When did evangelicals get popes?

Snark MeterHIGH.001

The big trend in American evangelicalism: the multi-site video-venue church. It promises to leverage the teaching acumen (not to mention star power) of big name preachers to extend the Kingdom of God.

Has anyone stopped and asked, “What in God’s name are we doing?”

Think about it – we started the Reformation over one man having too much authority in the Church, yet today hundreds of thousands meet in “multi-site” video venues watching preachers like Mark Driscoll or Craig Groeschel or Perry Noble in a box. The new gold standard of this movement is 3D holographic Andy Stanley, complete with security to keep people from going up on stage to play with it…or him.


Think about it while detaching yourself from your favorite multi-site, mega big-box preacher: Isn’t hitching ourselves so fully to one man’s teaching just a little odd? Doesn’t it smack, just a tad, of man-following? Even idolatry?

And, if “it isn’t about me,” as one multi-site preacher is fond of saying, then why not take your nine sites and train up eight new young preachers? Wouldn’t that be a healthier model? What happens to the church if the guy it “isn’t about” gets hit by a bus?

I am not saying that these preachers are not really, really great communicators. I am not saying that they wouldn’t be great guys to get a beer with and talk football or soteriology. But what does it say about us that we spend a million dollars to make Andy Stanley into the Sunday morning version of Tupac at Coachella?

How is this not worse than what we condemn our Roman Catholic brothers for? I don’t know a single Catholic that would be ok with the Pope being piped in for the sermon every Sunday. They laugh at the idea. I know. I asked.

How is the evangelical world embracing 7-10 brand-name preachers across the country not the ecclesiological version of GMO crops? Let’s just call it like it is: these men are de facto evangelical popes.

Some will say, “Yeah but Mark Driscoll and Perry Noble don’t speak ex cathedra.” Really? Their devotees quote them as if they do. In a nod to mega-pastor Steve Furtick’s statement, that they are “making Jesus famous,” doesn’t it seem as if Jesus isn’t the only one they are “making famous”? Not to mention rich.

To be clear, I am not attacking large churches, or video screens. I am not even attacking the bloated clergy salaries paid by churches whose boards are made up of other mega-church pastors – although someone should. I AM attacking a model of leadership: The multi-site, big personality church that trades the Ephesians 4 model of equipping others and giving leadership away for a model that makes “the man” a black hole of money and Kingdom energy.

Evangelicalism’s strength has always been its willingness to engage the culture to make an impact on lives. The backside of that coin can be an amazing short-sightedness. Does no one wonder what the unintended consequences of our new evangelical popes might be?

So before we cast stones at our Catholic friends for man-following, perhaps we should remove the video screen from our own eye.


61 thoughts on “When did evangelicals get popes?

  1. Reblogged this on Solomon's Porch – Nashville and commented:
    This has become one of my favorite blogs to follow. I think Solomon’s Porch readers will enjoy the Gospel Side’s Biblical insights, mixed with sharp wit, and sprinkled with a touch of bravery. Keep asking good questions Gospel Side and read on Solomon’s Porch followers. Enjoy! I did.

  2. As much as I like to listen to the teaching of some of these communicators (and have grown from it) I would never trade the opportunity to have a relationship with my pastor. That is probably why I also would shy away from a huge church (even though they can have very many things to offer families). The energy of a crowd can be wonderful, but vital realtionships are not to be discounted.

    • Thanks for commenting pebasv,
      Those churches always have a site pastor and ancillary ministries. It just contains a very odd Oz-like man behind the curtain, and miles away.

  3. Thanks for this post! It articulates something that has “rubbed me the wrong way” for a long time about multi-campus churches that center on the “rock star” status of their main preacher. Intentional or not, the effect is to make church about a man (and not the right Man) instead of its identity and work as the Body of Christ.

    I also appreciate your positive mention of the Redemption churches. 18 months ago, when we were looking for a church home, we visited their Arcadia campus several times. They did not have a dedicated pastor at that location yet (they *were* actively searching) so each time I visited, the word was brought by one of the lead pastors from their various other campuses around town. It impressed me very much that, though each pastor clearly had their own style and personality, all of them were very solidly grounded in the gospel and committed to its teaching. They clearly “got” their church’s commitment to the gospel as the center of preaching. It impressed me that a non-denominational body was able to develop this so effectively in their entire ministry staff. While we didn’t “land” there (we found an OPC church near our home) I routinely recommend this church to people looking for a place to worship, because I know they’ll hear the gospel.

    Thank you again for posting on this topic!

  4. I think the answer to your question (When did evangelicals get popes?) is pretty straightforward: with Luther. Ever read his Postils? They were collections of Luther’s sermons that were given to priests who were not ready or willing to preach their own sermons. So they would read Luther’s sermons to the congregation instead. Seems like a precursor to the multi-site church to me, with one big difference. Modern multi-site churches have a handful of campuses. The Lutheran church had hundreds (if not thousands). I’m not saying its a bad thing. It all depends on the content of the teaching. Better to hear the true gospel preached through a screen, than a false gospel preached in person, don’t you think?

