Mobile Phone vs Bible
A Biblical Philosophy of Business (Pt.2)

A Biblical Philosophy of Business (Pt.1)

Business Today, let's talk about the business world. Most people spend the majority of their working week out in the marketplace and there are numbers of Christians who have their own businesses.

Unfortunately, many people have created a division between what is ‘sacred’ and what is ‘secular’. In fact, there has been a certain amount of tension between business and Christianity throughout the centuries. St. Jermome said, "A merchant can seldom if ever please God." St. Augustine, a fifth century bishop said, "Business is in itself evil." Not too much encouragement there!

Where does this perspective come from?  It comes primarily from Greek philosophy which sees life as a number of compartments – personal, family, work, religion (faith), recreation, etc. As long as we prioritise correctly and make appropriate contributes to each ‘box’, life will work out for us. Our faith and our relationship with God are ‘sacred’. Everything else is ‘secular’ - having no religious, sacred or spiritual aspect.every area of life. All of life is to be lived in His presence and for His pleasure.

Your business and your work is meant to be sacred. It is part of God’s purpose for your life (see Genesis 1:26-30). God’s mandate for us in creation was to take dominion over the earth and to work productively in it (Genesis 2:15). Work was God’s intention for us before sin. It was not a curse given to us because of sin. Business is simply an institutionalisation of ‘work’.

Many of the people God used in the Bible had careers and ran businesses at some stage in their life. They were not all ‘people of the cloth’ or working with the Temple or the church environment.

  • Abraham was a herder of vast flocks of sheep, goats, donkeys, cattle, and perhaps even camels. Many modern scholars think he was also a trader, managing donkey caravans and doing business from Turkey to Egypt.
  • Deborah was a judge in Israel.
  • David was a king, responsible for an entire nation.
  • Nehemiah was an employee in the king’s palace.
  • Daniel was a government official. Amos was a farmer.
  • Jesus was a carpenter up until the age of 30. He had to deal with customers, products and orders.
  • Paul was a tentmaker who funded his church work through the profits (in partnership with Aquila and Priscilla).
  • James and John were fishermen who had a fishing business with their Father.

In all of our life we are to honour and represent Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour (Colossians 3:17). This includes our business. God is interested in the relationships in the workplace and how people treat each other (Ephesians 6:5-9).

Tomorrow, we'll begin talking about God's purpose for business ...

Comments

Mark,

"there are numbers of Christians who have their own businesses"

I couldn't agree more, a quick search on Hillsong's list of businesses/companies reveals a very long list!

Church is the ultimate (tax-free) business.

Pastor Mark, I have always liked reading your blogs and feel informed and encouraged by it. Thank you for taking time to write these blogs. I feel really sorry for you that there are people who are bent on launching personal attacks. May God give you strength, wisdom and peace throughout this! God bless!

Yes, Ruddigar, churches and many 'not for profit' organisations get some excellent tax breaks from the government. Without these tax breaks, many hospitals, educational centres, counselling centres, community centres, schools, humanitarian aid organisations, and churches would close down or have to reduce their activity considerably - to the detriment of 1000s of people. Let's pray that never happens :)

How very true Mark. Without the church and the many volunteer community workers this country would not be able to function properly. The economy actually saves alot of money through the voluntary work of volunteers serving the community, and the country would fall down without them!!! So any small contribution via tax cuts, etc., that the government makes towards these charitable organizations, including the church, is actually to the benefit of the whole of Australia! Something the average person needs to think about and take into consideration! :)

