By Chris Hankins
May 17, 2020
Healthy things reproduce. This reality is true in nature and, I believe, in the church.
The body of Christ is healthiest when it is reproducing at every level. At Point Church, where I serve, I often say that we want to reproduce disciples, leaders, groups, services, campuses, churches, and even church-planting networks. Therefore, when I was recently asked, “Are we really reproducing churches if multisites remain attached to the mother church?” my immediate answer was, “of course!” Just because a new location of a multisite church remains a part of a larger local church does not mean it is not reproducing. Would we say our cells are not reproducing because they remain part of our physical body? Of course not.
Are we reproducing small groups if the small groups remain a part of that church? Every pastor I know would say yes. One group reproduces itself into two groups, two groups into four, and so on—at least, that is the hope. The fact that these groups remain connected to something larger does not nullify the reproduction.
MULTISITE CAN BE REPRODUCING, BUT NOT ALWAYS
A multisite church’s new location can result from either addition or multiplication. Let me explain.
Many multisite churches operate on a hub and spoke model. The main campus serves as the hub from which other campuses are planted, and the new campuses become spokes of the main campus. Every few years when the main campus fills up with people, a large group of people is carved off and sent out to plant a new campus. In this model, the main campus is not truly reproducing, it is simply adding satellite locations. While this is a great strategy to grow a church, I would not say it is truly reproducing. Rather, I call it kingdom addition.
Other multisite churches—including the one I serve—have what I call a multigenerational multisite model. Point Church currently has 13 campuses. Most of these were not planted out of the original site, however, but from campuses planting campuses that plant campuses.
For example, our original site in Raleigh planted a second campus in Apex. (All of these campuses are in North Carolina.) The Apex campus then planted new campuses in Fuquay-Varina and in Holly Spring. Point Church’s original Español (Spanish-language) campus was planted out of our English campus in Cary. The Spanish-language campus in Cary planted a second Spanish campus in Apex, which then planted a Spanish campus in Sanford. As you can see, these multisite campuses are not merely spokes of a main campus; rather, they are truly reproducing.
MERGERS OFTEN FUEL REPRODUCTION
Currently more than one-third of new multisite campuses come about through merger. These mergers often are called “replants.”
At Point Church, 6 of our 13 campuses have come about through a church merger or replant. Of those six, two were older churches that were near closure, one had plateaued, one was a church plant about to close, and the other two were international churches that needed the support of a larger church family.
But how could the merger of two churches be considered reproduction? Many would assert that the merger of two churches results in the net loss of one church. Not exactly.
If there were no merger of a prevailing church with a declining church, oftentimes the declining church would die and close its doors. In fact, almost 4,000 churches in America close their doors every year.
But when a declining church partners with a multisite church, and then when it is replanted as a new location of that multisite church, the math changes. In his book Better Together, Jim Tomberlin notes that church mergers that create two locations have a higher success rate than those that merge into a single location.
Beyond that, I have personally seen how mergers can also serve as an accelerator for reproduction rather than simply a way to add an additional location. Most church plants and multisite locations start by meeting in a portable location like a school or movie theater. I describe a church body in such a situation as people rich but facility poor. However, thousands of declining churches around America are facility rich but people poor.
When a church plant or campuses with no permanent facility is combined with a declining church that has a facility, we frequently see the kingdom advance in a powerful way. When a young church plant or campus merges with a declining church that has a permanent facility, the resulting church body can grow more quickly into a mature sending center that can plant other campuses and churches. When this happens, rather than two churches combining into one body (location), the net result of the merger—given time—can be a multiplication of sites and campuses!
Rather than settling for adding sites—as tempting as this might be—a church serves the kingdom of God best when it adopts a mind-set of planting new campuses that will become sending centers for additional campuses. When that happens, multisite can truly become a great way to reproduce the kingdom, especially in one geographic area. And when church mergers are added to the mix, they can serve as an accelerant for kingdom reproduction. We have seen that firsthand here at Point Church.
Chris Hankins serves as founding/lead pastor of Point Church, which has more than a dozen sites in North Carolina and internationally. His life is devoted to seeing the maximum amount of people know Jesus in his lifetime, and he believes multiplying local churches is the best way to achieve that dream.