  5. “Evangelicalism’s strength is its willingness to engage the culture to make an impact on lives.” We change a culture by changing how we do things. Scaling up is the way of the world. Scaling down, the way of God – Jesus didn’t have 4K members of His core team.

    Love what you’re saying, Matt – and the addendum is important as well. The church I attend in Sioux Falls is doing a hybrid thing – the preaching is carried over on a video disc from the senior pastor (the church is a multi-campus one now, with between 4K – 9K attendees weekly). They have been finding out that attendance at the main campus dropped when the service went from live preacher to video preacher. I could have told them that might happen – if I’m going to watch TV, I can do that at home, on my schedule, with a bag or bowl of munchies nearby (and thereby assume the shape of a sofa spud). The Noble’s, et al? I’ll pass. I struggle with participating in the large church as it is because they keep trying to import the culture of the world into the church as opposed to engaging it – and the people who are a part of it – out away from the doors.

    Good stuff 🙂 Nice touch with the “Big Brother” image and the snark-meter 😀

  6. We might not be so apt to do this if there wasn’t so much crap out there in regards to Christian teaching. Its difficult to know who to trust. And it can get pretty tiring sifting through the dregs.

    • Hi Todd. Thanks for writing. The guys I listed are all A-list talents. Their content is not all created equal, though, if we are talking about who preaches the Bible rather than topical sermons on whatever subjects the preacher wants to teach with a some sort of biblical tie in. This is a generalization, but much of what I hear in megachurch sounds like moralism to me (7 steps to more effective parenting, 4 steps to a happier marriage), rather than the Gospel. It tends to be “do better, try harder” and reductionistic. I have been in an ecumenical ministry and so I have heard hundreds of preachers from many different denominations. I don’t think “trust” is hard to find, but engaging can be. When someone is a gifted communicator and has the staff to provide them with 20 hours to devote to preaching, it is a better product than someone who has 5, so in that regard, big can be very helpful. But I know lots of trustworthy preachers. Maybe I just know a lot of good ones…from all over the denominational spectrum. They love God, people, study, pray…and don’t have the time, video package or boom cam that the mega church people have. The general rule is that if you are looking for “teaching” find places that teach expository sermons. Thanks again for commenting.

  7. Totally agree. People ask me if I hope to be a Willow Creek or Harvest Bible Chapel (I am planting a church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago) when I grow up, but I much prefer the Timothy model.

  8. So we have to do it your way? I believe that all of the letters that Paul wrote to all the different churches were teachings: He had a multisite church.

    I know that my church has 2 sites so that we can reach more people for Christ. Each site has staff for that area of town.
    Should churches that have good communicators turn people away after a certain amount of people?… “After this weeks service rows 2,4,6….88,90 will no longer be welcomed at our church; please go down the street to the church of snake handlers and banjos sorry but you see these other “christians” are saying we are just getting to big for our britches.”

    • Hello JSL,
      Thanks for writing. I know that everyone says “we have multiple sites to reach more for Christ.” However I have never heard anyone insist that every church but theirs is either not preaching the Gospel or handles snakes. I trust that you don’t really mean that but are using hyperbole. Is your pastor the only one who preaches the Gospel? More than that, show me in Scripture where the gathering of believers for worship is supposed to be evangelistic rather than worship and equipping of the believer. The model of the sanctuary as the platform for evangelism comes out of revivalism. It generally cannibalizes members from other churches and turns the Christian into a passive inviter rather than an active agent of evangelism of the lost. I explain a lot of that in a post last week entitled “O yeah! And other things I wish I’d have said.”

      Finally, why can’t someone else simply preach at the other site? Why not develop another young emerging evangelist? If a bus hits the one “makin Jesus famous” then what happens to the church in your model? People left holding mortgages? In the historic model we multiply ministry rather than hoarding it.

      So, although I respect your right to have a different opinion than mine, think about where this goes. Think about the unanticipated consequences that will be a catastrophe for the Kingdom.

      You are playing with fools gold. Unfortunately multi site is like the bad relationship you know you shouldn’t enter..but she is so cute you do anyways.

  9. I am of the mindset these days that smaller is better. How is a Pastor supposed to the people in his flock? If you run into him on the street well he know your name? How can a large Church become like family when most are just spectators watching the show. Are we not supposed to bare each others burdens in times of need.
    Yes, I know these big mega churches have a large staff, but they are paid to care. We are supposed to help each other, encourage each other and grow with each other. How can that happen when the congregation are just made up of customers.
    The Church model that I like is the one where when the Church reaches a certain number of people it splits. New people area raised up, new people are brought in and the growth continues.