I would like to share a thought that was put forward in our lifegroup. Paraphrasing - "wouldn't it be wonderful if the church could pay people the market rate or above and thereby also attract and keep the very best people." This is more a reference to support staff as opposed to ministers who have hopefully been called and is not supposed to be having a go at anyone who works for the church. Having had my wife work in the church and seen others from the corporate world spend a season working in the church but inevitably returning to the corporate world, often I suspect due to the below market rate, is sad. It is often heard that people who work in the Church do so because it is their "ministry" therefore, it is expected that they sacrifice a certain quality of life in order to perform their "ministry". If we consider the process of sanctification seriously and the consequences of failing to be lead properly by our churches (potentially falling away from the faith and hell). Our church people should be paid far more than they when you consider the responsibility they have to lead us on our journey to heaven. Of course there is opportunity to abuse finances but that is were church governance becomes so very important. Therefore I do not begrudge any minister of any tax breaks they get. As far as I am concerned they deserve more. While I do not advocate the prosperity message preached by many I also do not feel it is right to expect ministers to be poor and struggle through their ministry. Many ministers in small churches need to work because of the lack of finances. How is this helping the minister do what he should be doing for the congregation and seeking God for direction and ministry to its members?

Thanks for replying Mark, and I'd agree that there are some churches that put the tax breaks to good use with these community services.

I'm curious to know what your stance is on churches like Hillsong, who in 2005 had a tax free income of $50 million. Do you honestly believe they provide $50 million dollars worth of community services in a year? I can only think of their large venues and property acquisitions?

Regards,
-Ruddigar.

Hi Mark,

I work in a Corporate - and while it I see no difference ‘in theory’ (‘in theology(?)’ between sacred and secular - the reality is that it is sometimes so damned hard "being" a Christian in a secular workplace.

It seems that the more ‘pragmatic’ one needs to become in order ‘to get stuff done’, the more the line between the ‘ideal’ and the ‘less than ‘ideal’ become grey.

To get ‘stuff through’ we need to ‘spin’ the comms, or ‘gift-giving’, ‘incentivising’, ‘flattering’ and ‘horse-trading’ with key stakeholders. Statistics and financials can be sliced and reported in ways to sell a desired situation – these tools and practices of influence are not necessarily wrong but are all ‘necessary evils’ and for the greater good of ‘delivering’ (or being perceived to deliver)..

Don’t get me wrong, whilst I have a great job, in a great company – at times these compromises, the politics and practices are ‘not necessarily wrong’ but ‘not necessarily right’ and can weigh heavy on the soul.

It makes me think, that perhaps Augustine had a good point "A merchant can seldom if ever please God." …

Finding time and space for the sacred, to escape the temptations and demands of the secular to recharge─to revive the soul before all is lost - is an imperative.

Perhaps we need to CREATE a divide in our own lives between the sacred and secular. A divide with a ‘one way door’ that lets the sacred flow to the secular compartments of life – but not the secular to the sacred.

And perhaps this is why there are problems when the Church is in Business, and when the Business is Church.

Perhaps this is why Jesus ferociously drove the traders from his Fathers house.

Should read:

"...And perhaps this is why there are problems when the Church is in Business, and when the Business is IN Church".

Hi Pay More.

Yes, many churches pay their staff very poorly and this is not good (see 1 Timothy 5:17-18) I think staff wages should pass the 'sniff test' (a phrase from Bill Hybels) - they should not be exhorbitantly low or exhorbitantly high.

Our Board of Elders (who set the staff salaries) tries to benchmark our administrative staff wages to the marketplace, though with a lack of 'awards' in some roles, it can be hard to do. With our pastors, we use the school teacher's award as a benchmark.

Obviously, some senior management wages in the marketplace are virtually impossible to match in the church environment. This means that some church staff end up choosing a significantly lower wage to be part of a church staff team. That's a sacrifice some choose to make.

Hope this helps.

Hi Ruddigar.

I can't comment on behalf of Hillsong but I can say this:

1. I know that they do a lot of work in their local community.
2. I know that they have made some significant donations to mission and humanitarian work in places such as Rwanda and Uganda.
3. A large family is considerably more expensive than a small one. You need a bigger house, more rooms, more furniture, more cars, you eat more food, runnings costs are higher, etc, etc. It's the same with church. It's a simple equation: more people = more expenses.
4. I think Hillsong has about 20,000 people, so with a $50m budget, that ratio equates to about $500,000 a year for a church of 200 people (98% of churches in the world are 200 people or less). That doesn't sound that out of proportion to me.

