Outsourcing Christianity

The corporate world is enamoured with the concept of “outsourcing.” Though it transcended into de rigueur management principle about a decade or two ago, it’s not exactly new. Outsourcing is the contracting of certain functions in an organisation to independent contractors. The independent contractor manages her staff in the delivery of those services, they’re not the staff of the client corporation. But those contracted operations are so integrated into the structure of the client corporation that an outsider will be hard-pressed to note a gap. There’s a fluidity.

You interact with outsourced functions daily only you may not be aware. Chances are the ticket desk of your airline at the airport is an outsourced function. As per customer service you’re probably being attended to from India. Indian companies are particularly notable with outsourcing contracts. Also the tellers in your bank are most likely independent contractors. Visa processing is increasingly an outsourced function too. The list of outsourced functions is endless.

Outsourcing has many advantages. It takes certain costs off the books of corporations. The corporation for example will not be responsible for pension, accommodation and health benefits of contract staff. Firing is also cheaper and easier. The contractor company deals with such headaches.

Outsourcing has its downsides of course. As can be expected there are issues in certain areas of customer service delivery. If your luggage has ever been misplaced by an airline you quickly realise outsourcing has limitations and irritations. There’s only so much the person tending to your complaint from India can do. He can follow protocol, make annotations, check the system and pass on your complaint. That’s all he can do. He can’t make promises on behalf of the airline. He’s not allowed to.

But in general that’s pretty much how the corporate world runs now. It runs on outsourcing. It’s also pretty much how the modern church operates today. The modern church runs on outsourcing; and we’re not talking about admin functions of the corporate entity, we’re talking of outsourcing of ministerial duties by congregants. We somehow believe we can outsource our responsibilities as Christians. We believe we can outsource our functions to the pastor. In fairness that is largely due to ignorance and our unwillingness to study scriptures.

We believe once we give our offering on Sunday all we really owe God is to dance before him and listen to what he has to say through his servant preacher. We even outsource praise worship to the choir. We let the choir do the singing. We just sway. The choir has to sing melodious popular songs or we sit a song out. When a song that accords with our groove comes up we jump and dance like David, singing our hearts out with guttural energy.

We somehow believe if we can manage to attend church on Sunday, dance a bit, give our offering our duty to God is done, until next Sunday. Essentially we believe we owe God fifty-two such sessions a year, and that’s assuming we attend church every Sunday.

The church thus takes over from us as our independent contractor. The church does the work of taking care of the poor, preaching to the lost, caring for widows, attending to orphans… In essence the pastor does the work, we the congregants enable the pastor by contributing money. Welcome to the era of outsourced ministry. We the congregants are thus a commercial cooperative society.

The only problem with this system is that it is grossly inefficient, it is ineffective and flies in the face of scriptures. To be sure, there’s a place for corporate contribution as the church. In the scriptures, we find Paul encouraging the international saints to gather relief offering for onward transmission to the national headquarters in Jerusalem: “Now regarding your question about the money being collected for God’s people in Jerusalem. You should follow the same procedure I gave to the churches in Galatia. On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once. When I come, I will write letters of recommendation for the messengers you choose to deliver your gift to Jerusalem. And if it seems appropriate for me to go along, they can travel with me.” 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 NLT. So there’s a place for corporate system.

But as you read scriptures you will come across copious passages on individual mandate. For example the Bible says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” James 1:27 NLT. That’s an individual mandate. It’s specifically directed at the individual. Caring for orphans and widows is an individual mandate. Doesn’t mean the church can’t run a benevolence program but God expects the individual believer to take care of the socially disadvantaged. The Bible calls taking care of the socially disadvantaged “true religion.” And God wasn’t talking about that jeans company in America that goes by that moniker.

Why are there individual mandates in scriptures? Why are these duties not on the exclusive responsibility list of the pastor? He’s after all the one with the “calling.” In God’s conception of the church the pastor is a talent development agent, a human resource trainer. The pastor is supposed to train us to do the work of the ministry. Ephesians 4:11-12: “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-12 NLT.

In other words the pastor focuses on training and capacitating us to do the work of the ministry. The church is a ministry training centre. WE are the ministers. Ephesians 4:11-12. It is on the basis of this conceptual framework that Jesus gave this command: “Go into the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name and they will speak in new languages.  They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.” Mark 16:15-18 NLT.

In other words, the casting out of demons, the healing of the sick by the laying on of hands, the preaching of the good news of salvation… These are individual mandates not pastoral mandates. The pastor can exercise those functions in his individual capacity like Peter and John at the Beautiful Gate, and as proof of ministerial gift and calling. God’s idea is that the average Christian should be able to cast out demons and heal the sick. It’s no big deal is what Jesus was saying! Mark 16:15-18 NLT.

Part of the problem is that we’ve been taught the only way to serve God is to serve God in church – cleaning the church, singing in the choir, becoming an usher or other such functions. Yes, these are services to God, but the real work is outside church. The real work is outside the church not in the church. We can’t go INTO ALL the world to preach the gospel if we stay locked up in church. The picture is that of a penetrating system that goes into the crevices, nooks and corners of society. We permeate. There ought to be a Christian for every neighbour, a Christian for every colleague, a Christian for every troubled youth, a Christian for every discouraged, a Christian for every sick, a Christian for every lost, a Christian for every widow, a Christian for every orphan, a Christian for every divorcee, a Christian for every abused… We’re supposed to preach the good news to ALL. “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17 NLT.

Our wrong-headed approach to ministry is why people struggle to find purpose in life. It’s because we don’t emphasise individual mandate, we’re focused on the collective platform. This has to change if the church must be effective.

Every Christian ought to preach the gospel. He that wins souls is wise! Proverbs 11:30.

If you’ll like to receive Jesus into your life please pray this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.”


© Leke Alder | talk2me@lekealder.com.

We can’t go INTO ALL the world to preach the gospel if we stay locked up in church. Click To Tweet