December 2, 2006

Conversations with a Future Church Planter pt. 5

Here is part 5 of the series: Conversations with a Future Church Planter. This conversation starts out discussing multi-site churches, but moves to wrestling with a call to church planting and the confusion/uncertainty of accepting that call. Here is the rest of the series. My friend sent the link to another person and got a response. Here is my friends e-mail and part of the person's response:

Not that I want to reinforce negative feelings, but this came back from someone in response to the link I sent…

He makes some good points… but the only problem (for me) is that I disagree with them. That said, however, I don’t just want to be a whiny, holier-than-thou seminary student.

Personally, I’m not concerned about the new, “productive ministries” aspect of this argument. However, I am concerned about the theological implications of reducing the preaching role to that of a professional speaking engagement. What is being implicitly communicated is that, in terms of the whole live worship service – the one activity that is expendable enough that it’s only necessary in digital format – is preaching. Music, however, must be done live, so people can authentically worship in community.

Live music is essential, but live preaching is not? Apparently the pastoral prayer and giving the offering are essential too… or perhaps they’re throw-ins since the “campus pastor” is already on the scene. But what about the sacraments? Could the Lord’s Supper take place digitally in the worship service? After all, it’s more of a function of preaching than any other pastoral role in the worship service… right? Why be incarnational with the other Sacraments if not with bringing the Word of God to the people?

I’m also concerned with his business-speak to support the whole multi-site idea… especially his fifth paragraph.

Here is the e-mail:

Thanks for the link and question. I'm continually amazed how every good idea finds its critics, and I suppose the multi-site strategy should be no exception. Put out your sign, and somebody will throw rocks at it.

But the truth is, every man-made ministry strategy in this world will have its flaws. The day we become overly defensive about any ministry or new strategy, we're setting ourselves up for disappointment. Still my more cynical side thinks too many naysayers only delight in being critics, without ever making any real or eternal difference in others. They remind me of the elder brother in the prodigal parable.

My observation over the years has been the leaders who are doing the job are rarely critical of other productive ministries. Usually, they want to learn how they work and they celebrate all the progress. It seems the defensive, unproductive leaders want to criticize the fruitful ministries and strategies. Their negativity serves as a defense mechanism for their own lack of impact or influence.

I do agree if anyone wants to make a cookie cutter approach out of multi-sites, then this criticism is justified. But from my reviews of the multisite strategy, there's been no discussion of a Starbucks franchising of any kind of a cloned ministry model that's described in this website's criticism.

Usually, the multisite discussion is all about reaching new people in new ways, contextualizing ministry for greater impact and trying to better impact a community or particular group of people. As I've listened to the discussion, multi-sites are primarily about building a new genuine faith community, connecting new people to faith in Christ and extending the Kingdom by sharing capable leadership in multiple worship venues. For someone to criticize those objectives seems misplaced.

But to question only padding numbers, franchising the gospel or a McMinistry style, creating new mega-churches for a preacher's super ego - I'd agree with those concerns. But the only people I hear talking that way are the critics of the multi-site strategy.

To be honest, I don't like Starbucks' coffee. I do like the potentials of the multi-site strategy. I'm not sure where that leaves the two of us. Maybe I can meet you at Cracker Barrel or Denneys for a cup of coffee and we can talk more about this - when our schedules permit. Just don't make me go to Starbucks.

By the way, this analogy really breaks down in comparing Starbucks to multi-sites - they're two totally different operations with different objectives. But we can talk more about that later.

I'd be interested in your responses to these "from the hip" responses. Email me back when you can and let's get together to talk about it.

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