I get asked a lot of questions about our church that start like “Forgive me, but can I ask you __________” or “Why in the world would you do __________”. It’s part of our context – we’re unique. But one of the ones I get asked a lot is
how do you pay for things?
I get what they mean – how do you keep a church budget afloat when people in your church faithfully tithe, but do so at a rate of $20/week? The short answer to that question is: we just do. God is good. But there’s a bigger issue wrapped up in the “how do you pay for things” question that most people don’t consider. And the answer to that question is this:
We all do.
We all do what? We all play a part in the mission as it pertains to money. That probably seems like a “duh” to you, but you have to realize that in our society right now, upwards of 50% of the population (incidentally the part of the population that’s not usually in churches on Sunday mornings) has been conditioned to believe that,
if you’re in the lower-earning segment of the population, you can let other people pay your bills for you.
Of course, most of us would probably agree that’s not how it should be in the body of Christ (nor in society, but that’s someone else’s blog topic). And, unfortunately, what’s happened in the Church/religious-non-profit sector is that we’ve allowed the permissive social segregation of Givers and Takers to enter our environment. In the US, multiple generations of some families have existed solely in a Taker environment and ethos. And some might even argue that it’s biblical. After all, James 1:27 is one of the classic giving passages: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
But, as anyone with kids will tell you (okay, an ever-reducing number of people with kids), treating those people you’re leading exclusively as Takers is detrimental to their souls. Because being a Giver is something you learn. Being a Giver is something that we follow after Christ in but also something our human nature fights back against like there’s no tomorrow.
But there’s a lurking problem. Having Takers also be Givers is inefficient and most church/non-profit leaders know that, even if it’s subconscious. After all, if your primary job as a pastor/deacon/non-profit-worker is to funnel things from the Givers to the Takers and then the Takers give the stuff away, you have to work harder and the whole system winds up taking a bigger toll on you.
It’s much more efficient for the Church to have Takers not be Givers.
But that’s cheating the Takers.
Cheating them in our role as leaders and cheating them in our responsibility to form them spiritually rather than just throw information/Scripture/food/clothes at them. So do we have Takers in our church community? Yes. In fact, we Takers from the government, our church, other churches, other non-profits, even family. But we raise the bar and ask people who are Takers in all other areas of life to also be Givers – to play their role in God’s mission. Give away food you got on food stamps, tithe back money you got from a benevolence fund, make food for potlucks from food we gave you, volunteer helping people who need help less than you do – all non-traditional ways of giving that tear down the walls between the Giver/Taker separation.
We need to take seriously what Jesus said to His disciples when he taught them at the temple offering: “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.” Do we truly believe that and practice that in the Church today? Maybe we should.