Is “Multisite Church” the Last Good Idea?

Rich Birch uses Blockbuster Video as a cautionary tale for leaders within the multisite church movement.

Blockbuster video was amazing in its prime. Just 10 years ago, they had 9,000 locations and over 60,000 employees. [ref] It made renting a movie “simple and convenient” because they had so many locations. We only had to drive across town to access hundreds of movies from a wide variety of categories. They purchased the naming rights to stadiums. It was a household name. They won. As late as 2008 they were exploring expansion through leveraging their brand and cash flow into other businesses.

By 2010 everything shifted. In March of that year, Blockbuster’s own auditing firm published a report saying they doubted the business would be able to continue operation because of shifting markets and an inability to respond. They filed for bankruptcy protection just a few days later. By July they were delisted from the New York Stock Exchange. It all unraveled. Now they seem like a punch line to bad joke.

What happened? The internet.

People’s preferences for how they consumed content changed subtly at first but then exponentially grew. In particular, Netflix — a potent mixture of great marketing and fantastic execution — made movie watching simpler, more convenient and gave people a wider variety of choice.

From this side of the change, it’s hard to remember a time when Blockbuster was amazing. It’s difficult to recall when dropping in on a Friday night to pick up a movie was a national pastime. They had figured it out.They designed a system and approach to meet the needs of the people they were serving. It worked well and it was successful.

What does this have to do with church leadership?

The multisite church movement has figured out an unprecedented way to reach people and connect them to the local church. We’ve perfected a way to “take church to the people” and make it easier for people to get plugged into the local church. We’ve devised a systematic way of offering teaching and community that we spread from one location to another and it’s changed the landscape of the Kingdom of God.

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