Are Multi-Site Churches Biblical?

By Gary Becker, Director of BBM, inc.

One of the realities of “Riding a Wave” in ministry is you are likely to find critics. Some will say you are following “man’s ideas,” or you are just doing this because you want to be contemporary. A lesson I have learned after decades of ministry is, if you do something new or different you will find the critics.

I remember in my earliest years of pastoral ministry I used an overhead projector in a morning service. The reactions began with the old idea, “We never did it that way before.” That phrase is also known as, “the seven last words of a dying church.” There was mostly resistance but a few actually liked it. The issue was not about biblical theology.

What it really comes down to is, does “riding a wave” have biblical support or is it contrary to Scripture? Sometimes the wave may not be supported by a clear command of teaching in Scripture. In such cases it comes down to the question “does it contradict Scripture?” The same is true about the multi-site church movement. There may not be an exact example or command of Scripture, but there are some biblical examples that can be applied. Of course, some of these may find strong opposition because the exegesis is more about taking an illustration than building a theological defense. 

1. Exodus 18 is an illustration that could be applied. Moses, remaining as the leader, delegated responsibilities. In a multi-site church the lead pastor maintains the primary role as the spokesman and visionary leader. The campus pastors provide the primary role as “shepherds” caring for the needs and developing additional leaders. There is real merit in using the strengths of individual spiritual gifts and using people in ways that reflect their strongest abilities.

Most who study leadership in the church today will agree it is easier to find a pastor who is a care giver than one who is a truly gifted leader. Some suggested only one out of five pastors are really leaders. Many like to think of themselves as leaders, but as one my of mentors said, “If you think you have the gift of leadership but few followers you probably don’t have the gift.” Often those without the gift of leadership make great “shepherds” who care deeply and effectively for the flock.

2. Acts 15 is used by some to say the church at Antioch was actually an extension of the church at Jerusalem. This is seen by allowing the church at Jerusalem to hold a council to resolve local issues at Antioch. Others would suggest that the church at Antioch had their own leaders and acted independently in Acts 13. However, this passage does show a clear type of partnering relationship to providing leadership.