Neil Cole, of Church Multiplication Associates (and author of several books) recently weighed in on the multi-site church phenomenon over at his website. I think what Neil has to say about the phenomenon is absolutely fascinating, partly because he seems to be arguing for a network of house churches, and against multi-site churches. I found from the few that I studied that ecclesiologically they are practically the same, so I’m not sure what all the fuss is about on that point. I’ll make that argument in a subsequent post (if I haven’t already).
One claim that Cole makes that is flat-out wrong is that all multi-site churches have one centralized headquarters, out of which they operate. The multi-site church that I studied actually was in the process of decentralizing away from that model. They were moving from a “server” type of configuration, where all of the resources came from one central location, to more of a network with multiple hubs. I’m not sure how that has gone for them, but I know they were certainly aware of the issues around centralization and they were working on decentralizing.
That being said, Cole does make a pretty good critique of the movement as a whole. I agree with him that centralization in a network or group of churches should be avoided. I also share his dislike of video sermons. The article, however, kind of devolves at the end into a critique of all things megachurch. I think Cole seems to be equating the multi-site church phenomenon exclusively with megachurches. I know that this is not true at all for the multi-site church I studied, where the pastor himself purposefully did not want to set out to make a bunch of megachurches. I also know that there are churches of many different sizes that are multi-site churches – not just megachurches.
Geoff Surratt, guru of all things multi-site, responded to Neil Cole on his blog, and Neil Cole joined in the conversation as well. It’s a good read. I think if both of them got in the same room together and had a conversation they would find that they have much more in common than they have differences.