I know the church is not a business, but…. How often have I heard that phrase, and in nearly every church I have served. This is not an argument that the church should not operate on sound fiscal principles, and that many churches do not keep adequate watch over their spending priorities.
That said, the church is not a business in any sense of the word. To think about the church that way is to think about it backward. A business provides a product or service with the goal of making a profit, and therefore gears itself to that end: what will create more customers, a larger market. The business serves, but it expects benefit in return. When the church sees itself as a business, its goal becomes quantitative growth for itself. Success, then, is measured in numbers, nickels and noses. Subtly in some places, and blatantly in others, worship and messages then are judged by the crowds they draw.
The church is never to be measured in this way. It is not to be measured by the people it attracts, but by the message it preaches and the subsequent good it does. These are God’s criteria, and they fill every page of Scripture. The church’s goal, then, ought to be Biblical fidelity and acts of mercy. The love of Christ compels us to this work. And, it is here that the evangelical church has lost its way. When the evangelical church abandoned the city, the city began to rot. Sometimes, evangelical churches abandon the city even when they remain within its confines.
Hurting people are the harvest field. The gospel will bind up their wounds, and be heard by them as good news. If the church concentrates on Biblical truth combined with merciful action, then God will bless it with vitality, joy, contentment, and perhaps even growth.