One of the important transitions over the last 30 years in the church in the West are the three shifts mentioned in the title of this blog (Mega-Multi-Micro) which is based on a recent webinar hosted by the Multiply PDX Third Thursday series. Their special guest was Ralph Moore and the theme was “Embedding Multiplication DNA in your Church Culture”. Following is a critique of what has happened that has forced the transition with a reflection question for you and your church to continue to make the shift from Mega-Multi-Micro.
Mega: When I was in my early years of ministry (1980s) I served as an intern at my home church. Skyline Wesleyan Church was one of the most innovative churches in the US at the time (see Elmer Townes book: “10 of Today’s Most Innovative Churches: What They’re Doing, How They’re Doing it & How You Can Apply Their Ideas in Your Church”). Mega churches (1,000 members and above) have obvious benefits and certain limitations. Most of all, because multiplication is not commonly built-into the DNA, mega churches will inevitably hit ceilings like: when their members outgrow facilities, when finances become a limiting factor or when the vision is not big enough. At some stage, every mega-church hits a ceiling.
- Reflection Question: How can we grow bigger by getting smaller?
Multi: In 2008, InFocus was hired to coach the 22 campus pastors of the NorthPoint Partnership Group. For the next 3 years I learned a lot about the multi-site model. Mega churches that continue to grow and eventually outgrow their home campus have gone multi. When a church reaches maximum seating capacity AND enough people drive more than 20 miles to reach the campus, new sites or campuses are launched to create more space for new church members. The critical mass needed to support the launch plus the 20 mile drive existing members make to the main campus informs the decision to launch a new campus.
- Reflection Question: How can we mobilize more leaders to start more campuses?
Micro: This model is not new but it is not the type of church that catches the attention of mainstream Christianity in the West. Two distinctions mark the micro-church . First, micro-churches prioritize multiplication, leadership development and church planting. Pastor’s of micro-churches tend to be co-vocational, learn from on-the-job-training and are entrepreneurial. Second, because micro-churches meet in homes or neutral spaces, they have low overhead. Facilities do not play a prominent role as in the Mega and Multi.
Ralph Moore shared two observations that are unique to this time in our history that present a special opportunity for the micro-church.
- This last year has changed the way American culture perceives the church. At best, the culture has ignored the church. But this last year has heightened the hostility towards the church and that trend, according to Moore, will only increase over time. Micro-churches allow churches to operate under the radar. Imagine a church that meets in your home to gather your neighbors.
- Mega and Multi churches tend to reach homogenous groups. This presents a special opportunity for the micro-church. Flexibility, focus and intentionality of reaching affinity groups are traits of the micro-church.
- Reflection Question: How can we reach affinity groups that are ignored by the existing churches in our community?
Will the Mega and Multi-site church cease to exist?
This is a hard question to answer. Here is my critique on what will continue to happen with the church in the West. From the work of Ralph Neighbors and others, the church of the future will be bigger AND smaller. In the US though we have not hit the scale that other countries have experienced. Larger churches on the global scale are in the 100s of thousands – see Global Megachuches by Leadership Network. AND churches will get smaller. Cell churches, micro-churches, and house churches are examples of how the church will continue to get smaller. A better question in my estimation is the place of the mid-size church and how it fits into the landscape of the church in the West in the future? That in my opinion, is the challenge for the future.
If you would like to view the webinar in it’s entirety – CLICK HERE.
Check-out Ralph Moore’s book on a modern-day church multiplication movement in the West!