The New Business of Church – by Justin Glover

Editor’s Note: Article from DEI in Communications class at the University of TN / Chattanooga where I spoke on religious diversity.

When discussing the idea of someone’s religious ideals and upbringings, it is important to treat these topics with the utmost respect. However, the church you may attend is much more than a business than you might expect. Religion is a $1.2 trillion dollar industry, and yes that is trillion. This can ultimately bring into question the character of those who operate these businesses. Does this mean that these establishments are ultimately trying to trick or confuse those who attend? Not necessarily, but it is shallow to operate behind closed curtains much like many church business markets.

It is also important to break down the similarities with a business and a church. The church offers a public speaking attendance for its viewers and does things such as play music. These things are often services that require payment to attend. Concerts and motivational speakers do not often offer the contents within their acts to the public for free. According to the Theology of Business Institute, annual collections for churches averaging 162 attendees is just south of $215,000. It is important to note as well that a church is a legal entity. They employ a group of people at each general location across the country and strive to ignite the community. If a church is operating for a long period of time, it is safe to assume that they are generating a profit.

Some locations qualify for the title of a 501c3 tax-exempt organization, which is an organization that operates and legally prohibits people from putting their profits into their own pockets. But certain churches certainly operate and bend the boundaries of these laws. Essentially since they are exempt from taxes, there are loopholes and hoops that they can reach. Those certainly need to be held accountable for their actions as it is unfair to preach Christianity and lie behind the backs of those you desire to help. What does this all mean for the mega-pastors and uber successful pastors in the limelight?

Take the most famous example, Joel Olsteen, who recently was in the spotlight for receiving and ultimately returning a 4.4 million dollar PPE loan. Issues that are often pointed at Olsteen are things like defending his wealth over his beliefs, lacking to take care of his community, and coming upon massive amounts of wealth is a profession that doesn’t create much of a profit. Olsteen has shows on television that feature multi-million dollar contracts. He also hosts his own radio channel on Sirius XM. Olsteen’s staff and members within his church community have also been under fire for racist and homophobic opinions, treating people unfairly and actually told Hurrican victims to “defend for themselves.” Does this sound like a pastor or maybe his actions might represent that of a CEO?

Ultimately one of the largest new phenomena in the religious community is the attempt to sell your own products throughout the service. Olsteen’s service along with many other mega-pastors is filled with advertisements for his products. Recently, Olsteen and his peers have focused on selling books of their own telling stories with their own relationship with God. Everything about the actions from these mega-pastors seems shady and ultimately lends one to believe that these guys are focused on CEO duties. It is just hard to value the opinions of these “leaders” upon topics that they often do not follow themselves.

The modern day church has evolved into multiple different concepts under the same roof. This ultimately does not seem safe for those deeply involved in religious communities. It also lends someone to ask when these churches might start facing the same regulations and taxes that other businesses face. It is only fair to everyone else in the community to do this.


Photo by JF Martin on Unsplash

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