Category Archives: Faith

Money and the American church pt. 2

So I’ve been having a discussion with my younger half-brother who is in a decision making place of whether to seek ordination in his denomination for his future vocation at the end of his bachelors degree or to try and figure a way to do the ministry that is on his heart differently.  In any system, there are pros and cons and in something as deeply personal as our spirituality, its hard to apply the same business principles to that we would in franchising a business.  This  has me reflecting on these issues again. There is a long history of questions and issues with professional ministry vs. a self-supporting model.  In the New Testament you have the apostle Paul both tent-making and seeking financial support from believers.  With this, I don’t think its a moral or theological issue (many would argue me on that point).  The reason I fired myself from professional ministry was a cultural issue and a sense of self-awareness.  Although I was professionaly prepared for ministry in the American church (undergrad. and graduate degree) and had all the experience needed, it was a matter of calling and the time I live in.  1) a problem of trust – the American church has lost major trust with the people, both in and outside its walls.  Stories of scandals and impropriety is the word on the street and the people I want to be in conversation with have a major issue with money and the church.  So if I’m not taking a paycheck, then at least that communication barrier is out of the way. 2) exchange of goods and services – spiritual accountability is an intimate and at times rough ground to cover.  How honest can I be with people I’m caring for if I rely upon their giving to feed my children?  Let’s not spiritualize this, its a human response.  3) the drive to be productive – American ministry, as I was trained in, is deeply intertwined with the American corporate business model where productivity and busyness is king.  You focus on the things that bring a return to the organization.  This is incredibly confusing when the Kingdom of God as expressed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount is a “bottom-up” model and our church is designed as a “top-down”  hierarchy model.  One of those has to give.  What’s my point in all this?  I grieve for a church that has forgotten who we are.  We are not rooted in our ancient stories (the Scriptures) handed down to us from those who have gone before us.  Instead we’ve exchanged it for a model to be exciting, enticing, obsessively productive and relevant to the world around us.  Are we selling people a “feel good” pill or are we offering the kind of water that doesn’t make you thirsty anymore?  I believe, our hope is in living in our story, one rooted in the truth of the mind of our Creator.  If the recession doesn’t go away, if the american economy struggles for a decade, what will the questions of the church be?  Will will be grieving our senses of entitlement to buildings and vocations or will we be ready to care for people and show them a simpler and more wholistic way to live?  Will our message be hope and life?   That’s what I wonder about.  

I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self.  That is the way Jesus came to reveal God’s love.  The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God’s Word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed  us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.  – Henri Nouwen  In the Name of Jesus peace, Chris

Money and the American church pt. 1

This is something I posted almost 2 years ago and I want to re-visit it here for a bit.  This was before the recession fully hit in America and I still have similar questions.Wednesday, April 23, 2008

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My truck is paid off but the gas prices are killing me. I don’t drive that much and its over $300 per month, not including my wife’s car. So what does this project to as a national economy? Recession seems inevitable, will it go way beyond that? A nation already ruled by fear and over-spending with no margins by individuals and the government, what will be the consequences?How will this impact churches and mortgages and credit lines that can’t be fed? As builders pass on who are the committed givers what is left? 1/2 of boomers are there to give and the other 1/2 are driven past their financial margins with consumerism and can’t help. Gen X and Millenials have very little value in long term comittments, are all about instant gratification and consumerism is their native language. Commonly this group of up and comers are living on 125-140% of their income taking on exponential debt per year. What will be the result of these decisions having no margins when the shoe drops?Will American churches go the way of their European counterparts? Becoming really funky coffee houses, restaraunts, art galleries and dance clubs. Just things I wonder about.peace,

Brigid of Kildare

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Today is St. Brigid’s day after Brigid of Kildare. She is known for a “call to recklessness“, particularly in terms of her generosity and hospitality. Here is a description of her from Celtic Daily Prayer:

Many legends and few facts survive about this Irish woman who founded a community at Kildare, primarily for women. She was famed for her generosity and hospitality, and her influence was widespread; but she remained eminently practical.

I live in America which means ask the common person on the street what the great perception of those who claim to be Christian is and most likely not in the top 100 are the words generosity or hospitality. (of course that’s a generalization based on the person’s experiences, but I would wager its decently accurate) Perhaps words like self-righteous, judgmental, greedy, immoral, close-minded etc. may make that top 100 list. Whether the perception is based on micro experiences (local church, interactions with Christians, spiritual history) or macro observations (fantastic media reports, the folks on the tele etc.) the perception may be reality or atleast perceived. The point is that our micro and macro messages hardly reflect the one we claim to follow. So what is getting in the way? Surely at least our broken humanity for starters and the list can go on from there. My reflection today is that I want to be known as being recklessly generous and hospitable to both strangers and friends. Thanks, St. Brigid for the reminder. Here is just a portion of the Celtic Blessing for the day of St. Brigid for our homes:

For love of Him we offer friendship and welcome every guest.Lord, kindle in my heart a flame of love to my neighbour,to my enemies, my friends, my kindred all,from the lowliest thing that liveth to the name that is highest of all.I would welcome the poor and honour them.I would welcome the sick in the presence of angelsand ask God to bless and embrace us all.Seeing a stranger approach I would put food in the eating place,drink in the drinking place, music in the listening place,and look with joy for the blessing of God, who often comes to my home in the blessing of a stranger.

peace,