What is the business of the church?
I believe this to be more than a fair question; it is a necessary one. I am not just asking what the church is, or what it does, or what the government of it is—I am asking, “What business are we (pastors) in?” Then, a natural follow-up question, “How’s business?”
Having come from a business environment, I transitioned somewhat smoothly into pastoring. My first church ministry position was that of a business administrator for a large church in San Diego.
After attending a conference in the late-’80s at Saddleback Church, where I first heard the term “church planting,” I suggested to my pastor, “Let’s do that—let’s plant a church.” After some interesting conversations, like two boys planning a ballgame, a month later, we planted a church about 30 miles from the sending church.
Again, my background was business, so I took those principles that I knew and applied them to building the new church. Those principles worked, and the church flourished.
Fortunately, those principles were, I believe, biblical. If I could take just one portion of Scripture that defines the model we used, it is Ephesians 4:11-16:
He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16 is not only the biblical model that we used; it became the business of the church, job descriptions, our product and the thing we marketed.
Here is how we applied it:
1. We continually acknowledged that we have a CEO.
“He (Christ) Himself …”
2. We recognized offices.
Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers. Every pastor is familiar with either the four- or five-fold ministry of the church.
Here is how we saw them:
- Establish government. Apostle: one sent forth with the authority to establish the government of God. Often, but not always, the church planter.
- Know the message. Prophet: One who speaks the mind of God—the preaching of the Word.
- Reach the market. Evangelist: a soul-winner, one who leads the key ministry of evangelism (see 2 Tim. 4:5).
- Instruct for duplication. Pastor, teacher: shepherds, overseers, elders, who are all apt to teach.
Initially, I functioned in all these offices. My business objective and goal was to replace myself in each of these realms with more qualified and gifted people. Not being the sharpest tool in the shed, this was not difficult for me to do.
3. We focused on the work.
“Equipping the Saints … every part (doing) its share.”
Here is where many churches, I believe, fail. The officers do the work that they are supposed to equip the body to do.
4. We established harmony in the workplace.
“Edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith.”
Unity comes through building: purposefully building relationships, building up each other and building community.
5. We focused on continuing education.
“That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.”
6. We had a sound, established foundation.
“Speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.”
7. We wholeheartedly focused on growth.
“Causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
When I retired after nearly 25 years as a lead pastor, I received maybe my greatest compliment. The night that I passed the proverbial baton to my successor, who happened to be my son, the following took place:
During the service, the history of the church was given, naturally telling of all our successes, which I have to admit were quite impressive. After the crowd had subsided, one of our core members came up to me with a tear in his eye and said with all sincerity, “Pastor, look what all God has accomplished through you. Look at this building, the number of salvations and baptism over the years. And to think, you just weren’t that good.”
To this day, I count it as my greatest business-accomplishment compliment.
Tony Foglio is a pastor, church planter, businessman and author of Discover the Bible: Journey Through the Bible As It Was Meant to Be Read (Thomas Nelson, 2004). For more information, go to DiscovertheBible.com.