When Christian giving corrupts

Sometimes damage is done by well-meaning Christians giving their money in the wrong places.

Example: if a church planting movement is dependent on outside funds to pay their church planters, there is a natural (financial) limitation as to how many church planters can be involved. This will limit the growth of what is going on.

Some friends of ours in India encouraged all their local church planters (those not traveling to train others) to find a business that could support them and offered to help them get started.  Unfortunately, other Western ministries came in and offered the church planters money to work with them instead.  Effectively these people were "bought" by Western money. The churches they planted  now counted towards the "success" of the ministry that paid them.

Giving can be a hand out or a hand up. It's the old picture of give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Now obviously there are some situations in which a person has no hope without a hand out, but there are many more where training in a skill would equip him to earn a living. 

We lived in the East End of London for more than 15 years. In those days 92% of the housing was govenment funded. Many of the people who lived there had been on welfare for generations. A government handout had imprisoned the people in a life of poverty and dependence. Compare this, for example, to the microfinancing initiatives of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh which has transformed the lives of the women of that nation.

We need great wisdom from the Lord as to where our finances should go. 

Any ideas?

5 reasons to rethink full time, paid local leadership within the simple/organic/house church context

  1. It reinforces or creates a clergy/laity distinction. 
  2. It can cause others to aspire to "move up the ladder" spiritually.
  3. Others in the body are tempted to let the paid person do all the work (after all, they are paid to do it!)
  4. Within a network of simple/house churches, there isn't enough work to do to employ someone full time.
  5. Those who work in a secular profession for a living tend to be well thought of by outsiders (1 Tim 3:7).

However, I'd like to let the last word on this subject go to Ross Rohde, who commented in an earlier post:

The real issue is calling and obedience. Our Lord speaks into our hearts and minds (Heb. 8:10). This is part of our covenant relationship with God. His calling is different for every single individual. He may call some to be full time missionaries, which has its advantages and drawbacks. He may call others to be tent makers, which has its advantages and drawbacks. Other he will call to be a plumber or investment banker, each with its own unique set of issues. But if we try to understand this as the which is better, being called full time, part time to ministry or having a "secular" job we miss the point. What we should be doing is asking God what he wants us to do and responding in obedience. If we have a friend who is struggling with this issue we lovingly help them discern what God's call is for their life. The issue is obedience to a loving Lord.

If you think of it, please pray for Tony and me. We head down to south Texas on Sunday and then on into one of the Mexican border towns on Monday for three days of church planting training. 

Would we be more effective if we were in full time ministry?

Office building
Photo credit (Creative Commons) swisscan

We have some friends who think that because my husband, Tony, runs a business that supports us, we are somehow missing out on the best God has for us. "How much more you could accomplish for God," they imply or say outright, "if you were full time in ministry."

Maybe they are right.

But I think they are missing something. In God's eyes, there is no difference between sacred and secular. God doesn't regard full time ministry as more "spiritual" than running a business. Life is a whole.

Tony has many opportunities to talk with people who would never speak with a "minister." Some open up their lives to him because he is willing to be vulnerable by saying something like, "I believe in a God who cared deeply about your situation. Would you be open to me praying for you?" Often they are in tears by the time he has finished praying.  

It's hard for someone to work in our company without becoming a Christian. (We employ the best person for the job, not necessarily believers.)

A businessperson can reach other business people, just as a skateboarder is more likely to be touched by another skateboarder.

We are called to live full time for the Kingdom, no matter how we make our living.

 

“God gave me this idea for a business…”

BlueprintPhoto: Creative Commons vaXzine

Perhaps because my husband, Tony, is a businessman, we regularly have Christians approach us: "God gave me this idea for a business. What do you think?" Sometimes it's a product they think everyone will buy. Sometimes a technology or a service.

So we ask them some apparently non-spiritual questions? 

  • Do you have any experience within this industry (whatever industry their idea fits within)? 
  • Do you have a business plan?
  • How will you market it? 
  • Where is the capital going to come from?
  • Do you know others with the expertise to help you?

Usually the import of their answer is something like this: "God gave me this idea. Therefore it will succeed." We often come away with the impression they think it will bring in a large amount of money for a minimum amount of effort, because, after all, God is in it.

In one sense, we have every sympathy with them. Jesus gave us an idea for a business out of the blue, and it has succeeded to the place where we have a team of people working for us leaving us free to do anything God asks us to do within the Kingdom. So we are convinced God is looking to give people an idea to "create wealth that he might establish his covenant" (Deut 8:18– a verse we prayed for many months). He is looking to free people financially through business to work in the Kingdom. We know many people for whom he has done this.

However, we had to learn from painful experience that a business will not succeed without good business practices and principles.

God doesn't often give us shortcuts. He expects us to be diligent to learn, put in long hours where necessary, use good business practices, bring in expertise (like lawyers and accountants) where needed. God isn't into "get rich quick" schemes.  

