The Church Shouldn’t Be a Business

The canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke &...

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Why has the church in America become a business?

Seriously.  Stop for a moment and compare the church in America to this little passage here:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

(Acts 2:42-47)

Now even if you don’t believe in Jesus you have to admit that this picture above is beautiful.  These people; Prayed together, saw miracles happen, loved each other like family/had everything in common, were crazy generous- selling property & possessions to give to anyone in need, they met together every day, they ate meals together, and people were drawn to them like a magnet.

Why do you think they were drawn to them?  They were living what seemed like a perfect existence.  I’m sure they had problems, like arguments, or lies, fights, and other things.  But the picture above portrays an amazing community of people by anyone’s standards.

I’d like to rewrite what I usually see in the American church (just a little satire for fun):

They devoted themselves to reading the Bible in the comfort of their offices and homes, to over consumption of fast food.  Nobody believed anymore in miracles, but definitely held to the inerrancy of scripture.  All the believers were separated into different departments in the church based on their specific “gifting”.  Every Tuesday the church leaders would have staff meeting to talk about the Sunday when all the other believers would get together for an hour.  They always went out to the same restaurant after church on Sunday and then tried to avoid each other.  Back in the 1990’s the church was growing, but since there’s been a plateau lately they’ve been studying the latest marketing and cultural trends in order to try and reach society.  They also shortened sermon time to make sure it’s not too boring for the people coming.

Might sound ridiculous, but that’s how it is, isn’t it?

Hmmm.  Maybe people would be drawn to Jesus if we actually lived like followers of Him, instead of a watered down American version.

Then the church in America wouldn’t be ineffective.  It would be a force to be reckoned with.  It wouldn’t treat people like robots or numbers or products either, but like real people with real beating hearts, gifted personalities and struggles.  But man we really have a long way to go don’t we?  With God all things are possible.

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10 thoughts on “The Church Shouldn’t Be a Business

    • Good reference David- thanks for pointing to that! Those are some strong words from the wild man Peter!

      I guess the difficulty in our generation is that we have one side of hypocrisy or the other- in the American church that is. On one side, there are people who “have hearts trained in greed” (2:14), and then those who rebel against them who can tend to “blaspheme about matters of which they are ignorant”. (2:12)

      I just long to see the church live out the full council of God’s Word! Not greedy, not consumeristic, not anti-Biblical, not loose with culture, not addicted to trends, not shallow and watered down, not avoiding confronting sin. I just love how God’s Word is so perfect, and yet we are not.

  1. Ben,

    The term “the church in America” is so broad and meaningless it is pretty much worthless. There is no such thing as the church in America. I understand the sentiment, but employing meaningless statements make whatever follow suspect.

    That said, I do not even understand the opening question. What do you mean by business? And when did business became a bad thing? Even Jesus, had someone to take care of the “business” end of things.

    By the wiki definition (though there are a lot of them) a business “is a legally recognized organization designed to provide goods, services, or both to consumers or tertiary business in exchange for money.” Now in this sense a church is not a business since it need not be legally recognized nor does it exist to turn a profit. But a church is an organizations designed to provide both goods and services.

    So, to answer your question of when the church became a business I would say “Act 2” (maybe earlier) when it was organized by God and given a task to do. This, of course, is imposing the term retroactively upon the church… but it fits the definition.

    • Ha ha 🙂 Those are some bold arguments Lon. I understand where you’re coming from. I think we could argue semantics about it and the argument could become circular.

      I provoke for a reason. But I’m not just trying to get a reaction. These are my convictions about what it could potentially mean to return to a more pure Biblical faithfulness.

      As far as I’m aware the church, by definition, is God’s people. And you have a good point, maybe I shouldn’t use a vague term “the church of America”. But I keep reading the Bible and what I’m seeing in there- the lives of the people in it and the people who wrote it- just doesn’t match up with what I often see in what could be labeled as the “institutional church in America”. The message of the prophets was to address inconsistencies in the nation of Israel. They often referred to God’s people as “Israel”. I think we can often write them off as ancient by seeing the things they were calling out in Israel- child sacrifice, prostitution, greed, ignoring the poor, empty religious expression with no mercy, etc.

      But how does that type of message apply to America? That’s what I’m trying to get at. Are we idolators just as much as Israel was? Many may say no, but is consumerism an idol? Is comfort an idol?

      I just want to wrestle with these questions. And I don’t want easy answers. I’m willing to suffer for the gospel if it’s God’s will. I’m willing to go to dangerous places if God leads me. It’s not in me to desire those things, but His Word compels me.

      I do appreciate your responses man. Thanks for reading these posts and thinking about them, and being willing to be honest.

  2. obviously comfort and rights can become idols, and far too many american christians feel that way…particularly at this time of year when so many get huffy that a basically secular culture does not embrace the birth of our savior (cf. http://www.qideas.org/blog/dispatches-from-the-war-on-christmas.aspx). i’m not saying things are great and perfect, i’m just say’n i don’t think things are as bad as you indicate.

    “institutional church” – an organization, establishment, foundation, society, or the like, devoted to the promotion of a particular cause or program, esp. one of a public, educational, or charitable character.

    now, i know exactly what you mean, it was particularly evident to me on my recent trip to dallas… but i think using terms like “business” and “institutional” are too cliche at best and perpetuate disgruntled stereotypes at worst.

    in other words, i think your valid points are getting lost in the tone you take.

    • You’re right Lon. I do need to get better about the tone I take. I suppose I struggle with that because I know the message God has laid on my heart is a hard one that will bring about rejection. But you’re right. I need to get over that and not worry about it. I need to know that God is behind me in it. And that way I won’t come off on the offensive, but at peace. Pray for the Holy Spirit to cause that change in me.

      And pray that I’ll always be teachable.

  3. thanks ben,

    maybe “tone” was the wrong word. i think i understand your point and your message. i also think it may be lost or dismissed if you use terms such as we’ve discussed. they can be either too cliche or too broad to have much impact or the meaning you desire. does that make sense?

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