Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Perhaps funds are a barometer. . .

The relationship between dollars and a church's health is not unknown.  In fact, it is well known and debated highly.  Which is the driving factor and which comes first -- decline in viability or decline in funds?  Is the loss of financial viability a leading indicator of problems or one that follows after decline has already set in?

According to Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, it appears that a third of Roman Catholics give approximately $1.92 or less per week ($100 a year). Another third give an average of $5.78 a week ($300 year).  The other third gives about $500 or more a year or some $9.64 or more a week.  While I suspect that the numbers for other church bodies may not be quite as bleak, I would not presume to suggest that we are immune from the same problem.  All of this at a time when goofballs like Jesse Duplantis and his Jesse Duplantis Ministries -- already the owner of three other private jets, believes his supporters will cough up $54 Million just for a brand new Dassault Falcon 7X!

I know from personal experience as a pastor that even folks who attend regularly do not necessarily give proportionately or sacrificially.  Stewardship must be taught.  It definitely does not come naturally.  We have apparently come a long way from Solomon and the people who felt giving was privilege and who gave sacrificially, generously, and without fear to make sure the Temple was built.  Oh, to be sure, it is still easier to raise money for buildings than for ministry or missions but it is still a difficult task to fund the mission of the Church no matter what the denomination.

If our people gave even moderately, the focus could be shifted away from finding money to pay the bills and instead be placed on advancing the work of the kingdom.  Yet we struggle on the parish level as well as on the national level to make ends meet and must divert too much of our energies and attention to band-aiding the finances of even a growing church -- much less one not growing.

At the same time, supporters of less than authentic Christian communities seem to know a generosity that our people do not.  Some will surely insist that lies and half-truths that deceive in the cause of fear and unBiblical promises are always effective in raising funds.  Yet it is unmistakable that kooks such as Jesse Duplantis seem to have found the vein of gold and flaunt their success before churches who faithfully preach and teach the Gospel yet struggle to make ends meet.  I will be the first to admit that this is a profound frustration to me and, I expect, to many faithful pastors and their parish leaders.

The lack of funds will vex and hinder good work always but this lack is not the bigger issue.  It is the soft underbelly of a greater problem.  While there are some good and faithful folks whose sacrificial giving and service continues to amaze and bless the work of God's kingdom among us, the sad truth is that too many of our people seem oblivious to anything beyond self-interest.  Perhaps this is because they are not urged to do so.  Perhaps the struggle to go against the wave of culture is too great for most.  In any case, we will find the demands upon us to do more with less an ever present problem.  Some, especially those involved with larger gifts, suggest that the the new tax laws may further impact our already strained finances.  Who knows?  But it is as much a faith issue as a finance issue.  Most of Jesus' words about money are really about faith.

1 comment:

Cliff said...

I lived in a small rural city where the Catholics outnumbered Lutherans 10-15 to 1, and yet the Lutherans had almost the same budget as the much larger Roman Catholics. There are some very faithful Lutherans who keep many a small congregation afloat. Without them there would be a lot less Lutheran churches doting the landscape.