We asked three leaders to react to Jim Putman’s article describing his church’s decision to plant churches instead of develop multisites.
By Brent Storms, president, The Orchard Group (www.orchardgroup.org)
ONE OF THE BIGGEST FACTORS in starting healthy churches is the quality of the lead planter. One of the characteristics of the best church planters is that they are great communicators. The only way to develop one’s communication gift is to be afforded frequent opportunities to speak and receive helpful feedback. I share Jim’s concern that the trend toward campuses that are video venues effectively reduces the opportunities younger leaders have to preach. That may really hurt us down the road.
One of the churches Orchard Group helped to start in New York City, Forefront Church, has two locations, and each location experiences live preaching every Sunday. It’s been a joy to watch younger leaders find their preaching voice as a result of this strategy. In the long run, I think this serves the kingdom better than if the church had chosen to use a video venue strategy.
Based on our experiences, it seems as if new campuses are most effective when they are part of an overall strategy to respond to growth. Rather than moving to a bigger building or building one to bring in more people to one site, the church can open a new site in order to continue to grow. However, I have seen some unsuccessful attempts to use a new campus as a strategy to stimulate growth. When a church is not growing already, starting a new campus doesn’t seem to help. In fact, it can lead to a loss of overall momentum.
I believe any church attempting to start a new campus should be asking: Can we send enough people to produce healthy momentum at the new location without losing too much momentum at the sending location? If a church of 1,000 people sends out 100, the answer is probably “yes.” If a church of 250 people sends out 50 people, the answer might be “no.”
The strongest affirmation I can give to Jim’s article is that it seems the church he leads gave prayerful and careful attention to asking the question: What is the best approach for our church with our personnel resources in our specific context? It might have been easy simply to choose to start video venue campuses, because it seems to be working for some other large churches. And it very well may have worked well in Idaho. Instead of asking, “What are others doing?” they were courageous enough to ask, “What are we called to do?”
Can God use a multicampus, video venue strategy to help expand the kingdom? Of course! But if we aren’t also starting new independent churches with emerging leaders, healthy eldership, and fresh ideas, I think our vision of the preferred future is too shortsighted.
By Dr. Philip Claycomb, director, Nexus: church planting leadership (www.nexus.us)
THANK YOU, JIM, for directing our thinking toward our prime objective (discipleship) and core values (intentional relationships and leadership empowerment). Your article prompted me to wonder, Would the apostle Paul have used multisite strategies? And my answer is, “Perhaps, but church planting would have been more consistent with his values.”
As I see it, Paul’s default method was launching and releasing leaders who themselves launched yet more leaders. He displayed a casual attitude toward control. He boldly turned people loose. He expected the Spirit to lead others. In my mind, Paul was too big a leader to assume that others needed his constant supervision. And in this I detect more than just Paul’s personal preference for a leadership style. I believe Paul deliberately chose these particular methods because they were the methods most likely to accomplish his objective—disciple-making.
Paul’s objective was to make disciples—as many as possible. To that end, he might have settled down and grown one large church, but he didn’t. He might have kept all his converts under his direct oversight, but he didn’t. He tossed control to the wind.
Paul knew it is in the unleashing of God’s people that the power of God is revealed. He understood his legacy would not be a well-controlled church. In Paul’s mind, Leaders are the legacy! And for that reason he gave leaders room to grow—he turned them loose.
Thank you, Jim. I’m glad you fought the ever-present instinct to “rule them all.” I’m glad you tossed that instinct away. The communities in your corner of the world will be a better place as the leaders you unleash impact it under their fresh promptings of the Holy Spirit.
By Jon Ferguson, Chicago Network leader, Community Christian Church (www.communitychristian.org)
JIM IS RIGHT. Multisite can become too dependent on one person and create a celebrity culture. Multisite can hinder the development of capable teaching pastors. Multisite can also thwart the raising up and discipling of local leaders and elders.
However, multisite doesn’t have to result in these limitations. Increasingly more multisite churches are giving campus pastors the opportunity to be developed as teachers. Multisite churches are also identifying leaders and elders in the communities where these campuses are located.
Jim raises significant concerns for multisite churches, but I don’t believe these pitfalls are limited to multisite churches. Jim’s cautions remind me of a principle Jim has taught us for many years; the most effective way to disciple people in a church plant or multisite of any size is the way Jesus did: in the context of a small group of 12. Thanks Jim!