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    More on Satellite Services & Multi-Site Churches

    Welcome to the electronic church, live via satellite.

    In the time of reality TV, perhaps it's no surprise that fast-growth churches increasingly use cameras to put their pastors in two places - or three or four or more - at the same time.

    Some do it to relieve crowding or reach a wider geographical area; others see it as a way to offer more worship styles under one roof, said Scott Thumma, a researcher of megachurch trends at Hartford Institute of Religion Research in Connecticut.

    The number of churches beaming pastors from one location to another is unknown, but 22 percent of 153 megachurches surveyed in 1999 said they had satellite campuses, Thumma said.

    The trend concerns traditionalists such as Ole Anthony, the president of the Trinity Foundation, a religious watchdog group in Dallas.

    "Do you lay your hands on the screen for fellowship?" asked Anthony, who criticizes megachurches as bastions of amusement and anonymity.

    On the other hand, researcher Thumma said, satellite services merely reflect what already occurs in most large worship settings.

    "Even if you're in the main sanctuary, chances are you're not going to be watching the pastor at the pulpit anyway," he said. "Your attention is going to be focused on the large screens because you can't really see the pastor if you're in a gathering of 4,000."

    On a recent Sunday, Groeschel appeared on the big screens at's south Oklahoma City campus sporting shorts, a T-shirt and a Los Angeles Dodgers cap.

    Introducing a study of the apostle Paul's epistle to Philemon, he walked through a leafy neighborhood to a mailbox, where he pulled out a letter just like the one contained in the New Testament.

    When the taped segment gave way to the live portion of the message, Groeschel showed up in a dark shirt and slacks - but only on the video screens.

    The 450 or so jeans-clad worshippers watching in a converted storefront didn't seem to mind that the pastor delivered the sermon from 20 miles away.

    "In my opinion, it makes not one bit of a difference at all," said Eric Urbach, a 32-year-old attorney making his third visit to the church. "In fact, it's kind of a nice thing that I can see him up close."

    Urbach's friend, Amy Chilvers, 34, added: "You're still getting the live music and the interaction with the other people who facilitate the service. So, to me, it's not an issue."

    At North Coast Church in Vista, Calif., north of San Diego, worshippers choose from four simultaneous "worship venues" at the church's main location on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings.

    "North Coast Live" offers preaching in person by Pastor Larry Osborne, along with a full worship band and Starbucks coffee. A separate "Video Cafe" presents a more acoustic style of worship, again with Starbucks coffee but with Osborne's sermon by video.

    A third venue, called "The Edge," features what the church Web site describes as "a slightly more cutting edge atmosphere with full band worship," along with "Mountain Dew, big subwoofers and teaching via big-screen video."

    Other options include a Saturday night "Country Gospel" service ("Y'all come on over," the Web site says) and a Sunday morning "Traditions" service with a baby grand piano and a mix of classic hymns and contemporary worship choruses. Each venue gets the same video sermon by Osborne, often a recorded DVD to allow more flexibility in individual services.

    "You tell me what music you play and I tell you who comes to your church. So we reach more people than we ever could with a one-size-fits-all approach," said Osborne, whose church draws 5,700 worshippers each weekend to its "central hub" and four satellite locations within a 35-minute drive.

    In Oklahoma City, Groeschel, 37, said he stumbled on the video format when his wife delivered the fourth of their six children on a Sunday morning in 2001.

    By then, - known for its ear-piercing praise band and Groeschel's real-life sermon illustrations - had already grown to several thousand people at two locations. Groeschel had preached twice that Saturday night.

    "I was holding my little son and asking, 'Who's going to fill in for the day?'" Groeschel said. "Someone said, 'Hey, why don't we roll video from the night before?' We did and it worked great. There was almost no difference."

    Four years later, has 130 ministers and staff members and serves a combined 13,000 people each weekend, with two locations in Oklahoma City and one each in Tulsa, Stillwater and Edmond. And in September, plans to take the concept to two new campuses in the Phoenix area, more than 1,000 miles away.

    Here’s an additional article on multi-sites… this one written by the Religion News Service:  Most weekends, Craig Groeschel preaches at 23 services in five church locations across Oklahoma.  His schedule isn’t quite as busy as it sounds, though. The founder of, a nontraditional church, Groeschel delivers only five of the messages in person. Technology takes care of the rest…

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    1. Geoff Surratt on Tue, July 19, 2005

      I don’t see how this could ever work…

    2. bernie dehler on Tue, July 19, 2005

      Great… Church franchises…. just like McDonalds or Starbucks…

      How sad…


    3. Michael McCarthy on Wed, July 20, 2005

      Using technology for this purpose is great.  This is especially true since we are all so used to watching TV.

