Dying 2 Live...!

Dying 2 Live...!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

JESUS: "Bad for Business...?"

What are churches here for? "Churches are here to minister to people, right? Maybe, they're here to reach the lost for salvation? Okay, I got it; they're here to feed the poor and house the homeless, right?" Unfortunately, many of today's local churches are more focused on big business, like a McDonald's or Wal-Mart (going after that 'almighty dollar')! "What? Mark, no way, churches could care less about big business." I wish I was wrong, but sadly it's true.

Before I go on any further; note, I love the church and am a grateful member of it. I've been involved in church ministry for nearly 20 years, highly involved in some leading churches/Christian organizations and see how far we've came. But also I'm not blind to much of what today's church has leaned toward following after. Let me give you some examples:

The McChurch Movement

Charles Colson's 1994 book The Body, which describes a McChurch that the author attended in Japan. The author also uses the term "Hot Tub Religion" to express the same sentiment.

Dan Schaeffer's article "McChurch" in the 2002 issue of the Christian-themed Plain Truth Magazine. Schaeffer states that many Christian churches have "gone Las Vegas" in order to grow their congregations.

Maine State Representative Stan Moody's 2006 book McChurched which describes a pervasive consumerism in the evangelical Christian community. Moody, a Democrat, attributes this sentiment to the incorporation of Republican pro-capitalist influence into the religious community.

The CEO Movement

Megachurches tend to have a powerful charismatic leader. They tend to be centralized, concentrating authority at the top. The founders’ tenures average over fifteen years and there is great dependence on their personalities. These leaders preside over large staffs of up to 250 full-time employees. The pastor of one mega-church had the following to say about the organizational structure of these mammoth churches, These are not just churches; they are also corporations.” The pastors of many of these huge churches consider themselves CEOs. ("Multiplying in the Megachurch?"). Crossbooks.com. 2011-09-29. (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1462706703/ref=tsm_1_fb_lk.)

Megachurch services tend to be highly choreographed and music features prominently in services. "Given the congregation’s size, this service cannot be left to ‘the flow of the spirit,’ especially if there are multiple services on a Sunday morning …As a mega-church grows, worship becomes more professional and polished, but also more planned and structured.” ("Exploring the Megachurch Phenomena: Their characteristics and cultural context").  

The Seeker-friendly Movement

A common criticism of megachurches is that they draw members away from other churches. This has led to use of the derisive term, "big box churches". From a National Congregations Study from Cumalative Dataset, the majority of North American church-goers attend small churches of fewer than 200 members.

Critics of megachurches claim that such churches are more concerned with entertainment than religion (http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2006/sep/17/long-reach-of-a-big-church/). Al Sharpton has claimed that such churches focus on personal morality issues while ignoring social justice.

Businessweek reported---Critics have also raised issues with the application of secular business models, e.g., from Wal-Mart; a seeker-friendly approach, intensive market research, heavy reliance upon opinion polls, polished advertising targeted at affluent young professionals, unconventional worship styles and Eastern influences. ("Earthly Empire:How evangelical churches are borrowing from the business playbook")-Business Week.

Goodness, that was a mouthful! It's clear to see that the McChurch, CEO and seeker-friendly approaches have business written all over them. So when did the local church become a business? When did things become all about appeasing clientele, establishing corporations, adjusting profit-margins and recruiting numbers?

Now, I do realize, there is a balance to this equation. No one is indicating to not prepare for growth. Or, a church can't offset their fiscal woes with sound business practices. Just take out time to check out the many leading universities, prep-schools, charities, hospitals and (dare I say) businesses started and still run by churches. And many of these are doing a greater good for the nation and world as a whole. But still there just may be too much of a business focus implied. When we become more concerned about building our local church empire instead of surrendering to the Holy Spirit's leading, that's a problem!

God didn't call us to manipulate numbers, become advertising salesmen for our local church or sweet-talk new recruits into joining the ranks. Really, it's NOT about us (period). The sooner we get that, the better! Let me leave you with a last thought based on some Biblical approaches. (Mark 11:15-19, Luke 8:43-48, Acts 16:16-24) in each one of these scenarios, Jesus was bad for business. And He didn't mind business practices, until it started to become the primary focus. Keep business where it belongs, solely in the background and not leading the ministry God has so preciously graced you with.

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