Culture At Large

Calling it a Spade

Chris Salzman

Here's a huge block of text for y'all that combines some of my favorite topics: business paradigms and church. I know, I know, riveting.

First over on Out of Ur we have a recent article about Cumberland Church:

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."

Here's what Missio Dei had to say:

It’s really easy to read this as satire and think, “People really can’t be saying this.” But it was inevitable that someone would say it this way.

I really wanted to see if the pastor was as gung-ho about using economic paradigms to describe Christianity as everyone was out to make him be. Turns out the answer is yes:

Church History tells us the "Franchised Church" works and that God uses it. Church History is FULL of franchised models. America was built on the franchised church...Truth is, most of us grew up in a successfully and strategically planned franchised church.


Leadership is stewardship...In light of that principle, you’ll have to excuse me as I strategically chose to ignore and dismiss most of the recent criticism I've received about my leadership...I'm here because I truly believe Cumberland Church is God's idea and not mine...Knowing that tells me that there's really only one opinion I should be concerned about and it's not yours."

He makes an interesting point here:

Every church leader and church planter I know is implementing parts of, or in full, a franchised church system from another church. Whether it's Willow, Saddleback, Fellowship, Fellowship Bible - Little Rock, Life Church, North Coast, Hillsong, Mars Hill, John Piper, Ed Young Jr., Perry Noble, Erwin McManus, Dino Rizzo, Mark Driscoll, Rob Bell, John Maxwell, North Point or First Baptist-something....we're all transporting something from somebody. You pastors and church leaders are lying to yourself and fooling no one to think that you and your church are TRULY 100% original. It ain't happenin'. As Solomon said, "there is really nothing new under the sun"...Truth is, we're all doing it. I'm just more upfront, honest and strategic about it than you are right now.

(Fun fact: I go to one of those churches, used to attend another, and have regularly listened to podcasts from two others)

On the surface, Cumberland isn't doing anything radical with spreading their brand of Christianity. Denominations have been doing that for centuries. The main kerfluffle is about how much worth we actually ascribe to models and systems. I have no doubt that if Cumberland can stay focused on Jesus they will do a tremendous amount of good.

So, should churches embrace the idea of franchising? While I'll gladly concede that there are some franchising-esque tendencies in how we do churches now, do you agree that churches are currently tacitly practicing franchising? Can anyone see any positives or negatives with this system of thought? Other ideas?

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church