18 April 2012

Phoning It In

by Frank Turk

After a great week in Louisville last week, I am deeply disappointed that the one event at T4G I wanted to talk about -- namely, the Celebrity Pastor panel discussion -- is not yet available for download at the T4G web site. (at least: as I compose this post)

So until such a time as it becomes live, let me say this about that: one point which our new-found friend Dr. Carl Trueman made (I think: away from that panel, but during Q&A at his breakout session on the Reformation) was this, which is great food for thought.

In the realm of celebrity pastors, there is a phenomenon known as "multi-site".  That is: the preaching of the One Guy is beamed in from some Other Place, and the multiple sites are blessed with his gift of, well, ... if I say "speaking for God" at this point, it will sound abusive, so I'll say instead, his gift of speech.

Dr. Trueman's point was this: why is it that we commonly pipe in the preaching, but not the music?  That is: why is live music more important than a live preacher?  Does that say something about what we really think is the most important part of the common worship by God's people?

Discuss, and we'll have something more meaty next week.


Andrew Lindsey said...

I'm trying to think of how an advocate of "multi-site" might respond.

I suppose that they could argue that the preaching is *more* important, and that is why they must be more careful, as a total group, about who does the preaching: allowing more people to be involved in the music. But that response would seem to increase the idea of "celebrity" for the "One Guy." (And also be somewhat insulting to those involved in music!)

AminKor said...

perhaps worship leaders are easier to find than gifted speakers. you don't even have to be seriously trained to be a good musician -- every kid dreams of being a rock star. how many dream of being a pastor?

Robert Warren said...

Because many consider only the music to be THE worship, which betrays a disengagement, on their part, with the bringing of the Word.

dac said...

Having visited virtually 100% of the evangelical churches in my community (about a dozen), I can say that at best only 25% could be said to have pastors with the "gift of speech". So I am not sure exactly why the use of technology for that 25% is so bad, compared to what the other 75% is doing (badly).

I would also note that the ratio of musicians to pastors has to be at least 1000 to 1, if not more. At my kids HS of 2000, at least 500 are orcdorks or choircultists, with many of them quite good. They have been practicing their craft since pre-teen years.

Kids practicing their "gift of speech" since being pre-teens? - not so much.

Should TeamPyro restrict itself to letter writing only, which we then could hand copy and pass around? Or should you utilize technology to maximize your "gift of speech?" Discuss.

Robert said...


Do you understand that a pastor is supposed to shepherd the flock and not just stand up and deliver a message? How does that work for multi-site pastors? Why instead don't these men do as Paul told Timothy to do...train up men to continue in the work of pastoring. I guess that takes too much work...just like it is too hard to follow the Biblical model that Paul gave Timothy and Titus for identifying men qualified to be elders/pastors. Instead, just go find some guy who has a huge following and mentor them.

And quit trying to equate blogging to pastoring...they are not the same by any means.

dac said...


Thanks for attacking me rather than responding to any of my points.

Any large church (single or multi site) will have multiple pastors. No single pastor, once a church gets over 200-300, can truly "pastor" his flock without assistance. If you want to argue that churches should stay small, thats one thing. But once a church gets larger, they need multiple staff. Unless, you know, Phil is totally not needed at Grace.....

donsands said...

"..why is it that we commonly pipe in the preaching, but not the music?"

RC Sproul was beamed in this year, wasn't he?

I don't think the beaming in thing says a whole lot.

It's just another thing we do in the body of Christ to emcourage one another, and use are gifts in order to please our Lord, and edify the Church.

Unless I'm missing the whole point, which is very possible. My mind seems to be fading away. If any would ask our Lord to bless my mind I'd appreciate it.

All for our Savior's glory and the Cross. Gal. 6:14

Doug Hibbard said...

I'd take it along the same lines as Andrew: does it show a disparagement of music? After all, anybody can do that...

As far as a "live preacher:" many churches would be better off than they are right now with a dead preacher. Get someone to stand up and read a manuscript from Spurgeon, Whitfield, Luther (with translation)---and they'd get better preaching.

On the real topic: it reveals that bend toward entertainicalism that we have developed. We want our music live--after we used taped accompaniment to kill off use of live organists and pianists--so that it's responsive to our situation. The sermon, though, is a set-piece and can fit anywhere. How long before we see a church with multiple services just tape the first sermon and replay it for the next meeting?

DJP said...

...to which I added at dinner afterward, "...and equally why couldn't the 'worshipers' just beam in their own presence? Or have photographs put on their seats as they listened at home?"

BrettR said...

It is hard to get warm to a video fire.

Eric said...

"Gift of speach" and "able to teach" are not interchangeable. I've listened to a good number of Ministers of the Word who were not particularly gifted in rhetorical skills and could not hold a large audience seeking to be entertained, but boy, could they ever teach.

John Dunn said...

I don't necessarily think that a central teaching pastor being beamed to multi-site locations is unbiblical . . . so long as each site has it's own pastoral staff to shepherd the flock or small groups within their care. I don't see a specific Scriptural warrant for maintaining the view that the teaching pastor *must* also be everyone's specific shepherding pastor . . . unless of course you happen to maintain the view that the teaching pastor is Boss who should control everything/everyone.

Faith comes by hearing, not by shepherding. So if a man is particularly gifted by the Spirit at opening the Word and building the Body up in faith and love through his proclamation, then I don't see a problem for his gift to be broadcast far and wide, while the pastoring/shepherding is shared by other able men who are local to that site.

Eric said...

One particular weakness I would note about the "multi-site" model is the idea of knowing the needs, weaknesses, tendencies, etc. of your particulary congregation and preaching in light of that. All pastors that I have sat under have stressed the importance for themselves to know the congregation so that they can preach week-in, week-out in light of that knowledge. Of course, plenty of good sermons can be preached and received generally, without a relationship between preacher and hearer, but I question the wisdom of that as a permanent model.

will said...

Isn't TV programs showing a church's worship service the ultimate "multi-site" application? No one seems to have a problem with that.

If Jesus were preaching today, would we "beam" his talk to "multi-sites?". What about Spurgeon?

Seems to me that those who oppose these types of new methodolgies must answer the question of whether their love of tradition is the most important thing to them.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Frank - As a professional marketer I think the answer to your question in reality is that the celebrity One Guy is the Branded Product. The music, sites, etc are the means to deliver the Branded Product, and beaming in music would imply that there's something as important as hearing the Branded Product speak (which would be marketing anathema). In other words the music etc is a commodity, not a brand.

The One Guy is Tide detergent; the multiple sites are Walmart, Target, etc. Marketing 101.

Robert said...


I attacked you? Really? I just was responding to you suggesting that using technology to bring good preaching to churches who don't have good pastors. Sorry if that comes off as attacking you, but I was actually attacking your position because I don't think it is a good one.

And the main thing that I think people are missing here, too, is how is there any sense of accountability for a multi-site pastor? And that goes both ways...shouldn't the pastor be involved if there is church discipline? And shouldn't the pastor occasionally be preaching on certain issues that need to be addressed in the church? Isn't that a part of the pastor workign to shepherd the flock? How does that work with multi-site? There are plenty more issues, but those are definitely some main ones.

The thing is, I can't find any Biblical basis for multi-site pastoring. I can't even find an example of it. Paul left Titus in Crete to appoint elders in every town to lead each church...he left Timothy in Ephesus to lead the church there...not several area churches. Don't you think he would have been more worried about a lack of good preaching in those days than we are now? The social atmosphere was much worse back then than it is now.

I just don't get why we think that we have to work to make things easier all the time...why not work to make things more Biblical?

Frank Turk said...

I knew this post would start strong in the comments.

We'll see where this all goes. My opinion is that, as Dr. Trueman implied, we find out what we really value as worthy for worship when we make this comparison.

dac said...


Do you understand....

That there is no biblical prohibition on multi-site pastoring?

That in no way does going multi-site mean you don't have elders?

That multi-site churches have pastors in each location?

That all of your arguments apply equally to every large church, not just multi-site churches?

still waiting for you it respond to anything I actually said...

Frank Turk said...

Nash -

And thus we summarize what we think of the local church. Which I think turns out to be worse than even Dr. Trueman was actually driving at, and I'm afraid I agree with you.

Frank Turk said...

Dac --

You're going to lose this one badly if I find myself with an hour free at lunch.

Think harder about this subject.

Eric said...


When Jesus comes again, we won't have to "beam" Him anywhere; He'll take care of the beaming.

Ian said...

Would love to see the session that Trueman was part of, I'll probably will say amen to most of his points against multi-site.

AS far as the live music is concerned, I think the reason the innovators keep it live is so there can be participation in the singing. It would be pulling teeth to have a sing along with the crowd staring at the screen, being so removed from the real action. Which also says something on how they feel about preaching. It's really not important to be there for the live preaching and be part of the live action of preaching.

