I knew those words even before I knew the church was after my money. I knew the defense to the argument before I ever knew the argument.
We are not the first church to encounter economic realities. We will not be the last.
As an institution we rely on the generosity of the people we serve.
As such, there are times of overflowing generosity.
In those moments, perhaps, we don’t reflect back to our people and to God our supreme gratitude. Maybe they are unaware of how thankful we are for their gifts. It’s possible they don’t know how filled with joy we are when another week, month, season, or year goes by of financial solvency.
If so, that is our mistake as leaders.
THANK YOU, Hope Community Church! It has been months and years since we’ve faced such a shortfall. Yes, there have been family meetings in the recent past. But we have not considered delaying a payroll since 2005, nine long years ago. This has been sweet, sweet music for our ministry to dance to.
During the past decade, your faithfulness has permitted us to focus our energy, prayers, efforts, strategizing, thoughts, and passion into the work of the ministry. And the less work we need to do ON the ministry means the more work we can be doing IN the ministry.
Alternatively, there are lean times. The financial realities of the organization surpass what has been provided. Amidst a church where the average age is 25, we are well acquainted with stretching a dollar like a rubber band. We’ve been doing so for years.
But what happens when the rubber band snaps?
That’s what we’re facing. There are hard realities that we, as a church, need to address. (Hello, to you readers who are not a part of Hope. I trust you’ll be blessed as you continue reading.)
And we have and will continue to address this by asking the people of Hope to begin giving or increase their giving or offering a one time gift.
Let me respond to that criticism with a story.
A few years back my wife experienced a series of illnesses.
In her search for wellness she learned much about our food system. One lesson was the difference between organic and non-organic foods.
I couldn’t tell the difference. Both groups of food were labeled milk or eggs or bananas. They were shelved next to one another at the store. Apparently there’s a small USDA certification written in blue to delineate the organic from the non. I didn’t notice.
What I did notice is the organic food we were now purchasing was 30-150% more than the non-organic. I was having a hard time understanding why we would choose to pay more for eggs when we could pay less for eggs.
There were three ways that my wife helped me understand.
- The first helper was the taste. I could taste the difference between organic chicken and non-organic chicken. The same was true for peanut butter. The organic eggs tasted fantastic. The non-organic eggs were kind of…blah.
- The second was the name. Eggs are eggs, right? No. My wife helped me to see that when I purchase organic eggs, it’s actually a qualitatively different product than non-organic eggs. The two are not created equal. Nor do they taste equal. Eggs are not eggs if one is organic and the other not. They are two different products. So it stands to reason that the cost would be different between the two.
- The third was they differed in how they were planted, grown, cared for, fertilized, processed, etc.
So is the church just after your money? Maybe. It depends. On what? On you.
What value do you place on your church? What amount of money are you willing to offer up to keep her healthy? At what cost are you willing to pay to ensure its unity? At what price do you commit so the staff is thriving?
Put another way, how costly is an unhealthy church? A burnt out staff? Leadership that can’t focus efforts IN ministry because all of it must be focused ON ministry? I can get you these things and make it quite cheap!
A church is a church is a church, right? No.
A church that is well led, well staffed, well supported, and well resourced will look and feel differently. It’ll have a different taste!
Money does not equal health. Only being close to Christ brings genuine health.
But money can be a helpful tool to make sure the best resources (which, in our case, means staff) are in place. They can then plant, care for, fertilize, etc. as God brings the growth!
Is the church after your money? Well, technically, it’s God’s money (1 Cor. 4:7). But he has permitted you to steward it. You are free under God to use it however you wish.
But if you’re unwilling (don’t say unable…ALL of us has something) to share, why is that?
If the church is just after your money, what are you after through withholding your money?
Do you believe the Church is just after your money? If so, what does the Church need to do in order to counteract that stigma?