In the Why Are An Orange? post, I wrote:
I am so disillusioned with the end results of the organizational and programmatic aspects of church that I cannot seem to see beyond that.
At the moment, church as business seems to permeate everything that I read.
Ben Gray wrote a post entitled The Church Today Is Big Business. While I may not necessarily agree with all of his points, I do agree with his conclusion:
Most churches today are big business. They have profit margins, a paid CEO and subordinates. They even have a marketing strategy. It’s goal is to attract customers by providing a better product than any other church in town. And believe me, they need those customers because they have business expenses. They have bills and salaries to pay. Without paying customers, the church will go out of business.
The church is a business. You say, “But the church isn’t in it for the money.” I say, “Bull shit.” Every church is in it for the money. You ask how I got so bitter. I ask how the church got so vain.
There are pastors and churches everywhere proving that this mentality is pervasive. In Manifestations of Consumer Church, Bill Kinnon posted a link to the Ed Young video where Ed laments about church pirates who steal sheep, clearly communicating a sense of territorialism about church growth rather than an open and inclusive view of the body of Christ extending the kingdom.
Father Rob shares a warning in his post, The Church Is Not a Business:
I would say that a huge portion of the church has been heavily influenced by a church model that is actually founded more on best business practices than on biblical faithfulness.
In the pages of Scripture, we get a very different model for how the church is to operate. Success there does not depend on a person’s brilliance, their adherence to the latest best practices, or their ability to master ingenious strategies. It depends on God; on being “empowered” by the Holy Spirit.
We don’t “market” Jesus or what the church has to offer; we become what God is calling us to be and let that speak for itself. We don’t “sell” the Gospel or manage customers, commodifying both the teachings of Jesus and the people we are called to serve. And language really does matter in how we think about these things. And perhaps most counter cultural of all, we don’t necessarily pursue success; we pursue faithfulness.
Instead of being the sacred places they were meant to be, our churches will only become more and more like the world around them; like businesses chasing the latest market niche.
And if you don’t believe that, watch the latest video clip of Bill Hybels discussing WC and the response to the Reveal study. I have a great deal of respect for Bill, but I had trouble sifting through the business and attractional language in this clip – strategic, models, relevant, initiatives, spiritually catalytic, effectiveness, weekend event, service, adjustments, more effective, more information, lead better, seeker ministry, risk profile – yada, yada, yada.
“You have to thrill believers in order to move them to a place where they see people far from God the way Jesus sees them.”
I am trying to put a positive spin on what he meant by thrilling believers. Better worship songs? video clips of Bono? better coffee and donuts? What kind of thrilling might be happening in the multi-million dollar building at the well-produced service of the weekend event? Maybe there could be a power point of what’s happening outside the walls in order to “thrill the believers” into seeing others the way Jesus sees them.
Hamo shared an email by John Yates. He describes the problem of the church settling for an identity as a business organization as “spiritual masturbation.”
By “Christianity” I mean the construct of organised religious practice that developed in post–Constantinian Europe and was then progressively exported around the globe. It is the dominant form of religion we are familiar with to this day – church buildings, professional ministries, set services, academic training for ministry and so on.
Contemporary Western Christianity largely defines itself by its relationship with itself and its history. It is extremely introverted. This is indicated, for example, by the inordinate focus on leadership, ministry, church growth, gifts, the Bible, anointing, prosperity, revival etc. rather than on the person of Jesus and his living presence amongst us.
The greatest obstacle to the advance of the kingdom of God in most of the West is not secularism, religious pluralism or Islam, but a resurgent Christianity. By this I mean a religion dominated by mega churches, super pastors and political influence. What we are most in need of today is a post-Christianity church.
Do I believe this is true of every single church? No, but I do believe that most leaders of church organizations have difficulty not falling into the trap of business success mentalities and patterns of commodifying people. To be honest, I have a difficult time seeing myself not being critical of this.