    • Hi sean,
      That sounds like a good idea. Are you part of one of those? The largest church in AZ started in that model. A friend on the original plant team said that the vision was to split every time they got to 300. In practice it was pretty nice to get a regular paycheck, so the split never happened. Then the church plants stopped to and everyone started becoming a “multi-site” with the senior pastor piped in.

      • The one I go to has always been a smaller Church compared to the ones around us. I used to go to a much larger one. They claim about 4000 people on a Sunday. I can understand the Human desire for a steady paycheck, but if it is in their hearts they should divide.
        One of the biggest issues with mega-churches is what are the people there for? Are they there for God or just to see a show. The second issue is when that star Pastor leaves the church will most likely fall apart.
        I think it may have been Oral Roberts that built that crystal church in California. It is now a scientologist church. The Pastor died and the people left.
        As a Church body, I agree with your point in the article. A Church should always be looking to bring people up, but that entails having many Elders that are knowledgeable. The Church I go to is great in that regard. The Elders teach classes on Systematic Theology. Classes on each book of the Bible. Their main concern is to build up the folk to go out into the World and spread the Word.

  10. Addendum: There is a simple twist on this model that is much better: multi-congregation. It is being done by Redemption Church in Phoenix. They have 6 congregations and are growing rapidly with young adults. They train up a plethora of new voices who plant new “Redemption” sites that follow their model and brand, but each site develops a new team of strong young preachers. In my mind, that is a much more helpful model.

    • This sounds a bit like the Calvary Chapel model. They help with new plants and let the plant team take care of all the day to day and teaching.

      • It sounds like it. I don’t know how Calvary plants. We attended a Calvary years ago, but it was non-normative. I recall hearing at the time that it was the one Calvary that was brought into CC as part of another tradition.

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  12. I watched a video with Mark Driscoll, James McDonald trying to convince Mark Deaver that multi-site was the way to go. I looked at my eldest time and not as eloquently stated the same. I said it was a “cult of personality”. If these men would instead keep their thousands of followers and make them local bodies, engaging the neighborhoods they are in for Christ, I venture to say there would NOT be thousands tuning in on campuses all over the Seattle area ( and wherever McDonald preaches).

    • Wow! That is really interesting.

      On facebook I am taking a lot of grief for criticizing people who “want good preaching.” I really think the finger is squarely on those tasked with leading others. They should be wise enough to have said, “no.”

      So, yeah, I suspect I would agree. I do not know any of these people, but I am surprised that people tasked with passing on the faith would make such a glaring fail at passing on the faith to a new generation of leader. It is turning off the leadership pipeline.

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  14. Hi Mr. Marino. Thank you for this article. I agree with your thoughts on this subject. I posted your article to my facebook page. I had someone point out to me, though, that Andy Stanley DOESN’T actually appear anywhere in holographic form. He says he knows someone on the technology team at Northpoint, and that person said it’s absolutely NOT TRUE that Andy Stanley appears in holographic form. I’m just wondering what your source was for that? There are some old Slate, MSN, and CNN articles that allude to it, so there must be some credibility to it. Anything would be helpful.

    • Hi Josh, My source was Dr. Rodger Nishioka, a faculty member at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta. He told me that he sat in the front row and that it was fascinating. He also interviewed the former CNN employee who set the system up. Someone else on FB said it happened. Now I am really curious!

      Btw, I in no way intend to bag on Andy Stanley the person or Christian. I have family members who were on the founding team at Northpoint and have served on the board. I like lots of what he writes and he is an incredibly gifted communicator.

  15. Dear Matt,

    I think it would have been prudent of you to have researched this more carefully before putting together this article. Whether you are a blogger or a professional journalist, it is important to hear from both sides and carefully examine the facts, which is even more important as a follower of Christ. A simple call or e-mail to North Point would have likely answered any questions you might have had.

    If you were curious (or concerned) about what technology North Point uses, a little digging would have rewarded you with the following description of what tech is involved: http://www.npccproduction.org/faq/video/

    I trust that you will issue a retraction.

    In Christ,

    • Hi Daniel. I am looking at the link you provided, and not being a video guy, I have no idea what I am reading. Are you saying they don’t project Andy Stanley in hologram at any campuses because they all use identical tech? I was told by a widely published seminary professor who tells me he sat in the front row with security present. Are you saying he was incorrect?

      I did a quick google search in my office with horrible Internet service. It does seem like there are references to it out there.

      I also saw an older article on Slate entitled The Chick-fil-A Church” in which the openig paragraph describes the Buckhead site as broadcasting “in life sizes 3-D. The preacher is a hologram.

