Engaging Culture

McDonald’s: More Influence Than Christianity?

There’s no question that McDonald’s restaurants have enormous influence in our culture. Some sources indicate that Ronald McDonald is the most widely recognized name among small children, and when the sign says “billions served” you can count on it. That kind of influence in the culture is the Holy Grail for business leaders. I was thinking about that recently during a conversation with David Kinnaman of The Barna Group. David mentioned that according to their research, for every McDonald’s in America, there are roughly 19 churches.

Think about that for a moment: If there are 19 churches for every 1 McDonalds, why does the church today have so little influence in our culture?  Obviously its not just a numbers game, but when it comes to “presence” the church should have a much greater influence.

The comparison was very striking to me. What about you? Why does the church have so many “offices in the field,” but has so little influence in the culture?

Let me know what you think…

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  1. Probably Mcburger & toehr stuff leave a better taste than we the christians…its a super question..I think only when the christians start influencing and impacting his family first & then his co workers with christian values, we can think about beating Mcdonalds hands down !!!!

      1. As a
        chaplain in the Department of corrections, I am noticing a singular theme
        running throughout this conversation. I see the focus being centered on the
        church building and denominations. One of the biggest failures of the organized
        church today is to teach effective evangelism to the laity, who is actually the
        church. The Gospel has never and will never be about building, programs, toys,
        etc. The evangelism taught by Christ to His Disciples is still powerful
        and remains effective even in today’s time. The individual members of Christ’s
        church must be taught and encouraged to make Christ their primary mission. Many
        years ago, after studying the evangelistic way of Christ Himself, I began to
        change my way of living. When I leave home, whether to go Wal-Mart, prison, the
        local grocery store; my motive for going is this: The primary reason is to look
        for evidence of God at work. Jesus is now the primary reason for everything and
        everywhere I go. As I result I am invited By God into other people’s problems.
        I hold the answer to all their problems, stresses etc., the Lord Jesus. Jesus
        entered into every one’s problems, (see the woman at the well). Until we teach true
        evangelism in the church buildings, the churched people will not promote the
        life-giving grace of Christ. Most Christians are encouraged to invite people to
        Church, forgetting that WE are the Church, not the building. I have many
        trained Evangelists in prison actively involved in sharing the forgiveness of
        God. They have forgotten about being in prison. Their primary mission for being
        in prison is not for punishment but to share the healing Gospel of Christ. The
        primary mission of McDonalds is to satisfy the needs of the people. They
        disciple their employees to be attentive to the needs, to serve with a
        smile and to be Ambassadors for McDonalds. Aren’t we called to be Ambassadors
        for Christ and attentive to the needs of the hurting? I would suggest that Ray
        Croc quite possibly adopted the “Evangelistic” techniques of
        Christ as a marketing tool for selling hamburgers. Some are suggesting looking
        to the World’s marketing techniques to make the Church more visual. I suggest
        we stick with Jesus’s techniques. He is our CEO, not Ray Croc.
        Chaplain Dale Crowe

  2. If I visit a McDonalds restaurant in the US, I know exactly what I’m going to get, as it’s the same here in Australia. Everything is recognizable- from colours, to the logo – the food and the smell. It’s one template that’s being replicated world wide. Unfortunately we can’t say the same with Church. Every Church has their own set of rules, their own name, their own brand, their own culture. People don’t know what to expect when they visit another Church. Larger Churches that have applied the Mcdonalds formula to their Church however- have the blessing of opening in multiple locations and can then take the name of Jesus global. Jesus Christ is the most recognizable name amongst us Christians, and when we say “billions saved”- we have to count on it.

      1. I was just going to say that Phil. The large mainstream churches are recognized for their consistency. If one goes to one parish, it is pretty much guaranteed to not be much different than another. Not sure if that’s unity, but it is definitely consistency. However, it is still not making the difference that the church at large is supposed to be making.

  3. Great observations Phil…my observations are that Christians in general and more importantly, influential Christians, are not honoring our Lord and Savior by making a stand for their beliefs and values in the public arenas. I am no talking about preaching 24/7…I am just saying to lead by example, by letting your (HIS) light shine….and then “when” asked about the light that that is shining through our actions and words, the door is then wide open to speak the truth and to affect many.

    Thank you.

    Jim Capanna

  4. Posted this on FB: Possibly, people will stay in drive through lines for several mins, get over processed food that smells and taste terrible, accept the server got the order wrong 8/10 times they go through the line and the food is slowly killing them as they eat it. However many people run through these lines 2-5 times as week and rarely do you hear of complaints.

    Adding this, I think with that being said, McD’s does try to stay current. Many of them have either knocked down their buildings and rebuilt or have redecorated all together to be more appealing. They cater to children with the clown and toys and food (many churches Childrens churches are obsolete or just a baby sitting program filled with coloring pages). Youth like it becasue it is a place to hang out and socialize without breaking the bank. Adults like it becasue it addresses a basic need (food–but with terrible food) and brings solutions to their problems (needing to feed a family cheap and quick). For me, I am evaluating my ministry and life and think that I need to stop being so much to so many people, concentrate on the important stuff and having a desire to hang out with my people and talking with them and not too them only. Thanks for a quick break for my work day. 🙂

