In my previous blog I wrote about some of the benefits of a franchise church: greater resources, a safer name, a greater outreach, a bigger footprint in the community. I get all that. But there are also some things that are robbed from the church when you go to a franchise. One is the uniqueness of God. A franchise presumes that God is going to work in the same way in different locales. That doesn’t seem to be the way it’s portrayed in the Book of Acts and the rest of Scripture.
For example, how is a man healed from blindness in the Bible? Jesus didn’t have a set format. There were no transferable concepts in terms of the “how.” In one case the blind individual was told to just go and wash. In another instance Jesus commanded a person to see. And in yet another case, He put mud and spit in the man’s eyes. Those are all different ways that God healed a person. So, which one’s right? Which one should be franchised? The assumption is that God works the same way in different locales.
The second assumption is that a live person preaching is the same as someone preaching on the screen. I think there’s a sense of being impersonal, a sense of being detached from humans, when you franchise a church with video preaching.
Why is the suburban American church reverting to a franchise system? I think it speaks deeply to our hearts that we really think bigger is better. We really think that systems can be transferable, and that God’s Spirit can be expected to move in exactly the same way from one locale to another. That’s simply not the case. What is the case is that God wants to do a unique work in each locale. In one case it might look like a sports program, or it might be an outreach ministry, or it might be Celebrate Recovery. But regardless of what it looks like, I know this: God brings unique people together with unique gifts, to do a unique thing in each unique place. I think there’s danger in the franchise. There’s danger in “cut and paste.” There’s danger that robs God of His own creativity.