What is More Important, Being a Ministry or Being a Business?

The question seems hard because it would seem that any ministry is a business, but yet there must remain some separation between the two. Why must there remain a separation one asks? We as Christians must look different from the world’s business and the way in which the world’s businesses work. Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” Because of this, the way in which fellow believer’s work in a ministry must look different from the world’s perspective. This means it is not handled, worked out, nor treated like the world’s work.

A business is a place where a person practices his or hers regular occupation, profession or trade. Business is the practice of making one’s living by engaging in commerce. A ministry provides exactly this type of atmosphere for believers to practice their God given talents and trades to work for the Kingdom of God and not the kingdom of this realm.  A ministry is a place where a person practices his or hers occupation, profession, and trade in the service of God’s kingdom, doing God’s work in a godly environment. This is a spiritual work or service of any Christian or group of Christians working together for a common cause. A business sells a product and makes a profit for its self. A ministry serves Jesus Christ that cannot be done at a profit for its self, but for the Kingdom of God.

Both the business and ministry create a job for the individual to practice their occupation. The major difference is that a ministry is a business, but a business is never a ministry. The main focus of a ministry, or that of any ministry is that it must look different, act different, and reaction different to situations, how issues are handled, and how people are dealt with from a business perspective. What then is left for the ministry is to decipher what is more important to them. Being a ministry or being a business – and this is where things can get ugly. I think there are three things that a ministry can remember when being a business that can help them in doing their work for the Kingdom of God and not look like the kingdom of this age.

1. A ministry understands the value of its employees that work for them. They understand that they are dealing with souls and not just indispensable people like that from a business. A ministry differs than a business because it can relate to one another in the gospel, dealing with one another, understanding one another and having a common bond in the gospel that allows its self to be different from the world. In a ministry, the gospel can fix everything, in a business they continue to search for everything but the gospel. In a ministry one another value one another because instead of seeing an indispensable person who can be replaced. They see the person, the family around that person, and most of all the saved soul that is a fellow believer who has been bought by Christ. A ministry sees the believer as they are called by God to “be saints” (Romans 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2) and have come into a realm of peace (1 Cor. 7:15; Col. 3:15), freedom (Gal. 5:13), hope Eph. 1:18; 4:4), holiness (1 Thess. 4:7), patient endurance and suffering (1 Peter 2:20-21; 3:9), and eternal life (1 Tim. 6:12).

2. A ministry is different from a business in that a ministry can share in the communicable attributes of their God with one another. When situations occur, pressing times come and trails happen the believer gets to practice the gospel. Like that of a business, a ministry encounters hard times as well, but it is in the hard times and suffering that what makes the difference between a ministry and a business. In the business, paychecks are cut, families are torn, people are fired, and nowhere to run is the only thing left to feel. In a ministry, the believer gets to enjoy the sovereignty of God, but better yet he shares in relation in knowing both how to get through hard times and how to deal with hard times. A ministry when needing to work through things gets to practice those attributes that God shares with us. Like his knowledge (Job37: 16; 1 John 3:20), wisdom (Rom. 16:27; Job 9:4; 12:13), Truthfulness (John 17:3; 1 John 5:20), goodness, mercy and grace (Ps. 100:5; 106:1, 107:1), love (1 John 4:8), holiness (Isa. 6), his righteousness and justice (Deut. 32:4; Gen. 18:25; Isa. 45:19; Rom. 3:25-26). For a business, it is much easier to fire, let go, and move on finding another human being. For a ministry, although it is harder, they learn how to love like Christ, how to forgive like Christ, how to give grace like Christ and be merciful like Christ, practicing the gospel and those attributes which God has allowed his people to enjoy with one another.

3. Lastly, a ministry serves and works for Christ kingdom, not the kingdom of this age. Businesses serve themselves doing the work for themselves, for a purpose glorifying something else for someone else. A ministry understands its first and foremost goal in life and in all of its work: “That God in all things may be glorified.” (1 Pet. 4:11); and “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (l Cor. 10:31). A ministry understands that its citizenship has been called out of this kingdom to better serve another one, Christ Kingdom. A ministry that places business in front of its ministry still tries to serve Christ in this kingdom, but yet uses the world’s programs, methods, and means to achieve their goal. A ministry that does not understand this ends up pleasing man, making a name for themselves, forgetting truth, leaving behind its workers, and carry’s its pride along with them where ever they go. A true ministry must understand that they serve another kingdom, another realm, and that their ministry/business is held accountable to another ruler, another leader, and another king, their king, Jesus Christ. Serving in Christ Kingdom, the ministry understands that theology over rides everything else of this kingdom.