Hope this helps.

Hi Lionfish. Always good to hear from you.

Yes, working in a business that does not have Christian values can be very difficult for a follower of Christ. I read a survey of Christians a few years back and the top two pressures Christians said they found in life were (1) working in a hostile environment and (2) financial pressures. I was challenged by this because the church in general rarely talks about these two things (except for 'giving', which is only a small part of good personal financial management).

So, yes, it is difficult, but I think that is what God has called us to. Just like Daniel in Babylon and Esther in Persia, we are called to be 'in' the world but 'not of' the world. That is a delicate balance - relevance but difference; avoiding the extremes of isolation and immersion (phrases from Joe Eldridge's excellent book 'Lifestyle Evangelism').

Church and business? A lot of people fail to realise that any community or organisation (including the church) has a business aspect to it. We will either do that well or poorly. Jesus, in his parable of the unjust manager, said that in financial dealings, the children of this world are often wiser than the children of light. That was not a compliment! Churches need to ensure that they handle the financial aspect of their activities with ethics and wisdom, while not forgetting that the church is primarily a 'community' of believers carrying our Christ's 'cause' in the world.

Lionfish, you might like to read my post on 'A Balanced Perspective of Church' under the 'Church' category (October 4th, 2007).

Thanks :)

Hi Mark,

Firstly, I understand that it is your Birthday, many happy returns - and I hope you had a memorable day.

I recognize and agree entirely with you that there is a ‘Business’ aspect to Churches (which includes administrative, management and leadership functions) and the Church does not and can not exist in isolation (to the rest of the world).

Like natural laws and principles, economic and management principles have been created by God, and Churches have a mandate and responsibility to steward and administrate resources well (if not better) than any other organization.

However, we must be careful to consciously differentiate between the role and ‘modus operandi’ of a ‘for profit’ enterprise (ie. 'a Business') and that of God’s Church. I think this extends beyond the scope and need for ethics and wisdom. Accordingly, I would like to explore this a little further with you.

Earlier you quoted St Augustine:


“Business is in itself evil."


Similarly, St Jerome (345-420 a.d. ) stated:


“Avoid, as you would the plague, a clergyman who is also a man of business”.


I do think we have to be careful about being too dismissive of the accepted wisdom of the early Church Fathers and other great thinkers throughout orthodox Church History.

I would be interested to know your thoughts as to 1) what was the experience of these people... and 2) what do you think was really behind the thinking of these great minds who saw fit to provide future generations of Christians with their insight and warnings? And do you think there anything in this thinking that we need to be conscious of today?

The easy answer is to assume that they were wrong or naive - or that we possess more advanced thinking in and for our times.

But of course, these people were great thinkers and were after all closer to the times and teachings of Christ and the Apostles than we are today.

- R. :-)

Lionfish,
A quote by Augustine on women:
"The woman together with the man is the image of God, so that the whole substance is one image. But when she is assigned as a helpmate, which pertains to her alone, she is not the image of God: however, in what pertains to man alone, is the image of God just as fully and completely as he is joined with the woman into one (De Trinitate, 12, 7, 10)"
And when it comes to the issue of sexuality is Augustine really close to the Apostles and Word?Every instance Augustine talks about sex, he implies that it was wrong or at least the reasons for having sex were wrong. However, it seems that he takes this belief a little too far. Maybe this stems from his studying with the Manichees and their belief that the body was the cause of evil or maybe it stems from his interpretation of Catholicism and the Bible. What ever the case may be for completely speaking out against his own sexual life though, many people have been influenced by his beliefs. That is why the critic who said, "the equation of sin with sex which has characterized many periods of Western Civilization (such as Puritanism) can be traced back to Augustine," was right.

