This post does not take the multisite church approach to task. Skilled craftsmen in church planting can hash that out. This post does not seek to bash a single location containing multiple congregations, pending a differentiation between those congregations. Along with the differentiation, there are separate pastoral leaders. Many churches have multiple ethnic congregations within the same facility. I strongly encourage this approach. As pastors, we should allow like-minded linguistic groups to reach each other. As the “main” or “mother” congregation, we should seek to provide support and assistance where needed, but otherwise let them do their thing!
What I want to address is the “multisite-unisite” approach, meaning when a single pastoral staff uses its facility to produce two distinct congregations. It uses the multiple services to produce two generationally diverse crowds. Instead of using a multiple service approach in the traditional sense, two similar services, they use them to produce a great chasm. Oddly enough, many of the churches using this multisite-unisite approach are equipped for one service, but choose to be divisive in performing two diverse services.
Here is an example of the faulty approach; the church leadership uses one of its services as a “contemporary” service with the “praise team” and more casual dress. They want everyone to “feel” included and comfortable. The effort is to make the experience as normal/natural to real life as possible. The music needs to sound similar to what they normally listen. The dress needs to be like they dress everyday. The message might even have differing illustrations in order to “engage” that segment of the culture. The real problem, as I see it, is the strategic attempt to facilitate these norms in order to attract people. The other service is “traditional” with the “choir and orchestra” and more formal attire. The effort is to be more liturgical, formal, and sophisticated. The lights come back on, the screen goes up, and we get out the hymnbooks. After all, the older folks do not approve of those “other” expressions of worship.
Who are we trying to fool? The writing is on the wall; we desire the young hipster types to come to our “contemporary” service and the older folks gravitate to the “traditional” service. An unfortunate divide is created in this singular body of Christ. How could “a” body exist as two distinct organisms? The truth is it cannot!
YOU ARE NOT FOOLING ANYONE!
Lets face it, the truth is we do not want to “lose” members and “lose” money. We will employee whatever new and cool idea we have and hope it adds to our membership. You might ask, what is so bad about this approach? Here are some deficiencies or weaknesses:
1. You develop two distinct and diverse congregations. You essentially have two bodies within one body. In order to continue this division you must continue to provide varying ideas to keep both groups happy (and by happy I mean coming to your church). You continue to have “contemporary” and “traditional” things you do. The two never mix or mingle. Both bodies are provided specific pastoral staffs and each continue oblivious to the other.
2. Which brings me to issue number 2; you don’t have the opportunity for the Titus discipleship model. The older men and women never have the opportunity to train the younger. The older generation fosters very little desire to think through new things and the younger sits and fosters a spirit of “we got this” and “leave us alone.”
3. The next issue I see centers on the “man focused approach.” The churches that generally approach a division in worship services lean toward a man-centered biblical approach in salvation. They place emphasis upon man’s efforts. If “we” can attract them, then “we” can win them.
4. You create confusion for new believers. Their understanding of the church hinges upon the first impression. How you present them with the “church” model leaves a lasting impression. It becomes what they expect and want.
5. Which brings me to the next issue concerning the relocation of a believer, if someone is converted, and I use that term loosely, during the “contemporary service,” then if they move, they look for that “style.” Their search for a new church develops into a search for a worship style. They grow accustomed to this one form of worship.
6. It is all about style. A church that practices this type of model teaches people it is about preference and style. It caters to their desires. It does not center upon the Word. It feeds the man-cantered, me first culture. Why can’t God’s Word be the focus of our churches?
Then why do churches do this? Why would anyone want to create a chasm between congregations when the Scripture clearly teaches the opposite? Here are a few reasons I came up with:
1. To keep tithers. The idea is the “older” generation has the money. We cannot make them mad or they will leave. This mentality litters the Baptist landscape today. The fear of losing the older generation and their money is not unique. This problem has subsisted in our churches a long time.
2. Pride. Pure and simple, the elder charged with the responsibility of leading wants a bigger ship to steer. It is all about him and his ego. The issue does not tend to be about Christ or even the nations, but about self. I think this is a sad consequence of the mega church movement, which is another topic for another day.
3. To bolster the numbers. Whether we want to admit it or not, the significant reason a pastoral staff would move in a multisite-unisite direction is to increase the numbers. Increasing the numbers and growing a larger church results in book deals, speaking engagements, and popularity. That is when the questions of how did you do it and what was your strategy come forth. This looks good at associational, state, and national level meetings.
We need to quit confusing the people. If you want a blended service, then blend it. If you want to reach the generations, reach them in every way Christ opens doors for you to do it. Do not make efforts to exclude certain generational demographics from your worship services. Do not divide the people, but UNITE them under the banner of Christ.