I struggle to hold 3 aspects of the Church in tension – the Community, the Cause and the Corporation. These 3 C’s (I was first exposed to this triad in the 1990’s) each reflect some aspect of church life in the western world.
We love the Community – the people of God, the called out ones, the ekklesia, the family of God. Relationships matter and our triune God is first and foremost a relational God. Many people think of this “community” when the word “Church” comes to mind.
Then there is the Cause – the Kingdom-building mission of God for which we give our treasure and talent, our very lives. This cause – often described by the great commission and great commandment – frames all that we do and how we express it in the world. We love the cause, we sacrifice for the cause, and many have spilled their blood for the cause (and Christ himself led the way for us).
Then there is the Corporation – the structure, resources, strategies and leadership responsibilities. Depending on church models and approaches this can include everything from policies and governance to strategic planning to fundraising. It can involve management and HR issues, office space allocation, rental costs, equipment and technology, real estate, classrooms, parking lots and playgrounds.
While the Community and the Cause can present challenging issues and concerns (some of them massive), I believe that the hardest part can be this “Corporate” aspect. And when you add money to the mix (salaries, budgets, campaigns, benevolence, stewardship, perspectives on debt, and so on) it can get downright oppressive!
Corruption can creep in to any church that misunderstands the complex nature of the “Corporate” aspect of Church. Yes, some very small, simpler group-based models where 30-40 people are the church may offer some exceptions. (Though I have seen churches this size split over what I would call the “Corporate” aspect of what they did — or did not — pay attention to, namely $$).
Mismanagement of staff and volunteers, well-meaning but ill-conceived funding strategies, wide ranges in compensation packages among staff, personal and biblical misunderstandings about debt, and hierarchical leadership models that oppress rather than empower others are some of the big problems.
Every leader must pay attention to this aspect of “Church” and must wisely enlist a team of people who can, in community and for the cause, address this with integrity, humility and authenticity.
Where do you see challenges here? How can we handle this well without inadvertently damaging the community and abandoning the cause?