Ignatius Meets the Multi-Site Gurus image

Ignatius Meets the Multi-Site Gurus

I’ve been musing recently on what would happen if a senior church leader from the post-apostolic period, say Ignatius of Antioch, was to discuss ecclesiology with a modern multi-site guru. I wonder if he’d conclude that, in the end, multi-site pastors are simply bishops. Thus:

IGN: Tell me about your church government structure, then. How does it work?
MSG: Simple: we have one church, in multiple congregations.
IGN: I don’t understand.
MSG: What don’t you understand?
IGN: Well, in Greek, you just said one ekklesia in several ekklesiai. I don’t really understand what that means.
MSG: It means that we have one church that meets in lots of different locations all over the city.
IGN: Presumably that’s true of every church, isn’t it?
MSG: Well – no, but what do you mean?
IGN: I mean, there’s only one “church” in every city, isn’t there? But it meets in lots of locations – houses, theatres, restaurants, shops ...
MSG: Ah. The difference today is that there are lots of different churches in every city. Some of them meet in multiple locations, and some of them don’t.
IGN: So when you say “lots of different churches”, what exactly is a “church”?
MSG: It’s a group of believers joined together under one team of leaders, with one vision and collective identity.
IGN: So you have lots of different groups of leaders in a city, each with their own congregations and visions?
MSG: Yes.
IGN: And some of those leaders are in partnership with other leaders, as part of one “church”, whereas others aren’t?
MSG: Yes.
IGN: So: does every gathering of believers have leaders present when they meet?
MSG: Yes. We call them “site pastors”.
IGN: But those leaders are accountable to a leader above them, who oversees all the “churches” within the one big church in the city?
MSG: Yes. We call him the “lead pastor”.
IGN: Ah! We have exactly the same arrangement – lots of “sites” in the city (which we call “churches”), each led by local leaders (whom we call “elders” or “presbyters”), with one senior leader in the city overseeing all the others.
MSG: Really? I never knew that. And what do you call him?
IGN: A bishop.
MSG: [indistinguishable]

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