Ironically, after dumping a bit in my last post about pastors and a corporate model for church, I ran across this item in the Out Of Ur blog. In “McChurch: I’m Lovin’ It,” a pastor in a church in Nashville is highlighted. He has wholeheartedly embraced a franchising model of building churches. He openly admits to following a handbook and rarely deviating from it. After all, who can argue with success?
He wants all the new churches to have the same beliefs, vision and mission the “mother” organization has. That way, thankfully, when church members move across country they can find a familiar church home right next door to their favorite and familiar fast food restaurant. Whew!
My first reaction was, how is this dramatically different from a denomination? And after a couple moments of reflection, I decided the difference may be subtle but monstrous. In general, denominations are grouped according to doctrinal issues. The reasons Lutherans are not Catholics does not have to do with a difference in mission statements. These new McChurches, however, will be characteristically marked without deep doctrinal issues in mind. The pastor highlighted in the blog was not concerned with theological or ecclesiological orthodoxy. He was worried that the hamburgers—sorry, the worship services—looked and felt the same.
This is a terrific gauge for where we are in the evangelical pastorate. I think it’s really pathetic. This is one of the reasons why Americans are staying home from our churches in apathetic droves. We are actually trying as hard as we can to offer nothing different from the neighborhood Starbucks. If I can have a good cup of coffee, read/listen to an interesting self-help book, have a stimulating conversation at Starbucks or at church, and there is no other substantial difference between the two, I will choose Starbucks 9 times out of 10. The coffee will inevitably be better.
The blog author closes by asking some really good questions:
Are Cumberland Church and other franchised congregations the wave of the future? Are Chick-fil-A and McDonalds the right model for the church to be emulating? Are franchised mega-churches going to be the denominations of the 21st century? Or, is this consumer Christianity taken to its logical and disturbing extreme?
These are good questions that need to be dealt with, but I am not sure the pastors enamored with this model feel their importance. This really is the shallowest form of consumer Christianity taken to its ludicrous extreme, but I am afraid that to too many pastors it is appealing and promising.