And though I love the writings of both Augustine and Jerome - please lets not stand in the danger of putting them in "sainthood" or even comparing them closely to the witness and writings ofthe Apostles.
I won't bother quoting the 100's of vicious attacks on females and Jews in his writings, and the close link between St. Jerome's savage condemnation of the female sex and his denigration of the Jew.
The more I read their writings I thinkt they were far more influenced by dualism, and the modern church is still picking up the pieces of this.
Business and the church needs to be approached with caution and integrity. But i prefer the quotes and thoughts from Daniel, Esther and Jesus :)

Petra,

You make some really valid points. Yes, we cannot hold Augustine's writings up to scripture. Augustine in my understanding corrected many of his earlier writings in his later years.

I believe everything Mark has written about in his philosophy on Business is true and correct in his five part series on Business - (gives purpose, creates value etc). This is all True and provides a 'positive' view on Business (ie. Business is good) - and is consistent with the views of the Contemporary Church.

However, one thing I believe that needs to considered, (and maybe I am wrong) but Business is part of creation and the world. As such, like all things it is in inherently corrupt and is also in need of redemption.

Maybe this is what Augustine was thinking - and maybe this view needs to be coupled or included with Contemporary thinking in order to obtain a properly balanced perceptive - as rong thinking leads to wrong behaviours.

The Business 'its all good' perspective - 'we just have to apply our own ethics and wisdom' to our Business practices may well lead us into danger.

If Business, like man is fallen and is in need of redemption - then what are the implications for the Church and for us as Christians?

This raises many questions:

Should the Church simply adopt the Business practices of other organizations and simply apply wisdom and a standard of ethics?
Or do you think that some Business practices that are legal and ethical in the Business world need to be avoided like the plague in the Church?
Is the Church something quite different from a Business and have to be managed as such?

Hello Lionfish (almost called you Lionking there :)
Really good thoughts - and yes, i agree, business due to sin is in need of redemption - like all of creation - and i guess like the church (i.e. in the fullness of redemption). The question poses, just to ensure we are thinking along the same lines: - who/what is the church? It is not the Kingdom of God, however it is part of the kingdom. For the sake of the space here can we agree that the church is God's community of Christ followers who have a mandate to be a faithful witness to the kingdom, or in the words of Newbeginn "the church is a sign and an agent of the foretaste of the kingdom of God." And when individuals of the church gather and form a community - what sort of business is and what is not appropriate for this community? Have I got this straight before I give some further thoughts on answering that? Does it, in your mind, give a fair definition of the church? And am I understanding your questions correctly?
Regards,
Petra

Lionfish, don't you think that sometimes Christianity is so hyper-spiritualised that we forget we remain, as Christ's witnesses, on a temporal, material earth in a temporal, material body with all of its temporal, material, earthly needs, until we go to be with the Lord, or Jesus comes.

Whilst our focus should primarily be on the eternal and the heavenly, and we should seek the kingdom first, Jesus does promise that God will take care of our earthly needs whilst we are here, and does give us, along with New testament writers, practical guidelines for stewardship and going about the business of life.

It was never God's intention to give up the world's precious life and materials to the devil and his followers. He gave man dominion over it, to subdue and replenish it and to multiply. All things were created for God's pleasure, not the unregenerate world's pleasure. Has this changed, do you think?

Correct stewardship and management of the world's goods must still be part of God's intentional purpose for man. We still live here, spiritually alive when born again, but yet in these needy bodies.

'If man won't work he shouldn't eat', claims Paul, who ran a business to help sustain his ministry.

Correct teaching on business and stewardship is to be applauded. Life goes on!

Facelift my friend ...

Yes, good stewardship is to be applauded.

Don't worry, I am not turning into a Gnostic. I still believe that if a brick falls from a tall building and lands on my head - it will cause material as well as spiritual damage. :-)

Behind the physical reality, lies a spiritual reality (our battle is not against flesh and blood ... ) Eph Ch 6. It is the beliefs and values that drive behaviour and these things cannot be seen.

Accordingly, we are discussing is a philosophy upon which to build a framework for Christian stewardship over material resources. :-)

Hi Petra,

RE: Defining Church.

