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Andrea Useem, creator and publisher of ReligionWriter.com, is a freelance journalist and editor based in Northern Virginia who specializes in writing about religion. Andrea holds a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, as well as a Bachelors degree in religion from Dartmouth College. Previously, Andrea worked as a freelance journalist in Eastern Africa for four years; she has also lived in Muscat, Oman. She is married and has three sons.

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Does Your Pastor Need an MBA?

Talk to a savvy evangelical pastor these days, and he (yes, he probably will be a “he”) might sound a lot like a marketing executive. Todd Wilson, the “Executive Pastor” at New Life, a dynamic multi-site church in Northern Virginia, told ReligionWriter, reporting for a 2005 Washington Examiner story, that walking into a church should be a “multi-sensory experience, like walking into a Starbucks.”

Indeed, the connection between marketing and missionizing goes way back, as churches and corporations have long been borrowing ideas from one another. As ReligionWriter wrote about last year, in “Product Placement in the Pews? Microtargeting Meets Megachurches,” this mixing of religion and business has some strange, and perhaps troubling, new incarnations.

But most American churches are neither booming megachurches not “revolutionary” multisite ministries. According to 2003 research from the Barna Group, the U.S. is “dominated by small churches, with the average church attracting less than 90 adults on a typical weekend.”

It is these small and mid-size churches that concern Sidney Williams, a man who speaks the languages of both faith and finance. Williams, a former venture capitalist who now serves as “Minister for Economic Development” at his church in suburban Maryland, is organizing, together with management professor Bernard Williams, an executive education program at his alma mater, the Wharton School, for faith leaders who need MBA-like skills to do serious economic development work.

For Williams, the insights and hard skills of the business world can best be applied not in attracting new church members, but in helping fellow

community members. He says,

It boils down to mission. In some churches, their mission is to get people saved for heavenly reward. For others, their mission is to proselytize Third World countries so others will join their religion. There is still another group of pastors who say, “I am going to build a community where I am planted and help create a decent place to live for our neighbors.”

Williams sees his mission rooted in the Christianity of the 18th century First Great Awakening, when charity became something for the average church-goer, not just the wealthy philanthropist. African-American churches, such as William’s own A.M.E. church, have carried on the tradition of community development, and the leading lights today include Kirbyjon Caldwell and Floyd Flake.

Williams, founder of the consulting group EKOS Ministries, which is convening the faith-leader training program with the Wharton School, however, says Korean, Hispanic and Chinese congregations have also become more involved in community development in recent years.

So while some question the mixing of religion and business that results in the “commercialization of church,” Sidney Williams efforts are an entirely different branch of the same tree.

Read ReligionWriter’s entire story on the topic here: “From Pastor to Executive: Equipping Faith Leaders for Economic Development

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There Are 5 Responses So Far. »

  1. Pastors don’t need MBAs. Their flocks of sheep just need to believe in superstition and have weak personalities. Once you’ve got that working for you, any snake oil salesman can sucker them in and get their minds and money.

    Here’s a mission for evangelicals: Mind your own business, and leave others alone.

  2. I disagree with Pastor Williams and the Montague comment on evangelicals minding their own business. The Great Commission is for ALL churches and All Christians. Creating a decent place to live for the neighbors is nice but NOT if their eternal destiny is not addressed. That should be the motive behind all our “good works”. As to William’s comment on evangelicals minding our own business. You don’t have to buy a newspaper or magazine but you probably do. If you don’t like what they say in their editorials, do you tell them to mind their own business? NO, because that is their business. Proclaiming the truth (which is in Jesus because He is the Truth), IS our business and the most important business and the highest calling of all mankind.
    As long as there are still people who are willfully ignorant of the truth and suppress the truth in unrighteousness (like William, who made that shallow, common comment) we, the church will continue to “mess-up” people’s lives with the Gospel so that they will hopefully come to repentance and be saved from their own flesh, the world,the devil and the fires of an eternal hell. Why? Because we love them. We were once blind as they are but someone cared enough to pray and proclaim the truth to us and introduce us to Jesus so He could set us free. I thank God for comments like that because it makes me just that much more determined to do more than I’m doing now to get the Word out to as many as I can. The Word of God is not bound and can’t be stopped because God has said, “I, the Lord, have spoken and I will do it.” (Ezekiel 36:36). “—but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord” (Numbers 14:21).

  3. Regarding Mr. Parr’s reply to my comment: Your remarks may carry weight for some, but as one who does not believe in superstition or mythology, they are simply irrelevant. No more do I care about “eternal destiny”, god or Jesus than I care about Thor, Zeus, or the 72 virgins waiting for martyred muslims. It’s just nonsense.

    Perhaps “mind your own business” was a poor choice of words. I should have said, “don’t inflict your medieval beliefs on others”.

  4. As a pastor the only MBA’s needed are My Bible’s Authority and My Boss’s Approval!

  5. The article was thought provoking and interesting, but I was most interested to find this comment appended to it, “Here’s a mission for evangelicals: Mind your own business, and leave others alone.” This was apparently written by an atheist who seeks out a site and comments on it; thus, that seems to be the pot calling the kettle black. Evangelical atheism is a troubling thought. Let us tell the world the good news that nothing really matters and that there is no rational reason for morality. Couple that with the understanding that the evolutionary process stands for letting the weakest die, and you will have a society where millions are slaughtered by those with the biggest guns. Strange that the 20th century was the bloodiest century on record because of three regimes that borrowed from the latest and greatest atheistic concepts. Yes, those that are “rationalist” want us to leave them alone so that they can call themselves divine and dominate those that are not as “enlightened.”

    Faith is the restrainer that keeps such foolish ideas at bay. Of course, it is not blind faith, but a recognition of the evidence given in nature that points back to a Creator.

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