  5. Our church’s theme for 2013 is ‘Monumental Influence’. The theme
    verse we used is Psalm 112:9: “They share freely and give generously to
    those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have
    influence and honor.” (www.hwc.org).
    Pastor projected slogans from McDonald’s, M&Ms, American Express,
    KFC, Rice Krispies & Coke and pretty-much everyone guessed the brands spot
    on. He broke down Monumental Influence as follows: MONUMENTAL is
    “Exceptionally Great or Significant” and INFLUENCE is
    “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior
    of someone.” Thus, Monumental Influence is “having an
    exceptionally significant effect on the character, development or behavior of
    others.” Each one was
    challenged to intentionally reach
    only one person this year. Effectively doing this would double the size of the church.
    This sounds great and I am all for Influence, but my thing is RETENTION. I would like to
    influence the fish we’ve caught on an ongoing basis so much so that that
    influence keeps them from jumping out of the boat. I work in
    the consumer and employee loyalty & engagement field and am in the midst of
    using what I have learned to put together a guide to assist Pastors to help new
    believers & church attendees to become loyal to their local
    church. People need to stay in one place long enough to grow deep
    roots. Their effectiveness in influencing their friends, family and
    colleagues is directly related to their entanglement in the local
    church. If they don’t stay long enough to get rooted (entangled), or if
    they don’t get to a place of sustainable freedom in their own personal
    relationship with Christ, situations they face both within and without the
    local church can easily uproot them. In brand marketing we talk about
    The Loyalty Ladder, which is simply the difference between a prospect,
    a customer, a client and an advocate. The prospect
    is looking for a product or service, the customer is someone who has tried a
    product or service, the client is someone who returns continually for the
    product or service and an advocate shares the product or service with
    others. In the local church we have failed to create strong ‘spiritual
    clients’ and ‘spiritual advocates’. This is because most
    ‘believers’ in local churches never get past ‘spiritual prospect’ or ‘spiritual
    customer’. If we who would confess to being ‘spiritual advocates’
    have truly ‘bought into’ the message of Christ and He has truly
    transformed our lives, the natural outflow of our convictions would be to continue
    in the faith (clients) and share it with others intentionally (advocates), with that intent being to
    help each prospect and customer up the ‘spiritual loyalty ladder’ to the place
    where they too are ‘spiritual advocates’.
    The more advocates of Christ we have (with evidence), the more effectual
    & monumental influence we can have on the world around us. We are in fact
    commanded in Matthew 28:19 to be spiritual advocates who duplicate other
    spiritual advocates! “Therefore, go and make disciples [spiritual
    advocates] of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the
    Son and the Holy Spirit.” I would love to see the church get to the place where we share our Christian faith more than we share something on Facebook, and have those who review what we share eventually rise up to become spiritual advocates themselves.

  6. McDonalds is open for business every day, you don’t have to dress nicely, and nobody kicks you out for staying too long.

  7. I think the reason the church has so little influence in the culture despite so many offices in the field is because they don’t immediately satisfy the spiritual needs, in contrast to a MCD that satisfies the physical needs (albeit with poor nutritional choices.)

    Peoples stomachs are hungry for MCD, but their souls are starving for the gospel. They know where to go for food, but there’s no spiritual hunger drive to go to church.

    I think the observed “enormous influence”, referenced in your article that MCD has, is a passive influence, or a reaction of people’s hunger behavior. MCD makes a profit from people’s self awareness of their hunger, because they get hungry and freely spend money wherever they want to fix it. (And, MCD probably gets more business because they have at least 2 times as many restaurants as BK, Wendy’s, or TB.)

    In contrast, the church is attempting “active influence” where you have to exert effort to attract as well as find a hungry “customer.” This is where the failure comes: the church has to spend money, not make a profit, to convince their customer that they’re really “hungry” and provide spiritual care.

    Actively influencing culture becomes really hard for churches because of shrinking budgets, pressure to compete with the entertainment industry, and attracting a customer that doesn’t know he’s starving.

  8. good stuff Joey…

    ….Hey Sarah, good observation as well….Your McD experiences sound just like my church experiences! Am I actually blessed and served that much differently and better by my church, than you and others are by other churches? If so, that says a lot about the problem with the landscape of our churches and true Christianity today…Hey, if you are looking for a new Church to call home with 24/7 access and no dress code, I know plenty of brothers and sisters in every state willing to help you…… Like Motel 8, we keep the “light on” and even feed you (McD if your prefer…)….

    God Bless!

    Jim Capanna

  9. Were i live here in Zimbabwe Africa we don’t have a MCD, but most of the people here know about it i guess because they take an extra mile in terms of building their brand and produce awesome ads on cable, they don’t leave too much to chance and most importantly they live their brand. Now the church sometimes we doesn’t go the extra mile in terms of representing the gospel of Jesus Christ very well, in other words just one Pastor who causes a scandal damages not just their brand but the entire body of Christ

  10. The church (for the most part) fails to actively and appropriately use modern cultural influencing tools in an effective way. Reminds me of John Lennon saying “Christianity will go.. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now”… – that was in 1966 – in today’s culture where many people don’t know the basic story of Christ, he may have been on to something.

    Perhaps the KKK will be burning effigies of Ronald McDonald soon – or perhaps nailing Phil Cooke’s books to a burning cross?! 🙂

  11. In answer to the question, does McD’s have more influence than the church…well, in 2000 years’ time, will anyone remember the Golden Arches? I also don’t see secret McD societies (where members are willing to die for the belief) in North Korea or Iran. People don’t take their children to McD’s for a blessing/assurance of an afterlife when they’re born, and they don’t hang out in the yellow/green booths when someone dies. The church has far more influence than most people even realise. Even if they don’t live their lives by its creed, they still often see it as the most honourable place to get married (or buried) and many will turn to it, when their lives implode. The church is the instigator of homeless shelters, soup kitchens, hostels, schools, hospitals, overseas aid, rehab projects and so much more. We can live without McDonald’s, but if the global church folded up tomorrow, a large part of our economic and social infrastructure would go with it.

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