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The Business of the Church

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : May 17, 2005

My friend Gregg passed a link on to me yesterday about applying business principles to the church. Just when I was thinking that the church-as-business model was starting to phase out, BusinessWeek pays homage.  Someone once told me that the zenith of any model is right before its death…for example, the best buggies were made as a response to the new-fangled horseless buggy.  I’m not so sure.  As long as the heart and soul of America is consumerism and capitalism, then there will be consumerist/Christian synchretism. Business_week_evangelical_empire_1

I don’t challenge the motive and the hearts of those who blend Christianity and business models.  What I do challenge is the naivete that is so pervasive…the odd cluelessness that stems from the assumption that the medium can be seperated from the message.  I wonder why those who adopt business models seem to be too unreflective of the brand of Christianity that they’ve ushered in.  I’m not saying that they’re stupid…just a bit blind to the ways in which culture shapes their churches, and the deleterious effect their approach to church has had on Christianity as a whole. 

Usually when I say things like this, a passerby who stumbles upon my blog by doing a search on "business models" AND "businessweek" will come to the defense of the church-as-business approach and say I’m being elitist  or mean or jealous, etc.  To you, my critic, I give the right to disagree.  However, lets be honest…the megachurch is the highest expression of the union between religion and American culture. It reinforces family values, good financial practices, and brings people into a relationship with Jesus Christ.  But it doesn’t produce the sort of radical disciples mentioned in Scripture.  And it tends to support a number of values Jesus expressly challenged.  A person could do a whole lot worse than to go to a business-church.  But they most certainly could do a whole lot better.  And instead of trying to corral our seeker friends into an unoffensive, stylish, successful megachurch, we should read the bold statements of Christ on the nature of following him, and take his lead.   

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4 Responses to “The Business of the Church”

  1. jim on May 17th, 2005 1:22 pm

    “I wonder why those who adopt business models seem to be too unreflective of the brand of Christianity that they’ve ushered in.”

    It is intentional. The business model is attractive because it promises the most organized effective model to manage a large enterprise. It could be that the intention of those who would embrace that kind of model is to create a huge church because they believe that a huge church brings the most glory to God. Radical discipleship is never part of the equation. The mega church brokers know exactly what they are doing and so do the churches adopting this strategy.

  2. aaron on May 17th, 2005 1:23 pm

    i was curious how you meshed the mega-church in so tightly with american culture seeing that there are many more mega-churches around the world than in the u.s. i think it’s korea that has the largest at 300,000 and several in africa that are approaching that number as well. are you saying that the mega-church in the u.s. is entrenched in american culture?

  3. todd h on May 17th, 2005 4:24 pm

    There have always been local churches that have been very large, but I think US megachurches bring a lot of things that distinguish them historically and culturally from other big churches.

    One of those things is a 7 day/week program emphasis which could be a possible link to consumerism. I am not sure the biblical church of Antioch, or a modern day gigantic church in Africa would approach meeting the needs of its religious consumers with such a passion as a contemporary US megachurch. I could be wrong on that but I think that’s one way megachurches reflect US culture.

  4. jeremy on May 24th, 2005 3:04 pm

    Mark-

    For an example of a megachurch that might be surprisingly countercultural check out Randy Frazee’s church (www.pantego.org/resources/30core.html) and his book _The Connecting Church_.

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