Today Philip Green reported that the Government could save a fortune by having better purchasing systems, using its buildings more efficiently and generally being smarter about how they commission projects.

It got me thinking, not for the first time, does the church offer value for money?

That might seem like a strange question but each week we ask people to give their money in the offering.  As times get tight we ask fewer people to give more.

How is the money spent?  And is it spent wisely?

For most denominations there are two big costs: ministers and buildings.  These account of over 90% of spending.  As money gets short other things are cut.

Is this good stewardship?  Is that what we should be spending almost all of our money on?

10 thoughts on “stewardship”

  1. Forgive me for taking an idea from Shane Claibourne, but I’m sure he suggests that the only collection(s) in the early church was for distributing to the poor.

    Even Paul was a tent maker to prevent the people he was serving needing to pay him –

    1 Cor 9:11+12 “If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.”

    I’m not suggesting that all ministers should do it for free, that’s clearly not practical, but I come from a lay ministry where there is no hierarchy and no paid ministry, thus we don’t have any minister costs.

    Maybe we can use the offering money more in the way offerings were given in the 1st century. I couldn’t tell you how much is proportionately given for care of the poor, but I’m pretty sure its quite a lot. (Not wanting to blow the trumpet, just giving an example)

    That said, I am grateful for the paid ministers of other churches that have helped shape and guide my spiritual development. Without their congregations / denominations supporting them financially, they would never have been able to dedicate the time to what they do in quite the same way, and I’d never have had such great benefit.

    It’s a constant tricky balancing act I think and motivation to give God glory and desire to use the offering money to tat end needs to be at the forefront of the decision making process.

  2. It may be that the church is being driven back to the New Testament form of ministry… However…the big problem is that the church is just a little big bigger these days and such idealism won’t work easily.
    I am deeply uneasy about the way in which my church is becoming more and more finance driven. We seem to be managing decline rather than attempting anything approaching having visionary ambition for God. It is a little unsettling to have a church that says ‘thou shalt not gamble’ and yet has large stocks and shares portfolios. It’s getting an ethical balacing act that we can live with, I fear.

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    I think my disquiet was heightened when our churches were asked to increase their contributions by 5% but at no time did anyone mention that growing the church would be a way to achieve that.

    I realise that it’s always going to be a balance between keeping the organisation going (and paying my wages) and mission but I’m not sure we are anywhere close to having that balance yet.

  4. This is the kind of stuff I’ve been wrestling with now for almost a couple of years. As one of the ‘ministers’ who is a drain on the resources of the church, I’ve been seriously questioning whether it is the place I should be or not. Some of the Frank Viola stuff has really challenged me and I know that in the next couple of years I’m going to have to actually do something about it. I’m not doubting my faith or my call to minister in some way where I am, but I do have doubts about a system that has little basis in Scripture. I wish the answers were easy to implement, but they’re not.

  5. One of the problems that keeps cropping up for me is what to do about the first four hundred years or so of church history. The reason it crops up is that Scripture as we know it wasn’t in the form it is until one of the great Councils set it in stone.
    Did God not bless what went before that Council ?
    I have a high view of Scripture as expecetd by my vows of ordination, but the question remains about that early chunk of exxlesiastical history.

  6. I agree David but I wonder if the early church simply followed the Jewish model where the priests were provided for by the people? I don’t know how that would work out in other contexts though but Paul was pretty clear that he was going to work so that people didn’t have to provide for him. Maybe that gives us a clue that communities would provide for teachers?

  7. I think that is the problem… the communities seemed to have had an obligation to look after (pay for) the teachers of religion particularly. Paul’s model is a good one for the time, but I really can’t see it working too well today. Although I am aware of many non-stipendiary ministries going on out there. It certainly wouldn’t encourage too many family men to think of entering ministry..

  8. Sorry, late to the discussion.
    I have a bit of an issue with the idea of a ‘Biblical model of church’. To me that sounds like things should never change and that the way it was done ‘back then’ remains the only way it should be done. I guess this is where I have issues with Frank Viola. He is challenging, but I think people’s natural reaction to what he writes is, “We’re doing it all wrong, we need to get back to the way it was done in the beginning.” I don’t think that is the answer. Contexts change and therefore so must the ‘models’ we use. That requires discernment about what needs to be retained, of course, but I’m not convinced that “all preachers need to earn their own living” is a necessary part of my Christian precepts.
    That said, I do think there are issues with the current models of ministry we see in the main denominations. Others have made the point better than I can. However, I also think there is a mindset change beginning to happen in terms of the how and who of ministry. I see more people coming into ministry with experience of the ‘real world’ – business, industry, whatever – and bringing with them a greater understanding of team-working, regular reviews, and so on. There’s also a lot of potential ‘baggage’ there too, but I think the shape of ministry will change over time. And that will also impact on use of resources, I believe.

  9. I think that sometimes the reason there is such a negative reaction to what Frank Viola (and others as well) write about the current model of institutional church is that we realise that the current state of the church as institution is, on the whole, not effective. For sure contexts change, but instead of changing the church has mainly dug its heels in and stayed with a model of ministry that is from the past and unable to adapt to the 21st century in which we find ourselves living. Unfortunately, a lot of it comes down to power. The system of hierarchy in place in many denominations and Christian organisations creates a system of uneven power and, quite often, fear.

    There are many others apart from Frank Viola who are writing about these things. At least he is basing what he writes on Scripture and offering practical ways of moving forward based on this (see especially ‘Reimagining Church’). Another challenging read is David E Fitch’s ‘The Great Giveaway: Reclaiming the Mission of the Church from big business, parachurch organizations, psychotherapy, consumer captialism and other maladies’.

    In many ways the church has become too slick, too business-like, too compartmentalised. For a lot of ministries and denominations the important thing has become survival at all costs. Because of this the mission has often become secondary or has been forgotten or sacrificed. In a lot of ways it has become a self-serving dinosaur.

    I’m always challenged by the Pelikan quote of “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.” I think that it’s up to us today to start finding the things that are mere traditionalism and to start ditching them in favour of concentrating on those things that are tradition.

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