I travel a lot which means that I eat out a lot. When I am on the road, one of my favorite places to eat is Applebee’s. Some of you are probably rolling your eyes and wondering why I don’t sample the local cuisine. My love of Applebee’s has nothing to do with a distaste of local flavor. For me Applebee’s represents something familiar and comforting. No matter where I am if there is an Applebee’s close by I can enjoy a Bourbon Street Steak. Cookie cutter restaurants play an important role in my life. It is good to know that where ever I am, if there is an Applebee’s, I have access to comfort food in a familiar atmosphere.
This cookie cutter model works in the food services world. There is a temptation to apply this business principle to the church world. I am not so certain that cookie cutter churches make sense. Local flavor should rule. The church was never designed to be a franchise.
The local church is a messy, unpredictable, beautiful, living organism. The church is not in the business of cloning. Each church needs to see itself as a “one-off” creation. Yes it reproduces, but the offspring are unique.
It is time for pastors and church leaders to stop trying to be like the church down the street or across the country.