Sunday, November 17, 2013

Spending on Sending

David Fitch who blogs at Reclaiming The Mission posted this on Facebook Sunday morning:

I replied with this:

Nothing new there but I was thinking about it more and the more I did, the more it struck me that we are missing a golden opportunity in the church and probably don't even realize it. Having been in the church for more than a decade and in that time seeing a pretty wide spectrum, at least on the conservative end, I have come to realize that the church in America is notable for untapped potential on a massive scale. In virtually every fellowship we have been involved in there were many individuals, couples and families that were highly motivated, mature and zealous but were not part of the leadership and therefore were relegated to teaching Sunday school or something of that nature. Nothing wrong with teaching of course but there is so much more they could accomplish if they were encouraged and untethered.

I believe the reason so many Christians are disengaged from the broader mission of the church is two fold but has the same root. First the rank and file Christian is encouraged to do very little other than faithfully show up and pay up on Sunday morning. Sure there is a lot of chatter from the pulpit about mission and evangelism and service but no one really exhorts or rebukes those content to live out their Christian life in comfortable religious apathy week after week and there are a lot of people like that. The second reason that so much potential is left untapped is that so much of the church, especially financially and emotionally, is tied up in local fellowships. With local churches spending or hoarding most of their income as fast as it comes in there is little left over for something outside of the institutional box. So weeks turn into months which turn into years of inaction and atrophy for all too many Christians.

Look at a place like Detroit. It is dirt cheap to buy houses there but it is also pretty hard to find a job and it is also pretty dangerous compared to our cozy suburban religious strongholds. Even so I am sure that if churches in the wealthy enclaves of Oakland County and Ann Arbor pooled their ample resources and recruited among the church they could find plenty of families and individuals who would move to Detroit to minister to that most desperate of cities if they got financial support for the move and initial expenses as well as subsidizing living costs while they got established.

Wait a second you might be saying! Aren't you against paying people in ministry. Why yes, yes I am. I would qualify that by saying that not all financial support is created equally. Am I in favor of providing domestic missionaries, evangelists and church planters with a permanent salary? Not at all. I think it is important for those who minister in a community to be employed and engaged in the community. Especially in places like Detroit where there is a major suspicion of outsiders coming in and telling them what to do. But there is nothing wrong or unbiblical about the church financially helping those called and sent to serve. I would much rather see churches helping several families get established in an area instead of hiring another staff member or increasing the size of their parking lot.

We often think of the church in America as being unbelievably wealthy and it is but not in the ways we are trained to think. Our real wealth is not in our obscene real estate holdings or overflowing bank accounts. Our real earthly treasure is found in our brothers and sisters, a treasure that is largely lying untapped by the church. It is high time to stop discouraging the saints and start encouraging, equipping and yes even spending to support them. The fields have never been whiter in America and the harvest sits ready but we can't harvest the field with our workers sitting idly in the barn every Sunday.

1 comment:

Chris Jefferies said...

And, of course, Jesus urges us to pray for workers for the harvest exactly because there are not enough of them.

We need to pray for more workers, remove the obstacles we have historically put in place, and support them in every way (not just financially).

Even an encouraging smile goes a long way; showing a real interest in progress and difficulties goes a whole lot further.