Separation of Church and Business

With all the buzz in the media regarding separation of church and state, there seems to one area that is overlooked: the separation of church and business. Now don’t get me wrong—there is nothing at all wrong with running a business in a Christian manner. In fact, more businesses need to be run that way—heck, all businesses should be run in a way honoring to God.

The problem is, however, that some businesses think that what they do is a “ministry” rather than a mere business. Take, for example, Family Christian Stores, who recently decided to open their stores on Sundays. Whether or not such a store should be open on Sunday is another matter altogether—one which I shall not discuss right now. The problem I wish to deal with is the rationale that the chain used when coming to the decision to change policy and remain open on Sunday. In this Dallas Morning News article [linked via CT Weblog], the CEO of Family Christian Stores, Dave Browne, said:

“This was a decision that we took very seriously,” Mr. Browne said. “But after prayer, study and seeking the counsel of others, it became clear to us that the ministry opportunity of opening on Sundays vastly outweighed the operational preference of the status quo.”

He considers his decision to open on Sunday different from Chick-fil-A’s because Family Christian sells “ministry products.”

“No one is going to go to hell if they don’t eat a chicken sandwich on a Sunday,” he said.

Does this mean that someone is going to hell if they don’t buy an It’s All About Jesus Candy Tin, a Fruits of the Spirit canister set, and a Praying Puppy stuffed animal? I think not.

Someone should tell Dave Browne and Family Christian Stores that making money is not a sin, and having a business is not a sin. Obviously they must think it is, else they would not call it a ministry. It is a business—I seriously doubt that the store has non-profit status, and if it does it makes a mockery of the non-profit tax exemption. If people pay you money for your books and other trinkets, and you make a healthly profit margin, you are in business, not ministry.

When businesses like Family Christian Stores promote themselves as ministries it give legitimate ministries a bad name. After all, didn’t Jesus say to those selling in the temple, “stop making My Father’s house a place of business.”? Business is not evil, so why do they pretend like something they are not?

12 thoughts on “Separation of Church and Business”

  1. Totally agree. In fact, I’m a bit confused (and starting to become quite angry) with the Christian marketplace. As many know, Rick Warren has a very successful series of “The Purpose Driven xxxxxx” books, videos and study guides. Rick Warren’s stuff has made very positive impacts on numerous churches and many individuals. God is clearly using Rick’s stuff to reach out to people. So what’s my problem with all of this? Have you noticed the registered trademark next to The Purpose Driven titles? Also, have you noticed in The Purpose Driven Life book that there is an appendix for recommended reading/resources? These resources are all Rick Warren material. You mean to tell me there isn’t one book Rick would recommend over one of his own? Come on.

    My point in pointing all of this out is this: I’m not sure this Christian marketplace we’ve created is all that good. We’re following in the footsteps of our non-Christian industry leaders. You sell your stuff for as much as possible. You keep others from coming close to duplicating the success by putting a trademark all over it. Then you keep things rolling by turning a successful title into a whole series of products. You use the next product to promote all the products before it. Before you know it, you have a franchise! There’s normally nothing wrong with all this except for the fact that we’re talking about books and other materials that the authors/creators claim are for teaching Biblical principles and encouraging spiritual growth. Should these materials be part of the same marketplace that every other product is sold in? Would the Apostle Paul be selling his letters from the New Testament as a series? Maybe he would only trademark them. 😉 Cheap shot, I know. But it’s something that has been bugging me for a while now.

    I’m not sure if Rick Warren or the 100’s of other Christian authors should be profiting off their ministries. Yes, they have every right to make a living. And, yes, they have every right to become rich. My question though is this: Should they make a living and even become rich by selling the very items that make up their ministry?

  2. Hey Jarod

    As an employee of Family Christian Stores, I’m excited about the potential to serve our customers on a day of the week when many are at their highest point spirtually.

    We can split hairs all day long, and I’m praying that the Christian community will embrace versus divide, but the fact of the matter is that Family Christian Stores is both a ministry and a business. No one in our company is confused about what we do. We supply people with products that help them grow in their faith, help minister to those around them and encourage the heart, mind and soul…just like our tagline suggests. It’s the same mission statement as your local church bookstore, which is open before and after services as well.

