I received this today. I thought it was a great question and did a thorough answer. I wanted to post this conversation for you to also give your thoughts...
I want to share some thoughts and experiences I have had recently.
Several times over the last few weeks I have had people tell me about conversations with Church pastors and admistrative workers who speak about "operating their Church like a business".
During our discussions last week you said that Kingdom was a business. [MY COMMENT - and a Ministry} Since then I have been trying to put that comment in perspective. Maybe we can talk some more about that the next time we have a chance."
Hmmm... yes. We can talk, but you have actually have hit on one of the core DNA issues. These are things our core group has discussed and RIGHT NOW our core group is reviewing the following thoughts all over again because we are looking specifically at "Kingdom Governance".
As I said, currently we are surveying the entire NT to confirm what I am going to say, but it appears that it IS this way: In scripture, there seems to be a significant and visible divide between preaching and the other things that individual believers do and the organized things believers do. To highlight this - in the NT, ministries never 'owed' believers or 'owned' the leaders in local communities and the service they provide to God. However, people DID organize to achieve ministry (service) objectives.
What we have done in our American church tradition is 'mix' these (preaching, and the things people do to individually serve God) and organizing for ministry. Then we call the end result 'church.' Is what we are doing a problem?
I would say "Yes".
First, lets look at if from the POV that I have just outlined.
We, Kingdom Inc., organize to do business. We are a 'marketplace ministry' (the word ministry = service for God). We have a limited 'charter' - we are simply fulfilling a role in the overall body of Christ. We don't call ourselves a 'church' and collect offerings, expect people to work for us for free, etc. Because we are a business by definition, using business principles comes into play. (Note - I am working on ministry within Kingdom but this is NOT a Kingdom Inc. effort, but a Kingdom effort in one micro-community, the business/market place ministry, Kingdom Inc.)
Then... in this scenario, what would 'church' be? It would be ALL the believers, all the leaders - together we would be 'ecclesia' - we would coming together in all types of gatherings to worship, serve and also to consider the welfare of the entire community of believers. The last part ALL believers 'considering the welfare of the entire community where we live, work and play' is something that SELDOM, if EVER occurs.
Current system: Since they DEFINE themselves as 'the church', i.e. - THE BODY of Christ, not simply a part of the overall body of Christ in their community, their 'definition' allows them to do these types of things...
* They tend to 'control' all organized sacred/spiritual activities of their members. This varies from church to church, but the norm is that people have to get approval to organize for sacred activities. Why? Because the 'church' is 'in charge' of their members and the organized spiritual activities of 'THEIR' members. However, they tend not to control market place ministry and ministry in the civic area. They tend to have mixed approaches to social ministry directed at the entire community where people live, work and play and where member of other churches participate. They tend to call 'Para-church' ministries and some will NOT work with para-church ministries, some WILL work with para-church ministries.
* They tend to claim all the tithe, thought there are exceptions.
* They tend to claim most of the ministry time of their staff and recognized leaders, with the expectation that these people serve THEIR church first and formost, though there are exceptions.
* They tend to claim the time of the members. Often if members are 'attached' in ministry in another local church, they ask the member to choose 'which body they want to be part of'. This is VERY COMMON. There are exceptions - but a common expectation is 'support YOUR church first.'
* Following SPECIFIC teachers. If you read 1 Cor. chapter 1 - those believers were cited for doing wrong because people were identifying themselves as followers of particular men. Today, we've given everyone a pass here because our current system is almost totally defined by being followers of particular teachers, doctrines, churches, denominations, networks, etc.
* Because of the complexity of the approach to 'do church', 'churches' are starting to operate as businesses in some respects to survive and thrive. But, by blending the two identities (ministry and church), they end up with the church (the body of Christ) being a BOTH a ministry AND a business. This IS a problem, IMO.
Now, if the local church was defined as a ministry (i.e., one service to the body of Christ in their community), then the local church would NOT expect all of people's time, money and to a large part their organized sacred service. The local church would offer the ministry of the word, ministry of worship and the specific ministries that grew out of their efforts. But, like us (Kingdom Inc.) - it could legitimately (IMO) operate as both a business and a ministry because it would have a limited scope of responsibility/authority as defined BY the ministry they offer. And truly, NO local church and be all things to all people! When an organ in our body tries to take all resources to itself, grow larger and larger, etc. - we have a word for that; it is NOT good.
As it is, the local church assumes a virtually unlimited scope of responsibility which comes because it defines itself as 'the church' (by definition, being 'The Church' gives us many responsibility/authorities.) To repeat what I just said, one of the outcomes of this that we can clearly see around us is that the body of Christ becomes DEFINED as 'the local church' which is a ministry, a business, an organization, etc. This is not illustrated as God's plan in scripture.
The solution, IMO, is to have the concepts straight in our minds and to use language correctly. Let's call those things we ORGANIZE 'ministries', let's not call them "The Church", that is assigning the identity of the WHOLE to one PART. Yes, the local church is part of the church, but when they call themselves 'The Church' people begin to assume the local church has ALL the authority and responsibility given to the church. Parts are parts; the WHOLE and only the whole is "THE CHURCH."
I think what I have written describes, in simple terms the heart of the 'change', 'reformation', 'transfiguration' that needs to occur.
Does this make sense?
Thanks for sharing.
The modern concept of charity patronizes and makes merchandise of the poor. This shouldn't surprise us though, because Jesus said that "the love of many will wax cold". Jesus also said "when you give do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing". Christians who are involved in so called "charitable organizations" need to repent and obey Jesus instead. The modern Christian has been indoctrinated to believe, that he cannot do anything for Christ outside of a Government Sponsered Enterprise(GSE) or non profit tax exempt corporation. Ben Frankin would disagree with this way of thinking, for he once said "a religion that needs the government's help, really isn't much of a religion". Amen.
This lines up with what I understand of history!
Steve Belttari said:
You are right, Sue - it can become messy if there is a mix!
The Church, whether it is thought of as local(presbytery) or as a community(ekklesia), is composed of people who do business in the world's marketplace. In the Church, some of us are probably called to be a professional business person(entrepreneur), while others are called to work for someone-which is still considered to be a business person if one is a trader in a free market economy. The early Church was the same and as a whole the Church was a business. Unlike their competitors, the early Christians practiced charity as part of their business(1 Cor 13 vs 12). So when the Roman empire crumbled apart, the early Church was able to replace the empire's bread and circus welfare system with its own, which was built upon charitable Christian business practices.