Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Way to Becoming Rich is to Give Everything Away

In our new book, Church Transfusion, Phil Helfer and I start by claiming that the true expression of Christ's kingdom should stand out as very different from all other religions. To demonstrate the radically different nature of God's kingdom we list 6 ways that the upside-down kingdom stands in contrast from the world's view of what is right. Unfortunately this is often is at odds with the Church as well. In these blog posts I will list those six different paradigms of the upside-down Kingdom. This is the fourth: The way to becoming rich is to give everything away.

The more you cling to, the less you will have. Greed is not the way to have plenty in God’s kingdom. The more generous one is, the more true riches one will have. One who has nothing to lose is a dangerous person.

In a world divided only by those who feel entitled to their wealth and those who feel entitled for their fair share of the other person's wealth, the church is meant to stand as a model of love and generosity. Unfortunately, we have not fulfilled that role very often, but instead have become greedy rather than generous. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” When a church starts to accumulate things and hold on to them as prizes worth defending or preserving, they will quickly find that their affection and provision is not found in Christ but in the maintenance and management of possessions and property.

So much greed, selfishness, and stinginess in the kingdom of God is excused under the banner of “good stewardship.” We believe that the tighter you hold on to Christ, the looser your grip on other things will be. There is an absolute and direct corollary between these two opposites. The harder you cling to things, the less you are holding on to Christ. If you find that as a church you have a difficult time giving away the use of facilities or equipment, perhaps that means you are not holding on to Christ with enough faith.

We know of a senior pastor of a church in our area who, after refurbishing the facilities with fresh paint and new carpet, stood before the congregation with a cup of coffee. To the shock and sighs of the congregation, he then intentionally poured its con- tents directly onto the new carpet, creating a dark puddle and a permanent stain. He said to the church that the carpet can go to hell but he didn’t want the kids in the neighborhood to have to. The people outside the walls are far more important than the carpet inside of them. They left the stain as a permanent reminder that the mission is not in the building, but outside in the streets. We must not let our grasp of material things keep us from the mission we are actually called to and then excuse it under the banner of being good stewards.

We believe with all our hearts that a church that is overtly generous with all the resources it has been blessed with will always have enough to do whatever God has called it to. We also believe that greater resources come to the churches that are generous. A generous church is one that Jesus will want to increase and multiply. A greedy church is one that He will not want more of.

We would all agree that Jesus was a faithful steward, right? Well, I think we should take a second look at his financial practices. He had a band of followers who were responsible men for the most part. He even had a professional bookkeeper-accountant who served as a tax collector on His team. When Christ chose someone to be responsible for the purse, He chose the only untrustworthy thief on the team. We do not believe that this was an accident or a blind spot on His part. The way Jesus views money and the way the church views money are two very different things.

Jesus never placed His faith in His financial balance; he placed it in His Father, and we should all do likewise. It is safe to assume that if God has blessed your congregation with some property, it is so that you can bless others, for that is His nature and way (Gen. 12: 1–3). It has been estimated that only 15 cents of every dollar received by a church is actually spent to benefit those outside its own membership.1 Of course, that 15 cents includes money spent on all mission work that is to reach people who will hopefully become members of the church, so the percentage that is intentionally spent on people never expected to darken the door of the church is even less.

We find that churches that allow multiple congregations to use their facilities are not as clean or ordered—but are far more beautiful. Those that do so without charge are the most beautiful, and both of us have aspired to that kind of generosity in ministry.

In church transfusion we have found over and over again that the church that holds loosely to all its assets and gives generously is the church that is healthy and is one that God would prefer to multiply.

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