When the topic of selling something in church is discussed, the most common accounts debated are those involving Jesus cleansing the temple. In one instance, Jesus said, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers" (Mark 11:17). How do these accounts apply to selling in today's churches?
Selling in church – What does the Bible say?
First, the temple and today's local churches are two different contexts. In the Jewish temple, Jesus condemned the profit-making taking place over an activity that was to be a time of worship. Merchants sold animals for the required Jewish sacrifices and money-changers exchanged currency for the required temple tax. Rather than do these things as a service to the Jewish travelers arriving at the temple, it became a moneymaking business focused on profit. Jesus drove out those who sold and bought in the temple courts.
Second, the local church is the gathering of believers, not the building in which they meet. Though many people view the building as the church, this is not the biblical definition. Unlike the temple, a church building is not defiled or made unclean over buying and selling in the same way as the temple was.
Each church must determine what is appropriate for its congregation. While offering music, books, or other helpful Christian resources may be appropriate for a congregation, other items or ways of selling may cause concern among members or the local community. The goal must be to gather to honor God and to show His love to others above buying and selling.
A few helpful guidelines a local church would likely wish to adopt could include:
-No donations or purchases are required for those attending church services.
-No high-pressure sales.
-Selling must be in some way related to helping the mission of the church rather than simply making a profit.
-Church leadership must approve items presented for sale during a worship service.
-Items sold must conform to local, state, and national laws regarding sales.
A local congregation may choose other guidelines as well. For example, some churches refrain from signage in the auditorium regarding items for sale. Other churches will not present sales from the front area, referring all sales to the bulletin or lobby outside of the worship area. Each congregation should carefully consider how to best handle such concerns in a way that honors God and cares for the needs of the congregation best.
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