What if the Super Pastor left?

I ran into an old friend the other day.  We caught up a little bit about our churches and some of the churches in the metro Atlanta area.  He brought up a certain church that has three campuses in addition to its main church location.  The campuses will play videos of sermons from the main church pastor.  My friend thought that he might be tempted to stay home and watch a sermon on TV as a good alternative to attending one of the campuses.

Then, he asked two interesting question, “What if the pastor left?  What would happen to those churches?”

Of course, neither of us had a good answer, but I can imagine that many people would probably leave.  Then I can across this news story about Ted Haggard’s former church.  According to the story, Haggard’s former church has had to downsize the staff by 44 people which is about 12% of the staff and the church’s income has fallen 10 percent.  Sad, very sad.  I told my wife and she couldn’t believe that Haggard, a man who is not Jesus, sustained that church and that his leaving caused such a shake up.

I wonder if we need such large churches.  Why keep growing and using a certain pastor figure as the draw for people?  Why not raise up godly men from within the current congregation to plant new churches?

In some ways it certainly seems that some of these “super pastors” have become idols.  I can’t help but think that of the idolatry angle given that people are willing to go and watch a video of someone preaching.  It probably would be more communal and personal to just get a DVD of a sermon and gather with a small group of friends in your home and voila! you’ve just started your own home church.  I wonder if it would be okay to put a video of yourself putting money in the basket during the offering instead of actually giving money?  Okay, okay,  that was a bad joke.

I still wonder though, what would happen to these huge mega-churches and multi-campus churches if that one super pastor left?


in Church Issues,Culture,Southern Baptist

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Annie March 7, 2007 at 10:21 am

Satellite churches are missing something — though I’m told over and over again that they are a good thing. I believe there should be church planting going on instead of satellite planting.

I belong to a mega-church which is heading full speed toward establishing its first satellite location. Where is the pastor going to be as the neighborhood is canvassed for prospective members? Where is he going to be when people need to talk to him? Where is he going to be when his “satellite seed families” need encouragement or someone is in the hospital? He’s going to be somewhere else because his lack of time available for his base camp duties is already apparent!

What in the world is going on in our convention & churches? Why do we have a goal of bigger & bigger numbers? We want many to be won to Jesus and added to the church of course. But instead of thousands and thousands of members at one location, shouldn’t we be planting new churches in our city?

A satellite church misses the point of having a church. Each church should be autonomous — not beholden to the “parent church” forever. But satellite churches are set up as an extension of the mega church.

Why must we have pastors who are paid a package that hovers around a million dollars a year? Yes, a big church pastor has lots of responsibilities, but it seems to me that these mega salary packages just don’t pass the “smell test.” We’ve invited folk to our church who say “well, how could I relate to a pastor who lives in _________ neighborhood and drives a __________?” My Bible teaches me that we are to do things honorably before God, of course! But folks, my Bible also tells me that we are to do to what is honorable in the sight of men.

2 Nick Kennicott March 8, 2007 at 9:11 pm

I go both ways on this subject. I think it all depends on what type of church it is (i.e. reformed expository preaching vs. seeker-friendly vs. purpose driven) and how the satellite churches are run. As with most things, I think Bethlehem Baptist Church gets this one right and it works very well. I’m going to be honest brother, if I lived in Minneapolis (which I hope to do some day, God willing) I wouldn’t want to listen to someone else preach if I knew that I could hear John Piper. BUT he travels to the satellite churches and each one has him live once per month. Therefore, there’s never a specific campus that hoards the preaching pastor — he’s mobile. Additionally, the preaching is the only thing that is simulcast — the music portion of the service is handled on site. On the other side of the coin, I look at guys like Mark Dever who are very intentional about not growing too large and never having more than one service. Once the church pushes the seems a bit, they break off and start a new church (as you’re talking about). That’s also a great method, and perhaps more biblical than the mega-church model. Unfortunately, there are places like Saddleback that would collapse in a heart beat if Warren were gone — the main campus along with all the others. Why? Because Jesus’ fame, God’s glory, and the exposition of scripture are not the focus. Drawing people in by entertaining them and making them feel comfortable by preaching an ultra-pragmatic sermon in a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops is the focus and it never gets beyond that. There’s a balance, and there’s a right way and a wrong way to do the mega-church thing. Depends on the leadership, but most importantly on the focus of the church — it seems to be the difference between Jesus and numbers.

3 sosipater March 9, 2007 at 10:04 am

I agree with Nick. 🙂

The megachurch model seems to be problematic, but as Nick points out Piper’s church seems to make it more bearable. I think, as Nick pointed out, the question is, where is the focus? And other questions such as the supply of qualified men, demographics, etc. may come into play. Not and easy question to answer the same way in every situation. I think sometimes those of us who want to stay as biblical as possible tend to paint with broad brushes. It is an occupational hazard.


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