And he delights to bless.

 

About

I was born and brought up in the UK. On my first day of medical school at the Royal and Ancient Hospital of St. Bartholomew (Barts), I met my husband, Tony, and it was love at first sight (well, almost)! We married three years later.

We had our first experience of church planting in the medical school, and that church sent us out into what was then a very poor and socially needy area of London where we also practiced medicine where we helped to plant another church. Both these churches were  part of what was known as the British House Church Movement. 

In 1987, the Lord led us very sovereignly to the States–which was just as well, because it felt as though he dumped us in Texas and took the next plane back to the UK. We struggled at every level for 9 years–God’s training school for us on the backside of the desert, until things began to change for us in 1996.

That year several things happened. We started the business that now supports us (see www.thekarisgroup.com), and we started a church with firstly, our not-yet-believing business acquaintances, and later with friends of our kids, most of whom again, were not yet Christians . When those churches combined, there were around 55 people in our living room and we had to decide what to do. We chose to multiply the small.

In 2000, we helped to start House2House, initially a print magazine and now a website that provides resources for the large house/simple/organic church movement that now exists here in the US.

I’ve written, or co-authored, several book–Simply Church, Getting Started: A Church Planting Manual, The Rabbit and the Elephant (now republished in paperback under the title Small is Big!) and An Army of Ordinary People. I’ve also just produced my first multimedia e-book, A Simple Guide to Hearing God.

Tony and I have also had the privilege of traveling extensively. We speak at conferences all around the world on the subject of how to start simple/organic churches out in the harvest.

The joy of my life is our family of four kids with their wonderful spouses, and our seven, soon to be eight, grandkids.

I enjoy reading, gardening, working out and writing. My passion is the King and His Kingdom.

Guest post from Dan Hubbell: 7 principles of financial cooperation between churches

 
Dan Hubbell

 

[Editors note]: What makes this guest post from Dan Hubbell, an apostolic father in the Kingdom, so remarkable is its context. The churches in his city, whatever their denomination, cooperate together for the Kingdom. This includes at a financial level. So I asked Dan to tell a little of his story to preface his comments:

 

My wife Laurel and I have lived in Winnsboro, Texas for 42 years (1969-2011).  We came to Winnsboro as pastor of the First Baptist Church where we ministered for 10 years. (We served in pastoral ministries in Baptist churches in Texas for a total of 28 years.) 

We left the pastorate “in search for a new wineskin” and began to gather relationally in homes throughout our town/area.  The subsequent 32 years (1979-2011) that we have been in Winnsboro, the Lord has led us to be “sent out” from our Antioch/Winnsboro to the nations of the world equipping Ephesians 4 servants to reach their respective nations for Christ.

The Lord has blessed us with a very unique relationship and ministry to the whole Body of Christ in our town/area.  When we first left the traditional pastorate here  in Winnsboro, our family was persecuted and even accused of being cultic; however over the subsequent years, the Lord led us  by His grace to respond to the persecution by obeying His command to “pray, love, speak well of and do good to” those who persecute us.  As a result of the Lord’s faithfulness to our obedience to His word, relationships have been wonderfully restored and we now have close and loving fellowship with the whole body of Christ here in our town/area. 

In addition to participating in the home gatherings, we’ve had the joy of sharing in fellowship and ministering in various denominational congregations throughout our city/area, i.e., preaching, teaching, equipping, etc.  When we go out on mission to the nations, the congregations of our whole town/area come together to lay hands on the mission team and “send us out.”  When we return home, we are invited by these same congregations to come and share what the Lord did on our missionary journey.

Felicity, in response to your appeal for “other peoples’ experiences,” I will share briefly how the Lord has led us as believers over the years here in Winnsboro and area to respond to financial needs both personal/collectively to local and foreign financial needs:

  1. First of all, the examples and principles in the Scripture are our guide as led by the Spirit. 
  2. Paul as a missionary was supported financially by both individuals (women, etc.) and churches (Philippi, etc.). 
  3. Paul also as the need arose, ministered personally to his own needs and to the needs of his companions, i.e. via tent making. 
  4. The churches, at Paul’s urging, collected funds from the Gentile churches to send collectively to the needs of the Jewish believers in Jerusalem/Judea. 
  5. It is important to note that Paul, along with other servants, with great transparency, gathered the funds from the churches, and delivered these funds to the servants of the church in Jerusalem. This example of transparency is important so that we do not unnecessarily cause those who receive funds to be tempted to be mercenary or use the funds inappropriately, because others were not included in the distribution of these funds. 
  6. Thus we encourage believers here to give both personally to needs and collectively through the various churches who in turn, together through the direction of the Spirit, determine the needs of widows, orphans, the poor. 
  7. When there are needs outside of our Jerusalem, i.e., “Judea, Samaria unto the uttermost,” then the churches collectively gather funds and send them either by apostolic/elder teams and/or Western Union, Direct bank deposit, etc.