      I am more than willing to be wrong. I am wrong about a lot of things. I just want to know what I am retracting before I retract. 🙂

      • Matt,

        Thank you for the quick reply! Full disclosure: I am a volunteer on the production team at the North Point campus, so I can verify to you that no 3D technology is used. Regardless, you can verify that yourself by reading through the link I provided–you just have to focus on the first few paragraphs.

        Specifically, there is a paragraph under the subtitle “The Virtual Set Model” which is somewhat technical, but still understandable to the layperson. Note that it states a “large format screen (is) mounted center stage” and that the image projected on this screen is a “simple, static, high-resolution wide shot of the stage”. No holograms mentioned. No 3D-technology mentioned. This page is somewhat out of date, but considering all of the sources you have provided (MSN, Slate) are also more than 4 years old, it simply does not make sense that a church would go from state-of-the-art technology (3D projection/hologram) to a 2D High-definition image as is used today.

        I can only assume that your primary source, however reputable and well-intentioned he might be, was simply fooled by the clever use of a really big screen with a 2D image that is scaled to make it appear as if the communicator were actually standing there. I guess he might have looked away when the screen was being lowered into position too–it’s kinda hard to miss.

        It really gets fishy when you mention having security guards–what kind of security guards? How many? They were obviously not plain-clothed, so what uniforms were they wearing? If they were plain-clothed, are you certain they were not simply part of the team that coordinates service? There is simply too much information that is missing, and to draw the conclusions you have is in my opinion a bit hasty.

        Hope that provides a bit more detail as to what needs retracting! 🙂


        • Hi Daniel,

          Ok, so NOT 3D, just super high-def 2D.

          Are there plainclothes people that would ask someone not to go on stage? I will print a retraction and, to date myself with the reference to the old TV show Ed and the weekly $10 bet, give you $10 if you get someone to just wander up onstage during the sermon and see if anyone escorts you off. 🙂

          The source is a HIGHLY reputable dude with a national following. I have to throw him some kind of bone here.

          Btw, Thanks for this. I thought I had a safe and humorous illustration.

  16. Phil 1:15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill;
    Phil 1:18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. If Andy Stanley is a hologram, holistic, or recycles doesn’t make or brake the gospel….If you need group fellowship invite someone to dinner.

    • Hi Ken,
      I am always glad when the Gospel is preached, and am convinced Pastor Stanley IS preaching the Gospel. My issue is the future leadership of the Church in which thousands of young preachers are not developed. This is a 30 year slow train wreck. I am part of a tradition known for producing terrible preachers (The Episcopal Church). I don’t wish that on the rest of the Body of Christ, even if I will be dead and buried by the time it happens.

  17. I just want to reiterate how much I agree with your post, Matt. I trust the main point of your post isn’t lost in all these journalistic questions. Whether it’s a hologram or some advanced 2D thing really doesn’t matter in my mind. It’s a trend that is being taken too far. We’re forgoing the hard work of 2 Timothy 2:2 (the training up of other men), for the easier option of just broadcasting all over the place a gifted select few who’ve already been trained up.

    While it may be worthy to clarify, the word “retraction” seems a bit dramatic to me, Daniel.

    • Hi Josh. Retract? I’ll dance the cha-cha standing on my head if Daniel gets someone to casually wander on stage during the sermon, turn and look at the screen and say, “Oh. Excuse me, pastor.” And then meander off the other side.

      • Matt,

        Your source is incorrect. I understand giving him the benefit of the doubt, I really do, but you are not affording North Point the same benefit, which is hypocritical. This extends to your entire critique of multi-site churches. You assume far too much, and at least when it comes to how North Point operates, your assumptions are incorrect. For example: Each North Point location has a campus pastor. Did you know this? Did you also know that each pastor has ample opportunities to preach to the local congregation during the year? Did you also know that many of the guest pastors throughout the year are actually youth pastors and up-and-coming leaders throughout the church as a whole?

        Maybe you knew these things. That would make it really confusing though, given what you have written. That probably means you didn’t know any of these things. Perhaps next time you should afford North Point (and all the other churches you mentioned) the same benefit of the doubt that you had no trouble extending to your source.

        Regarding stage security: Yes, there are plainclothes people that would ask someone not to go on stage. I’m not certain why this is an issue. Do you not have ushers at your place of worship?


        • Hi Daniel,
          I really do appreciate that you love your church. That is a great quality!
          Of course I know that there is a staff at each of every multi-site church’s campuses. With no staff you would just be a movie theatre with free seats and no popcorn watching Jesus programming on Sunday morning while others are enjoying their lattes and t-times.

          I actually thought I was quite charitable. To have been uncharitable I could have said what pastor Anyabwile said on The Gospel Coalition Blog, “Multi-site churches are from the devil.”
          I was linked with that article today on someone’s blog feed. I would never have said that, but the pastor made essentially the same arguments as I but in greater depth.

