I haven't found the knee-jerk reaction among Christian bloggers to this article yet.
I have a couple thoughts:
Business, like the rest of creation, cries out to be redeemed. Redeeming business (using them for God’s glory) should be the mission of Christian businesspeople.
These churches have used their economies of scale to buy businesses, transform them, provide jobs for local believers, and evangelize their communities through those businesses. They’re able to use some of the revenue to support church functions. The paradigm shift is that the businesses are owned by the church body rather than individual believers.
The article points out that churches pay taxes on these for-profit businesses. That gets complicated.
Doug Rieder, the church business administrator, said WC Properties files a federal tax return and pays property taxes on the commercial space at the mall.
But Mr. Rieder acknowledged the difficulty of allocating space, staff time and expenses to the appropriate tax category. “We’re very intertwined — it gets tough day to day,” he said adding, “I have to constantly ask myself whether I am accurately allocating our costs.”
If you're interested in redeeming businesses for the glory of God, check out the Business As Mission Network, www.businessasmissionnetwork.com.
I thought about this for Moldova... churches here are amazing at raising would-be capital (money) and they use it mainly to build buildings. What if a church here bought a McDonalds and used some of the revenue to fund the church, and allowed Christians to evangelize there regularly? (just as an example)
The company I work for is Christian-operated. The board is made up of Christian business leaders and local pastors, including the head of one denomination here. The CEO of the company's response to the NY Times article, however is:
"Somehow I think that the Bibilical model is for Church members to be involved in business in order to generate revenue and support the Church and the ministry."
IE: not the other way around, as in the article. This sums up the mission of his company.
I've recently read a book (that I hope to soon get as many people as possible to read and discuss) in which a Christian economist argued that the "Biblical model," isn't very easily applicable to our times as there was no notion of capitalism until just a few hundred years ago.
Raise your hand (ie: comment!) if you agree with the above opinion. I know you're out there.
Some of the activities listed in the Times article deal with real estate and the running of retirement homes. This is seen as the Church ministering by taking care of the elderly, and supporting the Church community. Do we separate those profitable activities from, say, running a McDonalds or a bookstore?
We desperately need a discussion among Christian businessmen, Christian workers, pastors, missionaries, and economists about these issues. There's a lot of money, opportunity, and potential problems/pitfalls at stake.