Banking on God: Crisis, Part 3


Is it hot in here or is it just me?In the last couple days, I’ve looked at some problems the Church in America faces in addressing financial crises. I’ve also dissected your poll responses on this issue, too.

Before I sum up what I think the Church here needs to do to survive down times, I’d like to open that question up to reader responses.

Given what I’ve discussed and the questions I asked in my last post, what suggestions would you make to leaders in the American Church (and your own church in particular) to help the Church survive and even thrive during an economic meltdown. And should that meltdown take us into tribulation, what strategies should the Church adopt to stand firm?

Thanks in advance for your ideas. I’ll share mine in the next post.


Banking On God: Series Compendium

15 thoughts on “Banking on God: Crisis, Part 3

  1. Plant vegetables on church land. Retrofit buildings so people can live inside. Most churches have kitchens. Add showers and beds. Let poor parishioners move in rich parishioners’ houses. Split expenses. Learn to live together without killing each other. Discover which members do well on eBay. Ask everyone to declutter their homes. Let them take what can be used. Sell whatever is left on eBay. Distribute the money.

    Find out who lives near whom. Coordinate meal times so people can eat together. Buy food bulk via church-opened, wholesale accounts. Distribute food across the community. Carpool to church. Ask those who live far away to join churches near them.

    Find what social services are available, when, where, and to whom. Help poor members apply for food stamps, Social Security disability, Medicare, and free health care. Despite what you may hear about the welfare state, getting on welfare is much more difficult than it sounds…often beyond the capability of the average person.

    Have more than Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night services so members working off hours can come. Open job-training programs. Teach how to work cash registers, wait tables, and clean a building. Instill basic work ethics. Show up on time, clean. Do not complain about hours or tasks given unless truly unjust.

    Help people file taxes. Open zero-percent, no fee, payday “lending”, paycheck-cashing, wire transfer services available to members only.

    Get those who know how to winterize houses to go house to house to winterize.

      • I left out the most important part: revival. First and foremost, we need revival. Without revival, most, if not all, of the above will not be done. Consider that the early Church “had all things common” (Acts 2:44) after Pentecost. After the apostles were persecuted, another revival happened, and they “had all things common” (Acts 4:32). This was followed by Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1). Soon after came the disagreement over widows (Acts 6:1). In the first two examples, revival came first. Charity came second. In the last example, charity was not administered properly. After that was addressed, then came revival.

        Why did Luke write that the Church “had all things common” twice? Because we so easily can go back to worldly habits, as was the case with the widows’ dispute and with Ananias and Sapphira. Indeed, those two may have personally participated in the revival that preceded their deaths! If anyone should have known better, then they should have.

    • Normandie

      Excellent comment again, Michael. Imagine if we did that! Imagine if we tried to live as if we were truly one body instead of only self-contained units that smile at each other on Sundays and perhaps Wednesdays!

      My husband and I have asked ourselves why the Lord seemed to want us to buy such a big (old, neglected, needing years of restoration work on all systems by us) to go out on this missionary venture. As our household dwindled in size, it occurred to us that He may want to use Sea Venture as a mercy/transport ship. Talk about crowding into small places! Our big boat (50′ on deck, 300 square feet, not all of which is usable) is still tiny when it comes to living spaces. I can’t help but feel that we’re all going to be slipping rapidly out of our comfort zones in the next years–whatever that zone may be–and as church members we need to be willing to rethink our need for personal space and personal time. That’s going to stretch a lot of us.

  2. George

    One thing that is often mentioned to me by unbelievers is the perception that Churches, Pastor’s, Para-church Ministries and their staff are just in this “God thing” for the money. Some of the TV ministries only seem to prove their point!

    In the secular business realm its easy to find out what, for example a Teacher or Doctor earns. For transparency and accountability Pastors and Para-church staff should, I think, if their ministries have an online present, make there salaries including any perks like health insurance, in other words, a full disclosure, available online for all to look at. This would show the sceptical world that our ministry is not for huge personal gain and we are paid a fair but modest salary. It would also embarrass, where necessary, those in ministry that are overpaid and who deep down know via their conscience that this is a honesty and integrity issue.

    This should be something that Ministries are eager to do, to dispel any hint of greed or the using of its congregations or donors money with a lack of appropriate moderation.

    • George,

      I don’t like your idea because it provides no context.

      For example, my wife and I lived in the Bay Area for a few years. We’ve also lived in Ohio. If we contrasted what we made while living in Silicon Valley with what we make now, you could say that we went from rich to poor. That doesn’t tell the whole story, though. Our monthly rent on a two bedroom apartment in Silicon Valley was 80 percent more than what we pay for our farm a month. Our taxes out there were far higher, too. In fact, everything about living in CA was wildly inflated. So much for being “rich.”

      That extends to pastors, too. A pastor serving in rural TX and a pastor in Chevy Chase, MD might make wildly different amounts of money yet might actually be considered the same income class given where they live.

