Here are dangers of a business mindset within the church

Prioritizing numbers, money and power above people leads to serious harm.


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Putting profit before people skews the Church’s mindset and warps its message.

Noel Sassoon, Deputy Opinions Editor

When I came to Biola in 2019, I was a Christian ministries major. It was a major that, for me, was appealing for two reasons: First, I loved the Church; second, I was a pastor’s kid. I was raised in the church and growing up watching my dad do ministry inspired me to follow in his footsteps. 

In the late fall of 2019, my dad was laid off as the head pastor of his church. 

This event shook up my dreams of pursuing ministry, and while it was not the only reason I switched my major to CMA, it was definitely the final straw that caused the switch. Why? Because I saw first hand how easily a church functioning under a business mindset — prioritizing numbers, power, money or anything above the souls of its congregants — can topple an entire congregation in a matter of months. 


A church must adopt a business model to operate properly. There are finances to take care of, employees and volunteers to manage and checks and balances — for example, elders and bishops who maintain accountability in churches — that need to be honored. When a business mindset is adopted, however, is when trouble strikes.

Karl Vaters explores this mindset in his “Christianity Today” article titled “3 Big Problems when Running a Church like a Business,” a piece which reveals what happens when volunteers and staff are treated as “worker drones” by those higher up on the chain of command rather than as leaders who are valuable because their community connects with them.

“Pastors are supposed to equip the saints to do the work of ministry,” Vaters said in the article. “But when the church becomes a business, it can be very tempting for pastors with control issues to start ordering people around like bosses managing employees.”  

Another example is when a church begins to view members of their congregation as numbers. In an article titled “How a Business Mindset Influences the Church,” author Peter DeHaan said, “The business world measures everything, but when churches try to do that, they end up with a focus on finances and attendance … Churches shouldn’t measure their success numerically. And when they do, they shift the focus from what matters to God to what matters to humans.” 


It breaks my heart to see passionate, Christ-loving people being driven out of ministry by churches that are tangled in the sticky web of business technicalities. If we look to Scripture, we will see that Jesus did not care about how much money churches were raking in or how many people showed up to hear his messages. What he did care about was the souls and well-being of the people to whom he was ministering. 

Biola also needs to be careful about operating under a “business mindset.” For example, chapels allow students to nurture their relationships with Christ. The chapel accountability system, however, makes me question whether or not Biola prioritizes students’ spiritual well-being or if the university uses the threat of penalty to keep chapel attendance numbers up to appear successful. The chapel policy in place makes Biola’s alleged priority — nurturing the personal faith of their students — feel less authentic.

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