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Monday, February 04, 2008

Franchising the Local Church

Over on Christianitytoday's Out of Ur blog a recent post has been added highlighting the trend to franchise local churches by using satellite campuses. One of two things usually occurs during this methodology.

First, the new plant or existing church seeking to become a part of a franchised network signs contracts obligating themselves to feed in the preaching from the lead pastor of whatever network they are joining. They do not use any local pastor for preaching. However the local church does have its own pastors who provide for various pastoral care ministries. They can have their own music, but when it comes to the preaching, they listen to a pastor from another location.

The second option is a little bit different. In this model, the new plant or existing church seeking to join the network contractually obligates itself under the rule of the pastors of the mother church. So it virtually becomes one church, several locations.

I find the trend troubling for several reasons.

1. It seems to say that only a few gifted individuals are qualified to preach.
2. It does not encourage younger men who are called to preach to have much of an opportunity if the pulpit can only be used by the lead pastor of the mother church.
3. Every church should have access to the ones who instructionally lead the local church, and this process negates this possibility.
4. The second form of this model seems Episcopal rather than congregational.
5. It discourages the development process whereby elders who can preach are trained and nurtured.

HT: Karisblog


Charlie Wallace said...

I used to be troubled by this trend as well but I've done some research on my own is this is typically the argument that churches who 'franchise' use:

1. The percentage of satellite campuses that survive and thrives are substantially higher then those that are complete separate church plants. Funding and name recognition are a big reason why.

2. When a church has filled it's capacity it can either a) build a bigger meeting area or b) start an additional service. But what happens when a church is already running 2 or 3 services? Having an additional service meet in another part of town is usually cheaper then building a bigger facility. Typically, when a church goes to 2 services you end up with 2 different churches anyway.

3. Most of these churches will say "It's all about reaching people for Jesus." I'm on a staff at a downtown church and we have people who come from all over the city. I'm pretty certain that if we opened up a satellite church in another part of the city where a lot of our members live, they would go to that site and it would be easier to get un-churched friends there.

4. Another argument they make is that if Paul and the other NT church planters had access to technology they would have used it. Instead, they wrote letters to reach massive amount of people.

5. A campus pastor will still preach 'live' 5,6,7,8 times a year in these cases. So a young guy can increase his preaching skill.

I know JD Greear wrote a post on his blog defending why Summit Church is going to this method.

I must say it is odd to think of watching a guy preach on screen but apparently it doesn't bother a lot of people.

Jason Morrison said...

I have not done enough research to come to any conclusive decisions about this trend. Nevertheless, what I do know still troubles me.

I'll try to interact with the points you give not in order though.

4. Paul would no doubt had made use of technology if it were available to him. However, Apostolic authority and Elder authority are two different issues.

3. I am much more inclined to favor satellite campuses when they are used within a close geographical area. This would enable the preaching pastor to preach at all the campuses and in varying degrees be available to all the people he shepherds. However when you have some well known preacher who preaches in Atlanta and never preaches at a network church located in Richmond, I see this as problematic.

1. I cannot speak to the research, as I have not looked into it. The way in which a plant is started though does highly impact whether it will be successful down the road. It is discouraging that name recognition of a particular brand or pastor has so much of a influence on the success or failure of a church. It would be more encouraging if the Holy Spirit and faithfulness to God's word were credited as the important factors for success.

2. I agree with you when a church begins to run two services, if the situation is not changed, you end up with two churches. I also agree, bigger buildings should not be the default position for handling growth. Maybe satellite campuses can be used where the lead pastor splits time where he preaches.

5. This still seems deficient to me.

Although I still have trouble with this trend, I see this as a 2nd or 3rd tier issue. I am pleased at the work many of these larger churches are doing and rejoice at lives being changed through the gospel.