The Economy of the Church

Apr 15th 2010

Nope not a blog post on tithing, stewardship or staffing budget ratios — something a bit more macro and perhaps a bit more important.  Last week Visioneering — an architectural firm that loves to inspire — was here to help us discern the Master’s Plan for our Harvest Fields site.  In the process Mel spoke about the changing economy — from a macro view.

Let me use food to illustrate.  I grew up on a farm, we grew, raised, and killed a good portion of our food for ourselves.  The agricultural economy dealt mostly in raw materials.  100 years ago, everyone dealt in raw materials.  In this economy our country was birthed, but then came the Industrial Revolution and we moved to a production economy.  Millions of people moved from the fields to the factories.  Families started to buy canned corn at the grocery store rather than grow corn at home.  This economy was based on the production of goods.

In the next big shift we went from an economy of production to a service economy.  To continue with the food theme, we no longer bought our can of corn at the grocery store to take home and prepare a family meal, now we go to Kelly’s Steak and Seafood restaurant where the chef puts the corn into an incredible shellfish chowder — but I digress.  In this economy of service, the average American eats out 4-5 times a week.   The next economy upped the ante on service as we have moved into an experience economy.  This is not only more than service, it is also more than entertainment.  It is an immersion into the experience that requires participation.  You are not just being served, you are having an experience.  Think Rainbow Forest Cafe or a meal with Disney characters.

One more economy shift — from experience to transformation.  We are now in the process of moving to an economy of transformation. While experiences are memorable for a time, transformation is inspirational through time.   In this economy of transformation we want our investment of time and money to matter.  We want to make a difference.  We want to leave a mark on world.  We want to transform the world and be transformed as we do it.  The transformation economy is on the rise and showing up everywhere — from Ethos Water at Starbucks to Toms Shoes to adoption to a U2 concert.

Okay, so what.

I can’t help but think — the church should be leading the way in a transformation economy — but we aren’t.

Entrepreneurs who want to make a difference should be studying the church.  Transformation should be our domain — it’s Kingdom of Heaven on Earth stuff.  But instead too many of us (churches) are still hanging out in a goods and services economy, while a few of the best of us have gotten really good at designing experiences.

Good News.  For those of us with ears to hear, God is still in the transformation business.  It’s always been his economy.  Nobody does it better.  It goes by many names, redemption, creation, sanctification, revival, renewal, born-again, abundant life, and salvation.  It’s life in the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.  It’s life in the Kingdom of Something More.

Good News, Church.   We don’t have to catch up, the economy of serve me, entertain me, has been found wanting… transformation is the new black.  Jesus do everything in us that you have to do, so that you can do everything through us that you want to do.