March 29/Weekend

Written by Bill Grandi on March 29th, 2019

My title is Church as a business vs Church as a ministry.

Back in the 90s it was all the rage to run the church like a business. Leadership gurus (which shall remain nameless) passed down business leadership principles to pastors and it soon caught on that the church would run more efficiently (Translated: be successful) if they adopted those leadership principles. Now…I’m not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater and do an across-the-board scathing rebuke of that practice because there were some principles to learn. But the pastor is not the CEO and was never intended to be. The leadership is not the Board. The people are not the employees. I tried that approach and it didn’t work.

The promise was “this is the way it works.” So it was not unusual for this whole changeover process to be lumped under the term “Church, Inc.” I failed miserably. God has given me the heart of a shepherd (pastor) not one of a CEO. Putting agenda over people’s feelings was never my forte’. Nor my gift.

Spurgeon once wrote:

There are no measures which can set forth the immeasurable greatness of Jehovah…If we cannot measure we can marvel.” (p.9)

What is “Church, Inc.?” “It is shorthand for ministry devoid of mystery, for the pastor who assumes that the exercise of their calling is a matter of skill more than the gravity of their soul…If ministry is encountering the heat and light of an uncontrollable sun, Church, Inc. is the tanning salon in the local strip mall.” (p.10)

Here is how I see it:

  • The church is not a business; it is a ministry.
  • The pastor is not a CEO; he is a shepherd.
  • The “board of elders” is not a power board; it is a board of servant-hearted men.
  • The people are not constituents or employees; they are souls. (Sheep to borrow Jesus’ term)

“Father, help me to keep in mind who and what I am. My role is as a pastor (shepherd)-in love with and taking care of his sheep. That must be Task #1 (besides loving you).”


The above quotes are from a book I read well over 6 months or so ago. When I finished it I said I wanted to go through it slower at a later date. This is that later date. I feel drawn to it at this time. I have finished 46 Stones by Randall Arthur so I will be supplementing my Quiet Time reading with Immeasurable by Skye Jethani. I will give credit where credit is due.


7 Comments so far ↓

  1. Pam says:

    Bill, we went through the same business emphasis in the UMC. You are spot-on with your insights about that movement. There is no “program” to implement that will “grow a church”. The mission Jesus gave us is to bring individuals to Him so they can find forgiveness and become new creations. Churches should be offering salvation through Christ and opportunities for encouragement in our walk with Him.
    Just sayin’.

    • Bill Grandi says:

      Your just sayin’ is spot on Pam. And you are right about what is supposed to be our emphasis. Thanks for the timely comment.

  2. Ryan S says:

    I am not sure what my take is on the subject to be honest. I see positive and negative aspects on both sides.

    You have outlined some of the negative aspects of the pendulum being swung too far in the direction of the “business” mindset.

    I have, however, seen the pendulum swing too far in the other direction as well resulting in clearly ineffective and wasteful ministry or lack of it.

    I think there are positive elements that can be gleaned out of having some aspects of a business mindset as long as it does not impede on the purpose of the ministry. When the desire of growth in numbers exceeds the desire for growing spiritually, there is a problem.

    However, when the lack of any business sense results in a lack of accountability, waste, lack of direction, and stagnation…

    Bottom line, don’t compromise the truth or what God has asked us to do… Use the tools that have been given and seek God first.

    • Bill Grandi says:

      I’m not wanting to go dark on learning from the business side because as you said there are things to learn. (lack of accountability, lack of direction, waste, etc). My concern is when truth is compromised for the bottom line of both leadership and money

  3. Glynn says:

    The church we attended from 1989 to 2003 did exactly the same. One small example: I was asked to stand for election to the Elder Board “because of your terrific reputation in corporate communications.” I asked the elder who said that if “corporate communications” was one of the qualifications for elder in I Timothy. He sputtered.

    That move to “business management” with its associated “seeker-friendly content” almost destroyed what had once been a growing, thriving church.

  4. floyd says:

    I’m with you, Bill. As Bono once said in a song in the 80’s, “My God’s not short of cash, mister”.