Someone mentioned RC Sproul being videoed in at T4g. This was not the original plan. It was used as a back up. Multi-site is an intenionally planned strategy. I have yet to hear a convincing argument to use muti-site as an intentional strategy.

Carl C. said...


why couldn't the 'worshipers' just beam in their own presence? Or have photographs put on their seats as they listened at home?"

Sadly it would seem this is the direction some intend to go, namely the folks at StreamingChurch.TV:

As to why the music is not being transmitted, I can't speak for multi-sites and their motivation. However, could this be in part a question of avoiding hassles with re-transmitting copyrighted music? I honestly don't know.

But I do see the multi-site strategy as a bad trend. In this polemically-titled article, I think Thabiti Anyabwile makes some pretty good points about idolatry, gifting and accountability. Favorite quote:
In that small church where the pastor is live, his life is visible and the accountability to the congregation far more achievable.... But [accountability]'s nigh unto impossible the farther the pastor gets away from the congregation he serves. I can't think of being farther away than being beamed in remotely.

DJP said...

Carl, I'm not as reflexively critical of "celebrity pastors" per se as some. But I can't imagine a scenario in which multi-site doesn't reek of egotism and hubris. Really? You are so indispensable that one church can't contain your immensity? 2 Tim. 2:2 not in your Bible? Pull your finger out of a glass of water, and it actually does leave a hole?Seriously.

Jay Beerley said...

I'm not sure if a commenter mentioned this (I wasn't really thorough in going through them) but allow me to interject this a couple of what I think are important questions:

Isn't the definition of preaching important here? Can you really be "preaching" to a generic audience? To the "out there?" Or shouldn't some sense of personal connection be a part of that? What about the Spirit led dynamic of watching the audience and responding if something you say obviously strikes a chord in them?

Doesn't the video screen imply that the "worship" (music) time is where you participate, but the preaching time is where you observe, like a movie? Just get lost in fantasy land, be entertained, etc. And I do think someone mentioned accountability. I think that's a big part of the moment of preaching, the grace imparted at a particular time and place to a particular people.

I love this discussion.

Frank Turk said...

Will asks:

Isn't TV programs showing a church's worship service the ultimate "multi-site" application? No one seems to have a problem with that.

There's no problem with listening to a message via podcast, video stream or TV. There's a problem pretending that's a substitute for Sunday worship joined together with the local church.

If Jesus were preaching today, would we "beam" his talk to "multi-sites?". What about Spurgeon?

I like it that we want to establish the "ought" of the local church on a hypothetical, a-biblical thought experiment. I'm sure that's exactly how Jesus expected us to run the church: on the answer to a "what-if" question which re-writes history and God's plan for all things.

To the example of Spurgeon, there's no problem with listening to a message via podcast, video stream or TV. There's a problem pretending that's a substitute for Sunday worship joined together with the local church.

Seems to me that those who oppose these types of new methodolgies must answer the question of whether their love of tradition is the most important thing to them.

Well, if what we're talking about is only new methods, you might be right. We're actually talking about dismantling the biblical formation and accountability of the local church. And in that case, you're not even asking the right questions.

David Regier said...

Church musician here.

I have gone five ways with this in the three hours since I first read it, and I'm not sure what I'd like to marry myself to in print yet.

But I will say this: there is easily as much desire for celebrity for the lowliest church musician as for the pastor who is preaching on a screen.

Frank Turk said...

Jay strikes the first blow for a biblical sense of the issue.

Frank Turk said...

Regier exposes sin. As usual.

Robert said...


There is no Biblical prohibition, but going with DJP referencing 2 Timothy 2:2 shows that Paul expected there to be a progression of pastor/teachers established so that other men can progress the work.

Going to multi-site might provide elders, but you have one man who is providing the teaching to however many different groups of people. And how do any of these people have accountability to/with him and vice versa? The pastor is still part of the flock.

Multi-site churches may have pastors in each of the locations, but they're not the ones standing up and delivering the word to the local flock. Which goes right back to lack of accountability...see previous paragraph.

All of my arguments do not apply to large churches...in large churches, the local flock is still able to have some sense of accountability with the preaching pastor(s). They have direct access and they are both a part of the local flock.

I don't see how it doesn't disturb people that the preacher wouldn't actually be a part of the local congregation. I don't see any difference between multi-site and having a church just set up the A/V system to pipe in Truth for Life, Grace to You, Insight for Living, Renewing Your Mind, and the like. Or why not just pull up the A/V from The Shepherds' Conference, T4G, Ligonier Conferences, and the like for Sunday worship? I don't see much difference in those, but I can surely see why both are wrong.

rom623rom828 said...

Frank, -- the following quote from your favorite mega pastor James MacDonald should end all further discussions on this matter :)

Theologically I have no hesitation with multi-site. In fact, when I am up preaching, I will often say, “I’m glad that you are here today wherever you are worshipping. It doesn’t matter where I am. All that matters is where you are and where God is, and He is right with you now as we open God’s Word together.” The manifest presence of God in the corporate gathering of His people is significant, not the physical location of the mouthpiece, so to speak.

There is definitely a multilocation dynamic to the church in Acts. And I don’t see anything in Scripture that forbids it. And technology allows it and abundant fruitfulness tends to force it and church planting doesn’t protect us from it. We arrived at it reluctantly because we can’t discount it from Scripture.

Eric said...

"abundant fruitfulness tends to force it"

If anything will get the esteemed Mr. Chantry to weigh in, this quote should do it.

Robert said...

Don't we think that God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit could have worked out multi-site (if it was good and necessary) without our new-fangled technology? Just curious if anybody has ever thought of that...

Robert said...

God the Father, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit that is...just to avoid any problems...

Nonna said...

From reading this comment section, I understand why most of my Protestant friends complain about the condition of their churches, from bringing in Purpose Driven Bible studies, to contemporary worship in modern rock style, to following the latest fad, i.e. extolling the virtues of The Shack, to chasing after the latest popular celeb pastor's book, to....well, the list could go on.

There is a reason why Orthodox churches could never beam in the Divine Liturgy from one sight to many campus sites. I would think the same answer/s (or a similar one) would have been used by many churches a few centuries ago, had the technology been present at that time.

Tom Chantry said...


Larry Geiger said...


"That all of your arguments apply equally to every large church, not just multi-site churches?"

This I agree with. I don't see much difference between a pastor standing in front of 5,000 to 15,000 people in one room and 5,000 to 15,000 in three or four large rooms. There is no engagement on his part with a group that size. Or 5,000 to 15,000 people in the same room four different times during a weekend.

Me personally, I don't see how a pastor does it with 300 to 700 people. I'm comfortable in a church with about 300 to 500 folks. I'm not, nor ever will be, any kind of a pastor or worship leader, but no way could I pastor or engage with more than about a classroom sized group. I do that on a regular basis (college instructor and Scout leader) but i couldn't expand it. I really don't know how they do it.

Tom Chantry said...


I could ask Pastor MacDonald yet again for the definition of "fruitful," but he doesn't listen to little fish. I would have thought he would be happy to supply a definition: he uses the word about twice every paragraph from what I've seen. But no.

So I leave you with a parable, which I think relates to this post, and if it doesn't I'll be publicly excoriated by Frank, which will be entertaining.

There was a man (my father-in-law, actually), who had two apple trees on his property. Both were planted on the same day, and both were just entering into their first fruit-bearing years. One of these trees was beautiful and lush - a perfect apple tree shape and roughly twice the size of its neighbor. The second, in addition to being small, had an ugly, twisted form. It couldn't have had half as many leaves as its beautiful neighbor.

But when apple season came, the big and beautiful tree produced about three scrawny apples, while the tiny and twisted tree produced a bushel and a half of delicious apples.

Moral: If you can't tell the difference between fruit and leaves, you ain't much of an apple farmer.

Nash Equilibrium said...

PopeTV much?

Chip Van Emmerik said...

Several have argued that the shepherding is still happening.

However, this does not answer the complaint that the speaking shepherd is not shepherding any of the flock. No matter how big a church is, or how many elders there, the lead guy is still supposed to shepherding a part of the flock and be available for the sheep when necessary.

And, lest someone argue all elders are equal, that would not apply here since we are already talking about a celebrity who, someone who is always the lead guy among the elders (at least in every such setting of which I'm aware).

CCinTn said...

I had a moment of uncomfortableness at T4G with something that C J Mahaney brought up during a Panel Discussion. I love CJ’s heart and I thank God for the season that CJ has come through. I’ll just leave it at that.

Anyhow, I don’t remember exactly which discussion it was, but someone brought up that they had visited Ligon’s church on a Sunday night and that they had a large crowd of 20 and 30 year olds there and that his message had lasted an hour and five minutes. He was impressed that a younger crowd would hang in there for long messages like that. It was about that point that CJ made a comment that Ligon’s speaking giftedness helped that but that he wouldn’t recommend most pastors to preach that long (on a Sunday night?). One or two on the panel tried to soften what CJ had said but CJ reiterated that statement a time or two more.

