Run it like a business?

Run it like a business? February 15, 2017

business-1137397_640President Trump is reported to be understandably frustrated that the government can’t be run like a business.  In his company, Trump could simply given an order and his underlings would do it.  But as president, he gives an order but he has to contend with the courts, Congress, semi-independent agencies such as the Pentagon, a vast bureaucracy, and state governments, each with its own complicated workings.

I’ve listened to a pastor explain how he is trying to run his church like a business.  He is the CEO, he explained.  His members are his employees.  He said he doesn’t do hospital visitations or evangelism calls.  That is the work of his members/employees.

I do think the government and churches can learn some things from businesses.  For example, you need to balance the budget, be efficient, give good service, etc.  But the very nature of these institutions prevents them from being interchangeable in the way they operate. 

Consider another institution:  the family.  Can a family be run like a business?  (Good luck with your children functioning as employees.)

We also hear about businesses being run like a family.  Again, that can be a useful analogy–colleagues feel close to each other, the business cares about its employees, etc.  But as a direct comparison, that is going to be problematic.  Parents can’t fire their children, as business leaders sometimes have to do with their employees.

The point is, businesses, governments, churches, and families are different things.  They have different purposes and different natures.  To run a church like a business is to turn it into a business–obsessed with marketing, giving consumers what they want, numerical growth, and money–which distorts its function as a ministry and as a community of the faithful.

The task is to find the best way to run a business, a government, a church, and families in their own terms.

All of this has to do with vocation.  Specifically, the related doctrine of the Estates.  God created human life so that it exists in various relationships and institutions:  the household (comprising both the family and its economic activities), the church, and the state.  We have vocations, or callings, in each of these distinct spheres.  In these multiple callings, Christians live out their faith in love and service to the neighbors that each of these vocations bring into our lives.


Illustration from Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

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