Friday, January 23, 2009

Church, Inc. Pt. 1

All indicators, both statistically and through observation, show an overall decline in Christian churches in America. It seems that too many ministries are just simply ineffective. What's to blame? Breakdown of families that once were the pillars of community churches? Outdated methods of worship? The spread of moral relativism? The scandals that cause scores to fall away from the faith? All of those things may play a part, but most are given too much weight. I think there is another key reason for the seeming stagnation of the American Church.
The Church has become Incorporated.

In saying this I mean that most churches are not only chartered with their respective states, have written bylaws, filed 501c3 paperwork, and established procedures, but have also taken on the qualities and spirit of a secular corporation. We have allowed the standards, practices, and indicators of successes and failures to be patterned after profit-seeking businesses. Churches are no longer the organic gatherings of Christian believers that they were meant to be. Instead, members are investments who are expected to produce a material "return". Lost souls and those seeking a church to call home are "customers" whose likes and dislikes are translated into marketing campaigns and ever-changing worship styles. Services are simply sales opportunities.

Let me be clear. Organization is good. Nothing bugs me more than an unorganized or of sync church where no one knows what's going on. And true enough, someone in the church needs to have some business sense for the purposes of handling funds, property, and necessary business. (I believe the Bible calls these people "Deacons") But organization should facilitate the mission of the church, not hinder it. Where we err is in getting caught up in the "bottom line" mentality that keeps us focused only on our ABC's...... Attendance, Buildings, and Cash.

Desire to increase attendance should never supersede efforts to save souls and transform lives. We are most guilty of mimicking the business world, willing to do just about anything to get a few more people under the false pretense that God wants us to draw people in by "any means necessary". While there are many approaches to ministry, the Bible is pretty clear that the preaching of the Gospel and the love and concern of the believers will draw people to Christ, not hip lingo, updated music, or marketing gimmicks

The perceived need to build bigger and more glorious structures should not outweigh the mission to build community. Notice I said "community", not communities. A sense of "community" is needed among believers and spread to those surrounding them before any physical area or region can be improved. This is a spiritual process, not a physical one. So the biggest, fanciest building will not draw people. The average community member may actually resent the deep commitment church members have for their building while not showing much concern for the people around them. In fact, the "church building" we are so familiar with is not even mentioned in NT scripture.

And the receiving of financial gifts is only one way of many to accomplish the goals of kingdom building. How sick are we of hearing the church talk about money? Not because the Bible doesn't speak of money, but because of the unbiblical, high-pressure, snake oil salesman-like approach most preachers take to discussing money. (no offense to you snake oil salesmen out there). But the bigger issue here is that the church too often views cash as it's only worldly resource. All this attitude does is condition leaders to focus less on the talents and vocational offerings of the church members and community members and more on their ever dwindling pocketbooks. Fact is, there are many products and services that the church seeks out, that could be very well provided in house with little or not cost. But instead the church automatically seeks cash to pay someone outside source for labor and/or materials.

So what's the solution, you ask? Well, you got me there. But a good place to start might be Acts chapters 2:42-47 and 4:32-37.

elder todd

1 comment:

  1. after reading Acts 4:32-37 I am inclined to say that whatever one considers valuable or of great importance to their life..even life itself should look on it as common and be willing to give it so that they or someone who is lacking can gain some sort of prosperity but yet all in all we MUST ALL be willing to walk in one accord with fear and trembling and obey the word of HIS will and stop trying to do our will.