This has nothing to do with CJ per se but do think that there is a huge segment of church attenders as well as pastors who seem enamored with someone with great oratory skills. We know Paul acknowledged this in the way that people were evidently attracted to Apollos’ speech. The great Spurgeon instructed young preachers to not be stiff dullards in the pulpit. However, wasn’t one the points of this year’s T4G, the Underestimated Gospel, and that we show our lack of confidence in the power of the Gospel when we begin to rely on our methods rather than the power of the Holy Spirit to reach into the hearts of our hearers?

Even if the multi-site pastor’s reasoning for having multi-sites is NOT because of a need for control or to stroke his ego or to build up a legacy, it at least seems to touch on a lack of confidence in the power of the Gospel. In other words, a feeling that he needs to help God’s kingdom grow and that this is best accomplished by adding other sites to his church's ministry because after all, look at how his ministry has been ‘blessed’ with the numbers attending his home church? As though people in other areas need to hear from God through him because they sure wouldn’t get it (as good) as they get it from him.

On the plus side though, think of the cost effectiveness we can achieve in missions if we can just get caravans of trucks to drop of A/V equipment around the globe and broadcast the Gospel in various languages from just one studio here in the States. It would save a ton on the infrastructure needed in all these countries and all the support that needs to be raised to send live bodies overseas.

Nonna said...

PopeTV much

Yes, Nash, even the Roman Catholics are using technology, although I don't think they are streaming in the Mass at their local parishes. Of course, what do I know? I could be wrong on this matter.

donsands said...

"..they had visited Ligon’s church on a Sunday night and that they had a large crowd of 20 and 30 year olds there and that his message had lasted an hour and five minutes"-CC

CJ thought this was a bit long eh?

That's a short sermon really, when compared with Paul's preaching. Paul had one of his listeners fall asleep, and they fall dead. Paul did bring him back to life though, so he could hear the rest of his sermon.

CCinTn said...

It would take an hour and half for Paul to speak one or two of his extended sentences! :-)

Frank Turk said...

Chantry for the win.


Frank Turk said...

Tom -- my only editorial edit would be this:

If you can't tell the difference between fruit and leaves, you ain't much of an apple farmer.

If you can't tell the difference between the shady part and and the fruitful part, you ain't much of an apple farmer.

And we're done. Cue the credits.

Eric said...


I have read and enjoyed your various comments and blog posts around the topic of "fruitfulness", especially relating to MacDonald/Harvest. I always enjoy and benefit from your interaction here, so I was hoping to tease out a response.

And to DJP's point about "egotism and hubris" which causes him to ask rhetorically "Really? You are so indispensable...?", the MacDonald quote is very instructive. The following part in particular is interesting:

"And technology allows it and abundant fruitfulness tends to force it and church planting doesn’t protect us from it. We arrived at it reluctantly because we can’t discount it from Scripture."

Fruitfulness "forces" the use of multi-site because they could not possibly find a qualified man to minister locally, so piping MacDonald in is the only option? They "reluctantly" arrived at multi-site, because they had no other options? Church planting does not "protect" them from multi-site, presumably because there is a lack of qualified (read: popular enough) men to preach to the church plant, so they just have to pipe in MacDonald? It definitely reeks of ego, hubris, and also branding.

Robert said...


I hope that I don't get stoned for going slightly off-topic, but what you say in that last sentence also reminds me of the thoughts of those who hold the egalitarian position...the men there aren't as knowledgeable or equipped to teach, so we'll just put the more-equipped women up there and let them teach. Although I am sure that multi-site advocates won't care much for the parallel there.

Robert said...

Oops...meant last paragraph, not sentence. Having a bad time at capturing my thoughts on paper today.

Eric said...


I see the parallel that you are pointing out. Given the way I phrased things, I can see why that occured to you.

But I must ask, are you trying to explode the meta by introducing egalitarianism? ;)

will said...

Will asks Frank Turk:


"We're actually talking about dismantling the biblical formation and accountability of the local church."

Frank do you have any Biblical evidence to back your contention that a multi-site strategy is anti-biblical? Do you have any emperical evidence to back your contention? Or is this just hightened rhetoric based on a legalistic understanding of what a NT church must exist as?

Carl C. said...

I agree. Thanks for making me laugh out loud and also have to look up hubris ("excessive pride") -- I had no idea, and it's my new word for the day.

Another practical implication of the multi-site strategy was played out not too long ago in a not-to-be-named multi-site. As they grew with more and more sites, it became uber-complex: the increasing number of constant pastoral decisions necessitated ALL the multitudinous number of elders to incessantly meet. Solution? Creating an upper echelon of elders who would handle the majority of issues, only calling together the entirety of the eldership for supposedly more important issues.

I see this as problematic on so many fronts, but especially in how it leaps the more Biblical solution. Why not hand off the torch to the group of elders who are already working in a solidly-established church plant, entrusting its leadership to them?

will said...

"Frank Turk"

On my last post to you, please ignore the last sentence about legalistic understanding. It was neither needed nor edifying.


Carl C. said...

David Regier,
As a fellow church musician, I strongly concur. Alas, my first season of playing on-stage back in the day was ONLY with affirmation in mind. I thank God he has won my heart over in that area, but it doesn't cease to be a struggle for musicians or anyone else facing the congregation.

Solameanie said...

Let me just say for the record that I don't like "multi-site" churches and pastors. Not necessarily for any legalistic, biblely reason, but more because it's the fad of the day, and I detest fads in general. In the church world, it seems to me that good seldom comes out of fads. The fruit is seldom lasting, but the aftertaste is often bitter and impossible to wash out of your mouth for a while.

Technology is a wonderful thing, enabling us in the broadcast/internet age to reach huge numbers of people with the Gospel. That's a good thing. But I believe with all my heart that the local church, with local elders, local pastors and local leaders, is the true biblical model. You can't get that with jumbotron screens.

The Damer said...

Is our general predisposition to multi-site a function of the celebrity pastors themselves or can we clearly make a valid argument against it? It's unattractive when it's Driscoll or MacDonald but is it as unappealing when it's Chandler? How do you not like Chandler?

David Regier said...

Does the Lord's Supper bring anything to bear on this? Seems to be more scripturally relevant than music.

Frank Turk said...


You're funny.

The exception proves the rule. There are no examples in the NT of gifted speakers running churches by remote feed (for examples: letters) ...

... except, of course, the Apostles who wrote actual Scripture which were considered to be normative for every church -- and which we still use today for the same purpose.

What the NT actually prescribes for the local church is that it be run by men of good faith and character who live there and do more than preach. That is: in Titus and Timothy, the men who are tasked with exhort, rebuke, teach are also the men who have to live there and live with the consequences of their teaching -- their teaching may in fact spill over from the pulpit into daily life. The crazy thing about the letter to Titus is the way Paul says that those chosen to be elders who will set things right in a place will "hold fast to the word ... in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict." That's not a guy who comes by once in a while: he lives there with the people he is preaching to.

When you can show how the phoned-in version of preaching meets that criteria (it doesn't) you can then advocate for this practice. Otherwise, you're sort of a funny guy who doesn't really understand why he is funny.

Frank Turk said...




I can't think of any examples of it which I would endorse. There's no problem with listening to a message via podcast, video stream or TV. There's a problem pretending that's a substitute for Sunday worship joined together with the local church.

rom623rom828 said...

In regards to "live music", I think the explanation from HBC-Macdonald would be close to what Ian said at 7:26 AM:

AS far as the live music is concerned, I think the reason the innovators keep it live is so there can be participation in the singing. It would be pulling teeth to have a sing along with the crowd staring at the screen, being so removed from the real action.

I read a similar explanation a while back regarding live music at HBC -- I'll post the link if i find it.

Footnote. HBC not only have a celebrity pastor, but several celebrity musicians. Even tho music is live, they seem to have 4 or 5 different groups of musicians leading worship that rotate around the campuses, that is when they aren't out on tour turning their ministry into merchandise. See here and here for example.

So each campus always have live music but hardly ever the same musicians/worship leaders leading week to week.

Frank Turk said...

I like it that they identify the "real action".

Frank Turk said...


I mean yes.

Tom Chantry said...

I just heard a sound like the ringing of a triangle, and I'm pretty sure I have one of those cartoon lightbulbs above my head. Puzzle pieces are fitting together inside my head.

I have never fully understood why "shepherding" is divorced in our usage from pulpit ministry. Seminaries teach distinct courses in homiletics and in "pastoral" work. Church members call on of their elders a "good preacher, if not so much of a pastor," as though those two were distinct categories. The assumption seems to be that shepherding (or pastoring) takes place in a myriad of one-on-one encounters - from the home visit to the counseling session to words exchanged in the fellowship meal - while preaching is just talking.

