Multi-site Churches: What does the New Testament Say?

one church

I recently watched a video of mulit-site discussion held at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  One of the questions that continually came up was, “What does the New Testament say about multi-site churches?”  As I thought about that, the answer that came to me was, “Nothing.”  Then I asked myself, “What does the New Testament say the church meeting place, structure, building, congregational size, should look like?”  The answer, “Nothing.”

The only thing we can glean from Scripture in regard to these questions is the examples we have.  The examples we have are the Jerusalem church and the churches planted by the early believers and apostles.  The Jerusalem church appeared to meet as a whole, which made sense because they were the first and only New Testament Christians.  The manner in which the church plants met is not as clear.  It does appear however, that the church plants did communicate with each other, minster to each other, and were sometimes under the leadership of a single individual.

With that said, I think we need to realize that the churches we have in the New Testament were very unique.  They faced different situations than we did, most obvious that they were the only churches!  I think rather than try to make sense of the little information we have about church meeting structure in the New Testament, we should focus on what we know the New Testament teaches about the church.

Here are some commands for the church that the New Testament lays out:

1. The church is holy and belongs to the Lord.  The church is the bride of Christ and should seek to remain pure and undefiled as such.

2. The church is made up of regenerate sons and daughters of God who are a collective family under the headship of God.  This family is to love and serve each other, and love and serve others.

3. The church is to be led by servant leaders under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  This would include pastors and/or elders.

4. The church is to hold its members accountable to holiness, edification, cooperation, and unity.

5. The church is charged with the mission of reaching lost people with the gospel.  The church is God’s method of taking the message of redemption to the nations, there is no alternative.

6. The church is to proclaim the unaltered Word of God as revealed in Scripture.  The central focus of God’s Word proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ.  The church should base everything on that message.

These responsibilities (as well as others) are what the church is clearly commanded to do in Scripture.  I say we focus on doing these things.  If you believe your congregation best accomplishes this through a single location, by all means do so.  If you believe multi-site is the most faithful way to accomplish these mandates, go for it.  If you feel that planting many small churches best fulfills this task, plant away.  The point is to not lose sight of what God has clearly called us to do.  Let’s do it, and do it faithfully!

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