Question: Regarding Churches with multiple campuses, what keeps them from being separate churches and being autonomous?
I’ve seen multi-campus minister handled really well because it’s very tightly controlled. What this church is doing is saying, “Yes we have many campuses all over the city but we consciously meet together for congregational business, for Lord’s Supper,” on a quarterly basis I believe this church does it. I don’t have a problem with that anymore than I have a problem with churches having multiple worship services and many churches do. I don’t think that is inherently wrong. I think that can be done and be done well. That’s a different scenario though, from a church that has campuses all over the country where there’s not any kind of geographical unity to the congregation. That I would say, “yeah, there’s a problem with that.” Local churches are local assemblies. They meet in certain places. But whether or not a congregation has multiple campuses, I do not think that the Bible prohibits that. As a matter of fact I think that could be a keep aspect of the church accomplishing its mission in the great commission. But again, another key to this: I don’t think that these churches ought to do away with the preaching of the word and by that I mean the physical presence of pastors who are preaching. So I would see something completely different between a church who has multiple pastors preaching in multiple places from a church that’s kind of outsourcing the sermons through video tape. Those would be two completely different issues for me.
My thoughts: Having heard that I see that it is a matter of degree between multiple services and multi campus churches much clearer. I don’t think Russ did a good job of answering how multi-campus services keep from being independent, autonomous churches. He alluded to it with the congregational meetings once every three months, but he did not tease that out. My pastor Mark Dever believes that churches should have only one service based on the definition of ekklesia meaning “assembly” in the Greek (see The Deliberate Church, 86-88). So the church is an assembly and when you have multiple services you have two assemblies and in effect, two churches. Because I don’t think all the members are at any of the church gatherings (Bible study, morning service, evening service), I’m at the place right now where I think the church should have one gathering a week where all the church is expected to come. At my church, since we have an expectation that our members come for both morning and evening services, I think (different than my pastor at this point) that we could do two-services in the morning and our single service in the evening, thus fulfilling our one congregational gathering every week as a local church covenanted together. I think a problem with the multi-campus church Moore commends is that they only meet as a local church/assembly once a quarter which is 4 times a year. That is at best unwise and at worst a distortion of what the church is to be. So on the whole, I disagree with Russ Moore’s view.
In regard to the multi-campus model Moore commends, my friend Justin makes two good points. It seems that multi-campus churches thrive off of one good preacher and use videos. If Moore commends that church for live preaching, why not just have multiple churches? That makes a lot of sense to me.