Tuesday, December 2, 2014

McMass Project, McDonald's in Church?

I first came aware of this idea from my friend BionicDance and her video is listed below.

There are a few points that she raised that I would like to address, followed by some very important details that the McMass project is leaving out.

1.  Would having a McDonald's violate scripture?

First the Bible has lots to say on gluttony.  The Bible often compares gluttony with either greed or laziness. Proverbs Chapter 23 verses 20 and 21 say this (All Bible verses are quoted from NIV Bible)

Do not join those who drink too much wine    or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor,  and drowsiness clothes them in rags.
In fact in that same chapter it tells us to An Hero if we are given to gluttony.  It is well known that McDonald's is well known for their cheap and unhealthy food.  Although 1 Corinthians Chapter 6 deals with sexual immorality, verse 19 and 20 are often cited as a reason to abstain from unhealthy habits such as smoking, drugs, or being overweight.  

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your bodies.

What about having a for profit corporation come in as a way to draw in crowds?  Isn't that like Jesus driving the money changers out of the Temple?  Well to answer that we need a bit of a backstory.  There are 4 books of the Bible that tells the story of Jesus, each one is different and in some cases contradictory (such as how many angels were at the empty tomb, or what color was the robe of Jesus when he was beaten) The clearing of the Temple courts is one of the few stories of Jesus that is described in all 4 of the Gospels.

The Jews at the time lived under Roman law.  As such all commerce was done with Roman coin.  The priests collected a temple tax and this was payable only in Jewish currency.  So the money changers would not only convert Roman coin into Jewish, but then they would convert the Jewish coin back into Roman for the priests, each time earning a small profit for themselves.  

The next part of this story is the role of animal sacrifice.  By today's standards we view animal sacrifice to be a barbaric custom but in the days of old it was custom.  While the Book of Exodus is mostly known as the story of Moses, much of the latter half of the book is a detailed instruction guide on animal sacrifice.  In the temple marketplace people would sell animals worthy of sacrifice.  Essentially an act of worship had been turned into a commercial enterprise.  

The book of John makes specific mention of the people selling doves (in the Old Testament doves were used by the poor)  John Chapter 2 verses 14-16

In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.  So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

My former pastor often mocked how Jesus is portrayed in both art and cinema.  He is always some pasty white hippy in the movies or in art as some lovable little cherub.  Jesus spent the first 30 years of his life as the carpenters son, working outside with tools.  When Jesus went and cleared out the market notice how nobody tried to stop him.  He was one man clearing out an entire market.  Jesus was most likely dark skinned due to being out in the sun all day, and had some muscle because of the outdoor work he did.

Mathew Chapter 21, Luke 19, and Mark Chapter 11 both mention this same story but has Jesus quoting Jeremiah Chapter 7 verse  11 when Jesus proclaims that his father's house shall be a house of prayer but instead it has become a den of robbers.  You see Jeremiah chapter 7 deals with false religion.  The profit Jeremiah lamented how the jews were trying to have their cake and eat it too.

 “‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known,  and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.

The chapter goes on with God's warning about the coming judgement of God.  Jeremiah continues in verse 21 with this.

 “‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves!  For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices,  but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people.Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.  

The prophet goes on to give warning to what will happen if the Jews continue to disobey God.  Jesus, by quoting from this passage, is revolting not against animal sacrifice but the intentions behind it.  Instead of it being an act of worship or atonement for sins, it had become a commercial enterprise.  The Temple was supposed to be supported by the rest of Israel.  There are 12 tribes of Israel based on the 12 sons Israel had.  The tribe of Levi was to be the priests and as such according to Deuteronomy 18 was to receive no ownership of land.  They were to be supported by the 11 other tribes.  

So in comes Jesus expecting to see a house of prayer and instead finds for profit money changers and for profit animal sacrifice all with the blessing of the Temple priests.  So Jesus begins weaving together a whip (John 2:15) and starting clearing house and nobody dared stop him.  

So does this mean that no commercial activities can happen at church?  Yes and no.  If it is tied directly to the roles of the church such as worship, forgiveness of sins, prayer, ect then I would say it is pretty cut and dry, a church should not profit from such things.  For example, some churches might sell things like baptismal robes even though nobody needed them in the Bible.  However, I don't think it is against the Bible for the church to function as a community center either.