          I assume that, like most of us, you are a busy fellow. If you had more spare time and had read the comments you would know that I have family that was on the original plant team and has served on the board, so I have a decent working knowledge of North Point. The most surprising thing to me really, Daniel, is your need for a “retraction” for mistaking “It …portrays the communicator in life like proportion – literally walking back and forth about 6′ tall.” for “holographic 3D” which has been described as “lifelike” and “literally walking back and forth.” Your website: “Life like proportion,” “Literally walking back and forth.” And you confirmed that you have “ushers” that protect the front of the stage and the “life like” video.

          So far, you have picked at the fuzz on the sweater of my post without having made an attempt at dealing with the substance of it other than to say that site pastors have “ample opportunity to preach.” Since Sunday morning is not a part of those “ample opportunities”, when do those come?

          I am actually surprised that you keep pushing for a retraction. One of North Point’s strengths has been its ability to poke fun at itself (the “Sunday Morning” parody, the iPad band). I love that you love your church. Do you have the ability to look at it’s limitations objectively, as I said, “Think about it while detaching yourself from your favorite multi-site, mega big-box preacher: Isn’t hitching ourselves so fully to one man’s teaching just a little odd? Doesn’t it smack, just a tad, of man-following? Even idolatry?”

          My $10 offer stands if you get someone to wander across the stage during the message by “life like” “walking back and forth” Andy to see if the non-security security escort them off. BTW, apparently it is so lifelike that people tried to go onstage and touch the screen, necessitating the “ushers” in front, rather than back, where most churches ushers are.

          • Matt,

            Charitable would have been to have talked to someone at North Point (or any of the other multi-site churches you mentioned). You clearly have not done so, nor does it seem that you have any intention of doing so.

            The reason I seriously doubt your “working knowledge of North Point” is because your posts don’t reflect someone with a working knowledge of North Point. For example, you say that I haven’t dealt with the substance of your article, then go on to say that the campus pastors do not preach on Sunday morning, which is not true. Andy does not preach every Sunday of the year–in fact there are long stretches when Andy is not preaching–especially during the Summer months. During those times, campus pastors and up-and-coming pastors give sermons on Sunday, to the same 30,000+ that Andy does. So there goes the main thrust of your argument (at least when it comes to North Point).

            Regarding your issue with the ushers who “protect the stage” (i.e. make sure no one unduly interrupts the sermon or blocks the view of the screen), I think it’s just another reason why you should have done your homework before posting. I also do not see the humor in your “$10 bet” and find it rather mean-spirited.

            If I were to write an article about trends in Christianity, I would probably write about Christian bloggers who think they are doing their readers’ a service by criticizing other churches even though they know next to nothing about them. If you cannot at least make an effort to seek out the truth, then you should probably hold your tongue.

            I understand your concern about idolatry, and agree that there is a stronger tendency towards idolatry in larger churches and we have to be very careful not to head in that direction. What I don’t agree with is how you went about making that argument.


            • Hi Daniel,
              Do you really think that a couple of people who are blogging are a trend in Christianity? I am hoping to be a little voice for the Church’s methods to be biblical rather than just our message. That is not mean spirited. It is an act of love.

              I don’t make a big salary blogging. I don’t make any salary at all. In fact, when I blog the three big churches with large salaries stop recruiting me. So it is to no benefit me to do this. It is the conviction that I am speaking a word of truth that God will not allow shut up in my bones.

              For the record, most churches do not have ushers in the front to keep people off the stage. They have them in the back, to help people find seats.

              And almost no pastor speaks every week. There are always 2-4 people on the rotation. Are you seriously trying to tell me that a church with 31 churches and strategic partners in the US wouldn’t be developing 31 times the number of preachers if each of those churches had their own preaching teams?

              Again I am really glad you love your church. But Daniel, I really think that you are lacking something that has been, to those of us on the outside, one of North Point’s best features: the ability to be reflective and see its own weaknesses.

              Peace, brother.

  18. Your comment about this approach being like a field of non-diverse GMO crops is spot on. As a former church planter, I have often felt that our model for evangelism depends too much on an attractive personality of the planter. This is why a huge percentage of church plants fail. Our models must change to one that depends not on a man’s personality, but simply on the person of Jesus.

  19. I discovered you at Rick’s Saturday Shortcuts. I am not familiar with the “Popes” you mentioned, but if they are preaching the Gospel and people are getting born again, that is good. Before I decided to attend church again, There were gospel programs on TV that I enjoyed. I can see from your profile that you are much involved leading people to Christ.

    • Hi Hazel,
      Thanks for writing. The folks I mentioned are on the “A-list” of multi-site, seen all over the country in sites churches. People are making decisions to follow Jesus, which is great. I have concerns about the results of this type of ministry. It is the kind of thing that allows people not to have community or conflict or accountability. It is entertainment driven. It doesn’t develop gifts of a new generation of pastors and if one of them falls into sin it potentially shipwrecks many.

