It’s a little nerve-racking when you do live radio and don’t know what the questions are going to be ahead of time. There were two questions that caught me a little off guard:
- Your parishioners are your customers, right?
- In business, we always talk about competition and know your competition. How does a church deal with competition?
I think these are both key questions that pastors need to ask about how they approach their church ministry. I feel like I answered the question on competition well: our competition is not against other churches. Our competition is between God and Satan, good and evil. There is plenty of evil out there to go around for all churches so the more churches the better. I think this is a must-have attitude about competition that churches must have. We all should pray for the expansion of God’s Kingdom here on earth, whether it is through our church or the one next door.
In looking back at the interview, I would like another chance to answer the question about parishioners being my customers. For a business person, this naturally makes sense… your customer is the person you want in your door and the one you want giving you your money. When trying to make this parallel to church though, the comparison falls apart. While there is an element of “customer” that a parishioner embodies, I think one of the plagues in the American Church is that we do see parishioners as customers, and I wish I would have elaborated on this in the interview. While we do want to attract new / unbelieving people into our church, and there are certain consumer-like strategies for doing this, this can’t be our ultimate definition of what church is about. The ultimate goal is actually the opposite of the business definition of customer. We are to take these unbelieving people who walk into our doors and guide them to becoming a follower of Jesus. Once this happens, they are no longer a consumer, but are a participant and a servant. Backwards from the business model, our “customer” becomes part of our staff as co-owners of our “business”, the church. Churches that continue to view parishioners as customers breed selfish consumers (consumer Christianity) whose priorities are far off from what Jesus had in mind for his followers as humble servants who seek to worship and glorify God in all they do.
At the end of the day, God is our customer, in the business sense. He is the one we seek to please and we serve him with everything we do, 24/7. But even that is backwards to the business model because it’s not like we are asking God for money (at least we better not be!), we are in fact giving him our money and all of ourselves. It’s as if a customer walks into our business and we give him the keys to the front door and the password for our bank account. If that’s not good business advice, I don’t know what is!