Should the Church Take Lessons from Corporate America?

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The title subject is one that I’ve pondered for many years, but never really studied beyond the surface. But a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of listening to Brien’s Place, a daily radio show hosted by musician Brien Andrews. (Major plug for my buddy who is doing great things in an excellent way. He definitely gets my personal stamp of excellence! And as a bonus, music lovers will LOVE the show’s background music and BGVs!).

From Pastor to CEO

On the show, Brien mentioned how the use of corporate titles such as CEO, CFO, COO, CAO, and CMO is becoming increasingly common in today’s churches; and that, overall we are adapting more of Corporate America’s policies.

In the many leadership workshops I’ve taught over the years, I’ve said that church leaders could learn a lot from Corporate America. Certainly, we can learn more about structure and order, communication, punctuality, networking, excellence, productivity, efficiency, attention to detail, teamwork, responsibility, conflict resolution, marketing, budgeting and the value of having a good reputation. I’ve even heard some suggest that the church needs to learn the principles of good customer service, considering its members as “customers.” At my own church last summer, I taught a session on branding, and frequently teach leaders at other churches on many of the subjects I mentioned above.

But when I heard Brien say that we are “adapting more [of] Corporate America’s policies,” I felt the unspoken implications resonate in my spirit, and I felt the wheels of my mind begin to turn.  So about a week ago, I asked a few friends what they thought about this subject, and while many of them raised really good points, two in particular addressed the points I had considered myself. Thanks to Vanessa Miller, Bennett Yancey, Philip Brown, Robert Jones, and William Spruill for your input.

Corporate America Needs to Take Lessons from the Bible

In her book, Jesus, CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership, Laurie Beth Jones uses the ministry of Jesus Christ as the model for a perfect CEO as she shares leadership techniques and lessons inspired by Him. One of the things I learned from reading Jesus, CEO is that we really can get all the tools and lessons we need to be good leaders from the Word of God.

The Bible is full of strong examples of leaders, Jesus being the best example, and each one’s story provides lessons for leaders, lists of what to do, what not to do, and demonstrates the characteristics of excellent leaders. We can learn about excellence and having a good name from Daniel; the importance of detailed planning, networking, and resource planning from Nehemiah; building under duress and overcoming obstacles from Ezra; conflict resolution from Paul; attention to detail from Noah (or Solomon); succession planning from Jesus; budgeting from Solomon, and so much more from those powerful Biblical leaders, and the many others I didn’t name. I would go as far as to say that there is NOTHING a Christian leader needs to learn that s/he cannot learn from studying Biblical principles and Biblical leaders. I cannot think of any concepts, principles or values in Corporate America that are not covered to some degree in the Bible.

So if we desire to pattern ourselves after the strongest Biblical leaders, in an effort to be more like Christ, what reason do we have to seek out secular sources to achieve success as ministry leaders?

Conflicting Goals

Another HUGE reason I can’t support churches taking lessons from Corporate America is that we have some insurmountable differences in our values, missions, goals, and overall purpose. As one friend put it, “Many principles that dominate Corporate America conflict with Christian values.” Another friend pointed out, “the corporate world is cut-throat,” and I have to agree with her.

The overall corporate focus is on producing revenue. Furthermore, the “moral decay facing companies today,” including its self-serving values, make it a fairly dangerous model for churches to follow.

The Church’s overall mission is to declare the gospel of Jesus Christ to all mankind, compel those who are lost, edify its members, and minister the love of Christ to all so that God is glorified. When fulfilled, our mission and purpose, as a friend said, will profit the entire body of Christ. On the other hand, in Corporate America, only the corporation itself benefits.

Taking lessons from an entity with such a conflicting mission puts the Church in a position to receive lessons possibly contaminated by greed, self-centeredness, malice, lies, ruthlessness and immorality. I can easily see us slowly trending into an institution that has unknowingly disregarded its purpose for the pursuit of worldly success and material things.

