Someone recently told me that our church was becoming too much like a business because of our emphasis on planning, goal-setting, and appropriate policies and procedures. This well-meaning person believed that our church of 1,600 (plus) members should operate like we did when we were a 500 member congregation. (By-the-way, the church had policies and procedures back then too!)
But his complaint got my attention. I do not want to treat Christ's Church as a mere business to be managed by worldly standards and methods. I do not want to sell my soul and ministry to the pragmatism of the day which says, "If it works then do it." I want to lead His Church as a wise under-shepherd. So, what is "church administration"? Let me give you a brief definition of church administration as well as answer some commonly heard objections to the idea that the Church needs to be administered.
Church administration is the outworking of the Holy Spirit by which a congregation discovers its God-given mission as set forth in Scripture, develops its members in spiritual maturity, and deploys those members and resources toward the fulfillment of the mission in practical ways. The primary administrator and servant-leader of the congregation is the Pastor. It is his calling to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). The Pastor seeks the leadership of the Spirit and the counsel of the Word and of wise believers in discerning and charting a course of action for the church. He seeks the aid of the Spirit in raising up gifted leaders and servants who will carry out the mission and objectives of the church. The Pastor and congregation should seek to glorify God in all that they do (Colossians 3:17).
The congregation must realize that while God’s business is the most important business in all the earth, it is more than a “business.” The church must never lose sight of its unique character and calling as the Body of Christ. Thomas Edward Frank warns, “Administration has become synonymous with ‘church business.’ The term now refers to computer technology, financial accounting, property management, and other skills necessary for running large organizations. All of this and more is essential to contemporary churches, to be sure. If it is not deeply and soundly connected with ecclesiology, however, it risks becoming solely utilitarian, just as the churches it supports risk becoming subject to a soul-stifling instrumentalism. The church becomes less a community than a corporation, the pastor less a communal figure ordained for the sake of the good order of the community of faith and more a CEO.”1
Allow me to respond to some commonly heard objections to the idea of “church administration.”
1. The church is a spiritual environment and should not have a business atmosphere.
If this statement infers that planning and administering the work of the church cannot be spiritual or of faith, then I disagree. The Apostle James illustrated that the type of business activity that is unspiritual is that which leaves God out of the equation. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16).
The Church must plan and set goals. However, it must always be guided by the principles of God’s Word and its chief aim must be to glorify God. We must always remember that our time on earth is brief. We must make the most out of the time and opportunities the Lord gives us. And we must remember that shoddy, unorganized, and poorly executed work, even in the name of the Lord, is not acceptable when it is in our power to do better. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col 3:17).
I would agree that it is unbecoming of a church to be guided by worldly motives or philosophies. But seeing that the greatest “business” in all the world is God’s business we should seek to accomplish it in the most biblical, efficient, and effective means possible.
2. Administration is an unspiritual activity and has little to do with the processes of ministry of the church.
Church administration is not an unspiritual or unbiblical activity. Scripture consistently demonstrates that God is a God of order. This is seen in His methodical and logical way of creating the world (Genesis 1:1-2:7). This characteristic of order is to be applied to His churches. The Apostle Paul had to remind the Corinthian Christians that, “…God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Furthermore, God equipped some in the church with the gift of administration (Romans 12:8; 1 Corinthians 12:28).
3. Administration takes a minister (or any leader) out of his primary role and places him in a position where he becomes a “desk jockey” or has his ministry controlled by a group of boards or committees.
A mature leader understands that it is not his job to do all the tasks that need to be done by the church on any given day. He or she will provide the leadership to cast vision, clarify objectives, set goals, enlist team players, and hold people accountable for agreed upon action plans. I am a pastor, and I see my primary calling as that of, “…equipping the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…” (Eph 4:12). Administration does not take me away from my primary task of preaching the Word, and prayer (Acts 6); it helps me accomplish my calling more efficiently.
4. The church is fit together by the Holy Spirit and needs no human help or intervention. All members of the body will “naturally” sense their call and become active elements of the function of the church without administration or leadership.
If this is true, then why did Christ give His church spiritual leaders to equip the saints for the work of ministry? Why did the Apostles continually have to exhort the churches to stay focused on God’s will and the Great Commission? Why would God command church members to submit to the leaders He placed over them (Hebrews 13:17)? Why would God desire that elders be appointed in every city where the Gospel was being preached and churches were being planted (Titus 1:5)? Why would God tell us to consider one another in order to provoke one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24)?
Church administration is not the activity of working against the Holy Spirit. Under His control, it is the outworking of the Holy Spirit.
Recommended Resource: Church Administration: Creating Efficiency For Effective Ministry, by Robert H. Welch.
1. Frank, Thomas Edward. 2006. “Leadership and Administration: An Emerging Field in Practical Theology.” International Journal of Practical Theology 10, no. 1: 113-136.