What are the key issues in thinking through the multi-campus church movement? Is it a theological or a cultural question?
Well we do it, and so I suppose the question is asked because they know that Bethlehem has three campuses. We have a Downtown campus, a North campus (which is 8 miles to the north), and a South campus (which is 16 miles to the south). And there are about 4000 folks or so who come to these campuses.
The way we do it is that the preacher—usually me—is video-recorded on Saturday night, Downtown, live every week. And then I circulate on Sunday morning: I go downtown one Sunday morning, live; north the next Sunday morning, live; south the next Sunday morning, live, and keep up that rotation. And where I'm not, the video of the Saturday night service is shown. So that's the way we do it.
The issues, I think, revolve mainly around what it is to be a church: what constitutes a church, and what constitutes an eldership.
It's a theological question in the sense that you want to be faithful to any principle that the Scripture offers, because God inspired the Scriptures, and he inspired the Scriptures so that his name would be known and loved. And therefore it's theological in that if you go wrong on his way of doing church, you're probably going to hurt peoples' relation to him in the end, and the reputation and effectiveness of the church in the world, which would be a theological issue.
It's a cultural issue, largely, because we have video now that makes it possible. And we need to ask, "Now, does that cultural possibility infringe upon the biblical standard?"
For me, the essential issue is: How do elders, as one, relate to a people and a unified teaching to the people? I think the preacher is an elder, and the way he relates to the people is as a shepherd. And I think it is implied in the way the New Testament puts things together that there ought to be a connection between that preaching elder and his people geographically. He ought to have access to those people. He ought to be able to go to those people and care for them, visit them in the hospital, whatever, or his band of elders should.
And I know there are people who disagree with that. They say you can have elders in Cairo, Egypt and St. Paul, Minnesota and be one church. I think the gathered assembly in those locations with one eldership would be compromised. But there again, it's not as clear and obvious.
And so, I think we're in the process of making discoveries and thinking these things through in a way that has never been thought through before.
So I'm in process on this. We do it because I don't think the New Testament forbids it, and it seems to me the New Testament is pretty flexible about its ecclesiology on these matters.