What should a real church look like? Is there a right model for how church should function? For a long time this topic  totally baffled me. When you take an honest look at what the Bible teaches, it seems like the present state of churches in America is a far cry from those models outlined in the New Testament. This dissonance, between the biblical model and our current reality, has driven me to pursue the above questions a bit more deeply.

Now, please understand where I'm coming from here. I've worked in an environment that requires me to analyze and fix broken business models. From my perspective, any organization dependent on financial influx must have systems in place. When you take a hard look at the big picture, the fact of the matter is that modern churches often operate on the same bases as businesses. Money exchanges hands. It comes in, and goes out.

So, what is a business model?

A business model involves developing a structure for the successful operation of a business. In this process, one identifies revenue sources, customer bases and products for the business, and one also details the financial needs of the business.

This clearly an important tool for creating a thriving organization. But the usefulness of having a model goes beyond "businesses". Interestingly enough, churches have a "model" too. When one takes a hard look at what was describe in the New Testament, we find that this is model is, in fact, uncompromising (see Acts 17:11).

Outside the Bible, we have another excellent working model of organization right in front of our faces. The United States Marine Corps. Sure, not all elements of their model are effective in every possible instance; however, the core of what is found in the Marines is so valuable that it is definitely worth taking the time to explore.

The Gospel.

The church model today

The church model of today says that churches should try attract as many people to a church as possible. Tools like music, food, dynamic speakers and gift cards for signing a visitor form, are employed.  

The United States Marine Corps model

In the U.S. Marine Corps, recruiters have offices set up in high-traffic locations, like popular shopping malls and schools. They are trained to connect with people and they can look a potential recruit in the face and confidently describe for them what the benefits of service are, and what the costs of service are. They can go out to the people and share with them what the Marines have to offer.

The Church.

The church model today

With the church model of today, there are a variety of opinions and levels of dedication inside any particular church building. Some people are wholly dedicated believers; others are there for entertainment and leisure. The Bible is clear that the church should be a gathering of the like-minded individuals, all operating in one accord (see Ephesians 4:4). (One caveat - Reformed theology; here, recruits are drafted).

The United States Marine Corps model

In the U.S. Marine Corps, recruits enlist on their own accord. No one makes them. They sign over their futures upon  agreement, and then anxiously await the day that bus rolls up to take them off to boot camp.


The church model today

In today's church, Sundays are where basic training happens for the Christian. However, it seems that compromised, comfortable teaching, groups and socializing, are preferred in these spaces. Difficult doctrine is typically avoided. There are few deep relationships, and the lead pastor only engages their community from stage.

The United States Marine Corps model

For the Marines, Boot camp is not comfortable. And it often requires the best efforts of those who have committed to join the Marines. Typically, it is only led by those who have walked the walk and earned the right to talk the talk.

Drill instructors passionately know the benefits of making it through to the end of boot camp, and they will do whatever it takes to pull the best out of each recruit. They push the recruit to become better.

Also, a drill instructor is alongside the recruits on an intimate level. Day in, day out.


The church model today

Some churches have a class you have to take in order to be baptized. Most churches ask you to make a verbal commitment to Jesus. Sometimes a special event is held, and people get dunked in a kiddie pool. The level of sincerity held by the baptized is more often than not, ignored.

The United States Marine Corps model

When a recruit has earned the title of United States Marine, it is well-earned. Typically, a ceremony takes place where family and friends can come out to witness the recruit transition from being a trainee to an official member. This is a member who will proudly display their membership rights to the rest of the world. Because it means something. It took serious commitment.


The church model today

The Bible is pretty clear on what it teaches in regards to doctrine. Yet it seems like lots of people in the church still can't agree. Below is one example over the issue of baptism.

The United States Marine Corps model

In the Marines, everything taught, even hand to hand combat, has been vetted, evaluated and standardized, so there is no confusion as to what is expected. Everyone in the Marines is in agreement.

Refinement and training.

The church model today

Where does training happen in the American church? Not sure. In twenty-plus years, I have yet to see a structured system in place. A system that uses the gifts people have to bring refinement and growth is rare. Some churches have catechesis and Sunday school classes, but little else.

Typically, there are signup sheets in the lobby to engage with areas you find comfortable.

The United States Marine Corps model

Once a Marine recruit graduates, they are sent away to school. Their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is determined, and the training commences. Training is led by experts in the field, with the sole purpose of making the new Marine proficient in their chosen area of specialty. Almost every needed skill is offered, from infantry, all the way to leadership.

The body.

The church model today

Congregations in today's American church are often called "the body."  But does this body, so called, display and utilize all of the unique gifts and talents in the church? Is the iron being sharpened in these communities, to a mutually beneficial end? Is there united purpose in this "body"?

The United States Marine Corps model

In the Marines, every member has a unique set of skills intentionally engaged by the Marine Corps, for the sole purpose of serving the United States.  

The Marines are a brother/sisterhood that knows no bounds.  A Marine can recognize brethren anywhere in the world. This is a unity that does not need discussion or justification. It is a hard-earned loyalty, in which members willingly lay down their lives for another.


The church model today

There are over 33,000 Denominations in the church today. Each, serves a different set of doctrines, shaped by the opinion of various men. There is not one Church; there are various brands of churches that can't seem to agree on all of the details.

The United States Marine Corps model

Consider this quote from the Marine Corps's creed:

..."Before God, I swear this creed. My rifle and I are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen."

Enough said.

Also, keep in mind that, regardless of where any outpost is located, the United States Marine Corps is a demographically diverse community, just like the New Testament. Yet, they are one. They are unified.


The church model today

There is so much diversity of worship within churches, that this topic is hard to tackle the topic of "worship." No music genre is denied. No production method is off-limits. Use the lights. Use the fog machine. Whatever. I basically agree with this position. However, worship does need to be sincere, regardless of the choice in genre.

The United States Marine Corps model

Seeing Marines united for the purpose of demonstrating their loyalty, even when words are not spoken, is so impressive. Just google "silent drill team" to see what I mean. This video gives a glimpse of how a unit sometimes handles singing. Notice the sincerity.

In closing.

This post isn't trying to lay out every intricacy involved with the ideas laid out above. Yes, some of my points don't totally cross both fences. However, when you look at the core tenants of models described above, I hope it is clear to you that the Marine Corps lays out a system that models the basics of a "real church" more adequately than most churches.

As believers, often fail to even come close to the passion and dedication displayed by the United States Marine Corps, even though what we believe has eternal consequences.

Just to be clear, it is not the militant persona that I am defending. It isn't about the fighting; it is about the serving. It is not about the rigidity; it is about the passion. It is a bout the love that was displayed by those original disciples who gave their lives passionately for what they believed. Those folks who were always faithful and uncompromised under every circumstance.

The cross is Jesus saying Semper Fidelis, and, as Christians, our response should be the same.  

Ask yourself this question: Is the church I attend mirroring what the Bible teaches? Is there real loyalty in your church? Is there real service; is there real passion? Take some time to think about the parallels described in this post and chew on it.

Share your thoughts below.

God Bless -