I Ran a Successful Business, Why Can’t I Run a Successful Church? (6 Reasons)

calculator 1240 x 697It’s much easier to start or run a successful business than to plant or pastor a successful church.

If you pastor a church and it’s not collapsing in a heap beneath you, you’re doing a better job at a harder task than most of the successful business owners and managers that people want us to emulate.

So, why is pastoring harder than running a business? Here are 6 reasons:

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10 thoughts on “I Ran a Successful Business, Why Can’t I Run a Successful Church? (6 Reasons)”

  1. 1. The church is a family, not a business -The church is supposed to be just a family, but it’s not when someone is hired. Now it’s a business that must take in a certain amount of money to pay those hired. Marketing is often required to do that. Most believers assume that if one man can’t be hired, the church is over.
    2. Working with volunteers is very different… – That is true when one or more leaders are hired and the rest are volunteers. Leaders are designed by God to be example setters, but they can’t when they are in a separate category of believer with a title, functional dominance, and a spiritual dichotomy of shepherd vs sheep. This creates a serious breakdown in God’s design. We use the Bible to justify it, but it’s twisted.
    3. Churches are much more complex… – A church and a business are only as complex as their size. There are strategic and Biblical reasons for organizing for small – fulfilling all the “one another” instructions.
    4. Pastoring requires a call… – I can’t seem to find the calling for the pastor only going to a few. All believers are called to grow into the “full stature of Christ”. Jesus was a shepherd so that means all can grow to do shepherding. 1Tim 5 says “anyone who aspires to the work of oversight…” Anyone”! “Aspires”! There is a gift of pastoring, but gifting is never a restriction for any function to only be done by those so gifted. Maybe you could help me find the verses on a few being “called to pastor”.
    5. We make it harder… – That is very true. God made it so simple aborigines with loin cloths can shepherd. It’s been made hard for 1500 years. Recognizing how tradition has complicated everything and “throwing off” those things can change everything to be simple. Only then can we devote full attention to things that matter for eternity.
    6. We’re not running the church – We are running it when we complicate it by trying to get enough people in one room to pay someone so it’s now a business in it’s function. None of the “one another” instructions asked for by the head of the church will be practiced when the saints face a platform.
    I hope I’m not perceived as being mean when I say these things.

    1. I don’t see your response as being mean at all. In many ways I mirror your sentiments. I will say however, that “doing” and “being” Church necessarily have to take cultural influences into account. That is not to say that we take our core beliefs and change them to the sway of what is “popular”. I mean, as Karl says fall in love with “the Bible, People and Jesus, all else is up for grabs”, we do have to be aware of what works in reaching people where we live. I agree that the one-anothers of the bible (BTW, you might like this: http://overviewbible.com/one-another-infographic/) should be our focus, and that it is simple enough for “aborigines in loin cloths” to be all about, BUT being an aborigine wearing a loin cloth in my community won’t work, it will get you thrown in the loony bin! We have mixed things up somewhat, or ALOT with our business like focus, but not everything that we do from an organized standpoint is wrong or bad.

      Lemme give you a great example: I lead a small Church in a town of 5000 people. On Sundays we have probably around 55 people. In the previous 5 years that number has been about 35. Since I moved here last July, and after having spent the first 3 months just kind of interpreting what goes on around here, I noticed that a lot of people congregate at this place called Rustic Brew. It is a coffee house, and small diner where a lot of people take their lunch breaks, students use the free wifi to study etc… It is our towns primary secular “3rd place”. I started to form a relationship with the owner, and after a few months posed the idea of running a “Financial Peace University” study, open to the community, in her establishment. She loved the idea and after a few meetings with her we had a plan and moved on it. We spent all of September 2015 advertising it with fliers on the tables, small articles in the local trader paper etc…. When we started the class on the last Wed in Sept we had 35 people who had registered!!! NONE of them were Christians with the exception of the owner of Rustic Brew, and a single mom who worked full time with her.