While the worship in the Old Testament was centrally located around the Temple, the church of the New Testament is essentially wherever two or more gather in the name of Jesus.  (Mathew 20:20)  The Bible teaches that the church is not a building and as such the church of the New Testament met in people's homes, often in secret as they were persecuted by the government.  So a church can be that fancy building on the corner just as much as a group of Christians meeting for coffee and holding a bible study.

In America, churches are required to remain non-profit in order to avoid paying taxes.  In addition to keeping a record of all money going in, they are to be accountable for how it is spent.  Having a large auditorium that is only used one hour a week is not very efficient.  It actually takes several hours to get a room ready.  For a while I used to volunteer for the crew that got the room ready.  In addition to keeping the floors clean, all the hymnals had to be in place and in good order.  Sometimes people would steal them or damage them.  They would be replaced.  There was a clean up both before and after service.  We would clean up before because throughout the week people would come in and use the room for prayer.

Many churches these days allow their halls to be rented out.  Sometimes they would rent it out to another church (typically when a church is young and doesn't have their own building) or they might use it as a polling station during election times.  Church's will also allow their building to be rented for weddings, although this fee is often waived if the people are members of the church.  

Some churches even rent out their space for conference rooms such as one church that used to rent it out to a motorcycle driving school.  Doing this provides too goals.  One it helps subsidize the costs of heating and cooling a large building and second it introduces the church to new people.  

So it wasn't so much that Jesus was against profit as he was against the motives behind it, as he famously said to the rich man to sell all that he had and give to the poor (Mark Chapter 10) yet another time a tax collector came to Jesus in an act of repentance Luke Chapter 19 starting with verse 8

Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Notice how Jesus did not command him to sell the other half, rather it was only the rich man.  It was because the rich man valued his wealth above all else, the tax collector had a repentant heart.   

2.  Is McDonald's truly the best fit for the message of Jesus?

Like BionicDance said in her video McDonald's is a very large corporation focused only on profit and expanding their dominance in the marketplace.  There are several things to consider.  First the values of McDonald's may not line up with those of each individual church.  For example, many church's teach their members not to work on the Sabbath.  For most this is Sunday, as this is the day that Jesus rose from the grave.  However some faiths such as 7th day Adventists teach a literal Sabbath which is Saturday.  So here we have the first problem.  Who is going to be working the drive thru on Sunday and how can this be done if the church teaches to keep the Sabbath holy.  A Chick-Fil-A franchise might be a better fit.

The second issue that would come up, especially among the conservative churches, is the movie tie in happy meals.  More and more movies aimed at children are getting PG ratings or even PG-13 (such as super hero movies)  Other noteworthy examples are Burger King's kids meal from the Iron Man movie.  In one of the first scenes of the movie we see Tony Stark's assistant "taking out the trash" after he pumped and dumped her.  Most church's would teach against such casual sex but in 2008 there was Burger King promoting this movie.  Taco Bell famously had their tie in with the movie Demolition Man, although no toy was offered they did give away movie posters.  Subway has a deal with Hunger Games.  I predict not to far into our future that more and more R rated movies will be tied in with fast food.  

Another thing to consider is the fact that some of the franchise fees paid to McDonald's goes towards advertising.  Dave Thomas of Wendy's famously pulled his advertising on the show Ellen when Ellen Degeneres came out as gay.  As more and more of our society is accepting of gays, it will not be long until we see them in children's movies and tv shows.  Jerry Falwell was convinced he saw one when he watched an episode of the Teletubbies.  Not too many church's these days are open to promoting homosexuality. While each franchisee is open to refuse to participate in movie tie ins, they can not refuse to pay their franchise fees.  So what is a church to do when they see their McDonald's promote a movie or tv show that is filled with casual sex, buggary, foul language, and graphic violence? (aka my typical Friday)  Will they call for a boycott?

The third issue would be on the type of food actually served at McDonald's and other fast food chains.  On any given Sunday you can find a church giving a sermon about the sin of gluttony or other harmful things one does to the body.  I would see no difference if a church leased out space for a strip club while teaching people about lusts of the flesh.  Fast food is high calorie, high fat, food that is not healthy.

3.  Does McDonald's need churches?

Short answer is no.  McDonald's are mostly franchise locations which means that they make their money from selling their product and the use of their name to the person or company that pays the franchise fees. Now not just anyone can throw up a building and buy a franchise.  Here is some key points that the McMass indegogo is leaving out.  First McDonald's requires their applicants to be rich and liquid.  To be even considered for a franchise, according to McDonald's own website, the applicant must have $750,000 in cash or non borrowed resources.  Note it did not say assets, rather they require resources.  Very few churches would have $750,000 cash on hand or $750,000 revenue coming in that was not already being spent on either mission work, food pantries, or saving up for a building project.  

