Slate magazine has an article here on multi-site churches that are being set up by some of the megachurches around the country. I see some problems with this way of "doing church".
First, in these churches the video venues are set up in order for people who live in another area to hear one particular pastor preach. This can create a celebrity status that some of these men will not be able to handle. How many times have we seen leaders of large congregations or "ministries" fall to temptations brought about by being famous and powerful.
The second problem is the lack of opportunity for people to plant churches in areas and be the instrument God uses to have an impact on the community. With the video churches, anyone new coming into an area may have to "compete" with the nationally known preacher who is on the screen down the block.
The first two problems are not insumountable, and in some areas may not even be problems at all, but the third problem I see is one that is far more serious.
The franchising of megachurches and their pastors helps to perpetuate the wrong idea that the "main event" on Sunday morning is church. Too many still believe the old Sunday school song about church and see "church" as a place you go to. This place may be an old, ornate building with a steeple, or it may be a movie theater. It may be a school gymnasium or it may even be a coffee shop or pub. The type of place doesn't matter, they still see church as a place to go on Sunday.
While you are at church you sit and sing a few songs, and then are entertained by the speaker. I have heard it said that the prefered type of entertainment in our churches is the pastor's sermon. You may be inspired. You may be challenged. You may even be moved to action. But looking at the spiritual state of our churches today, how many are being changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ?
In every place the word church appears in Scripture, the idea is that of a group of people, not a building or location. The church is not seen as something you go to, but rather as something you are a part of. To steal Paul's analogy of the church as a body, how well would your physical body function if the arms, legs, etc. only came together once a week to do what you do? I would guess not a whole lot would be accomplished. The parts of your physical body need to be together all the time in order for you to carry out the things you do day-to-day. In the same way, how can we expect the church to carry out the mission of God in advancing his Kingdom if we only get together once, or even three times, a week to sit and hear someone talk. We need to be making disciples of the Rabbi, followers of the true King. The only way this is going to get done is if we get out of the four walls of "church" and realize that we are the church. We need to do what Jesus and the original twelve did, and go to those in need and give them the good news that there is a better way, a way that leads to an abundant, free, eternal life. I fear that a church franchise will do little more than shuffle sheep from church to church.
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