Incarnational or Commercialized?
Slaves of Christ?

Do Business Practices Belong in the Church?

corporatejesusreducedShould all manner of business theory and practice be excluded from the kingdom of God, including the Church? Is there any room for business acumen in our communities of faith, or should all such notions be utterly rejected? Is it "unspiritual" for the Church to use business practices? How should we respond to questions of this sort, especially in light of Jesus' own teachings?

Luke 16:1-12 (NIV) Jesus told his disciples: "There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.' "The manager said to himself, 'What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I'm not strong enough to dig, and I'm ashamed to beg-- I know what I'll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.' "So he called in each one of his master's debtors. He asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' " 'Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,' he replied."The manager told him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.' "Then he asked the second, 'And how much do you owe?'" 'A thousand bushels of wheat,' he replied."He told him, 'Take your bill and make it eight hundred.' "The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?


Certainly, there were "business people" in Jesus' day who were dishonest and who oppressed the poor. Yet he doesn't seem to advocate a wholesale rejection of "business" practices -- quite to the contrary. I suppose that a case could easily be made for how "business" is an ancient, pre-Enlightenment practice, which shouldn't be discarded along with modernity's trappings. But my bottom-line question is this: How should the Church navigate this issue in the 21st century?


Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I know that in the postmodern world we are all afraid to use the "T" word (truth, that is), but if something is in harmony with God in one context why wouldn't it be in harmony with God in another. In other words, if the best way to run your business is not the best way to run your church, you're doing one of them wrong.

I agree with you will,

Larry Norman once rocked the church with a very serious question: Why should the devil get all the good music?

Jesus was the brightest entrepeneur of all time!

Why do salespeople schmooz? Because they know that they can use relationships to make money. And why do we dislike the stereotypical used-car salesman? Because we feel used.

That's how people sometimes feel about the church "They just want to parent me, and take my money"

If we run our church for that purpose, then we are doing it all wrong. If we use that schmoozy "business" tactic, we are flying in the face of Matt 6:24, Luke 16:13, & 1 Pet 5:2

But here's my twist on Matt 6:21 & Luke 12:34 -- instead of using relationships to make money, why don't we, as communities of faith, put our treasures where our hearts are and use our money (which is all His anyway, so why do we so desperately cling to it?) to build relationships?

If relationships are our priority, and we know we can use $$$ (see also Prov 16:18) to build relationships and sow into the kingdom harvest, then what kind of return will we get? 30 fold? 60 fold? 100 fold?

I think that makes good business sense, in God's economy.

My $0.02

~ Keith

When we choose to run our churches via TQM or as models of P&G or Microsoft, then we have entirely forgotten the third person of the Trinity.

Choosing our staff should not be done by scanning a resume and seeing how many Fortune 500 companies they worked for, yet some churches do this. It grieves me to no end when a church trumpets that the new administrative pastor (or any other staff person) was a VP of some company while saying nothing about that person's spiritual depth. He (or she) might be able to run a department via some company's biz manual, but can they move mountains by prayer? Usually not.

And we wonder why our churches are so dead and dusty.

I think that God influenced so many things that it's hard to say what you cannot inter-mingle. Furthermore, I think if the Church is in the business model, the model should be allowed to be in the Church.

I think this is a great and needed discussion. I wonder though, if we shouldn't also be asking the other obvious question in this discussion - why do *so many* of our businesses run by followers of Jesus violate his teachings? It seems to me that is one of the problems with letting "business principles" into the church. Because the gospel has had no influence in that area, much of the work coming out of that arena reflects values that are different that those that God holds dear.

"I wonder though, if we shouldn't also be asking the other obvious question in this discussion - why do *so many* of our businesses run by followers of Jesus violate his teachings?"

Will -- that's a great point, and a critical question. Does the kingdom of God belong in the realm of business? I say "yes!" But are followers of Christ committed to the establishing of "kingdom principles" in their businesses? I think some are... but most probably don't. :(

"Is God a Capitalist?" was presented by Michael Budde at an up/rooted gathering. Here are the notes.
http://up-rooted.blogspot.com/2003_12_07_up-rooted_archive.html#107117622369383683

I think one of my biggest complaints of the business model in church and my other field, higher ed, is that we tend to apply "business sense" as the necessity at every rung of the corporate ladder. In the church, members have different spiritual gifts and use them as different members of the body of Christ. But a business model tends to emphasize corporate leadership roles and so if someone operates well as a foot, we promote them to knee where they are not spiritually equipped. That is where I feel the coporate world as differing from God's Kingdom where people can be "promoted" right out of their calling.
I don't know if that is clear, I'm trying to be brief.

"But a business model tends to emphasize corporate leadership roles and so if someone operates well as a foot, we promote them to knee where they are not spiritually equipped. That is where I feel the coporate world as differing from God's Kingdom where people can be "promoted" right out of their calling."

Rod -- this totally makes sense. It's a great point. Hmmm. I had an idea: do "organic" business models exist that look more like the phenomenon of spiritual gifting within the body of Christ? Just thinking out loud.

Will wrote:

"I wonder though, if we shouldn't also be asking the other obvious question in this discussion - why do *so many* of our businesses run by followers of Jesus violate his teachings?"

Maybe we should ask if they were ever truly Christians at all. Perhaps we should be asking our churches just what kind of disciples they are making.

The Wall Street Journal ran an astonishingly indicting article last year that identified the church affiliations of all the executives mired in the Enron, Worldcom, Tyco, and other business scandals. By and large, all were not only evangelicals, but often leaders in their churches!

What a dishonor to the Lord!

Let me also share a few more things:

1. Christians in positions of power within corporations have a responsibility to hire the Christians within their churches who are looking for work. It is a crime that some people within churches are unemployed for months on end when there are people within the church who can hire them, but make no effort to do so.

2. If we are ever to experience the kind of community we always glowingly speak of, then we must find ways for the Church to penetrate current business practices and work for solutions to keep businesses people-centered. Try to have community when the company that employs half the people in your town packs up and leaves for Mexico. We Christians romanticize Mayberry, but towns like it are ghosttowns now because the jobs moved elsewhere.

I remember Henry Blamires' rendition of truth, captured in The Christian mind, which I read probably six or seven years ago. It hypothesized, like many others have, that all truth is God's truth. So, according to his line of thinking, true principles birthed in the business world should be applicable anywhere else in Creation.

The danger, of course, begins when we drift away from simply employing business practices to RELYING ON or WORSHIPPING them. In the end, the most proven methods cannot trump the Holy Spirit's promptings.

"Christians in positions of power within corporations have a responsibility to hire the Christians within their churches who are looking for work."

Is this a joke? You can't be serious.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)