In a recent article titled “Inspired by Starbucks” in the Wall Street Journal, Alexandra Alter writes:
On a recent Sunday, worshippers gathered in a multiplex theater next to a Starbucks, McDonald’s and T.G.I. Friday’s. The lights dimmed and the Rev. Troy Gramling, a goateed man dressed in jeans, T-shirt and blazer, filled the screen. “God knows your secret, and he loves you anyway,” he said. “Isn’t that cool?” A few people answered, “Amen,” as if Mr. Gramling was there preaching, instead of 2,650 miles away in Cooper City, Fla.
While missionaries have long carried their message overseas, a new generation of churches is spreading a strain of evangelical Christianity with worship services as slickly packaged as any U.S. franchise. Rather than seeking converts to a mainstream denomination, these independent churches are forming global organizations anchored by a single leader. Many far-flung congregants watch their pastor via satellite or DVD each week; the services abroad are designed to replicate Sundays at the home church.
Mr. Gramling’s Flamingo Road Church, which has a weekly attendance of 8,000, is based in Broward County, Fla., where he records his sermons on DVD for screenings here, as well as at three branches in South Florida. Each church uses the same distinctive music, banners and logo — a white cube bisected by a black curving road. Mr. Gramling says he tried to copy the success of Starbucks by assembling a creative team to hone “the look, the feel, the branding idea, of what Flamingo Road is.” Like Starbucks, Mr. Gramling is thinking big. His goal is 50 churches world-wide, 100,000 members and a $150 million-a-year budget.
Do you think the goal ever gets in the way of the message?