Excerpted from an article by Paul L. Hudson, Jr. 2003
The New Testament uses family metaphors to describe brothers in Christ. God is our Father. Women are sisters. Churches are family, although sometimes they fail to act like one. What do churches sometimes seem like?
Church as a Corporation
Some churches are big businesses. Pastors, instead of being approachable, fatherly figures you go to for advice, seem more like CEOs of a corporation who do not know lower-level employees well, whereas a true shepherd knows if even one out of a hundred sheep is missing and restores it. In their churches, CEO type leaders do not train regular believers to take on higher leadership positions; they leave that to special schools. Members of such churches respect their leader, but they have no relationship with him. Some leaders in large churches, because of the demands on their time, are is unable to care for members as they should, and often use secretaries and lower leaders to keep people away from them.
Church as a Family-Run Business
Some smaller churches are also run like businesses. Members know each other, and the boss may even know them by name. If his wife works at the business, she may have a lot of say in what goes on. If a son works for his father, then the son inherits the business when his father retires. Biblically, church leaders become shepherding elders because of the Holy Spirit’s gifting, and their good testimony, not because they have a diploma from an institution or are family.
Church as Theater
Some churches offer impressive shows. The New Testament requires believers to use their spiritual gifts to edify one another; however, some church meetings are more like watching actors and entertainers.
Church in Competition to Expand
Mega-churches often attract believers away from other churches. In the United States, most mega-churches grow by luring members from other churches, rather than by evangelism. Music is more entertaining, programs are more appealing, and speakers are more entertaining than in other churches.
Members will leave a small church in which they have been active in ministry, to join a big church where they become passive. Now, churches should not compete against one another. In the New Testament, there was one church in a city, made up of a closely-knit cluster of home-based gatherings. When a business mentality takes over a church, it becomes competitive, vying for customers.
Church Grasping for More and More Income
Some churches’ ruling board meetings resemble a corporate stockholders’ session. Discussion centers on how to bring in more money to pay more staff members and support more programs, in order to keep the machine running.
The Answer to Such Abuse
To avoid a church acting like a business, let it simply be a loving family: keep groups small enough for all members to interact, and help all members, including children, to serve by using their spiritual gifts in the spirit of 1 Corinthians chapters 12 and 13.
ABOVE ALL, avoid the Curse of Constantine; this ruthless Roman emperor set the precedent of institutional church government. Be constantly aware that registering with a secular government to own property, get tax exemptions and gain legitimacy with the state means walking perilously near the abyss of excessive institutionalism. Churches fall over the edge when they extend the state’s organizational patterns to other areas of church life and ministry, replacing the apostles’ family pattern.