"Church plants," "sister churches," and "satellite congregations" may be a thing of the past. In 2008, the language of missiology is changing, so look for "church franchises" in your town.
Eddie Johnson, the lead pastor of Cumberland Church, espouses the franchising concept when it comes to the relationship between his church in Nashville, Tennessee, and North Point Community Church in metro Atlanta. On his blog, he states, "Just like a Chick-fil-A, my church is a 'franchise,' and I proudly serve as the local owner/operator."
According to Johnson, his job is to "establish a local, autonomous church that has the same beliefs, values, mission, and strategy as North Point." He completed a three-month internship at North Point and continues to receive training and support. He claims to rarely deviate from the "training manual."
"Just like that Chick-fil-A owner/operator," he says, "I'm here in Nashville to open up our franchise and run it right. I believe in my company and what they are trying to 'sell.'"
The pastor says people who are already familiar with the North Point "brand" will find a local congregation with the same fit. For those who have relocated from Atlanta, they'll get a taste of home and know what to expect in their new church.
According to Johnson's website, the "Strategic Partnership Churches" exist in such diverse locations as Florida, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. And by 2010, North Point plans to plant 60 new churches.
Is this the future of the Western church- franchised congregations of megabrands in every city with pastors serving as the local owner/operator? Many of us have seen this coming, but it's rather shocking to see the model and language of the franchised church so enthusiastically embraced as it is by Eddie Johnson.
What do you think? 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?