How and Why Rock Bridge became Multi-Site

Matt Evans

Posted March 7, 2019
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We are prayerfully considering adding a 6th campus in Cleveland, Tennessee.

As we consider this possibility, remembering how and why we became a multi-site church is important.

Multi-Site in the Bible?

A key litmus test for any Rock Bridge strategy or initiative has always been, “What does the Bible say?”. As we study the Scriptures, we have learned that several New Testament churches had to meet in multiple locations as one church. Rome, Corinth, Jerusalem and Antioch are examples. Given the size of the church in Jerusalem, no physical space in that city could have accommodated the church’s size and growth; however, it functioned as one church. Rome, Corinth and Antioch most likely included a network of house churches that functioned in unity.

To not have a strategy is NOT an option.

With our King commissioning us to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20), with Paul continually strategizing and planning how to take the gospel to more people in Asia and the Mediterranean areas (Acts 15:41; Acts 16:6-10), and with the ever increasing number of lost persons and “nones” in America, we realize that to be missionally faithful, we must be strategically intentional.

Practically, these biblical commands and principles mean that Rock Bridge must have a strategy to declare the Gospel, make disciples, and do good deeds that align with the geographic and ethnic scope of Jesus’ Kingdom.

Multi-site is part of Rock Bridge’s Great Commission strategy.

In approximately 2005-2006, our Elders commissioned a “Joel” team (named after Joel 2:28) to envision what Rock Bridge could be under the grace of God as we responded to what God was already doing in our midst. We were increasing in worship attendance, baptizing people, and struggling with the complexities and chaos of growth. We were also seeing and learning of interest in “Rock Bridge-type” expressions of gospel community and mission in other nearby towns and seeing some people from those areas driving into RB Dalton (from Calhoun and Chatsworth at the time). The “Joel” Team made a formal recommendation to our Elders to consider opportunities to launch additional campuses in our region.

An additional consideration was that most church planting efforts in the United States target larger metropolitan areas. We fully support church planting and also understand the strategic reasons for positioning new plants in larger cities (e.g. high percentages of lostness, the decline of older churches in those areas, population density, and cultural influence).

However, what we see in smaller towns is a hunger and desire for the way Rock Bridge expresses the Gospel—come as you are atmosphere, upbeat worship, incredible hospitality, relevant and Jesus-centered teaching, and the doing of good deeds in the community. We believe in and support all different types of churches, recognizing that different faithfulness to the Gospel and Great Commission can take many forms and expressions. However, God has given us some degree of favor to connect disconnected people in smaller towns to life and Christ. These smaller towns represent our place on the map to help declare the Gospel and demonstrate Kingdom realities to more people and in more places.

Ultimately, the commitment to God’s mission is the conviction that undergirds our multi-site strategy. Are there risks, dangers, and pitfalls? Absolutely. No strategy is perfect or without challenges.

However, to not have a strategy to reach more people would put us in danger of unfaithfulness. Rock Bridge long ago decided that we would rather have the problems and complexities that go along with evangelism, discipleship, missions, and growth over the problems that come from simply being in a mode of maintenance void of risk and intentional efforts to connect more people to life in Christ.

Multi-site is not our only Great Commission strategy.

As a church, we desire to see the Kingdom expanded in every corner of our nation and the world. That’s why we financially support a great church plant over 1,000 miles away in Boston, MA. That’s why we invest in a great organization serving the homeless of southwest Atlanta. That’s why we support missionaries in multiple countries and on multiple continents.

We want to see the Gospel change lives all over the map and do what we can—under God’s guidance—to advance Jesus’ mission and Kingdom.

Being a multi-site church is currently our best strategy to impact smaller towns in our region. But it is just one of several Great Commission strategies to announce and advance the Kingdom of Jesus all over the world.

I recently heard a question that really focuses on the issue of Great Commission intentionality and faithfulness:

 If God deposited and entrusted the Gospel only in our church, would the world be reached?

In the 1st Century, God did that very thing with about 120 people gathered for prayer in Jerusalem (Acts 1), and they were faithful.

Whether we go to Cleveland or not is up to the Lord; whether we always pursue Great Commission faithfulness is up to us.

Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20 {CSB}