It's utterly unbiblical, of course. Pastors are called pastors on the basis of a few passages in Scripture. Jesus told Peter to "feed [His] sheep." But feed them what? Not sweet potato casserole, or whatever they bring to your church's pot lucks, but the Word of God. He would be shepherding when he preached above all else. Or consider Paul's words to the Ephesian elders:

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

The wolves are false teachers who "speak twisted things," and the elders oversee the flock by speaking what is not twisted: the true gospel.

Pastoring, then, is intrinsically related to preaching. You can't shepherd unless you preach - it's too integral to the process.

We shouldn't be asking, then, whether or not pastoring takes place anyway in a satellite with no life preacher. We should be asking whether the preaching itself is pastoral.


Tom Chantry said...

(cont. from above)

Now, I suppose that a multi-site advocate could say, "There you go. The preachers are still pastoring via the screen." Only they never say that, do they? Instead they insist that it's all OK because you still get the personal touch from the local preacher. But what is the Biblical response?

First, look at it from the perspective of the preacher. Paul's exhortation implies that the pastor/preacher have his finger on the pulse of the congregation. He is not just a public speaker, but a warrior against error. To do this, he must "pay careful attention" to the flock. We can argue about how difficult it becomes to do this as a congregation grows, but it is hardly worth arguing that it can be done at all when the congregation doesn't congregate. (Or, if you prefer, when the assembly doesn't assemble, or when the church doesn't church - it's all the same.) The pastor who meets with his people irregularly is not paying close attention. He may be a great public speaker, but he is not in any biblical sense a preacher!

Secondly, look at it from the perspective of the on-site elders who supposedly do the pastoring. How exactly do they do that when the teaching function which is so necessary to guarding the flock is outsourced through a video feed? Are they pastoring? No, not at all. One only needs to ask what they would do (or, sadly, have done) when "twisted things" are spoken by the image on the big screen. Even if they wanted to oppose him, they have no pulpit from which to do so. Local elders do in fact exercise a check on local pastors, not so much on multi-site personalities.


Tom Chantry said...

(cont. from above)


We should not be asking whether or not pastoring can still be effective in a multi-site setting, but whether pastoral ministry can ever be severed from the preaching ministry. Biblically, it cannot. The next question, then, is whether a preacher can pastor his flock in a multi-site setting. Again, this is a biblical impossibility, which the multi-site advocates seem to acknowledge. The problem is that they posit another type of pastoral ministry in which preaching plays not part.

So the final question is this: Is anyone pastoring these churches at all?

Geoff said...

(Good grief, I'm so slow that Chantry posts three times before my meager two sentences)

Multi-site, intentionally or not, magnifies the under-shepherd, which by default diminishes the one, true Shepherd.

And, to the nature of the church, a body that doesn't gather together to worship God in Spirit and truth is a concept foreign to the Bible.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Yeah, but a lot of even single-site preachers do not want to be bothered with tending the flock - they just want to preach and teach. I know of at least one here nearby who says it in no uncertain terms.
This "Sr. Minister" I'm referring to has divorced the pastoring from the preaching, and definitely feels he can leave the pastoring to others. I suspect many Celebs feel that the pastoring is beneath their awesome talents.

Kaj Ballantyne said...


With this line of reasoning would you also call into question a larger church? ... i.e. would you also question if there is really effective pastoring to the whole body from the one preaching?

If pastoring multi site is a "biblical impossibility" by this criteria then would a larger church also not be unbiblical?

Eric said...


Remember, you have to account for the fact that some pastors may see themselves as more of a "mouthpiece" (see MacDonald quote earlier) than a shepherd. I've yet to find the Biblical reference for the establishment of the church office of "mouthpiece". If you've reduced yourself to the role of "mouthpiece" (and presumably CEO), then you can safely say "It doesn’t matter where I am". Just like attending a business meeting via skype.

Robert said...

Tagging off from Geoff and Chantry...if the preaching pastor doesn't have local elders to keep him in check and ensure that the true Word is spoken/taught, then the preaching pastor takes the place of the one, true Shepherd for the elders of the local churches. At least that is how it seems from where I sit.

Scooter said...

I like Tom. I like his thought process.

Tom Chantry said...

Oh Look. It's Kaj. Who shows up when I comment. Kind of creepy, really.

Kaj, far be it from me to imply that pastoring should ever be accomplished by any one - whether the church is large or small. God established a plurality. The point is not whether one man can pastor a church alone, it is whether the preacher is part of the pastoral team or something else altogether.

My argument is that the elder/pastors shepherd the flock primarily through preaching. Preaching is not separate from pastoring. It must be integral to it. Anyone who preaches effectively in the church must be involved in watching the church closely so that his preaching is pastoral. The idea that a church can survive with an unknown, distant public speaker doing the "preaching" while non-homiletic "pastoring" is accomplished by a separate group of men is foreign to Scripture.

Does this also amount to a criticism of large churches? I suppose on this point many churches - large and small - could be criticized. I will admit that at some point it becomes very difficult to do. I'm not qualified to invent the number at which it becomes impossible, since Scripture doesn't do that. What I can say is that Scripture does not condone a non-pastoral preacher and a separate body of pastors.

Tom Chantry said...

Hey Kaj, since you're here, care to take a stab at defining "fruit"?

Sharon said...

Fascinating discussion, but what leaped out was Robert's comment at 6:58 AM:

I just don't get why we think that we have to work to make things easier all the time...why not work to make things more Biblical?

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, sums it up quite nicely.

Kaj Ballantyne said...


"Oh Look. It's Kaj. Who shows up when I comment. Kind of creepy, really."

Don't let it go to your head ... pretty soon you'll start thinking you're a celebrity pastor.

Actually, the reason for the comment is more about the subject. This is something that I have been praying and thinking through with the other elders in my church (no we aren't mega - but we're in a rural setting with small towns spread over large area with our people driving long distances).

I am trying to work through this with more than just preferences and effectiveness and more on conviction and biblical arguments. Many here danced around what you said more succinctly so I wanted more clarification.

Strong Tower said...

...the men who are tasked with exhort, rebuke, teach are also the men who have to live there and live with the consequences of their teaching -- their teaching may in fact spill over from the pulpit into daily life. The crazy thing about the letter to Titus is the way Paul says that those chosen to be elders who will set things right in a place will "hold fast to the word ... in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict." That's not a guy who comes by once in a while: he lives there with the people he is preaching to.

And they live with him.

Recipricality: there has to be those who teach and those who hear, those who correct and those corrected, those who succor and the succored. 1 John's reflections on the foot washing is inserted here. Where two or three are gathered I think speaks more to intimacy than perhaps anything else. Families, functional ones, know each other. That is what formative Christianity is about, it is what makes for the working to be able to give, mutual edification... and the guidance of fatherly hands for a "my dear child" who is prone to wander. Remoteness, whether in large churches or in tele-churches breaks down the "marital bond" of becoming one flesh in fruitful offspring and makes unaccomplishable the need to love in such a way that the world knows who the family down the block is.

Solameanie said...

Not to be a total cynic, but I wonder how many churches find the idea of a video preacher attractive for budgetary reasons?

donsands said...

"What I can say is that Scripture does not condone a non-pastoral preacher and a separate body of pastors."-Tom

I am so blessed to have my pastors. They are sound in the Word, with a refreshing depth, which the Church at large has lost, sad to say.

I also lean truth, and am edified by many other pastors I know in many other ways.

But I love to go to my church and hear my pastor preach every Lord's Day. He is teaching-preaching through the Book of John. He finished Romans, and is in the portion of Scripture in John that is maybe not Scripture [chp.7:53-chp8:1].
I am very blessed by our Savior and Shepherd of shepherds.

Anonymous said...

I've only preached a couple times, but holy cow, the pressure to get it right, and especially to get it right for a particular group of people, is huge. Even teaching high school kids in Sunday school brings pressure like that (or ought to).

How can a guy possibly imagine that he can adequately serve the faceless masses from a screen?

On the other hand, as Regier pointed out, everyone wants to be a celebrity, even when they don't know it.

I've felt that way teaching grade 4 Sunday school kids, I've felt that way in a pulpit, I've felt that way sitting at a keyboard.

Seems to me that at least part of the multi-site thing goes to not watching over ones heart.
Beginning the thought process with the knowledge of ones desire for celebrity would certainly curtail most multi-site situations, if only by dint of wanting to avoid the temptation toward celebrity.

How does celebrity help anyone? Not the guy in the pew, certainly. How many of us can relate to a real guy, rather than a man on the screen.

In DJP's comments about T4G, I seem to recall him mentioning the down-to-earthness of men like, for example, Ligon Duncan.
You don't get that from a TV, you can't. The medium naturally creates distance. And distance implies "he's so godly and learned, I can never be that".

