It’s Just Business?

Several months ago my friend Jamison recently posted his thoughts about government not being a business. He makes me think quite a bit, and this post has been nagging at me about the relationship between the Church and the notion of business.

See, I’ve heard people from all over the institutional and theological spectrum utter the phrase, “The Church should be run like a business!” With the phrase comes dreams of efficiency, profitability, and brand recognition. But there’s a problem with the assertion people fail to understand.

The church is not a business.

Yes. Churches have budgets, have to pay salaries, and many are incorporated. But that makes them institutions, not businesses 1.

A business, specifically a corporation, must do everything it can to benefit it’s shareholders. In fact, in publicly traded companies this is a legal mandate. Everything a business does is to bring value to them. If the church is a business then the “shareholders” of that business are it’s members — and everything it does must be to benefit their interests. It sounds simple, but envisioning the Church this way serves to undermine its actual mission.

Despite a huge amount of people who seem to think being a member of a church is about the privileges they will receive 2, a church does not exist for benefit of it’s members. In fact, when the faith becomes about membership — having the best buildings, the greatest number of programs, and the most professional everything — the Church is actually at its worst.

The Church is supposed to exist for the glory of God. And it demonstrates this by spreading the light of Christ’s kingdom. This is why, when the church is at its best, it’s profoundly missional — searching for ways to sow seeds of compassion, healing, education, and renewal wherever Jesus’ disciples find themselves. The true role of our institutions isn’t to assure our continued comfort and well-being 3. Rather, it’s to facilitate Jesus’ disciples in the practical work of dying to self for the sake of others. The institution exists to propagate the testimony of the Cross, not itself.

As we move into Holy Week it is my hope Jesus’ disciples will remember this story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is not about us. It’s not about “getting saved” or a “free ticket to heaven” or “restoring cultural authority.” This journey is about recognizing the mind of Christ, and submitting to him so we might become servants in this world. It already has enough false gods claiming to be lords.

  1. My apologies to any “not church as usual” folks who were under the impression they weren’t an institution. 
  2. The right to hold a wedding, use the social hall, have the pastor perform funerals, etc. 
  3. Or existence.