      For me, that ministry is a prime example of a modern translation of a “one-another” ministry, because in that ministry opportunity we met several non-Christians who were crushed under the weight of a debt they could not deal with, we came along-side them and offered a plan and the help to get out of that debt, and in the middle of all that…20 of those 35 people came to Christ and started both attending our Church AND they continue to meet together in 3 small groups!!!

      NOW…
      none of this would not have happened if I were not paid as a full-time pastor, had the time to spend in our community building relationships with people, had the budget at our Church to help defer some of the cost, were not applying leadership principles that I had had learned from reading John Maxwell books and other books by prominent business and leadership “gurus” etc…

      Point is, it may not be perfect and we may be getting some things wrong, but we are still making an impact and we are learning as we go.

  2. Thanks Gary. That is a nice info graphic on “one another”. Your outreach vision and implementation is exemplary. Praise God for the fruit. However to say “none of this would have happened” – the fruit – the specific ones – if you were working in the marketplace only demonstrates you are only able to grasp fruit happening the way you have been taught, have seen, and can pragmatically grasp. God is not limited to your scope of experience. His grace gives fruit in spite of our systematizing practices that reject what He has specifically asked for. God’s call for leaders is not to be the point man, the primary visionary and initiator of ministry in a fashion not functional for 99% of his people who work in the marketplace. But that is the way we have systematized church life and practiced it for 1500 years and John Maxwell pushes. The Bible tells a different story when we read it without the clergy driven filters in our ecclesiology. 99.9% of Bible experts will miss it completely and teach the opposite because their theology MUST include their pay check. You may not believe me, but there is clear revelation from Paul that passionately teaches massive strategic benefits to ministry “free of charge” – the combining of marketplace work and spiritual leadership. There are no books written on this, so I don’t expect you to grasp it. Two texts are twisted to push hired leadership. These two are used to nullify six or more to zero out the impact of Paul’s teaching and example for leaders today. I have been amazed as I have studied these texts to see the corrupted exegesis involved by experts. At some points even the translation work is tweaked to appease long standing assumptions about leadership power in church life. I’m almost done with my book. It will be free.

  3. Tim, I think we will just have to agree to disagree. But let me say this, I think you are missing the point of what I am trying to say. I’m not saying that I am trying to run the Church like someone would run a business, so I think your statement “His grace gives fruit in spit of our systematizing practices that reject what He has specifically asked for” doesn’t approach or apply to what I, and people like me are trying to do. The “practice” that I am using is simply that of building relationships. Are some of those relationships strategic? Yes. Have I been influenced in my reading of people such as John Maxwell in seeking out certain types of people to build relationships with? Yes. But I am doing it all in the name of finding ways to saturate my community with the goodness of God and helping people find “the life that is truly life” as Paul calls it. I don’t see how I am violating the gospel, and when I say “none of this would have happened”, what I am referring to is being faithful with the message God has given me in the context of those strategic relationships that I have been building that are helping us to saturate the community with the gospel. I think where I failed in my first response to you, was that I did not state my personal posture in all this. I see this simply as service to God, I am working very hard to get my own ideas out of the way, and to serve people and to serve God. A very very good book that I read a year or so ago, that has done more to framed my response to the responsibility of “leadership” is the book UN-Leader by Lance Ford. I highly recommend it.

