These days, it’s not surprising to find that many companies operate as nothing more than profit-motivated machines. While not all companies do this, some do push their staff to the point where their efforts become robotic and stressful.
On the other hand, God’s church should operate as if it were a family. Unfortunately, many churches today resemble hectic places of industry. And surprisingly, some businesses care more about the welfare of their employees’ families than some local churches.
What Should A Church Be?
Paul and Matthew and John say that a church should be “A Body and Members One of Another” (I Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4), “A Family” (Ephesians 3), “A Community Influence” (Matthew 5), and “Called To Fellowship” (I John 1).
Unfortunately, we have seen church members become disenchanted with their church organizations because they have witnessed directly as members—both openly and behind the scenes—the atmosphere and practical working of a business-like machine rather than the warmth and commitment of a loving family.
Should the family of God exercise budgetary responsibility? Absolutely! However, we are discussing the weekly operations of the body of believers, not a corporate machine.
The Red Flags That Your Church Has Turned Into A Business
The pastor assumes the role of a business owner, while the members assume the role of customers.
The growing influence of consumer culture inside the Christian community is something that is consistently criticized by our church. But how can we expect people to behave when pastors advertise Jesus as if he were a product when they act like business executives?
When people visit our congregations, we advise them to “sit back, relax, and enjoy the service” (in other terms, to behave like clients), and then we get frustrated when they set the terms or move to another church that provides more of what they want. This happens in far too many churches.
If we approach church members like consumers, they will more than willingly act like consumers and, ultimately, see it as a business.
The owner/customer model is present in all kinds of churches, even though there is a lot of finger-pointing directed at new, seeker-friendly congregations for the emergence of consumer culture in those churches.
Be it a large or tiny church, traditional or contemporary, highly liturgical or informal, denominational or nondenominational — when the pastor behaves as if they own the church, the members of the congregation will either push back, give in, or quit the church altogether.
The one thing you can count on them to never do is behave in the same manner as the church mainly because, according to this paradigm, they are not expected nor encouraged to.
What is the result? Pastors who are burned out and congregations that lack depth.
The pastor functions as if in a managerial role and handles the congregation as though they are employees.
Churchgoers are not meant to function as passive consumers when they attend services. We are obligated to take an active role in the work that the church is doing in the world, but not as a business. However, this does not mean that it is acceptable to treat members of the church as if they were worker drones.
It is the responsibility of pastors to prepare the congregation for the job of ministry. But when the church transforms into a business, it may be quite enticing for pastors who have problems letting go of control to begin issuing commands to the congregation in the same manner that managers provide directives to their employees.
There are now so many former and current members of the church who are considered to be “walking wounded.”
This is not because they were unwilling to serve; rather, it is because when they started volunteering, they were converted into virtual slaves by overbearing, perfectionist pastors who misused scriptural words like selflessness and dutifulness to give them protection over their control problems, abusing their leadership role, and breaching their responsibility.
What is the result? Dictatorial pastors and exhausted members of the congregation.
The members behave more like shareholders, while the pastoral staff is treated more like workers.
This is particularly clear in churches that operate under a congregational style of administration.
It’s not wrong to have that sort of church governance, but when it’s exploited – as any positive thing can be, unfortunately – the congregation starts acting more like passive investors who expect a return on their investment.
The actual ministry comes to a standstill as a result of the strong hand of processes and petty concerns when committee participation becomes more valuable than true selflessness, pastors are hesitant to take a stance that may be controversial, and the ministry as a whole grinds to a halt.
What is the result? Overbearing members and powerless pastors.
How Can We Fix This Issue?
Different churches have different problems, thus there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. However, here are some tips to avoid having these issues.
- You may ensure that volunteer responsibilities and demands are sustainable. Shift your volunteers so that the same individuals are not providing their time and energy every week. And if the problem is that your church takes on more than it can handle, it may be time to reduce the number of yearly events.
- Alternatively, the remedy for underutilized churchgoers is identical to that for those who are overburdened. You must establish a volunteer structure that permits individuals to assist when they are able. If you and your team have avoided asking for help in the past, you may need to engage in deliberate volunteer recruitment.
- Develop the practice of delegating and involving congregants in decision-making. Numerous preachers are charismatic individuals with notable personalities. If this describes you, you may need to make an effort to get people’s opinions.
- There is a widespread belief in the business community that budding entrepreneurs should take the time to sit down and put together a formal business plan. Church leaders, including pastors, should set aside a few weeks to get down and formulate a long-term strategy for the congregation. Is there a specific group you hope to minister to with the gospel? For how long do you intend to use this structure? You should give careful consideration to the questions posed.
Try to be as objective as possible. If these characteristics predominate in your church, you might want to look elsewhere for a place to call home. The local church should be more like a family than a corporation.
Certain churches are even more destructive to people’s lives than some heartless corporations. Take stock of your standing in the church and your own life. Do you work for a company that is well-run and focused on making money? Or do you belong to a living system whose leaders care about you, are willing to learn from you, and put you before themselves?
The book of Corinthians serves as a gentle reminder that we are all connected. Though we operate as if “we are the church,” then every one of us is indispensable to the total.
How is it that we have forgotten the true nature of a church body? Are we just going through the motions, or are we using the means of God’s grace, namely, a local church to serve and be accountable to?