      We also can’t see extenuating circumstances. More and more pastors today are early retirees from a lifetime of business world work. They may be getting by on their retirement funds rather than their pastoral salaries. I know that’s the case in my church. Would my pastor then be considered underpaid? Maybe not.

      So without context, what you propose would only cause problems. Unfortunately, most people ignore context anyway and that’s how 90 percent of misunderstandings, especially in the Church, begin.

      • I agree with you, George, but only insofar as people are tired of their hard-earned donations being wasted on fat salaries and expensive building programs. Dan is right. Look at the context. The pastor of one church I visit lives in a very large house. One might take offense on the surface. But his wife, two sons, two daughters, son-in-law, and grandson live with him. He and his sons work as electrical contractors during the week. The inside of the house is being renovated by them. They can afford “more house” because they have the skills to maintain that house at a lesser cost. Plus I was at the church when an elder explained how the pastor had sacrificed past paychecks so the church could cover its budget.

        • George

          Thanks Michael and Dan for your corrective comments on my missing mentioning of context. You are both right, different geograpical location, and other factors need to be weighted with an even hand. Your insights have been helpful to me as I ponder these issues.

          I mistakenly had “assumed” (always a dangerous attitude:-)) that most people would make the mental adjustment needed for fair financial remuneration for example of a Pastor /ministry in an affluent downtown Manhattan location compared to say a small rural ministry in Montana. But I take your point that appearances and cold non-nuanced facts could be misleading.

          I guess I long for the world to see a freedom and transparency in our handling of money within the Christian Church. Albeit some may read the information and draw some erroneous conclusions. And yes these misunderstandings would be unfortunate, but perhaps we would nevertheless be willing to accept the misunderstandings in the context of being open and content that the true facts are out there and our salaries sit at ease with our consciences informed by God’s Word.

          All that said, I really appreciate your added balance to my lopsided thoughts. These issues and musings can only challenge us to make a difference in our local communities and give the gospel visible hands and feet.

  3. David Riggins

    The primary thing that the elders of a church body should do is press an emphasis on prayer and bible study. If a church is not praying and studying God’s word, then they do not know their Father, and if they don’t know Him, how can they do His will?

    As they spend time in prayer and study, I believe some fundamental elements of the body will change: There will be less of an emphasis on self. A huge amount of questioning will begin, and yes, some of it will point to the financial condition of the body and the decisions being made. A different group of leaders will likely emerge, and the role of pastor will change dramatically. If the church has a “hired gun” he may very well leave. The body will turn to the elders for spiritual guidance and direction. The elder body may very well change as a result. Initially, I believe that most churches will shrink as the chaff is blown away. The decrease in numbers will tempt some to question the direction of the body, and resolve will be needed to maintain the emphasis on knowing God and His heart for the world.

    As people learn the heart of God, there will be an increase in giving and sharing. But it won’t necessarily be monetary. The focus of the body will change from one of growth in numbers to one of depth of understanding. As the focus changes, hurting and burdened people will be attracted to the body, testing the willingness and resolve of the body to keep seeking the deeper things of God; sacrifice, selflessness, and the willingness to die to self.

    The ability to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the prisoner, house the homeless, and seek the lost will not be goals to strive for, they will be the natural result of knowing God.

    • I made a not-dissimilar comment above, that we need revival if this is to happen. The administrative hurdles we face to do everything I suggested in the first comment, and that Dan may put in his next post, are not insurmountable. They only seem great because we know how difficult it will be for Christians to agree on a course of action. These disagreements cannot be administrated away. Nor, in my experience, can they be overcome through Bible study and counseling…prayer, yes, if it is “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man” (James 5:16). The Church was praying before Pentecost. The Church was praying before the second revival after which they “had all things common” (Acts 4:32). The Church was praying when it appointed deacons to care for widows.

  4. George

    The other George, that is. (How often do you come across multiple Georges?)

    I agree with both George and Dan. Pastors should not get rich(er) off their congregations, but rich is relative. Context matters. Better, it seems to me, that the pastor’s manner of living matches his congregation’s.

    And yet: What if his congregation amasses more wealth than it needs? Should a pastor match that?

    I am reminded of what a neighbor of mine says. He’s Italian, and he says when you do a deal, don’t do it with an Italian — the Italian will be focused on making sure you don’t make too much money. Better, my friend says, is to have a Jew in the deal — he’ll focus on making sure everyone involved makes money.

    Now, I don’t know if my friend is right about ethnicities. But his point is a good one, I think. And it’s transferable here.

    If we make sure that we focus on supporting our brothers in having living conditions comparable to our own, who cares if someone else is making “too” much? “What is that to you,” as our Lord said in a different — but I’d argue related — context.

  5. merry

    Churches need to have more ongoing prayer meetings-not just short ones at 9:00-9:30 Sunday morning, but more like the ones described in Acts. The disciples would pray anywhere from all night to what, 10 days straight? Show God how serious and dedicated to Him we really are.

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