      We have this American pragmatic idea that the results are what matters. I really think that there are better questions to ask: Is this biblical? Has the Church ever embraced this before? And, what are the unanticipated consequences? Where does this lead 10-20 or 30 years down the road?

  20. I also found your blog from Rick’s site. I enjoyed reading your post. I read all the comments and there certainly seems to be controversy over this issue (or at least over one or two sticking points). The Gospel is being preached and folks are coming to a relationship with Christ, regardless of the venue (large or small). There will be mega churches that cater to people in need of that atmosphere and smaller community churches for people that roll that way. I just think it’s cool that God has given us all the technology and people smart enough to use it to bring folks into relationship with Himself.

    • Hi Chashutch,

      I like technology. I really do. And I have absolutely nothing against a church becoming large.

      My argument in that post is against video-venue church. Although I have written about how the “mega” thing works much better for the over 35 than the under 35 (https://thegospelside.com/2012/10/11/why-the-big-box-church-works-for-the-over-35-but-not-the-under-25/)
      …and a critique of the youth room becoming the sanctuary (https://thegospelside.com/2012/09/23/whats-so-uncool-about-cool-churches/)
      …and the church as “like the world” vs “different from the world” (https://thegospelside.com/2013/08/12/o-yeah-and-other-things-i-wish-i-would-have-said-on-cool-church/)

      I have concerns about the results of video-venue ministry, including:
      -It allows people not to have community or conflict or accountability.
      -It is entertainment driven and allows people to worship at the altar of preference and self.
      -And the critique of this post – that video-venue doesn’t develop gifts of a new generation of pastors.

      One I didn’t mention: What happens to the faith of the weak when one of them falls into sin? It potentially shipwrecks tens of thousands. That is why my “GMO Crop” reference.

      By the way, No one from the video-venue world has any answer other than, “You shouldn’t judge” and “But, hey, it works.”

      We have this American pragmatic idea that the results are all that matters. Are there not better questions to ask? Like: Is this biblical? Has the Church ever embraced this before? And, if so, what were the results? What are the unanticipated consequences? Where does this lead 10-20 or 30 years down the road?

      And if checking a salvation box and counting how many came are our only metrics of success, then shame on us. It might not be the church we are building at all. It might just be a giant Amway rally in which our product is feeling blessed.

      -There is another issue that I don’t really touch on and that is the amount of money our technology costs. The millions for the equipment and broadcasting could have fed a continent. How do we tell a person in Africa who’s children are sick from dirty water that Americans have lifesize electronic people with deep 6-figure salaried pastors who don’t disclose their income when our Christian brothers and sisters are dying for basics? That is a repudiation of what the early church did in which Christians were well-known for their self-sacrifice.

      I am overjoyed when people come to the Savior. But this whole mega-video-life-size-super high def preacher thing is really bizarre. Don’t you think? Could more not be reached if instead of bringing the world to our celebrity preachers we equipped the Body of Christ to follow Matt 28 and GO to them and love their neighbors and lead them to Jesus?

  21. I think you’re incredibly biased, and your writing style screams for readers and comments but not at all for open-dialogue. I work for one of those North Point partners that you so quickly assume aren’t creating communicators or church leaders, and the truth is, Daniel is absolutely right. You have absolutely no working knowledge of the leadership or structure of a large organization like North Point, and you have no desire to search it out; only to disregard and toss aside Daniel’s points. I’m glad someone you know helped plant the church, but things have certainly changed in 15 years, and I believe they’ve gotten better and better. Each individual partner church has its own leadership and its own teaching teams. There are 3 staff on site able to speak in any of our environments at any point. We have built a church on the model that North Point has set forth, and only about 10% of our incoming attenders come at all because they’ve heard of Andy Stanley. Most of our attenders have come and stuck around, not because of Andy Stanley, but because our church is filled with people in love with Jesus that strive to make that evident in everything that they do. This is why our environments look so great. This is why our staff functions so well. This is why we have so many volunteers. Not because of Andy Stanley, but because our belief in Jesus and the joy that comes from that demands our best. Out of that we serve others. We receive no money from North Point. We are an independent church that is proud to be partnered with an organization that has worked so hard to do things the right way. We work to replace ourselves when the time comes, and we are raising an amazing generation of communicators coming behind Andy once he’s done. And one day he will be done. And this organization will continue to function b/c regardless of your stance, our church is not built on one man or his personality, but instead on the Gospel and on local groups of people all dedicated to the same mission.

