The Church Franchise Trend OR Church Locavores Unite!!

I’m wondering what happened to local congregations being led by people who live there.

Anyone else noticed this trend for churches to get big and then plant additional “campuses”? What are we, a state university system? What happened to sending out missionaries to plant local churches? Why are mega-churches planting campuses? Is this compatible with the New Testament church, or Paul’s missionary/church planting approach? I’m just wondering.

Because it sounds suspiciously like a franchise to me.

Look at the similarities:

Starbucks pretty much worldwide:

  • Same coffee
  • Same tea
  • Same pastries
  • Same sandwiches
  • Free wi-fi
  • Same décor (and lack of sufficient comfortable seats)
  • Same condiment/creamer counter
  • Same cups, mugs, and small appliances for sale

This is all well and good for a mongo coffee franchise. When you walk into a Starbucks, whether it be Manhattan, Seattle, or Bangkok, you’re not looking for local flavor. You’re looking for familiar, dependable, no surprises.

Multi-campus churches:

  • Same logo
  • Same style of décor
  • Same “feel” – style of music, methods of outreach and community service, flow of worship service, approach to child care and age-graded Bible study/small groups
  • Same DNA as the “main” campus

Is this really a local community of faith? Nah, it’s a branch of the main campus, as surely as the University of South Carolina has a main campus and branch campuses. You can start your studies at the branch campus, but at some point you’re gonna have to make the pilgrimage to the main campus if you ever expect to earn a degree. Apparently higher level teaching can only occur where the message is closely watched by central command. It seems like main campus leadership is afraid of local leadership getting off-message.

Here’s what I want to say to that “senior” pastor: It’s great God called you to City A, and planted you there in that church to lead it in service to the Kingdom and its community. That’s awesome. You’re obviously doing a good job, and my hat is off to you. Do keep it up. But if God wanted you in City B as the teacher in its church, don’t you think he would have put you there? This isn’t the Billy Graham Evangelism Association. You’ve been called to pastor a local congregation. DO THAT.

Am I old-fashioned to want the dude who’s teaching the Word to me on a weekly basis to be a dude who lives in my community? I want to be able to run into my pastor at the grocery store, at the downtown park, at the movie theater, at the Starbucks out in our slice of suburbia. I want my pastor to know what’s going on in my community because he lives there.

I want my church leaders to be personally invested in the life of my community and our congregation. Simultaneously, I want to be personally invested in their lives, too.

The late and great missionary Roland Allen, in his classic Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?, puts it better: “The elders were really of the church to which they ministered. They were at home…Thus the bond between the elders and the church to which they ministered was extremely close.”

Earlier in the book, speaking of Paul’s tendency to plant a church and then skedaddle (my paraphrase), Allen writes, “By leaving them quickly St. Paul gave the local leaders the opportunity to take their proper place, and forced the church to realize that it could not depend upon him, but must depend upon its own resources.”

What a brilliant strategy – let the local believers, whom God has called and gifted with precisely the gifts needed for that local church, lead, and thereby grow in their giftings, while the church grows in faith.

Kinda different from a franchise, eh?

Published in: on August 16, 2011 at 1:06 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Essentially, most seminary students may have taken the same class I did 11 years ago where we studied Cali churches doing this. It takes 10 years for what is in Cali to become mainstream Xian practice. Which means we will all see cool house churches in 10 years lol

    • Well-said insight, Katie. Looking forward to 10 years from now, then…

  2. Well said, by both you and Roland Allen. (The book you quote will celebrate its centenniary next year. Wonder what Allen would think of multi-campus branch theory?)

    I think it’s fair to chastise the franchise for lack of incisive wisdom on what they catalyze. Too many supplant the local planting, and to what ends?

  3. The gospel of Christ remains the same and it is about salvation in preparation to the life after, hence, same preaching.
    Yes, however, for mega churches are without connection and are far from a pastor that you can easily approach for counseling, for prayer requests or just a simple talk about the realities of world life where the love of the Lord and Savior Jesus is more expound in words and in deeds. A mega church should learn to delegate and that is or was how the disciples then operate in the book of Acts. They go and make disciples and trained these disciples to make disciples too teaching them to obey what God had taught. A simple duplication of fishing men and teaching them to catch fish unless the pastor only wants the focus should only on him. And this is seen in those churches with small groups.

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