The other night I was visiting with church leadership and the perennial debate came up. No, not the one about playing Christmas hymns during Advent… the one about whether the church is a business.
Certainly, there is a business like aspect to being the church. There are often employees, budgets, buildings and boards. We could argue that our product is one of service; offering to those in the community an opportunity to worship, much in the same way a theater offers shows.
But Jesus didn’t pray “Our Boss… who art in heaven..” and Paul referred to us as not as work colleagues, but as siblings in Christ. If anything, the church most resembles a family – a dysfunctional, quirky, much-in-need-of-grace family.
That doesn’t mean we should throw our budgets, policies and procedures out the window, any more than a family should forgo keeping the checkbook balanced and the chore-chart on the refrigerator. Even the best of family systems rely on best practices. Some even place their behavioral contract and/or mission statement on signs inside their home. Several families in my last congregation had this sign hanging in their kitchen: “In this house… we are real, we make mistakes, we say I’m sorry, we give second chances, we have fun, we give hugs we forgive, we do REALLY LOUD, we do family, we Love.”
How we understand the nature of the church frames our expectations of the church.
How we understand the nature of the church frames our expectations of the people in the church.
How do you see your church? Is it a family, a fellowship, a business? How does that frame change how you see those next to you in the pew? How does that shape your understanding of those outside the church walls?
As the writer of Ephesians states: So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Let us be so.