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Monday, July 4, 2011

is Capitalism killing the Church?

I preface this blog with the following comments. One, I do not consider this a criticism of the Church but a challenge to the Church that I myself have been challenged with. Second, I love the Body (Church), am a part of the Body & want to see it grow into maturity, unity and watch God
build something upon Christ that the "gates of Hell will not even be able to overcome it." Third, I am not an expert on anything. i am just trying to be a learner & these are my honest observations.

In America we've definitely created a "celebrity" Christianity within the sub-culture (which we shouldn't even have) of the Church. We've allowed the economy of America to become the economy of the Kingdom and call it "ok" because we're Americans. The problem with this is that the church was never intended to be ran like a business and the gifts of the Church were never intended to be exploited and make money off of. The paradox of the Kingdom economy in which we give all away freely & watch our King do miraculous things with that sacrifice has long been lost in our country and one of the major reasons I believe the Church is exploding globally but not here locally in the US.

I have put on many events, concerts, & conferences over the years and have been asked to speak at even more. Over the past two years God has really been convicting and changing me about these events and what we've turned them into. For instance, we have agents now doing all the booking for all the "personalities." We've allowed money to determine where and when we go instead of the Holy Spirit! I know what bands & speakers charge for an event and I know this keeps them from going to speak in Bronte, TX to a youth group of 20 or a church of 100. It's not that I believe "being rich" is the driving force but money definitely is. Maybe it's the security of money or the life we think money should provide for us.

Can you imagine Paul telling the church in Ephesus, "I'm sorry but this is my ministry and my lively hood, I just can't afford to come speak to you about the Kingdom and the Church." Yet so many "ministers & pastors" say that everyday. WHY is it I always hear, "there's a business side to the ministry too?" Really? Where'd we come up with that? To justify us making a ton of money off of a gift God has given us?

You say, "well I gotta feed my family." True, but the very premise of that statement implies you are trusting yourself to provide for your family rather than God. Has He not called you & gifted you? Why do you feel the need to use that to provide instead of just letting Him use you AND provide.

In Ephesians 4 Paul tells us God has given us all gifts according to the grace of Jesus & that they were given to us for one reason: to edify and build up the Church. Not for personal gain. Not for making money & definitely Not for making a living.

This is where capitalism has steered us wrong. It teaches us to find something that sells, package it and beat as many competitors (other churches) as we can. Kingdom economy tells us to Be who Jesus told us to be & follow the Holy Spirit whether we make any money or not COMPLETELY trusting Him to provide and grow our Church.

Furthermore, there are the events themselves. We say,"well we have to charge to cover the expense of the event." Why? Let's go without the $15000.00 light show and $10000.00 sound system. Let's not have the bands make $25,000.00 & a speaker $10,000.00. The irony of a "hipster" speaker yelling at me to be missional from a stage that screams attractional & an event that charged me money to learn from this guy is driving me insane. Or the worship band telling me at a concert that "they're not here to entertain me, but to lead me in worship of Jesus" then ironically charges me $28-$35 to lead me in that worship.

If we really care about the movement of the Church then where are all the people in the Body offering their gifts to the Body to help it grow into that? Why not speak for free? Why not offer your books for free? Why not play for free? The rest of the world is. I just pray the WEST doesn't try & CAPITALIZE on the movement across the globe and kill it by turning those pastors and apostolic leaders into celebrities here. We should just shut-up, go & learn and be willing to change our whole paradigm here.

Do I really need to pay over $200 to somebody to help me find Passion? Why? If we're really passionate about a movement through young adults & college students shouldn't this be offering our gifts to the Body instead of charging for them?

Furthermore, we throw events lately designed to teach about the Kingdom and that living for the Kingdom is what we need, yet all the speakers & bands are from this celebrity culture or from mega churches. What we're really teaching is the same paradigm but in a different package: Bigger is better and you're an expert if you have a large church. Furthermore, they'll even lead on church planting yet never planted their church OR were CELEBRITIES before they plant their church and had 1000 people show up the first week of their existence. Is this really church planting & should I be learning how to plant a church in Urban Chicago from them while paying money just to learn how to reach more Christians?

