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Comments

Thanks for writing on multi-site churches. The trend fascinates me personally and is one that I hope to watch and learn from over the next few years. A few questions that comes up specifically because of this post but are related to multi-site overall...

1. How responsible is Andy Stanley and/or the North Point leadership for the application of their teaching in a church that is a strategic partner? If they are not, how does their relationship build people into their local leadership for guidance on application?

2. How does having a non-local pastor as the primary teacher affect the congregation's understanding of who is leading the church overall?

3. Won't this increase the temptation for the local congregation to compare their local preacher to Andy Stanley? What effect could that have on the church?

Great questions! I will reserve my responses until some practitioners have chimed in ...

Greg

I know I probably don't have the right to chime in here... I'm not even closely related to you all, eccliesiastically or philosophically... but...

The multi-site thing has been called "franchising" before, sometimes not in the nicests of tones, but I have to tell you,
"A strategic partner agrees to use Andy’s messages at least half the time. . . . There are currently 6 such partnerships: 4 in Georgia, one in Alabama, and one in Michigan. Only one of them was an existing church. . . . To become a strategic partner they require an existing church to shut down for 3 months, send their staff to train at North Point, and then reopen with new enthusiasm.”

if that's not franchising, I don't know what is...

"To become a strategic partner they require an existing church to shut down for 3 months, send their staff to train at North Point, and then reopen with new enthusiasm.”

Sorry, but that's easily within the top ten most disturbing things I've read in the past few months.

My bent is to lean the way you do in these comments, Bob. But can you explain why "franchising" (another name for denominationalism?) is so disturbing to you?

Greg,

Thank you for highlighting the Strategic Partner initiative at North Point. I am Lead Pastor of the 7th Strategic Partner, Catalyst Church in Greenville, SC. We are launching on April 16.

It's so easy to misunderstand what a Strategic Partner is and what it is not. As a Strategic Partner, we agree with North Point Ministries on mission, values, beliefs, and strategy. Otherwise, we are independantly led.

We, along with the other Strategic Partners, choose to use the same programming names and strategies to enhance our ability to share ideas and learn from each other. It also is much easier to communicate on our monthly conference calls when we don't have to translate program names (i.e. one SP may call their preschool ministry Baby World, one Baby Zoo, and another Waumba Land).

Yes, we will use Andy on video a percentage of the time. In my mind, it frees me up from having to carry the communicating load week in and week out. Instead, I can focus more of my energy on leading and developing our organization and leverage the most effective communicator on the planet in our worship environments. At strategic times, I will communicate (i.e. small group focus, strategic service focus, holidays, etc.). As we get going, we will do more "live" sermon series.

Here's what happens when we use Andy - a healthy pressure is created, not to be like Andy, but to be able to communicate in a foyer environment filled with insiders and outsiders. Andy has a unique gift in this area. Andy has said himself that this whole idea is not about promoting Andy Stanley - it's about helping teams and leaders who have a vision create relevant environments in their city. Using him on video a percentage of the time helps make that happen. And, I get to learn from the guy!

I don't feel any less like the "leader" of the church. Granted, I have to think differently and more strategically about how exactly I am going to lead (suddenly, the announcement/welcome time is big-time important!), but I don't feel like less of a leader.

And, we come from the angle of having already existed as a church before becoming a Strategic Partner. We actually started having services last year and built up a core before shutting down in December. We were not "forced" to shut down. We made a stretgic decision that it was best to shut down, re-tool, re-cast the vision to our core and cast it fresh for the city, and re-emerge. During the shut-down, our staff spent time at North Point and Buckhead attending meetings, and meeting with staff. We've also been able to take our key volunteers and allow them to experience the environments at both campuses. The funny thing is that we were heavily patterned after NP before we shut-down. But, the time has been invaluable for momentum & strategy development.

This comment has gotten much longer than I wanted it to be. I'm sure there will be questions and I'll try to answer them as they come. But, I'll close saying that God is using and has used this partnership to do things in and for Catalyst Church that I strongly doubt would have happened. The staff at North Point have been amazing in giving us their time and attention to get in on what God is doing in our city. This is not about North Point taking over a city, Andy Stanley having another speaking venue, etc. This truly is about leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and creating the right environments where the Holy Spirit is free to do what only He can do. North Point helps start-ups like us have the resources and coaching to make that happen from day one. For that, I am very thankful.

- Jay Hardwick

Jay,

Thanks so much for your comments. It is great to hear from someone who is on the ground making this strategic partner model work.

Greg

I want to respond to the questions David posted.

1. We have a full-time staff that has been together and here for several months. We have a steering team made up of staff members and lay people from North Point as well as key members of our core team here in Greenville. That team serves as the guardrails for the organization in areas of mission, values, beliefs, and strategy until we are ready to transition to a fully-local elder team.

2. Personally, the only people that I think really care about this issue are insiders. Outsiders don't care who the guy on the screen is or who the guy on the stage is - as long as it's engaging, they'll be back. That's why we put so much value on small groups. We want people to care much more about connecting in small group and with the others in their group. Ultimately, those are the people that will be with them through seasons of life change, not the guy on stage or the guy on the screen.

3. This is where the healthy pressure I talked about in my previous post comes in to play. It could very well happen, and if so, I think it will only serve to drive me to improve my communication skills. But, what I think will happen is we will be able to achieve a healthy balance and diversity. We won't have to worry about people getting tired of hearing one speaking style or one communicator every single week. And, like I said earlier, I or anyone else who steps on our stage to communicate will know they HAVE to intentionally communicate effectively to insiders and outsiders.

