I meditate on this throughout today the first day of the conference and realize that I’m not – in fact – technically “live blogging” the conference since I am only blogging my thoughts at the end of the day which – incidentally – has been a very long day as it began at 3:30 AM today when my alarm went off to catch a 6 AM flight.
So here we go. Some of the best things I heard today came from Larry Osborne, who is the senior pastor of North Coast, who is hosting our conference here in Southern California. He has a lot of insights into the church in North America and into the multi-site movement.
Why the Big Get Bigger
He compared mega-churches to big box stores such as Best Buy and Home Depot. He said, “Big Boxes (be they stores or churches) draw crowds because of their quality and options. But they can only stay big through personalization.” Our culture has shifted so that the consumer is more focused on quality and options and is far less loyal. This means that someone might leave a mega-church at the drop of a hat if a better church comes along.
What Mega-Churches missed
He explained that church leaders like huge crowds but he asked us, “When was the last time you heard someone say, ‘Hey, I get to go to a huge stadium event tonight!’ Leaders like it big but church folks like it small.
Mega-church leaders also underestimated the limit of drive time. There is a natural limit to growth in that folks are simply not usually willing to drive over 25 mins to come to your church, even if they’ve visited the church, like the neighbors who invited them, and like the church.
Finally, the mega-church is just not designed to accommodate what Osborne called “cultural balkanization.” He explained that by that term he meant the degree to which North American culture is not homogeneous but is increasingly become variegated and tribal. The mega-church just isn’t programmed to adapt to so many conflicting congregant desires. He suggests this cultural change has been precipitated by the automobile and the resulting death of neighborhood, the service industry (McDonald’s etc), FM Radio, Cable TV (and he could have said the Internet), and – finally, mass customization.
The multi-site church has the potential to address these shifts by allowing a structure
- defeats the drive-time issue by bringing church closer to those that it wishes to reach,
- can address the cultural tribalism of our culture by allowing one church to be multi-cultural, and
- allows more opportunities for volunteers, for leadership, for interactivity so that church can be even more personal.
Osborne does not present an unwarranted triumphalism about multi-church, but sees it as a tool that can be used to more effectively address our current North American cultural situation.
Osborne’s talk reminded me of Mike Frost’s emphasis on incarnational ministry versus attractional ministry.