Prompted by a comment by Wayne M, I would like to try and think through a couple more issues related to satellite churches.
Wayne wonders out loud if Paul was a pastor of a mega-church with many satellite campuses. I am not so sure there is an analogy here. First, Paul wasn’t a pastor of any particular church. Some may argue that he had a special tie to Antioch, but that was only as a missionary sent with their blessing and support. Paul never considered himself “the pastor” of any particular church, and as we read in places like 1 Corinthians, he noted the equal, if not greater, influence of other ministers and apostles. Additionally, Paul did not expand his ministry with an eye to keeping himself “on the big screen.” He constantly mentored and released other ministers and left them in churches longer than he could stay so they could shepherd the flock. I am not so sure that mega-churches with satellite campuses are after the same goal.
Wayne then goes on to ask important questions based on the notion of looking at the fruit being produced. I have not complained about satellite churches using the argument that they don’t facilitate evangelization. But I have complained about their facilitation of discipleship.
Is it possible for a seeker to enter the doors of a satellite congregation, accept Christ as Lord through a prayer lead via video screen, and then live their new life in Christ for years without ever having contact with a pastor, and live every week through a cold media medium? What will they have learned about the Incarnation? That Christ is as real as their TV? It is these kinds of considerations that make me shiver a bit.
So, to answer one of Wayne’s specific questions, I am not so sure good fruit is produced. People have complained for years about the fruit of itinerate evangelists who blow through town, never make contact with people or churches, and count decision cards. How is a satellite church significantly different? It seems to me their primary purpose, when all is said and done, is to keep on counting.