I used to be a salesman. I sold a lot of different stuff. I worked retail. I did door-to-door. In all my various jobs my function was essentially the same. I was the link between company and customer.
Successful companies know their customer demographics. Many sales meetings revolve around numbers. Persons are statistics. The customer becomes a set of numbers, preferences, and habits. Really successful companies cater their goods and services to a target demographic.
When I began in pastoral ministry people assured me that my experience as a salesman would be beneficial. They said there was a lot of overlap between pastors and salespeople. But when I open my Bible and read about Christ’s church I see a beautiful design that is so much different from a business.
When Jesus walked the earth He rebuked those who failed to understand the difference.
And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” (John 2:14-16, bold added)
The Bible teaches that Christ is the head of the church. Every member is vital. When one member hurts everyone suffers. When the church is operating correctly each member is active, everyone is edified, the world is evangelized, and our God is glorified.
It’s amazing. Beautiful. Powerful. Glorious
On the other hand, in the business-church model the pastor is the head of the church. Many members are expendable. The crowd of spectators participate by being counted in attendance or contribution numbers. There is a wide separation between the leaders and the congregation. Connection between the members is often minimal, too. The suffering of many makes little to no impact upon the rest of the congregation. People come and go, often without anyone noticing. When they are noticed it is by the finance team or the ushers because they see the numbers are off.
Is this acceptable? Can we be satisfied with a model where the contribution of many members is restricted to being counted as if they are just numbers and not persons? Does this arrangement honor and glorify God? Is it what we read about in Scripture?
Christianity is not a product that is to be sold to a target demographic. Quite the contrary.
The church is not called to conform their services to the preferences of the people. Instead, the people are called to be conformed by the grace of God into the image of Christ. All people. All nations. Not some. Not a core demographic. All.
The church doesn’t offer services. The church serves. People aren’t called to consume. They are called to repent, believe, and follow Christ. They are called to freely give what they have freely received.
The Bible describes the church as a body, not a business. The business of the body is to make faithful disciples not happy customers.
Catering our product to the preferences of our customers may be good business but it has no place in the church.
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4, bold added)
Businesses come and go. Some seem like they’ll be around forever and have amazing success for a season. Then they’re gone with the winds of change. The church, however, has an eternal purpose.
Don’t settle for a business-model church. Strive for the real thing. It may be messy. It may be uncomfortable. It will certainly be counter-cultural. And it will undoubtedly be glorious.
The church isn’t designed for you to be a consumer. If you are born-again you have been gifted to edify the body. You are designed to be edified by the body. As we each do our part the whole body will grow and we will all be equipped to proclaim the glory and excellence of our God to the ends of the earth.