    We can argue about whether or not a “Praying Puppy” or a “Jesus Candy Tin” crosses the line of good taste in Christian retailing (I’m not a fan, but I have heard stories of even Testimints impacting lives), but let’s not be divided about the ability to impact a community by keeping the doors open to a store that is full of people willing to help those who are seeking to grow…and know our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Kevin McNeese, Grand Rapids, MI

  3. Hey Joshua

    I hear what you are saying, and it’s easy for us to jump to conclusions?

    I have a few thoughts to challenge you with:

    1. What would you like to see authors/artists do? Spend 50+ hours a week writing resources, refuse any payment for them and then work additional hours at the local McDonald’s to make an “honest” living?

    2. Do you have access to the personal financial records of Mr. Warren? If not, I would caution about making assumptions about his lifestyle. For all you know, he could be giving away 50% of his profits to non-profit ministries.

    3. There is nothing wrong with making a living from ministries. What would be wrong is for those who have been blessed by God (because everything we have is from Him) to keep it all for themselves and not continue to sow in the Kingdom. For example, if Family has a great year, you will probably see an expansion into more markets. The money enables more ministry opportunities. If Rick writes a best-seller, it provides marketing resources to expand the product line, get it into the hands of major market retailers like Barnes & Noble and expand the reach.

    I hope these questions help to challenge your thinking. There is so much going on “behind the scenes” that we will never know about, and until we do, who are we to be casting stones?

  4. I’m sorry…wish I could edit my previous comments…one more thought.

    Who cares about how much money people make? Hopefully, every single Christian is doing everything they can to impact as many people as possible about the Kingdom.

    Mr. Warren wrote a book that millions of people have been touched by. Entire churches have been transformed. Men and Women have turned their lives around.

    Who cares if he has made $1 billion dollars off of it? One cent won’t matter when he dies. Nothing on this Earth matters.

    So let’s pray for Rick. Let’s pray that he used the money to invest further into the Kingdom. Let’s pray that he doesn’t get sidetracked because of the amazing blessing God as bestowed upon him. And let’s celebrate that our Brother in Christ was able to impact the lives of more people than any of us could ever hope to.

  5. I agree with Jared. Family Christian Stores Inc. should simply state the truth –that their research indicates that they can make a profit if they open their stores on Sundays. It would be wonderful, Kevin, if your employer’s primary motive was truly altruistic. But do you believe that Family Christian Stores would open their doors on Sundays –to reach the lost, edify believers, and any other noble motive you can think of– if their research indicated that they would lose money?

    The point is this: Family Christian Stores are opening on Sundays PRIMARILY because they will make a profit. But many Christians would have difficultly reconciling that truth with the 4th Commandment. But if Family Christian Stores can lead their customers to believe that the Great Commission is the primary motive behind their move, then their customers are more likely to support the decision.

    That is what is positively despicable –hiding behind the Great Commission and USING the Great Commission as a justification. After all, how can anyone attack the Great Commission? My daughter loves to play tag. She also likes to grab the nearest, most convenient object and call “safe” before she is tagged. Family Christian Stores Inc. has reached out, grabbed the Great Commission, and called “safe.” But there is a major difference between Family Christian Stores and my daughter. My daugther is a child, and children tend to behave childishly. I expect more from Dave Browne (President/CEO) and Family Christian Stores. It is not amusing watching a Christian business play games.

  6. laddyroman

    You are throwing out pure opinions, which is fine. Again, we can agree or disagree about the motives behind the decision, but FCS recognizes that the items they sell are life changing. That’s something that Walmart, B&N, Best Buy and your local gas station could care less about.

    I don’t see anyone getting upset at B&N, who could care less about anyone’s salvation and are selling select Christian items PURELY to get a profit.

    “Do you believe that Family Christian Stores would open their doors on Sundays –to reach the lost, edify believers, and any other noble motive you can think of– if their research indicated that they would lose money?

