The answer is very simple and direct – the church of today is built on a BUSINESS MODEL that cannot sustain the hard reality of the Gospel of Christ. Truth is a hard pill that everybody claims to want, but few are willing to swallow. In John 6:66, many of the disciples of Jesus deserted Him when He stepped up the level of truth He was telling them. If Jesus had depended on them financially, His ministry would have been severely jolted. But, instead, Jesus ran a tight, modest ship. Paul, and the other Apostles, followed His steps. For that is the only way that the integrity of the Gospel can be sustained – away from the corrupting influence of mammon.
The church is described as the Ground and Pillar of Truth (1 Timothy 3:15). However, if the church will indeed preach the undiluted truth of the Gospel, we dare not continue to follow the business model we are using today. This business model thrives on using ‘wisdom’ to manage the following 10 factors. (Space may not permit me to develop these points fully, but hopefully I may be able to re-visit this in the coming days, God willing).
(1) A GOOD PRODUCT WITH MASS APPEAL: The true Gospel of Christ is not designed for mass appeal. Jesus made it clear that the road that leads to life is narrow, and FEW will be found in it (Matthew 7:14, Luke 13:24). The way of Christ, though bountiful in the final analysis, begins at a cross and winds its way through several avenues including tribulation, suffering, persecution, reproach, trials, temptations, self-denial, etc. This will be a tough sell in our hedonistic age. So for strategic marketing reasons, the Gospel has been re-packaged to tone down the hardship of the cross, and highlight the positive, eternal values of the Gospel – prosperity, abundance, health, happiness, etc. With this re-packaging, the ‘Gospel’ now attracts sheep in large numbers.
(2) BRAND PROMISE: To enhance a high volume of loyal sheep (customers), there has to be a consistent message – a good brand promise – that is dangled before the sheep to keep them happy and hopeful. And that is why most churches present God, MAJORLY, as the happy Father that is waiting to solve all our problems, kill our enemies, make us very wealthy, make us famous, and keep us happy in this world. (Those who truly know the Gospel will testify that this is DEFINITELY NOT the heart of the Gospel message. As a matter of fact, it is contrary to the heart of the Gospel.)
(3) A CHARISMATIC BRAND AMBASSADOR: This is a critical aspect of the business model, because the Brand Ambassador must be revered and authoritative enough to influence the sheep to part with their resources with as little resistance as possible. This goal will succeed on the twin-platform of the exaltation of the Brand Ambassador coupled with the gullibility of the sheep. This is why Pastors are today ‘higher’ than the rest of the sheep – contrary to 1 Peter 5:3, and the clear biblical pattern that churches should be led by a team of elders (Acts 14:23, 15:22, 20:17, Hebrews 13:17). Welcome to the era of celebrity General Overseers and Pastors!
(4) ACCESS TO SLUSH FUNDS: Slush fund is generally described as money that is not openly accounted for, and can be used for all sorts of purposes, including personal expenses, and other expenditure that is beneath the radar of general scrutiny. It is relatively easy to get, and is completely tax-free. Doesn’t this sound like church revenue to you? We really shouldn’t be surprised that many churches are springing up everywhere. There is easy money in this business model!
(5) REGULAR INCOME: Any good business man will tell you that a regular, guaranteed cash-flow is the soul of any business. So the sheep in our business model must commit to a regular, steady, compelled donation. Impoverished sheep must pay this donation – even if doing so will mean they cannot pay their rent, feed their family, or pay hospital bills. Behold, welcome to the world of the monthly tithe system in the church. This is why most churches do not joke with tithes, and will often lace non-compliance with curses from Malachi 3. (For those that know the Bible, giving in the New Testament dispensation of grace is ‘as every man proposes in his heart’. This is why God loves a cheerful giver, not a constrained giver!)
(6) EXPANDING INCOME: Apart from the regular income, a franchise that will succeed and thrive must know how to devise means of widening the revenue stream through strategic thinking. The Old Testament contains several ordinances on diverse offerings and gifts COMMANDED BY THE LAW: first-fruit offerings, first-born offerings, prophetic offerings, etc. By exhuming these ordinances, the church is getting richer every minute. Hey, did Jesus Christ not become a fulfilment of the law so that believers can be elevated to a higher form of life where our ALL belongs to God because He has purchased us with His blood – along with all that we own? Sshhh… (be quiet) – most sheep find this ‘revelation’ really offensive. (They need to ‘tie’ God’s hands with the self-justification that comes with obeying the law! So, for instance, God MUST open the windows of heaven BECAUSE they pay tithe!)
(7) READY, WILLING MARKET: This is also a critical factor in our business model. And there is indeed a ready market. The Bible has guaranteed that the last days will be perilous. Believers will not want to hear the true Gospel that will challenge and stretch them. With itching ears, they will scout for teachers that will feed them with fables (2 Timothy 4:3-4). So, already, there is a ready market of sheep that is happily waiting to be exploited. And where there is demand, there must be supply. It is a game of numbers. So, unscrupulous shepherds are cashing in big time….
(8) AN EXPANDING MARKET: This is where it gets more interesting. Sheep that are being fleeced will go out and scout for other sheep that need the magic brand promise of ‘miracles galore’. And due to the harsh economic reality and uncertainty of third world countries, there’s an unending pool of sheep to entice to the sheepfold. Special anointing services, miracle vigils, enemy-slaughter nights, etc, are the induction centres for catching new sheep, and tantalising old ones.
(9) BRAND LOYALTY: Business thrives on competition. And our church business model is not much different. Have you ever wondered why there seems to be little unity among the big franchise churches in Nigeria? (If they are all truly building the same Kingdom of God, shouldn’t there be more oneness?) To facilitate brand loyalty, sheep are forbidden from donating their tithes to any other franchise. “You must pay it into the storehouse where you are being fed….” Haven’t you heard that before?
(10) A SPECIAL REQUEST: If this write-up makes any sense to you so far, please, please pray that the Holy Spirit will help you to discern if what is going on today is indeed of God, or if empire-building has been mixed with the Great Commission of Christ. If the Holy Spirit gives you a new insight, that’s your No 10.
Beyond this half-ironic piece lies a great truth. Disciples of Christ should be more discerning in these last days. We must learn to see beyond the façade of religiosity. We must learn to look beyond the stature of men of God. Like Berean Christians, we must go back to evaluate what we are hearing from the pulpit. Is the Spirit of Christ in you in harmony with the general thrust of the message of the church today? If not, would you please pray that the Lord will chase out all those that are buying and selling in His temple; and give us men that the allure of filthy lucre has not entrapped. It is only then that the true Gospel of Jesus Christ will return and flourish in our land.
Thanks for reading, God bless.
Source: Church Watch in Nigeria.