Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Broadcasting or planting

John Piper responds to the question: Why not get one of the other 30+ elders at Bethlehem to pastor an extension church instead of showing them a video?

I am trying to tread carefully here but I think Piper's reasoning is the same as Sproul's church (St. Andrews) building a huge new edifice or any of the other very large churches pastored by famous or even "celebrity" pastors. People go to Bethlehem because of John Piper. Never been there but I am comfortable saying that and I think Piper would agree. People want to hear from Piper and if Piper left Bethlehem and planted a new church in Minneapolis, people would follow him. We saw what happened when D. James Kennedy passed on and Tullian took over. Many people didn't want a new pastor, they wanted a clone of Kennedy because that was why they went to Coral Ridge. So instead of taking the risky move of training and sending, famous pastors seem more likely to keep expanding the church they pastor.

I don't really agree with that. While the quality of preaching might go down, wouldn't the quality of fellowship go up in multiple smaller churches? Wouldn't more men and women have an opportunity to serve and minister? Men like Sproul and Piper and Tim Keller, not spring chickens by the way, have a unique opportunity to train men and send them out if the desire is to spawn more churches like the one they pastor. You can either build bigger and bigger and more widely reaching individual churches (even with multiple campuses) or you can plant lots of small, truly local gatherings. As these men pass on, who is going to take over these huge churches? They will either fade away over time or go out and get another well-known pastor to keep people coming back.

I love me some John Piper but I think Bethlehem would be better off in the long run by planting dozens of small gatherings through Minneapolis, affiliated with Bethlehem but with their own elders. What do you think? Should John Piper be broadcast to satellite locations or should they send out men to plant local assemblies? Should we seek the very best guy to minister through the Word to the maximum number of people or should we seek to see as many faithful men minister to people as possible?

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