Under the heading of 'church growth' I've blogged about the franchise model of church growth. Last month I commented on a Wall Street Journal article that featured a pastor who'd grown his church by following the marketing model of Starbucks.
In this article posted in Slate magazine the author likens church growth to "Chick-Fil-A" restaurants (a southern fastfood chain based in Atlanta. It is run by Christians and is unique in that they are closed on Sundays). Specifically he comments on the trend of growing your church via satellite broadcasts to other cities or countries. This was brought up in the WSJ article but this author asks more questions. Click on the link below:
How "video venues" are helping megachurches franchise. - By Andrew Park - Slate Magazine
I find it curious that it is the secular press who is raising the questions about the propriety of such propositions. As far as I can see the church is AWOL. Practically speaking, I just don't see the attraction of getting up on Sunday morning to sit in front of a big screen and watch Pastor XYZ of 'Such and Such Community Church' exhort me. I understand the marketing of it all and the brand loyalty to a successful ministry model, but that begs the question of propriety. Isn't church largely about community? One of the most refreshing things that I've found in the PCA (and the broader reformed tradition) is the emphasis we put on church membership which include vows between member and congregation. In these satellite-fed churches I just don't see community, accountability or care for souls. I see consumers coming to a comfortable venue where they are free to leave if they want. It's church on the consumer's terms -- give me what I want or I'll walk (a world-class speaker, cutting edge music, low to no commitment, Starbucks, etc.).
There are other questions that naturally arise from these sorts of 'churches.' Do they observe the sacraments? How are the sacraments administered? How is church discipline carried out? Does anyone check to see if those in attendance have fled church discipline in another setting? My experience has shown that low-commitment, come-as-you-are mega-churches are magnets for folks who've been disciplined in other churches: the bigger the church the easier it is to blend in.
Marva Dawn, in her book, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down, argues that churches should be very slow to adopt new technologies, for technology in and of itself can be idolatrous. Her point is quite simple: ask yourself, 'Does the technology solve more problems than it raises?' Perhaps those contemplating satellite feeds would think twice before plunging ahead. Moreover, perhaps those tempted to try the latest 'satellite' church would re-think their motives and see that in the end it is they who will be short-changed.