Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What happens when the Church and Business Strategies mix

At Fuller Seminary I constantly get asked two questions: Where I did my undergrad? And what was my major in undergrad? As I quickly answer the first question proudly, Azusa Pacific University, when I come to the answer of the second question I almost have to force myself not to mutter it under my breath, Marketing. The silence in the air speaks a thousand words. The silence is usually then broken with an awkward, “really?”

As look back on why I chose Marketing as my major in undergrad I usually have the same response, “really?” It has been two years since I graduated from A.P.U. and since I started Fuller Seminary the fall quarter after I graduated from A.P.U. and what may come to a supervised to some of you, is that I have been indoctrinated with more church/business ties than I ever did at A.P.U. You see it was one reason that I made the move from marketing/business to church ministry was because I couldn’t put together the things I was learning in my mandatory Bible classes with the things I was learning in my Marketing class. It was if Church and Business existed in to different worlds or maybe “spheres,” props to Abraham Kuyper, and they shouldn’t be emerged together. Yet, I soon discovered the world some Biblical studies classes painted for me of how the ideal church or Christian should exist in America is far from anything that it actually looks like. In America lines between the sphere of the church and the sphere of business, which Abraham Kuyper believes should exist, have become blurred more than we would like to think or admit to.

Our current case study A addresses this exact problem. A pastor returning from a pastor’s conference with many new business strategy ideas wants to implement them in his dying elderly church in order to save the church from becoming extinct. In order to do this the pastor feels that the church should translate church/ministry success into quantifiableterms (numbers) that can be measured and analyzed by numbers. All ministries then that do not produce numbers are done away with because they do not fit the strategy of the church, to maximize the church numbers.

So is it wrong for the pastor to want to implement business strategies into his dying church in order to try to save it? I wonder if I frame the question in a different way it might bring to light what I believe are the really questions at hand. Is it okay for the pastor to try to save the dying church, or should the pastor let the church die along with the last elderly member of the church? I don’t think so. Is it wrong for the pastor to want to bring new live into the church in the forms of new members? I don’t think so. I think the question we have to ask though is, does the strategy the pastor wanting to implement belong in the sphere of commerce only or can this strategy also belong in the sphere of the Church?

You see it is not bad that the pastor wants to try to revive his church through bring new life to the church through new members but I think the pastor get into troubled waters when he bring a strategy that was developed in the commerce sphere of the world and implement it into the sphere of the church as the only measurable way to determine if a ministry or church is successful. Ministry should never be based only on quantifiable terms or the numbers of people we can bring to a church or ministry, as it is in the commerce sphere. Yet, the pastor has some things right, sometimes it is necessary for the church to evaluate if a ministry is being successful or not based on certain terms, it just shouldn’t be just quantifiable terms. I don’t have the space or the time to come up with a list of other terms a church can measure the successfulness of their ministries but it is important to realize that there are times when we, the church, need to take a critical look at our ministries in order to evaluate if we are using the resources of our church in the best way we can. Therefore I cannot support the pastor if he was willing to implement a church strategy outlined above.

To answer the last question, what would I tell the pastor if I was on staff at the church, I would tell him my option discussed above. Sometimes in churches we like to play along with things as if arguments or disagreements should not happen with the church, as if we should just go along with what our boss or pastor says because after all he is the pastor. The Church needs to be place where we can discuss, in a loving way, our disagreements. After all that is what Paul did when he confronted Peter and James over the issue of Gentile and Jewish relations detailed in Acts and Galatians. If it came to the point where the pastor and myself strongly disagreed and we could not work it out and I was forced to leave the church because of it then at least I stood my ground because if I didn’t I would be giving up on one of my strongest convictions, that we have to be very careful when the sphere of the church and the sphere of commerce emerge together.