It is common for churches to extend past one Sunday morning service and even to more than one place where the church meets. Many of the men that I love most have churches like this. But the question must be asked, “Is this biblical?” Are multi-site/multi-service churches one church or actually a lot of different churches?

Given the New Testament definition of the church, these churches with multiple sites and services should be considered as many churches and not one church. They are more akin to a bishopric than to a single church. The NT word for church literally means “assembly.” Some may caution not to put too much into the meaning of a word but it is worth considering. The word for church itself denotes a gathering of people together in time and space. The church is more than its weekly gathering but the weekly gathering is when the church is most the church, if you will. The church is the congregation, as it is the assembly of people covenant together for mutual oversight and key exercising. It would be impossible for one to be apart of the same assembly with those with whom they never actually assemble.

The “one another” passages of the NT testament are also problematic to mult-site and multi-service churches (ex. Rom 12:16, 15:7; 2 Cor 13:11-12; Gal 5:13, 6:2; Eph 4:2, 25, 32, 5:21, et al.). These commands are given to local churches and mean to point us to specific others. We are not responsible for everyone in the same way as we are those who we assemble with. We are not to forsake the assembling together (Heb 10:25). How are we to follow this command with multi-site and services? Who are we to assemble together with? The whole congregation! Such churches would also undermine the command for shepherds to shepherd the flock of God under their care. Who is in that care? Those at all services and all campuses? This type of church seems to separate the teaching ministry from the shepherding elder authority, placing men over people that they do not know and do not live amongst.

Furthermore, there is no warrant for such churches in the New Testament. Every time we see the church mentioned in the book of Acts they are meeting together as one assembly. Some say that it would be impossible for such large numbers to meet together as one assembly. But the Bible says that is exactly what happened. “All were together” at Solomon’s portico (Acts 5:12). The smaller meetings of the early Christians were likely not smaller meetings of the church since their discipleship entailed going to the temple together (Acts 2:46). They had to be together, assembled, if they were to be a church. The church is a visible, definable body that assembles together to hear the Word, sing the Word, read the Word and see the Word in the ordinances. Individual bodies that do this are not parts of one church but in fact their own churches.

Jesus Himself gives the power to bind and loose to the assembly. The “two or three gathered” in Matthew 18:20 refer to the authority present when the people of a local church assemble together. So the essence of the NT church is their assembling together. It is the assembled congregation that wields the keys. That is why me and few friends from can’t baptized another guy in the river on a camping trip. Multi-site and multi-service undermine biblical polity.

 

Advertisements