Arguments Against Christianity

Part 4: The bad business ethics of christian ministry

By Robin Schumacher

You would think that a Christian ministry would be more ethical than secular businesses. Sadly, that is sometimes not the case.

This issue has confronted me time and again throughout my Christian walk, both in big and small ways, and where I've either been the offender or when I've been on the ugly receiving end of professing believers. Let me shared just a few recent examples.

A short time back, I was contacted out-of-the-blue by the founder of a Christian ministry who asked me to take over the organization he had run for decades. I was very honored (and honestly quite scared) by the request, and felt this had to be what I had been preparing for the past five years to do. When I pushed him as to why he picked me, he said, "Well, you're the one God laid on my heart." Hard to argue with that, eh?

After a unanimous vote of the ministry's board, I was called to be the Christian ministry's successor. My wife and I put our house up for sale and made the emotional and financial plans to make the move.

But after a few months of waiting for the house to sell, I got a strange email from the founder accusing me of a variety of things. When I tried to correct him on some of the items (e.g. showing email interactions as proof, etc.), he became irate, went to the ministry's board, and without even giving me the chance to speak on my behalf, I was unceremoniously dismissed before I even started. All of this happened within a matter of one week and with just a few email exchanges.

I did a little digging after the event and found out by talking to a few people who have been associated with this organization for some time that this type of behavior was not uncommon for this particular ministry head.

Now, I've been in the corporate world for over 20 years and have been part of many different organizations, both large and small. In none of them have I had a superior or board of directors that were Christian, and yet I can say I have never been treated in the manner I was by that ministry's founder and board. Even though I have worked in one of the most cutthroat industries in the business world, the worst type of office politics I've experienced hasn't come close to how I was dealt with by that group of professing Christians.

What do you do with something like that? When the world has a historical track record of being a better/safer place to work than a Christian ministry or organization?

Another example: I had lunch recently with the CEO of one of the largest Microsoft software consulting groups in my part of the country. The guy is an industry veteran and a solid believer. Somehow, we got onto this subject and he surprised me by saying, "I won't do business with any professing Christian company." When I asked him why that was, he told me that once the other business finds out he's a Christian, they take what he called "extensions of grace". He explained that it could take the form of not paying on time, not delivering work when promised, or asking for fee or labor reductions without cause.

While listening to R. C. Sproul the other day, I heard him say the exact same thing in a message on Christian ethics. Sproul was talking about a business man he knew who didn't want to do business with Christians, and Sproul startled me by saying, "I have to say, I don't like doing business with Christians." He went on to state that it amazed him how many believers order tapes from his Ligonier ministries and never pay for them. How sad.

Such a thing makes me think back to some friends we have who had a house built some years ago by a homebuilder that went to our church. In fact, the guy played guitar in the worship band; I can still picture him in my mind singing worship hymns in front of the entire congregation, his eyes closed, etc. The fact was, he was ripping people off by building faulty homes, one of which my friends had contracted him to build. The job was so bad that the local housing authority wouldn't allow them to live in it. They took this guy to our church elders who didn't resolve the situation, and they finally had to take him to the real estate commission who forced the homebuilder to make the home at least livable so my friends could sell it. But not before they lost a ton of money in the process. And the ‘Christian' homebuilder? He ended up fleeing the state. I wonder if he's playing in another worship band somewhere?

I've unfortunately experienced some of this myself, although not as extreme as what my friends went through with their house. We have a local business directory called The Shepherd's Guide that lists Christian run businesses. Without exception (and sadly I mean without exception) every time I have tried to call one of those businesses to do some work, they have either failed to show up when they said they would or failed to deliver what was promised.

Take my word for it, even the smallest things can add up to give the Church a black eye. Last summer, I had an experience with a landscape company that advertised on our local Christian radio station and prominently stated their faith position in the commercial. I called them to come out and fertilize my lawn, which they said they would take care of immediately. But after several weeks, they still had not done the job. Emails and phone calls went unreturned. I finally got a call from the owner apologizing and promising again to do the job. But I told him "thanks but no thanks", called another local landscape business (not Christian run), and they had my yard fertilized the very next day.

Again, an experience like that may seem like a very small thing, but both Christians and non-Christians alike remember them; they do have a lasting impact. How much greater impression do studies have that show the divorce rate is nearly the same inside and outside the Church; that church-going teens get pregnant almost as much as non-church attenders; and that alcohol abuse occurs just about as much among professing Christians as unbelievers.

Next: Part 5: The marks of true christianity

Arguments Against Christianity The Series

Part 1: The best arguments and how to refute them
Part 2: Some depressing Christian statistics
Part 3: Our spiritual transformation problems
Part 4: The bad business ethics of christian ministry
Part 5: The marks of true christianity
Part 6: Unbelievers in the pews
Part 7: Being different is the best defense

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Republished 5-20-13