I believe we share the same understanding of Church.

For the purposes of this discussion the definition that I propose to be used is that of 'an organized community of believers who are in unity by way of partnership (membership) of the same local Church'.

And you have hit the nail on the head with the right question

"What sort of business/business practices are and are not appropriate for this community?"

Look forward to hearing your thoughts. :-)

Hi Lionfish,
If you don't mind I'll avoid writing a thesis and just step through this one thought at a time (and hopefully Mark won't tell us to scram :) I don't think with formation, structure and practice of any church community we can escape the issue and question of culture. E.g. Some are hailing the structure of the early church in Acts as the one to return to. My observations would be that the early church was responding in structure and practice to its culture and crisis - a few thousand new converts, and daily people being added, the threat and imminent persecution, the caste system that resulted in injustice, etc. I find this part of the Acts narrative informative and there are certain principles that are timeless - the pursuit of justice, the care for the poor and widows, the gathering together in both larger and smaller communities, etc. However, I don't see it as perscriptive - this is now how every church in every culture needs to be structured. The aims and principles of church need to remain, but the structure and method may change. I guess I wanted to hear your thoughts on this because if you are of a different mindset here it's no use hopping to the 21st century. Your thoughts?
regards,
Petra

Hi Mark!

Wow! What a wonderful debate. Business and Church, sacret and secular!

The topic here that got my attention was 'taxation' and the church being exempt. I personally believe that the church has been mislead into accepting better when they could be receiving the best!

IF and I say if churches ALL gave up their tax free status in favor of providing the congregation with Tax Exempted giving for tithes and offerings, I believe God would multiply his church 100 or 1000 fold.

The past governments have sort to seperate religion and church. God calls for unity!

'food for thought'

Hi Petra,

Just got in from a couple of busy days away.

RE Church Change: Yes I fully agree that the aims and principles of church need to remain, but the structure and method may change.

I am not and advocate of the Church in the first few days following Pentecost as being some 'ideal state' that Christians must strive to return to.

A read through acts and the testament reveals that the Church took various forms.

One thing we must define clearly and disctinguish bewteen is the term 'principles', 'methods' and 'practices'. I have found often that Church confuse a 'principle' for a 'practice'.'

Hi Lionfish,
Hope you had a good time away.
Thank you for that, i have just been reading several books and found this exaltation of church structure in Acts irritating, although the rest was a good read :)
So based on this thought, here is my next question - can we then say (and hopefully this does not jump too many steps in between) that the church placed in whatever culture or time should be/could be structured in whatever way for it to fulfil its purpose and mission, and serve its community? That structure in a sense is "fluid" and can be treated in such a way to shape it into serving the church community and mission (obviously, re-emphasising, i am not talking about timeless principles)? Sorry, don't meant to be so long winded, i just found sometimes in conversation people come from all different understandings and thoughts of church, structure, business, etc.
Regards,
Petra

Hi Ruddigar,
Your comment about church being the ultimate "tax free business" has raised the question in my mind as to whether there are economic reasons for churches that raise "revenue" to be given tax exempt status.
Without being influenced by the encounter between Barack Obama and Joe the Plumber the other day, I think that one of the objectives of the tax system is to redistribute wealth- which amongst other things includes the provision of social services like health care, education, counselling, shelters for women etc. These services are also performed by many churches.

So the economic question is : Where would a dollar of tax be most efficiently and effectively utilised: In the hands of the government or under the stewardship of the church?

In the case of efficiency, I think that churches like Hillsong would be better able to allocate capital than the government because of their speed and lower cost of decision making, smaller size and lower bureaucracy which leads to lower overhead costs and greater resource leverage and most importantly the(intangible) focus and passion that comes from working for the Lord as opposed to doing a job(the last named I believe is the most compelling though it cannot be considered a classical economic reason).

