Friday, 16 May 2014

Church as Business

In The Power of Intimacy I shared a little of our group's experience when we were led to make the pursuit of relationship with God and each other our greatest priority. We discovered how compelling a reality it is to live free from the need to pretend or perform, and how liberating it is to be real with each other.

Sadly, the things we were learning and encountering in that context stood in increasingly stark contrast to the direction the elders meetings were taking. In April, 2012 this is what I wrote to my fellow elders:
In recent times, there have been some things happening which I believe are warning signs to us that we are not journeying together well, or indeed the way God has called us to. We talk about operating through relationship, but we seem to have devolved to a corporate business model. We meet once a fortnight to "do business" and then spend the time in between having very little to do with each other, except for the email traffic doing more "business". The exception to this is that [M] and I meet every Wednesday night to hang out, share ourselves, pray and have intimate relationship with each other. This makes a world of difference and I believe that God is revealing to us that this is the much more substantial and significant "business" to be engaged in...
As you know, a few weeks ago we found ourselves in a sharp disagreement which ended with us misunderstanding and judging each other. I believe that was a direct result of the lack of relational intimacy between us and that unless we change the way we do business, we run the danger of tearing ourselves apart and destroying the amazing work that God has established in and through us. We talked about establishing some guidelines or principles for future reference, but no amount of making rules will compensate for a lack of intimate relationship - knowing and being known. I believe we desperately need to spend (regular and frequent) time with each other and the Father, sharing our hopes, struggles, dreams and victories. Meeting without agenda. Love covers a multitude of sins, and intimacy generates both understanding and grace in relationship.
My attempts to engage were met with outright refusal. I was politely thanked for my "thoughts on the operation of the elders" and then dismissed. But I can't help but be struck by how prophetic my words actually were!

Since that time, I have spent a great deal of time reading, studying and pondering. And I have come to the realisation that the way we 'do church' is broken. It actually sets us up to hurt each other.

When you run church like a business, you have to protect your 'product' at all costs. So you impose hierarchy, you demand conformity, you exercise control.

And the advertising executives sell the product using soft-focus images of healing, unconditional love, safety, acceptance, community… but the business repeatedly fails to deliver.

People end up damaged and disillusioned and they want their money back. But there are no refunds available.

As one particular CEO er… pastor said, "You either get on the bus, or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options."

Do you really think this is what Jesus had in mind when he said he would build his church!?

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