October 22, 2007

Virtual Presence and the Multi-site Movement

Despite my fear of being labeled a multi-site hater (again!), I am going to post this because I think it causes us to ask some important questions. These questions remind us that every medium we choose affects the message we are trying to send.


I just want to ask the question, "How does our medium affect our message?"

I know many people who "attend" church in front of a tele-evangelist or TV preacher or in nature. The problem with this is that they are disconnected from a community. They have reduced the worship (if they really do worship) to nothing more than their receiving. There is no serving. There is no wrestling to "get along" with other people in the community. There is no accountability.

We also know that, while not inherently evil, different mediums of communication affect the way a message is delivered and even the message itself. The ability to write changed the way messages are communicated and changed the art of story-telling forever. The internet has changed the way people read.

Here is an article about changing from a real presence to a virtual presence in the pulpit. The article writer is speaking specifically to the preaching pastor, and their role in being connected to the people to whom they are preaching. Multi-sites really only work if there is a site pastor, so there is a real presence to care for the people. My take on this is that the person preaching must be connected to actual people, and cannot and should not be just a preacher.

What do you think?


  1. Good post, Eric. I must admit though, I am a multi-site hater, for the very reasons articulated in the article to which you provided the link. When I think of multi-site preaching (with a non-preaching pastor on-site), it reminds me of the Holodeck on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Oh, it all seems so real... it brings out the emotional and it appears to bring out the physical stimuli... but there is something inherently hollow about a projected image... it lacks presence... it lacks wholeness... it lacks the very essence of humanity, which is hard to describe but can be felt in our spirit. Somehow knowledge that a projected image is a surreal sham of reality seems obvious on a science fiction television show, but not in God's house. I think the author of the article said it best when he compared the two words projection and incarnation. No matter how you slice it, projection is merely a digital, mass-communication imitation, and incarnation is a sometimes painful but always authentic human presence. What's next... virtual baptisms? Virtual Communion? How about pastoral projection weddings, or Holodeck funerals?

    Frankly, the idea of multi-site church is a thoroughly modern, empire-building tactic of the church growth movement... and by and large... in my humble opinion... it sucks.

  2. I think it a continuation of the compartmentalization society has inflicted upon us, and unfortunately instead of being a catalyst of change, the church has decided to just accept it.

    The gradual shift started when churches started getting so big that you don't have any idea about the person who stands behind that pulpit from week to week. We are supposed to walk in relationship, and if you don't know that you can trust the person preaching with your life, what good is it? How can iron sharpen iron if it is only one direction? You can't.

    When I started to see men become "pulpit" preachers, people who were hard to get to know, or even find... my heart started to ache.

    I've even been admonished for wanting to personally know my leadership. I'm sorry, but if I am going to trust my spiritual life to these men and women, I WANT TO KNOW THEM. Period.

    Anymore I don't have time for relationships that are about being part of an audience.

    My pastors need to be a part of my family. If they aren't, they aren't my pastors. They are public speakers I don't really know, and that feeds into the media driven society that we shouldn't be emulating in God's house.