A man in the pulpit tends more towards, "If he can struggle through that, perhaps it's worth a try".

Isn't that a significant part of pastoring?

If you don't believe me consider any real (non-preaching) celebrity you may have met in person. Many (not all) suddenly seem normal, like you and I.
And now consider American Idol, where teens (and adults) go wild over singers they've never heard of and never will again. Instant, 5 minute celebrity all because of a TV screen.

As Frank and Tom and others have been doing, look for what preaching and pastoring are, and then decide if it can happen live via satellite.

Don't look for a verse that says "And Paul looked the camera straight in the lense and said..."

In all the discussion amongst famous guys (OK, Dever, Thabiti, Driscoll, MacDonald and the like), I hear most of the the multi-site guys saying "Gotta spread the gift", and the non-multi-site guys saying "I don't want that kind of notoriety".

Which really makes the point I think.

Sir Aaron said...


I have yet to see a multi-site church that suffers from budgetary problems. And certainly they are paying other pastoral staff, who presumably, should be able to preach.

The entire thing is the natural progression you get from Arminian doctrine. You have free will therefore, we need to appeal to you as best as possible so you'll take us up on this offer. Therefore, we need to market to you and one way we do this is by offering you a professional motivational speaker.

Kaj Ballantyne said...

Alright ... so the question about fruit.

Not sure why you are interested in my answer but here's my best shot:

Assuming you are talking about fruit from the perspective of church growth I would say that fruit analogy would mean a church that sees people (1) being connected to the vine; (2) growing healthy; and (3) multiplying.

So if a church is looking at measuring its "fruitfulness" it would need to look at those three areas.

(1) Are people connecting to the vine ... i.e. is your church seeing people being saved?

(2) Are people growing in sanctification. Are your people displaying more of the fruit of the Spirit, dealing with sin, worshipping Christ, loving each other, serving, digging into the Word and other spiritual disciplines, etc?

(3) Are people reproducing. Are your people on the mission that Jesus left with us? Are they telling others about Jesus and discipling them?

Not sure if that answers your question but its how I will test my own church.

Anonymous said...

Oh, sorry. I got stalled when Chantry mentioned sweet potato casserole.

Steve Talas said...

Multi site seems to me another of those bizarre products of 'Church Americana' a strange place where Theology, Media and Showbiz mix to create all kinds of theological Frankensteins.

But then what do I know I'm a Brit living in the green hills of Scotland, perhaps the stormy waters of the North Atlantic have a way of distorting the signals we pick up this side?

But tell me didn't Driscoll during that debate with MacDonald and Dever state that when he eventually exited this mortal coil the multi site model would cease to operate at Mars Hill and return to a more traditional (Biblical) model?

So this has absolutely nothing to do with personality cults?

....back to my Castle for a cup of tea

donsands said...

"But then what do I know I'm a Brit living in the green hills of Scotland.."-Steve

Ah. Scotland. And the green hills. I wish I was there.
Who was the very famous Scot? John Knox?

Oh, was it this gent? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1G_Bzu52DY&feature=related

Frank Turk said...

I'll bet "budgetary reasons" is not as beneficial as you might think. After equipment costs to CC in a preacher, I'll bet there's a syndication fee the main church requires.

Anonymous said...

It never ceases to amaze me that intelligent people can sell themselves out so hard to something they don't know is true. Currently there are over 25,000 different protestant flavors of Christianity gleaning there direction from the bible, its amazing any of you can speak with such arrogance or confidence. You fundamentalists ruled the roost for many years and are now reaping the horrible benefits of your years of oppression and foolishness. Christianity has rebelled and is all stupid now because your flavor of the month blew your chances.You wonder why the church is gay, liberal, or out of control? Just look in the mirror, your ancestors made the faith hateful and unloving. Yes, you caused the current environment. Its not a lowered reverence for scripture as you suppose or a running away from historic Christianity (which you are clearly not yourselves).

Why dont you mind your own business, if multi site churches are heresy or arminian (ignorant) foolishness then they will go away no matter how much you fret about it. But YES, how can you. You are the only group out of thousands interpreting the bible correctly therefore you must stand against what you perceive to be unBiblical. Only God knows what the bible will tell someone else tomorrow.

By the way, i have researched heavily the fundamentalists in america over the last two centuries in this country and its clear to anyone willing to see that people have rebelled against your heavy hand and not rebelled against God.

Johnny Dialectic said...

The entire thing is the natural progression you get from Arminian doctrine.

Don't forget global warming, pornography, the killing of baby seals and reality television....all a natural progression from Arminian doctrine.

I'll retire to Bedlam.

Regarding the actual issue, I personally don't like the idea or feel of piped in preaching. But I'm not finding this a slam dunk either way.

I like very much Tom C's challenge to distinguish "fruit" from "leaves." And I like Kaj's answer to that. A church displaying that kind of fruit is honoring God.

I also don't see any biblical prohibition (nor draw one from prescription, which is a dubious methodology, e.g., no mention of instruments in the NT, so your church organ is of the devil, or the natural progression from Arminian theology.)

Stephen said...

Yes Frank, but if you're pastoring a struggling church and a mega-church down the road (or a couple states over, no difference right?) offers to actually graft your church into their budget while also relieving you of the strenuous labor of having to read scripture and prepare a sermon... who could say no?

Frank Turk said...

Good thing "Dumber than Most" has taken the heavy lifting out for us by giving himself the right internet handle.


Frank Turk said...

I think Kaj has given us a very rudimentary answer to Tom's question -- one no one can disagree with because it is appropriately vague.

I wonder if he can think about his answer for a moment and ferret out what would make his answer less vague? Here's a hint: what distinguishes his definition here from what would make a service fraternity "fruitful"?

Frank Turk said...

Stephen: The pastor who cares for his flock would say no. Jesus doesn't save us by offering us some version of the Lotto or of Socialism.

Kaj Ballantyne said...

I am at where I think Johnny D is ... I have a preference that says no to video preaching but not a conviction. Knowing that those on this blog would more than likely have a conviction about it I wanted to to see and discuss how some would biblically come to that conviction.

For me, the jury is still out (as far as a biblical conviction).

And I think that Arminian doctrine is to blame for this brutal word verification.

Eric said...

Hi Kaj,

I believe that Tom Chantry has made a pretty sound argument against video preaching. Certainly he has put together a very logical and Biblical line of reasoning. Since you say you remain unconvinced, are there significant specifics of Tom's analysis that you disagree with and/or areas where you feel his analysis falls significantly short?

Kaj Ballantyne said...


Maybe think through what you are really asking. If you ask me how I determine if my church is fruitful (while keeping within the imagery of "fruit") then you have my answer. Are looking for a more detailed doctrine of church?

If the question is a loaded question please unload it a bit more so that I know what exactly you are asking.

Kaj Ballantyne said...

Hey Eric,

I guess I am a bit of a "process guy" so to jump into a conviction is going to take me a bit more digging. Which is why I asked about size of church. Tom's argument must also then be an argument against large churches (preaching and pastoring being inseparable).

I liked his argument ... not disagreeing with it ... just thinking it through.

Eric said...

Hi Kaj,

Fair enough.

My follow-up question is this: Does it really make any difference whether or not Tom's line of reasoning might also apply (to some degree) to large churches? I can't imagine that would affect the validity of the argument. It seems to me that the question of large churches could only really serve as a red herring distraction in this discussion. Maybe I'm missing an important connection.

Kaj Ballantyne said...


Not a red herring at all (I didn't come on here to pick a fight ... nor am I trying to convince anyone).

If Tom is sharing his argument to back up a preference rather than a conviction then the question regarding large churches is appropriate.

Because if his argument is solid against video preaching ... it also then could apply to size of church. If it is a conviction then it must apply to size of church. Otherwise he could just say, "I'm not all that concerned about it if there is a live preacher"

Obviously there is more to the argument than just that line of thinking but before I heard more I wanted to at least know that.

I am not trying to poke holes in Tom's logic ... I am trying to get a more full picture of it.

Eric said...


I don't see how any of that has any bearing on the actual validity or merits of Tom's argument, but I'll let it rest. Thanks for the replies.

Kaj Ballantyne said...


sorry if I'm not making it clear.

To be a strong argument (i.e. a conviction) you can't have things both ways. Eg. "I think modern worship is not biblical ... oh, but it's ok for our youth group." Is it biblical or not?

I don't disagree with Tom but as I try to form my thoughts I want to test the strength of the argument.

If I've steered this off course, sorry ... carry on, nothing to see here.

Sir Aaron said...

So if the church is so "fruitful", why can't you find a Pastor who would preach locally? Can you run that part by me again?

And Johnny D., we've been down this road before, so I'll let you retire in bedlam.

Chuck said...

My church shows the pastor on video screens while he's preaching, but I can still just look up at the pulpit. It doesn't bother me either way.

