"I predict that you won't soon see the following multi-campus sites opening: Fellowship Church Wilmer-Hutchins Campus, Saddleback Watts Campus, NorthPoint Community Church Bankhead Campus, or Second Baptist Houston Third-Ward Campus. The multi-site movement and the preponderance of domestic SBC church planting is focused like a laser upon those areas where people with lots of money live in church-friendly cultures—places where it is easy to fill a church with rich people." Bart Barber, Pastor FBC Farmersville (TX)
Not often that you hear harsh words of criticism from a SBC pastor directed at significant initiatives within the SBC, but pastor Bart Barber spoke truth in his blog post from last November in which he criticized the trend toward multi-campus (i.e. "satellite") churches and "church plants" in areas already served by SBC churches .
Barber claims these plants and satellites are predominantly targeting those who have money, in areas already served by SBC churches. As he says in the quote above, you won't see satellite churches in the slums around the megas, but in the wealthy neighborhoods. FBC Jax is a prime example. Where was their first satellite? In Ponte Vedra, the wealthiest part of Jacksonville, in an area already served by several Southern Baptist churches.
And please don't dismiss Barber as someone who doesn't know what he is talking about with regard to SBC trends. He is a church historian, a Ph.D. graduate, adjunct faculty and trustee at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary, so he certainly knows his stuff.
And as Barber points out, as these satellites and church plants are funded in areas already saturated with Baptist churches, the SBC is simply adding to their bloated bureaucracy as each new church is adding additional overhead costs of buildings, utilities, high-priced ministers - when the ministry could be done by an existing church. Barber says these church plants have to be curtailed:
"If younger Southern Baptists are serious about getting resources out to where lostness is, then we will witness some stanching of the flow of young seminary graduates out to plant new churches throughout the Southland. If it is wrong for a local congregation to keep the preponderance of its money and if it is wrong for a state convention to keep the preponderance of its Cooperative Program receipts within a state, then it is equally wrong for seminary graduate after seminary graduate to cram their new church starts into wealthy Southern suburbs tighter than sardines in a can."Interesting use of the word "stanching", used most often in terms of stopping loss of blood, or loss of vital resources. He is saying it is a waste of money given for missions, for the SBC to take funds and start churches in wealthy suburbs where there is already an SBC presence.
He goes further:
"If the Southern Baptist Convention's leaders are really serious about getting more resources out to reach the most lost areas of the world, they ought to reject entirely the notion of widespread church planting (apart perhaps from language work) within the strength areas of the SBC and labor hard to curtail it—and yet a steady stream among our seminary graduates eschew established churches and choose to create yet another local church bureaucracy in communities already served by multiple congregations, reducing with each new work the funding available to send to the nations."That is not some disgruntled blogger saying that. This is Dr. Bart Barber, pastor and educator and historian in the SBC.
But why does the SBC do it? Well, from a pure marketing perspective, they are either very smart, or very stupid, and I'm not sure which it is. You see, what the SBC is doing is what marketers call "brand cannibalization". It has many facets, but cannibalization can occur when a firm opens new retail outlets that are located physically too close, and the two outlets end up competing for what are essentially the same "customers". Not a smart strategy, unless you're the pastor of the new outlet and can get help from the SBC to fund your new church, or if you're a megachurch pastor starting a satellite, and you plan on taking customers from the existing churches in that area.
But probably the truth is the SBC is willing to engage in some cannibalization as a means of what is called "brand extension", knowing the new church plant will reach a different market with a younger pastor. Perry Noble, who was trained at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said recently he learned from Dr. Aiken that it is easier to give birth to something new, than to resurrect something that is already dead - thus it is better for a young pastor to start a new church than to resurrect an old one.
Given what Barber says, it is doubly sad to see the lengths pastors will go to justify to their congregations the concept of satellite brand extensions. I recall back in September 2008 when Mac Brunson made the ridiculous assertion that in Paul's day the church in Rome was a group of "satellite churches", in his attempt to sell the congregation on starting a satellite in Ponte Vedra. But more satellites can be expected from FBC Jax very soon as Brunson admitted in this recent interview, in a city that has a church on just about every corner.
So get ready Westside, or St. John's County, for more FBC Jax's. But something tells me there will not be any in Arlington or on Spring Park Road.
We need more pastors like Bart Barber willing to speak the truth on issues like this one.