  4. I didn’t say you are “violating the gospel”. I said you are not following Paul’s apostolic example and pattern of spiritual leadership. He always combined planting churches, making disciples, training leaders with working to meet his own needs. Acts 20; 1 Cor. 4; 1 Cor 9; 2 Thes. 3; 2 Cor 11; 2 Cor 12, and others. Now everything he did was an example for other business men to follow. If he led with ministries only a man could do who did not work for a living, then nothing he did could be followed by 99% of God’s people. That is unstrategic leadership. You cannot “saturate” your community by yourself. God has placed a body of believers with a great diversity of gifts in that community to saturate it. Your example as a leader must be something they can follow. They will not consider it something they can follow if you never work in the marketplace like they do. They think they are paying you to do it all. They think only a Bible expert can do it. That is not reproductive leadership. That is managing dependents in perpetual dependency. I understand completely why you do what you do. Every church with a special building with a pulpit and pews does it this way. That is all you have seen and heard. The NT teaches a different way, different in every way. Just look at Hebrews 10:24,25 for the “habit of meeting” believers are “not to forsake”. This teaches the opposite of the pulpit routine. This is the culmination of the 3 steps of “the new and living way” Jesus opened up for EVERY believer to engage in. It will increase “love and good works” which is what you need to “saturate” your community with Christ.

    1. We will just have to agree to disagree on this. I understand what you are saying about Paul, I never disputed that. I just contend that just because that is how Paul did it, that it doesn’t necessarily follow that that is the ONLY way it can and should be done. I would argue that there is substance to what Paul said that goes beyond “working to meet his own needs”. I think the substance of what Paul is saying is that he was involved in the “marketplace” in a way that allowed him to be in a position to influence people, just like he was calling others to do. I disagree that they will not consider following a leader who does not work in the marketplace like they do, a simple cursory view of history proves you wrong. People have been influenced to live great lives of influence by pastors who got “paid” to be pastors of their Churches. I think the the spirit of what Paul is saying is simply “don’t live in your Church office”. I never said that I can saturate the community by myself, but what I did say is that I have made myself available “out there” where those who I have been entrusted to pastor live and work. IN that role I have formed relationships with business and civic leaders, I have formed relationships with the people who attend my Church in THEIR sphere of influence (visit their work, meet their friends, help them do projects for others etc…) IN doing that I am in the “marketplace” as they are, and I am helping to empower them to use their gifts by offering my gifts alongside theirs. I think you have a very narrow view on how the Church, and how a pastor can function. You believe in a box, I believe that boxes are imaginary.

  5. Thank you for the interaction so far. “Agree to disagree” is an unfortunate truth and relationship avoidance maneuver. It short circuits the depth of both. You did not respond specifically to even one text I gave. If you did read them, your nuanced conclusions lack a grasp of God’s breathing through Paul to you. If you view Paul’s “example” and “pattern” as an imaginary box, that is very unfortunate. It used to be that way for me. It took me over 20 years to untangle the web of entrapment. If it brings comfort, every professionalized Bible expert agrees with you. God can use anyone in the normalized system of church. He is full of grace. He is looking for obedience. We can only obey to the extent we are willing to hear him speak through the Word and his people. I asked God to build his church through you and his people in your town.

    1. In the future, if you want to have a substantive conversation with anyone, never ever ever say something like “your nuanced conclusions lack a grasp of God’s breathing through Paul to you” because what you are in essence saying is “I am listening to God and you are not”. It is a very arrogant way to partake in conversation with another brother in the Lord who has applied himself to the Scriptures, who has prayed deeply, and who feels that the Lord has led him to the conclusions and actions that he has undertaken. And to say that I did not address the passages you laid out, is just not accurate. I read them, I addressed them, and I came to different conclusions than you did. Just because you don’t agree with my conclusions is no reason for saying that I didn’t address them. Have a great day.

      1. Thank you for your transparency to me regarding my transparency with you. It is common for believers to never get to this level on challenging issues. “I am listening to God and you are not” is a fundamental reality for any of us regardless of how much one has studied, prayed, and “feel that the Lord has led him…”. It is not “arrogant” to call a brother to task on Biblical error. Paul modeled this in his relationship to Peter. I know you don’t claim to speak “ex cathedra” so that means you know you might need correction from time to time. Otherwise you are expecting me to treat you like a pope and accept your word as gospel. Thanks to your blessing I had a great day where God brought me through some uncomfortable emotions with the saints in some very transparent conversations. My faith failed at first but God provided strengthening from a brother who objected to me earlier.

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