reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 45 : May we repent of caring more about church budget than church purpose.

imagePeople get up in arms about money. And in a sense, they should. It’s important! Jesus got up in arms regarding how money was being spent by the religious of His day. But it may not be the same as how those who consider themselves “churched” get up in arms about how the church spends money today.

How is it not the same? Because Jesus turned over tables due to the greed of those involved in the religious practices at the Temple. Today, those who consider themselves “churched” don’t get up in arms about greed. Instead, unlike Jesus, they tend to get up in arms about too much generosity and not enough stored up.

Jesus praised generosity, even in its extreme form (see the story of the woman who poured out the expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus). Those who consider themselves “churched” tend to ridicule generosity from the local church, so much so that they will often quit giving their “own money” if their “own money” is not expended the way they think it should be. Don’t regard the fact that no money is our “own money,” since we are merely managers of it. In essence, their concern becomes more focused on the church budget being what they think it should be rather than on the purposeful function of the church and the way that budget relates to the church’s purposeful function.

There are two very serious issues ignored when this is the case.

First, when those who consider themselves “churched” care more about the church budget than they do about the church’s purpose, they are ignoring where their security rests. Our security does not rest in sufficient finances but in the sufficiency of Christ. To rest in long-term financial security ignores the teachings of Jesus.

In Luke 12, Jesus told this story:

Then He told them a parable: “A rich man’s land was very productive. He thought to himself, ‘What should I do, since I don’t have anywhere to store my crops? I will do this,’ he said. ‘I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and store all my grain and my goods there. Then I’ll say to myself, “You have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.” ’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared — whose will they be? ’ “That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
(Luke 12:16-21 HCSB)

The rich man rested in the fact that he had goods stored up for many years rather than recognizing the very purpose for which God entrusted him with abundance.

Our security does not rest in what is given but in the One who gives. And if He gives, He can keep giving.

I recognize that we can be poor stewards and that we can act unwisely with what has been given. Spending too much on ourselves, for instance, or on unnecessary things that don’t relate to the intended function Jesus has for His church. That is when we are unwise with what He has given. But to give generously of what He has given knowing He who gives can certainly give more, and even promises to give more in Malachi, that would be faithful as well as wise. And that leads to the second issue ignored.

Second, when those who consider themselves “churched” care more about the church budget than they do about the church’s purpose, they are ignoring the purpose for which Christ secures us.

We have been secured in Christ to help others discover their security in Christ. This includes personal presence in disciple-making as well as supporting those who are sent to go close and personal elsewhere to make disciples.

God blessed Abraham to bless the nations. God blessed the Jews to be a blessing to the nations. God blessed the early church to be a blessing to the nations. God blesses so that we can be a blessing to others.

He gives so we can give. He blesses so we can bless. He does not give so that we can store up and rest securely in what we have stored.

What the “churched” often fail to realize is that more attention given to the church budget over the church’s purpose to make disciples places a higher value on the financial security of the “churched” than on the eternal security of someone lost and lonely.

God have mercy on us.

Ask yourself this question: Have I given as much or more energy and attention to making a fuss over the church budget as I have to actually making disciples of Jesus (functioning as the church like Jesus intended)?

Do I care more about how the money is spent than I do how the church is sent?

If the answer is yes, then consider confession and repentance. Otherwise, the same fate that Sodom and Gomorrah experienced may await.

Now this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, plenty of food, and comfortable security, but didn’t support the poor and needy.
(Ezekiel 16:49 HCSB)

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reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 44 : May we repent of poor, personal financial stewardship & its effect on our attentiveness as disciple-makers.

imageThose who consider themselves “churched,” possibly more than ever before, have a chance to make Christ known through wise stewardship and extreme generosity in a season of history when financial crisis plagues the globe.

When I suggest that we need to repent of poor, personal financial stewardship, I am:

:: NOT suggesting we have complete control over our financial circumstances, because we don’t control financial collapse around us nor do we control every financial crisis of our own.

:: NOT suggesting if we would just budget better we would have everything we need, because unexpected issues can wreck even the best-managed budget.

:: NOT suggesting our functioning as the church as Jesus intended depends solely upon our personal financial stewardship, although the Scriptures reference money and wise management of it over 2700 times.

I AM suggesting that poor, personal financial stewardship can affect our ability to pay full attention to His leading us as disciples who make disciples.

If we have managed our finances poorly, we will likely:

:: be limited in our ability to say yes to Jesus as He invites us along on mission with Him, because debt as well as obligations due to indulgence can hinder our openness to surrendering to follow no matter the cost.

:: be less attentive to the needs of others, because we are so concerned about our own situation.

:: be unable to give resources into the needs of others, because we are giving resources into our own wants.