In addition they require those who purchase land to put up a building to put at least 25% down payment and the ability to pay the other 75% off in 7 years.  Although not stated in their website, McDonald's then screens the applicants to ensure none of their restaurants fail or fall into disrepair as even one McDonald's can tarnish the entire chain.  As such applicants are put through a series of interviews to assure that the franchisee is up to the task of running a restaurant that meets corporate standards.  They also help with selection of the location, assuming the franchisee is not buying the restaurant from someone else.  Ever notice how burger joints in the US are aimed at entrances and exits of highways?  Or they are clumped together near major retail areas.  They do this because McDonald's and other chains know there are two times when people want fast food.  When they are going to and from work, or when they are shopping.  These are the two high traffic areas that burger joints rely on to stay profitable.  The fees paid for the franchise is quite expensive and most churches are just not in the right part of town to make it profitable.  

Most people know this which is why at this post despite asking people for $1,000,000 to start this thing up, only 17 people have chipped in with a total of $242.  Even if they some how reached their goal of one million dollars there is no guarantee McDonald's would approve their application.  I can think of one good reason. Like many other indegogo fundraisers this is a bad idea.  Good ideas have investors.  Bad ideas are typically crowd funded these days.  

Not to say that good ideas are always welcome.  Mrs Field's cookies was famously rejected because her cookies were too soft and chewy.  Here is list of other successful ideas and the people who doubted them. While indegogo has been useful in raising funds for needy causes or people, I can't think of a single invention other than the bugasalt (a gun that shoots flies with salt) that actually reached its goal and works.  

So yes, let's say you reach your goal of $1,00,000 and somehow make it through the application process. McDonald's even approves the use of the church land for a restaurant.  The costs of construction, or remodeling an existing building to meet the needs of McDonald's can still be very expensive and any loan you take must be paid off in 7 years.  Your McDonald's will need a drive through and most church's are not set up for that.  For the first couple of years until any loan is paid off, the McDonald's might wind up costing the church more money than it takes in.  How would you feel if your hard earned money that you put in the offering plate went to pay franchise fees to McDonald's?  

So no, McDonald's is not hurting for people looking to purchase a franchise.  In fact they get so many applicants they turn quite a number away.  Another important thing to figure into is zoning issues, not sure how it functions in other parts of the world, but in America we have three types of zones.  Residential, Commercial, and Industrial.  The idea is to keep places where people live as quiet and pollution free as possible, as such they tend to keep high traffic things such as McDonald's out of residential areas.  In most cases church's are allowed in residential areas, thus they may not even be allowed to start a McDonald's due to local zoning issues.  

4.  This is why we can't have nice things

If there is one thing religion does not do well, it is learning how to play nice with the other kids.  What if McDonald's decides to branch out into other faiths and sets up shop in a Mosque.  Obviously the church would sell more Sausage McMuffins than a mosque would but how many preachers would flip their lid over the idea that a mosque is having a McDonald's too.  Another thing to consider is corporate interference into the pulpit.  Picture this, McDonald's has a Happy Meal promotion for the latest children's movie titled "My Favorite Bastards", a movie that glamorizes pre-marital sex and trivializes the outcome.  The preacher tries to stand up and speak out not only against this movie but also general trend of sex before marriage.  What if McDonald's threatened to pull it's franchise agreement, which McDonald's can do, thus all that time and money went for nothing.  Investing all that money into a corporation and tying yourself down to several of McDonald's demands is not something most preachers would want to do.

Here lies another big problem, in addition to not having any guarantee from McDonald's that they would even approve a franchise application, so far no church has bought into this.  To the outside, this is how church's typically make large financial decisions.  First, in the United States, most are 501(c)3 non-profit corporations which means in addition to having a mission statement they also have a board of trustees (usually the decons or other leaders of the church) who make financial decisions.  Some church's have scheduled business meetings where such decisions are put to a vote.  Large investments might be for a building program, or upgrading the music or sound equipment.  Then the church is told of the campaign and often people are told to bring in extra money for the investment.  It is all done in house, and outsiders are usually not asked to contribute.  Go on to any church website and you will find it almost universally stated that the offering plate is not a requirement for visitors or outsiders.  