In terms of effectiveness, I think there is a better chance of “long term” thinking in a church ministry project as opposed to a government program because governments keep changing over time. Changes in government often bring about changes in focus for social programs – and lets face it - because of the added pressure on the government to stay popular with voters. We are all familiar with instances (many) of one government starting a social project which ended up being wound back when it went out of power. On the other hand there is greater consistency of focus within the church because changes in leadership are less frequent and more importantly leadership transition is based on continuity of objective rather than its abrogation.

Consequently in my view it is both more economically efficient as well as more effective for a dollar of tax payers money to stay in the hands of the church rather than go over to the hands of the government. I hope and pray like pastor Mark that it remains so.

I also whole heartedly agree with Mike Brown when he advocates tax exemptions for tithes and offerings . I think they will lead to greater incentives for giving and consequently greater efficiency in the utilisation of tax payer funds. However I disagree with you Mike when you say that God would multiply it 100 or 1000 fold. I believe that God sees our hearts and works in the realm of faith and I think that these are independent of taxation, or government or church programs. Infact, I think it takes more faith to tithe with after tax dollars !(just being facetious Mike)- Denis Lobo


Good discussion and debate! In the USA, all donations to churches are tax deductible, and this does help the levels of giving plus it directly benefits the giver. I'm not sure if it will ever happen in Australia but would be interesting to think of the ramifications if it did ...

Hi Petra,

My primary laptop has ‘blue screened’ and so I have not had access to it for the past few days…

RE: That “(Church) structure in a sense is "fluid" and can be treated in such a way to shape it into serving the church community and mission”.

Yes, I agree. Aspects of the Church should be agile enough to change as required in order to complete its mission.

How would you define an (unchanging) ‘principle’ and how do you think it should differ from ‘methods’ and ‘practices’ (of a Church) that can change?

Petra,

RE: "that the church placed in whatever culture or time should be/could be structured in whatever way for it to fulfil its purpose and mission, and serve its community?".

Yes (mainly) and No (sometimes).

This is a grey and complex area. As a general principle' I believe the end should not justify the means. (Eg. Deceptive fund raising practices to acquire resources in order to build more attractive churches to évangelise the unchurched').

The Church must strive to be true to itself, its core values and act (practice) within the principles and constraints outlined in scripture.

In some cases the some tools, techniques and practices of the (business) world are not (ethically) available to the Church - even though they may be morally, legally and ethically available to Business organisations.

Hello Lionfish,
Yes, i tried to emphasise that although structure is agile it has to remain within the boundaries of who and what the church is. Therefore deceptive fundraising would certainly not fall into that! But maybe i can share a story as an example that would put us on the same ground regarding business.
As a new convert to Christianity i was part of a community that was highly active in evangelism, discipleship and care for the needy. It's mandate was set - however, over time, something crept in that i can simply put down to human insecurity and competitiveness. The evangelism was no longer driven by a care for the lost, rather it was a number on someone's list to be ticked off. The actions remained the same - the motives changed - in fact, the motives lost the emphasis of what it means to be the church. In that very short scenario, i think we get to the grey area that you are talking about in business. The actions can be legal, but the motives can be corrupt.
So, for example, I personally do not have an issue with a community raising funds (in a non-manipulative manner of course) for a building in order to facilitate its function as a church, however, when the motives of building that building is to feed the depravity of human nature - pride, extravagance, etc. - and to the neglect of the central themes of who/what the church is, then there is a massive problem.
And here is the crux, i don't think anyone is immune to impure motives. So how do we guard against that? Only by sound accountability, governance and business structure. I'll finish here for now. Your thoughts?
regards
Petra

Hi Petra,

I would agree that you had said that the Church must operate within the confines of Christian principles.

I just wanted to underscore that the Church has a mandate to operate in many ways different to a Business.

As I said many practices available to the (Business) world are not avaialble to the Church.

A Church is not a Business' and a ''Church is not a Business'.

Accordingly, in many ways the mindset of a spiritual leader must be different to the mindset of a CEO. ("You cannot seve God and mammon").

In many respects, many Churches have compromised the integrity of the Gospel, and scriptural instructions - going beyond sound management principles couched within a solid stewardship framework.

