Should the church have more influence over a cathedral or the marketplace bazaar?
Back in the days when I moved from using a Mac to using the Linux operating system, I came across a book that describes what happens in the software industry, specifically the Open Source Software (OSS) industry. Eric Raymond penned a book titled, “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” where he talks about the issue behind a monopoly or near monopoly in the software industry, which can be equally applied to any industry. The weakest link with any of these “top dogs” comes when they are attacked and are taken down and the whole system goes down that is connected and devoted to it.
It reenforces the axiom: You’re only as strong as your weakest link.
Raymond’s idea of a monopoly or oligarchy, whether software, government, business, or organization, translates well into the Christian Church (a monopoly definition is much different than a unity definition, but that’s another blog post). In the time of Jesus, you find the oligarchy “power” coming in the form of the Pharisees and the Sadducees and Jesus twice cleansing the Temple of it’s extortion and money greed. In the Middle Ages, the harsh “monopoly economics” of the church spawned numerous cathedrals to be built for the Church taking decades to construct at the expense of the bazaar, or the marketplace. Just like any monopoly or oligarchy, it concentrates all of the wealth and power into few and fewer hands, namely the Church. That is where the “economic power brokers” were, which left fewer and fewer “entrepreneurs” to grow the marketplace (there are six verses with the word “marketplace” in the NASB: Matt 20:3; Mark 7:4; Luke 7:32; Acts 16:19; 17:5, 17) and improve the daily lives of church members.
Does the church today still see itself building more “cathedrals,” including mega-churces, when in fact it needs to change it’s paradigm regarding it’s resources and redirect them, not for building up a physical church, but to to be used to change the marketplace?
While most of us know about the various Christian denominations and Jewish denominations in the world and throughout history and the various theological schisms have occurred, there is something else that needs to be discussed that has come front and center in recent years: The schism between the Church and the Bazaar, i.e. the marketplace and work.
Summer 2014 I met a gentleman that discussed how the Church HAS been operating over the last few decades, even centuries, and showed that a change needs to occur. Rather than consolidating and growing a bigger church, other avenues need to be addressed.
During the Middle Ages you saw the church grow until all of the “smart” men begin heading toward the “priesthood” of the Church because it was getting more and more powerful. Economically, the more enterprising individuals entered the church because it was more “eternal” and any work “performed” was for “eternity.” It got so that the Catholic Church began selling indulgences to raise funds for the Church’s aims. However, just like all power, watch what man does with it.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. Abraham Lincoln
The cost and the time to build cathedrals was enormous and Cathedral construction and payment to workers meant a lot of fundraising. When the Reformation came, the Church once again distributed the “cathedrals” into smaller, “distributed,” churches and towns. But the change had occurred and would not stop. The cat had been let out of the bag.
In America, small, individual churches were the norm, although the church was in most cases the first building in a new town as not only honoring God, but it became the focal point of the town for church and for community gatherings, both religious and secular, i.e. in most cases town or community governance. But this distributed network of both businesses and churches greatly influenced the self reliant and rugged individualism and tight community, economics, and community standards of a town.
Andrew Carnegie wrote in his 1886 book “Triumphant Democracy” the lasting and explosive affects that the US Constitution had and what the distributed change from the European oligarchy to free market economics did for the United States. He states that by 1886, the US had grown in one hundred years to out produce Europe in most business areas except for a few, but even in those areas he saw us catching up rather quickly.
One of the interesting observations I had researching for my book How Would Jesus Do Business? I found that a pastor/priest/minster is only in front of an individual a few hours a week while the CEO or business owner is in front of an employee 40-50 hours a week. Between a pastor or a business owner, which has the greatest opportunity to positively influence a person? The business owner, i.e. in the marketplace.
So the question becomes: What will God reward, bigger churches and cathedrals, or will He reward the lives that are changed?
Although Jesus spent His required time at the synagogue, a majority of his parables, work, and miracles were done in the marketplace. The focus of a church should be about changing lives to influence the marketplace, to be the light in the dark, secular market that shows that businesses can be both moral, profitable, and productive. That seems to have a greater impact that building a bigger church or cathedral.
If Jesus could run a “general contracting” company as the Son of God and still take care of both His spiritual and physical business, that is the model we’re to emulate.