Thou Shalt Not Corporatise The Church

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Written by Alan Vink

Categories: Pastors Blog

Comments: 0

Dear Pastors

Thou Shalt Not Corporatise The Church

Personal Note: Those of you who know me well will know that I am not against the so called mega church. In fact I worked for one for 7 years (Willow Creek Association) and from 1998-2004 I was closely associated with a mega church in Soeul, South Korea. I have on the other hand expressed through my writing caution about the corporate model and an over emphasis on business techniques.

Churches like all organisations need to be well managed. In fact as pastors of local churches and ministry leaders of Christian Organisations we have in many ways a greater responsibility than our commercial counterparts to ensure that we make every dollar count because every dollar is a donated dollar that has been entrusted to us as a sacrificial gift. Managing our churches is our stewardship responsibility before God. In fact good management is synomous with the good stewardship of all our resources.

Peter Drucker went further when writing about not-for-profit organisations and said that as leaders in this sector we need to be even better than for profit companies in managing our organisations. That being true then the twin ideas of Effectiveness (doing the right thing) and Efficiency (doing things right) are at the core of what we should be doing when leading our churches.

So good management yes - a business no. A church is not a business. It is a church.........a gathering of God's people, a community of faith, an expression of Kingdom Life. It is not an organisation per se even though it will need some organisational support and infrastructure some of which of course is required by law.

With the advent of the larger church not to say anything about the mega church we have witnessed before our very own eyes a creep towards the corporatisation of the local church over the last 30 years or so. And to be honest it hasn't been good. Now even many smaller and mid size churches are tempted to emulate this way of doing church.

Howard Snyder issued us a warning about this way back in 1976 in his outstanding book,' The problem of Wineskins - Church Structure in a Technological Age'. (I highly recommend this book). He recognised the need for structure and organisation but he urged that it always be secondary and never the main play, never the primary thing people encounter when they interact with your church. Never!

Forty years on words and ideas like goals, strategy, performance measures, KPI's, outcomes, the pursuit of excellence, brand, etc are now common place. Then add in...... CEO, Executive team, large offices, big cars, business class travel (sometimes even first class and on rare occasions private jet), 'company' perks, expensive motels, flash restaurants and on and on and you end up with a completely different picture of a local church then the one espoused in the New Testament. Not only that you end up with a completely different kind of leadership behaviour and conduct then the one Jesus modelled.

This is what happens when we adopt business ideas holus bolus into the church without first critiquing those ideas. Again the ideas may be well and good in Corporate life but they must be thoroughly sanctified and very carefully applied (if at all) in the life of the local church.

The primary motif in the New Testament for a church is a body and a family. That surely conjures up quite different images and ideas. There is no doubt in my mind that mega churches can adopt 'body' and 'family' dynamics as their primary modus operandi. I accept it is much more challenging but if Saddleback Church in California can do it and Holy Trinity in London can do it, just to mention two of many, then clearly it can be done.


Alan Vink is currently the Executive Director for LeadershipWorx. Prior to this role he has been the Executive Director of Willow Creek Association NZ (WillowNZ), a Baptist pastor (23 years), Bible College teacher, and church consultant.

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