Rethinking giving

Until a few months ago, the church that meets in our home did what I suspect the majority of simple/organic churches have done with their giving.

Nothing!

That’s not to say that people haven’t been giving. They have–generously. (A few years ago, a friend of ours did research on how giving within simple/organic/house churches compares with the traditional church. Well over half the people give more than 10 percent of their income. The typical American Christian gives 3 percent.) But most people don’t tend to give via the house church. They give to friends they know on the mission field, needs within the church as they have come up and various other charitable/spiritual projects they have wanted to support. All of it good.

The issue was forced on us recently when a couple told us they wanted to do some of their giving via the church.

What to do?

As a church, we sought the Lord and had the sense that he wanted us to be more strategic in our giving. It’s not that one or two people should make the decision about where the money should go. As his body, together, we were responsible for asking him what he would like us to do with any  money collected. Even with people continuing to give their regular support to projects they are committed to, with no buildings and no staff, there’s a lot of money available.

So we opened a bank account, and each week we have a pot available for people to put money in.

In the past three months, as a church, we’ve spent time seeking the Lord as to what we should do with the money collected. Each time, there’s been a general consensus as to where it should go. We’ve given to missions, we’ve helped some people within the church who had overwhelming financial need, we’re helping one of our young people go to camp over the summer and we’re giving a proportion (rather than a set amount) regularly to House2House.

The most strategic network of churches I know of regarding finances is in Killeen, Texas. Last time I heard, they’d given more than $1.2 million since their inception.

What if the rest of us were to be strategic with our giving too? What if, as a movement, we were strategic with our giving? What more could God accomplish?

 

 Photo Credit: borman818 via Compfight cc

How are simple/organic churches financing mission?

Dollar bills
Our friend, Steve Lyzenga of www.House2Harvest.org did his doctoral dissertation on releasing resources (both financial and personnel) towards completing the Great Commission. He compared how resources are used within a traditional church set up and house/simple/organic churches. I had the honor of being on his doctoral board, and so was closely involved in the whole process. His results (not large enough to be statistically significant, but giving some idea of what is going on) were very revealing.

Here's a couple of the interesting results:

Of those surveyed, 51.6%  of those involved in organic/simple church gave 11%-25% of their income to charity, and 7.5% gave greater than 25%.  In other words, almost 60% of people are giving more than a tithe. (The typical American Christian gives less than 3%.)

The money spent on the internal administration of simple/organic churches is very low:  59.1% of the participant's house/simple church spent less than 1% of their total annual proceeds on internal needs, and 15.1%  spent 2%-5%. In other words, more than 70% say their simple church spends less than 5% on administration costs. (The typical institutional church spends 85% of all church activity and funds directly toward the internal operations of the congregation, such as staff salaries, building payments, utility and operating expenses.)

People in simple/organic churches are giving more, but their churches are spending less on internal needs, so more money is made available for Kingdom purposes. Their money goes towards benevolence and missions.

One of the verses that motivates Christians to mission is Matthew 24:14. Jesus tells his disciples, "And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come." They believe that Jesus will return when every nation or people group has heard the Gospel.

 The New Testament Greek word for “nations,” comes from the Greek word ethne. A "nation" or “people group” is a group of individuals who share common ethnic, linguistic, or cultural traits. It's the largest group within which the gospel can spread without encountering barriers of understanding due to culture, language, or geography. When there is no representation of the body of Christ within that people group, they are known as "an unreached people group (UPG)."

According to the Joshua Project, of the 16,690 people groups in the world, 6,955 are still considered to be unreached, totalling approaching 3 billion people. The majority of these are in the 10/40 window.

So how are simple/organic churches doing when it comes to UPGs? Fifty percent of the participants surveyed by Steve give 5% of their total annual giving to UPGs. (Compare this to the typical annual giving of 0.07% to UPGs by the typical evangelical Christian.)

What are the best ways to use the money that is being given?

 

 

 

A remarkable story of God in the workplace

Frank posted this extraordinary story–a demonstration of how God wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives, including the workplace–on an earlier post. It is all the more unusual because it happened in the UK.

"In the early 80s, whilst out working, God clearly gave me a revelation for a business. The idea was totally novel; we found that there was no one else doing such a business model in the UK. 

The idea was to offer a particular household product and its installation at a fixed advertised price. The product was widely available as a DIY article, and indeed I had installed several recently, which is when God spoke to me about the business model.

I approached several manufacturers of the product, but none were willing to supply direct to an installer. They always directed me back to the builders merchants or diy chains for their correct supply route. The manufacturers could not see my idea as interesting to them. Later experience proved them very wrong indeed.

It took 2 years of searching and prayer for a way to advance the vision. Suddenly the door opened. We had supplies. We equipped and painted a van with our new logo and started advertising for installations on the local radio and in local papers.

Three days later we had to postpone all advertising, as we had an avalanche of over three months work, at several installations a day, working till 10 or 11pm!, We were inundated with phone calls day and night. 

Thankfully God brought another believer to help with the installations, another installer followed later.

Within the first year, we were buying more of these items direct from the manufacturer than all the purchases of the largest diy chain in Britain.

I cannot speak highly enough for the idea of working for God, but for me, it was never about making money so I could be a heroic contributor for the church missions. It was all about Jesus being Lord of ALL of me and ALL of mine.

Ever since I had come to know the Lord in the 70s, I was distressed that the value of scriptural truth was being lost because believers seemed to only understand it, and interpret it within the context of church meetings or evangelism. When they were away from church, their direction in life was really no different to non Christians. I personally held that any scripture should prove itself in the market place, and everywhere else, if it was a truth. Limiting it to church was to my mind, robbery.

I had asked God to lead me out of my full time employment so I could work for Him as my boss. He did just that. He proved the veracity of scriptural truth, well away from any church context. It gave me an amazing testimony which was illustrated by facts on the ground, not empty theology.

They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. Gradually other businesses started to copy our model. We then diverted into other products and the original plan became a small part of a bigger business. However what we had learned was crucial to how we ran all of our future business.

Ever since I set out to "demonstrate" what I thought was God's view of the working life, He has revealed himself in countless crazy circumstances, through dreams visions and prophetic words. That is how my business grew. He even led me to invent a simple product and patent it.

My boast is in God, and in his desire to bless those who will listen. I am really a most useless businessman with very little comprehension of proper business practices. God just brought the right people along when they were needed."

 

 

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.