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.