Friday, November 7, 2008

Churchapreneurs: the marks of your local franchise (church)

Given what we have said to this point about churchapreneurs, what we are going to say about the marks of a churchapreneur church won’t come as much of a surprise. What it may do however is explain to you why your church looks and feels like it does. For many Christians, that I meet, they have one of two backgrounds: Roman Catholic or non-denominational Protestant. Those backgrounds leave a profound and lasting impression upon them. The Roman Catholic, though he or she rarely goes to church, knows that church is supposed to be formal, and that all the action in worship is objective and centers around the priest up front who performs the ritual of the Mass, while the non-denominational worshiper knows church is supposed to be casual and all the action in worship is supposed to leave them emotionally charged after the experience. Whether it’s the music, the lighting, the sound system, the skit, or the pastors extra “powerful” message, everything is crafted to make an emotional impact upon the non-denominational worshiper. Beyond that, if you dig deeper with either of these worshipers you will find that for the Roman Catholic they see that church gives them an identity that transcends themselves and their culture, uniting them in identity both with believers in other cultures stretching around the world and with believers in the past; while on the other hand, the non-denominational worshiper finds no such identity in his or her church, save only the shared emotional experience they have with others.

Now, this brief and anecdotal orientation to the two most common worshipers in contemporary North American Christianity is useful background for getting at what one can expect to find at your local franchise (church) and may help some of you understand your religious experience in a way you have not thought of it before. Going back to Chuck Smith, the head of the Calvary Chapel franchise and pioneer churchapreneur, non-denominational churches have been carefully crafted to optimize sales volume and enhance customer satisfaction. Given that aim, it is understandable that these churches are characterized by these three marks:
  • First, churchapreneur churches are personality driven. That is no surprise given the profile of the churchapreneur. He is usually a "type A" personality, gregarious, and highly verbal. This choice to make the churchapreneur church personality driven kills two birds with one stone. On the one hand it helps the person with a Roman Catholic past identify with their new found church. Remember, their past worship experience revolved around the action of the priest up front, who was busy mumbling out the liturgy of the Mass. Whether they understood it all or not, or were even that captivated by it, they still tended to identify their religious experience with the guy up front. So churchapreneurs tapped into that, only with a twist. Instead of mumbling out the liturgy of the Mass, they have replaced the priest with a multitasking pastor who is all at once a cheerleader, coach, and practicing stand-up comedian. On the other hand, the guy with the big presence up front is just good for business. He is the face of the company. Whatever people’s felt needs are, he has anticipated them and knows just how to pitch his product so as to touch a heart in order to close a sale. If tears are needed, he can cry. If laughter is what you like, he can joke. If being vulnerable is what you are after, he can be transparent like nobody’s business. This really “connects” with people, helps them feel like they have finally found that church where people understand them. And hey, after all, Paul said to be all things to all men, right? They are just trying be like Paul. The key to bringing in customers from both target areas of Roman Catholicicm and broad evangelicalism is a big personality up front, so that is exactly what you will find.
  • Second, you will find a church that does not believe in much. They don’t subscribe to any creeds or confessions, and if you bring that up to any body you will be quickly informed that that kind of thing is just traditionalism. If pressed to give any answers about doctrinal basics, you will find that most of these churches have doctrinal statements buried somewhere. But this lack of doctrinal precision is considered a virtue in these churches; after all, Jesus and the apostles did not recite the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed, besides that, if you get too specific in your doctrine, customers are likely to get offended. In that event, “no creed but Christ” works quite well. This of course, is a long way away from historic Christianity as practiced in any major form of its expression, whether that be Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant. That is kind of the point though. Churchapreneur churches are intentionally designed not to be churchly; they are businesses which need to keep expanding customer bases, and doctrinal faithfulness or expressing unity with the historic Christian churches through confessing the creeds of old is irrelevant to their mission.
  • Third, you will find that these churches are radically independent. This follows from their refusal to confess the faith as Protestants have historically, and beyond that, the great ecumenical creeds of the Christian church. Independence primarily flows from the ethos of the churchapreneur concept. Just review for a moment: Churchapreneurs are businessmen who have been given a divine business plan from God called their “vision.” These “visions” are the result of some conversation with God, an unverified prophecy, dream, or some mystical experience. Such experiences are so highly personal and subjective that its hard to reproduce churches in other places after a similar fashion and to get other pastors to buy into your particular franchise and business plan. Further, the kind of guys who are attracted to churchapreneurship are too independent/arrogant to allow themselves to be cast in someone else’s mold. Calvary Chapel is a notable exception, but I firmly believe the facade of this “movement” will shatter into a thousand pieces as soon as papa Chuck fades off the scene.

So there are the three leading marks of a churchapreneur church: personality driven, non-confessional, and independent. Now, contrast these three marks with the marks of the true church as outlined in Belgic Confession article 29: the preaching of the gospel, the proper administration of the sacraments, and Christian discipline. My challenge to you, if you are in a churchapreneur church, is to think about the three marks of your church. Perhaps you have not thought in this way before. Maybe you just did not know better, or maybe you were a Roman Catholic by background and you were told that formalism and institutionalism was the problem with the Catholics and what you really needed was a simple Jesus and heart-warming worship. Well, that is not true, what you need for your spiritual well-being is a true church, which confesses and proclaims the Biblical Christ, and not a commercial enterprise. Compare the marks of your current church over against the marks of a true church as outlined in the Belgic Confession and see for yourself, from the word of God, which one is Biblical.

More churchapreneur websites:

true churches:

1 comment:

Timothy said...

Greetings! Saw your post in Google Blogsearch and came to read.

>"Compare the marks of your current church over against the marks of a true church as outlined in the Belgic Confession and see for yourself, from the word of God, which one is Biblical."

Why would one compare their congregation to the more recent Belgic Confession of 1618 which has many errors and not the earlier and correct Nicene Creed of 381?

AS one of the Catholics, I find my church meets the fours marks ofthe Nicene Creed. I also find 100% of Catholic doctrne in my bible, eitherexplicitly or implicitly. I also find that Catholic doctrine matchess closer the writings left by early Christians from 100 - 1618 A.D. That kind of alignment is not accidental.

I invite you to visit your local Catholic Church and to learn what Catholics truely believe, teach, and why.

God bless...