:: without realizing it be thinking about and acting like our money is our own rather than having been entrusted to us.

The purpose of wise stewardship, according to the Scriptures, is not for individual comfort and personal gain. The purpose of wise stewardship is for beyond-me compassion and others-first generosity. When we are wise with what we have been given, we can give to make known the One who is wise. He gives that we may give. We give because we have been given to.

If we focus on wise stewardship for personal financial security, then we are not fully trusting the security we undeservedly have in Christ. If we fully trust the security we undeservedly have in Christ, then we will not fear managing our finances in a way that enables extreme generosity. In other words, we will not be afraid to give whatever God’s Spirit might lead us to give. We will open our hands and hearts freely, just like Jesus opened His heart and hands for us.

The key to all of this – two things.

1 – confessing our selfish ways with money to the selfless One who is the giver of all good things. Without Him and His presence and His Spirit with us, we cannot even come close to being wise stewards of personal finances. With Him, and with His help, we can think about and live like money is not ours personally but a gift we have been entrusted to manage.

2 – actually believing that what was posted in suggestion # 43 is important and actually applying it in ways that enable giving like we have been given to.

Paul David Tripp wrote in his book Sex and Money:

The big question of money is never, “Can I afford it?” No, it is always “How can I invest what I’ve been given in a way that gives honor to the One who has entrusted it to me?”

Those who consider themselves “churched” too often disable their function as the church because of how they think both of church finances and personal finances. May we beg Jesus to help us think of our finances in an “on earth as it is in heaven,” “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done,” grateful-You-have-provided kind of way.

Thoughts???

reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 43 : May we repent of expending so many resources on ourselves.

imageAccording to the Issachar Initiative, “99% of Christian mission effort and financial support goes to places where the church is already present.” They pose a very appropriate but indicting question:

“There are more than 2.3 billion Christians, more than 5 million churches, more than 43,000 denominations, and more than 12 million Christian workers across the globe. With all these resources amassed, why is it that the task of [making disciples of all the nations] is still unfinished?”

Don’t take this as another young, passionate leader’s plea to spend all of our money “where Christ is yet to be named,” as Paul wrote in Romans. But very seriously, for the sake of the Gospel, what would be so wrong with dedicating a little more than 1% of mission effort and financial support?

I am a pastor of a small-town, county-seat, northeast Mississippi, First Baptist Church. Some of the people with our church family feel strongly that there is too much ministry right around us to be giving resources and people elsewhere. Some of the people are extremely supportive of giving generously into ministry elsewhere, and do. My thought, however, is not to forsake the local for the global. My thought is not to give every dime away and not be able to dedicate resources into disciple-making right here in our Jerusalem and Judea. My suggestion is to dedicate half to the local and half to the global. Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth.

Seems like I’ve read that somewhere before (Acts 1:8).

Something else the Scriptures challenge us to do is this:

“What then should we do? ” the crowds were asking him. He replied to them, “The one who has two shirts must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same.” 
(Luke 3:10-11 HCSB)

John the Baptist voiced something there that Jesus would echo for the rest of Luke. If you have two shirts, give one away. Do the same with your food.

What might happen if we applied that? I am confessing to you that I am not sure we even know how to begin. But what if we did?

What if my family surrendered our budget to using half what we make for our family and giving the other half away?

What if we dedicated both money and leaders to actually making disciples, half where the church is sending from and half where the church is sending to?

Neil Cole is known for teaching that if one disciple of Jesus made one disciple of Jesus one particular year, then they each made one the next year, then they all made one the next year, and so on, then mathematically speaking every individual on earth right now would have been engaged in a disciple-making relationship within 34 years.

34 years!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It has been 2000 years since Jesus put on skin and dwelt among us! What on earth have we been doing as His church? It certainly hasn’t been “on earth as it is in heaven!”

I would suggest that those who consider themselves “churched” need to repent of expending so much money and resources and leaders on ourselves.

Lord Jesus, have mercy on us. You severely disciplined Sodom and Gomorrah and the people of Israel and Judah for ignoring the poor and alone around them. Please have mercy on us and help us to love even the least of these like You do. Help us to remember that we ourselves are “the least of these” and how You have loved us with everything You had. Help us to go and do the same.

If you want to learn more about the Issachar Initiative, here you go:

The Issachar Initiative exists to serve the body of Christ by bringing vision and focus so its resources are strategically directed toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission. To become a trusted source of information influencing ministry activities and financial investments toward the least-reached people of the world helping to fulfill the missional aspect of the Great Commission.

Check out their very well-produced introductory video, calling the church to extreme, gracious generosity:

reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 42 : May we repent of dismissing all tradition but commit to redefining tradition.

imageTradition. “A long-established custom or belief that is passed from generation to generation.”

