In last week's post, I reviewed Multi-Site Church Road Trip. Today, we're part of a"blog tour" with authors Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, and Warren Bird. Continue reading this (and the next two posts) for three questions I had about multi-site churches and the authors' responses.
Question: I continue to wonder how much of the multi-site phenomenon is personality-driven. You all have made it clear that some multi-site churches do not use video preaching. Healing Place Church (Baton Rouge) is a good example of a church with a very strong DNA that transcends the weekly teaching. But it seems that for the majority, and certainly the high profile multi-site churches, the senior pastor’s leadership is a huge part of their success. This raises two questions for me: Will the multi-site movement continue to be driven by highly gifted communicators with big visions? If so, this has major implications for the many churches and pastors that fall short of this description. Second, you said that multi-site will help smooth out the typically rough transition of long-time pastors facing retirement. I would think that this is only true if they have clearly and carefully developed a successor, and I wonder how often this is the case. It’s possible for someone to be a very good back-up teaching pastor (or part of the team) and a capable lieutenant, but not be ready to step up into the first chair.
Response: I (Geoff) echo your concerns about the personality driven church, but I would expand it to the church in general. I think that many successful (and unsuccessful) churches around the world revolve around the personality of the lead pastor. Apparently this was a problem in the New Testament church as well, as Paul addressed people lining up behind their favorite communicator rather than simply following Christ. Let me take your questions one at a time.
First, will the multi-site movement continue to be driven by highly gifted communicators with big visions? I think the answer would be a qualified yes. I think every movement is led by gifted communicators with a big vision. From the Apostle Paul onward, big leaders have always been effective in communicating huge visions. The reality is that those of us who are less gifted will always be impacted by those who are more gifted. The advantage of multi-site is that we can work together as partners rather than in some kind of competition. Many campus pastors are not highly gifted communicators, but are amazing leaders who are able to have a bigger impact because of their connection with leaders who have unique communication and visionary gifts.
Your second question is about succession planning. This is a huge question for all churches, but is certainly magnified for a multi-site church using video teaching. Many churches use a team teaching approach which greatly lessens the reliance on one primary voice. Preparing a second teacher or second in command for succession in a multi-site church is similar as for any church: not everyone is ready for the task. For churches who only utilize one primary speaker through video teaching I believe succession is a major issue.