Multisite Minus the Big Screen

In just a few weeks, New Life will open a new location near the center of our downtown district for people to gather and worship. When most large churches open new locations, the sermon is from the lead pastor and is shown via video with some very cool technology making that possible. In this season at New Life, we are exploring another option. We will have a very real and present human teaching the Scriptures.

I am not here to pick a fight with all my pastor friends who have video campuses. There is certainly merit to each approach and I certainly respect the innovation and technology that allows some of our best communicators access to growing audiences. But I do think our approach has strengths that need to be considered, too.

1. We are giving young communicators a chance to grow

I remember all the chances I got while in my 20’s and early 30’s to actually study and preach a sermon. Mostly, it was on street corners on Saturday mornings, or at rescue missions right before lunch, or at some small, rural church led by one of my relatives. But they all were opportunities to learn, to fail and to ultimately grow up. Preaching and teaching, like any other skill set, requires reps and it is hard to get 10,000 hours of needed practice when there are fewer and fewer openings on the preaching calendar.

2. We get the privilege of studying together

Our model of campus expansion calls for each campus to preach from the same text each Sunday, allowing for some differences based on life lessons and personality. This means we have the privilege of studying together. Yes, it is a privilege. Since I have started this with a group of young leaders, my overall study time has been reduced by at least 30% and my preaching has gotten better, or at least, my wife says so. Together, we can read more Scriptures, study more commentaries and have better exegetical debates than if the burden of study rests on just one person. Plus, the unity that is forged in these collaborative study sessions is very powerful and only helps on Sunday in the pulpit.

3. We get to pastor people right in front of us

There is an unmistakable bond that happens between the teacher of the Scriptures and the listener each week. I want to look people in the eye and pay attention to what God is up to in the room and I cannot do that effectively by video. I love when the Holy Spirit alters my course in a gathering because of something unique happening in the hearts of people. Then in the next gathering, I don’t sense those deters, so I follow my outline with equal effectiveness. Somehow, for me, I need to be in front of people to be at my prophetic best.

We are just starting this journey and I am very thankful for a talented team of communicators at New Life that makes experiments like this possible. I may very well use technology to primarily communicate at future campus sites, but for now I really like the relational path we are on together.

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8 Comments

  1. Brilliant! I can’t wait to see the success of this model..not only will it bless the campuses by giving them a live interactive leader, it gives such a wonderful opportunity for the pastors to share and glean from each other while studying/preparing together! There is much more strength in unity!

  2. I love that thought and the ability to gather a group of younger guys and mentor them in the gift of preaching & studying the Word for the Body of Christ. If someone had not taken a chance on me when I was a teen I would not be doing what I do today.

  3. Sounds like a great model. Technology allows us to reach beyond the limits of a full campus. when daughter churches are close to each other like yours, making the expansion an intentional opportunity for growth and leadership development is another excellent use of God’s gifts. Looking forward to hearing how it works out.

  4. The personal presence, sensitivity of what the Lord is doing right there and then, on the spot and during the service allow that space and room for the Holy Spirit to move – somehow I have a feeling that the Lord doesn’t like our idea of the count-down clock that works with the syncing of the satelite connection… I loved the concept when you presented it first and loved it even more that you and Glenn will be preparing the message together because this somehow resembles to me the model which the Early Church used when they were gathering. Last but not least, I love it because finally a senior pastor that I have is not afraid of sharing his territory!

  5. I like this model. I enjoy the other model too. Thank God for new fresh ideas in both models.

  6. Thanks for the post!

    Like Heath, I enjoying seeing the diversity of models that emerge within the multisite movement. I would love to hear more about what your overall structure looks like. What is centralized and the same across all campuses, what is decentralized and unique to each campus? What kind of central support will be set up for the new campus and what will they handle on their own?

  7. Thanks Tim. This is very experimental, and we have some questions that still need to be answered. Stay tuned. I will give updates as we journey along.

  8. Ps Brady, I think this is a great way to do multiple campus. Our daughter Embry Munsey and her family live in Laguna Beach, Ca. and go to Mariners Church, Newport Beach, the main campus. They have live pastors that preach at every campus with a similar message, with differing styles. They even have a small chapel right at their main campus (next to the large church) where a live pastor preaches while there is a larger service in the main building and both are full. Some people like the smaller more intimate services with acoustic style worship and others like the larger, like Gateway, which I imagine New Life is similar. They also occasionally switch up pastors/teachers getting to hear from each.
    I think this is a superb idea. It trains up those with a pastoral calling as well.
    Blessings to you all at New Life!
    Robin Speakman

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