Should Christians use non-profits?

Lately I’ve been thinking about Christians and non-profit corporations. I’m not sure to what extent we should use these to do our ministry – feeding the hungry, helping the sick, etc. Any corporation is a creation of the state. Wanting to keep the tax-exempt status could distort the ministry. The non-profit could take on a life of its own and persist after it’s exploited and then discarded the founding principles – paint out “Christian” on the sign, take the federal matching grant, and ignore or actively oppose the Church. Or, maybe a non-profit is simply a harmless way to effectively organize our work.

Similarly, it bothers me when the church is run like a business. We should spend our money prudently and effectively, but it should make some kind of difference that we’re Christians. When it comes to the administrative side of things, churches and Christian non-profits are no less likely to cheat their workers, and are even more offensively sanctimonious about it. They’re quick to demand that you act like a Christian, but they’ll hold to the letter of the contract when that’s to their advantage.

Real presence

But maybe I’m just getting kind of cranky about things. Video and recorded music in church has also come to bother me more and more. We aren’t supposed to be an audience. I don’t know that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with recorded music, but it shouldn’t displace the less-polished contributions of the congregation.

It seems like if we can have video testimony we could just as well have video sermons. The Bishop could record one and all the churches could show it. When visiting the sick a volunteer could take a laptop to the hospital and set up a Skype call with the minister, who could be in Mumbai, thereby reducing the direct personnel cost on a per-blessing basis.

Incorporation is a technology as much as PowerPoint is, and “New technology is a kind of Faustian bargain. It always gives us something, but it always takes away something important. That’s true of the alphabet, and the printing press, and telegraph, right up through the computer.” — Neil Postman, quoted at