Thinking About The Ethics Of Multi-Site
In an environment of freedom, men are able to choose their own destiny, act upon their own impulses in expanding their reach in the ecclesiastical culture of the day. And while it must be noted that there are always exceptions, those with the capital means at their disposal appear most able to engage or defend the phenomena of multi-site churches.
The defense for such a venture is that God has led the church and pastor to do this. Hard to argue with that, less you find yourself in dispute with God. However, is the action consistent with appropriate ethics, particularly of the culture that values the scriptures and example that Jesus gave?
What is the action that so violates the ethic? The answer is found in how we perceive and meet our needs. In a democratic society, ever person has the license to organize his life and ventures as it pleases him. Sounds like the American dream. Needs are not bad in and of themselves and in many instances are legitimate expectations that should be fulfilled The problem begins when a necessary need, that which does well and provides benefit when satisfied , is transformed into unnecessary need by casting off prudence and moderation that is so vital in regulating our lives. It becomes desire unbridled, or what we call lust. For example, the necessary need of food is to satisfy hunger, and it is reasonable to meet that desire. However an appetite for unhealthy foods beyond moderation can have devastating results on our health. A person desires love and companionship and fills that need though marriage. Yet their desire, if left unchecked, can become more than what their spouse provides and they seek the unnecessary desire through extra-marital affairs.
I don’t see it any differently with churches. Starting a church is a necessary desire for a community, but is it really necessary to a have a particular brand or personality in multiple locations simply for the convenience of the community? Or, are we, both community and pastor alike, crossing the line of moderation and gratifying a need that should really not be met? Indulgence always redefines reality to justify their actions. Their unabated shameless promotion is called courage. Those who call for caution and moderation are accused of unwarranted criticism, jealously, envy, cowardice, or simply dismissed as inadequate for the task with phrases like, “those who can do, those who can’t, blog”.
When we stray beyond the realm of necessity, we enter a consumptive mentality in which we desire to amass greater assets in the form of capital and influence. The danger is that it might not satisfy and find ourselves checked only by our limitation of raising more capital to gather more. One cannot expand their holdings without eventually encroaching on others that are less able to maintain or further their own ministry.When we take from others to satisfy our unnecessary desire, we carry out a great injustice. To perpetrate any act of injustice violates the shalom and trumps any argument of “God led me to do this”. We cannot lean on God’s leading when we violate ethics and standards of justice.
Our church culture has been conditioned to identify the will and move of God with an upward trajectory of growth and expansion. There may be some biblical reasons to support this. But I’m afraid we have taken legitimate, godly desire and with our pursuit of our own lust and passion, entered the realm of unnecessary desire. Multi-sites are but a natural expression of that ethic with pragmatism in many cases being the justification. It is the symptom of a greater problem where the church has misplaced their destiny for greed. I wonder if God will eventually require that we restore sevenfold?