The following is an excerpt from Jack Wilkie’s upcoming book “Church Reset: God’s Design for So Much More.” For quotes, thoughts, and updates on the book’s release, like Church Reset on Facebook.
We’re well familiar with the problem of church meaning either the building or the event, seen in phrases like “I have to stop by the church” or “I can’t go tomorrow, I have church.”
But there’s a third sense in which church is often used, one which receives far less scrutiny. In most cases today, churches exist organizationally – like a business. “The church is having a Gospel meeting next week.” “The church has a food pantry for the homeless.” We speak about churches much the same way we speak about gyms, libraries, or even restaurants.
Since it’s a business, the people involved fall into one of two categories. Some folks are on the provider side of the counter, deciding what the church will look like. The pressure is placed on elders and ministers to put on the kind of worship, sermons, programs, and activities that will make people want to choose “our church” and get more and more involved once they join “us.”
There’s a multimillion dollar industry built around helping churches know how to get this just right – what to put on the sign, how to use your building to your advantage, how long the sermon should be, how many songs to include and what type of songs they should be, what to train your greeters to say, what programs will bring people in, etc.
The rest are on the other side of the counter, the customer side, choosing which church they attend based on various criteria and choosing the level of involvement they’re comfortable with. They are all individuals who have their own walk with God, looking for the place that will help them (and possibly their family) strengthen that walk with God so they can go to heaven.
The leadership’s hope is that we develop enough of a brand loyalty among people that they will stay and get involved. Some of them may even stay around long enough and get involved enough to migrate to the “provider” side of the counter.
There’s a sense of “we are here to help you.” But who is the we? And who is the you? Don’t the you have a responsibility to the we? And is it biblical to have that split?
Such a distinction is not biblical in any sense whatsoever. Though we generally use “church” to mean either the building, the event, or the organization, the Bible never uses the word in any of these senses. The church is a family, a temple made up of living stones, a body held together by what every joint supplies. Businesslike churches are based on precisely the opposite idea.