    Don’t get this confused. This is NOT me saying “it works.” This is the Gospel at work, and your desire to pick it apart and undermine does no good for The Church at large. It seems you’re only attempting to sow dissension on a large scale via the Internet. Yes, conversations need to be had about where the church is headed and what she will look like in 5, 10, and 15 years, but I would think it very unwise to speak so poorly of things you clearly know very little about. Have these conversations in the privacy of your own home or at your local church or anywhere else for that matter… Just not on the Internet. I think we both believe in the same Jesus, and He called us both to do the same things… Love God and people and make disciples. I’m trying to do that through what I do and through the organization I work for. I assume the same is true for you, and I hope the youth in your area are greatly benefitted from your work; however, I can’t see how any Christian or anyone is benefitted from your dismantling of large-scale/multi-site churches attempting to bring people to the same Jesus.

    • Hi Ben,

      I am really stunned that you think I have the ability to “dismantle” anything. I am raising questions and asking for dialogue.

      I am admittedly biased…much as you are in your support of the multi-site church.

      I apologize if you feel as if you or Daniel did not get a fair shot to have a different opinion and dialogue openly about it. I have worked hard to cultivate the comments section of my blog as a place of fair discourse.

      I actually did answer Daniel point by point. I also answered him in a followup post yesterday entitled “I’ve been found out! http://wp.me/p2Gq9e-mF

      Was there a subject that you felt I did not engage in fairly with Daniel?

      I do not work at a multi-site church. Do you seriously think that means that I have nothing to contribute to the conversation about it? I have looked at it closely. I have been approached on 5 separate occasions for pastoral jobs at multi-site churches but have declined due to a different vision.

      I do see the strengths of North Point. It is a phenomenally well run organization. Andy’s leadership podcasts are fantastic. I use Communicating for Change in the three different youth ministry training programs I run.

      I just disagree with the church model he and you are promoting. You agree with it. I do not. I am a different voice. Nothing more. Nothing less. To assail my motives and to call me “unwise’ seems uncharitable for someone accusing me of uncharitability.

      As I said, I have a different opinion than you. I think that youth ministry uncritically appropriated has been a destructive thing that led to the topical megachurch. I was part of that. My generation of youth pastors helped create what I see as a problem…one that is leading to the millennial abandonment of the church: https://thegospelside.com/2012/09/23/whats-so-uncool-about-cool-churches/

      I think that using the sanctuary as the locus of evangelism is unbiblical and unwise in the long run:

      Let’s discuss these issues in the light of scripture and the direction of the church and our culture. I am not trying to run down the Body of Christ. A very large percentage of my readers are pastors like you, youth pastors and elders. They are tasked with the shape of the church of the future.

      I am trying to engage in a dialogue on the wisdom of a model of doing church. NP people more than any other seem very, very defensive. Are you guys getting heat from other sources? You guys used to be the multi-site with a sense of humor. I wrongly assumed an ability to be self-reflective and self-deprecating with Daniel and he took offense.

      I do have to ask: You want Andy to have the freedom to be beamed around the globe via the internet, but don’t want me to have the same freedom?

      We have different visions as to the purpose of church. We disagree Ben. Lets talk about the issues rather than labeling those who disagree.

  22. Wow, I had no idea that Andy Stanley used a hologram video. That’s crazy. I think our culture tends to elevate these guys. We do it with movie stars and politicians and sports stars too. The best thing for the church to do is to remember that we are called to follow Jesus, not a mega church pastor.

    • Hi Caleb,
      Thanks for tagging up. I think my intel was wrong about “holographic Andy.” A very nice young man on NP’s video team sent me to their website. It describes the technology as “‘utterly-lifelike moving back and forth, super-high def’ Andy.” I blogged about it here: http://wp.me/p2Gq9e-mF

  23. We surely have come a long, long way down the slippery slope from the House Churches of Paul’s day where each person exercised their gifts, to a bunch of mindless sheep that sit back in the pew and soak up whatever the guy that they pay to read the Bible for them deems fit to feed them!!

    • Wow. You choose “Paul’s day” to compare to the church’s of today. First off, if anyone biblically had MULTI-SITE campuses it was Paul! And there were a lot of people who sat back and consumed exactly what Paul wrote to them, and some of them still didn’t heed his advice or teaching. Not to mention, under Peter in Rome 3000 were added in one day. Doesn’t much sound like a house church to me. If 3000 were going to fit in one house, it probably had to be pretty big house. You have no idea what “church” looked like in “Paul’s day” or in “Peter’s day” other than what we read biblically, and while there were definitely house churches, there obviously were larger meetings as well. And the Spirit seemed to move in both. And when you write “deems fit to feed them”, I’m assuming you mean scripture? Because scripture is what I’ve heard these pastors teach. They surely aren’t teaching the Koran or a 6th grade history book. So is the Bible and its letters outlining the Gospel fit to feed someone? Or are you saying that these pastors are watering down the Gospel? A lot of loaded statements here. Whatever you’re saying it sounds like a personal opinion based in personal experience and little research of these current churches or of biblical circumstances.

