- When someone joins the staff of a church, he/she is “joining the ministry team”; we like to avoid calling him/her an “employee” or “hireling”–even though that person has a set salary, a job description, and can be fired for not fulfilling the expectations placed upon him/her.
- When it snows or ices, certain churches refuse to cancel services, saying that “we will be available for people no matter the weather”–when in reality, church meetings equal income, and (for some, not all), this is a subtle way to guilt people to come to church in the snow and ice, because the church needs the offering.
- When someone creates a stir by asking honest questions, the leaders may label that person “divisive” and take steps to marginalize or even disfellowship that person–not because they are actually being divisive or committing a sin, but because of fear that this person’s influence might cause other people (and their wallets) to leave the church. We call it “discipline”, when actually it’s damage control.
- We plan special events and call them “outreaches” intended to win people to Christ (and there might be a sincere motive there); but we measure the success of the event by how many new faces (and wallets) join our church as a result. Organizational growth renamed “evangelism.”
Not every leader does it just this way, and my own “renamings” took a slightly different form (I had no other paid staff, for example). But how did Shakespeare put it? “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Only this doesn’t smell very much like a rose. But maybe you get the point. 🙂 We can call it anything we want, but when it looks, acts, and functions as a business–that’s exactly what it is. It doesn’t change unless we change how we do it, not what we call it.
Can you see a common thread in the examples of re-naming I gave? This leads us to the most painful truth about church being structured as business (and the teaser for part 2). Because what is the bottom line in any business?
More on that soon…