Sunday, April 17, 2011

Saving for a REALLY rainy day

Now the full number of those who believed were baptized as infants were of one heart and soul members of the Church of England, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common gave a portion of their income to the Church. And with great power ecclesiastical authority the apostles appointed leaders were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus running the church, and great grace investment savvy was upon them all. There was not a needy person much concern over future liabilities among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses members of the church sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet wrote a check and put it in the offering plate or perhaps some cash, and it was distributed to each as any had need wisely invested as a hedge against future organizational liabilities (Act 4:32-35 re-mix)

My transoceanic brother Christopher Dryden shared an article with me from The London Evening Standard. Once I translated it into American, I was a little stunned by what I read. Read it and then a few comments....

Church of England sees investments grow by £500m

The Church of England said today that its biggest investment fund has grown by £500 million over the past year after a strong performance.

Investments grew 15.2% in 2010 with the value of the fund rising from £4.8 billion to £5.3 billion, the Church Commissioners said.

The closed fund is used to pay clergy pensions for those in service before 1998 and to support cathedrals, bishops, mission activity and parishes in the most needy areas of the country.

Five billion pounds. If you convert that into real money, that is over $8.6 billion dollars. In the bank. So that the institution can be perpetuated and its employees get their pension. Meanwhile there are millions of people who are without the Gospel across England and the rest of Europe and countless people worldwide. There are people who are hungry, orphans that need homes, etc. and here is a church that has parked billions of dollars in investments.

This is played out all across the church, from small local churches to megachurches. When I worked in banking it was amazing how much money local churches had socked away. Six figure savings were not uncommon and a few had over a million in cash. Those that didn't have a bunch of money saved often had a ton of debt. Not every church of course but it was not isolated. It is considered "good stewardship" to save money for a rainy day because churches have expenses that have to get paid every month. The most important budget consideration is ensuring that the bills get paid every month and if possible that future expenses are being saved up for.

Does it seem sometimes that perpetuating the institution is more important than proclaiming the Gospel?


Don Litchfield said...

Yes, disturbing, since the Lord made it clear that we are to lay up treasures in heaven. That is biblical investment.
On the other hand, Jesus was also concerned about how WE give - even if the institution is defunct.
Picture: Jesus and the disciples standing near the temple treasury watching people deposit their offerings into the institution's treasury. Jesus sees a poor widow approaching the offering box. In the Spirit, He realizes that she is putting in all that she owns - a couple pennies. Wow! Jesus gets disturbed - steps forward quickly and says, "Stop! Don't put your money into the offering box. Don't you know that the 'church' is pharisaical and greedy. Instead, find a person poorer than yourself and give the two pennies to them."
No - He comments on the giving heart of the widow (not the spiritually-challenged condition of the institution) - willing to give all that she had to "God" even though the institution had rejected the Son of God and God's true purposes. He compares her giving to those who have much to give but only give as is comfortable to them.
I do believe that judgment will be great upon those church who have 'biblically' mishandled the offerings of the people. For example, a church in the south cost upwards of 62 million to build - looked like something from outer space - and the sanctuary only held 3,000 persons. Yes, atrocities in the western church are a shame to the suffering church.
May God help us to be faithful to our OWN giving as unto the Lord in liberality - willing to give our all unto the Lord - letting God "take care" of the institution.
And He will!!!

Arthur Sido said...

Hi Don,

The general financial mismanagement of the institutional church is why I discourage people from giving to most of them. if you want to support the poor, give directly to those ministering to them: food banks, rescue missions, etc. if you want to support missionaries, give to them directly. Christians can and should faithfully give but that does not require them to put their giving into the offering plate of an institution. There is nothing Scriptural about filtering your giving through a local institutional church.