A franchise is a business whereby the owner, the franchisor, licenses its operations – along with its products, branding and knowledge – to another business owner, the franchisee, in exchange for a franchise fee. (expanded Investopedia definition)
Christianity is Big Business.
Before you argue that Christianity isn’t a business, consider the following.
Firstly, the total wealth held by Christians in 2015 was estimated to be $107.28 trillion; that’s $107,280,000,000,000! Christians own over 55 per cent of worldwide wealth; that's more than all other religions combined. Muslims come in second with $11 trillion (5.8 per cent) and Hindu third with $6 Trillion (3.3 per cent). (ref. Economic Times India Times 14 Jan 2015)
Secondly, in an article dated 15 September 2016 with the title, “Religion in US worth more than Google and Apple combined”, The Guardian reported “Faith economy worth $1.2tn a year – more than combined revenues of 10 biggest tech firms in America, study shows” (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/15/us-religion-worth-1-trillion-study-economy-apple-google)
What share of that $1,200,000,000,000 market does Christianity corner; I bet my bottom-dollar that it is a lot more than the above-mentioned 55% share of global wealth!
Religion is BIG BUSINESS and Christianity is the biggest of them all.
The Messy Business of Christianity.
There are apparently over ten thousand Christian sects (euphemistically referred to as 'denominations') not to mention thousands of independent, ‘personality-cult’ churches. Each sect purports to represent Jesus Christ but each one differs from the other sects over one or more doctrinal or dogmatic issues; each sect, of course, claiming a superior understanding of the ‘truth’ or observing a superior Christian practice.
But are any of these Christian sects true franchises? I argue not.
On the face of it, the multitude of Christian sects may appear similar to franchises. In the same way that different hamburger franchises have their own, unique recipes, branding and business systems, Christian sects have their rules, regulations and traditions; usually expressed in the form of denominational Constitutions, ‘Articles’ or ‘Statements of Faith’.
Franchises they may appear to be but there is one, vitally important difference.
Where is the Franchisor?
Although there may be thousands of hamburger recipes and business systems resulting in a plethora of hamburger franchises, there is no original ‘hamburger franchisor’.
And since there is no original hamburger franchisor, anyone with a unique hamburger recipe and successful business system can legitimately start their own hamburger franchise.
Christianity is different (or should be)!
Jesus Christ is not some recipe to be tweaked and modified!
Jesus Christ is the original franchisor of his Church, a spiritual community, not a human organisation.
As Paul, that Apostolic Menace of the early Christian churches, wrote to the church at Ephesus;
There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4.4-6)
Notwithstanding the fact that thousands of people, mostly power-hungry men from the ‘professional classes’ (i.e. the priests and pastors), have started new sects, no person or group of people, whether well-intentioned or otherwise, have ever been granted the right to start a human organisation under Jesus Christ's brand.
Not one, not even Peter, the rock! (see Matthew 16.18)
I have no doubt that many well-intentioned, spirit-filled disciples of Jesus Christ, prophets, have been ‘called’ to confront the cancer infecting this human monstrosity called Christianity. Unfortunately, most of these prophets took their mission a step or three too far when they created corruptible human organisations to continue ‘their ministry’; they created ‘new wine skins for their new wine’.
They overlooked the fact that the ‘new wine’ came from Jesus through the Holy Spirit; it was Jesus' new wine and they were just the messengers.
In the final analysis, they trusted their 'second generation' more than they trusted Jesus Christ! (see my article "That Damned Second Generation!")
Therefore, a Meaningless Franchise!
The divisions within Christianity render the Christian franchise utterly meaningless.
Where is Jesus Christ in this mess?
Any hope that Christian leaders will ever attempt to heal the divisions is likewise utterly futile. (see my article “Message to Ordinary Christians”)
The divisions within Christianity have attracted the justified contempt of non-Christians. As Paul correctly stated,
“The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Romans 2.12)
Paul's rebuke being directed at those who said one thing and did another.
Not much has changed in almost two thousand years! Christians continue to preach love while embracing division!
A Spiritual Church, not a Human Organisation.
Jesus did not create a franchise, a human organisation; his followers did that.
Did Jesus give any instructions for a Christian organisation?
Did Jesus prepare a 'constitution' that his disciples could follow after his ascension?
No and No!
An emphatic “No!” at that. Jesus did not leave a single written record; not a word. Every word of the New Testament was written by others; not a word of it by Jesus of Nazareth.
The Church as an Anti-Franchise.
If anything, Jesus created the ultimate ‘anti-franchise’; a spiritual community freed from the potential corruptibility of a human organisation!
He gathered a group of disciples, taught them and then gave them an instruction to “make disciples of all nations … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28.19-20)
He gave a new commandment; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13.34-35)
He told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would run the show; “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you but the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14.25-26)
No earthly intermediaries required!
Jesus was announcing the fulfilment of Jeremiah’s prophecy;
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant … I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbour and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
The True Franchisee.
The true disciple of Jesus Christ, the spiritual ‘Jesus Franchisee’, is not recognised by their external branding or practices but by the spiritual quality of their lives; flawed human beings, disciples learning to love themselves, their neighbours and their enemies.
“People will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
What you do with this information is up to you.
“Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains.” (Jean-Jacques Rousseau)
Here is the Good News! Notwithstanding two thousand years of corruption in Christianity, Jesus Christ still has the power to set us free!
If the son sets you free, you will be free indeed! (John 8.36)
I am here to tell you that it is entirely possible to be a disciple of Jesus Christ without embracing the human-engineered abomination called Christianity.
If you are a Christian, I encourage you to break the chains of Christianity and become a Spirit-filled disciple of Jesus Christ, no intermediaries required.
If you are a spiritual seeker who is attracted to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ but repelled by Christianity, I encourage you to become a Spirit-filled disciple of Jesus Christ while avoiding the chains of Christianity's pagan rites and rituals!
As for me, I was a Christian for over 27 years until, in April 2004, I decided to stop referring to myself as a Christian. I became an ordinary human being.
Three likely reactions to this article within Christian circles.
See my article “Pharisees, Sadducees and Franchisees” for some background.
The Sadducees will ignore it.
The Pharisees will attack both the message and the messenger because anything that contradicts their version of orthodoxy is a threat to their power.
The Jesus Franchisees, spiritual seekers, will examine the message and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance about its validity in their lives.
In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke writes that the Berean Jews “were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17.11) I encourage you to do likewise.
The Jews needed to consult the Scriptures to see if Paul’s preaching was correct while the disciple consults the Holy Spirit; Jesus said “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14.26)