Thursday, January 18, 2007

Missional Churches - Second in a series

We continue our discussion of a Leadership magazine article on Missional Churches by looking at Tim Conder's second point:

(2) Programming and finances are directed outward. It's easy for much of the church's program and fiscal reflexes to become directed internally. Emphases on church growth or "building the body" are often presented as the mission ("A larger church means more space and opportunity for our community to encounter Christ," is the overt message, when the real message to staff is, in fact, "Keep the saints happy and coming back.").

To counter this temptation, missional communities may cut back on programming to leave space for breathing and living. Some ministries are relocated from the safe confines of the church into the community. Financial assets are viewed as both opportunity and burden. Some missional churches have made a pattern of giving away resources without control or strings attached to reduce congregants' sense of entitlement.

The inward financial focus is a trend I suspect is strongly rooted in many churches. I encourage anyone with access to their church's financial information to go through the expenditures and put expenses in 2 categories - missional, including outreach, missions, education and anything that is directed at bringing people into the kingdom of God, and another category that you can name yourself. If your church is anywhere close to a 50-50 split, I applaud you.

The natural inclination is to keep the saints happy, and that results from the dynamic tension that comes from deciding how to spend money. Is our focus on the current congregation, or on those outside the kingdom? Not that they are mutually exclusive, but resources have to be allocated, and that tension and the resultant budgeting decision will reflect the attitude of the congregation. I've heard many preachers say that "you can judge a person's priorities by looking at their checkbook." The same adage applies to churches. If all our money is spent on us, that tells you something. If it is spent on others, it tells you something else.

I say this not to judge. But I strongly encourage anyone in ministry leadership to prayerfully consider how their church's money is spent. It does tell a story about us.

1 comment:

Missional Jerry said...

With churches in the USA owning over 250 Billion dollars in buildings, its hard to put money into missional actions with so much of our budgets going to debt maintenance and physical plant up keep.