Churches began to embrace the multi-site church model shortly after the turn of the 21st century. However, the ideas behind the current approach to the multi-site church began to stir in the 1990s, with their roots in the 1970s. Today's approach makes use of satellite and video technology to reproduce a sermon from the church's speaker, usually the pastor, geographically unrestricted.
According to Todd Rhoades of Monday Morning Insight, an October 2005 multi-site church conference released statistics regarding growth in the number of churches operating as multi-site:
Through trial and error, many churches have found that attempting to broadcast video to campuses during the other portions of the church service, like worship and times of prayer, is largely unsuccessful. Instead, most multi-site churches produce music, worship, and prayer at each satellite campus to help solidify the sense of community and connection during those times as well as create an environment unique to that of the main campus, while remaining true to the brand and identity of the church.
In 1998, the "video venue" was born. It is widely accepted that North Coast Church of Vista, California was the first church to hold an additional service using video technology to reproduce the experience of the pastor's message in different areas of their campus. Within twenty-four months over 1,300 attendees where choosing one of the Video Venues instead of the original live service. One year later it was 2,300. By 2005 North Coast was offering 21 worship services in five locations.
Other churches, including Community Christian Church of Naperville, Illinois, have also been cited as launching a video venue the same year.
One of the most prominent examples of a church embracing the multi-site approach is Seacoast Church. In 2002, after several years of growth, the church hit a physical growth barrier with 3,000 attending Sunday services. The church submitted a number of requests to the local authorities requesting permission to expand their campus. The city rejected all requests, frustrating the leadership of the church. Under the careful guidance of Pastor Greg Surratt, Seacoast began experimenting with a satellite campus that produced a unique service at an alternate location, reducing the strain of traffic and staff on the main campus. The new campus was overwhelmingly successful, leading to the launch of other strategically placed campuses throughout the city.
Today, Seacoast operates nine campuses throughout South Carolina and Georgia and has over 7,000 people attending Sunday services. Seacoast was featured in the Summer 2004 issue of Vision magazine, the first multi-site church to appear in Vision. (Fellowship Church became a multi-site church after their feature in Vision.) Mars Hill Church, developed a multi-site approach due to similar challenges with Seattle, Washington's planning and zoning regulations. Living Hope Church]] in Vancouver, Washington became the first Church to launch five campuses at once on Easter Sunday in 2006, after studying some of their predecessors.
The modern church has slowly begun to embrace the idea behind multi-site churches. However, not all church leaders agree with what is happening in the multi-site movement. Eddie Gibbs, professor of church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary, stressed some concern over multi-site churches in a September 2005 article in Christianity Today, arguing that the multi-site church movement "perpetuates the chronic problem that (the Church) have of undiscipled church members" through a lack of relationship between congregants and the teaching pastor.
Still, churches throughout the world are transferring their churches from single campuses with a ceiling of impact to multiple campuses with seemingly unlimited capabilities. This has created a brand for many churches, some overnight. Churches like Celebration Church, Lifechurch.tv, Fellowship Church, Second Baptist Houston, National Community Church, North Point Community Church, Calvary Chapel of Ft Lauderdale, The Chapel, Hillsong Church, Bon Air Baptist Church, and Willow Creek Community Church are continuing to expand their ministry base through the use of multiple campuses.
A new frontier for multi-site churches is to go into cyberspace with an Internet Campus. An Internet Campus typically enhances a live streaming video of a worship service with interactive elements for viewers to chat with each other, respond to polls, and/or submit prayer requests.