For example, their Kingdom Builders' programmes in many large-churches identifies, rewards and honours those who contribute large sums of money to the Church - giving them special priveledges and time with the Senior Pastor and the opportunity to network with other ‘high flyers’. Effectively, there is an admission price of $5000 into these clubs.

I would suggest that these types of programmes are completely acceptable for a Business or a secular organisation (eg. Charity or art gallery) but it is in opposition to scriptural instruction where it is fobidden to show favouritism:

“Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

How to we gaurd against these things?...

Governance and diligence, and testing the practices of Church against scriptural principles are part of the answer.

Unfortunately, real Church Governance in many large Churches is superficial and convenient.

Sadly, it is unfortunately not good enough and does not extend far enough. :-(

Hi Lionfish,
To your comment: I am standing on the chair, and yelling AMEN, like a crazy Pente :) I could not agree more. The example you used is a principle that differentiates rich from poor and does not line up with the central theme of the Gospel and who we are called to be as a church community. It does not line up theologically. Hopefully when a good accountability structure is in place someone will realise this and say "This is not a good idea!" However, I know through personal experience that sometimes a community goes through a journey to literally awaken to practices it has adopted where it begins to realise how bizarre, or incorrect, they are. Just like an individual is so dependent on the grace of God for their every step, so is a church community. I am personally very aware that I am a totally different person in scriptural paradigm than when I first became a follower of Christ. It has been a journey and process to some form of maturity (and I certainly have not arrived) :) I want to extend the grace I found on my journey to others, to my community, and to church communities around me, even though I sometimes scratch my head at some practices of various communities. The danger of adopting practices that deviate from the word of God are heightened by lack of sound governance, lack of teachability, and when all is said and done - personal accountability: the acknowledgement that human nature is frail and prone to failure, therefore an openness before God and others is required even though at times this is painful, and the realisation that God looks way beyond action to the motives of the heart.

Hi There Chair Standing Crazy Pente :-)

It is great that our views are in alignment on this issue.

I believe we can park the issue here.

Thanks for your warmth and open and honest discussion in such an open environment.

Full credit to Mark Conner for his willingness to allow these discussions to take place in an open forum.

I look forward to the 'Tithing' thread as I believe that there is a landing point on this issue - and it is important.

Mark, a great insight into business from a Christian perspective.

On tax exemption, my personal opinion is that I see no real issue with churches having tax-exempt status. My reasoning is as follows:

1 - Members of the church pay their taxes out of the income they earn from their occupation.
2 - Members of the church then contribute a portion of their earnings to the church funds.
3 - The church funds are then applied to different community causes.

The taxation of the church's "income" would be a dual taxation on what has already been taxed. Compare the example of where a church member makes direct financial contributions to a cause, we would not generally expect that those donations be taxed. By extension, if the whole congregation gave to the same cause, we wouldn't expect their contributions to be individually taxed. So in that case, we wouldn't expect that the "church" as an organisation to have their contributions taxed. My belief is borne out of the assumption that the church isn't an entity distinctly separate from the members, but it is collectively a group of individuals applying their efforts and finances towards an objective in a coordinated manner. From a business perspective, it's calling the church a partnership as opposed to a company. Essentially the church funds are the church members' offerings pooled together to be applied to God's kingdom. Yes, there will be times when the church purchases hi-fi equipment (as opposed to aid causes and the like), but that, in my view at least, is no different from a bunch of friends getting together, pooling their money to purchase band equipment.

I also think that Christian principals are also sound business principles. This is because my concept of business is that, when you operate with trust, diligence and integrity, the rewards will often follow and your business will flourish. If the church operates with trust, diligence and integrity, it too will flourish.

On the flipside, when you operate your business where profit is the only motive, it will not be successful because it isn't a balanced approach. By extension, the same would apply to churches. The bible in many ways demonstrates that our approach to many aspects of life, whether they be business or personal, corporate or individual, should be balanced.

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