The Church is not a business

For 25 years the field of “Church Leadership” has taken its signals from business. [MORE]


Rick said...

Another aspect is how this concept impacts the vision/direction of the church. Is that a role of the pastor (senior staff), or is that instead a role of the congregation as a whole?

The AJ Thomas said...

I would like to see the church move away from a buisness analogy for ministry. I hate when people say "God is still in the _______ buisness" or "our buisness as a church is to________" I think a better metaphore would be the mafia.
1. See each other as a family
2. High value placed on loyalty
3. Members are willing to do whatever is required to see the organization be effective.
4. Constant focus on expanding the influence of the organization.
5. See's them self as existing seperate from the law/state - another kingdom if you will.
6. Willing to rebuke and correct those who are not living up to the expectations.

And I could go on...

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I was thinking of Collins' monograph the whole time, and was so pleased to see how this column was an indirect way of recommending his book. Of course, he can only translate from his side. We need a church leadership guru to try spell out the translation from our side. That may be even more important (and a big seller!). It would also be a genuine contribution toward healing some divisions between the leadership-literature-lovers and the leadership-literature-haters.

Anonymous said...

By mentioning the Mafia analogy, The AJ Thomas indirectly shows that we needn't reject the business analogy wholesale, but merely relocate it within a larger nexus of analogies each of which points to different aspects of the great mystery of Christ's body.

How so? Because the Mafia is a business, but it is also more than a business. In the same way the Church is a kind of business, but is also so much more than that.

If those of us who are suspicious of business models in the church really want to move the church beyond it, we would be wise to not force people to choose between business language and our alternative langauge. This puts them on the defensive and locks them further in their position. So I say kudos to AJ Thomas for picking an analogy (albeit with its own problems) that is able to include but also go beyond business models for ministry.

Anonymous said...

Is it important to have one clear model on how we "do church?" Can't one local church have a more business bent while another one more like a family? Each of those churches will reach different kinds people. There are people who have a strong business orientation...that language connects with them. There are other people who connect with the images and language of family or mafia (though I might be slighly concerned if the latter are in charge of counting the offering...though collecting might be a good gifts fit).

As I look out over blog-dom, I see community/family type people coming down on the business types. And business types losing patience with the community/family types.

Is there really one way to do this thing? Or to be this thing?

Anonymous said...

Sorry...that was Matt...pushed the wrong button...

The AJ Thomas said...

'ey you, How you gonna come into dis here house of worship and disrespect the Lord like dat by not bringing Him the ten percent which he has requested. Get our you wallet wise guy er else I would hate to see anything bad happen to you on dis beu-tea-full Lords Day.

I was just being an idiot. Thanks John for making me look mildly insightful.

Anonymous said...

A J -- if your DS shows up some day with two chunky guys in sunglasses and suggests you take a ride with them, just run out the back door and come down here to NC and join our family--you are OK by us!

Pastor James said...

I have to admit that I have learned a lot about making a church grow by observing how businesses make people feel welcome and comfortable. I am constantly wearing those thinking caps everytime I go out to eat. The problem is I tend to tune out my family and they always ask me what i'm thinking. They know I'm studying the business to try and figure out how I can get the people there to come to my church based on how they got them to the restaurant or place of business. But, then again I've been in churches with horrible facilities and the place was packed.

JustKara said...

The appearance over the last 25 years of the multi-million dollar annual budget church has made business books relevant --in many cases AS IS without translation.

When a church has a $3 million budget and 45 paid staff "church workers" are not longer volunteers but staff and you CAN "get the wrong people off the bus" by "finding them and firing them."

Some of what you say still relates to mega-churches but generally I'd say that most business books can be brought into the mega-church AS IS because we operate far more like a business than a little church.

The AJ Thomas said...

HC Wilson is my DS and I'll admit he has a certian Godfather-like presence.

District conferance idle chit chat:
Whatever happened to Pastor Slept-with-his-secretary?
He's ministering with the fishes.

Noname brand postings said...

I hope I don't offend anyone with my reaction, just shootin' from the hip here...


