Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Finding Faith in Finances: an out-loud self-examination

Lots of people in lots of places from lots of churches are ready to tell you (if they haven't already) that churches need new people in order to meet their financial obligations.  For many, this information is simply a given.  It's how the church is going to 'work'.  The starting place for what we do.  So church growth, which of itself might have been a good - and really exciting - thing ("Go! Tell my disciples that I'm risen from the dead!") instead becomes code for financial solvency. 

*sigh*

I've never seen this mindset work, because it all but destroys the church's ability to value the next visitor through the doors as a person beloved of God (as opposed to a pledge).  Still, some folks dismiss the beloved-of-God argument, reminding me and my ilk that the church, in the end, is a business (a statement I might want to nuance, but probably can't talk the other person out of). 

*sigh*

Even so (and this is my point in writing), my interlocutor is not off the hook, I think, because by her own pragmatic standard she must still answer the question: 'What if the newcomers give as generously as you give?  Is that good or bad news for the Church?'  (It's an honest question only made potentially insulting by the conscience of the hearer.)

We are (and I am) never not called to stewardship, discipleship, our lived response to Jesus, as priority number one. 

Growing on the outside (the good kind that sticks) requires growing on the inside.  But growing on the inside might become so fruitful that we lose our financial motivation for outward growth altogether.   What then?  What if we wake up one day and all we're left with is the that awkward and embarrassing command he left us with: "Go! Tell my disciples that I'm risen from the dead!"?

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