Why The Church Should Be A Bad Business

On the one hand, the modern church must sometimes function as a business.

It collects and dispenses money, creates budgets, and maintains savings.  It develops promotional material and engages in “outreach campaigns.” A great deal of thought goes into appealing to various demographics, increasing the number of people who come in the door, and arranging events and activities.

On the other hand, the modern church is supposed to be God’s body on earth.

Its members are meant to serve the world and each other in love and in grace, to develop relationships with others, to expend time and energy and care to show God’s love to everyone around us.  And those who are a part of the church are encouraged to study the word of God, to know Him better, to seek His face precisely so that they can go forth and engage in that sort of work.

These two identities aren’t necessarily irreconcilable.  Christians have long made use of the world and culture around them to share the Word: if Paul was willing to march into the marketplace to reason with the Greeks in a manner with which they were familiar (Acts 17:16-34) it stands to reason that the church in our age should use whatever tactics might be available – even from the business world – to get the message to the ears that need to hear it.

But the danger in this is that – if we’re not careful – the loving and serving that the church is supposed to be doing can get submerged beneath this corporate outlook.  The Message becomes a logo.  Outreach becomes a business wherein believers supply love in exchange for attendance, salvations, and baptisms, and are tempted to move on when they see no signs of a harvest.  The humanity of people disappears in strategy meetings where “optimal outreach tools” are deployed in “areas of great need” to demographic groups who are characterized by broad generalizations.

The church certainly can and should use the tools of business, but God’s love itself cannot be a business.  Mostly because from what God tells us, it is a pretty bad business!  There’s really no better example then Christ’s sheep parable (Luke 15:1-7), in which he advocates that a shepherd leave ninety-nine sheep to go seek out one that is lost.  In business terms, that’s putting 99% of your assets at risk for a potential 1% gain.  Absurd.  But absurd love is precisely what God demands of us.

Even as we figure out the ways to best reach people and to express Christ’s message of love as a church, we have to remember that no amount of community studies, merchandise, activities, or snappy Gospel presentations can substitute for us, for what we do when we reach out in kindness and in love: when we keep ourselves in God’s word and study it together, when we build honest natural relationships with people and love them the way God demands in 1 Corinthians 13, when we give our time and effort and energy not in expectation of a tangible result, but because it is the task we’ve been given.


New links up in the Read section.  Enjoy!


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