it would be more efficient to develop the ultimate worship band (or karaoke backing trax) in lieu of forming multiple live bands at satellite campuses.
      I suppose it speaks to our expectations that musical worship must appear to be interactive, whereas preaching can be a passive and didactic transfer of information.
      Ironically, the musical portion in a multi-campus satellite service probably the least interactive element, with little room for improvisation (except perhaps at a Pentecostal church), as it is all timed – to the second – to conclude at the start of the video feed for the sermon.

      • Many multi-sites use tape delay (that’s a dated term, mp4 delay?). There is flexibility in the service timing.

    • Maybe it is the opposite. Maybe it is actually evidence that the other elements of service are deemed so important. Maybe a MH web tech saw how many sermon downloads were coming from OC or Portland and the church decided it needed to make sure those people were also receiving the other sacraments of a church service.

      I go to MH and I honestly don’t know what all the driving forces are for opening out-of-state campuses. I hope this would be at least part of the motivation. I do know that MH has rejected the idea of an internet-campus (I believe LifeChurch does this) because it believes in the importance of the physical gathering of believers.

      • @Theo: I’m trying to figure out a way to ask this without it sounding belligerent, but the words aren’t coming. So please understand this comes from a heart truly trying to understand the perspective. How does MH see gathering an auditorium full of people to watch a sermon and sing along with a band as better than an internet campus? Or perhaps better to ask, how big is that gap? I guess I just see satellite campuses as being not much better than going to a movie or a concert. Sure, there are extra-service fellowship and discipleship activities like small groups, but couldn’t those happen with an internet campus as well? I’d be curious to hear from those who do go to the satellite campuses. Do you prefer having Driscoll’s sermon shown by video feed over having perhaps a lesser-quality (however you take that to mean) speaker/pastor talking to you in person?

        • Didn’t sound belligerent. And to be clear, I am not any sort of official voice of MH but I will do my best to represent our positions as I understand it.

          First, the gathering is more than just watching a sermon and singing along with a band. Other standard elements of a service include: announcements pertaining to the local congregation, meet-and-greet time, collecting an offering, taking of communion, and having pastors and deacons available to pray with anyone after the service. And occasionally: baptisms, baby dedications, elder and deacon installations, post service potluck / bbq. Also, MH believes that serving is an important aspect of discipleship and encourages everyone to get involved with helping Sunday services happen.

          Now, conceivably many of those elements could be replicated in some form for an online service but not all of them. I think communion is probably the biggest objection MH has to online only service. MH is also huge on small group participation and I don’t know how likely someone who isn’t willing to get out of their house for sunday service would be willing to get out for a small group. A refrain you often hear at MH is “God initiates, and we respond”. That initiation and response almost always takes place in an inter-personal relational environment and so relationship has always been a core value of the church.

          I personally have found little difference in my interaction with the sermon being on video vs. when I was sitting in the live room (I tend not laugh at the jokes as much on video). I do fear that the video may subconsciously encourage a consumerist attitude amongst newer / less mature christians. My preference would be for MH to rely more heavily on live preaching at every campus, but I am okay with the video. We tried multi-campus with live preaching many years ago and the result was a handful at the satellite and standing-room-only where Mark was preaching.

          • Theo, the last sentence sort of proves the point of those who critique video campuses as personality-driven.

            I’m a member of an Acts29 church in the midwest. It too has multiple campuses.

            Unlike Mars Hill, the elders decided to have live preaching from a variety of pastors – some established elders, some young, up and coming elder and church planting candidates. That is something that is more to my comfort level for a variety of reasons – and the traditional concept of the pastor, or a pastor, speaking live to the congregation is one of them.

  49. Well, I just finished reading all the comments. Do I get points? 🙂

    I should mention by way of introduction that I have been reading this blog for over a year now, though until now I haven’t felt compelled to post a comment.

    Also, I visit Mars Hill’s Ballard campus whenever I am in Seattle (I have two daughters who attend there regularly). I live in SoCal though, where I currently attend an evangelical “mega church.” If you’d told me three years ago I’d end up at that church I would have laughed in your face. For nearly a decade I attended a church of only about 100 people. I was born and raised for 16 years a Presbyterian, I spent 20+ years in a Baptist church, and I learned enough about Catholicism to send both my daughters through a Catholic girls’ school. I guess you could say I’ve been around a bit when it comes to Christianity.

    I have only two points to add to your long and very interesting discussion.

    Marie, clearly you have a very negative opinion of Driscoll and Mars Hill. You’ve repeatedly indicated that you know first hand about the darkness and damage underneath it…yet you never clearly state what that might be. It’s all negative innuendo, all implied “I know things that you don’t, but if you did you’d run screaming.” I find that disturbing, but not in the way you might expect, because I’ve experienced it from other burned believers. I am certain your experiences are entirely valid for you, but it comes across as though you want to convince everyone that Driscoll and Mars Hill are evil without ever giving any actual evidence. Christians poison the well a lot regarding pastors and churches. It’s…unbecoming. And unhelpful. And rather toxic.

    My second point: Way back in the comments someone (sorry I did not note whom) said “Why do we not look more like disciples and the early believers?”

    I think that attitude has repeatedly been echoed throughout this thread. And many of the criticisms of contemporary churches (particularly mega-churches) seem to come back to a desire to return to some sort of idyllic concept we have of the early church. Small is good. Technology is bad. They did it right back in 70 AD.

    Perhaps if we reread scripture regarding the early church (pick just about any of Paul’s letters, passages like 1 Cor. 1:10-12 for example), we might not romanticise it quite so much. The early church–the church of Paul and the other original disciples–was fraught with infighting, with people flagrantly sinning, with people lying to each other, with controversy about preaching styles and schisms between leaders. Some groups of believers grew, others fell apart. In short, people back in the days of the disciples were flawed and broken human beings just like they are today, and the way they did things was both as successful and erroneous as today. They were saved, yes, but that did not take away their ability to misbehave.

    I figure that back then and through all the centuries since up to the present, satan has had a lot of fun screwing around with the ways that we fixate on how to worship/learn about/serve God. Getting us to fight over it all is one highly effective tactic of his. Getting us to not only judge but convict, despise and denigrate other Christians with whom we disagree is another.

    The good thing is, Jesus is the same today as He was then, and His gospel hasn’t changed either. I tend to hang onto that fact when I have seen churches implode due to the behavior of their leaders and/or their congregations.

    Just my two cents from the bleachers.

  50. @Chap Mike and frieds: if you’ve read today’s Out of Ur this is waste of bandwidth, but…. today’s article is “Blessed Redundancy” by Skye Jethani and I greatly recomment it. The gist of it is to grow a ministry that is NOT dependant on the Big Dude. Excellent reading, IMO.

    GregR