Church Growth: Planting or Franchising?

 

For many years, pastors have erroneously equated congregational growth with church growth. The former is simply an increase in the population of the weekly assembly, whereas the latter is evangelism of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who otherwise would have been lost – and maturity and growth in the relationship with God through Christ. 

The modern-day pulpit pimps have further blurred the meaning by  building stadium-like “worship facilities” and “anointing sons and daughters” to extend their “apostolic influence” – all as monuments to their greatness. As I’ve said in the past, often times megachurch pastors end up “trading members” – attracting sheeple to and from pristine “worship facilities” – as opposed to growing the church with new souls. 

God through His Word commands what we would consider “church growth”: 

Acts 2:42-47 (New American Standard Bible) 

 42They were (A)continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to (B)the breaking of bread and (C)to prayer. 43Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many (D)wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44And all those who had believed [a]were together and (E)had all things in common; 45and they (F)began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46(G)Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and (H)breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 

 47praising God and (I)having favor with all the people And the Lord (J)was adding to their number day by day (K)those who were being saved. 

Further, Jesus declared that He would build a Church that Hell could not conquer (Matthew 16:18). He didn’t say He’d build a building – He spoke of a living Body. Still, no man can glory that he is the “sheep herder-in-chief” for a region – only God is responsible for the growth of His Body (1 Corinthians 3:7-8). 

Just because your pastor boasts that “we are 1 church in 3 locations”, or he has a network of “sons and daughters” who have “submitted under his covering” does not mean that he is a church planter. In fact, he is nothing more than a franchiser. Think about it: McDonald’s sells franchises by charging a fee for a franchiser to rightfully represent themselves as an official representative of the franchise. McDonald’s handles all of the licensing (and some level of marketing), and the franchisee pays an annual fee for the privilege of being called “a location”. 

It’s the same in Church, Inc. I’ve already detailed the pay-to-play phenomenon of “spiritual covering” – as well as an examination of Alpha Pimp and master marketer Eddie Long (who is savvy enough to convince pastors to turn their churches over to him AND change their names!). Men like Eddie Long, I.V. Hilliard, Creflo Dollar, Paul Morton, and many others are interested in “growing” their churches clubs through acquisition. They’d rather be known as “Spiritual Fathers” and “Apostles” instead of lowly church planters, and rightfully so since they aren’t planting anything anyway. 

Church planters, however, are people who recognize that God can’t be contained within a “location”, and are interested in evangelizing through training up church leaders for service WITHOUT CREATING SERVANTS AND ADMIRERS OF THEMSELVES. Church planting is essentially mission work – bringing the Gospel to a specific area, converting souls, making disciples, training church leaders for service, and moving on to the next location once the new “plant” can sustain itself. 

Church planters realize that God is bigger than “1 church with multiple locations” – which is a plausible assertion. How can a church with over 10,000 members be led by a pastor (or elder board) that can successfully shepherd individual members? While it is impressive to amass such a large following (in a flesh-satisfying kind of way), one could argue that those 10,000 members could be better served in hundreds of smaller churches (spread wider and deeper within underserved communities) with pastors and elders who could minister to them – and shepherd them – more effectively. 

The Apostle Paul was the prototypical church planter (Acts 14:21-23; Acts 15:41; 1 Thessalonians 3:2). Even though Paul was a spiritual father-figure, he did not create a network of “Sons of Paul”. In fact, once Paul (and his planters) trained the local assembly to sustain themselves (with his encouragement), the new plant would send missionaries forward to plant churches as well (1 Thessalonians 1:8). There are modern-day church planters in every community in the nation today (the Acts 29 network is one of the most well-known) – training disciples to preach and declare the Gospel…and make other disciples to do the same. These men don’t demand allegiance to them, and they don’t go around calling themselves “Spiritual Daddies” – they’re too busy declaring the Gospel. 

As I’ve stated in the past – I’m not “anti-megachurch” per se (some of the bible teachers I admire lead very large congregations). I just wonder if the local assembly is more effective when the leadership can actually personally shepherd the congregation.  

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14 Responses to “Church Growth: Planting or Franchising?”


  1. 1 gcmwatch January 19, 2010 at 10:42 am

    @ that sign: OMG!!

