Sometimes what looks like satanic opposition may just be God's way of getting us to think outside the box. Greg Surratt's story (as told by his brother, Geoff) of the impetus behind Seacoast Church (seacoast.org)'s move to a multi-site model is a good example of this.
In The Multi-Site Revolution, Surratt explains how, in 2001, the church was considering building a larger facility to accommodate its rapid growth. Unfortunately, local officials objected to a church building "twice the size of Wal-Mart" in their community. Residents even launched a "Not in My Backyard" campaign to thwart the new building program.
Surratt and his team went back to the drawing board and, after a tour of several U.S. congregations, decided to launch a multi-site model of ministry rather than build a new facility. Three years later, the church had doubled in size (to 3,000 more than the capacity of the building they hoped to build). On Easter Sunday 2005, Seacoast held 23 services in nine locations with 11,000 people.
I've heard similar stories of public opposition to new church buildings in which the ending wasn't quite so pretty. In fact, some of those stories include church members picketing the city courthouse during zoning meetings, "binding" the evil spirits at work in the city commissioner and making promises of election-day retribution. Thankfully, Surratt and his team didn't take this route. Instead, they allowed God to use opposition to refocus their vision. You can read more about their story and others in "Lost in Space?" (page 32).
Although burgeoning real-estate prices, suburban sprawl and increasing social disconnection have brought new challenges to 21st-century ministry, the rise of multi-site ministry is an example of the innovation that characterizes many of today's church leaders. As you'll read in this issue, this new model is not a panacea for ailing churches but a tool for healthy congregations to more effectively reach and disciple their communities. May we see more such creative solutions in the years to come.
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