    No…if FCS’ research showed they would lose money by opening on Sundays, I would hope they would not do it. Because shame on the Christian business who manages their finances poorly. Just like shame on the Christian father who allows his family to go bankrupt.

    If we opened on Sundays, lost our shorts and had to close shop…well, there goes the store. And there goes a potenial witnessing opportunity that happens EVERY DAY in our stores.

    As a Christian, it’s easy to look in the glass and see a store full of gold. Christians ripping off other Christians for the sake of profit.

    Fortuatly, God’s blessing is evident in the stories we hear everyday of people walking through our doors and being blessed by employees, others in the store, or the product they walk out with.

    I wish you the best and encourage you to pray about anything you post online. Words can be incredibly damaging to others who are not prepared.

  7. Before you condemn FCS for opening on Sundays think about this.

    As an audio engineer in christian music I arrive at the church that employees me at 6:30AM every Sunday morning. I work 3 services every Sunday. Plus other events during the week and weekend such as Weddings, concerts and special services.

    I am paid for my services but I do consider what I do to be a ministry. I have been in this occupation (part-time) since 1999 and no one has every complained that I was breaking one of the ten commendments. You may ask why I am paid for my services and not a volunteer. Simply because my family must eat just like yours. My skills are God given and I am blessed to use them for His Glory, just like the Serior Minister and the Worship Leader.

    If you shop at Lowes, Home Depot or any of the other retailers that open on Sunday why would you not shop at a Christian store? PLUS, if you think shopping at a Christian store on Sunday is is ‘wrong’ , why do you shop anywhere on Sunday?

    I agree with Dave Browne and Family Christian Stores move to open on Sundays.

    Glenn Smith
    Memphis, Tn.

  8. The reasoning behind a Sunday opening seems to be that the book store as we know has found its way into almost every Church and as stated the chain states they can not compete with this as 96 per cent of church bookstores are open on Sunday. I wonder should these bookstores in the Church even be open for business on Sunday. If so is it because they are not employees and that makes it alright. Or is it that the literature is different than the standard store. What if in the Church bookstores they sell beanie babies, tea cups ,and spoons along with Jesus “T” shirts is this apropriate for a book store in the Church on Sunday. As usual it comes down to your view of the Lords Day..Id have to say that I fall out on the side having Church bookstores open any time except the day we worship of course this would exclude libraries and resource material for the Saints on this Day of the Lord.

  9. As a (hopefully) objective commentator from outside American Christian Culture, I find so much about Church life as characterised in the mainstream American model or brand and many of its minor derivatives to be anathema – even antichrist (in place of or opposed to Christ).

    The Sabbath rest was a shadow of the reality which is the rest of faith, and is about every minute of every day, not just some days or Sundays (itself an example of vestigial paganism). Herein is the Truth, that Light has come in to the world but Men prefer the darkness because their own deeds are wicked, and those who prefer the darkness and who choose to live in the shadows are already condemned.

    I began to read the Rick Warren’s book and found it to be about as anointed as most so-called Christian books and music. Hidden within its promotion of a Dominionist ethos lies subtle deception. Dominionists have infiltrated the Church privily and brought in their damnable heresies of Mammon.

    22. These that are recommendations that come to nothing, and that are commandments and the learning of humanity.
    23. And they appear to possess the manifestation of wisdom, a gentle outlook and submission to God, and they do not relate to the body (of Christ) or any form of reverence, except to what appears appropriate in the flesh. (A reference to the appeal of ritual).

    Jesus hated the deeds of the Nicolatians, hates hypocrisy, and His warnings to the churches are just as cogent and current today, even more so as we await His appearing. Wake up! You have about five more years to get your houses in order and all the purpose driven/church-as-business model will do is to reinforce the walls of your own pious prisons.

    Jesus said to love and forgive your enemies, not bomb them back into the stone age. Your own prophets have seen your judgment coming and pleaded with you to repent, and to forsake your love affair with money and materialism. It is the oil of gladness that God offers, not the black oil of madness!