    IST, you made a salient point here. Much of what we are seeing today is nothing more than savvy marketing and the patterned franchising of the contemporary church. Its calculated by numbers,money and…more marketing.

    It is NOT driven by the Holy Spirit’s initiative. That takes too long and doesnt get the ready made saints (with cash seed in hand) in the seats fast enough.

    The insanity of the wall street church these days is seen in its adaptation of the corporate business model and evoking titles to correspond (CEO,et al).

    A suggested motto:
    Church, Inc: An enterprise you too can cash in on!

    • 2 hiscrivener January 20, 2010 at 10:58 pm

      I work in marketing and have done it for megachurches all across the country, but you two know that.

      In all my days, I never thought I would ever see the rapid growth of shepherd-less churches and TV screen worship and yet, people flock to these idols in droves.

      It is nothing more than Fortune 500 finding fortune in the mindless sheep that attend these empty shrines.

      We frequently comment on the “pulpit pimps” of our day, but this action really does make the Church look nothing more than a high-priced ho.

      Shame on these dimwits. Nice read, brother.

      And great sign too. I’ll be finding a post to “borrow” that one.

      Peace,
      HiScrivener

  2. 3 James McCoy January 19, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    No one to blame for these types of churchs but the people who so foolishly follow them.How is one pastor suppose to minster even to a thousand folk?Lets call these megachurchs what they really are cash cows!What happens when 10 card carrying member die on the same day or what happens when 200 of your 10,0000 members are gravely sick,people just need to stop and think.

  3. 4 Rebecca January 19, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    “Christianity started out in Palestine as a fellowship;
    it moved to Greece and became a philosophy;
    it moved to Italy and became an institution;
    it moved to Europe and became a culture;
    it came to America and became an enterprise.”

    Sam Pascoe, American scholar.

    • 5 Rebecca January 20, 2010 at 9:38 am

      An article that has circulated around the internet attributed to David Ryser expounds on the quote I wrote above…
      Here are some exerts and a couple of links I found that will take you to the entire article:

      “A number of years ago, I had the privilege of teaching at a school of ministry. My students were hungry for God, and I was constantly searching for ways to challenge them to fall more in love with Jesus and to become voices for revival in the Church. I came across a quote attributed most often to Rev. Sam Pascoe. …I wanted them to understand and appreciate the import of the last line, so I clarified it by adding, “An enterprise. That’s a business.”
      “After a few moments Martha, the youngest student in the class, raised her hand … She asked such a simple question, “A business? But isn’t it supposed to be a body?” I could not envision where this line of questioning was going, and the only response I could think of was, “Yes.” She continued, “But when a body becomes a business, isn’t that a prostitute?”

      “There is only one answer to her question. The answer is “Yes.” The American Church, tragically, is heavily populated by people who do not love God. How can we love Him? We don’t even know Him; and I mean really know Him.
      “…..The root of this condition originates in how we came to God. Most of us came to Him because of what we were told He would do for us. We were promised that He would bless us in life and take us to heaven after death. We married Him for His money, and we don’t care if He lives or dies as long as we can get His stuff. We have made the Kingdom of God into a business, merchandising His anointing. This should not be. We are commanded to love God, and are called to be the Bride of Christ–that’s pretty intimate stuff. We are supposed to be His lovers. How can we love someone we don’t even know? And even if we do know someone, is that a guarantee that we truly love them? Are we lovers or prostitutes?

      “What’s the difference between a lover and a prostitute?” I realized that both do many of the same things, but a lover does what she does because she loves. A prostitute pretends to love, but only as long as you pay. Then I asked the question, “What would happen if God stopped paying me?”
      “What would happen if He stopped blessing me? What if He never did another thing for me? Would I still love Him? Please understand, I believe in the promises and blessings of God. The issue here is not whether God blesses His children; the issue is the condition of my heart. Why do I serve Him? Are His blessings in my life the gifts of a loving Father, or are they a wage that I have earned or a bribe/payment to love Him? Do I love God without any conditions?

      “Which are we, lover or prostitute? There are no prostitutes in heaven, or in the Kingdom of God for that matter, but there are plenty of former prostitutes in both places. Take it from a recovering prostitute when I say there is no substitute for unconditional, intimate relationship with God. And I mean there is no palatable substitute available to us (take another look at Matthew 7:21-23 sometime). We must choose.”

