Authentic reproduction, amicable divorce, war games, sanitary sewer, the sound of silence. These are so much fun! I found a site that has a list of oxymorons—or oxymora, I just learned. Some are hackneyed (expect the unexpected), some are funny (aging yuppie), some are cynical (marital bliss) and some went right over my head (helicopter flight?). Church business?
Church business is not an oxymoron, though I am not sure we should go so far as to make the two words synonymous. The church certainly has business to conduct. We have a commission to tell others about salvation, baptizing the nations in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. We see this in Matthew 28.
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
We also have internal business. In Acts 6, we can see the church select helpers who serve as ‘in-reach’ ministers called deacons.
But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.
2 So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. 3 And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. 4 Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”
5 Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). 6 These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them.
Sometimes I grow concerned when I see the church strive to emulate business. While we do have business, or work, to do, I don’t think that we should work as a business. Church and business are different ‘creatures’ with different functions or goals.
I think one of the big differences between the two is that a business has the goal of numbers. Whether a company is marketing a service, an image or a product, its success is measured in numbers. When an employee fails to produce for any reason, they need to be removed and then replaced as quickly as possible. The business is seen as a single entity, perhaps organic, but expected to function as a well-oiled machine. The parts are not as important as the whole. People are the nuts and bolts, the screws and gears. Broken parts are not repaired.
In a church the function or goals are reconciliation and relationship. We need to be reconciled to God and others so that we may be in relationship with each other. There is no product to be produced. We cannot accurately measure the success of a relationship by numbers.
The church is comparable to business in how it is seen as one entity. But the Bible uses a single body and family as analogies for the unity of the church. The individuality of the members is crucial, which makes them irreplaceable. The wellbeing of those individuals is important enough to compromise the other parts to maintain it. When one person is not able to ‘work,’ the body metaphor shows an activation to heal that part, from white blood cells to affecting a limp to favor a compromised limb. Amputation is the last resort.
In a family metaphor, the other members gather round, strengthen, encourage and fill in the temporary gap. An aging grandpa would be brought into the home of his children so that his wisdom is shared and his needs are met.
People who are lost from the family are mourned, not replaced. In fact, widowers, widows and orphans are names that define people by their loss. We do not erase those memories. We cherish and share them.
When the church is unified, it will look like a body or a family. Members will work together doing various parts of a job, complementing one another, maximizing strengths and covering weaknesses. And since the primary goal is relationship, there are no deadlines, there are no quotas, there is no frantic rush to perform. The church is a state of being: we do not go to church, or do church. We are the church. We exist. We love. We gather. We give. We share. We heal.
As the I AM’s Body, we are.