Bible Question:

Is it ethical for a deacon to own a business thats contracted to the church, or to charge the church for certain services...thus making a profit from the church?

Bible Answer:

The question we are concerned with is, “Should a leader profit from doing business with his church?” The answer is not found in rules and regulations, bylaws or a church constitution. Sadly, most churches do not realize that it does not matter how a church is organized if their leaders are not spiritual men who are strongly committed to godly behavior and a high view of Scripture. What follows is an explanation of the fundamental principle that is  too many times missing in churches.

Ungodly, Unspiritual Leaders Do Not Motivate Trust

Every Church Needs Spiritual Leaders

The fundamental mistake many churches make is that they ignore the biblical, spiritual qualifications outlined in Scripture when selecting leaders. Many churches and leaders do not know what to look for in a spiritual leader. On one occasion a pastor said, “If no one meets the biblical qualifications then I have to choose the best ones.” Sadly, he did not understand his statement meant there were no men that God had brought to his church who qualified. In such cases the church must be willing to let the pastor be the only elder, assuming the pastor qualifies. This pastor ignored the biblical qualifications and chose the best men. Maybe he chose charismatic individuals or individuals who were his friends. He “watered down” the biblical qualifications so that he could select men  who he called elders, because the church bylaws required so many elders be chosen every year. Many churches select men who are popular, have magnetic personalities, have a business background or possess wealth. They think that they need men with organizational experience. It is often thought that the pastor will provide the spiritual oversight and the other men will then just follow along. Such thinking ignores God’s principles and reality.

Acts 20:28 teaches that God the Holy Spirit prepares men who will qualify to be elders.

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. Acts 20:28 (NASB)

Notice the verse states the Holy Spirit “made you overseers.” Obviously, someone chose them; therefore, how did the Holy Spirit make them overseers? The answer is that He does it by teaching them the Word of God (Hebrews 5:11-14; 1 John 2:12-14), blossoming the fruit of the Spirit in their lives (Galatians 5:22-23) and increasingly helping them have victory over sin (Romans 8:13-14; Galatians 5:16-21). The Holy Spirit prepares these men to be godly and spiritual. The Holy Spirit prepares these men to meet the qualifications outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Peter 5:1-3.

The articles “Church Leadership – Function and Qualifications of Elders,” “What are the qualifications of an elder?” and “Marks of Spiritual Maturity” are important articles to read. The last article is actually a PDF version of PowerPoint charts. These articles explain the spiritual qualifications of elders (includes pastors) and deacons that are given in 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Peter 5:1-3. We also recommend the reader read the article,”Is there a difference between a church leader and a spiritual leader in the church?

If the church insists on unqualified men to be called elders and deacons, then do not be surprised when problems occur.

Leaders Who Profit From The Church

We have just discovered that when the elders or church leaders are not godly, spiritual men, then trouble is sure to come into the church. But if the leaders are godly, spiritual men, then the question, “Should a leader profit from doing business with his church?” is unimportant because he will operate with ethics. That is, if the other godly, spiritual church leaders have determined that he can provide the church the best financial benefit, then they are being good stewards of the Lord’s money. In principle, there is nothing wrong with a church leader profiting from a business relationship with the church if the other leaders have given approval. The leader whose business is under consideration should not participate in the authorizing vote.

But if there is doubt that the church leaders are godly and spiritual men, then the congregation will be suspicious. If the church leaders are not godly and spiritual leaders, it will not matter what they do for eventually the church is destined for trouble. The organizational structure will only delay the inevitable!

Conclusion:

This question should not be an issue if the church believes they have godly, spiritual leaders who are being careful to select an ethical business who will do a good job at a fair price.

Suggested Links:

What are the pastor’s duties to a church?
God’s Design For The Church
Church Leadership – Function and Qualifications of Elders
What are the qualifications of an elder?
Can a pastor be the chairman of the church or the leadership?
Is there a difference between a church leader and a spiritual leader in the church?
What does a Christian do when their pastor sins?
Marks of Spiritual Maturity