Church Finances

This week I received an email in my inbox.  It was just an advertisement, but it caught my eye.  (You can read it below with the personal content removed)  The advertisement was for churches to learn how to boost the amount of money they receive in weekly giving.

Now, on the face of it, this always seems a little suspect to me, but I thought I would at least read the email and see what this person had to say.  After reading it, however, my resolve was only strengthened, that our church should never engage in these kinds of attitudes.

Instead of trying to bring in as much money as possible, the church should be trying to figure out how to teach people to use their own personal finances to advance God's Kingdom in their own life, and in their own sphere of influence.  The church woefully misunderstands its power and its influence when it thinks of its resources in terms of what is in the church budget.  To be succinct the financial resources of the local church include all of the wealth that all of its members possess.

Think of the scope.  Even a church that was filled with committed tithers would have a church budget that equalled 10% of the income of its members.  What if, instead of thinking about how to get more people to give to the church (focusing on that 10%), we tried to mobilize church members to use the 90% in ways that honor God and advance His Kingdom?

This is where financial power could truly be used in creative and fruitful ways:

Instead of aiming to get 100% of our members to give 10% of their income to the church, lets focus on getting 100% of our members to recognized that 100% of their income belongs to God, and that they will have to give an account to Him for how they used that money to cooperate with His will in their own household, and in their own community.

Here is the letter:


We're cruising toward the "crunch time" of 2016. A mere days away from the 4th quarter of the year. 
How has your giving been?
How was it today?
Do you ever ask yourself the following questions:
Q. How well is the church's ministry vision being funded?
Q. What are we having to cut because of a lack of giving?
Q. What aren't the tithes and offerings at the same level they used to be?
Q. How can I get my church members to give more regularly?
If you are asking yourself ANY of these questions, it's important for you to join me for...
3 Secrets To Boost Your Recurring Giving
It's a completely free webinar I am going to hold and I'm going to help you get very positive answers to those questions.
We're limiting the number of churches that can attend this free webinar to 200.
So please reserve your spot now.


40 Developmental Assets

The list below is the reason why some kids grow up to be successful, and others do not.  The list is a unique blend of social/systemic forces and individual morality/character.  These are the forces and choices that, over the first decade or two of human life, work together to create healthy and purposeful human beings, or twisted wrecks.

For those of us who hold to the power of Scripture and a belief in the work of the Holy Spirit, of course the question is, "where do the Spirit and the Scriptures fit into that list."  My simple response is that the work of the Spirit and the testimony of Scripture will produce precisely these assets in the lives of individuals and communities who take seriously the work of the Spirit and testimony of Scripture!




Activism is, according to one definition, "the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change."

On the face of it, this seems like something that should flow directly from a Christian commitment to make the world a better place.  Certainly there are some of us who would be more, or less, called by God to engage in a lifestyle of activism, or activism around specific issues within our society.

There is, however, a trap that must be avoided.  It is the same trap that plagues our charitable giving.  Namely, the possibility that in hitting the streets for the latest rally, canvassing for my favorite new candidate or law, or arguing with my ignorant relatives over Thanksgiving dinner, I am actually ignoring the very people who suffer and need my help.

Activism, too, can be a way of avoiding the call to love our neighbors.


Principles for Partnership

Christian organizations generally don't partner well with other organizations.*

Here are three basic principles that should apply to Christian organizations as well as Christian individuals:

1) God gets all the credit, and He has all the control, not me or my organization!  This means I don't ever get to enter the partnership looking to "get what I want," or "get what we need."  It also means I don't get the credit for it.  We partner around what God is doing, and all organizations in the partnership need to prioritize His work, not ours.

2) If we belong to Christ, then we belong to each other!  This means I cannot claim that my organization is independent of the Church as a whole.  I may not ignore other Christian organizations in our world, just like I must not ignore other Christians in my church.

3) The Church exists for the sake of the world, not its own sake!  We are called to serve others, not ourselves.  We must prioritize the shalom/salvation/blessing of the community we live in, not our own.

If we were to follow these principles, we would partner more often, and with greater health and effectiveness.   Where multiple organizations are working together to bless the world around them because of their common Christian identity, and eschewing credit and control, there you will find power, glory, peace, and joy spilling into our communities.

However, there would be countless situations where we wouldn't partner as well.  We partner around what God is doing.  There are Christian organizations that we don't partner with because they are called to different parts of the Kingdom work, or different parts of the world.  The knee and the elbow are both part of the same body, but they don't touch each other directly.  This means we should not feel obligated to partner simply for partnerships sake, but again, because we are prioritizing God's agenda and God's action.