      • Hi Benjamin.
        Thank you for writing. I was confused by your “Paul’s day reference” and then realized that you were responding to Mike’s comment. The feast of St. Peter and Paul is June 29th in the liturgical calendars of Roman Catholics, Orthodoxy and Anglicanism, so I was racking my brain to remember a June 29 reference in the post.

        “3000 were added that day” actually occurred in Jerusalem in outdoor preaching. At that point Christians were still attending the Jewish temple.

        Not to be disagreeable, but historians do actually know quite a lot of what the early church did in worship. The New Testament IS our only source for Jesus, but it is by no means the only source of what the early church did. There is a whole field of study in liturgics that studies the worship of the early church. There is a whole movement in liturgical renewal. You can read Dom Gregory Dix (one of the earlier people) and Robert Webber, who is an accessible scholar in more recent times.

        For example, The earliest building that we know was used for Christian worship is building known as Dura-Europa in Syria. It is from 235. It was a standard residential house with a wall removed to cram more people in.

        We know a lot of what worship looked like from multiple sources:

        One is the Didache (parts thought to be written as early as 60ad-earlier than much of the NT).

        We have a complete outline of a eucharistic/liturgical worship service from Justin Martyr’s “1st Apology” written in 150AD. That one is quite interesting as it is point by point a liturgical service that you will see in the churches of more than 1/2 the Christians on the planet today. When you read Justin Martyr two things stand out: The first is that he writes as if what he is describing the standard, universal, widely accepted practice that is occurring every Sunday in every church. Second, it is so very early. 150 is as close to the close of the canon of the NT as the close of the canon was to Jesus walking on earth.

        A third one is the prayer of Hipolytus from 225 AD. He was an old bishop who wrote out a eucharistic prayer because he thought the young clergy were messing it up. The prayer we use for communion in our church is a modern language version of that prayer.

        I do have to ask: You are not seriously saying that Paul was a multi-site pastor? Paul appointed elders in each city and left them to preach and lead. What I am arguing for is exactly that model. A church can share brand, vision, mission without having one guy on a video feed all over the country. There is a great church in Phoenix that is exploding with young adults that is doing exactly that. They have 6 sites branded “Redemption Church” led by gifted young preachers. Same vision, same theology. Different leaders being developed at each location.

        Btw, You didn’t begin to answer the substance of the post: 10 guys preaching to everyone in the country is dangerous, idolatrous and a leadership fail…not to mention without historical precedence, not even in papal infallibility and universal authority.

        Thanks for writing.

        • Thanks Mattarino.
          I suppose that I should have given all of that detail… I majored in Church history at Seminary and can assure “Spartacus” that most churches in Paul’s day were house churches (even when the walls were knocked out to make more room they were still relatively small).
          My Reference “whatever the guy that they pay to read the Bible for them deems fit to feed them” Sure that use Scripture but all too often they take passages out of context and string them together to make the Word seem to support the particular axe they have to grind. We need to return to the custom of every family reading the Scriptures for themselves. In church not merely following along with the pastor, but reading the context of his texts.
          Megachurches an “megateachers? It is clear from the NT teachings that “churches” were never a one-man show. Each member of the congregation was expected to exercise his/her gifts during church meetings. Just one example; Eph 4:11-14 makes it clear that the gifts were given ” for the equipping of the saints (i.e. the congregation) for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” and NOT for equipping one man to attempt to be a one man band.
          In a massive church a mistake (whether deliberate or accidental) can lead thousands of people astray, while if this occurs in a small church only a few people are mislead and the potential damage is much smaller!

          • Hi Mike,
            Both Spartacus and Benjamin are coming from the same email address. He (and a couple of other North Point’s peripheral leaders) seem to take offense at any critique of this new “tradition.” When given information that they were either unexposed to or, perhaps, didn’t fit his paradigm, he seems to have disengaged.

            My son, a junior in high school, read his comments and said, “Wow, dad, he seems to have little grounding in Scripture and none in Church History. What will happen to their people when cults come? Their shepherd seems unprepared.”

            I strongly suspect that Andy Stanley IS aware of the limitations of the model and is trying to find workarounds. He seems to have a great deal of self-awareness for someone caught in his own machine. My guess is that this is his way of exposing others to his leadership. I also suspect that he is part of the “message should be biblical, the methods don’t have to be” movement. I was part of that for years myself. It is a pretty slippery slope, in my mind, especially with the culture changing. “Relevant” will eventually become irrelevant. When that happens, God will raise up something different. The sad part to me will be the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in big buildings and carpet that could have gone for clean water or job training or other relationally engaged things Christians could have done. Mike Breen did some amazing things in London without a building.

            Thanks for tagging up, Mike. I hope Benjamin/Spartacus returns to the conversation. I feel like we answered his critiques (https://thegospelside.com/2013/08/24/ive-been-found-out-retraction-issued-on-evangelical-popes-post/) and added questions that remain unanswered.

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