This past week a good friend shared with me that her and her family are now members of a satellite site of Andy Stanley’s very popular and increasingly influential North Point Community Church. They consider Andy Stanley to be their teaching pastor and then they have a couple local staff guys who are responsible for "pastoring the flock." Here’s the kicker though: Andy Stanley and North Point are in Atlanta. Our friends and their church are in Colorado Springs. They are separated by nearly 1500 miles! I have to admit that when she told me that, my heart sunk. I mean, I understand the reasoning behind it. And I don’t think that I could give a strong biblical case for not doing it. But I have to agree with Paul on this one, as he points out in 1 Corinthians, just because something is permissible does not necessarily mean it is beneficial.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Andy Stanley is a great teacher, a great leader, with a great vision, and a man of great character to boot. There have been seasons of ministry where I have found myself listening in on his NPCC and leadership podcasts quite regularly, and Next Generation Leader is a quality leadership read. But broadcasting our favorite teaching personality onto a screen half way across the country and calling him "our Teaching Pastor," seems to be much more than just inauthentic (although it is certainly that). It robs young leaders of the opportunity to grow and develop. It eliminates the opportunity for local leaders to teach about things specifically relevant to what is happening in their local body. It completely separates the Teaching Pastor from the local leadership. By broadcasting in the finished product, you get your money’s worth in quality teaching at the cost of creative collaboration. Even worse, it further exacerbates the serious problem of "Consumer Christianity."
Think about it: When it comes to the things we really care about, like bible teaching and gourmet coffee, we want the best. So, we choose our favorite product. Don’t like the burnt flavor of Starbucks? Try the milder roasts of Caribou or Scooters. Looking for a little more spice to reach your city’s untapped twenty somethings? You’ll find a dash of Craig Groeschel will go a long way. Or if that doesn’t work, a Mark Driscoll franchise could be the new craze you’re looking for. Now if only Rob Bell would start distributing…
You see what I’m talking about? It sounds ridiculous to put it that way, but in many ways, isn’t that exactly what we’re doing? Whether its the style, scholarly study, entertainment value, or the vision itself that draws us to a particular teacher or church, I just don’t think that franchising is a good move for the church. Even if you don’t agree, you can at least see where some of my hesitations lie. If you’re interested in further study on the subject or reading what others are saying, I highly suggest bouncing over to the ongoing discussion on Bob.blog.