      Dr. David Ryser

      http://associate.com/cgi/find.cgi

      (click on the one titled ‘The question that changed my life’)

      • 6 Rebecca January 20, 2010 at 9:48 am

        My apologies … the link I posted will not take you to the article… so try this these.

        http://associate.com/groups/anzac/0::1034read.html

        Also, it can be found at other’s blog sites, such as:

        http://onefiles.blogspot.com/2009/06/question-that-changed-my-life-by-dr.html

        http://www.injesus.com/index.php?module=message&task=view&MID=XB007FBE&GroupID=WT008NY8

        • 7 speaking truth January 21, 2010 at 7:27 am

          Thanks for the references Rebecca – interesting (and accurate) reading indeed…

          • 8 Rebecca January 21, 2010 at 10:27 am

            ST,
            Thank you for “Speaking Truth”.

            I stumbled across your website when I was in anguish a couple of years ago after departing from “the institutional church” being a part of it since the late 1970’s.

            You see … 33 years ago I fell in love with Jesus Christ. I gave Him my life, because I realized my life didn’t belong to me. I wasn’t looking for my bills to be paid, or a new house or car or better job … I was living a miserable sinful life and He captured my heart and set me free from a life of sin. Desiring to know more about Him, I fell in love with His Word and read it continually and prayed. Such sweet, pure communion and fellowship and love like I’d never experienced before.

            But, somewhere along the way … I became more interested in following man, than following my 1st Love ~ Jesus Christ. I attended church services faithfully, gave extragavantly and took notes diligently ~ at first because of my love for Jesus, but later my motives were more about pleasing man, and getting points with God, than a desire to know the only true God and His son Jesus Christ.
            Discovering christian televison was a blessing and a curse. I became lazy (spiritually) and got so excited about the revelation taught by seasoned teachers that I began to follow my favorite teachers interpretation of scripture instead of digging in The Word for myself and allowing Holy Spirit to reveal the Fathers heart behind His Word.
            The times that I studied the scriptures being taught and discovered the verses before and after brought a different meaning on what was being taught … I decided it was the enemy coming to bring doubt and snatch the word away.

            However, my love for Jesus and a desire for Truth never departed and I had an “Awakening”. Like the story of sleeping beauty being awakened with a kiss from the prince … Jesus is my prince and He awakened me with His kiss of Love and Truth and I woke up out of a deep spiritual slumber. Suddenly, I could no longer go along and say “yes” to things that I knew in my heart were wrong.
            At first, reading some of the comments on your site was a challenge to me, because in the past I wouldn’t allow myself to read anything that went against my beliefs – or what I had been taught to believe. I became willing to lay down all of my theology, ideaolgy and man taught doctrines and allow God to burn the sacred cows in my life. I began to realize that to question what a man or woman teaches is not equivalent to doubting God’s Word … and I’ve also learned that God is big enough to handle any questions I have about Him :)

            Walking away from a position and title allowed God to expose what was wrong in my life. This process of what I call “spiritual detox” has exposed more about what was wrong in me than in others. What I’ve learned during this process (and not entirely in this order) is:

            1) Looking back to learn from my mistakes (like being a man pleaser instead of a God pleaser) is healthy, but don’t look back longing for what could have been or should have been, for this will only paralyze you. Remember Lot’s wife?

            2) Loving people unconditionally, does not mean you trust them unconditionally.

            3) Forgive those who have disappointed you. Most likely they are more deceived than you were.

            4) Forgive yourself. Don’t lament over the years that seem wasted. Trust God to redeem this time as you submit it to Him.

            5) Be grateful for what you have learned during this journey and the people He allowed to be in your life. We can glean something from every situation in life ~ even the negative.

            6) Repent (change your way of thinking). This may take a little time, as you are allowing the Lord to clean sweep your “hard drive” from doctrines contrary to His Word. Allow the Holy Spirit to be your teacher and give Him place to bring understanding to the Word of God.

            7) Seek a place, group or people that are “Christ” centered, not man centered. Any place that is about the “one man/woman show” is not where the Spirit of God is moving. Today is the day of the saints. Connect with those who are equipping the saints and not just gathering the saints to themselves.

            8) Journal your thoughts and write down your questions to the Lord and His answers. You think you will remember the treasures He shows you in the darkness, but in time you may forget. (I need to apply more discipline on this one).

