The recent retirement of the lead pastor of a multi-site church, David Chadwick was featured in a little article at the Christian Post. At the end, the article notes:
He said prior to his decision to resign he had started having doubts about the multicampus church model where lead pastors mainly connect with the congregation through video.
“Churches all over the country are doing it, with videos shown on the screen in other places,” Chadwick said, “Elevation (Church) is probably the primary example here in Charlotte. You know, I just began to wonder more and more–how effective is that?
“I know I’m a good communicator…I can have people come and listen. But doesn’t a pastor need to speak to his people? So I began to struggle with that too,” he said.
What a curious notion! A pastor needing to speak to his people? Like, physically present with them? How charmingly old-fashioned!
I speak with tongue in cheek, because Pastor Chadwick had “began to struggle” with something that should be patently obvious (though obviously it is not obvious to a large section of the American church)–that pastors are supposed to speak to their people. Not only does that mean being physically present, but, even more, that means a pastor should actually know the people to whom he is preaching.
A pastor is supposed to shepherd the flock of God. He preaches the Word not to strangers, but to people with whom he has a relationship. He should know them by name, and have some knowledge of what’s going on in their lives. The same pastor who preaches the Word of God to them should be the one they can talk to about their struggles, the one who visits them in the hospital, the one who baptizes them, dedicates their children, marries them, and buries them. That’s a shepherd; that’s a pastor.
This suggests not only that multi-site churches are highly problematic but that megachurches are problematic too. You can preach to 10,000 people; but you can’t pastor them. A church need not be tiny, but it oughtn’t be huge.
I know that such a radical claim is contrary to the accepted wisdom of much of the American church. But I think the church would be stronger if we had more moderate sized churches instead of megachurches and multi-site churches. As a side bonus, it might help us avoid this sort of thing. In any case, it would encourage pastors to be pastors, and churches to be real communities, sojourning together through the storms of this life.