church journey

money, power, and fear of man

Recently, I was awake late in the night thinking over the topic about how paying for spiritual services (ie, church business) corrupts the beauty of God’s church and reminds me why it’s so important that better models be thoroughly explored and widely adopted.

My wife and I have come to see leaving the church business way of spiritual life as a kind of “detox.” So one of my detox thoughts was that paying money to church leadership gives them a power that is not of God and leads to the “lording it over” evil and the resulting man-pleasing machinery that exists among those aspiring to be church leaders, which of course is directly opposing the call of believers to be God pleasers only.

Here’s a summary thought:

“Paying someone for ongoing spiritual leadership in your life must result in fear of that person and the desire to please them, which puts this activity in direct opposition of the gospel of Christ.”

Here’s a simple pragmatic view of business in support of this statement:

  1. when you pay someone for products or services, now you have “business” – especially if there’s a commitment of ongoing payments for ongoing products & services.
  2. for business to be sustaining it must survive and thrive – or customers will go somewhere else and the business will die. A complementing force is the natural drive God put in man to be successful in the work we do on earth and work/aspire to improve our situations (several scriptures – eg, Eccl 5, and Paul says “if a slave can better his condition, he should do so…” 1 Cor 7:21).
  3. those who hold the key to a business thriving – by gifting & influence, or strategic position, or both – have the power to direct the actions of the business and staff. This is all as it should be and no one would question it for normal business.
  4. the power these leaders have naturally produces various flavors of “fear” and “man-pleasing” machinery among those dependent on the success of the business. These “dependents” are those who rely on the business for their own livelihood (“staff”), but also those relying on the goods & services, depending on how much they value them. If the business is a monopoly, the dependence of the latter is absolute.

Again, this is all fine in the context of normal business, but the whole activity gets twisted and becomes a nightmare of sin in the context of the church.

  • the services we’re paying for is spiritual leadership in our lives (a wrong idea since Jesus is the only Head and we now operate like a body with different members, but for the moment, picture the level of dependency we feel here), the spiritual/social environment we need as spiritual & human beings, and much of the relational context in which we fulfill God’s commands (loving & serving one another).
  • whether or not we’re “staff” at a church business, our dependence is high, especially if we’re serious about our spiritual life. If we do happen to be “staff” and dependent on the money for our livelihood, tack on financial/career dependence as well.
  • this means the key people for the church’s success now hold huge amounts of power in the lives of both staff and church “customers.” This is where it really gets twisted. The power and resulting fear and man-pleasing energy is much greater than what you’d typically find at a normal business because the dependencies are so vast – not just financially/career-identify wise, but spiritually and socially as well – nearly every aspect of life.

I have an entirely new understanding of why we have so many flavors or denominations of church businesses when I think of how important innovation is for business to thrive. When church is a business, then it avails itself to all the creative, innovative energy we find in business where new ones are constantly formed by human, entrepreneurial energy.

It’s tough to imagine how anyone really serious about following Christ would not see the serious problems in the church business concept of church life, especially once you’ve been presented with other, viable alternatives. While so many are in church business with good motives (it was mostly true for me), there is serious sin happening here, and something like scales are falling – and need to fall – from our collective eyes.

By Page

Aspiring to follow Jesus, married, dad to two young girls, work in IT industry, living in the Pacific Northwest. I enjoy playing acoustic guitar, home projects, building stuff, even yard work.

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