~ 10 September 2003 ~

Separation of Church and Business, Cont’d.

Kevin McNeese, an employee of Familiy Christian Stores, responded to my blog entry, “Separation of Church and Business.” Mr. Neese says:

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.

It’s obvious that Mr. Neese is proud (in a good way) of the job he does and that he supports Family Christian Stores’ move to open on Sundays. The problem is that what he has defined here as ministry makes the term applicable to almost anything. I’m sure I could get most if not all of the books that Family Christian Stores sells at Barnes and Noble–does this make them a ministry too? Some deacons at my church go and buy janitorial supplies for the church at Sam’s Club–does this make Sam’s Club a ministry? To ascribe such a broad definition to ministry makes the word almost meaningless.

The greater problem here is the devaluation of what it means to have a Christian business. Let me repeat there is nothing wrong with having a Chrisitian business. In fact, there is something quite noble in a company that seeks to operate upon Christian principles.

Somewhere along the line, the notion that “all business is bad” has trickled down into mainstream evangelicalism. So when some Christian businesses want to gain back some of its well-deserved noblilty, they label themselves a ministry to absolve themselves of the guilt they feel for making a profit. If they are a ministry, other evangelicals will feel good about them and take them seriously. It’s not unilke the familiar ploy that politicians (both liberal and conservative) use to get people’s attention: if no one cares about an issue, they just say that “it’s for the sake of the children.” How could anyone think anything but happy thoughts of the children? And so it goes with the ministry.

After all, it is not difficult to imagine how evangelicalism reached this point. I’ve been in numerous church services where someone will make known to the congregation that they’ve surrendered to “the call” to the ministry. These people are well-received by their pastors and their congregation, and rightly so. The problem is what is missing. No one is congratulated in the same way when they want to be salt and light in the world by starting a business or by becoming a physician, a lawyer, an engineer, or a laborer. The modern evangelical church looks on these people as those left behind, while we “ministers” forge ahead spiritually.

We should certainly continue to revere the ministry and ministers–after all, that is my calling–so I do not at all think it is without value. However as churches, we should also seek to revere and support equally those whose callings take them into the world of business. Perhaps if we did this, they would not have to take on other mantles to be respected.

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1 Comments:

  1. Kevin McNeese » 6 July 2004:

    Jared

    Just came back to this link after I was clearing out my bookmarks. It’s good to see that you posted a portion of my comments for all to see.

    You may be surprised, but I agree with everything you stated in regards to what is a ministry and what is not. I strongly feel that FCS is an active part of enabling ministry around the globe. What separates us from the B&N’s of the world is that we’re not just in it for the money.

    The money enables us to open more stores, better our systems, support programs like JamesFund.org and overall become a better business. The money enables us to pay our employees and managers well so that they can not only work in a Christian environment, but be compensated competitively for it as well. There is no guilt about making money, and there should never be guilt about making money off Christian products. Let’s play rocket science 101…if no money is made, the stuff wouldn’t be around.

    But back to ministry and what makes us different. Our company supports the product. Our employees live what’s in it. We pray as a company. We fellowship as a company. And every product that leaves our stores touches the hands of someone who is concerned for their spiritual being.

    Ministry happens everyday in our stores. We hear of stories daily of lost being led to resources, employees building personal relationships with customers and local churches and even people falling on their knees in backrooms while the manager leads them to the Lord. I’m just guessing that doesn’t happen in the aisles of Wal-mart.

    God is not confined to four walls in a church or to a 9-5 Monday through Saturday schedule. He goes where His people are gathered…where they are willing to be and serve…even into a Christian bookstore on a Sunday afternoon.

    I doubt I’ll come back here…but feel free to email me. I’d love to continue conversations on this topic.

    Blessings!

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