As Brien said in his radio show, the church simply “can’t forget what your real purpose and your real mission is, and that’s about souls. It’s about people. ‘People’ is the church’s ‘product.'”

So… what’s my final answer? No, churches should not take lessons from Corporate America. Churches should position ourselves to be the organism Christ built us to be so that Corporate America can take lessons from us. We are made to be the head, not the tail; the leaders, not the followers.

So what do you think? Should the church take lessons from Corporate America? Okay, I can’t read your mind, silly! Use the comment box below to tell me what you think. 🙂

He’s an On-Time God… Yes, He is!

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I love Miss Dottie, but this one isn’t about her…
Raise your hand if you’ve ever busted your behind to get to church, praise team rehearsal, a ministry meeting, or something else… fussing at the kids because they’re moving too slowly, mumbling under your breath because the person you’re picking up wasn’t outside at 10:17 like you asked her to be and then had the nerve to ask you if you could stop at the store so she could get some pantyhose… but through it all, you still managed to screech into a parking space and make it to your seat by 10:45… only to sit there and wait 36 minutes for somebody to take the mic and begin the service.

I don’t know what it is about small churches (or their pastors) that make them think it’s okay to start stuff late. That is so uncool… and it just doesn’t seem to reflect the characteristics of God. No, there’s no hidden commandment that says “Thou shalt start all thine services at the appointed hour and thou shalt end at the appointed hour.” There may not be a scripture, but c’mon seriously… can you picture God saying “make me a sanctuary and I will dwell among you. I’ll meet you there at 11:00a for prayer” and then He strolls in at 11:15? That’s just not God-like. God keeps His word. In fact, He watches over it to make sure it happens the way He said it would. Lateness is not only NOT God-like, it tends to reflect a nonchalant, lackadaisical attitude toward worship and the things of God. The Bible admonishes us to do all things decently and in order, and to excel in everything we do. Starting late (or BEING late) is not “excelling” — it’s doing less than average. It’s failing.

Below average… failure
Beyond the spiritual and moral implications of lateness, it also shows a lack of regard for other people’s time – which is a major no-no in my book. I once sang with a praise team that would only start rehearsal once everyone had arrived — and of course, someone was always late. So I would just have to sit there for half an hour (or more) waiting… I would feel so disrespected. So disregarded. It was as though the leaders and other praise team members felt like my time wasn’t worth much so it was okay for me to sit there and waste it.

And what about the first-time guest who was told your service starts at 11:30, so she arrives at 11:25… and just sits there in the sanctuary… just her and the sound guy… for 20 minutes… sitting uncomfortably, smiling awkwardly, trying not to appear bored, adjusting her pearls, watching the door, checking the big clock hanging in the back… her mind on everything BUT worship, at this point.

A good name is better…
You’ve been there. A friend invites you to a service at a church you’ve never visited before. You ask “do you all start on time?” They say, “well… I wouldn’t rush, you can get there at about 8:15 or so.” The pastor may not know it, but he’s building an image, and everything his church does – good or bad – is a pixel in that image. In their reputation. Their name. Their name.

Tardiness is such a vicious cycle. You can’t start without the people, so you wait for them. They come late, so you start late. If you ask them, they will tell you they come late because you start late. You say: if you come on time, we’ll start on time. They say: if you start on time, we’ll come on time.

You can’t start a service without the people there, can you?
I know some of you are wondering, “how can I fix this? We’ve been starting late for 8 years, you can’t start a service without the people there, can you?

I’m so glad you asked that question; I knew you would. Yes, you can indeed start a service (or a rehearsal, prayer, meeting, class, whatever) without the people there. You want to know how you can fix this? It’s simple: start. on. time. Accept no excuses from yourself or your leaders. Be a person of integrity and one who keeps his word… just like God. Protect your name and image. If you say that service starts at 11:00 and there’s no musician there and not nary member in the pew, YOU start service. YOU open in prayer. YOU sing a song. YOU read announcements… after a while, they will come on time because they will see that you’re starting on time. YOU must set the example, oh fearless leader, and they will follow.

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