An overwhelming sense of joy finds you amidst a thousand clapping hands linked in joyous worship. Gentle rays shine on your soul as you hear the endearing song of the gospel, encapsulating you with sheer faith, euphoria, and a yearning to be closer to God.
For 63% of Americans, the church is a sanctuary where the faithful can gather and worship the holy spirit in tranquility. The preacher is seen as a sacred figure, instilling compassion, grace, love, humbleness, and overall belief in the gospel.
But with the rising tide of Mega churches comes an elite class of preachers who break the barriers of what we consider ‘sacred.’ Millionaire mansions, luxury cars, and private jets are all part of their ‘holy path,’ and they aren’t afraid to show it. All the while preaching to the masses about the perils of materialism and the evils of desiring earthly possessions. With so many preachers behaving like CEOs, Americans are starting to draw attention to this overlooked sensation.
Today, we will focus on the many churches that have taken a capitalistic path and try to get to the bottom of this recurring phenomenon. By doing so, we will try to answer the most fundamental question in our minds today; Is the church a business?
What Is The Business Model Of the Church?
Officially speaking, churches don’t follow any business model; everything is left to fate. However, critics would point out various aspects of this holy institution as being business-minded or profit based.
Every institution, religious or not, has to rely on a steady financial stream to survive. Without money, no institution will have the ability to thrive, let alone exist. It’s no different in the case of churches.
Tithes are the primary source of revenue for any church, and it has been the case since the beginning. Each member offers 10% of their monthly income every month without fail. The church collects this amount and uses it to pay for day-to-day expenses.
Donations are another way of gathering revenue, but they are not as common as tithing. It is entirely up to the donor whether or not they feel like offering any money. But while these are rare occasions, they do make up for a significant portion of revenue. That’s because most people who make a separate donation give a substantial amount of money, often surpassing what is collected through tithing.
Churches also collect money through events such as Bible camps, which often include a small fee. But this is mainly done for sustainability as the cost of organizing large events that span over weeks can be quite high. We doubt there would be a high profit (if any) for this system.
Finally, churches may sometimes rent out spaces to shops and businesses, which is a great way of generating income. This is common in more prominent churches with significant space or a large compound.
Similarities Between Church And Business
The essence of any business is to offer a particular product in exchange for money. That doesn’t sound like what happens in a church, right? After all, churches, or any religious institution, don’t rely on a person’s desire for a particular product. Instead, they offer salvation, inspire people to be spiritual, and promote a healthy and pious lifestyle.
Of course, some churches might have a coffee shop in the compound or a cozy store selling bibles and crosses. But it’s not like these shops are swimming in money from all their sales. They probably don’t even make enough to cover the upkeep.
Be that as it may, we can’t help but point out the similarities between churches and businesses. So let’s list them down and analyze what makes these two models so similar to each other.
They Both Generate Revenue
As we mentioned before, churches rely heavily on tithe collection to generate revenue. Many see this as the same as a business offering a subscription in return for a product. In both scenarios, you are paying a certain amount in return for something else.
Let’s take, for example, a subscriber-based streaming platform like Netflix. The basic Netflix package comes for $6 and 99 cents a month, which millions will happily pay. On the other hand, a church will ask you to hand over a part of your monthly income as part of tithes.
While both these systems are not the same, we do understand where people draw the similarity. When you look at it from a capitalistic perspective, it really does seem like churches charge a membership or subscription fee in exchange for preaching the gospel. We guess you could say that’s the preacher’s fee for his service.
They Have Employees
Businesses and enterprises can only function with a considerable amount of employees. These may be skilled laborers, management staff, waiters, chefs, store clerks, or anyone who gets paid to fulfill a specific role. Walk into a Walmart or Home Depot, and you will automatically spot a conclave of clerks walking about, looking for customers to help.
Churches are similar in that they cannot function without several people operating behind the scenes. It might be a small congregation with a management of 5 people or a mega-church with over 100 assistants. Either way, they do need a specific amount of helpers to make it work.
So what’s the employee equivalent for churches? Well, there are a lot of them, actually. Walk into a mega church, and you’ll spot ushers roaming around, ensuring everyone has a seat. While these may be people who have volunteered, some would argue that they are, in fact, church employees.
That’s not all; there’s often a whole army of people managing a single mega-church. There are assistants, facility managers, technicians, musicians, accountants, youth leaders, communication leaders, janitors, etc. Most of them do this work full-time and receive monthly income from the church.
A Single Entity Controls Them
Like corporations have CEOs, mega-churches have a pastor at the top of the hierarchy. Of course, countless community-run churches operate on a smaller scale and act as a collective entity rather than under a singular force. But when it comes to mega-churches, it’s mostly the pastor calling all the shots.
Many would say that mega-church preachers even go so far as to horde all the money collected from members. While the accusation is shocking, there is enough evidence for us to confirm it.
Differences Between Church And Business
While there are ample similarities between the two, we must admit various factors also differentiate a church from a business. The primary difference would be that churches are not seen as businesses according to the law.
The government has officially made this distinction between the two, which is why they are legally considered separate entities. Let’s dive deeper into the many elements that separate churches from businesses.
Churches Are Non-Profit
Although churches collect revenue, they are and will always remain non-profit organizations. You don’t see preachers attending brainstorming sessions about how to maximize profits and minimize losses. They don’t advertise or promote a certain service to get more money.
Businesses, as we know, depend on profit margins to survive and expand. If their stock goes down or their profit margins decrease, they will waste no time terminating employees left, right, and center. That’s because businesses measure success by the profit they generate. No profit means no revenue, which means they won’t have money to pay their employees.
