Yet in so doing, it seems to me that such ministries are conceding the importance of presence – of real, physical presence – to the gathering of the church. They are also begging the question: why have a real band when the most important thing, the preaching, can be beamed in? Or is it that the preaching is no longer the most important thing?
The preacher who pipes himself in to numerous sites needs to ask himself if, by doing so, he loses the key elements of subtle dialogue and direct confrontation with a physically present congregation which are so important; the congregation satisfied with a video pastor needs to ask if its satisfaction is in part related to the absence of the man, an absence which inevitably tames that confrontational element which is such an important part of what Luther called ‘the word which comes from outside.’
While the Scripture commands us in 1 Peter 5:2 to shepherd the flock of God, Ephesians 4 instructs that the pastor-teacher is to equip the saints for the works of ministry, rather than hoarding those responsibilities personally. Those who are effective in that duty frequently see their congregation grow beyond the number that one pastor could shepherd anyway.
In the multi-site model, the primary preacher has entrusted the direct discipling and care of the majority to other pastors and volunteers. But that same thing happens in a church with more than 200, regardless of how many services or locations they gather in. To argue that a church cannot be shepherded biblically unless all the sheep appear to see you preach live, simply denies that reality.