A Church or a Firm?
Hardly would anyone agree that a Church, through its ecclesiastical activities, could become a firm because there wouldn’t be any visible evidence to substantiate such a horrendous claim. Who is the C.E.O? Who are the Investors? Who are the shareholders? Is the Church a brand? What is the market structure like? All these questions amongst others would make one to normally conclude that there can never be a time when a Church would become a firm. But when a Church becomes latently fashioned, both structurally and functionally, in a manner that parallels with a functional firm, though alienated from the path of the true elect it has become a firm. Let us take a cursory look at some of such activities, which dominate many a Church-turned-Firm today.
First is the issue of Return-on-Investment. It is sardonic that there are Churches that practice this aberration, maybe not cautiously. This is evidenced in instances where certain individuals are distinguished from the congregation and given such VIP treatments as Church appointments, seat reservations etc., because of their enormous financial contribution to the organization (Church). In some cases, such individuals take advantage of their ‘Shareholder rights’ by determining who takes certain leadership positions in Church and can, at any time, question the authority of people they regard as their enemies. And when the recommendations of such shareholders seem to be discountenanced, they threaten to leave the Church. And since every firm strives to achieve Shareholder value and profit maximization, the management of such a Church is forced to compromise. These nabobs are the individuals who constitute various Stakeholder groups (G-8, Club 50, Council of Directors, etc.)I’ve heard of being instituted in Churches.
The next issue is that of Recapitalization Strategy. Many Churches today herald meetings, conferences, revivals through handbills, media advertising, stickers etc., which are presumed to be power-packed and intended for the uplift of the members; whereas the actual underlying motive is to glean the attendants of such meetings of whatever financial resources they may possess. They do this through the altar calls of sacrificial seed-sowing, special offerings, pledges-to-the-Most-High, etc. The money thus realized from such meetings boosts the capital base of the Church and its Leaders. And such programs may be organized subsequently depending on when ‘God desires of such a meeting’. The sardonic part of this ecclesiastical anomaly is that: one, the feedback mechanism (testimony sharing), if at all, is usually crafted in such a way that indirectly gives glory to the ‘man of God’ or to the program itself; Two, after such programs, there really isn’t any lasting significant improvement in the lives (especially spiritually) of the majority of the congregation and the leaders are often less concerned about this matter.
Another issue worthy of note is that of Sales Promotion Strategy. Many so-called Evangelists, Outreach crews preach Church (or sometimes Christ) in the hope that their ‘converts’ would become potential members of their Churches. Some Churches even go as far as placing rewards (incentives) for members (Sales Representatives) who are able to bring more members to the Church. Why would such a Church crave for membership or, in business terms, market share? Profitability is the answer. They believe in the 4M Rule: More-Members-More-Money. I don’t think there is anything wrong in inviting a friend to Church but what I find most disturbing is when the motive behind such an act is targeted towards the potential increment in tithes, offerings and sacrificial seeds. And quite a number of Pastors constantly seek to retain their members by persuading them that there really isn’t any good Church out there and that there are many false prophets today; They also try to use various means of ‘spiritual gifts’ like prophecy, healing, etc., to hoodwink such vulnerable folks into their falsehood.
In the book of Matthew 7, Christ warns us of heretics and thieves who clad themselves in apparels of Pastors, Ministers, Evangelists, Apostles, and the like. Matthew7v15-22: "Be on your guard against false prophets; they come to you looking like sheep on the outside, but on the inside they are really like wild wolves. You will know them by what they do. Thorn bushes do not bear grapes, and briers do not bear figs. A healthy tree bears good fruit, but a poor tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a poor tree cannot bear good fruit. And any tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire. So then, you will know the false prophets by what they do. "Not everyone who calls me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do. When the Judgment Day comes, many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord! In your name we spoke God's message, by your name we drove out many demons and performed many miracles!' I don’t know of any ‘man of God’ who has declared himself as a false prophet.
However, Christ teaches that we can discern false prophets by their fruits. That is exactly what the word of God helps us do. It teaches guides and helps us discern falsehood. 1st John 2v27 says “But as for you, Christ has poured out his Spirit on you. As long as his Spirit remains in you, you do not need anyone to teach you. For his Spirit teaches you about everything, and what he teaches is true, not false. Obey the Spirit's teaching, then, and remain in union with Christ.” You will know if you are in a wrong gathering or not by the Spirit’s discerning power-weighing the things you hear and see with the word of God.