Orginally published on Tuesday, September 04, 2007 at 5:04 AM
by Todd Rhoades
Here's part of a very interesting article about Cumberland Church... You can go to Starbucks for a cup of coffee, or McDonald's for a Big Mac, but if you're looking for salvation, you might want to try Cumberland Church on Franklin Road. It's a franchise, so you're not going to see anything strange on the menu. And that's the way the church likes it. Last year, Eddie Johnson came to Franklin to open the new church, but he didn't intend to struggle like a new, independent business owner. He wanted his church to offer the same familiarity people get from a restaurant chain, so he partnered with North Point Community Church, an Atlanta-based mega-church. "Just like Chick-fil-A, my church is a 'franchise,' and I proudly serve as the local owner/operator," he wrote recently on his blog, www.videochurchblog.com.
The larger church provides the brand name, and eight months later, people familiar with that brand are finding their way to Cumberland Church services. Some have relocated from Atlanta, so they know what to expect.
But it’s not happening just in Franklin. North Point-branded churches are opening across the country.
“North Point is looking to plant 60 new churches by 2010,” Johnson said. “That seems to be the trend. These large churches — I hate to use the phrase — are franchising. They have a brand. That’s why we’ve been able to grow so quickly. It’s the brand with North Point.”
This franchise approach is gaining popularity in the non-denominational community. Just as McDonald’s and Starbucks have flooded the American consumer market, these churches are looking to do the same for the spiritual market.
For the last four years, an organization called Stadia has helped start about 100 non-denominational churches in North America. Bob Harrington, pastor of the Franklin-based Harpeth Community Church, works part-time as a consultant for Stadia, and he said their plan is to keep opening churches wherever there’s a need.
“We don’t push numbers, but at times we’ve hoped and prayed we can plant 5,000 churches in the next 25 years,” he said. “The churches we plant, they’re just trying to take the Bible to people in ways that people can relate to what it teaches and help them be better people. And unless you’re an ardent atheist, you’ve got to believe that’s a good thing.”
The planting trend also is visible locally. According to phone book records, the number of non-denominational churches in Williamson County has grown from about five in 1997 to more than 20 today. Many of these churches, like Spring Hill’s WellSpring Christian Church, meet in local schools and cater to those who don’t normally attend church.
Many people will cringe at using the word “franchise” with church. What are your feelings on this type of approach to rapid church planting?
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