Multisite Church

May 7, 2009 — 2 Comments

I just finished reading through the new 9 Marks Journal on Multisite church.  I thought it was a fantastic and balanced presentation of arguments both for and against the concept.  Ed Stetzer dialogued through the basic objection most have to multisite here, and I’m also asking a similar question.

The article by Jonathan Leeman titled “Theological Critique of MultiSite: Leadership Is the Church” (it starts on page 50 in the PDF or here) was one of the most clear-headed and incisive arguments against multisite, but there is something that is unsettling to me about his critique that I can’t quite put my finger on.

Perhaps it is because I have been reading things like The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch and Organic Church by Neil Cole, but it seems that Leeman’s answer dissociates the organic nature of the church from the biblical prescriptions about it.  I know this is a very poorly supported answer both biblically and logically (Leeman would shred me in debate…), but like I said, I can’t quite put my finger on why his argument isn’t resonating.

The excerpt below highlights the basic theological argument that is the foundation of Leeman’s conclusions:

These three passages in Matthew tell us that he gave this authority to the apostles, who were uniquely commissioned with the apostolic message to establish the foundation of the church. Once that foundation was established and the apostles died, did that authority then pass along to every individual on the planet to determine whether or not he or she should be baptized into the body of Christ? Hardly. That authority is then passed on to the church. Only the apostolic church has the authority to baptize and distribute the Lord’s Supper. Now, the church does not have the authority to deny baptizing one who offers a credible profession of faith (Acts 10:47). After all, the church’s authority is mediated, not ultimate. Still, the church alone has the power of the keys, and the church on earth is, quite simply, particular churches.

He then continues to dialog about the institutional nature of church from Scripture, but I think this view ultimately dissociates the institution from the collection of individuals that encompass it.  It is in effect establishing the concept of church as the authoritative body apart from what it is comprised of–believers.  Basically, the church is defined as an external set of biblical prescriptions according to Leeman, while it would say it is both external biblical prescriptions AND the composition of the individual believers who compose the body living and applying those biblical prescriptions.

Logically, all of Leeman’s arguments are sound (they are a model of excellent thinking and clear argumentation), but I’m not yet ready to write off multi-site as he does based on the issue above.

Give the article a read, and then let me know what you think!

Todd Engstrom

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Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth. God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

2 responses to Multisite Church

  1. Scott Campbell May 8, 2009 at 7:23 am

    several thoughts after reading the above as well as Stetzers comments.

    1. A small ‘solo’ church is better connected and can more easily show agape to each other for obvious reasons…everyone knows everyone, everyone sees everyone…it is much easier (for our flesh) to love what you know and can touch

    2. a big/multisite church brings much more to the table than a small church…more bodies, more money, and on and on…is that a good thing? I think that it can be (and for me right now it is)…but only if God has blessed it…the leaders and the members must make sure that everything is done prayerfully, never forgetting that we are nothing without the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us.

    For me, my ‘bottom line’, God does not really care about the size of our churches…he wants us to never forget the greatest commandments…to love Him with all our heart mind and soul…and to love others as we love ourself…for some that is easier to do in a small intimate church, for others, they can do it best in a large orginazation. God can do anything…if we give our heart, mind and soul to Him, he will make it work regardless of the size or number of locations of the church

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