Organized Religion is Big Business– Too Big to Fail: Rediscover the Mission, Morph, Adapt, Reinvent for New Morality…

Organized religion is typically characterized by an official doctrine, dogma… a hierarchical, bureaucratic leadership structure, and codification of rules and practices.The term organized religion is frequently used in the mass media to refer to the world’s largest religious groups…

According to Luke Muehlhauser; What is religion? Everybody knows what religion is before you ask them; but then when you ask them; what is religion? They find it very hard to define! A dictionary might say; religion is a belief-in and reverence-for a supernatural power… Another definition might suggest– religion is that system of beliefs directed toward that which is perceived to be of sacred or spiritual value with transforming power…

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Throughout history, economics and religion have been inextricably linked. Today, globalism and religious pluralism are facts of life. Enterprise, invention, and the complexities of faith create synergies. Around the world, religious traditions shape the perceptions of consumers and guide corporate decision-making, e.g.; religious tourism, hotels, important religious places, religious symbols… Globally halal products comprise a US$2 trillion industry… The kosher industry has certified more than 100,000 products, which total approximately US$165 billion in sales annually… in the souks of old Damascus modestly clad plastic dolls lie alongside carved wooden Koran stands… in Cairo and other Islamic capitals, vendors tout calligraphic renderings of devotional texts, bookmarks with the 99 names for Allah and strings of colored prayer beads… E-rugs are prayer mats with an alarm for the five prayer times and a compass that points towards Mecca…

Religions rarely praise consumerism; but 2.2 billion Christians and 1.6 billion Muslims are big markets, e.g.; sales of books on the world’s two biggest faiths are soaring, with interactive Korans and Bibles among the innovative products. Last year sales of religious books grew by 8% in a declining industry… According to Sammy Said; many people believe in the existence of a god that will help save a person’s soul, however, preserving the institution that can help you believe in God requires a lot of money… Here is a brief summary of a few of the richest organized religions in the world:

  • Protestantism probably represents over 33,000 Protestant denominations, and research shows that Protestants are in the ‘middle-levels’ in terms of wealth accumulated by its believers…
  • Televangelism relies mainly on advertisements, donations and merchandise; all these are done free of tax– it’s estimated to be a US$2.3 billion business..
  • Church of England, also known as Anglicanism, it used to be the biggest landowner in Great Britain. It sold off most of the land to build up an investment portfolio of US$6.7 billion that earns more than US$255 million each year. It also gets more than US$320 million in donations and US$400 million through its events and services…
  • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is considered to be one of the fastest-growing and richest religions in the world. Its members are called Mormons and at the turn of the 21stcentury, Mormon assets were being estimated to be at over US$30 billion. It also has an annual revenue of US$6 billion, with nearly 90% of the amount coming from member contributions called tithing, in which members are required to give 10% of their entire income…
  • Judaism is said to have accumulated the most wealth among all believers in all religions in the U.S…
  • Islam is a monotheistic religion that is the second largest and one of the fastest growing in the world… Some of the richest countries in the world follow strict Islamic laws. Estimates in 2012 put the assets of the Islamic financial industry alone to be at nearly US$1.6 trillion…
  • Roman Catholic Church owns some of the greatest art works ever made, it has vast gold deposits and billions of dollars in assets… it earns a significant amount of income from tourism… it has more than a billion members around the world… According to Economist; it estimates US$170 billion in annual spending, of which almost US$150 billion is associated with church-affiliated hospitals and institutions of higher education. The operating budget for ordinary parishes is about US$11 billion a year…

In the article Organized Religion is Big Business by Martha Woodroof writes: Many large corporations roll along unabated because they are too big to fail. And if there truly is a business that’s too big to fail, it’s probably the Organized Religion Industry (ORI)… Think about it. In real estate alone, the ORI controls gazillions of dollars. And it’s not just property ownership that has economically entrenched the Organized Religion Industry; it’s all the jobs attached to these properties and not to mention all the auxiliary economic activities generated by what goes on in ORI-owned buildings, all training facilities for the people who run these activities, all the people employed by the hierarchical institutions who decide what these activities should be… Talk about marketing! The ORI has sold its message brilliantly, concentrating on such talking points as– fear of death, answers to the unanswerable, moral certainties delivered in God’s name…

