Archive for August, 2010
For the person with a normal diet of steak and potatoes with a chaser of chocolate bon bons, life may be viewed as good. If there is a change in income, then something may need to change. Either cut the bon bons or downgrade the protein selection. It may still be feasible to have chopped liver and not let go of the bon bons for the chocolate afficionado. With still further reductions in monies, a minimal diet may consist of beans and rice–bye bye bon bons. Though nice while they are around, one would be hard-pressed to argue that they are essential. In times of difficulty, people will generally move toward what is most important for survival.
As many expressions of church deal with the reality of declines in giving, they will do well to determine what are the bon bons and what is the protein essential. Already, many are asking “where are we going to save money? How do we align our giving and expenses?”
With abundant, due respect to Rick Warren, I disagree with his egalitarian approach to the 5 purposes of the church. Instead, I would suggest that there is a primary, over-riding purpose for the church. Whether expressed as “making disciples” or participating with the One who came “to seek and to save that which was lost, our calling is to mission. Both locally and globally, we are to prioritize mission. (This can be developed further at another time.) As we do mission, we will worship, teach, and fellowship. For more on this see Michael Frost on the topic.
If mission is the purpose of the church out of or because of which other things flow, any rearrangements in financial allocation should, I believe, be directed away from areas that do not directly influence mission. Further on this, we would do well to redouble our efforts at taking the gospel to our communities and the world. This is the essential, non-negotiable that will determine the future health of every group of believers.
As it relates to staffing, those who lead mission may be more indispensable than those that teach or lead worship. The ones making disciple-making disciples are the ones that are making the church be just that–the church. Putting resources to serving the community and beyond may very possibly be a better investment than improving a worship experience. Drilling wells in impoverished places in Africa or drinking coffee in post-Christian urban centers in Europe both for the purpose of taking the gospel may prove more important than cooling a building to a certain temperature.
A serious re-think of what is important and how dollars are spent will be difficult but worthwhile. In the next post in this series (see stating the obvious for the previous post), I’ll share a practical aspect of this in encouraging churches to consider undertaking a new building program….
Communicating the points of this post seem almost as foolish as to say 2 + 2 = 4. It’s true and everyone knows it. However, I feel the following needs to be shared in this community. The church needs to think on and talk about these things. For that reason, I am posting this intro post which I will then follow-up with 3 posts on action steps that may be taken. These steps will obviously not be exhaustive, but they will hopefully provide some ideas to consider. Here goes the obvious…
These are tough times for many here in the U.S. Tough in ways that we have not seen in a long, long time.
People need to work. Currently official unemployment in the U.S. is hovering around 9.5%. This means that, if your church is the average, 1 out of every 10 breadwinners in your church have lost their job. If there are 2 workers in a family, then 1 of every 5 families has or is struggling with lost income. As there is variance in the concentration of economic turmoil across the country, some cities and communities report numbers that are much higher. Unofficial estimates of under-employed, those that have given up looking for work, and those that do not qualify for benefits would come close to doubling the official number. This is staggering–especially if these numbers are the reality for a meager economic recovery that may be stagnating or changing direction. It is a reasonable inference that unemployment statistics will at best remain static and will at worst shoot much higher.
Unemployment benefits have been extended out to 99 weeks. The first wave of people losing these benefits and their stories are starting to be made public. In desperation, they are spending the last of their savings to have lodging for just a few more days. Yesterday, someone shared with me that their family is going to lose their home within the month if there is not some intervention. Though anecdotal, this conversation brings a weighty immediacy to the statistics for me.
People need to eat. While official reports on the Consumer Price Index indicate that inflation is not an issue, the reality is that some food costs will inevitably rise. With drought in so many parts of the world, grain prices have been shooting upward over the past several weeks. This will impact next years’s food pricing with anything that depends on wheat in its life cycle including bread, milk, beef, corn, etc. These natural inflationary pressures may be fueled by monetary policy and other issues I will not delineate here. Challenges are not isolated to next year’s prices, though. The number of people on food stamps has been increasing for more than a year now. Currently the number stands at 40,000,000 people receiving food stamps (approximately a $150 per month benefit).
People need a place to live. With the economic difficulties, many people now face a reality that the remaining debt in their mortgage is greater than the value of their home. Reports show that 1 out of 5 homes in the U.S. are in this underwater situation. Many cannot afford to make the payments because of lost jobs. Still others have chosen to stop making payments as the idea of building equity has been lost with the drop in housing prices. There are efforts now to stabilize house prices, but there is no guarantee that these efforts will work. It is possible that homes could drop further in value. A large majority of metro areas have seen increasing rates of foreclosure so far this year. It appears this trend will carry on for some time.
The church has a call, yet she is facing significant challenges. Churches across the country are experiencing decreases in giving. Whether traditional or a more contemporary expression of the church, the challenges listed above are impacting her. A growing number are struggling to make budget. Many cuts are being made.
In the next post, I will address the need for prioritization….
Here are some signs and billboards from churches in the central part of the U.S. observed recently. As usual, I present them here without comment.
- Like-ability–we have it.
- Want a change of heart? Come try us.
- Running low on faith? Step right in for a fill up.
- God deserves more than casual.
This is the third in this Say what? series. Previous quotes may be found starting here.
In addition to other quote entries, here is another recent post on the theme–Signs.