I'm sure during these past few years a lot of praying has been going on for God to rescue churches, organizations, and individuals from their financial crisis. But I wonder what else has been happening besides prayer, because Barna's research also showed that very few churches on average intentionally developed a proactive response to the economic crisis for their members or communities. So in essence the church has not been in the position it should be to help the people who needed the most help. I know this research is a little dated, but I wonder how much has changed in a year.
I believe in stressful times such as these the church needs to be at the forefront of developing and delivering holistic solutions that impact every area of a person's life. We shouldn't be waiting on the government or anyone else to come to our rescue when this kind of tragedy strikes our members and communities. I know many churches have done an incredible job responding to this monumental challenge, but it hasn't been enough. The Body of Christ needs to stand up and be seen, not just in word but in deed. We need to be in position to provide spiritual and practical resources that minister to the whole person.
What are you thoughts?
I would have to agree with you. My church has offered prayer, done some fundraising and made a financial advisor available free of charge. While these are all great things, I don't believe it's enough. But every case I don't think it's necessarily their fault. Maybe business leaders expect the church to know what to do and churches expect business leaders to step up with ideas. So nobody does anything. The thing is, even many business leaders aren't even sure how to navigate these waters. I do believe, however, that the notion that God will provide has limited, if not dated, thinking behind it.
I am very interested in following this discussion.
We ARE the church. The Bible says over and over again, that believers in Christ ARE the church. Remember, they didn't have what we call "churches" back in Jesus' day. A church is simply a body of believers - not a building or an organization!
So the real question we need to ask ourselves is:
What have I done to help others during the recession?
Yikes! When you said, "the notion that God will provide has limited, if not dated, thinking behind it," I just cringed.
The Bible is very clear on this - God never changes. If it is true God can take care of every need in Jesus' day, it is still true.
I'm a walking testament to how well God provides. While there's a long story here, I'll put it in a nutshell for you:
Seven years ago, I was saved on Sunday morning (with pennies to my name), and that Sunday afternoon, I got a call from a stranger asking me to do $40,000 worth of work for her! The whole story is in my book (Save Yourself! The Plain Truth) but I can tell you this: I never doubt God can provide. Earnestly seek him and believe he is capable of miracles, and you will see them. God also healed me of asthma.
Finally, let me say this: the church is not God; the church is a flawed human organization. God is not flawed and is not "limited" by anything. God is real. God is powerful. God can literally move mountains for us. Amen!
Whew! I feel better. Thanks for clearing that up.
I agree - we have to work to get something. I like to think of God as the rudder of my boat. God can move that rudder all over the place but I will never get anywhere unless I start paddling! Only after I am moving - even if it is the wrong direction - can God correct my course for me. Of course, we have to let God guide us too, that's another downfall of so many people. Rarely do we commit our work or business to God. I think that's why so many people are unhappy (even when making lots of money).
Hi Paul and others,
Like some of the other reactions, I would have to agree that we are the church, and I have to ask myself, how has the recession affected my giving and helping others over the past two+ years. And I am happy to report that my generosity, while it could easily be better overall, has not changed over the past few years.
One thing that I always find interesting by statistics, is that they can cloud a what is really happening based on who is reading/interpreting them. What I got out of looking at the articles that were linked to is that many churches saw a drop in budgets (7% on average) but in the same breath it says that the typical 'down' church lost 14%. That means that there were many churches that were not very negatively affected because those two figures are way too different. (Also it seems to imply that more people stopped giving than those who lost their jobs implying the media's hype and fear getting to church-goers and causing panic and people avoiding giving which worsened the problem.)
It is probable that churches as a whole on average are not as money savvy as businesses are and so it is sad to think that many of the churches have had a wake-up call when it comes to not running their budgets as close to the edge without having reserves. If a church isn't able to handle money within its own doors, it probably won't be a good candidate to help those out of its doors (at least in the financial realm).
One thing most churches have failed horribly on is helping people understand the blessing and responsibility of money--by either going to one of two extremes (guilting into giving or avoiding the subject). Even fewer talk about the lifestyle that we should have when we have money, and how we are richer than we usually feel.
I whole-heartedly agree that we shouldn't be waiting on a government program or on someone else to fix our lives, but most of us really are either not in a position to help without enabling bad behaviors, or we really have no clue how to best help those who are hurting.
We do need to help and provide spiritual and practical resources for the community, but for most people out there, they really believe that the circumstances are out of their control (and they are in many ways) but many people are too caught in the media-drama to see straight enough to know that they have the ability to help someone, or are even able to be helped. Most people need more than just another job in today's economy--they need an attitude and a life perspective adjustment: and that is much harder to impart.
