Today I ate breakfast at one of my favorite locally owned restaurants, Rosie’s Place in Zionsville Indiana. Today was my second time to have eaten breakfast at this restaurant. Each time I’ve been joined by a friend who lives and works in the area, and both times I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The conversation with my friend was wonderful and Rosie’s is fast becoming one of my favorite local establishments. It’s not all that local as far as where I live, I am 22 miles away from the restaurant. But if I meet someone there for breakfast at 7 AM I am ahead of rush hour traffic. I do have many favorite franchise restaurants that I enjoy, but I really enjoy locally owned eateries. What makes the difference between a franchise restaurant and a local restaurant?.

Franchise restaurants follow a very exacting standard and appear as if they came out of a cookie cutter. They appear designed and executed from a pattern established by a headquarters somewhere. I do not intend to sound negative or put down franchises. When you are traveling there is some comfort in knowing though you are 1000 miles from home, the pancakes, hamburger and fish will taste like they do at the franchise restaurant back home. The local establishments follow their own rules and guidelines. They establish their own patterns and this certainly is a part of their charm. Many of the local eateries that I frequent have mismatched decor and that is okay.  Rosie’s does not have mis-matched furniture, it is tastefully decorated and the food is awesome.  I highly recommend Rosie’s in Zionsville, which is one of the most charming towns in Metropolitan Indianapolis. From its brick streets to neat shops and a downtown that is walkable, Rosie’s adds to the local Zionsville flavor. In other words it just fits in with the community. Local restaurants have menu items you would not find in a franchise. One of the specials offered today was avocado toast. When was the last time you saw avocado toast listed on the menu of a franchise restaurant? Local restaurants can tailor their menu to the local tastes. I’m not sure why this is true, but local eateries appear and feel more comfortable and less formal than franchise restaurants. Now I’m not talking upper end franchise restaurants, I’m  talking about Denny’s and Bob Evans, which feel more uniform therefore more formal than the local eateries matched or mismatched furnishings. Whereas franchise restaurants probably have focus groups and boards of directors through which every change would have to pass which comes across as a homogenized repackaging of the same old same old. Local eateries and their environments have local owners who picked the furnishings not someone from headquarters. There is a different vibe in a local eatery. I’m not sure I can completely define it, but if you go to one of these places you just know it’s different. I am not speaking of different in a negative way, but rather it is different in the most positive way one can imagine.

I try to apply all of this to the local church. I have been all of my life a member of a denominational church. I make no apologies, I’m just stating a fact. The leaders in my denomination have defined a church in as broad a way as it can be defined. They say that it is a group of people with a specific leader who gather regularly for worship and discipleship. What they have offered us is a basic biblical understanding of what a local congregation is, and how it is to operate. We are now looking for the Rosie’s of the world to help us understand what  contextualization looks like in the local community? We can curse culture all we want, but we are all products of our culture. The only people who think they don’t bow to culture are the people so immersed in their own particular culture that they think that is the normal way of operating and everyone else compromises by adjusting to their culture!  I Know this is true!

Church planters, I’m not looking for franchise operators, I’m looking for local establishments with character. Now there will be some things we have to agree upon: the Bible as God’s word, the doctrines and practices of our church, theological cohesion and biblical integrity. Other than that, the skies the limit to what you can do in your community. You have the freedom to be eclectic, have mismatched furniture, meet on whatever day of the week you choose and use a style that honors Christ without ignoring the culture in which you are operating.

The interesting thing is the older I get the more I like the local flavor. I still love franchise restaurants and frequent them often, but I really enjoy the places that have found their niche in their community and are making a difference.

Pastors, you are called to make a difference for Christ in the communities in which you live and serve. You have the freedom to live out who you are in Christ and with the help of the Holy Spirit find ways to reach the heart and minds of the people who live in the community where you are serving. It is a big task, but God calls you and equips you. I am praying for you and I believe in you. We must together be engaged for the kingdom of God in our generation.


Also visit Rosie’s in Zionsville, it is great place to have a meal!  I highly recommend it!

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