Don’t Get Fooled! It’s a Business Not a Ministry
Don’t get fooled! It’s a business not a ministry?
What am I talking about? The many companies that choose a primary business model of using the church and Christians as their primary target for profit.
Don’t get me wrong. Doing business with the church or with Christians almost exclusively isn’t a sin. I’m not advocating avoiding such companies. It’s not a reason to never do business with such companies. I work with many such businesses to help me in my ministry as a pastor, a writer and as a disciple of Christ. If Lifeway Christian Resources, the many Bible software companies, and some great online resources that help me present the Gospel in church on Sunday didn’t exist, it would make my life more difficult. I once bought a computer from a “Christian” computer reseller and the business helped me get a great machine at a fair price and supported it well when it failed.
But don’t get fooled! They’re businesses and not ministries.
Why am I writing about this now? Because a company reminded me of this today in a disappointing way.
I contacted a company hoping they would help me out. I considered moving from a Windows PC to a Mac for our church’s presentation computer. A video I created failed to play on the Windows machine while it worked perfectly on my Mac at home. I decided to look into the cost of buying a new Mac and transferring the license of our presentation software from Windows to Mac. Other companies did this for me without even a small administration fee. A couple more just charged a small clerical fee. I swapped out my Adobe Photoshop license from Windows to Mac for nothing so long as I didn’t use the Windows version any longer. That’s one of the most expensive programs I own. A couple of other very expensive Bible software applications let me switch without a fee or charged just a small fee and I can keep using the Windows versions as well.
The presentation software company offered what they called a “crossgrade” for hundreds of dollars. This, they said, let me continue to use both the Windows and Mac versions. Great! I don’t want to use the Windows version. I will only use one copy on the Mac. Too bad. I still had to pay. I reasoned that this didn’t make sense since the two version work almost identically. They look a little different because of the different operating systems, but the basic functions were nearly identical. But the company won’t budge. That’s their right.
I replied to the sales person’s last email saying their policy disappointed me. It felt like they should want to work harder to keep me as a loyal and long time customer. I’ve used and recommended the software for almost a decade. The policy ensured that I will not use that application any longer just as soon as I can afford a suitable replacement. That’s my right.
All of this serves to remind me that the companies that exist to take money out of the church are not ministries. They’re businesses. They may employ Christians. Many run under the control of a Christian. A lot of them work hard to help the church and Christians, but they do so to make money knowing its good business to offer good customer support. Some focus more on the business and less on the support, just like companies run by secular people.
A Higher Standard
If a business calls itself Christian it must operate at a higher standard. A “Christian” mechanic I once had dealings with proved that the term often functions more as a marketing ploy than a real description of their ethics.
Christians who run businesses also must operate at a higher standard because all Christians should operate their lives at a higher standard, whether they own and operate a business, teach school or pick up trash for a living. God expects more of us.
If you own or operate a business, ask yourself this question about how you support the church. Does your business plan center around taking money out of the church or does it focus on adding value to the church seeking payment for this just like a pastor or other staff members get paid. Parasitic companies operate under the first ethic, while other businesses work under the second. I like to work with the second class of company, but they’re hard to spot and the first often look like the second.
If other companies can afford to offer the same service you offer without sucking as much out of the church treasury as your business does, then you’re doing it wrong. If you wake up every day asking, how can I help a pastor, a church secretary, a minster of music or youth, then you’re likely doing it the right way.
Image credit: 401(K) 2012 on Flickr