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Blog // Thoughts
May 24, 2005

The Business of Church

The wonderfully named Church Marketing Sucks weblog has brought to our attention a very telling article on the business of church. To put it another way, this is the big business of church, where Willow Creek ranks in the top 5% of business brands (and they have a new $72M sanctuary to boot). I have […]

The wonderfully named Church Marketing Sucks weblog has brought to our attention a very telling article on the business of church. To put it another way, this is the big business of church, where Willow Creek ranks in the top 5% of business brands (and they have a new $72M sanctuary to boot).

I have long standing concerns about these kinds of mega churches; not about their size, or the amounts of capital involved, but rather the culture they embody (and to a degree the politics they engender). First, they certainly appear to be a suburban or more often exurb-ian middle-class phenomenon. This naturally suggests a high degree of homogenaity. Second, the desire for cultural relevance whilst downplaying the historical element of Christianity is a heady mix and one that may mute the radical otherness of the Christian message. Third, the business and vision language of these churches uncritcally imports and entreprenuerial and corporate outlook into the work of the church. Fourth, these churches, because of their impressive numbers (both in congregants and finances) tend to sway many denominational leaders into thinking this is the “model for all churches.” However, the reasons why these churches work so well (in the sense of attracting lots of people who already have some faith background, maybe less so in other senses) in leafy middle-class suburbs are often the reasons why they are not the way to go in urban, cosmopolitan and global spaces.

Back in 2002, I explored these questions in Issue 73 of Zadok Perspectives. My thoughts then were on the uncritical acceptance of “vision statements and vision language,” and the extent to which these were unhelpful ways of thinking for urban church situations. The businessweek article, together with the way globalisation has further driven the divide between the urban and exubran highlights the need to explore and further articulate these issues.

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