What if we did football by multisite? 10

To show that I can do bad football analogies as well as anyone, I have been wondering lately what would happen if advocates of multisite churches applied their thinking to football.

From what we’re told about multisites and online churches…

  1. We get just as much out of watching a video screen as being there in person
  2. Participating in person wouldn’t really change the experience anyway
  3. The leader is just as happy seeing me as an off-site statistic than seeing my face and hearing my voice
  4. The leader doesn’t need to really know me, nor I him

If that logic is good enough for worship, shouldn’t it be good enough for football, which we’re told isn’t nearly as important?

  1. Watching on TV is just as exciting as being there
  2. Cheering from my couch affects the team just as positively as the folks who are cheering at the stadium
  3. The coach and quarterback know that I’m with them when they review the Nielsen ratings the next day
  4. The coach and QB would prefer that I never interact with them in real life

Besides #4, no-one believes that this is the case. Going to a game is such a different experience than watching on TV that we’ll pay lots of money for the opportunity to do it. It’s not surprising, therefore, that we so often find Perry Noble on the sidelines at Clemson football games, and his leaders in the stands (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

These guys obviously don’t believe that watching at home is as good as being there.

Except when it comes to church.

10 thoughts on “What if we did football by multisite?

  1. James Downing Nov 10, 2009 12:19 pm

    They’ll change theire mind when people start staying home on Sunday mornings. As for now, they are happy to pull people out of real churches in other cities to wacth their online service.

  2. keitho Nov 10, 2009 1:06 pm

    James Downing,

    No they won’t. Because of online giving, your tithe money can show up without you ever being there.

  3. Paul Nov 10, 2009 2:34 pm

    pretty good. i have actually only heard of one church actually doing multi-site well and I think biblical.

    First, there is none of this one-man show type of stuff we see at elevation like churches. They have biblically qualified elders…not one pastor.

    Second, there is no video feeds. There are about 6 campuses. A different elder preaches at a different church every sunday, and they never announce who is going where.

    Third, the entire church body meets one a quarter for business, announcements, and church discipline.

    Again, i think the multi-site is a grey area in Scripture, but at least this church is trying to be faithful to the Bible in how they are structured and minister.

  4. Ben M Nov 10, 2009 4:13 pm

    To borrow an overused local sports phrase, I’m not “all in” with video teaching but I am trying to be open minded to the opportunities it presents. I know of people who have been saved through video teaching and multi site. I’m sure there are some who would say that’s not possible or that it didn’t “take” because it wasn’t done in the presence of a preacher wearing a suit who knew their name. To your points:

    1) I’ve read articles suggesting that HDTV is one of the reasons for the decline in sporting event attendance. It is almost as good as being there and, in some cases, better and some are more likely to “attend” that sporting event by watching from home.

    2) I usually don’t offer an aubible “cheer” in church. I would hope that Pastors would preach the same sermon whether there were 50 or 5000 in attendance so I’m not sure of the relevance of this point.

    3) The number of homes reached is an important part of a broadcast sporting event. I would say that the number of homes reached in church is important too.

    4) I’ve not met the Coach or QB of alot of teams I pull for. It’s never been a requirement of mine to follow that team. I don’t care that I haven’t met them and I’m sure they don’t care that they haven’t met me.

    I love John Pipers quote that is appearing on this page as I type. He says “We need God in ways we do not know. Don’t limit your experience of God to what you can think to ask. Ask for the unknown Joy” I’m a big fan of The Piper! I wonder if that applies to multi site?

  5. Josh Nov 10, 2009 4:36 pm

    Kind of funny, but your points seem to be about things that I wouldn’t have guessed are important for you.

    1. Watching on TV is just as exciting as being there

    Is the point of church to be “excited” about hearing the pastor speak? If that’s an important consideration, multi-site with an “exciting” speaker would be preferable to a live service with a “boring” one.

    2. Cheering from my couch affects the team just as positively as the folks who are cheering at the stadium.

    Is the point of having a live service to “cheer on” the pastor/speaker? Even if it is, the multi-site plan as I understand it typically incorporates videos of sermons recorded in front of a live audience. If the “team” are the other congregants, I don’t think you could just assume that a recorded message is somehow less effective than a live one. Have you ever been somewhere where a group of college football fans are watching their team together on tv? The enthusiasm stems from the shared goal and excitement of the game, not simply from the location.

    3. The coach and quarterback know that I’m with them when they review the Nielsen ratings the next day

    I didn’t think numbers were important to you, so I’m not sure why this would matter to you.

