Multi-site the Low-tech Way
Why video venues should be a last resort.

Evergreen, our small church here in Portland, Oregon, has just gone multi-site. But not video venue.

We started in a pub in southwest Portland, outgrew that space, and moved to another pub across town. Outgrowing that one, we moved up to yet another pub in northwest Portland. Yes, we are the church on a pub crawl. When things got crowded there, we knew we had some decisions to make.

Our goal has always been multi-faceted. First and foremost, we want to see people come to and come back to Jesus. That implies growth. Second, our worship gatherings are highly interactive. We never want to lose the dialogical vibe in our teaching. Third, knowing that, according to statistics, people are reached best by newer (under 10 years old) and smaller congregations (as they grow from 100 to 200), our ultimate goal has been planting.

For various reasons, we're not quite ready to plant another separate community. So what to do? Consistent with the greatest number of our values, we invited some Evergreeners to start another worship gathering in one of our previous pub spaces. We're now one church in two locations. One or two more gatherings like that, and I think we'll have reached a size at which we'll have the people and resources to start planting churches around Portland.

So why didn't we do what many growing, multi-site communities are doing and pipe my teaching all around town and beyond? Here are a few reasons:

1. We believe good things happen when worship is kept small and interactive. We want people to be able to talk to one another and to the one who is teaching them. We also want things kept at a size where people can know one another and be known by those teaching them.

Some say that video venues are no different from a large service where parishioner number 3254 has to sit in the 50th row and watch the whole thing on the big screen anyway. It's not like she can raise her hand and ask a question. It's not like the one teaching knows who she is anyway... Exactly. To me, video venues simply magnify what's already a problem of megachurches.

2. Many advocates of video venues say there simply aren't enough church planters and talented teachers to go around. And my response is that in a video venue world, there never will be. Pursued as a large scale strategy, video venues will inevitably lead to fewer and fewer gifted and experienced lay and vocational preachers. The gift of preaching - already suffering from over-professionalization - will become ever more the work of the celebrity.

August 05, 2008