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???