            Even though I may not agree with the way some opinions are expressed by others on this site, I want to thank you for your courage and giving of your time and finances to provide this venue for people like me who are coming out of religious bondage into a place of true freedom and liberty in Christ Jesus!

            • 9 speaking truth January 26, 2010 at 8:01 pm

              Thanks so much for your story Rebecca – it sounds alot like my own. And thankfully WordPress offers this forum for free, so I’m not giving my finances to maintain it :-)

              Of course, there is no price for freedom in God and truth in His Word. Stay encouraged…

  4. 10 Broken Pastor January 20, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Mmmmm. Rebecca, even if that story is fictional, the point is well made. A body that is a business is a prostitute. Wow.

    ST, Thanks for chiming in on this my brother. Good insight about the ‘franchising’ effect of so many churches.

    Be encouraged, the Lord is multiplying and calling many to plant healthy, growing, biblically-sound, gospel-centered churches all over the world – and especially in the ATL! I was just at a meeting today with a room full. God is at work!

    Though many peddle, abuse and misuse the church, the LORD is still her Bridgegroom and King. And the church is still His beloved, ordained means of reaching the world for His glory.

    But woe to the ones who pimp the church… um,mm,mm.

  5. 11 Job January 27, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Another outstanding example of how we have thrown the Biblical models of evangelism and ecclesiology out the window. We choose our own will over God’s will. Incidentally, what would a modern evangelical seminary or Bible college be without a sequence of courses on “church growth and church planting”?

  6. 12 CPCIV January 27, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    I would like to know..what in the world is a “First Lady”, Ive even seen the “bowl with the First Family “… “First Lady” and “First Family” are titles that are used by this church I used to attend….

    Ive met the Bishop (Bishop Brooks) of this church personally and it seems, he is nice, pleasant to be around. Either he knows what’s going on and agree with it, doesn’s know what is going on (I highly doubt it), or doesnt want to affect his connection since he is under the leadership of Paul S. Morton…

    Heres a biography of a youth pastor over at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Greensboro, NC. I attended this church before and questioned a Pastor (not the one in the link) being a OmegaPsiPhi fraternity member….

    http://www.mtzbc.com/pastor-khalis-lemons

    Points of interest stated in the biography.

    “Pastor Lemons oversees 600 radical students where he bridges the gap between Hip-Hop and Holiness. ”

    “He has been in the presence of Jim Johnson, the former owner of Black Entertainment Television (BET), Reverend Al Sharpton and many other distinguished attendees of the Thurgood Marshall’s Scholarship Fund in New York City, NY to engage with leaders known for their excellence and involvement in various important endeavors. ”

    “This young man’s street jargon makes it easier to reach and save the youth. His biblical substance blesses souls; his edgy exegesis edifies the environment. “

    This is what I experienced and encountered during my short time there about 3 months.

    1) Pastor an OmegaPsiPhi fraternity member (denounced Mason, but still OPP).
    2) Asked some elders about union between Fraternity and Christian and got that they didnt agree, but obviously he is still an OPP (unless that has changed)..???
    3) Minister suggested that my New World Translation was okay to study from…
    4) A pastor that was taught under T.D. Jakes preached. Brought one of there singers who has a CD out and talked about it. Had another singer try to sell his new cd, while going down the lists of his songs, even saying “This one yall will like, its for the young people” T.D. Jakes and Paul S. Morton are connected.
    5) Had a singles event that had a lady minister from a church in Charlotte pastored by Claude Alexander..
    6) Had a revival I attended where prizes were given for kids knowing a verse, than at one point, said all the kids could have candy or prizes and kids were running in a frenzy on stage to grab whatever they could.
    7) Same revival had a local church come with their “Christian Step Team” and have a performance step show. As they ended with a step through the aisles..

  7. 13 ready4change February 18, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    ST,

    Dr. Juanita Bynum has a message for you…Click here:

    http://www.juanitabynum.com/

    She also seems to be making quite the comeback as well, with a talkshow, new video series, girls sorority and a few preaching engagements. You can also conveniently catch her on youtube, facebook, twitter and myspace as well. Excuse me, I have a sudden inclination to go vomit profusely…

    Solus Christus,

    R4C


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