“THE CHURCH IS ACTING TOO MUCH LIKE A BUSINESS.”
That is a phrase that I hear often in church circles. As I have listened to people who make the statement I usually hear a few different concerns.
The first concern usually happens when accountability is inserted into the culture of the church. When someone expects the church to hold people and groups accountable for their actions or in-actions, some do not like it and want to say the church is not a business.
A second time when this statement is heard is when the church gets so serious about its mission that it deliberately plans for growth. Some believe that ideas like leadership, strategic planning or goal setting belong in the boardroom and not in the church.
Another time when this accusation gets bandied about is when the church institutes processes or policies that people are not used to. For example policies about room use or procedures for scheduling meetings.
Another situation that could prompt someone to make a statement like the above is when church leaders begin to learn best practices from others and try to adapt the principles in their own church.
All of these complaints could be boiled down to two primary ideas: the business card is usually played when a church tries to use it resources to best of its ability or when the church gets purposeful about its mission.
People everywhere have come to expect efficiency and great customer service in every area of their lives. When they go to a department store, they expect to be treated with courtesy and get a fair price on the articles they purchase. Of course, that would not be possible if the store did not expect its employees to be courteous and knowledgeable of the items they stock. If the store did not take care to plan and create a strategy for providing its wares, the customers would nit find the items they had become accustomed to and they would shop somewhere else. If the store did not make efforts to learn from other retailers and nurture its suppliers, its customers would wind up paying much more for their items.
Retailers (and other businesses) work tirelessly to create efficient, well-managed and pleasant environments in which people could buy their stuff. Imagine that! All that work and effort to make money and provide things that will decay and fall apart.
Shouldn’t the church put at least as much effort into making sure the world sees, hears and experiences the greatest news every before heard? Of course we should! Secular businesses spend thousands of hours and millions of dollars just to make money. Church should invest all it can to ensure that people have the opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus Christ and grow in their relationship with God.
I don’t think I could say
it any better that Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. One of Hybels’ senior staff members once presented a case study to the Harvard Business School. As part of the defense of the case study, Bill was invited to come answer questions from the students. During the question and answer session a student made the remark that he didn’t think pastors should blend business practices with spiritual things. Bill took a deep breath, uttered a silent prayer and said:
“You know, I find it very interesting that you’re here in one of the best schools in the history of education, learning the very latest and greatest leadership and management disciplines so that you can graduate from here and join a secular company to help them set records manufacturing and selling widgets, soap, or software. There’s nothing wrong with that. People can benefit from using all that stuff so you might as well do your best to get it into their hands. But still, it’s only stuff. It isn’t going to transform anybody’s life in a deeply significant way. It isn’t going to change the world or determine anybody’s eternal destiny.
“What you have to understand is that some of us church leaders believe to the core of our beings that the local church is the hope of the world. We really believe that. We believe that the church is the only God-anointed agency in society that stewards the transforming message of the love of Christ. We believe that the church addresses every human being’s deepest need. We believe that the church can lead people into a whole new way of living and loving and serving, and can thereby transform society.
“You also need to realize that some of us church leaders live daily with the realization that the eternal destinies of people in our communities hang in the balance. That’s why we are so determined to get our visions right and live out our values and come up with effective strategies. We truly believe that it matters that we attain our goals . It matters that we align our staffs and leverage our resources. We believe that the success or failure of our churches directly affects people’s lives here today and for eternity. We believe this to our depths. We’d take bullets for it.”
I continued, “That’s why we make no apology for learning and applying best practice principles as God leads us in our churches. How could we do otherwise? The church is the hope of the world.” Courageous Leadership (p. 69-70)
Indeed! The church ought to learn all it can about the best practices of the best organizations on the planet and then deploy them for God’s use. Even Israel plundered the Egyptiansas they left for the promised land (Ex 12:36).