Review: The Go-To Church

March 8th, 2013

According to Bryan Collier, the best way to grow a church in our current American context is not to try to attract adherents to a single site complex. Rather, it is to go out among people in surrounding communities—in other words, to be a “go-to” rather than a “come-to” church.

In The Go-To Church, Collier advocates the use of a multisite model in order to become such a church. He relates the theories and experiences of beginning new sites at The Orchard, a fast-growing congregation in northern Mississippi where Collier serves as lead pastor.

Although Collier insists that he still advocates for so-called “parachute drop” church plants, he believes that churches must also invest in ministries that are under a single church umbrella, but operate at different locales. This conviction began with the realization that, although The Orchard was growing in its Tupelo location, the church was unable to reach people in outlying areas—particularly smaller towns that were unlikely to sustain a new church plant.

Rather than try to overcome the significant costs of both transporting and providing space for the unchurched people in neighboring areas, The Orchard elected to begin new sites tailored to the needs of their target populations. One is an extension campus with its own pastor to lead worship and care for members. Another provides pastoral leadership, but uses video to feed in the sermon from the mother campus. Still another was launched not based on location, but on demographic in an effort to reach out to young adults who are unlikely to be a part of a large suburban church like the main campus.

All of The Orchard’s sites seek to engage people using their own culture and language. They focus on worship and discipleship within the church, but are adamant that their people go out into their communities to be the church.

For churches considering a move into multisite ministry, Collier asks them to first check their motivation. If the multisite concept is used as a de facto merger of differing congregations or as a strategy for growing the main campus, it will fail. The only valid reason for starting a multisite ministry, he insists, is to reach people that no one else is reaching with the gospel.

While he does not provide a step-by-step guide to multisite ministry, Collier does offer several suggestions. First and foremost, he says, the new site must have the right leader: a dynamic pastor with initiative and the ability to draw people to him or her. Fiscal considerations are important, as well as “seeds,” people from the mother church who commit to getting the new ministry up and running.

The Go-To Church is less an instruction manual for multisite ministry as it is a limited autobiography of Collier and The Orchard’s experience with the multisite process. Their story comes across with a great deal of passion, but not always with clarity. Readers who look for an instruction manual on multisite ministry will not find it here. However, those who simply want an example to help them plan for their own specific context—a process Collier believes is essential—will find an instructive narrative from a church and pastor that has walked this road successfully.

comments powered by Disqus