Are some churches in the danger of running God’s house into some sort of business proposition? Business can be defined as, ‘An organization or economic system where goods and services are exchanged for one another or for money’. The idea of a business is to attract as many people as possible to your unique product and get them to ‘buy’ into your idea. Once they are convinced of the model, they will then invest very willingly too. They will invest either their money, time or life to propping up the business. They will also tell friends and family to come along and invest into the business too. Is this really a bad thing though? It shows they have something that others don’t . It also means, the more people you have coming, the better the church fellowship is and the more resources you can offer, right ? On the other hand, if we are not careful, people will soon be seen as ‘assets’ to advertise the business . The problem with a profitable business is that money will always be put above people and people are then treated as commodities and thrown away once they have been fully used. If, you are friendly and nice to people, perhaps they will do things for you. The business agenda is always in the background advocating for you. It also means that a church can’t always tell the gospel truth, in danger of offending and pushing people away, because in business the customer is always right and the customer means more resources are given in order to keep that business going. When we start getting into deep waters of not offending people and not offering real Biblical truth, things start to dull and the waters become increasingly murky. Hmmm, this is an interesting topic !
Could we be getting any further away from the Early Church model that Jesus taught his disciples? I don’t recall Jesus ever having to set up a business model. He really rocked the boat and didn’t care if he upset people, because he knew it was a matter between life and death. Jesus quite clearly showed his feelings towards such matters. We see Jesus’ anger when he stormed into the Holy Temple and clears out all of the money changers, sacrificed animals and merchants (Matt 21:12) . Pilgrims who came from other lands, possessed coins, that had an engraved image of a Roman Emperor or Greek gods on them. The temple authorities considered these coins idolatrous. However, the High Priest accepted these coins (through the exchange of money changers) as he got more silver for his money. When Jesus arrives, he is outraged and rightly so. A sacred place that was originally meant for devout Gentiles to pray in but it was instead full of noise, corruption and commotion. Jesus quoted from Isaiah 56:7, “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers.” Sin just keeps reinventing itself in different ways . Churches renting out space to businesses in place of community needs. Where, there could be a group that benefits a community, a profitable business is put in its place. Sometimes, there is a time and place for other users to have some space, but for profit to be put first every time, means community will be made left to feel devalued and depreciated. What difference is the church to other business if it is treating it’s own people with contempt ? Businesses have actually overrun some churches, and taken over God’s sacred place. Some have succumbed to juicy promise of money, instead of honouring God. God promises us, as we are his people, that all our needs will be more than met, if we put the kingdom first (Matt 6:33). Do we trust God with our finances? My heart saddens, when I mull over this passage, because I see it in churches today. God has seen all and how his people have been mistreated in these times. These times, when God’s people cannot find truth, where the spirit has been crushed, where God’s Holy places have been mocked and turned into places of profit.
A business model means that ‘normal’ people are often ‘counted out’. A business model means we look for the best, most driven people based on their ‘added value’ to the needs of the church. Maybe the most ‘beautiful’ , the most ‘talented’, the most ‘eloquently spoken’ or the most willing to give up their time for the ‘greater good’ of the business. The church without knowing it, can end up excluding the ‘plain Jane and ‘Barry’s out of the picture! We are seeking top musicians for our worship teams, experts in church leadership and top operational managers. In some ways, these ‘caretakers’ will start controlling and influencing how a church building is being used on a daily basis. If the business needs to make profit, that is where the priority will lie, always. Whose needs are we actually putting first? Kingdom needs, people or profitability? ‘For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Tim 6:10). Godly businesses can quite easily start out with ‘good intentions’ but it can easily lose it’s way; confusion, corruption, and deception can weave it’s way in very quickly when money replaces the pivotal point of Christ’s ministry.
George Muller, however, was a man of integrity and prayer who kept seeking God’s guidance, he always put God’s kingdom and community first above the needs of the business and himself. Interestingly enough, when he became a minister for Ebenezer chapel in Devon, he asked for his salary to be cut completely, so that people were encouraged to give not out of duty but desire. Amazing! Can you imagine taking a pay cut at your work? Muller fully relied on God’s provision for his orphanages which housed hundreds of children and educated them through scriptural teachings. The equivalent sum today, he would have received for his work was around 90 million. Muller said this, The Lord not only gives as much as is absolutely necessary for his work, but he gives abundantly. Muller did not target specific people for donations but relied on God fully. He never made financially requests, people could see the work he was planting and felt compelled to give from their heart anyway. Muller chose to shun the life of a comfortable clergy- man and chose to become a missionary instead. So, I guess my question is, do we need to keep asking people to reach deeper into their pockets for financial provision? Or are we learning from Muller’s example of praying, waiting and trusting for God’s provision on his plans? Which leads me to ask, is a business model needed in order to do God’s work ?
The church can re-brand and re-imagine logos to their hearts content in order to attract more people to church. However, authenticity can be smelt a mile off, people eventually will recognise if you are the real McCoy or not. This brings me to my main point, that as soon as we start running the church as a business, we can lose the passion, become complacent of others needs and we focus on using people as commodities to reach our end goals and dreams. The Egyptians did the same, they worked the Hebrew’s very hard to achieve and build a great city. They built magnificent Pyramids that embodied the symbolism of the selfish, ‘I am’. God’s chosen people were broken, worn down and used for the sake of ‘business’ as usual. I challenge anyone who deems God’s work as a business enterprise (https://www.premierchristianity.com/Past-Issues/2017/September-2017/If-entrepreneurs-ran-the-Church). I think it is dangerous to compare the church with the core values of a profitable business. As it runs contrary to the core values of the Christian faith . That God provides, that people matter and that the Holy spirit runs the show, not the human hand. If it’s God’s will in heaven, let it be done here on earth.