      I hope these churches are also using this technology to send their sermons to missionaries, retirement homes, nursing homes, and other locations that might support satellite venues.

      We hope the results will be more time for the pastors to spend one-on-one with people needing personnal attention.  If not that then training ministers that are devoted to meeting with each one of the believers that watch the sermons.

    4. bernie dehler on Wed, July 20, 2005

      Article says:

      “Some do it to relieve crowding or reach a wider geographical area; others see it as a way to offer more worship styles under one roof, said Scott Thumma, a researcher of megachurch trends at Hartford Institute of Religion Research in Connecticut.”

      It’s distressing to me that so many people can’t see right thru this and see the Pastor’s purpose of personal kingdom building.  It’s basically a cult-building technique.  If you can’t get them all on the same campus, or want to expand beyond that, then develop a satellite office where they can view your message, because, you know, no one can do it like you.  There’s no other highly trained ministers available to teach the local church.  Forget about the people on this website looking for a job… they just can’t compare to the awesomeness of the video Pastor, who is also cheaper and more economical, by the way.


      Why are all the articles about this one-sided and positive? Why not any critique?  Why no balance? It’s very unhealthy.



    5. Gerry on Wed, July 20, 2005

      I find your comments, Bernie, very ironic given the fact that you run a website that encourages us to access any number of Christian radio programs.  What is the difference between a pastor using video and a pastor using radio to get their message out?  I could as easily argue that a lot of radio preachers are driven by their egos.  I sense that underneath your diatribe is a lot of anger that may have nothing to do with video preachers.

    6. Ricky on Wed, July 20, 2005

      Gerry asks:

      “What is the difference between a pastor using video and a pastor using radio to get their message out?”


      Preachers on radio are providing their services to any who would listen at no cost.

      Preachers on video seek to corral as many people who wish to hear them and support them financially, which is pitched at these so-called “sattelite ‘churches’.”

      In other words, one does so freely without guaranteed support.  The other does so only when there is.


    7. Todd Rhoades on Wed, July 20, 2005


      Unfair.  I’ve heard radio preachers solicit funds quite regularly at the ends of their programs; and at the same time, never heard an unusual push for funds at any of the multi-site churches I’ve attended.

      Couldn’t the same thing be said about radio preachers as video preachers?  Why do they need to be on the radio?  Don’t they think there are good local preachers that can do a good job? Instead of spending thousands of dollars buying radio airtime, why don’t they take their time and money to train up leaders?  No… they’re just in it for the ego and the popularity, and the money.  (I’m being totally sarcastic here… but that’s what’s been said about multi-sites).  From my experience, it just couldn’t be further from the truth.


      Satellite churches are no different than one-site churches when it comes to finances from what I have seen.  There is a difference between a multi-site church and a tv program. 

      Be careful with your comments Ricky.  I just deleted your last one that had to do with me ‘catering to people who purchase my services’.  You’re over the line (once again).  Please stop or you’ll need to leave.




    8. BeHim on Wed, July 20, 2005

      I would argue Gerry, that you’re angry because you disagree with Bernie as your “diatribe” has nothing to do with the article just your ranting about how wrong one individual is for voiceing his opinion on the article.

      The Article:

      I love that Todd posts these articles because like he said, it “instigates”. but that is what we are here to do (Iron on Iron).  Get these things out and discuss them over Scripture.

      I would only add about the article that what is the “content” of the message.  I would really like to know what Gospel is being preached.

      I’ve asked to discuss on THIS blog, a VERY simple and basic core belief/teaching of Christianity/The Word:

      What is THE Gospel? and Are there other gospels out there? (if so, what are they - examples).


      I think the “battle” if I could use this word is in discussing the content of the messages.

      I very much like video and audio presentations and believe they can reach multitudes with The Gospel and Teaching BUT these things shouldn’t replace Study and Prayer for the individual and I definately would say get rid of the WOF teachers on the TV (it is these false teachers that are giving us the “black eyes” in Christianity).

      So there is good and bad that use these methods but what are they saying.  Has what they say been tested with Scripture?


    9. Ricky on Wed, July 20, 2005


      “Unfair. I’ve heard radio preachers solicit funds quite regularly at the ends of their programs; and at the same time, never heard an unusual push for funds at any of the multi-site churches I’ve attended.”

      No, it’s not unfair at all.

      Sure, we’ve all heard radio preachers beg for money but what I said in my earlier post is correct in that they can only hope that: 1) someone is listening, and 2) that those who may be listening will give.