    Paul wrote about those who treat the submission to God as a business, himself formerly being a Pharisee of the Pahrisees and a lover of money (quoting from the VA Aramaic Translation):
    3. If, however, there is someone who teaches another sort of knowledge and does not present the healing words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teachings of submission to God,
    4. This one elevates himself while knowing nothing, except he engages in vehement altercations and verbal controversies, from which stem divisiveness and ruin, and blasphemies and the basis of evil ideas,
    5. And human subterfuge — these [estranged priests] that subvert [the people’s] ideas and drive them away from the substantive truth, and they assume that the submission to God is a business. You, however, distance yourself from such priests.

    6. For our business is great indeed, that which is the submission to God to the extent of our ability.
    7. For we neither brought anything into the world, nor can we even take out what we learned from it.
    8. That is why all we worry about is food and clothing.
    9. Those, however, who wish to be wealthy, will fall to temptation, in pitfalls and into a multitude of foolish and searing lusts that will sink humanity into the throes of destruction and ultimately oblivion.
    10. For the root of every evil is the consideration for money above all else, and there are people who absolutely adore money, and they lose all faith and open themselves up to a multitude of demons.

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  10. FINALLY someone who sees whats goin on today. i am by no means a judger of anyone for my life is far from perfect but i have been raised in many different churches and all i see is hypocrisy. i long for a church where the bookstore is not open on sunday, the preacher never asks for a tithe(the body gives willingly) and the excess revenue is spent on missions and reaching the lost (insted of the pastor’s new benz or suit) is the main agenda being put forth. why do we feel convicted by someone with a 100 dollar suit on, a pair of 300 dollar shoes, etc. my point being as a minster materialistic items should be of least concern for him AND HIS CONGREGATION! God forbid a preacher stood up in church with tattered rags and preached a profound sermon. most would probably not even hear his message because of his outward appearance. i believe in looking your best but i don’t believe in frivolous spending especially from the leader of the church and with the use of the churchs money. IF SOMEONE MAKES THEIR MONEY OUTSIDE THE CHURCH THAN THEY SHOULD USE IT HOW THEY FEEL FIT HOPEFULLY WITH THE LORD’S GUIDANCE! THE BOOKSTORE WITHIN THE CHURCH SHOULD NEVER BE OPEN ON SUNDAY!!!!! WAKE UP!!! this is the only time in the BIble where Jesus shows anger. HOW CAN WE DIRECTLY DEFILE THE ONE SCENARIO WE WERE WARNED THE MOST VEHEMENTLY AGAINST!!!! the Lord will take care of the expenses of the righteous if we follow what He says just like he does for missionaries and those in a much more simplistic environment. Family Christain Bookstore is a whole separate ball game. NO A PERSON WILL NOT GOT TO HELL FOR EATING A CHICKEN SANDWICH ON SUNDAY (HOW COULD HE EVEN MAKE SUCH A FOOLISH STATEMENT: AND THIS IS THE MAN WHO HEADS THE FAMILY CHRISTIAN BOOKSTORE) BUT WHO IS TO SAY WHAT GOD THINKS OF THE BUSINESS OWNER WHO SOLD IT TO HIM AND MADE A SALE AND PROFIT UNDER THE BLANKET OF CHRISTIANITY!!! how we are supposed to live is right in the Bible. Even what we should argue about is shown clearly. Topics like these cause divison among brethren cause us all to miss the whole point of the gospel: SPREAD THE WORD OF JESUS TO THE LOST NOT ARGUE ABOUT WHAT IT SAYS AMONGST OURSELVES WHILE THE LOST WALK ON BY!!!! GOD WILL SPEAK TO THE HEART OF EVERYONE WHO WILL LISTEN AS LONG AS THE LOVE OF MONEY, SELFISH AGENDAS, AND COMPLETE HYPOCRISY DO NOT STAND IN OUR WAY. PLEASE ALL I WANT IS TO SEE THE GOSPEL MESSAGE BE BROUGHT BACK INTO CHRISTIANITY SO TOPICS LIKE THIS ARE NEVER DISCUSSED BECAUSE THEY MEAN NOTHING. IN YOUR HEARTS YOU KNOW WHAT IS RIGHT TO DO AND FOR EVERYTHING ELSE WE HAVE THE WORD OF GOD!

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