Answering Multi-Site Criticisms:  Multi-Site Churches Don’t Value Teaching Gifts

Orginally published on Thursday, June 05, 2008 at 7:37 AM
by Todd Rhoades

Greg Surratt writes, "I thought it might be of interest to address some frequent criticisms of multi-site churches. Questions are good...they force us to examine what we do in light of scripture and culture. Over the next few posts I'll try to address them with what we're learning from our six years in this crazy way of doing church.

Criticism #1: Multi-site churches don't produce preachers and teachers.

The concern stems from the concept that many multi-site churches leverage the teaching gift of one gifted teacher across various geographic locations...thereby not providing opportunities for young or new emerging teachers and preachers to develop their gifts.

Here's how we handle that at Seacoast Church:

--We have a primary teaching team
Several years ago I decided that the only way for me to keep my sanity (the small portion that remains), stay healthy, and keep the church from relying too heavily on one voice, was to create a weekend teaching team.  We currently have 5 active members of the team.  The way it works for us is this; one person does the teaching at all the services on any given weekend at our Long Point location.  That in turn is videoed and viewed at our off-site locations the next weekend.  For us, this is one of the primary things that ties us together as a church - we are all hearing the same message...discussing it in groups, responding to what God is saying to us as a church.  I do between 55-60% of the weekends.

--We have secondary teaching teams
In addition to the weekends, we have secondary teaching opportunities that include: student ministries, young adult ministries, retreats, and special events.  Each of these have teaching teams that function similar to our weekend experience.  A newer teacher can cut their teach in an environment smaller than a weekend gathering.

--We do initial message planning together
For our weekend experience we do initial message planning together every Monday at 10:00am.  Some pastors are scheduled by nature and plan their messages out months in advance (Andy Stanley, Bill Hybels, etc).  Others are normal like me and have little of the organizational gift, work better on a tight deadline (a procrastinators motivator), and can only see what is coming in the current week...so I show up Monday morning with a clean sheet of paper, a preachers hangover, and a hope that the Holy Spirit will breath on the assigned scriptures that week...and with a faint (actually a very real) fear that I have exhausted all ability to say anything helpful the previous weekend.  We invite our primary teaching team, some of our secondary teams, and selected others to the meeting to help whoever is on that weekend think through the passage.  Occasionally visiting pastors or interested church goers ask if they can be a part of the process...which ratchets up the pressure to produce...but we almost always open the meeting to people who ask...with the requirement that they contribute, not just watch.  Actually its a lot of fun and God usually gives us insite that we couldn’t get on our own.  Just the process helps speakers in training get the hang of how you put a message together.

Greg has some other ideas that they use at Seacoast that you can read over at his blog… check it out.

And, I’d love to hear any comments you might have on his post!  What do you think?

Oh, and you can hear Greg speak more about Multi-site (along with Mark Batterson, Dino Rizzo, and the staffs of Seacoast, National Community Church, and Healing Place Church at the upcoming Multi-site Exposed Conference this fall in South Carolina.

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  There are 6 Comments:

  • Posted by

    Good stuff here.  I think they have thought this through well.  I also think there are a ton of pastors out there who would rather not teach every week.  They love leading, shepherding, administrating but teaching is not high on their list of gifts or passions.  I have actually sat through many of those sermons wishing someone with the gift to teach was teaching and my hunch is so have you. 

    I also think that as long as we pigeon hole teaching as pulpit ministry we do much more harm to people gifted as teachers than multi-site could ever (not that I think it does.)

    The body of Christ is gifted with teaching but has been so small minded as to the expression of that gift, people cannot for the life of them see how to use that gift except as a pastor, small group teacher or Sunday school teacher. 

    Finally I say it is a straw man argument anyway.  If there were 40,000 or 50,000 multisite churches in this country we might have an argument but there are not.  A couple thousand at best.  This is so not a real issue in the body of Christ, lets not make it one.

  • Posted by Brian L.

    John Piper also has a multi-campus church where his messages are broadcast.

    I wonder if the multi-site bashers would say that John Piper has sold out to the culture and is not producing teachers and preachers?

    It should be noted that he has a Bible institute at the church and it will be an accredited institution soon.  So even if he does the lion’s share of the preaching and teaching at the services, he is bringing ample opportunities for others to learn, preach, and teach.


  • Posted by Randy Ehle

    This isn’t one of my biggest concerns about the multi-site format, but I really appreciate Greg’s clear explanations and Seacoast’s apparent passion for developing teachers.  I was wondering the other day about the possibility of collaborative message preparation, so it was encouraging to hear about that being done.  I think my bigger concern is about the video delivery format - is it really needed?  If Seacoast (or others) are so intentional about collaborating in the message prep and developing teachers, couldn’t there be multiple teachers out delivering substantially the same message, yet personally and from their own experience?  I know we live in a video world (I’m not that old, for heaven’s sake!), but it still seems to me that listening to and looking at a live person is more impactful...or at least more engaging.  (Yes, there is a difference between watching someone walk around on a 9x12 screen vs. a 20x25 stage.  Podium huggers would be even more challenging on video than they tend to be live!)

  • Posted by Abaddon

    I love gifts for teachers!

  • Posted by

    Man, after reading the post from surratts’ site I love it, the discription of getting together, hammering it out on monday!  What a positive way to get past the blues of the day.  Preaching it to the team on thursday?  receiving their feedback and then correcting the issues, I love the openess, the give and take, the real time real life realness. If a Lead guy was strong enough to build this kind of relationship with the overall team of teachers and prospective teachers; what a model!  This seems to me to not just be a group of “I believe in the imprtance of preaching” but people who are willing to step out and make it important.  I hope that I can be a part of a team like that.

  • Posted by

    I think the way they’re doing it at Seacoast in innovative, creative and productive, but it’s only “a way” of doing it that works well for them.
    We are launching our first two multi-site campuses in Jan. 09 and the expected criticisms are already being voiced, especially locally.
    My prayer is that the multi-site community will not get into a posture of defending the multi-site model like we did(and continue)to defend the “contemporary praise and worship” model.
    If God is leading your church to go multi-site, just do it, and don’t waste the time trying to defend it. If it pleases God it doesn’t need defending.
    With that said, Greg’s blog was excellent “response"(not defense)of a legitimate and relevant question, but I hope that I don’t begin to see blogs defending mulit-site pop up all over our networks!

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