McChurch: I'm Lovin' It
One pastor believes franchising congregations is the model of the future.

"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?

February 01, 2008

Displaying 1–10 of 79 comments

ray loper

December 26, 2008  1:20pm

I Beleive that people think to much about church buildings when we are the buildings made without hands,If the curch would realize that we need five fold ministery concepts instead of what we think curch should be then we can move forward. Until we realize that we are connected in spirit,then we understand somewhat about God himself what his mind is it is not about money its about the gifts.some are gifted in certian areas.if we can organize the gifts of the people we want need money.his will in heaven is not to get rich,its to understand what we can do for others not ourself,we need people who want the truth not what sounds good may god open our eyes to who he is ,because he is truth,love,& mercey itself.he alone is god thanks to God for that. We are limited by him because, if i were God everyone would be in trouble including me.So thank God for who he is and let him be God in each one of us,no one man will know everything, its when we put ourselfs together with eachother then we are un stopable, we cant do that worried about bills and worldly things,so i think ur to late with the franchise deal God has already beatin' you to the punch all we can do is come together like the first church did in acts 2 check it one has need in that church! praise God the beginning from the end,end to the beginning.Jesus the first then the last then the new from the old. MAY GOD BLESS YOU RICHLY WITH HIS SPIRIT>>AMEN!!

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Micah Foster

February 27, 2008  6:01pm

This is perhaps one of the best strategies for reaching our culture. The message is the same...the method changes.

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Mark Morris

February 22, 2008  5:36am

Fast Food Church? Wow, and he sounds so proud of himself. If what we want is a generation of overfed, self serving, gotta have it now and MY WAY believer's then, heck why not? As someone who was very close to the birth of the phenomenon known as Life Church (Oklahoma City) take it from me, its not all its cracked up to be. If you can be happy with your "experience" with God being doled out in bite sized morsels guaranteed to leave you hungry, and addicted, then this is exactly what you are looking for. I think the "megastore" has already robbed enough of the heart and soul of our nation and to hear Christ's Bride talked about in such crass commercial terms makes me wanna break out the whip and rive the money changers from the temple!!!!

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February 12, 2008  3:06am

'Branding' churches seems inevitable but it's deadly. Take two very competitive brands, for example, Pepsi and Coke. Take away the packaging and preconceived ideas and it's mostly the same product, right? So the difference they exhibit must be expressed in a mutually exclusive 'truth.' If they aren't saying different things, no distinction can be made between them in the consumer's minds. In other words, 'Coke is the older trustworthy one' versus 'Pepsi is for younger people.' Now, when the general public perceives church buildings, congregations, etc. branding themselves they perceive all churches appealing to different 'target markets'. But they also will see all religions as just being different brands. Ask anyone and they will say the same thing - all roads lead to Rome, right? So, as long as we absolutise one church from the next (creating a perceived distinction of 'Us' versus 'Them') we relativise the perception of God in everyone's minds. The true church supersedes markets and marketing since it is made of all believers, of all languages, of all ethnic groups, of all time.

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Brian Brandon

February 11, 2008  3:26pm

Franchising is a business model for marketing that has been shown to be successful. MacDonalds and Subway are here in New Zealand too! That does not make it automatically wrong for the church to use. The church incarnates the gospel of Jesus Christ into forms that fit our culture, and business is part of our culture today. The advantages of franchising are that it provides a well known brand and advertising, provides a national or international outreach and support system, and passes on sucessful methods. Denominations could be said to provide a franchise system. However they need to look again at how they are doing in the marketplace, because individual churches within denominations have got so diverse that they no longer provide a strong brand, have poor support systems, and fail to pass on successful methods. Surely the church must be interested in improving its marketing methods, not so much to promote itself, but to promote the gospel, which is our responsibility to share.

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February 11, 2008  3:04pm

Does the "owner/operator" actually hold legal title to the property and tangible assets? Does he or she see his/her equity rise as improvements are made with receipts? Are teachers volunteeres or employees? To whom does the "owner/operator" report and give account?

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February 11, 2008  2:12pm

"Have It Your Way" and fashioning a message that "sells" isn't quite what I remember from reading Scripture. In fact, I thought I read that true Christianity is a lifestyle, not a Corporate Mission Statement mixed with Consumer Sales Management. Wasn't there also something in the Gospels that challenged the "bigger is better" mentality? Have we sold out depth for breadth?

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James M. Wicks

February 09, 2008  10:57pm

I think this entire concept is thought provoking and inspirational! It is wonderful that men take the strategies that have produced fruitful ministry in one location and make it possible to reproduce in another. Think of the sincere and pure hearted pastor that has longed to reach as many people as possible but could not for lack of a strategic plan. Perhaps with great ideas like this coming forth in these last days, those that have been faithful with one hundred can now be stewards of one thousand. I am thankful when any one church takes a positive step forward in advancing God's Kingdom and then makes it possible for others to do the same. It may not be the model for everyone, but then they can go get the "Subway" version and prosper with that one. The bottom line is that lots of gospel sandwiches are begin served and hopefully the church is that much closer to fulfilling her purpose. Godspeed!

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Leroy Grey

February 09, 2008  5:36pm

I think many of you know that the "church" as it is being discussed here is NOT the CHURCH, but the discussions here seem to indicate some confusion. The CHURCH is clearly defined in scripture as that invisible body of believers who follow Christ's commands to Love God with all their heart and to love one another as Christ loved us. ALL denominations and non-denominations today follow "another gospel", a "friends with the world" gospel and not the one first delivered by Jesus.

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February 08, 2008  8:09pm

What a concept ! Can you imagine going to a church and having it feel like the one you used to go to or went to before you went on vacation ? Maybe you would be familiar enough with the service to be able to recognize it anywhere in the U.S. or even the world! Can you not see what is happening here ? Europe has very few attending church, the U.S. is getting smaller etc. Perhaps the ultimate is to have one church with real believers and not several thousand different denominations almost continuously talking about the other denominations. At least the Jews were of mostly one mind back when. Think about it.

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