jonathan stone's blog

. . . posts on faith and life

the church, its money, and its future

Consider this: Nearly half of Jesus’ teachings on righteousness in the New Testament are on the subject of managing money. We typically try to measure righteousness in terms of morality. And Jesus taught a lot about that too. However, it seems we have neglected this issue of money management, something that God evidently considers to be quite important. I confess that I have not always been a good steward of money. I have not always managed things well in my life. But the Lord has challenged me on this and has helped me to make very significant changes, and is still helping me to make continual improvement in those areas.

As a denomination we have not always dealt with the issue of managing money very well. I assume I don’t have to argue this point. So, I will leave that assertion there without offering examples. I hope that this will change, and I believe it can. If the Lord can help me change my life on this He can help all of us. I hope for this change because I think that it has to change. Otherwise, our sustainability is questionable at best.

As a church, we support ourselves on tithes (a tithe of the tithes from local churches supports our International Offices). Currently tithes are down, and they show no sign of coming back up anytime soon. This will cause major problems. Why? Because we have none of the resources that similarly-sized organizations have to tap into in such a situation. What about our investments? We have none. What about our reserves? We do not have any of those either. What about our alternative revenue sources? Ummm…those have never existed. Credit? Well, we do have good credit. You see I am not talking about misappropriation of funds, tax evasion, fraud, or other unethical practices. We have, by and large, a great track record for collecting and then spending our money in an ethical and legal way. The problem is that we have never learned to handle unrighteous wealth in the way that Jesus instructed us to (check out Luke 16:1-13).

For example, I am a missionary with Church of God World Missions. I have nothing but great things to say about all of my dear friends in COGWM. But I will use that department here as an example because they are pretty transparent about their budget. COGWM has an annual budget of almost 30 million dollars ($29,899,047 to be exact). Of that 30 million how much will they actually spend? All 30 million of it. Once the fiscal year is over and they have successfully spent all of that money they will start collecting the money for the next year’s budget and simultaneously start the process of spending that money. Does that seem a little strange? Well that is basically how our whole church works. And I have to admit, God has blessed us in that system. But do I think that it’s the best system? No. Do I think that it’s a system that can sustain itself in the 21st century? No. Is it a system that I want to hand to my children and grand children? Certainly not!

So what kind of other options might we have? Well, I’m not talking about throwing money at the stock market. However, many other organizations have a long successful track record of doing business. Consider, for example, the Southern Baptist Convention and their hospitals. Or their $7.3 billion (yes, billion) retirement fund, which has continued to broaden its assets, investments, and even constituency (they offer full financial services to ministers and churches outside of the S.B.C.).

I do not think we should cut a few departments and start building hospitals. However, there are certainly smaller more reasonable places to start. Local churches are already figuring this out. I know of one church that brings in more than $10,000 a month from their thrift store. I know of another church that brings in several thousand dollars a month by simply selling media and printed resources, mostly to its own members. I know of another church that has formed a board of members made up of business owners who have been given the charge to discover new business models where 100% of the profit will be invested into ministry–they like to call it “Kingdom Business.” Even my church is launching an eBay store as a supplemental resource for our building campaign.

Our churches are often filled with successful business minds. These are men and women who have been gifted by God to make money. Yet, many of these individuals have never been given a place to use that gift in the body of Christ, and an opportunity to more directly impact the Kingdom of God. Meanwhile, we collect money and spend it. That is the extent of our management strategy. Yes, many of the things that we spend our money on are worthy of the investment. But some VERY simple management principles tell us that we could be doing SO much more. If the church does not find a way to rethink its attitude toward money and begin to have at least enough foresight to consider its own children, then our future, quite simply, does not presently exist.

6 comments on “the church, its money, and its future

  1. Dennis Adams
    March 10, 2008

    Your statements of fact are real and they are very pertinent to the future of the Church of God. I must say though, that your are being very kind and safe in your statements on spending. I believe that there are erroneous expenditures and that not being individualistic, but corporate. However, to the focus of your blog, yes, change must happen in the appropriation and distribution of funds in the Church of God. If these changes do not come about, well, I am not sure that the future will be able to handle the “top” heavy wealthy ministries that will crush struggling missionaries who just want to share Christ.

    Best

    Dennis

  2. Robb
    March 11, 2008

    Hey Dude. Its good to find you here. God bless

  3. Jonathan Stone
    March 11, 2008

    Thanks Dennis. You may be right about erroneous expenditures. And even though I have seen some of that on an individual discretionary level, I have not personally witnessed on a broader corporate level. But that does not mean it doesn’t happen!

  4. Jonathan Stone
    March 11, 2008

    Hey Robb! What’s up my friend? Thanks for stopping by. I hope you post some photos of Anna Claire soon! And I hope all is well with you guys!

  5. Tom Rosson
    March 12, 2008

    Jon,

    Can I appoint you to my committee to find business venues that will raise funds for us missionaries?

  6. Jonathan Stone
    March 13, 2008

    Tom, I don’t know that you would want me on that all-important committee. Seriously though, I have a hope that in the future more “Kingdom Businesses” would take on missionaries and projects.

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This entry was posted on March 10, 2008 by in sustainability.
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