Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Gospel Is Bigger Than Your Budget

I loved something Ed Stetzer wrote today regarding the perceived need for funding and professional clergy in church planting in his post Plant by Multiplication, Not Funding: Viral Churches, part 6. Ed looks at the fallacy that it is only through massive spending that we can see major multiplication in the church. As he points out, many of the most vibrant movements in rhe history of the church have had very little in the way of funding and infrastructure.

Something he said at the end really grabbed my attention. Ed writes…
I have to recognize that we have a functional polity in many denominations that causes people to think the ONLY way you can plant churches is if the pastors are full-time and seminary trained. I'm not anti-seminary--I'm on faculty of a few. I just realize that we're not going to have a Church Multiplication Movement if we have to pay for it like we are now. We are getting the exact amount of church planting we have budget for--and that means our budget is not enough.
That is excellent. Are we letting our traditions create financial barriers to mission work? If we assume that planting churches means forming organizations with buildings and professional, “ordained”, seminary trained clergy who will rely on the church for financial support, we certainly have created an artificial ceiling on how much disciple making we can do (recognizing that church planting and disciple making are not at all the same thing). The work of the harvest, i.e. preaching Christ and making disciples, is far bigger than our budget and the need is far greater than the available pool of “full-time and seminary trained” men. I like that Ed makes this point while stating he is not anti-seminary. I am not "anti-seminary" either but I do think that we need to get away from the mindset that only those with a seminary education are qualified for ministry work. Just think of the impact of lots and lots of “regular” Christians seeking out ministry opportunities and seeing disciples made in places where clergy can’t/won’t go: in families, at work, in bowling leagues, etc. can have in the world. It just makes sense that more workers are better than few.

Jesus never taught that we need professionals with lots of funding to back them up to spread the Gospel. He instead sent His disciples out with nothing. The greatest church planter of all time, Paul, worked for a living so as not to be a burden on the church, to not rob from the church, to not become an obstacle to the Gospel and to provide an example to others. There is no amount of money sufficient to the task of the Great Commission but what we do have in abundance is sufficient: born-again believers around the world who need only to be equipped and released to preach the Word.

The mission of God is too big to be treated as a line item in our budgets.

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