religion thCANA7RB6In the article Organized Religion Management Problem by Gary Hamel writes: Organized religion has not been doing too well recently, at least not in the developed world… and, what ails ‘the church’ probably ails many organization, as well… Yes, church attendance may be lagging, but nine out of ten Americans still claim to have faith in a spiritual being– a number hasn’t changed much over the past two decades. And only 9% describe themselves as neither religious nor spiritual. Interestingly, though, nearly a third say they are spiritual, but not religious… In other words, though many people may have become less religiously observant, they have not become any less spiritually inclined… Organizations lose their relevance when the rate of internal change lags the pace of external change, and that’s the problem that besets many churches…

Today we live in a world that seems to be all punctuation and no equilibrium, where the future is less and less an extrapolation of the past. And many conservative, hierarchical organizations are not up to the challenge– they’re simply not adaptable enough… In this environment, you’re either going forward or backwards– but you’re never standing still– and at the moment, many organizations, churches included, are going backwards. Historically, business leaders and church leaders didn’t have to worry about fundamental paradigm shifts. They could safely assume that their basic business models would last forever… In the case of church, this meant loyal pew-warmers who would show up every week, sit passively through the same unvarying church service, drop $20 into the plate as it passed, and politely shake the pastor’s hand as they headed off for lunch…

But business models are not eternal– and their mortality rate has been rising. In industry after industry we’ve witnessed profound paradigm shifts, and of course there are paradigm shifts in churches as well, with the move from small community churches to mega churches to multi-site churches, the emergent church, home churches, and whatever follows that… Most organizations, though, end up shackled to one business model– and when it atrophies, so does the institution… Over time visions become strategies, strategies get codified into policies, policies spawn practices, and practices become habits. That’s organizational entropy– and it’s why success is usually a self-correcting phenomenon… And it’s also why the hard thing– the really hard thing, isn’t inventing a brilliant strategy, but reinventing it!

Given all of this, the most critical advantage a church (or any other organization) can build is a ‘evolutionary advantage’– an ability to constantly morph and adapt… Sadly, it usually takes a crisis to set an organization on a new path… Over the centuries, religion has become institutionalized, and in the process encrusted with elaborate hierarchies, top-heavy bureaucracies, highly specialized roles and reflexive routines (kinda like your company but only more so). Religion won’t regain its relevance until church leaders chip off these calcified layers, rediscover their sense of mission, and set themselves free to reinvent ‘church’ for a new age… Doing this is going to take a management revolution. Back in the first century, the Christian church was organic, communal and mostly free of ritual– and it needs to become so again– as does every organization, public or private, large or small…

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In the article Business of Religion by Arup Nanda writes: Religion is a very dangerous double-edged sword. On one hand it brings discipline, moral values and for the lack of a better term– ‘humanity’ to humans… Consider this; Why would you not steal from thy neighbor? If you did, it would make you more profitable and your actions immensely more efficient (i.e., much gain from small effort); but you won’t, because it’s against established morality. Belief system, whether in the form of religion or otherwise is the very foundation of morality… However, belief systems adapt to varying situations making the process of acceptable behavior (or religion) highly fluid and devoid of specific direction… And that can make the business of religion highly dangerous…

Organized religions have been very successful by any measure of modern capitalism. The biggest among them are global enterprises with thousands of employees, Boards of Directors, multiple revenue streams… But while corporations spend millions of dollars and dedicate teams to study the latest consumer behaviors, cultural trends, organization theories… these large religious organizations have maintained a status quo and lost touch with their customers (church-goers)… hence they have missed, to their detriment, timeless lessons on how to grow, strengthen, endure…

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Organized religion, broadly defined, is a central part of human history: It’s older than nation-states, it’s older than capitalism, even much older than the Internet and social media… and it will outlive them all. In addition, these organizations have shown to be antifragile expanding across borders, cultures, millennia… enduring through revolutions, pandemics, wars…

However, organized religion is truly at ‘infliction point’ for survival… and the religious organizations that can best change with the times, rediscover their mission, market their message, stay relevant… are the organizations that will best embrace customers (parishioners), best balance financials, best sustain growth, and endure…