Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Midwinter musings: stewardship

Having coffee and conversations with lots of pastors raises some common discussion topics: like attendance to budget ratios and giving levels in churches. I have heard several pastors say: "If everyone in the church gave what my wife and I give, we'd have no financial problems." How do pastors raise the level of financial stewardship in the local church?
One way is to practice it personally. A church can give at no higher level than that of its leadership, starting with the pastor. But it goes beyond that. I propose that a church will give at no higher level than that of its staff. If the staff does not believe in and give to the mission of the local church, why should anyone else. (That hearkens back to my comments about staff and membership. If staff members do not belong to the local church...any local church, why should anyone else?). But this logic goes one step further, and more provocatively; A church can give no higher than that of its leadership: elected leaders/council/board/ whatever. If church leaders don't tithe, why should anyone else. And somehow, mysteriously, the church "knows" where its leaders' giving levels are.
While we dare not get into works righteousness, that we are saved by what we give. We have so privatized and individualized our spirituality, that corporate commitments as seen as out-of-date anachronisms. We don't believe in the corporate body of Christ with an address and a building as much as we do believe in a solo spiritual voyage of me and Jesus. If a local church fits, fine, if not, bye.
I've had correspondence with friends who say they are considering leaving their local church because they are at a different place in life than they were before. That's both true and fine. We change, we grow. But does that mean leaving? I'm a lot balder and more wrinkled than when Martha married me. We no longer have kids running around the house. Our lives have changed big time, but our commitment to each other has not.
What are your thoughts about asking all elected church leaders to sing a statement committing themselves to the spiritual discipline of regular prayer and worship, witness and service, and tithing to the local church?


At 12:27 PM , Blogger Gary Means said...

You said, "What are your thoughts about asking all elected church leaders to sing a statement committing themselves to the spiritual discipline of regular prayer and worship, witness and service, and tithing to the local church?" I don't know. It all depends on how well they sing.

Now, on the other hand, if it's "sign" as of course it is, I am uncomfortable with that. When I first came to faith, the pastor came up with a list of qualifications for elders. One of them was that they could be no more than 20 pounds overweight. The pastor had several scriptural references to justify this rule. A good friend and mentor of mine had to resign. If I remember correctly, (it was almost 30 years ago) it also closed down an Overeaters Anonymous meeting which that elder had been leading. This ministry brought many people from the community into contact with Christians. Of course, that's a whole different scenario, but demanding what should be a response of the heart just feels wrong to me. Maybe I'm just being a very American Christian in responding that way.

Would there then be consequences if the staff member failed to live up to his or her public commitment? Would this prevent them from approaching you or someone else for counsel if they were struggling in a particular discipline? Would 10% of their income be sufficient, or would that also include 10% of their free-time?

I strongly agree with you that we are losing something precious when we disregard and even denigrate the value of being an active and vital part of a local Body. American Christianity is far too focused on "what works for me." I confess that I lean too far in that direction myself. It's part of the reason that I am not currently committed to a local Body. But I digress, yet again.

At 3:25 PM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Yeah Gary, I think my typo "sing" is far better than "sign" because it is more narrative and descriptive than legislative and legalistic. Thanks for your insightful comments!

At 7:01 PM , Anonymous dan bos said...

I understand where you're going, and I agree with the point Don. But then wouldn't you want the leadership to sign about their prayer time, devotions, time commitment to the church, etc. One thing Sally Morgenthaler mentioned at the Worship Connections was not trying to find new ways to "get people on board" but instead empower and set them loose. I understand this isn't just another program, this is much bigger, but could the same logic work? Do people not percieve a good enough reason for giving? And do people not feel set free to give in a way they want to?

At 8:52 AM , Blogger Kalon L said...

Rather a controversial posting Don.

Seems to me that it is at the point of affirming the requirements for membership that we ask people to commit to our church. If those affirmations need to be revisited, then we should do it. But having a subsequent sort of pledge requirement (for church officers only) doesn't feel right to me.

We need instead to work on developing accountability relationships within the church; it is in this context that I can counsel someone about how they live their lives.


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