This is what we're talking about right? I mean, there aren't churches that actually pump in video of a guy who isn't there? Right?

Robert said...


Their are churches that have live video feeds af a pastor preaching from a totally remote location from different audiences than the church he is at while he is preaching. This is what we are talking about...and I'm glad that you think it would be odd to even have to discuss this.

Jim Pemberton said...

A point I made on Justin Taylor's blog applies to the discussion here. It's my firm belief that the local church is where we get our meat an potatoes for the sake of unity and accountability.

1. Listening to celebrity pastors instead of your own pastor thwarts this.

2. Celebrity pastors tend to stop preaching to their own people and start generalizing their message for everyone else.

It's interesting to me that Paul's letters to specific churches are instructive to us today particularly in light of the specific issues in those churches.

Sheep shouldn't leave their shepherd in pursuit of other shepherds and shepherds shouldn't neglect their flock trying to tend countless sheep from other flocks. That doesn't mean that we can't benefit from messages from other pastors or that pastors can't provide teaching outside their own church. But we need to stay focused on the relational dynamics that make up the local congregation. Those can be tough enough without importing other problems.

Stephen said...

I'm pretty close to where Kaj is - I have good friends that have been or are part of multi-site churches and many pastors whom I trust for sermon content (Piper and Chandler not being least) are video preachers of multi-site churches, but when I moved states, I did not seek out a multi-site or even visit one. So I'll try to further what I think Kaj is saying.

Tom Chantry's argument was basically that "preaching" and "pastoring" cannot and never should be separated. Time in fellowship, counseling, discipling, etc. with the church body should funnel into a pastor's sermon and vice versa, even to the point of simultaneity. This cannot happen if the pastor does not know the congregation intimately.

What Chantry did not attempt to argue, at least in this meta, is that there is something more spiritual happening in a live sermon than in a video sermon, per se. The medium does not necessarily affect the message. Fellowship and discipleship can and does happen through distance-technology such as phone, email, and writing (even the Bible, right?!), though perhaps not as quickly or intimately as in face time (and I'm not talking about an iPad video).

So Chantry's argument seems to apply both to multi-site churches where the pastor is largely unable to minister to more than one location at once, even if they are within one city, and to a large church where the pastor is not able to directly minister to every subsection of the congregation. Elder plurality may be a partial solution to this, but since the vast majority of churches that I have seen do not practice preaching-plurality (consistent rotation of sermons), then that argument may be functionally moot.

Kaj Ballantyne said...


That is what I'm pushing at ...

If it is wrong because the preaching and pastoring are tied so tightly together than what really is the difference between John MacArthur's mega church and John Piper's multi-site church?

Piper rotates preaching live between campuses and they are all within a small regional area so that he is as accessible and involved as the pastor of a mega church would be.

I am not trying to bait Tom or derail the discussion ... I am trying to develop a full idea of what is being discussed.

I totally agree with the premise of Tom's argument ... I believe that there needs to be a connection between a preacher and the people (geographically). He needs to be able to care for them, visit them, pray with them, etc. But really at what size of church does this become impossible for one pastor? 200? 300? So what do churches that have 200-300 people do? They have other elders who also pastor the people. Seems pretty similar to what Piper and others like his multi site are doing.

So thinking it through to its full conclusion ... is it the actual video on the particular Sunday morning that causes concern or is it the ability of the pastor to personally connect?

Tom Chantry said...

Wow - look what happens when I spend the day driving my family from Milwaukee to Dayton!

Here is my point again, more simply stated. Preaching is part and parcel of pastoring. In fact, I would argue that it is the primary aspect of pastoring. A church cannot function with one person or group preaching and another person or group pastoring. In such a scenario, the pastoring isn't pastoral and the preaching is mere speechifying.

I am not saying that one man must do it all. I am not saying that the church is required to go into church planting mode the moment the burden becomes too much for one man. Christ appointed a plurality, and the Spirit today does likewise. Among the elders of the church some - perhaps one - will have a greater facility for preaching. None of this is problematic. But he, the preacher, must be one of the elders, and his preaching must be part of the pastoral ministry of the church.

If a church finds itself saying, "So-and-so just preaches but it's OK, this other group does the pastoring," then the church is failing in many regards. You can't discuss the pastorate like so many departments in a corporation. The preacher must be among the people, alongside his fellow-elders, engaged in "closely watching" the flock. His sermons ought to be the centerpiece of their collective pastoral ministry.

Is there a point at which a uni-site church becomes so large that this is impossible? Probably, but it's above my pay grade to suggest what that size is. What I maintain is that we can definitively state this, if your argument is, "Our church is too big to fit into any room on Sunday" or "Our church is too spread out geographically to be able to actually assemble together," then yes, we can pretty safely say that it's reached the point at which no man, no matter how gifted, is capable of shepherding it. Which must be why multi-site pastors typically say, "I don't try to do pastoral ministry; that's my team. I just preach."

Tom Chantry said...

@ Kaj,

Two of the three elements of your definition of "fruit" relate to church growth - people being saved and people leading others to Christ. The third relates to sanctification.

I have no quarrel with the third - that use of "fruitful" is all over the New Testament.

But where does the Scripture suggest that "fruitfulness" is in any way related to conversions or church growth? In John 15 the believer is a branch connected to the vine - one which bears fruit. But what suggests that this fruit is converts?

The reason I ask the question of you is that you are a defender of the Harvest way, and a knowledgeable defender at that. Pastor MacDonald uses "fruit" in a rather less nuanced way than you. He can speak of someone who preaches a false gospel and whose idea of sanctification is something measurable by financial rewards as "very fruitful" - because he wins many converts.

I'm still waiting for anyone at all to mount a biblical defense of this definition of "fruitful." Where does the Bible suggest that a ministry or minister is more or less fruitful based on the number of his converts? I suspect that this is just a pretension of American Evangelicalism which we all assume is biblical but which actually is not.

Frank Turk said...


Diluting this discussion with "megachurch" issues doesn't interest me at all. I'll concede with gusto that any church which is too large is too large.

The questions, really, are:

[1] What makes a church too large?

[2] With that defined, does it apply to multi-site?

I can define #1, and I think you can't -- or at least, you have never considered such a thing.

Can a church be too large? What would make it so?

Johnny Dialectic said...

Respectfully, Tom (and I mean it, you are a man of the Word), I think there are answers to your objections:

But where does the Scripture suggest that "fruitfulness" is in any way related to conversions

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in​​ the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19)

Does it not follow that a church baptizing disciples is fruitful? (Note the key word, disciples).

Here is my point again, more simply stated. Preaching is part and parcel of pastoring.

"We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:4)

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us....If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:6-8)

Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” (Ex. 18:17-23)

Kaj Ballantyne said...


My definition of fruitful would still have to include converts.

If you are a "fruitful" pastor you are working hard at equipping the saints. Now by being fruitful that doesn't mean that you're having swarms of people pouring to the front of the church during an altar call ... I mean that your people are on mission because you are teaching and preaching the whole counsel of God.

If a pastor has a church that's huddled up and hiding out waiting for Jesus to come back as it grows old and dies out then he is not fruitful.

Although he may say that he is faithfully preaching the Word and his people are so theologically sound - he is still not completely fruitful if they are not on mission. How can we say we are preaching the whole Word of God if our people never sense an urgency to spread the gospel? (obviously this is not the only result of sanctification but to exclude it completely seems very out of place in Scripture).

Now in saying all of that, God is the one in charge of the yield ... but if none of your people are spreading seeds, watering, harvesting, etc. then something is wrong.

So "fruitfulness" (IMO) should have both parts - growing and reproducing ... reproducing which should naturally flow out of growing.

This is also pretty well represented in the NT ... What is Paul talking about in 2 Tim. 2:2 ... teach people more theology so they can clean up in Jeopardy when the Bible topic comes up? I think Paul is pretty excited about reproducing. Also, you can't read Acts without seeing a lot of reproduction.

Other side of the coin is that if a church is ever only filled with baby Christians or even false converts it is not being truly fruitful either.

Kaj Ballantyne said...


I think because you enjoy a good fight you assume all who come here are looking for a fight.

You're first question:
This is a very good question ... now for you to say that it hasn't been something I've thought through seems like an odd statement. Sounds like you're saying, "I know the right answer and you dont so why don't you give an answer so I can tell you you're wrong".

I'm not trying to debate you ... so I'll just ask you: what do you see as "too large" for a church?

Anonymous said...


One of the problems with your argument is that while you talk about fruitfulness in terms of numbers, you only reference examples of poorly taught or fairly unsanctified behaviour.

A church that huddles in a corner is neither well taught nor growing in grace.

A church full of baby Christians is not well taught either.

Yet you insist on clinging to the idea that one can measure the fruitfulness of a ministry based on something that only God does.