What organizations are operating in the same geography as yours?  What organizations are working on the same issues as yours?  What organizations do you have relational connections with?

How could your organization partner around your mission with some of those other organizations?

*Secular organizations aren't any better at this than us.  There is a large secular organization in our neighborhood who has a long track record of helping the neighborhood, but they run roughshod over other neighborhood organizations in the process.  The root causes are the same, an arrogant myopia about their wisdom and skill, and conflating institutional maintenance with institutional mission.  This behavior doesn't help the neighborhood improve, but it does protect this organizations place of primacy as a source of blessing to the neighborhood.


How do you Justify That with Scripture?

I was asked this question recently...

...on the face of it, it is a good question.

The person who asked it was genuinely concerned with being obedient to Christ, and knowing God's commands.

So what's the problem?

A little context will help:

We were discussing racial politics in America, and the wisdom that scripture might offer to the church in such a muddy cultural milieu.  Specifically, I was arguing that Christians ought to engage in cross-cultural relationships as a rule.  This person was arguing that it is good for Christians to engage in cross-cultural relationships, but only when they are specifically called to do so; that it is also fine for Christians to only engage in relationships within homogenous peer groups.

I was arguing that it is a discipleship issue; to be mature in Christ, one must engage in relationships with other Christians who do not share your culture.  I was arguing that it is an ethical issue: to be godly and good is to love our neighbors even though they are not like us.

At this point, the person asked, "Okay, that all sounds fine, but how do you justify that with scripture?"

There are two responses that I want to give to that question:

1) Why should I have to justify my position scripturally, but you don't?  Why is it important for me to understand the biblical commands before engaging in cross-cultural community, but it is perfectly fine for you to maintain the status quo (ignoring people who aren't like you) without any need to know what scripture says about it?

2) Let's look at scripture!  From Genesis to Revelation a major theme of the Kingdom of God is the bringing together of the nations under the rule and reign of our Lord and Messiah.  The major ethical concern of the New Testament is precisely the creation of a new ethnos on the earth through the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus.  Paul publicly rebukes Peter on exactly this point, to fail to eat with other Christians of different cultures is to fail to understand the Gospel.  (Gal 2)  Racism is the charge that must be dealt with by the Jerusalem church in Acts 6, and working out the sticky details of multi-cultural community is the primary focus of the first ecumenical council in Acts 15.


To come back to the point, it is right and good for scripture to be the proving grounds of new ideas.  But scripture must also be applied to old ideas and patterns of life!

It is not enough to simply accept things as they are and move on.  Jesus, our King, is redeeming all things to the Father, bringing all aspects of life under His dominion.


What Are We Doing Here?

Taken as a whole, I love what I do.  Some aspects of being a pastor come naturally to me, others have required work to learn but are enjoyable none-the-less, others are not-so-pleasant.  Being an effective manager, however, is something that wasn't even on my radar screen as a leader.  That has been the single largest growth area for me as a pastor...

I sure wish someone had sent me this article five years ago...


The Alternative to Charity

The alternative to this false charity is to love well.

In moving to a house that was inundated with homeless individuals where panhandling was almost an hourly occurrence in my life, I was quickly confronted with the need to discern some 'best practices.'

I will be the first to confess that I don't have it all figured out, but that time in my life helped me to figure a few things out.  Its worth noting, that these are my rules, no one has to follow them but me:

  1. Don't do things because it makes me feel better.  Do things that I think might genuinely help the human being stating in front of me asking for help.
  2. Don't ignore those feelings inside myself.  Don't just walk by and ignore the situation.  Don't ignore people.
  3. Engage.  Make eye contact.  Get their name, and use it.
  4. Find the real problem, and offer to help.  Is it a ride?  A meal?  A job?  Usually the situation is bigger than my ability to solve it.  But usually there is something I can do to be a friend and encourage them to begin to solve it.  The trick is, I usually have to dig a little to get to the real problem.
  5. Meet needs out of my own personal resources, never (or rarely) give money.  Let someone borrow my phone.  Give someone a ride in my car.  Sit down and have lunch ...together.  Introduce them to someone I know who might be able to help more.
  6. Offer to pray.  Ask God to bless them.  Listen to what God might have to say about this encounter.
  7. Where appropriate, and they seem open, invite them to church.  Encourage them that God cares, and they are welcome in His house.