David, do those answers help?

As the lead pastor of "that church that shutdown for 3 months, received training at NP and relaunched with enthusaism....all I can tell you guys is that I wouldn't trade what I'm doing now for anything in the world.

My family is healthier, the church is healthier, my personal ministry is more vibrant and dynamic, I'm leading out of my strengths now and most importantly, we are now truly partnering with local beleivers in our area in doing evangelism instead of telling them how they should do it.

Here's an example: My next door non-practicing Catholic neighbor, Andy, is my best litmus test and story that I can share with you. 2 years ago when we moved here, he wasn't going to church. He was EXTEMELY skeptical of church and espeically, video church. But, it wasn't long before he was coming to Watermarke, connecting with people and loving it. Our environments engaged him and he started connecting with some other people. Soon after, he gave his life to Christ and has become our best "invest and inviter". When we relaunched Watermarke last fall, he walked away from a very successful business and salary to become our Service Programming Director, to pursue a passion to create irresistible environments to reach the lost. Now, that's a win. Andy would tell you that what we do doesn't cause problems with the unchurched, only the churched.

I'm telling ya, and I know it's wierd and doesn't make sense guys, it works and for us, it's right. As Jay so eloquently laid out here, we didn't have a "hostile takeover" of our churches...we just joined into something that was bigger, better and healthier than anything we could have done on our own. I can't tell you the joy I have in knowing our church is part of a movement of churches committed to the same mission, the same model but yet have the diversity to make our own local churches unique and effective.

I can tell you this, I once too was a skeptic and a borderline critic but now I'm fully sold. You couldn't get me now to do church any other way, or with any other people.

But, that's just one man's opinion. :>)

Eddie Johnson
Watermarke Church
Canton, Georgia

I've gotta share my two cents on this subject...as I've grown to enjoy discussing it with people over the last year.

Like many others I know, I now am a "reformed" skeptic of the multi-site movement of church planting. My initial knee-jerk issue with this movement was that starting churchs that "copycatted" another would result in leaderless congregations of people. And, another concern was, how can a new church body in Denver, for example, take on a life and personality of its own if it has to follow closely the model laid out for it in Atlanta?

Those were (big emphasis on past tense) real concerns that I had about a year and a half ago. Specifically, because at that time the church that I was apart of was in the "dating" process with North Point. And, like in any dating relationship, it takes a little time to check each other out and get familiar with one another. But, after all my questions have been asked and answered, I've now become one of the biggest fans of the North Point Movement that you'll find. Let me briefly, if thats possible, explain why.

Having played a significant part in three traditional church plants, I can share first hand of the sometimes overwhelming difficulties that arrise when a small group of us (with an even smaller operating budget) lead by a pastor and his family, "parachute" into a new community with the heartfelt conviction of starting a church. There are so many unseen, uphill battles...you would't believe it until you've experienced them. Is it any wonder that only one in three church plants survive their first five years? Now, before anyone gets the wrong idea, I am in no way knocking this traditional model of church planting. I've given some serious sweat equity and even tears to it over the last few years! And I know that God is, and will most likely continue to use this model of church planting to spread His saving message throughout the world. However, as for me personally, I've grown to really love the approach that North Point uses in starting new churchs. The expression that "there is strength in numbers" couldn't be more true here! My short experience in being in a Strategic Partnership Church has taught me that when God's people have the same conviction, passion, and vision for reaching the world, as North Point and the Strategic Partnerships share, then there is no doubting that lives will continue to be changed for Christ on a grand scale. The mental picture I get here from God's Word is that we are all many members, but represent one Body, attempting to lay hold of the same goal.

OK, at the risk of running on too long (haven't I already you ask!) let me add one final observation. Perhaps the healthiest thing I've seen in the way North Point and the SP's go about doing ministry, which sadly has been absent in most other churchs I've been apart of, is their conviction to protect their leadership (paid and volunteer) from over serving in ministry. The emphasis is so huge on the health of family and relationships through doing life together and involvement in community groups. You are encouraged to excel in your area of spiritual giftedness...and leave everything else to others. One phrase I heard all the time was, "Do few things, exceptionally well." Man! I can't even begin to tell you how refreshing that is.

As I'm now no longer living in the Atlanta area, let me close with one last comment (I mean it this time) on why I love the North Point Model of church planting. When moving back across country to Colorado I was thrilled to not have to wonder where I would end up attending church. There is a Strategic Partnership starting in the next few months where I'll be living. Now thats just cool!

My two cents rapidy turned into twenty...my bad. Keep the change!

HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD!

Dale

Bob you wrote, "Sorry, but that's easily within the top ten most disturbing things I've read in the past few months."

Johann Gutenberg printed the Bible with his new invention called the printing press in 1450. Back in the day believers considered this new technology "worldly". They could not reconcile the "sacred" and the "secular".

Bob, do you have a printed Bible? How is your criticism of a church franchise or modern day technology any different from the criticism of technology that was used in 1450 with the printing press?

If Christians spent less time criticizing and whining about each other and more time creating safe envrionments for unchurched people, and investing in them and inviting them to those environments, I think we would see a culture more inclined to be in relationship with Jesus.

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Multi-site Churches