Saturday, June 28, 2008

Church Growth Inspired by Starbucks -

One of my parishioners forwarded this article to me. It concerns church growth and expansion via video links that can reach across the world.

In the article the operative word is "franchise." In the business world one can gain entry into the marketplace by buying into a franchise. In simple terms you put up the money and the mother company provides you with product and the business strategy. In a franchise model there is no room for individuality or creativity because you are marketing their product in the way that they want it marketed.

As I noted here earlier this year the franchise model has come to the church. Witness the main character in this article, Rev. Troy Gramling, a 41 year old, charismatic, self-taught preacher from Paragould, Arkansas. Note his qualifications: self-taught. Apparently he has no Bible college or seminary education, no understanding of Greek or Hebrew, no understanding of systematic theology, no training in counseling or pastoral ministry, and no understanding of church history. What made his Florida church rapidly grow and lead it to expand internationally via satellite? Quoting from the WSJ, "he read articles about Starbucks's branding strategy in the Harvard Business Review. He used a "coffee for Christ" campaign to recruit new members by giving away $10 Starbucks gift cards one Easter. Since 2002, his flock has swelled four-fold."

Ministry as a franchise: you don't need an education, you don't need to immerse yourself in the Scriptures, you don't need to think for yourself. Just study successful business models and apply those techniques to the church. Better yet, just study successful churches and copy their methodology. Cut and paste your name into their logo (if its not copy-righted), copy their worship style, copy their philosophy of ministry and call it your own. I may seem cynical but there are churches out there who actually 'sell' their ideas to aspiring ministers. Practically every church is copying someone else's "successful" church.

At my church I'm currently preaching through the book of II Corinthians. Rev. Troy Gramling, and anyone copying his methodology would do well to study the Apostle Paul's philosophy of ministry as articulated in this epistle. "For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ" (2 Cor. 2:17).

Inspired by Starbucks -


Anonymous said...

Someday soon, I hope the Church can learn to love & accept itself as much as its called to love & accept the world.

all day (allen d) said...

Wow! Strong words for your brother. In Ephesians it says to avoid using harsh words. People at FRC are experiencing the redemptive work of the Holy Spirit and the salvation through the blood atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Please remember we're on the same team.

Dave Sarafolean said...

All day,

Yes, I speak with passion on this matter because I am grieved for what is going on in the name of kingdom-building.

God builds his church through the 'ordinary means' of preaching, right administration of the sacraments, prayer and church discipline. These are the means (methods) that He has commanded in His word. Marketing and business models ought to be the farthest thing from our mind. Moreover, God's methods are predicated on having a trained minister who can rightly divide the Word of Truth.

Numerical success cannot be the main measurement of God's blessing or the Holy Spirit's involvement.

Ken e said...

I come out of stuff like that...instead of preaching Christ as prophet, priest, and king though the entire text of Scripture, I was taught leadership principles. I thought a penticostal church would be different, but it really wasn't. I read Louis Berkhof in the pew and finally left in tears driving home after Dale Carnegie was read for a few weeks as the sermon text instead of Scripture.


Dave Sarafolean said...


Dale Carnegie from the pulpit? That's incredible! More than bring tears to my eyes it would've made me feel sick. I once attended a large megachurch that had to supplement its 'worship' with strobe lights and smoke machines. If that wasn't bad enough the pastor got up and belittled anyone who had concerns about the way they did worship. I went home pounding the steering wheel in anger feeling unclean as if I had just attended a pagan ceremony.

I drove past your old church today and prayed -- for you, your friends and that God would be glorified by what goes on there.

Joseph G. said...

From a letter in yesterday's Wall Street Journal:

"Is the worship service for the edification of members who then go out and do works of service and lead a sanctified Christian life, or is the worship service to bring in the non-Christian or "seeker?" The answer a congregation has to this last question will reveal if a church employs more traditional liturgies or the more contemporary, upbeat liturgies."

The letter writer was responding to a Friday column by Dale Buss of suburban Detroit, which can be found here:
Less Seeking, More Thrills - [online_wsj_com]


Dave Sarafolean said...


The Wall Street Journal apparently has more theological articles than some Christian publications.

Thanks for the tip.