I know this conversation is not taking place in a vaccuum because I am certain many of the people who contribute here are actively involved in their churches. But rather than concern myself with where the conversation isn't taking place, I am thinking on where it ought to be taking place; within the precepts of the Word.

When God starts using business analogies (and don't be fooled, there was plenty of commercial enterprises going on in both the old and new covenants! =) then I'll feel a lot more comfortable about them. As Don Millaer points out in one of his books, the analogies God chose to employ (there I go with the business terminology!) are almost exclusively ones that speak of living things and relationships: vine, family, body, etc. Do we not agree that the analogies Jesus used are inspired and (whether preferrable by "outsiders" or no) are the only analogies that ought to be used to determine "how church works"? (Maybe we don't all agree, that's why I am asking.)

I understand why pastors at mega-churches feel like business terminology is more suitable ("our church is more like a business") but that certainly isn't God's fault. =)

This idea of member-recruitment expressed tacitly and openly in several responses here are mind-blowing to me. Certainly appropriate for Penn State football or Amway (or Quixtar or whatever guise they've taken lately), but for churches?! Surely we ought not to be thinking in terms or "building our church" so much as "building THE Church". As a pastor and teacher, I'm not out to build my brand recognition within the Christian community -- I am only hoping to be useful to the Lord by telling people the Good News, and shepherding whatever sheep the Lord brings into my life.

Maybe I've been in Mexico too long! What's happening to us?

Anonymous said...

Amen! Amen! Amen!

We can learn much from business books and Edward DeBono. But the Church is not a business. In fact, it is not a human enterprise at all.

Keith hit the right note with his emphasis on translation. We should not reject any insight out of hand. But we must reinterpret it in the context of the Church.

But I have a slightly different concern with this issue. While it is a problem when pastors and board members see the Church as a business, the most troubling aspect of this is that the leadership of the Church (HQ, DS's, etc.) think of the Church almost exclusively in these terms.

They might say that the Church is more than a business, but business is the foundational paradigm. Try to find a single program that doesn't focus on goals, planning or time management.

Sorry. I'll get off my soapbox now. Besides there are two mean-looking guys at the door.


Steve Johnson said...

So interesting you would write about this subject this week. As a youth pastor, I often feel like I am under the gun and to "produce" or make some sort of quota. Of course the standards that I am judged by vary from group to group. Some look at numbers, others simply judge by wether or not their child wants to go to youth group during the week, and the blessed few look at changed lives. Now I'm not saying I shouldn't be held accountable for what I do while being a paid staff pastor. But the last thing pastors need is more insecurity about their place in ministry. And most leadership books don't come close to scratching the complexities of church leadership. Great post Coach.

Dennis King said...

As a senior pastor, I am in strong agreement with your thoughts about adopting secular/leadership models for church life. May I take this issue a step further? How do you think church board should evaluate pastors and staff members for salary increases? Should statistical productivity (attendance, giving, new members) be the measure of job performance, or should other criteria receive equal or greater consideration? What would those criteria be?

Anonymous said...

The problem of evaluating a pastor has become a major problem because the Bible has been removed from the halls of the church and the sanctuary, the evaluation criteria is now secular. If one were to use what was written in the NT as the criteria for assessing ministers, it would not be too difficult.

Not a sermon, just a thought!

Anonymous said...

Great stuff! I totally agree on these points you wrote about.

Jim Collins was interviewed by Hybels at this past summer's leadership summit--and the focus of the discussion was on just what you mentioned here--and of course pitching his $10 booklet. :-)


Anonymous said...

New leadership book to hit the shelves in 2008:

"Leading the Kingdom Like a Soprano" by A.J.Thomas

Drury Esq said...

I was surprised and a little disappointed by this article because I thought it would be about something else. When I saw the title, I thought, "finally Keith is going to take a shot at Christianity-as-commodity that seems to oppress our church and spiritual landscape." But alas, no--you put in a implicit plug for the latest Christian commodity--a $10 book.