Think parable of the sower. The faithful pastor sows. The growth is entirely God's work.

I recall God saying to Paul "...for I have many people in this place."
What if, like Jeremiah, a man is working in an area where the Lord has very few people, or none?

Can he possibly be faithful...and fruitful?

I think he can. I think Jeremiah was, even if he had never written his books.

Kaj Ballantyne said...



Only God can draw people to salvation.
AND only God can bring about sanctification.

You bring up the GREATER question: is the church/pastor FAITHFUL

This doesn't make the fruitfulness question unimportant it just puts it in the proper perspective. I can't control my fruitfulness although I will pray for God's grace to allow me to see great fruitfulness (growth and multiplication).

I can control my faithfulness ... although even that is a gift of God's grace so really we shouldn't be high-fiving ourselves for any of it :)

Stephen said...

Well apparently James Macdonald reads pyro and the comments!! Fresh on his blog today, "Multi-Site and Fruitfulness." My comments are added in brackets.


Good quotes:

"To argue that a church cannot be shepherded biblically unless all the sheep appear to see you preach live, simply denies that reality [of the physical necessity for delegating pastoral duties when a church gets beyond a certain size]."

"Pastors are commanded biblically to give ministry away to those they have trained, not to hoard ministry for themselves or seek to contain and control the impact of the gospel in their community through misplaced notions of the division of labor."

This apparently does not include giving away the pulpit ministry, or "vision" ministry for that matter

"I suppose some could argue that an even greater humility is in the sending out a portion of your own congregation with a trained pastor to preach and function independently. That is something we have done frequently and continue to do, but often those who criticize multi-site have not made that sacrifice in their church even once."

so, since I have planted other churches with more biblical models, it's okay for my own church to put that aside

Tom Chantry said...


The Great Commission shows that the church ought to be evangelistic. It does not address the question of success within any particular ministry at any particular time.

Acts 6 addresses the separation of diaconal work within the church.

Romans 12 speaks to all Christians in the use of their gifts; it does not address whether or not preaching and "pastoring" are distinct tasks/roles.

And the instructions to Moses deal with the wise government of an entire nation; at most the principle of general equity could be applied to argue for plurality.

I'm just not sure any of these verses is on topic. The questions are whether churches can be judged on the basis of conversions and whether preaching is a distinct category from pastoring.

Tom Chantry said...

@ Kaj

My definition of fruitful...

OK, let's stop at that. Whose definition concerns us?

Does the scripture in any place use "fruit" or "fruitful" in this manner? Does the Scripture at any place explicitly judge teachers on their convert list, or only on the basis of the fidelity of their message? When the Scripture give us criticisms of churches (the letters to the seven churches come to mind, as does I Corinthians) do those criticisms include "failure to win souls to Christ?"

I understand your definition. I'm asking whether it is biblical or an evangelical pretension.

Anonymous said...

So you agree then.

A church and it's elders (including the pastor) must be measured by it's faithfulness.

Not it's (by the numbers definition) fruitfulness.

Anonymous said...

That was to Kaj...

Tom Chantry said...

@ Steven,

If he is reading the comments here, he ought to be asking why it is that he is incapable of having the argument on Scriptural grounds. The critics of multi-site raise biblical questions; MacDonald responds by impugning their motives. They are obviously ego-driven. When you're done picking yourself up off the floor at the idea that the multi-site celebrity who mocks humble servants for not enjoying the benefits of super-star status saying the other side is ego-driven, consider this: at no point does that post address any of the biblical questions raised by this site, or by Dever, or by Trueman, or by...

Johnny Dialectic said...


I don't think you've adequately dealt with Scripture here, or used sound application.

The Great Commission shows that the church ought to be evangelistic. It does not address the question of success within any particular ministry at any particular time.

So if a church is evangelistic and that evangelism results in actual souls added to the Kingdom, and in actual discipleship, how is that not a measure of "fruitfulness"? Your argument appears to be a non sequitur.

Acts 6 addresses the separation of diaconal work within the church.

That's right. So the separation of duties is a biblical principle.

Romans 12 speaks to all Christians in the use of their gifts; it does not address whether or not preaching and "pastoring" are distinct tasks/roles.

I think you missed it.

And the instructions to Moses deal with the wise government of an entire nation; at most the principle of general equity could be applied to argue for plurality.

I don't agree with the limitation you place on Scripture here (or above). Moses was advised to delegate duties in order that he might concentrate on teaching.

Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. (Ex. 18:20)

Tom Chantry said...

And Johnny, I think you're still not catching my point. I'm not saying that preachers should spend equal time preaching and pastoring, but that preaching is pastoring.

These passages, taken together, but especially Acts 6, establish that preachers should be free of administrative duties in order to concentrate on prayer and teaching. My argument is that this function is essentially pastoral and cannot be carried out without also carefully watching the flock, as Paul puts it in Acts 20. Separation of duties is a good thing up to a point. An accountant should not be trying to make sales, but then again he can't say, "I'm too busy with accounting to deal with adding." One is necessarily part of the other. Biblical preaching is pastoral; biblical pastoring is homeletic, and something is dreadfully wrong with a system in which the preacher says in effect, "I have other people to watch over the flock; they don't need me doing that. I'll just focus on putting out messages."

Morris Brooks said...

As preachers we can preach in order to pastor, or we can be a pastor in order to preach. There is a substantive difference in the two, both in focus, and in outcome. We must focus on preaching and teaching pastorally, with an outcome that is focused on the individual souls that God has put under our care. The quality of our sermons will ultimately be manifested and measured by the completeness in Christ likeness of the souls under our charge. In the oversight of souls, preaching is our main taks. So are we preaching to preach, or our we preaching to pastor? A good question for us all

Chuck said...


I knew. I was trying for sarcasm, which I forget often does not translate as well written as heard.

But thank you (non-sarcastically).

Tom Chantry said...

Here is Trueman’s expanded take on the point Frank was riffing on in his post. It's amazing how many of the questions raised here Trueman has already answered.

Jim Pemberton said...

Morris Brooks,

Well said.

CCinTn said...

Tim Laniak presents a powerful view of God’s design in how His people are to be cared for in his book Shepherds After My Own Heart: Pastoral Traditions and Leadership in the Bible. I would heartily recommend this book.

The imagery of the shepherd that scripture uses to describe those whom God would place over the care of His people is used many, many times in both Old and New Testaments. The example and model of the shepherd was perfectly and ultimately fulfilled by Christ the Great Shepherd.

Pastors/Elders are under-shepherds of the Great Shepherd’s flock and they are called to do many important tasks, more than ‘just preach’. The greatest of these is to be willing to lay down his life for the sheep, but he is also to provide care for the sheep. To lead the flock to good sources of food and water and to keep them from bad sources of food. He is to protect the flock from danger, wolves and such. He knows each one intimately and knows when one is missing and goes out to seek that one who has strayed from the flock. There is a vast difference between the shepherd and the hireling in what he does and is will to do for the sheep and God’s view of the hireling who is derelict in his duties is more than just ‘disappointment’. I think God in His wisdom uses the example of a shepherd over and over in scripture for a reason when He speaks of those placed over the care of His people.

It is hard for me to see how the pastor beaming himself from his church in Los Angeles to churches in Topeka, Miami and London can remotely be seen as shepherding those flocks as God through scripture describes shepherding. The argument is being made that having the pastor (or teaching elder) videoed in and having local pastors/elders do the job of providing local pastoral care is sufficient. While pastoral care may be given by these men, the celebrity pastor is not providing that and can in no way be seen as being a shepherd of these people. God is the one who has given the job description of the shepherd.

Tom has made the point repeatedly that you can’t divorce the task of preaching from pastoring and I agree with this. How can a man be considered to be a shepherd of a flock who is not with the flock? In the real world, someone who lives in the city may own a flock of sheep, but having possession of a flock does not make him a shepherd. He cannot perform the basic duties of a shepherd unless he is living, eating, sleeping with them. That is why he hires a man to do these tasks!.

Presence is huge. What kind of husband/father is the man who is not present to provide the duties prescribed for a husband/father. Presence is the point.

CCinTn said...

Anticipating the argument that has been mentioned numerous times “when is a church/flock too big?”, I would offer this:
1. When the flock grows beyond what one shepherd can handle effectively (and by that I mean that he is unable to fulfill the duties of a shepherd prescribed by scripture), then it’s time to bring in other under-shepherds to help care for the flock.
2. As the flock grows, can the shepherd provide effective care to every sheep? No and that is the point of #1. However, the imagery of the shepherd does not allow for a flock to be watched over by the under-shepherds while the main shepherd is not active in caring for the everyday needs of the flock. No, while not able to care for each and every sheep, he is still caring for as many as he effectively can. And there are times when he must provide care for a sheep that perhaps is under the care of one of the under-shepherds. Christ our Great Shepherd continually takes an active role in caring for each and every one of His sheep, how then can we argue that the preaching pastor can just pass off caring for the everyday needs of his flock to others ‘designated’ to “pastor” the congregation while his role is solely to provide the preaching?
3. Now turning to the image of trying to shepherd multiple flocks in multiple pastures around the countryside... Effective shepherding is not possible in this scenario and is not even a possibility discussed by scripture. God through scripture could have provided a parable or example of the king who owns many flocks in various parts of the nation and placing the faithful shepherd over all the flocks and delegating the responsibilities of sheep care to under-shepherds and hirelings but what we see instead is instruction and example of how the shepherd interacts personally with the flock. And loves them.

