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A Pastor’s Reflections: Business in church

April 9, 2013


One of the things I encountered in my pastorate was people engaged in pyramid marketing schemes and similar types of business ventures. It’s certainly no crime for a person to seek employment in a number of different types of vocations, whether he works for a company or is self-employed. There are some businesses, however, that have a slightly different model, one that requires you as the salesperson to contact all of your friends, invite them over to your house, and sell them your wares, whether it is Tupperware, vacuum cleaners, vitamins and supplements, house-cleaning products, cookware, etc. Initially this seems like a nice way for a person to make some extra money, but upon further examination problems quickly begin to surface, especially when this activity occurs within the walls of the church.

For example, my wife and I knew another couple who were very friendly and expressed their desire to spend some time with us to get to know us better. They initially suggested that we catch a play and then have some coffee afterwards. As the pastor, I was pleased that we would get the opportunity to spend some time with one of the couples in the church. On the day of our scheduled “date,” the couple called us to say that their plans had changed and they couldn’t go to the theater, but could they still come over to the house to hang out with us. Plan B was to watch a movie and then have some dessert. My wife and I saw no problem with this and agreed to the revised agenda. When the couple arrived, things quickly went in a very different direction. The couple unloaded several cases from their sedan and entered the house. They told us that they wanted to show us something before we watched the movie. So my wife and I politely consented. All of a sudden we were in the middle of a sales pitch for cookware. To say the least, I was bewildered and even had to withhold my laughter because of the weirdness of it all.

I began to think to myself, “Well, this is odd, but maybe we can humor them and make a small purchase.” But then this couple gave us the punch line . . . the cookware was only a mere $2,500 and they had a payment plan if we needed one. My wife and I looked at each other, tried to hold the best poker face we could, and politely said, no. Our negative response put a damper on things and the couple packed up their cases and promptly left—no movie, no coffee, no fellowship. And after this whole incident, this couple was quite cold towards my wife and me.

Hopefully this scenario illustrates the problems with this type of business. It’s one thing to go door-to-door to sell your wares and entirely another when you put people in the church in an awkward position, one where they’ll likely say no and you’ll walk away offended. I don’t want to say that people in the church should never conduct business with one another—we can and should. But we also shouldn’t use the church directory as our personal client list either. In fact, in my own church, the elders placed a disclaimer in our church directory as a result of this little fiasco: “This directory is to be used for church-related matters only and not for any other purpose.” People give their contact information to the church for the sake of fellowship and church-information, not so they can sign up to receive sales calls.