The number one reason for pursuing the increasingly popular multi-site strategy is evangelism, not bigger attendance numbers, say church pastors who are at the forefront of the multi-site movement.
"Really for us, it's absolutely just about lost people. It's not like 'let's all be seeker sensitive.' This generation, they want to hear the truth," said John Bishop, pastor of Living Hope Church in Vancouver, Wash.
A multi-site church can be described as one church that meets in multiple locations – also called campuses. Most engage in live, on-site preaching and many engage in video satellite preaching – where a pastor's sermons are broadcasted from one church location to the other campuses. Each multi-site location typically has their own live worship music and most meet in a school, restaurant or mall.
Living Hope Church currently draws thousands of attendants to campuses in three states – Washington, Oregon and Hawaii – plus an online campus, according to its campus directory. The Vancouver church is also expanding internationally to the Philippines, Cabo San Lucas and New Zealand.
"We're not doing it for numbers," Bishop said Tuesday during a teleconference. Just as Bishop was "revolutionized" by Christ and became an "accidental pastor," he wants ministry to be about reaching that one person.
"If you're pursuing multi-site just to grow, that's a real bad way to do it," he said, encouraging pastors who want to pursue multi-site to first determine why they want to take that road.
Bishop will be speaking at one of three "Multi-Site Exposed" conferences, which are being sponsored by Leadership Network, this year. The event will feature pastors who will uncover successful strategies to building multi-site churches. The first "Exposed" conference is scheduled for Apr. 14-15 at Mars Hill Church in Seattle.
Mars Hill Church founder Mark Driscoll hopes to answer "the why" of multi-site churches – including why it's biblical and historical – in a theological and apologetic discussion at the April event. Driscoll, who opened a sixth campus this past Sunday, said he fears if that question isn't answered soon, many will perceive the multiple campuses strategy as being all about numbers.
He says the multi-site strategy is a "biblically acceptable and culturally adaptable way" of accomplishing the mission of reaching as many people as they can.
Dave Browning, pastor of Christ the King Community Church in Burlington, Wash., hopes to see a major movement with multi-site churches.
The Burlington pastor is slated to speak in Seattle about the multi-site church as an "organic relational movement" instead of an "institutional attractional ministry."
"What I'm praying for is more of a movement," Browning commented. "We need to insatiate this culture with Christ." And an institutional approach isn't going to accomplish that, he added.
Dispelling commonly held perceptions about multi-site churches, the three pastors scheduled to speak in Seattle said the strategy is not just about breaking out of the box, is not just another model to replicate, is not another ministry, and does not serve as an overflow.
Going multi-site also isn't a mere extension of ministry but rather an overhaul of ministry, Driscoll said.