Safely Navigating the Blurred Lines of Ministry and Business
For the Christian, one of the similarities between ministry and business is the work of creation—the effort to provide people with a message, product, or service that will make their lives better. Stated this way, it makes both minister and entrepreneur an artist–or poet in the strictest sense of the word.
The problem is this similarity also makes it easy to blur the lines at inappropriate intersections—which can be extremely dangerous.
On the one hand, any sincere minister trying to earn a decent living can come across shady, shallow, or indecent if he’s not circumspect in applying legitimate business principles to his ministry.
Examples might be churches that try to market their message to a modern audience using trendy methods that unwittingly cheapen grace, to put it in Bonhoeffer’s terms. Or, there is always the Christian writer or educator that goes ahead and charges a fair market price for his book or curriculum knowing it’s a shabby product he should be embarrassed of.
On the other hand, the Christian who tries to minister through her business platform by meeting a legitimate need can throw her livelihood into a fatal tailspin if she’s not prudent.
An example might be the business that is afraid to charge a premium price for a premium product because they’re afraid of alienating people they want to help; or there’s always that entrepreneur that aggressively tries to sell customers something she thinks they should need, when they don’t really want it (regardless if they actually need it).
One way to avoid the scandalous ditches on either side of the road is to learn what it means to create meaningful art—a message, product, or service which both “enlightens and delights” the recipient, to use Horace’s expression.
Following are five questions a meaningful artist might ask to avoid the ditches:
- Will the message, product, or service meet a genuine need for humanity?
- What will it cost ethically, economically, and eternally to create or cultivate my message, product, or service?
- Am I crafting my message, product, or service with personal integrity?
- Am I perfectly clear and truthful about the legitimate benefits of acquiring, or consequences of neglecting, my message, product, or service?
- Am I able to deliver my message, product, or service in a virtuous manner?
With all this in mind, what does this teach us about how we organize and vocalize our art?
In other words, what questions should we be asking when trying to determine if it’s better to organize as a business or ministry? How does this inform how we talk about or vocalize our mission?
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.
About Scott Postma
Scott lives in North Idaho collecting more books than he'll ever read in a lifetime. He shares valuable tips on writing and teaching, rich insights into theology and literature, and meaningful perspective on living a life of significance. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.