The Church: Capitalism or Community

In Christian RealTalk by Antwuan Malone

The Church: Capitalism or Community

Competition is Killing the Church

 

The American Church faces many unique challenges.

Despite trillions of dollars in debt, people keep saying America is one of the richest countries in the world (even though most people saying that are politicians hoping to ge (re)elected). With our wealth comes our freedom. The freedom the speak, worship, pray, shoot innocent animals, and enjoy life. Which also means we are sports crazy, competition-loving, in-your-face, capitalist.

Ah yes, the land of competi– I mean, opportunity. A “christian nation,” we all call it… despite the very unchristian ideals of pure competition. But I digress.

Back to church. I often wonder how the landscape of American church outreach would change if church leadership placed a ceiling on how much money they’d keep in the bank. You know, a pow wow saying, “Hey, once we have XXX dollars, we’ve got too much, and we need to think about putting that in the neighborhood in some Jesus sort of way.”

How much good could be done if two or three (out of what feels like fifty) churches in the neighborhood practiced this on an ongoing basis? How would it change the perception of the church? How might it change the Christians attending and participating in the projects that result?

Even more, what if churches worked together with that “grace surplus” continually, to serve their neighborhoods, beyond the special holidays? What would happen? What could happen?

I suppose talks of “profit ceilings” are silly here in America. Who does that? Not me, not business I work for, and certainly not the average American church. It’s ludicrous to even consider. It’s so upside-down, so counter-cultural, so opposite of the way this country does things. When it comes down to it, there’s no way American churches would choose community over capitalism, cohesiveness over competition. They wouldn’t wouldn’t sacrifice church growth for church serving… would they?

Let’s face it, we Americans like collecting stuff. Money, for sure.  But china. Bedspreads. DVDs. We love that stuff.  It seems the American church is not much different, only it doesn’t stop with money. It likes collecting members and programs, catch phrases and fake smiles. Disingenuous conversation. Faux encouragement, etc… The American church plays by capitalism rules — rules of survival and wealth, progress and vertical growth. And the unfortunate result is that people have become a commodity or an asset. Where the love for each other should be planted and germinating in the hearts of communities and individuals, it isn’t. Instead, people we are called to care for are seen as commodities. Assets. A number, a stat. And a collection of people are a medal or prize worthy of exploiting for the growth of our American church empire.

As a result, the perception of God’s people suffer, as church culture creates a room people are too afraid to be themselves in — an untrusted culture, full of hypocrisy and lies.

I hate admitting that America’s churches fall abysmally short as the answer to people’s need to escape the rat race of the world. The church does not seem to be the answer it should be to the question asking why are feel compelled to compete in everything. Before long, seekers end up finding out that, behind the scenes, churches are running the same rat race they are. They find the church playing the same game as corporations, organizations and businesses. While McDonald’s is trying to steal Wendy’s customers, this church is trying to steal that church’s members. While AMC is offering better seats and a better show experience than Cinemark, churches are one-upping each other’s programs, trying to be the coolest, or most hip, or whatever.

The body of Christ was never meant to compete against itself. Has your toe ever competed with your fingers, your arms with your eyes? Absolutely not. That’d be absurd. In the body, each limb, organ, and philange functions independently, yet cohesively, as the head directs.

We need to de-capitalize God’s work. We need to understand less is more, and that people don’t really care about how big our churches are, or how many churches we’ve planted, or how cool our ministries are. They care that we care. About them. About the world. About more than ourselves and furthering our programs. That’s the way Jesus did it.

I hope this article reaches pastors and leaders of churches to spur along a new way of thought. And frankly, I think it might. But the “American Way” of opportunity (read competition) and capitalism is so ingrained, so embedded in the psyche of society, that they’ll probably just nod their heads at the idea of it all, then go right back to the pursuit of that American church dream. And that’s a shame. A shame indeed.

Don’t believe me? Just ask the next pastor or minister you know if churches, regardless of denomination, can work together on a regular basis… and watch the cynicism in their eyes.

 

Question of the Day?

Do you think competition is good in spiritual matters?  How do you feel about the Church? Do you think it competes against itself?

 

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.