McDonald’s Franchise or Specialty Restaurant

I am finding that Churches are rapidly becoming 1 of 2 types – either a McDonald’s type of franchise or a specialty restaurant.

McDonald’s is the largest restaurant chain in the world. It is very desirable to be this big to a lot of people. Nobody would say their food is at the top of the review charts but big is always good isn’t it? McDonald’s got big because of the franchise concept. The franchise concept is where other people own the restaurant besides McDonald’s but they have to follow strict systems and procedures to insure consistency of experience. Go to any McDonald’s restaurants in the world and they are basically all the same.

I am seeing this same philosophy in the Church world. There are many conferences, denominations, and individual Churches telling us the franchise formula for how the biggest Churches in America does things. So since they are big we assume that it is the way to go. Our success depends almost solely on being big. Right?

We are told there is a formula of ‘rightness’ in America that if you follow it you will be big like the biggest churches. We don’t ever stop to evaluate whether our criteria for success is even right. We just go to more conferences and read more books hoping to find the next thing to ‘tweak’ in the system that will ensure lots of people come in the door to get another Big Sermon or Quarter Pounder Youth program.

I have studied this model quite extensively. It’s not bad. The biggest Churches in America implements this franchise formula. I can within about 5 minutes of visiting a Church tell you if they are following the franchise formula. Again this isn’t necessarily wrong, but surely God has something better in mind than all of us trying to copy the few successful Churches in America. The fact is that most Churches that implement the franchise formula never see the success they desire.

The Church franchise system imitates the same 4 core principles that McDonald’s uses. They are: Predictable (No Surprises), Fast, Convenient, and My Way. My Way means that while you can’t order Spaghetti you can order a standard product like a Big Mac without pickles.

We can build a Church with these 4 core principles but the problem is that God doesn’t live by these principles. If we insist on a Christianity with these 4 core principles we will get some American hybridized version of Christianity that the original Apostles would never recognize.

Jesus the head of the Church is not predictable. He never did a prayer or miracle or healing the same way twice, creation is incredibly varied; even people are quite different all over the earth with different personalities. Here are the McDonald’s values being adopted by Churches vs. God’s model for Churches (in my opinion).

McDONALD’S VALUES                   GOD’S VALUES
Franchise Church                             Creative Church

Predictable                                                Orderly – But Not Predictable
Fast                                                             Slow Cooker vs. Microwave
Convenient                                                God’s Time Table Not Ours
My Way                                                      His Way vs. My Way

What would Christianity in America look like if we did away with the Franchise mentality and asked Jesus how He wanted to build each individual Church? What would they look like if they were orderly but not predictable, events happened on His time schedule, and we adjusted our lives according to His timetable?

It is much harder to do it this way but you will get a better meal. Don’t you like visiting those out of the way restaurants that the locals rave about? I know I do. But it will take creativity, risk, and breaking out of what is the definition of success.

Which kind of Church do you want to be a part of? Do you think it is possible to build a specialty Church like this?

Your thoughts?

Categories: Church


  1. Love those hidden restaurants – always have the fresh cooked stuff.

  2. Love being surprised after I adjust to the shock! Keeps the fires within burning!

  3. Shock. That is a good word. It is definitely a word we have to embrace and learn to love. Thanks for the comments!

  4. Definatly would choose the home cooked, slow method of cooking over fast food.

    In the same sense of mind I have always known that I wasn’t my own and that I belonged to Him… and that He is the only way that matters.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: