2006 was a difficult year for our church. We'd been beyond capacity in our current facility for years, which meant we'd had to worship in four, five, or even six worship services—which strained both staff and congregation. Further, with our church situated in a residential neighborhood, we didn't have enough parking spaces. Too frequently, visitors would drive into our parking lot, see nowhere to park, and turn around and leave.
We had long dreamed of expanding our current facility, with a large sanctuary and increased parking, so that we could worship altogether as a church family and have more room to be welcoming. But our neighbors were horrified at our expansion plans. Then, the budget for the plan came back at an overwhelming number. And on top of this, there were some tough staff transitions.
So, in 2006, we had to scrap our dream. But out of this, the Lord gave us a new vision and an exciting opportunity. What if we went multi-site? When we looked at the geographic make-up of our church, we realized we were a regional church, not a local one. Further, being at capacity in our current building meant it was easy to not be evangelistic because the church was already full!
But multi-site would challenge us to be more of a local church and to be more evangelistic. We would have campuses with empty seats all over our area. Our people would no longer be saying, "Would you come to church with me 30 minutes away?" Instead, they would be able to say, "My church is right nearby … "
Everything was making sense, except for one thing: preaching.
Our senior pastor is beloved by our congregation. So while we were excited to become a multi-site church, no one wanted to "lose" him as the preacher at their campus. Yet going all-video all-the-time didn't seem to align with our theological understanding of preaching. On top of this, our senior pastor is beloved, in part, because he is the opposite of a celebrity preacher—a humble, faithful servant. We didn't want to create a celebrity culture with video preaching, yet we didn't want to "lose" him at each campus either.
Video in transition
One of the things I've come to love about congregational governance is that it often forces the staff and elders to find middle ground or unique ways of doing things, rather than simply taking an "either-or" approach. And that's what happened with our preaching.
As we prayed and sought the Lord's wisdom and listened to the congregation we realized that we didn't have to take an "either-or" approach to preaching. We didn't have to choose between live preaching all the time at every campus or live preaching at one campus with video everywhere else. We could do some of both.
Our senior pastor realized he didn't have unlimited years to give to our church, and so he was already thinking of the next generation of preachers. "What happens when I'm gone? What if something happens to me?" he asked. A back injury he suffered during this time, which temporarily put him out of the pulpit, forced us to take these questions far more seriously than we might have otherwise.
So, after much prayer and discussion, we decided to use video in transition. Rather than making video the long-term solution for our campuses, we saw video as a way to make the transition we needed to make.
When we took our baby steps into multi-site in 2008, we had two campuses, and the new one had video almost exclusively. This was great for those early days because it was a lot of work just getting this new campus off the ground. They moved from worshiping in an established church with its own well-developed facility to worshiping in a high school. They were stretching themselves both in the amount of time they were giving to help start this new campus and also in the new evangelistic emphasis to which we were calling them. So, in the midst of this time of being stretched, they loved having the preaching of their senior pastor every week—even though it was on video.