For some among the “churched,” the definition may go something a little more like this – “A long-established custom or belief that is expected to never perish and expected to be held just as dearly by the next generation and fosters serious complaining if it isn’t.”

The problem comes when the traditions of the “churched” are not the traditions of Jesus.

Another problem exists, though, among the “churched,” especially among those passionate leaders wanting to see change. It is the problem of dismissing any and all traditions that exist.

Just because something has always been done does not mean it needs to always be done. However, some traditions are cultural expressions of beliefs and behaviors faithful to the purposes and mission of Jesus. To dismiss all tradition as no longer needed in some cases dismisses something that the church of Jesus needs to continue to do.

Furthermore, for a passionate leader who hopes to see change to dismiss all tradition, connection with and respect of a significant group of the “churched” is lost. Those who have held certain traditions dear may not be opposed to change and something new. They may actually want to be a part of refocusing and looking ahead toward joining God in the fresh and new ways He may be working around us.

One suggestion.

Let’s redefine tradition.

And let’s filter through what actually are Christ-honoring versus people-preferred traditions.

A new definition?

I heard Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, define tradition in this way:

“That which always must be done.”

Think about the difference between “that which has always been done” and “that which always must be done.” There’s a BIG difference. One is based objectively on God-given objectives while one is based preferentially on preferences held by the “churched.”

To commit to what always must be done, that would be healthy.

Why?

Because our “musts” as the church are not based upon what the body feels like doing, but what the Head prompts us to do. That which always must be done is not based upon what the flock desires to be up to, but what the Shepherd directs us to do. Our Christ-honoring traditions are not based upon how the bride wants to be loved, but how the Groom has loved us and now calls us to love.

Don’t dismiss all traditions. But do redefine tradition, so that we can properly filter the ones that are based on preference and surrender to join Jesus in the ones that are based on His intended function for His church.

reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 41 : May we repent of not valuing the older people among the “churched.”

imageWith regard to those who consider themselves “churched,” there are some who wish to see something “new” and fruitful and alive again. Among them, there is a tendency that is both unhealthy and unwise. Passionate leaders who want to move in a new direction often do not value the important role that the older generation is to play. Peter, quoting the prophet Joel, actually mentions their vital part in God’s redemptive and renewing mission:

And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 
(Acts 2:17 HCSB)

I want to suggest we need to repent of not valuing and not involving the “older” people among the “churched” like we should. Part of this, however, in my opinion, is to blame on the passionate leader, while part is to blame on the older generation themselves. Here’s what I mean.

To the passionate leader – no one is as passionate about the vision you have as you are. Let me encourage you with a few things. Pray and ask Jesus to:

  • filter your vision for “the movement you want to start” to actually reflect and to fully participate in the movement Jesus started.
  • give you wisdom regarding the strategic way you will equip followers of Jesus OF ALL AGES to be disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus in their daily relationships.
  • help you not just to use people for the vision you have but to help lead and encourage people to discover God’s vision for how their stories fit into His grander story.

To the older generation among the “churched” – we can’t thank you enough for years and years of giving and serving. Let me encourage you with a few things. Pray and ask Jesus to:

  • remind you of His purposes and how you yourselves continue to fit into His purposes.
  • help you to think more about His mission than you do about the church budget and more about mentoring than you do the style of worship in Sunday gatherings.
  • give you wisdom regarding how to take the initiative to mentor and encourage and support the next generation, recognizing they also have a sober desire to see the work of God alive just like you do.

The older generation is vital to the mission of and the health of local churches. But their purpose is clear in the New Testament. They are not to be coddled and catered to. They are not to be appeased. Rather, they are to be reminded of Paul’s clear directive to Timothy and to Titus:

And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 
(2 Timothy 2:2 HCSB)

Older men are to be level headed, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to much wine. They are to teach what is good, so they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, homemakers, kind, and submissive to their husbands, so that God’s message will not be slandered. 
(Titus 2:2-5 HCSB)

What aches my heart is when I hear the older generation among the “churched” cry out to be “fed” and to be cared for. What aches my heart is that they are missing the very significant fact that when they take the initiative to care for and mentor and teach the younger generations the ways of Christ, they will be “fed” and cared for by the very young people with whom they build disciple-making relationships.

What aches my heart is when I hear passionate leaders do nothing but complain about the older generation. They are not a problem!!! They are a purposeful part of the solution of what is needed most for the church to function as Jesus intended. What aches my heart is when I hear passionate leaders dismiss the important purpose older leaders play in the ongoing mission of Jesus.

May we repent of not valuing the “older” among the “churched.”

Lord Jesus, please help leaders to see the value of the older generation. And please help the older generation to see the life-generating value of giving themselves away into the young. For Your Gospel’s sake and for Your glory. Amen.