Merch Church: Should that be a thing?

Mar 5, 2024Archive, blog

Jesus said you cannot serve both God and money, but many churches today suffer from “affluenza.”

Whether it be treating celebrities well in special seats or currying favor with wealthy congregants, some churches violate James 2:2-4.

“For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?”

Some churches spend more money on branding, edifices, and the latest technology than they do on the poor in their community.

Others make income beyond tithes and offerings by selling books by the leaders of the church, or by creating brand appropriate merchandise.

Some approve pastoral salaries that far exceed the mean income of the place they are ministering in.

Others curry favor with big donors, sending them on “retreats” with perks.

We have forgotten this verse in 1 Timothy 6:17:

“Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.”

When we mix money with ministry, there is a danger that we will ignore those less fortunate. Or we could flirt with a dangerous idolatry, worship at the altar of the almighty dollar, rather than worshipping the God of the broken.

I’ve been thinking about this issue a long time, but I don’t yet have an essay written about the disturbing things I see in some churches I’ve visited. I’m formulating my thoughts. It’s something I struggle with, to be honest. I make my living by selling merch (books). And I always worry that Jesus is going to overturn my book tables.

That being said, I do love the church and I long for her to be effective, righteous, and generous.

These slides summarize embryonic thoughts about the conflagration between church and money, ministry and mammon.

Jesus said we can’t serve both.


  1. Tim Burns

    Couldn’t agree more. But don’t ask Steven Furtick, or Joel Osteen. I think their eyes are blinded by their desires.

  2. Joni

    My husband is a pastor. I am a new author and my first book just launched. We have not announced it from the pulpit or promoted it via church communications. The book is about what I’ve watched God do here for 28 years. People know it’s available because they know I’ve been working on it for a long time. God is creating all kinds of avenues for me to share it. My prayer is that as I recover my expenses, he will also inspire me what he wants me to do with the income. He’s always faithful.

    • Mary

      Joni, you inspire me.

  3. Janet K

    I wonder about this too. Do we really need to sell fancy flavored iced coffee at church?

    • Mary

      It’s all kind of connected in different ways, isn’t it?