Wednesday, September 30, 2009


by Keith Giles

“But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." - (Matthew 16: 15-19)

The Christian Church is resilient and irresistable as long as it remains built upon the right foundation. Even the Gates of Hell aren't strong enough to withstand the advance of the Body, according to our Lord Jesus.

So, when we read that the current economic downturn threatens to cripple the American church it makes me wonder – “What is our Church built upon?” If we were built upon Christ and His identity as the Messiah, I believe that nothing could shake us or weaken our effectiveness.

As the article in the link points out, “organized religion was already in trouble before the fall of 2008. Denominations were stagnating or shrinking, and congregations across faith groups were fretting about their finances.” So, the decline of the American Church is nothing new. The Great Recession we’re in now only accentuates the problem. In America, the Church has aligned herself with a political agenda, and has embraced a business model, rather than to take a New Testament approach.

Usually whenever I point these things out I get the most vehement responses from my brothers and sisters in Christ. They either defend the business model of church or the political solution, or they deny that such an association exists. Others simply insult me for attacking the Bride – as if calling God’s people to a more New Testament approach is somehow an act of violence rather than an appeal to repent and be healed.

I’m honestly flabbergasted by the Church’s lust for the business model. If it had brought us any real fruit over the years I could understand our attraction for adopting the Bill Gates’ philosophy of ecclesia. However, most pastors will readily admit that the current model of traditional church hasn’t produced better disciples, more loving followers of Jesus or an increase in moral or ethical advancement in the Body. If anything we see the opposite. Not just in the church, but those outside the church are increasingly turned off by our “bigger is better” approach and our constant focus on money as a fuel for growth or a benchmark of God’s approval.

Being bigger doesn’t correlate to deeper faith, more earnest discipleship or transformed lives. Attracting a crowd isn’t a required skill for those who seek to follow Jesus and put his words into practice. Scoring converts isn’t a fulfillment of the Great Commission to teach people all that Jesus commanded and make disciples of all nations.

Just think about the environment you work in. Does your workplace inspire a sense of family? Does it foster a pervasive sense of belonging to a greater cause? Does it help you generate a stronger sense of love for your co-workers? Does it inspire you (or anyone else) to adopt the mission statement into a way of living life? Do you ever find yourself wishing that your church family could be more like your workplace? I simply cannot understand why we would look to an organizational model for the Church when it accomplishes nothing for the Kingdom and only succeeds in growth at the expense of others.

This is why the Church in America can, with a straight face, demand that pastors sign non-compete clauses before they’re considered for the pulpit. We wouldn’t want to invest in this person, and the success of our church, only to have this charismatic individual leave and start his own franchise down the road – taking key investors (tithers) with him.

These behaviors do not encourage church growth, they inhibit and discourage the planting of churches in a community based on the need for success - and this definition of success has nothing to do with making disciples or serving others or meeting the needs of people within the community. No, in this new business model of church, success is strictly defined as growing larger and increasing the size of the bank account.

Because we have built our American Church on the business model, we are now suffering right along with every other business as our economy slows down and spending is at an all-time low. Churches are laying off ministers, cutting youth budgets, selling their buildings and liquidating their assets. What will we do now? After nearly two thousand years enduring persecution and the lions of the coliseum, even the Gates of Hell itself, will the Church now be overcome by the Gates of Bill? Will we finally be defeated by our own greed and misplaced values? No, I don’t think so.

If anything, I believe that more and more churches in America will discover, the hard way, that they really can be the church they were called to be without a building, or a paid staff of professionals, or a thirty thousand dollar sound system. In fact, many others have already discovered this. Not only have these followers of Jesus discovered their ability to be the church outside of the American business model, they’ve also discovered that they can actually grow the size, and the quality, of their congregations by empowering them to be the church in their community and take responsibility for their own spiritual growth and the well-being of one another in the Body.

Truthfully, the majority of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe are already experiencing exponential growth, new conversions to the faith, and powerful moves of the Holy Spirit completely apart from paid staff, million dollar structures or a business plan. All they have is the New Testament, the indwelling presence of Almighty God and a simple faith in the Son of God that nothing will stand against the power of the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Sounds like a great business plan to me.



Tracey Alan Sheneman said...


An interesting perspective. The article included in the link was good, too.

My two drachmas:

Some congregations are enduring financial stress as a result of the economic downturn, with staff layoffs, program cuts, and building sales becoming a necessary strategy in order to remain viable institutions. Yet others are experiencing steady growth in membership and even budget surpluses. Neither is a sign of God's approval or disfavor; rather, it is a reminder of the economically uncertain times we are living in.

I hope that those of us who have received the spiritual blessings from Christian fellowship, within or without a traditional church environment, will consider sharing a material blessing with those in need. And may God bless you for your generosity and compassion.

Peace in Christ,

D. L. Webster said...

I had been planning to write something along these lines for a little while, and finally got around to it over the weekend. Here's my take.

SteveK said...

I've been attending a "Bill" church for close to thirty years. I have often disagreed with the way we concentrate on finances and numbers. I am also attending a home church that really has no leader, but we are all allowed and encouraged to express our selves and share Christ with each other. Many of my friends are attached to the corporate church and some are pastors. Its difficult to discuss with them my feelings because they feel the church can only do some things when they are large and the staff is able to work "full time". I do not think that was God's intent when he started the church.