It seems that every politician running for office these days at some point will say, “I’ve had experience in running a business and that is what I plan to do in government. We need to run the government like a business.” I guess what draws my attention to the statement is that I’ve also heard a slight variation of that statement lots of times at church. It runs like this, “What we need most of all here is to run this church like a business. I’ve been able to run my business to make money through the years and we need to follow that model at church.” I would like to raise a few questions on both of these statements.
First, what business are you talking about? Surely everyone realizes that not all business is run the same way. There is a huge difference in how one runs a mom and pop business that employes only family members and everyone really has an equal share of the business and a huge business with thousands of employees. Also, what about the difference in purpose of the business and the government or the church? Businesses are there to make money, to produce products that benefit people. Businesses by their nature have to change with the culture to survive. Think of all the products you have used in the past that aren’t of any value today since the world has changed in so many ways. But churches don’t change in their purpose and work. The church or government isn’t concerned with making money but of helping people deal with life.
Are there lesssons that can be learned from one field to the other? Certainly, business can learn from one another, from churches and from non-profit institutions. Also, church, government and non-profits can learn from business. But the fact a man has made lots of money in business doesn’t mean they will be effective as a Senator, congressman or elected official of any kind. Nor does success in business mean that one will be an effective leader in the church.
Should churches use good business practices? Certainly they should use honest dealings, intergrity and live within their income. Churches should not make debts they can’t pay. They ought to use the money on the purposes God has given for the existance of the church. The church is here to worship God, to assist people in living for God in all aspects of life, to help the needy and hurting people around them and to carry the good news of Christ to the lost all over the world. Churches get their money from the freewill offerings of the members of the church. There isn’t a single thing in the Bible that indicates the church is to get involved in selling things to pay for the work they are doing. Neither should the church seek the contributions of people that aren’t members of that church. When you read the first several chapters in the Book of Acts as the church started in Jerusalem there were lots of people in desperate need. They freely gave of what they had as members to support the work. Some even sold their property and goods to be able to help those in need. But we don’t read of them ever going to the government or the business community to try to get their help in the matter.
The church is a divine institution with a spiritual focus. In Acts 2:42 after 3,000 people had been baptized into the body the Bible says they continued steadfastly in the apostles teaching, in fellowship, in breaking bread and in prayer. It goes on in the book of Acts to describe different ways they continued to do all of these things. The apostles and disciples brought to Christ went all over teaching and preaching to the world about Jesus. They taught in synagogues, in schools and in the market places about Jesus. They build a fellowship or partnership where everyone had their own part ot play in doing the work. No member was simply on the receiving end of blessings. They were taught to be workers, helpers and do their part as good stewards of God’s many gifts to them. They broke bread together in taking of the Lord’s Supper and in their regular worship to God. They spent time in devoted prayer to God when troubles came, when they didn’t know what to do or when there was persucution against the church. Their prayers were a means of leaning on God and asking for His guidance and help all along.
I think one of the biggest problems we face in church these days is that we tend to have more business meetings than prayer meetings. We ask for people’s best judgements instead of what does the Lord want from us. We follow a particular speaker or leader instead of allowing Jesus to lead us as head of the church.
When the church is following the plan of God, they are doing the sowing and watering but God is the one giving the increase. When God stops giving the increase it normally means that we have cut back on the sowing and watering. Remember when Jesus was twelves years old and went to the temple with Mary and Joseph. They left thinking he was with the family and friends that had traveled there together. After a couple of days of not seeing him they went back to Jerusalem to look for him and found him in the temple talking with the religious leaders and asking them questions. Mary asked him, “Why did you do this to us? Didn’t you know that your father and I would be worried about you?” Jesus answered, “Didn’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?” Even Jesus mother had lost sight of who he was and what he was here to do.
It is horribly easy for a church to drift away from what God is calling on us to be and do. But if we are to be pleasing to God we must constantly be going back to God’s plan for our lives and for the life of the church. If a church leaves God’s plan and will to go in their own way they may gain more money and more members, but it won’t be headed in the right direction before God.