I am less worried about the business model we use or don't use and more concerned that everything spiritual is for sale. It seems, with rare exception, that anyone who feels he or she has the least bit of spiritual insight now feels compelled to package this insight into some kind of commodity and place a for sale sign on it. If he or she is lucky (and I mean "luck" in the most secular sense I can imagine) the commodity will catch on and sell, catapulting our neo-guru into the stratosphere of wealth and affluent philanthropy--how noble for every spirit-peneur to aspire to give back all the money he has collected from his church or ministry a la Warren.

Barna is another example. He has preyed on the the desire to count people sitting in pews into a 'spiritistical' analysis industry where, for a modest fee, we can buy his latest book or hear him to speak to learn what secret knowledge he has acquired--or for a less modest fee, we can rent his number-driven spiritual prowess for our own purposes--what a blessing! Check out this vision statement Barna Vision. The vision statement is to bring spiritual transformation but the message of the web site is to do so through $15 DVDs and cases of his latest book.

Why are there two Christian radio stations in every media market in America now? Typically one is advertiser driven and the other is donation driven and they seem to be run by the same people.

Unfortunately, the Tuesday Column does not get a free pass in this regard. Blogging itself is a prepackaged way to transform thoughts and journaling (a spiritual discipline I am told) into a internationally disseminated commodity. What better way to test the market to see if my thoughts and ideas will actually sell in the Christian marketplace.

Certainly the Tuesday Column web site makes it easy to locate and buy some of the more substantial Drury offerings. It also regularly serves as both Petri dish and marketing platform for new book ideas.

By this I don't intend to take shots at our beloved author. I enjoy this site as much as the next guy/gal. In fact, the last Drury book I received was a free gift--signed by the author no less. No complaints from me.

I just wonder if our modern spiritual marketplace is any different from the sale of relics and indulgences. If the church is not a business should we treat the Spirit of God as a commodity? What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Interesting thought Drury esq! Remember what happened to the guy who wanted to buy the power of God?

Anonymous said...

If you can get me a publishing deal I'll write it. Sounds more like onr of those "Leadership Lessons from Capt. Kirk, Gahngus Kahn, etc. I'm also not sure there is a book worth of info there but that never stopped Maxwell and it won't stop me.

Anonymous said...

Well since the spirit of holiness, by definition, can't be bought or sold or even considered a commodity, that is really not a concern. You can buy and sell it but once you get it home and unwrap it, it won't work.

Besides, look at it this way. You are getting a Wal-mart super deal. Why read the writings of God when you can read Stanley, Swindoll, Drury, and the like. Their words only cost the shelf price. God's words cost you your life.

Face it, these guys are a deal!

VIAEMAIL said...

(via email)

often, the only pastors who agree with this sort of stuff are those who are already failing at business. They are right, of course, but their arguments sound like sour grapes to the rest of the Pelagians who are out there “making it happen”. If we could get large church pastors to develop the ethics of small church pastors, while small church pastors develop work habits of large church pastors .. . . well, then I guess all that would happen is they would switch churches.

Keith.Drury said...

THANKS for interesting responses this week! A stimpulating discussion and helpful to my students.

Anonymous said...

Well, did you ever think that folks go to small churches for a reason? If you change the atmosphere or the pastor to that of a big church, do you think they will stay?

Some are called to be pastors, teachers and the like. Maybe, just maybe, God doesn't mind small churches. In fact, since it says in the NT that they went from house to house, seems to me that they were small NT churches.

Because christianity has a pattern for everything and all their baby christians have to wear the same clothing, watch the same stuff and talk the same way in order to really be a christian, why would anyone think that it is ok to have more than one type of church, worship style, pastor, etc.

Seems to me that Jesus only really cared about the message and morality of his men in training.

Bumble said...

Thank you for posting this. I am on a church planting conference right now and this morning I was scratching my head about how to kick people off my bus in application of apostle Jim Collin. And when they talked about the church target audience, I wondered about the Great Audience of the King.

Don't get me wrong, I had both an MBA and an MDiv, but I think these loonies are running mega-church best practices without even mega-church theology!