5.  A Church doesn't need a McDonald's

If a church truly thought opening up a McDonald's was a great way to reach people for Jesus they would own their own raise the funds through extra donations to the offering plate.  You would not see them asking for donations from outsiders via the internet.  This is simply not the way church's work.  Instead I will tell you how church's actually work.

If a church wanted to set up a place where people could gather in off church hours they would set up something like an activity center or sometimes they call it the Family Life Center, or any host of other names. Several churches have done this and many of them even serve food.  For example Willow Creek church as a full food court.  I've been there.  I'm amazed that nobody has taken video or pictures of this, despite there being pictures and videos of everything else.  You have a variety of food choices and while the food is for sale, the profits go towards food hunger programs.  In addition the food is much more healthy than a McDonald's would be.  For those without money the church has a fully stocked food pantry.  Many activity centers have become fully functional gyms complete with weight rooms and everything.  I went to one such church.  While other gym memberships would cost hundreds of dollars a year, this one provided membership of just $10 per month, which really was just enough for the gym to recover the cost of wear and tear on the equipment and cost of qualified staff.  Other churches such as Grace Community offer a full gym free of charge.  Other church's do things such as offer preschool or in some cases they run their own k-12 private school. 

So McDonald's is not the key to fixing a church's problem.  To be a successful church you need to be nothing more than a Bible study group that is bent on influencing the world around for Jesus.  You don't need a fancy new building or tailor made baptismal garments.  You don't need thousands of dollars in audio and video equipment, and you don't need McDonald's   They didn't have them in the days of the Bible, in many cases they didn't even have the Bible as it was still being written back then.  

Growing a church is more than just about filling the seats on Sunday.  Something my former pastor spoke strongly about is going and growing.  You can't have one and neglect the other.  Anyone can fill a church, even proven frauds like Peter Popoff can fill a church.  All it takes is to be a charismatic speaker.  It is quite another to take that flock of sheep and to bring them to faithful servants of God.  So sure, you can bring people in through various programs such as a food pantry, or gyms, or even McDonald's if some church decided to take the plunge.  However if 6 months later you don't have these people living a more godly life then your priorities are out of whack.  A good pastor knows to teach his church about the sins of gluttony and that would be a hard message to preach with a McDonald's in the parking lot.

6.  Each church is different

While it is true that over all church attendance has declined, that does not mean that this decline is everywhere, or even in all churches.  By definition new churches grow, and throughout the US and the world people set out and bring church to the churchless.  Anytime, a new plot of land is zoned residential and houses start going up, people start church's.  Other church's experience revival some times it is a change in leadership such as a new pastor with new ideas, or a community experiences something that brings people back to the comforts of church.  

A church is nothing more than a group of Christians.  Those who get excited for Jesus and reach out are the ones that experience growth, others are dying churches where once an hour they get together sing a few songs, read a passage of the bible, put money in the plate and go home.  A church is not a building.

Here is the other thing, the company behind McMass, is a public relations company called Lux Dei, guess what you find when you search Lux Dei, JACK FREAKIN' SQUAT!!!!

Another fun fact, their website which claims to, "help you cultivate a portfolio of social platforms, and maximize your effective presence," their website was only launched in November of this year, in other words last month.  http://whois.domaintools.com/luxdeidesign.org  Other than this website they have no known twitter or facebook page (at the time of this post).  The only official twitter page I can find is from their Indegogo page which leads to the McMass Project Twitter account which as of now has only 24 followers LOL.  

Equally hidden from internet history is Paul Di Lucca the founder of Lux Dei.  Google him on the internets and you will find nothing but blogs like this and the occasional news story about how silly this McMass project idea is.  Paul Di Lucca does not have a known facebook, twitter, or even a linkedin profile, that is I can not find one that I can verify is truly him.  

One thing I will say however, he has gotten his first dip in public relations a success given the number of news outlets and social media sites discussing it.  However, I can not find any piece that finds his idea to be a good one.  Every post I see about it is pointing out various holes, although as a former Christian I think I was able to go into more depth than most others.  

I do have a suspicion that this may all be a PR stunt to promote his ability to generate a media buzz and nothing more.  I have a suspicion that he has no intention of putting a McDonald's in a church as evidenced by the fact that no church has signed on board and he might be just using this campaign as a way of advertising his ability to get ideas discussed on social media.  Only time will tell.

In the meantime I would encourage everyone to subscribe to my friend BionicDance

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