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What image does your church give?

By Stephen Matthews | 28 September 2013

We are all aware of the scrutiny that charities in general including churches are coming under from many sectors of society. Whether a general perception that the church is simply “after your money”, to an increasingly cynical media reporting stories that embarrass churches and their leaders, both the substance of what we do as churches and the image that we portray continues to be important for the reputation of church and Kingdom.


Money has power far beyond its intrinsic value. It was Jesus himself that elevated money to the status of an alternative god when he said that we can’t serve both God and money. Accepting its power and considering the teaching of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, to protect the reputation of the church and by implication of Christ himself is a good place to start.


No leadership team sets out to bring down the reputation of the church, but that image is either enhanced or diminished by the substance of what the church does, what happens within its buildings and how it carries itself in the community. For example, what impression is created if the building from which the church operates is used for activities that do not support the charitable purpose of the church? We have been aware of church premises being used to run private businesses or as a base for political pressure groups which give the impression that they are operated by the church and share its values.


Similarly where the church is involved in legitimate business activities, how it chooses to operate these businesses is important. A poor level of service; poor customer relations; poor employee morale; all reflect badly on the church and serve to feed some of society’s cynicism. Where the church does have legitimate business relationships with the community these should, as far as possible, reflect the image of integrity, generosity and service exemplified by Christ, recognising that there will be times when they may not.


An additional level of awareness should be brought to bear where it is the church leaders themselves that are involved in the money making ventures. This is not limited to their own separate businesses but extends to activities where there is an overlap with their church responsibilities. For example, this may occur when the leader’s family owns the church building and seeks to rent it for non-church related activities during the week or where the intellectual property rights that attach to sermons and songs which start out as kingdom enhancing can become a conflict of interest and create tension when subsequently they are used as a source of income to a church leader.


Some conflicts of interest can be obvious e.g. appointing a building firm owned by a church trustee to work on a church building project, and of course we need to be conscious to limit these, but other conflicts consist of many small things which in and of themselves may not cause concern, but when put together to form a bigger picture portray the church in a less than generous light.


Ever thought what image your church might be giving?


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