      The satellite “church” is far better off in that: 1) they have their audience incapsulated within a structure, and 2) they get to seek funds face-to-face with their audience through passing the plate or through teaching tithing, et al, thus guaranteeing a much larger take than the radio preacher.

      So, there is a huge difference between the two.


    10. Todd Rhoades on Wed, July 20, 2005


      Sorry, but your reasoning just doesn’t make sense to me here.  Seems like you justify the radio preacher ‘begging for money’ because:

      1.  no one might listen

      2.  if someone is listening, they don’t have to give.

      But when the multi-site pastor ‘begs for money’ it’s not ok cause


      1.  they have a building (not sure what difference that makes)

      2.  they can pass a plate (so…)

      They’re still doing the same thing.

      It’s not about multi-sites; video venues, tv preachers, megachurches, tithing, church buildings, money, or innovation for you (cause you’re against them all). 




    11. Todd Rhoades on Wed, July 20, 2005


      You said, “It’s distressing to me that so many people can’t see right thru this and see the Pastor’s purpose of personal kingdom building. It’s basically a cult-building technique.”

      Again, that’s just unfair.  Do you know any multi-site pastors?  Have you ever attended a multi-site church? 

      I’ve sat one-on-one with a very prominent multi-site pastor and I can tell you that what you said could not be farther from the truth.  It is just not the case from those that I’ve come into contact with.

      I know it’s hard for some to comprehend, but many multi-site churches have one question they are asking:  “How can we reach more people for Jesus?”  And the multi-site format is working to do exactly this in many places.  It’s a model.  It’s not perfect.  And it’s not for everyone.  But to say it’s all ego driven is not only unfair, but undeserved.




    12. Todd Rhoades on Wed, July 20, 2005


      The multi-sites that I am talking about preaching one gospel:  and that is the gospel of Christ.  Each multi-site that I’ve discussed; that I’ve worked with; or attended personally is preaching Christ.

      As I said before in another post on another subject… obviously you think that we’re talking about these churches preaching another gospel; and if that is true; then you think we’re not a part of the kingdom.  If that’s the case, then let’s part ways here… that way it will end both of our frustration and allow us to get on with the work that we feel God has called each of us to.



    13. Todd Rhoades on Wed, July 20, 2005

      OK… one more post before I hit the pillow.

      For those of you who have followed this post (or those of you who have been faithful readers of this blog) you know that I’ve spent way too much time defining what this blog is about and defending myself from the disagreement and arguing of a few individuals.  I’ve reached a few conclusions:

      1.  Some of us will not ever agree on some topics this side of heaven.

      2.  Those who disagree with the direction and topics on this blog tend to take away from it’s purpose and goals (being that of a safe place to discuss ministry matters without being taken down the same path over and over again; or worse yet, attacked and humiliated).


      3.  I’ve spent way too much time defending myself and my beliefs here.  And, to be honest, we’ve pretty much come full circle in that we discuss and argue with the same people on the same things over and over.  I just simply don’t have time for that and won’t be able to be drawn in to those type of discussions here.  It’s just not a valuable use of my time.


      4.  While I had hoped the rules would help keep people more in line; they haven’t worked as well as I’d hoped they would (although there is a vast improvement).  So, starting now, I’ll be previewing all comments and approving them before they are posted on the blog. 

      Sorry to have to go this direction, but it just has to be done.

      I like a lively discussion just as well as the next guy; but I don’t like it when every topic (no matter what it is) ends up in the same place.  So hopefully this will end this problem.  If I find that things improve and that the focus is more in the direction I’m comfortable with, then maybe we’ll be able to switch live commenting back on.  (I’m online most all day, so there won’t be a long delay with comments… they will just be monitored before they’re posted).


      I have a file folder full of fun and interesting things I’d like to post, but most all of them are things that have to do with things that I know have caused a stink here before.  (That’s why there haven’t been many posts this week).  As we move forward slowly, we’ll test things out together.  I’m always open to hear ideas from you on what you’d like to discuss here.  My hope is that we’ll be able to discuss these things and not get diverted.


      OK… enough for tonight.  Need to get some sleep.  Tomorrow’s a brand new day (that the Lord is making).  How great is that?!



    14. Jerry on Wed, July 20, 2005


      thank you! Everyday I look forward to reading the topics in this blog to learn but a few ends up taking it into their own direction. Looking forward for new topics.

      Keep up with the good work.

    15. kd on Wed, July 20, 2005

      Hang in there Todd you are doing a great service to the body of Christ here!Love you all! KD

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