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In this four-part blog series, we attempt to answer the controversial question: is it possible to pursue multi-site in a biblically faithful way?

We’re asking (and answering) four questions: 1. Is multi-site evangelistically effective? 2. Is multi-site a biblically sound model? 3. Is multi-site pastorally helpful? 4. Does multi-site encourage or discourage leadership development?

Today’s issue: pastoral care.

In our first post we tried to show that a multisite strategy can be a biblically faithful attempt to balance evangelistic urgency, accountability, and community. We questioned whether single-service-only advocates have given enough consideration to the evangelistic urgency in how they set up church.

Jonathan Leeman posted 22 reasons why he thinks the multi-site model is problematic. Most of his problems had to do with a supposed lack of pastoral care, accountability, and community exacerbated by multi-site churches. We take these critiques very seriously, as we believe the church is to be a family that cares deeply for its own, and that, according to the book of Hebrews, we elders will have to give an account for every member of our church. Church is not an event to attend as much as it is a community to belong to. So if multi-site truly undermines pastoral care, I’d be willing to rethink—and even abandon—the model.

But here’s the counter-intuitive truth: the multi-site model can actually enhance pastoral care. At least that is how it has worked for us.

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In this four-part blog series, we answer the simple but controversial question: is it possible to pursue multi-site in a biblically faithful way?

We’re attempting to answer four questions: 1. Is multi-site evangelistically effective? 2. Is multi-site a biblically sound model? 3. Is multi-site pastorally helpful? 4. Does multi-site encourage or discourage leadership development?

Today’s issue: biblical fidelity.

Is the multi-site model biblically sound? This is, of course, the most important question. Or is it, even in its best forms, a pragmatic adaptation to a consumerist culture that departs from the biblical vision for the church? Some say it must be because the local church is in its very essence an “assembly,” and sense a multisite strategy, by definition, gathers people in different locations each weekend, a multisite model, no matter how well-intentioned cannot be a biblically faithful approach to church. Multisite congregations are essentially a network of “churches” under a episcopal-type government–with the total number of churches corresponding to the number of assemblies. By this definition, of course, this means that a church that meets in two services on Sunday morning is really two different churches. Each assembly is its own church.

Grant Gaines recently recapped this view on his blog, in response to an article (and a tweet) of mine. I had argued that the essence of a New Testament local church is not “assembly” but “covenant body.” If the local church is essentially an assembly, I said, then it only exists when it assembles and only when all the members are present. Furthermore, in the event that a church had to temporarily suspend its weekend services (due to war or disease), by that definition it would cease to be a church. Neither of those things is true, because what makes a church a church when it is not in assembly is the covenant that binds the members together. Assembly is an indispensable function of the church, but covenant is its essence.

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This is the first of four posts on whether the multisite can be a wise application of biblical ideals set out for the church. From the outset, we want to be clear that we are very concerned with the pragmatic and consumeristic approach that many multi-site churches take. We appreciate concerns raised by Jonathan Leeman and others to that end–concerns we hope these posts make obvious that we share. These blogs should not be construed as a defense of all multisite practices (this will become obvious), but rather an attempt to deal with the question of whether it is ever possible for a church to utilize a multi-site strategy in pursuit of the objectives the Lord Jesus has given to his church. 

To that end we’ll attempt to answer four questions: 1. Is multi-site evangelistically effective? 2. Is multi-site a biblically sound model? 3. Is multi-site pastorally helpful? 4. Does multi-site encourage or discourage leadership development?

Today’s issue: evangelism.

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