Church may not seem like a business in the classic sense of the word. But we do offer something everyone needs.
I was at a church conference once, way back in the day, when clergy were practicing how to respond to the media during a crisis. One person role-played being a journalist, calling a priest and asking him to respond to a certain crisis within the denomination. The priest hesitated, sighed, and finally said, ‘well, we are in the resurrection business, after all.’
I will never forget the way that resonated with me (though I’ve long forgotten the conference and the person who said it).
We’re in the resurrection business. It’s the first time I really thought about church in terms of providing a service to the community. It’s the first time I really thought about the church as a business.
That may seem strange, but the definition of a business is ‘an organization or enterprising entity engaged in commercial, industrial, or professional activities’. Serving the church, then, can be understood as professionally following Jesus. We’re not ‘selling God’. We’re creating pathways to hope.
The Resurrection Business began the moment we discovered the empty tomb.
Since then, it’s been our job – sometimes literally – to proclaim what we know about what that means. The Resurrection Business is responsible for uncountable billions of acts of love, forgiveness, and charity. It has cared for the poor, comforted the sick and suffering, reached across cultural divides of all kinds, made the world a better place for all.
The Resurrection Business is at least partially responsible for the development of education, art, music, science, medicine. It is the business of inspiration, of discovery, of believing in miracles. It is the business of love.
So how can being in the Resurrection Business make us look at church in new ways?
First of all, I think we have to stop being afraid of dying as an institution. Death is part of the process. If we are people of faith (and I think we are), then we have to live into the reality that every study shows: the institutional church is declining to the point of no return.
We can’t let our feelings of grief and fear keep us from accepting the truth of this. Well, we can (and in some cases, we are), but we’re invited into remembering that the very moment that Christianity began was when the disciples first went home to mourn the way they thought things were going to go with Jesus as the Messiah. Except for a few brave and caring women…
What if it really is the Resurrection Business?
Recently, I discovered Pray.com. It’s a daily app for prayer, and includes instruction, podcasts, classes, and series. I think it’s amazing! Bringing faith practices right where people are (sort of like Bring Church to People, on a much larger scale…). They even have programs for businesses: ‘build a stronger organization from the inside out,’ their website invites.
This may seem strange – bring faith into the marketplace. It may not feel religious. And of course there are dangers, things to think about.
It’s also true that in Jesus’ day, the established religious authorities did not expect – and were not prepared – for God to show up through ‘unofficial channels’. I think with a history like ours, we might consider that something like this might happen again. The way we organize ourselves and share the faith with one another may change radically. It’s possible we’ll still find God here.
Our job is hope.
A business model is ‘a plan for making a profit’.
Money and ministry are complicated partners. The truth is, without being able to sustain ourselves, the church will go out of business. This is already happening.
Another truth is, the profit we aim for isn’t financial. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a plan for success.
The ‘product’ we offer is hope. Everyone needs it, and it certainly seems in short supply today. Following Jesus means believing that nothing separates us from the love of God, not even death, and this belief is extremely valuable. It changes lives.
Being in the Resurrection Business means our plan is to distribute hope. We start with ourselves, and we share with all who need it. It may mean radical change. It may put us in awkward places. But certainly, we’ve been there before.