Armodoxy for Today: Business Model
Many clergymen cringe when they hear someone mention the word business next to their church. It is insulting, they think, to refer to the church as a business. Understandably, if the Church is ordained by Christ, and is the dwelling place of God, it should not be tainted with models from the college MBA textbook. God should take care His Church and speaking of a business model which brings tangible returns can be seen as anathema.
When I was growing up, as I was contemplating the priesthood, I had a conversation with my parish priest, Fr. Krikor Hairabedian (of blessed memory), who shared his understanding of the Church. He said, if Christ is the head of the Church, then he is the “boss.” Why would I worry about any of the tangible matters? God will take care of His Church. And Fr. Krikor proceeded to tell me how throughout his own lifetime, God had always taken care of every one of his needs. Needless to say, Fr. Krikor was a man of great faith. Now, 40+ years into my priesthood, I often think about that conversation with good priest, and can attest the same with my experience in the Church. “The Lord is my shepherd,” says the psalmist (23) and follows up with a declaration, “I shall not want.”
There is a mystical dimension to the Church that overlaps the material Body of Christ. And certainly, it is the formula by which the Armenian Church has “worked” for the last 2000 years. God is in charge and everything falls into place and is taken care of.
The material Body of Christ is what functions on Earth. It is the legs, the arms, the mouth, the voice of Christ in the here and now. As such, it needs material support. The word “business” refers to the actual mechanism by which the work gets accomplished. Yes, we shy away and cringe at the statement that the church is a business, but in fact it is. It’s goal, however, is not the physical wealth, but the spiritual soul that resides in every human being.
A business – say a restaurant, insurance company or a department store – has as its ultimate goal the creation of more wealth. It has an obligation to its investors to make a profit, however, along the way, it accomplishes other tasks, which we can call overt goals: the restaurant feeds hungry people, the insurance company provides security for families, and the department store furnishes clothing and goods for people. The Church follows the same model but the ultimate goals and the overt goals are swapped. That is the Church has as its goal the salvation of the soul, and accomplishes this by the teaching the message of love that Christ demonstrated. Along the way, needs to take care of electric bills, property maintenance and pay for supplies. Calling it a business does not discount the participation of God, it merely establishes an order, a system by which things get accomplished.
During this period, between Ascension and the Pentecost in the post-Resurrection era, the Church was being formed. The order and the systems were being put into place to accomplish the greatest work of all, functioning as the Body of Christ.
We conclude today and these thoughts with the reading of the first Psalm:
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. (Psalm 1)