There is no incentive for a business to operate when it is constantly at a loss. No higher power or deeper goal can convince a businessman to continue doing what he does despite growing losses. It would just be impractical.
On the other hand, churches will continue to hold services even if they are running at a loss. Because they aren’t looking for your money, they’re looking for people who need saving. The success of a church is measured in a spiritual sense rather than a materialistic one.
While there are many cases of preachers churning a significant profit and splurging on themselves, this is not what’s happening in most churches around the world. So we can’t really judge the entire tree because of a few bad apples.
Let’s put it this way, several terrorists and Islamic extremists have used Mosques as a cover. But that doesn’t mean you would consider all mosques as evil, right? The same logic applies to churches in general.
Churches Don’t Sell You A Product
Unlike businesses, churches don’t specialize in manufacturing, marketing, and selling a product. They have used the same source material for all their sermons since immemorial with very little to no additives. Despite what critics say, we can’t consider the contents of the Bible as a product; that’s just idiotic. And even if it was, it’s not something that sells like KFC.
But what about all those mini-coffee stores and gift shops they have on campus? Again, those aren’t products they sell for profit; they just do that to raise a little money on the side, all of which goes back into paying the daily church expenses.
If you don’t consider a lemonade stand a profit-based business, we don’t see why anyone would not apply the same logic to a church.
Churches Are Exempt From Tax
According to the government, churches, just like Mosques or Temples, are exempt from paying taxes. This is the most defining distinction between a religious institution and a business enterprise. You can’t really call an organization a business if it has a special status according to the law.
Critics often speak out about how unfair this is for the rest of them. Why shouldn’t we tax churches even when they do make a profit?
Well, if we’re going down that road, why not apply the same law to all religious institutions? Why not send the tax man to every Islamic Mosque, Jewish Synagogue, or Hindu Temple and make them pay? The idea suddenly sounds deeply offensive and massively idiotic, doesn’t it?
Does Church Make A Profit?
Despite popular belief, churches do not make any profits in general. However, there might be rare instances when a particular church can generate a profit. Which brings us to another question; Where do we draw the line regarding what’s profitable and not profitable?
We’d say a church is profiting if they have an excess amount of funds which is significantly more than their expenses. By technical definition, that would be considered a profit.
However, we also have to consider the sheer number of members in the church, which is usually in the thousands. Assuming that each member makes $2000 in a month, that would amount to at least $400,000 in monthly tithe collection. And let’s not forget the various donors who give generously.
Now imagine a mega-church with hundreds of branches across the globe and millions of followers. Would it be so surprising if it generated revenue in the tens and millions of dollars? Not really; it’s quite normal. To add some more food for thought, the catholic congregation has over 1 billion members.
So to conclude, yes, some churches do make a profit, but most of them don’t. We can’t generalize it and declare that all churches enjoy a hefty profit daily.
When Is Church Considered A Business, And When Not?
We would define a church as a business if it behaved like one. We don’t mean having some similarities as a business, no; we mean if they went the whole nine yards and presented themselves as a full-scale enterprise.
To be considered a business, a church must have a profit-based business model that actually works. The very goal of their existence should be based on how much profit they can make. In that case, they would have to turn away the homeless, the unemployed, the undocumented, and basically anyone else who cannot pay.
Churches often take in anyone ready to receive the gospel; their social and financial backgrounds are irrelevant. Imagine a small congregation with only 100 members located in a rural and economically poor area. Now, imagine half of those members are unemployed.
A business would turn away such individuals and only focus on those who can buy their services. It would never offer the service for free to fulfill a higher purpose. So by that logic, most churches, if not all, are indeed doing this to spread the gospel. Whether they make a profit or not is irrelevant to the cause.
Profit only comes into the picture when churches need to pay for the upkeep and various expenses. As we explained before, every organization needs a certain amount of profit to survive. So why demonize that element?
But on the other hand, we do have several preachers who have lost the way of the gospel and are focusing on blatant profit generation. And these moguls are typically easy to spot, which is why the media calls them out.
We’d say the most important question isn’t whether or not a church is making profits but whether or not they are charitable. After all, charity is one of the key traits of Christianity, so it should be reflected in the financial decisions of the church. If they are making excessive profits and have fulfilled the church’s financial needs, we believe it’s only expected for them to be charitable.
If a church went so far as to prioritize luxury instead of need, chances are they’re in it for the money. A church that promotes its ‘brand’ only to capitalize on custom-made T-shirts? Or what about a church that insists on selling overpriced branded bibles in the thousands, all so the pastor can buy a Lamborghini? That sounds like a business.
We do not want to get too much into politics, but it’s difficult to steer clear of it during these trying times. The growing ideology of the left directly challenges the church’s existence, and we see that happening worldwide.
Christianity is on the decline, with more and more people opting for secularism. Tithes and donations keep decreasing with the birth of each new generation who doesn’t believe in giving generously. To make up for this, churches have adapted to generating income from renting property, commercial spaces, or even Air B&Bs.
While this is not necessarily evil, it leads to a tidal wave of criticism, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. The main question today being: Is the church a business?
Honestly, we don’t think so. And this is coming from a completely unbiased perspective. We agree that most churches have adopted a business model to survive and, in some cases, thrive. However, they have retained the core fundamentals of the gospel, which we can witness if we analyze the matter.
So while the church is not a business, maybe it should act like one as long as the church helps the most vulnerable people in each community and donation money doesn’t end up in the pockets of the clergy or their friends.