Owen and Multi-Campus Ministry

At P & P.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. Dr. Clark,

    Danny’s post was very interesting. The multi-site phenomenon is certainly up for debate. I cannot help think that some of Danny’s interest has to come from the fact that his congregation is located between a couple multi-site churches (North Coast and Harbor are quite different structurally though). I was a member of North Coast before my wife and I moved to Escondido a few months ago and began attending New Life PCA . We are moving again to the Temecula area and will be seeking membership at one of the Presbyterian churches in the area. So I might have some inside perspective that could shade this conversation.
    At North Coast (and through reading Driscoll’s book “Vintage Church” – Mars Hill would be included), there are teaching pastor(s) who attend to word ministries which are broadcasted to the various live/video venues, and then there are venue pastors who preside over the various venues. However these venues are quite different than Reformed congregations in a couple of respects. First, there is a lot of movement in and between the venues because attendees may go to an 11am Sunday service one week and a 530pm service the next. Second, the venues would not view themselves as a particularly cohesive group or congregation per se. Group cohesion really happens at the small group levels where life-stage pastors preside over the small groups. The small groups are where ministry happens, where the sermon is discussed, where prayer and communion take place, and where life on life accountability are carried out. I will say that though I am new to Reformed churches, and I am certain that there are many criticisms that can be leveled toward this model, that my wife and I did experience a tremendous amount of growth and genuine Christian fellowship in North Coast’s small group ministry. And on the occasions where my wife and I did meet with Chris and Larry (North Coast’s teaching pastors) in the context of prayer, and traditional pastoral work, they were nothing less than compassionate, and well…pastoral.
    As a relatively new Presbyterian I definitely see the merits of a presbyterian mode of church governance and structure. Yet, from my roots as a mainline evangelical, I have seen some benefit in some of the forms that many reformed leaders criticize. And this is where my questions arise: generally do the arguments against multi-site churches arise because they are manifestly unbiblical? Are there some resources out there that can help a guy like me sift through some of these issues?

    • Hi Jed,

      I don’t know a great deal about multi-campus ministry but I’m not terribly encouraged by what I see. I worry about sheep without a shepherd and I worry about the undermining of presbyterian (note lower case) polity. It’s hard for me to see how multi-site ministry, if that means that one session is functioning as a virtual presbytery supervising what are effectively multiple congregations, is consistent with presbyterial polity. It appears to be more episcopal than presbyterian. Further, I worry about the church-growth ethos that undergirds the multi-site approach. The church growth movement is a business-inspired movement and many businesses are essentially episcopal in their organization. There’s usually one person at the top of most organizational flow charts. That’s fine for business but not for the church. The church isn’t supposed to be efficient. It wasn’t instituted to be efficient or even effective. It was instituted to faithful. Effectiveness belongs to the Lord. I’m not saying that there’s no common grace/common wisdom from which we can learn. Sure we can, but on fundamental matters of polity and ministry we had better to shun pragmatism.

  2. Hello Jed,

    I only cut and pasted half of Owen’s answer. In that Q&A he discusses two issues: first, can a minister be employed only in some aspects of the ministry and not others, and secondly, can they be attached to more than one congregation. I would encourage you to give Owen a read and meditate upon the biblical passages he offers.

  3. Danny,

    Thanks. Which of Owen’s works was it specifically, for some reason I am having trouble pulling up your original post.

  4. Hello Jed,

    Read Q&A 26 in his “Brief Instruction in the Worship of God…” in volume 15 of his Works. Then you can go back and read the entire treatise, especially the second half that deals with the order, form, and discipline of a biblical congregation.

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