So, I would say that when the local flock gets so big that the main shepherd does not know when a sheep has strayed, then it may be time to divide the flock and plant a flock in another pasture with another main shepherd providing the needed oversight. By straying I don’t mean just as in falling into sin but also the instance that someone doesn’t come to church for a couple of weeks and none of the church leaders know it. You’re too big if people come and go and it is not noticed.
I do not think that scripture speaks against very large churches but it does speak to the type of care that the elders/deacons are to provide. When the care mandated by scripture cannot be given effectively, it’s time to bring in more elders/deacons or it’s time to divide the church into smaller more manageable bodies with their own elders/leaders providing care and with teaching elders who are living with and caring for those church members.

Frank Turk said...


Nope. Not gonna do it. You came here saying that big is beautiful, skirting the issue of the post made, defining fruitfulness too broadly, and now you want me to be more clear.

Not gonna do it. You have to answer the question.

Kaj Ballantyne said...

Appreciate the detail you put into your reasoning for determining church size as it relates to pastoral effectiveness. Nice to see someone willing to put it out there rather than the usual, "Well, who can really say?"

Linda said...

Why,, I thought the purpose of the Church was to make disciples and grow us up. If our Churches are getting too big then is that an indication that we are full of people just sitting in pews and just warming up seats? Maybe we need to get up and stop just filling Churches and leaving the "job" of Missionaries to just a few people ~

There are millions of people who have never once heard the name of Jesus and are going to hell..

Eric said...

Mystery quote:

"There are contexts and cultures about which we are clueless. Cities not so geographically distant from suburban congregations, experience radically different needs and challenges in their churches."

At first blush you might guess that the quote above was made by someone trying to argue against multi-site by pointing out the varying needs and challenges at different (even geographically nearby) churches and wondering how a piped-in preacher could possibly preach into those varying contexts at the same time. The quote certainly lends a lot of credibility to what many have been saying about shepherding and presence. After all, in acknowledging that there are radically different needs and challenges, a piped-in preacher would have to think awfully highly of himself to assume that he could with a common sermon properly shepherd and guide the people under his care in those varying contexts.

By now you've probably guessed who is responsible for that quote. That quote comes from the intro to an ER2 video segment with TD Jakes at the Vertical Church blog of James MacDonald.

Barchetta said...

I'm sure this isn't a new thought but, of course, this problem lies both with the celeb pastor and the celeb honoring/seeking sheep. As a somewhat former of the latter I'm not sure if I've celebrified a pastor I would want to hear anyone else speak. Assuming that the aforementioned celeb pastor knows this, it would seem to be a pride minefield, yet, because he knows this, he's beaming himself to multisites perhaps ( I try to think the best ) that in his desire to satisfy as sincerely and honestly he can his numerous sheep. I think some of these guys are in a tough spot. Though some might be self adulating, certainly, they all aren't. The comments I read seem to be making them out to be some sort of villians. Should they apologize for being so popular? At what point do they start to turn people away at the door because of a full house?

Eric said...


I think Carl Trueman touches on that nicely in the post that Tom Chantry linked to above. He said:

"There are those pastors who will say 'Well, if we plant a church but I am not the regular preacher, people have told me that they will not come.' That may well be true but it begs a follow-up question: does that not indicate a serious problem in the heart of the people? That pastor needs to call those people to repentance: it is not the man, it is the message which is meant to feed their souls."

Queue said...

So, I know of a multi-site/service church in Africa with multiple elders but one who is the pastor of preaching and vision in a similar manner as Piper, and they actually all received a prepared sermon ahead of time from the lead pastor/teacher and then all go and preach it to the different congregations etc.

Does that alleviate the primary concerns brought up by Carl Trueman?

Nonna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nonna said...

"There are millions of people who have never once heard the name of Jesus and are going to hell.


Could you explain what you mean by this statement? I really don't understand your thinking behind such a comment.

Sir Aaron said...

There are those pastors who will say 'Well, if we plant a church but I am not the regular preacher, people have told me that they will not come.'

It begs more than one question. If they will not come will they go to church at all? If they'll simply go to another church, then I don't understand the argument for needing a multi-site church there. If the answer is no, then it is an admission that the "fruit" of numbers is merely an illusion.

Sir Aaron said...


The statement is quite clear. There are people who have never heard the gospel and those people are going to hell.
Romans 10:

"How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

A man is saved by hearing the gospel. If he doesn't hear it, he can't be saved.

Kaj Ballantyne said...


I never said that big was beautiful ... in fact I asked questions regarding church size.

Never meant to skirt any issues raised ... only asked some questions to get a deeper understanding.

Still unsure of what you are asking in regards to how to more clearly explain how I think we biblically determine if a church is fruitful.

As far as what the Bible has to say about church size ... if you don't have anything to help take the discussion deeper that's cool.

Tom Chantry said...

As far as what the Bible has to say about church size ... if you don't have anything to help take the discussion deeper that's cool.

You do understand that you're insisting that the "discussion" is on another topic from what was addressed here?

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Well, if I were a coffee drinker, I would grab a cup and read all these comments I've missed for the last few days. How in the world did I miss this great conversation? I need to get off face book.

Although, tea with Frank & Company is just as good. :)

Anonymous said...

"and they actually all received a prepared sermon ahead of time from the lead pastor/teacher and then all go and preach it to the different congregations etc."

That seems to me to be dangerous (taking responsibility for someone else's work) and self-defeating.

I've never met a preacher (or anyone else)who didn't find the study hugely beneficial on a personal level, so why rob the other pastors of that benefit?

Also what serious pastor could take a sermon from someone else like that and preach it rather than preach their own sermon?

Also I find it egotistical. (Who can study as well as I).

And simply a non-technological way of doing multi-site. (We've got no TV, you be the screen for me.)

Linda said...

@Mary Elizabeth Tyler,
I love my coffee and reading.

Mary you missed out because you are not a coffee drinker Sigh~

Here's a joke for yah.

A man and his wife were having an argument about who should brew the coffee each morning.
The wife said, 'You should do it because you get up first, and then we don't have to wait as long to get our coffee. The husband said, 'You are in charge of cooking around here and you should do it, because that is your job, and I can just wait for my coffee.'
Wife replies, 'No, you should do it, and besides, it is in the Bible that the man should do the coffee.'Husband replies, 'I can't believe that, show me.'

Kaj Ballantyne said...

Hey Tom,

Actually, I was enjoying looking at all the implications of the argument. Even answering your question regarding "fruitfulness" (which may have seemed off topic but was interesting and helpful in light of the discussion).

But your point is taken and I'll move on.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...


Thanks for the laugh; I've heard it before but I still laughed just as hard.

I guess I am getting lazy because I have so much to say about his topic, but just can't get the fingers to tap out the words. I am busy listening to the T4G messages. John Piper gave an awesome message....and I know all the issues with that...:( But the man has been kept by the power of God, for sure. And that is that! :)

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Well, I am lazy, so I will post something brief, which I wrote about on the GTY blog concerning multi-site churches. They had a multitude of articles about this topic.

"The responsibility to preach the gospel to all the world was never given to a “few good men,” who, for whatever reasons, believe that only they have unique communication skills, or some extra extraordinary visions, or special words from on high (such as Mark Driscoll has fantasized about). God has endowed and gifted “many good men,” in the body of Christ, so as not to create a hierarchy system similar to the Roman Catholic Church. No one man, or group of men, should have a monopoly on God’s Word. Martin Luther fought and died believing this, as did many of the Reformers."

That's it for now!

James S said...

'Worship' is how you live, act and think from Monday through Sunday, 24/7.
How it came to mean something we do at church on Sunday is beyond me.

(well, not really beyond me. Our enemy knows all the best methods of deception.)

Patrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


I sat in that session and thought the same thing: "He has a great point!"
For that matter, why don't I just worry about shepherding the people in my church and on Sunday's simply show a DVD of Alistair Begg's study through 1 Timothy followed by John Piper, etc.?
Of course, I could use DVD music, Video's and we would not have to have any musicians or preachers.
Now, how could we replace the offering, the ushers and the announcements?
The answer: We need to train people in Audio Visual Ministry!
I need to write a book quickly before someone else does!!