If we truly understood that business is ministry, and that ministry is not business, maybe we would relate with one another differently in our own ministries. Maybe we would care differently, maybe we would serve differently, and maybe we would see the importance of being different from the world. Maybe, just maybe we would enjoy practicing Christ likeness for the Kingdom of God differently, and not that which we have been called out of.

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4 Comments on “What is More Important, Being a Ministry or Being a Business?”

  1. JJordan says:

    Dewalt –

    This is an interesting blog entry. I think it’s not as cut and dry as you think.

    Point #1
    * This presupposes that businesses are not run by and/or have leaders who are Christians. All of my employees that work for me – I care deeply about their careers, families, goals and dare I say souls. Also – I’ve seen many a so called “ministry” get so caught up in raising of money and/or listening to Bill Hybels on how to lead a ministry – that they become a corrupted shell that can be even uglier than some secular business models.

    Point #2
    * Again – be careful to pigeon hole all of business this way. 50% of my team has come into my office and prayed with me about family issues and I have led the same individuals in a study of gospel centered discussion on a regular basis. We share our faith and encourage, build up and strengthen one another. Christ is the center of for a good portion of the team and we view our impact on the business and larger organization as one that is based off of our faith in many ways.

    Point #3
    * You can argue that businesses are out to make a profit and serve themselves. That’s a pretty common argument and in American in 2010 – it’s more than likely true. I can’t argue that. But let’s get back to what service we provide and the mission of an organization. My employer – as you know – serves the community in helping the sick, lame and despondent by providing incredibly high quality health care. The mission is to care for those who need care. We must function to sustain a profit in order to keep that business progressing and continue to provide that care but the overall mission is to love the world thru caring for the sick. I’ve seen so called “Christian” ministries with far less of an impact and far less focus on loving others. So again – i would not create a vision that is so polarizing.

    I understand your premise – but would simply caution against thinking the concept of ministry vs. business is so black/white.

    I am on the board of an apologetics ministry that is trying to start up and I’m concerned that the focus by the primary individual leading this group – while at the root sincere and submitted to Christ – seems to be on fund raising and drawing a salary. We are all sinners and no matter ministry/business we have a responsibility to represent Christ and see the gospel go forth.

    Take care bro. In Christ – JJ

  2. Jim says:

    Dewalt,

    Thanks for the post. This is an issue that every ministry needs to consider. I have asked my staff to review this article, as well. Thanks for posting.

    “The major difference is that a ministry is a business, but a business is never a ministry.” This statement seems to disregard the fact that SOME believers are using there business to further the ministry of the Kingdom. Many (not all or even most) christian businesses are founded on the God-given command to work. Business is a potential means to obey (Eph 4:28, 1 Tim 5:8, 1 Pet 2:18-20). This may be considered ‘Biblical utilitarianism’, but is is Biblical none the less.

    Business can also be used as an atmosphere to minister (and provide a platform for the eventual preaching of the gospel). This has been my experience as an employee (live the life, then preach the gospel out of credibility), but also from the Christian employers perspective (Philemon?).

    In addition, ministries can really benefit from the procedures of the business world. It seems to me that too many ministries are ‘run like a church’ in the procedures, mindset, and pace of work. While Christians should exhibit a model of work-ethic (1 Cor 10:31), it just doesn’t seem to flesh-out that way. Our ministry looks more like a business than it ever has, but I would argue that the implementation of organizational procedures, checklists, and reporting structures is a benefit to our work, rather than a detractor.

    I do agree with your underlying thought that the shift to ‘profitability or efficiency centered’ as opposed to a ‘mission centered’ is a huge danger (and sin), not only in ministries (and businesses), but also in churches, and – let’s face it – in our Americanized personal goals. Thanks for the great article.

    -Jim

  3. Jim,
    My statement ““The major difference is that a ministry is a business, but a business is never a ministry.” I meant that if a ministry, your primary focus is a ministry. I do see your point and you are right, SOME believers do a good job of using there business to further the kingdom. I was not comparing it to those people, but to the secular businesses.

  4. Jim says:

    Got it. Thanks for the post. I appreciated it.


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