    4. The coach and QB would prefer that I never interact with them in real life

    Somehow I doubt every Tom, Dick and Harry had unfettered access to Peter, James and Paul. This doesn’t mean pastors shouldn’t try to be accessible, but the qualifications for a pastor or elder don’t include “people person” to my recollection. (Maybe in some of these new liberal versions 🙂

    Staying with the same analogy, you should also consider the benefits of multi-site. Imagine if the only people who could watch the game were the people in the stadium. How many fans would be excluded? Also, many people might prefer to watch the game on TV: you can see more on a 40 inch plasma than from the 300 level at the stadium; the cost is signficantely less; the weather might be better.

    In the same way,despite the possible downsides of multisite — celebrity pastor culture, loss of community, less “excitement” — there are benefits. A church doesn’t need to build multi-million dollar facilities that are used a few hours a week. The cost of video taping messages is less than the cost of hiring an additional teaching pastor. Churches can expand while saving money by economies of scale. These aren’t reasons that demand the multi-site model, but they are very legitimate concerns, IMO.

    To me, the one issue is whether a multi-site church can fulfill it’s biblical role using the multi-site model. Are people being discipled effectively? Is the church meeting care needs within the church? Are people growing as believers? These are the better questions, IMO.

  6. James Duncan Nov 10, 2009 10:26 pm

    Ben and Josh,

    You’re welcome to explore the finer points of the analogy, though I don’t feel compelled to defend it, especially after beginning the post by saying that it was a weak analogy. Perry likes church-football analogies, so I was trying to pick something that spoke his language.

    The main point is that, by their actions, they don’t seem to believe that being somewhere in person is quite the same as experiencing it through some form of electronic media.

  7. Ben M Nov 10, 2009 11:31 pm

    The main point is that, by their actions, they don’t seem to believe that being somewhere in person is quite the same as experiencing it through some form of electronic media.

    And my main point is that it’s a stretch at best. At least it made me think about football for a moment. That’s never a bad thing.

  8. Seth Nov 11, 2009 8:22 am


    Just an FYI, I dont see any mention in this post that this was a weak analogy. So that defense for this post in itself is not valid. You do mention bad football analogies, but for someone so careful with words, I do not think you meant to use ‘bad’ and ‘weak’ as interchangable.

  9. James Duncan Nov 11, 2009 8:33 am


    A bad analogy is also a weak analogy. For the record, Perry’s Clemson analogy was bad and weak.

    Are you inviting me to explain exactly why?

  10. Derek Browning Nov 11, 2009 4:48 pm

    Hey Folks,

    Coming from a mixed history of small personal churches, and one mega-multi-site church, I don’t think the debate is really over “multi-site” churches. You can experience the same “distance” or “incompetence” from the pastor of a single-site church with a congregation of 3,000 or 100 people.

    The issues at hand are whether or not any church has the right processes and staff in place to make sure you are getting discipled and that the elders are performing their biblical duties of equipping the saints. In our current church system, we put way too much emphasis on the sermon that occurs once per week, and not enough emphasis on what should happen when the pastor isn’t talking.

    At the meaga-church I currently attend, I’ve only met the head pastor once, while I’ve met often with the pastor that is assigned to my family. In my first meeting the pastor assigned to my family told us that my bible study would be the place we should expect to see church discipline and discipleship take place. He has faithfully tried to encourage, rebuke, and better equip me.

    For those of us affirming sola-scriptura, as I hope we all are, I think we should be careful taking too strong of a stance on something scripture doesn’t really address. The stance on multi-site or single-site may fall into the Romans 14:1 category of “opinion.”

    What we really should converse about, is the heart of the issue.
    Are these churches preaching from scripture?
    Are the elders rightly dividing scripture?
    Are the churches practicing church discipline?
    Are the members being discipled, encouraged, held accountable?
    Are there processes and people in place to equip the saints?

    We should make sure the church is functioning as scripture commands the church to function, and allow Christian Liberty in the style and format it may use to accomplish biblical commands.

    There are just as many, if not more, single-site churches that greatly miss the mark of a biblical church.

    To play on the football example – we (as lay people) are not in the stands cheering, or off in multi-site bar’s watching HD-TV’s in little communities. We are on the team, playing. The pastors and elders are the coaches, we are the players. Do we, as players, need face time with everyone on the coaching staff – or can we be better equipped by working one-on-one with the coach specially suited for us. The head coach of the most successful team isn’t going to need to work one-on-one with the punter, nor is he best suited to do that, there’s a kicking coach for that. Throughout the week the kicking coach works directly with the punter, while once a week the head coach may give a ra-ra speech before a big game. During the game it doesn’t matter if the speech was watched over a web-cam or in person, what matters is if the kicking coach has equipped the punter to boot that ball back to the 10 yard line with the wind in his face.

    Thanks for the conversation…

Comments are closed.