I wouldn't go as far as blaming or faulting the church for not stepping up enough, because most churches likely did what they knew to do, and that is pray. It is more unfortunate that most churches just plain don't know how to best help. And it is also unfortunate that churches--we--haven't done enough to transfer good 'stewardship' money practices to those who are merely fearful and not actually in any danger.
I agree with the current group of comments that God partners with us when helping others, and if we collectively and individually don't step up to help because of fear or paralysis, then very little will get done. What I will say is that there are statistics that show that, of the entities that actually have made a difference, churches are within the top three--ahead of any government program. This gives me hope and encouragement, even if at times we wish we could do more.
Thank you for posing this question because it makes for a great discussion!
My thoughts on this is that individual church leaders (ex. pastors) probably should come up with different revenue streams so they won't end up selling out to something the Spirit might prompt them to say that could offend others (appearing like they are biting the hand that feeds them), but on the side of the church as an institution, it probably should not engage heavily in alternate revenue streams, because that can shift the focus of the church away from its groom (Jesus).
A push back to the thought that members need to be mature enough to give to the church is this: Is the church really the best use of my giving dollars. (Ex. When I look at how my church is run, it is an entity that I can be completely confident that my money is being used to its fullest?) Sure the tithe is a Biblical mandate, but it isn't a salvation issue, and if the thought behind the action is to become a giver and be a good steward of the money I am given, then I should be extra diligent with who I give the money too--and a misbehaving church probably won't make the grade. (Granted a misbehaving church shouldn't make the grade with my attendance either :)
since only 3% of christians even tithe. the real problem is we need to stop this stealing with more financial peace type of good ground to tithe into. people who are not tithing need to put god to the test-which this is the only area that he allows it-and tithe and give an offering into a good ground ministry and watch him bless you. because of this foundation and i love to read wisdom i'm stronger financailly than i have ever been.
3% do tithe. This is horrible. I am part of the 3% however, some churches present tithe as a "duty" while others present it as a 'partnership opportunity to help the less fortunate in the community'. I'm less motivated to give to help the pastor's salary and the building lease than I am to help the less fortunate in the community.
Both need to be addressed, but presenting this as an opportunity for blessing makes it seem much more appealing than a rule that must be feared. Since most people are somewhat rebellious, hearing another duty or rule called tithe causes them to recoil and hold their money tighter. They miss the blessing.
I am actually giving above 10% and I have never been both happier with the choice and satisfied with my money situation--coincidence . . . not in my mind.
Thanks for chipping in to this discussion.
Wow, all of you added some great commentary to this discussion. One of the things that stood out was how the term "church" was used. In this environment we have to consider the role of individuals and the institution. We all have a a part to play being the church every day. But I believe the institution of the church as a corporate body has an opportunity to shine brightly in the midst of this economic darkness if we do we what we're supposed to be doing in terms of showing the world the way out of darkness. That includes one to one and one to many.
I also believe this is an opportunity to engage marketplace leaders to bring practical teachings based on biblical principles to meet some of these community needs (i.e. teaching people how to fish). People are dying - spiritually and financially - partly because of a lack of knowledge. The pastor doesn't have to be an expert in everything and we shouldn't expect him to. There are many capable men and women of God sitting in the pews every week that could be used for specific types of inreach and community outreach related to financial and economic empowerment. As the corporate church we need to get more creative in terms of how we use people in "ministry". God has given us the ability to think of witty inventions. This can most definitely involve how we can creatively and effectively meet the needs of people.
Very well put, Paul. In addition to a lack of knowledge, I also think there is a lack of discipline and frankly, a lack of faith too. We do live in an entitlement-minded society and though God has graced us with His salvation and His provision, we're supposed to allow His spirit to move us to compassion and then to action. This happens out of surrender and obedience to Him as His property and adoring bond-servants.
Me, I like to look to the past to gain wisdom. I like older books and movies. "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" is one of my favorite movies. Probably watched it 30 times, at least. It was filmed in 1939 and Jimmy Stewart was the star. I believe it was his and Frank Capra's first movie together. I also heard that after a young Ronald Reagan watched it, he was inspired to go into politics.
I don't think we're the men of character that our grandfathers and great-grandfathers are, but we can be with God's help. The reason they were strong men was because they struggled and relied more fully on God to help them get through it and come out stronger on the other side. Why can't we do that too? I think we can and we believe we must! Great post by the way. :)