Saturday, March 29, 2014

How the Church is not a Business

In the early days of Christianity, the church was described as an organism, not an organization. She was a living being dependent on each part, each foot, each vessel working together, all reliant on the Head, described as Christ Himself. She was the Bride, being adorned and prepared for her Husband, the Lord Himself. The church was alive in that infancy, fragile, needing protection and constant feeding, vulnerable--a baby. Somehow, over time, "she" became an "it."  What was born an organism, engaged, dynamic and personal, evolved into an organization, detached, institutional and impersonal.

Church in America now embraces elements of the business model in an effort to run like a modern machine, almost devoid of the distinctive organic qualities of the first century church.

It's business as usual. From the mega-church, super-pastor model to the small congregation struggling to stay alive, you see efforts to adopt effective business models and practices, calls for restructuring to align with the current culture and strategies to accept inevitable change.

Churches are as commercial as burger joints. Don’t agree with the leadership in a particular church, walk with your feet down the street until you find a style and comfort level more to your liking. Submit to that leadership? Only if and when you agree with them. And if you don’t like their decisions, just tool on down the road. After all, you're not going to expect McDonalds to cook it your way.

But we ask similar things from churches all the time.  When the preaching doesn’t please us, the music is not what you hear on the radio and the kids’ programs bore our little ones to death, if complaining doesn’t work, we bolt. We walk with our feet.

In the American church we also vote with our pocket books. Preaching not quite up to par, I’ll just cut back my church support. Perhaps I’ll support some para-church organization instead. Better yet, I’ll use my tithe for the K-Love Cruise through the Mediterranean and the Holy Lands. And it’s probably tax deductible too.

On one hand church is a business, a charity regulated by state and federal laws. If the church doesn’t operate by effective business principles, it will fail to exist. Like the GEICO commercial, we know that.

Yet the church is also definitely not a business. She is organic and she is us, living breathing human members of one body, where the head is Christ. Leaders pray before they plan and even listen for the most unlikely of voices. Churches should not operate according to the loudest and most persistent voices but rather wait for the still, soft voice that follows prayer. We wait to hear from our Head. That’s because the church is only part human: her life is spirit, her protectors are angelic and her leaders are called and chosen by God himself. Sometimes she is very inefficient.

Scripture gives us all the principles we need to run an effective organization in this or any culture, in this or any generation or in this or any century. Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Study to show yourselves approved.  Resist the god of this world and his economic system and he will flee from you.

Can we really trust the Word of God more than we believe the latest business trends and buzz words? I think we should.