Updated: Aug 6, 2020
A franchised culture in the 20th century
As I look at church in the 20th century, It is clear to me that there is a similarity between most Christian churches and the Fast food industry.
I’m amazed that with every passing breath, we are more concerned with being theologically correct than with being loving, and this is the reason why the Christian church today is the most divided religion in the world. We were called to live in unity and dwell as a loving community called church, but we cant seem to love those who think differently and look past our differences and personal interpretations of the Bible. Churches today are divided even by silly arguments like what instruments should be allowed in worship, or through debates in regard to women in ministry. We get so consumed in our opinions that we treat like law, that we’ve missed the point of why church was started. Unfortunately, Most Churches have become like the fast food industry. Our model of division parallels to fast food chains that sell the same burgers and fries, just slightly branded differently, with adjusted products to benefit our target audience and their taste buds. We even franchise our churches in the same way fast food chains multiply their locations. We try to keep our product exactly the same, we train our staff to talk the same, and more importantly , we sell a message that’s cheap enough for anyone to buy but not healthy enough for anyone to survive.
1. Most of today’s influential leaders are great at feeding people with comfort food that they want but not giving you the spiritual substance their spiritual body needs.
Most churches will give you just enough encouragement to get you through the week so you can come and refill your tank, and the offering basket, again next Sunday,.
The issue is not encouragement, we all need that. The issue is that most churches have stopped teaching beyond that. The feel-good messages are like comfort foods that we all love to eat, while ignoring the toll its taking on our bodies. The church needs to not only encourage their congregation but talk about the very topics that challenge our way of life and perspective.
I get it, no one wants an empty church, and no one likes to be told that we need to change. If we start to preach the Bible unfiltered and as a whole, a lot of people will not like it. That’s because the message of the gospel is offensive! Especially to those who don’t like encounters with the truth.
This is a justified feeling because, as Christians, we have made the colossal mistake of defining success by the standard of the secular world.
What is church success in the current standard?
Just like the fast food industry, we measure success in three ways:
How many people came to our service
How much revenue we made
How big our building is or how many times we’ve franchised
However, We have not been called to live by the measures and standards of the world, but by the measures and standards of God’s kingdom. And in His kingdom, the laws are backwards. The greatest at the table is not the one at the head, but it is the one who is serving. The last one in line is the first, and the unprepared and unqualified are the called. We need to stop watering down the message of the gospel out of fear of offending people because we are afraid of causing them to leave to a different church. Either way, we should not be known by our seating capacity, but by our sending capacity, and our capacity to love each other unconditionally. Church shouldn’t be a social club to make you feel good, it should be a training launchpad for your purpose and destiny in God’s kingdom.
2. The fast food industry is influenced by hype products with mass marketing, and we see the same in most churches.
For example, when everyone decided it was hipster and cool to become vegan and eat veggie burgers, all the fast food restaurants decided to jump on that train. These chains did not stop being unhealthy by creating a vegan product. They added a product to their menu that would appear to be healthy while not actually changing anything else. Many churches currently follow this trend. For example, currently all the hipster pastors have a black square on their instagram to show support to BLM. Most of these pastors have never spoken a word on race issues. Now, just like the veggie burger, churches are not really changing what needs to be changed- just adapting and adding a product to stay relevant. If the church really wanted to bring social change and end racial division, we should have started this conversation a long time ago. For example the topic of abortion (killing babies) is not a topic that most pastors will mention these days, even though the number one cause of death for blacks in America is abortion, according to the CDC. In New York City a black woman is more likely to have an abortion than to give birth. Where is the church when the world needs a voice of reason and a hand to draw the lines of morality? You see God never called us to be popular. In fact he said we would be rejected and even hated for our counter cultural message. Mark 13:9-13, is one of the verses we skip over on Sunday because it doesn’t quite fit our agenda for “#MegaChurchGrowth#2020”
A half truth is not a truth. Actually, according to human law, this phenomena is called "Lying by Omission". Lying by omission is when a person leaves out important information or fails to correct a pre-existing misconception in order to hide the truth from others.“I didn't lie; I just didn't tell you.” Leaving details out of a truthful statement actually isn’t considered truth. This is why we can't preach only the convenient words of the bible and ignore the clear and controversial ones that won’t get us the popular vote for “Woke Church 2020”. And when It comes to marketing, it seems like “Have It Your Way” is the same slogan for most churches today, not just for Burger King.
3. Just like fast food restaurants, we offer the same products every week. Consistency is what attracts our audience.
You see, one of the main problems with modern day church is, we don’t go expecting something to happen, we go for our usual Sunday Special order, tailored to our taste. Just like no one goes to McDonald’s expecting to eat steak and veggies, no one goes to church expecting a message that will shake you to your core and cause your thoughts and soul to be provoked to change. We’ve become so adapted to the same feel-good routine, that there is no expectation for your life to be changed or challenged at church. Most of us go because it’s easy and convenient, and out of a habit rooted through guilt and pressure from family. This is why we don’t experience the supernatural wonders of God’s presence, because we actually aren’t there to see it. We are there to fill up our little feel good gas tanks for the week and give our tax deductible pocket change causing us to miss the whole point of Church. Church was never meant to be like it is now.
If you take a look at the early church, people were united and driven by a common spirit to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Everyone in church came with expectation and a mindset of community where everyone was looked out for and provided for. Think about this- even in Jesus’ ministry, Matthew chapter 13 tells us that his anointing to perform miracles was made more tangible in places where people awaited with expectation instead of conformity. In fact, in His own city, His power was limited because of people’s doubts and complacency. Matthew 13:58 says "And he did not do many miracles there (His hometown) because of their lack of faith". It’s time to return to our roots of passionate and non complacent conviction that Jesus is still moving today, and to start coming to church with thanksgiving and praise, and with expectation and faith that God is alive and wants to encounter you.
You might be wondering why I’m writing this. Here’s why:
Change rarely starts at the top. From revolutions to reformations, change always started with the people who realized they have been like frogs being boiled, and don't feel the fire heating up until they are cooked alive in their dogmas. How about we leap outside that pot and return to the purpose and meaning of why the church was started? I am very blessed to know many pastors worldwide who have realized this and are not afraid to speak unfiltered truth in love. We are here to love people, and if you love people- you will tell them the unfiltered truth. Let’s stop being silent. Let’s not be afraid to be countercultural and unpopular for speaking the truth in love. After all, the first 300 years of the early church after the departure of Jesus caused people’s radical beliefs and convictions to have them boiled in hot oil or thrown at lions for sport. The American church faces no persecution today besides things like Gavin Newson saying we can’t sing indoors. This upsets people who have precisely limited worship to music and franchised a movement into an industry. First of all, music is just a part of worship but real worship is defined by the way you live. True worship is a force that can't be silenced, a flame that can't be tamed (Romans 12). Maybe if we were persecuted like modern day Chinese or Iranian Christians who are killed for not renouncing to their faith, we would value our faith over man made doctrine, and we would be united despite our differences. Jesus said that a Kingdom divided against itself cannot and will not stand- what makes us think that the church is exempt from that law?
Let’s be the church that is united and speaks the whole truth. The church shouldn’t be a quick drive through for immediate gratification, it should be a community of eternal impact and real community transformation.