Is the Church a Business

Recently Minner Serovy, one of the Ministry Relations Officers for the Presbyterian Foundation, shared an interesting experience she encountered while participating in a panel for an adult education class. The opening question was, “Is the church a business?” All the other panelists were members of the church where the panel was taking place, and all were businesspeople. They explained their reasons for thinking of the church as business. With some discomfort, Minner said, “I could not find my way to agreement.” 

She went on to explain, “Yes, there are budgets and bottom lines; income and expenses. Salaries need to be paid, as do utilities and overhead. Buildings and property need to be maintained. Best practices for handling money and audits need to be in place. We must not ignore these realities. We are called to be responsible stewards of the resources entrusted to us.” 

Businesses work to make their products and services better to keep their customers coming back. That is how they make profits. Many business owners are truly good people and bring their faith to the way they conduct their business and treat their employees. 

It is the church’s mission to develop their members in their faith journey and relationship to God. This sometimes means challenging our members, even making them incredibly uncomfortable. “Christian stewardship is not about paying for a product – a great sermon or a pastoral call – but sharing and investing in gratitude for all that God does in our lives.” 

It is wonderful that we can share some language and best practices with business, but ultimately our roles are different. We worship an authentic, transcendent God, the true wellspring of our identity, humanity and community. 

As I gave thought to what Minner has written, I recalled the following scripture: 

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.
I Timothy 6:17-19 

In response to this scripture, Walter Brueggemann, declares, “What we have is wholly the gift of God and is to be performed by those who receive it in a life of generosity. This is true life.” (Money and Possessions) 

We are called to be stewards of all that God has richly bestowed upon us. Part of managing the resources we have may look like a business at work. The difference comes in why we do what we do. It is a different way of thinking. What if we thought first about God and what God is doing in our community and then began with this question, “What part does God want us to play in God’s work?” 

Consider these five things as you answer that question: 

  1.  Acknowledge that all we have and all we are belong to God. We are stewards of all God has entrusted into our care. It is a gift God shares with us and asks us to care for it and manage it so its full potential is realized.
  2. Invite people to invest themselves through the resources God has given them – their energy, their prayers and their money – to participate in the vision and mission God has called your congregation to do.
  3. Develop a statement of faith through the budgeting of the congregation’s resources that reveals what is most important to the congregation and what the congregation values as their vision and mission.
  4. Create a culture of generosity and gratitude where the congregation recognizes the abundant gifts they have to share and is free to fully engage in the work that God has called them to do.
  5. Celebrate the abundant life you have as a congregation – the relationships, fellowship, worship, and outreach – and give thanks to God who has provided you with these riches!

Businesses may celebrate a profit-making year but congregations celebrate the gift of life and ministry that is eternal. Manage well what God has entrusted into your care keeping God at the center of your plans and your decision-making. 

Deborah Rexrode
POJ Associate for Stewardship 

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