One of my mentors/friend/fellow Church planters should be one of the one's speaking but he won't get asked because his church only has around 100 people. Apparently he's not an expert because 100 people isn't success (well at least in Capitalism it's not) However, in their first 3 years they've already helped start or support over 5 other church plants. That's the KINGDOM yet no one is lining him up. WHy? BEcause of capitalism. We know PEOPLE WILL NOT PAY & ATTEND OUR EVENT IF WE DON'T HAVE THAT ATTRACTION NAME. What a messed up system and no wonder the Church is in crisis in the United States.

A few mega church pastors I have spoken too have confessed to me that the majority of their growth are from Christians & not from the lost. This doesn't surprise me.

We'll bring in Josh Hamilton to speak at our churches & then we advertise on Christian radio. Really? Who are we trying to reach? Why not advertise on ESPN radio and try to reach the lost people that might be interested instead of building your church by killing neighborhood churches. We need neighborhood churches impacting their communities and reaching the lost, not mega-churches offering something better for the "Christian Consumer" that will kill all the surrounding churches around it. Thats Capitalism.

I have some mega church pastors who are great pastors and leading their churches to Be the church. It's not the mega church that is the problem. You see we need neighborhood churches and mega-churches reaching the lost & impacting their cities. We need all types of churches.

But the issue isn't just with leadership, it's with all of us. Why are we buying the product? WHy do we jump churches looking for the next best thing instead of SERVING where we are and being active? We think we're entitled to be served (capitalism) instead of serving (Kingdom). WHy do we not trust Jesus to provide therefore only going where jobs take us? It's the entire Body that needs to grow.

Why is it there are only 3 or 4 gospel preaching churches in my neighborhood of 190,000 and the biggest one is less than 200? Why is it Ashley & I moved here by ourselves & yet earnestly pray for co-laborers because of the darkness & the harvest is so plentiful and the workers so few?

Because we allow money, family & convenience to determine where & when we go instead of the Holy Spirit. Why are there more Christians in China than Chicago and so many churches and workers in the suburbs and the south and nobody coming to the urban areas of our country? Because we don't want to give everything up for Christ, only what we want too.

Until we adhere to the economy of the Kingdom, & offer our entire lives, our gifts, our money and everything we are to Christ and watch Him build His church, were going to continue to let capitalism kill the church. I for one, am too tired of this paradigm and being in Chicago has re-inforced to me I don't have time to mess with it anymore. None of my homeless members or street kids care who plays my music and who speaks. The gospel is transforming their lives and that's what being missional is.

I love the Church and all the good that it is doing in the USA and how Christ always moves despite us. However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't try our hardest to make it reflect our Head (Christ as much as we can!)

I am definitely encouraged by the generation coming up. I believe they are turned off by what's described above and they are looking for authenticity. Check out this article written in relevant magazine. This is how a lot of the younger thinkers are thinking and where they're moving.
I want to see the great commission fulfilled and believe the Church should carry out this task. Hopefully we can get out of our own way at times and accomplish this in purity without having Capitalism coincide with it.


  1. Scott, I really enjoyed reading your post. Your points are so relevant and speak truth. I will pray for the modern Church and the "business" of ministry that it doesn't lose its true focus.

  2. I agree with whatever you have written, though not much of it applies to India. Once the religious bigwigs get to uncover any potential to earn money, the lure is such that it corrupts them. Moreover the high seats they occupy, the higher the corruption level to be achieved and it becomes a vicious circle, which cannot be easily dropped.
    Indian culture is loaded with Mantras and as such each one of them is capable of performing miracles. I used one of them and am able to give accidents a miss, but surprisingly no one paid heed when I related my story and offered for free.
    Now I have formed a commercial site.
    Your site design is nice and attractive. Keep up the good work.

  3. Right on. That's exactly what Max Weber said in his essay "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism".