Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Church as a Business?

The idea of the church being a business or learning from business has been going on for at least the last twenty years.  At one point I was influenced by Leith Anderson's book, Dying for Change, in which he argued for a new way of doing church.  He used an analogy based on an advertising jingle:  "This is not your father's Oldsmobile."  His church, Wooddale Church, was just a few miles down the road from my church.  I saw many peers switch churches over that motto and the business model he employed which treated people like consumers.

In seminary I recall being encouraged to read The E-Myth by Michael Gerber.  The "E" in the title stands for entrepreneur.  Gerber's thesis is that non-entrepreneurs can start, initiate, and sustain all sorts of businesses.  How?  By utilizing the methodology of franchising.  Apply that to the church.  If a non-entrepreneur wants to plant a church all he needs to do is find a model that he likes and 'buy-in' to its methodology.  In the franchise model all of the problems have already been addressed, and all of the challenges have been anticipated.  All you need to do is follow the methodology and your church will prosper.  It is sad to see so many church plants following this path.    

Today I was surprised to read this story warning the church not to use the business model for ministry.  I was even more surprised about where I found the story.  Out of Ur is the blog for Leadership Journal and for years that journal encouraged churches and pastors to change the way they operated.  It argued that if the church was to be effective it needed to be relevant.  This drive for relevance led to consumerism and applying business models of management.

This is only part one of the story so I plan to follow-up with another post. 

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