The Church: Capitalism or Community

In Christian RealTalk by Antwuan Malone6 Comments

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 ( 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.

Well we all know how that would go now don't we? I can already hear all of the complaints now about big government and separation of church and state and so forth and so on. I think, though, it'd be better if we did it on our own, don't you? I think people want to see the church making a difference because they want to, not because they have to. But who knows, maybe something like that is needed to set a fire to our buns! Thanks for the comment! I think this is one of my faves!


It's only complicated when you try to make the new system mesh with the old. This requires an entirely new way of doing business with regards to marketing & distribution. If you have an idea you want to turn into a product, you have to find funding that allows you to make a living, but still make it free to the public. There's a ton of wonderful things that spring out from this concept. For example, you would see a higher degree of accountability in terms of quality, which will reduce the number of offerings out there on a given topic (there's entirely too many books on marriage out there today) because the funding isn't based on a worldwide audience of consumers, it's based on what an investor believes it is worth. It's an idea that's been rolling around in my mind for about two years as I've seen Christian conference ticket prices go up and up and up, thus making access to the best we have to offer more and more limited.


Let's take it one step further - let's stop making the world pay for the Revelations of God that can really make a difference. Whether it's music, sermons, videos, books, conferences - let's make it all free to those that need it most and figure out a way to get it produced from the prosperity that God is blessing His children. It's time we stop acting like money changers at the temple and start putting our money where our mouth is!


I hear you, though such an idea would require lots of cooperation. I'm with you though, Christian services should be at "cost" if not less. Of course, this presents the problem of space and accessibility. Profit isn't the only reason for prices. In essence, an event can be 'sold out" because of the limitation of the venue space and the availability of the speakers. But there are smart people who can surely come up with a way to make in all more accessible in nearly every scenario, methinks. I'm interesting (seriously) in your ideas. I have a friend of mine who is quite passionate about getting churches working together and this is a large part of what I think he envisions. Keep at it!


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