Monday, January 16, 2023

Non-profits are not what Christ wanted. . .

The world of religion has become a maze of non-profit organizations.  While we once said that the first thing your do in the Church is start a committee, committees are out of fashion and they have been replaced by a much grander scheme:  the non-profit.  Every good deed will not go unpunished and so we do the good deeds of God by setting up agencies, seeking a tax exempt status for them, incorporating them, and then we are beholden to them forever.  We must manage them and fund them and fund them and fund them until funding them becomes the real mission.

I am not a graduate of one of our Synod's seminaries but I must get an email a week or more seeking my help to fund their mission.  Currently the mission at either of our seminaries seems to be struggling with fewer and fewer residential students. But it is not for lack of funds.  Don't forget the full email box I had on giving Tuesday... Funding them has become the mission.  I am not faulting them.  We did the deed by making the places that form our pastors subject to the giving whims of the masses, confusing success with a big endowment.  There is a cost to making these places into self-supporting institutions and it is paid less by the institution than by those whom they serve.

The seminaries are but the tip of the non-profit iceberg.  There are so many non-profits that have been set up that we need a churchly GPS to sort our way through the not so good ones, around the bad ones, and to the ones that are moderately good.  In the end, however, what choice do we have?  Did we have?  I have no answer to that question.  They were all begun with the noblest of intentions and the greatest of all virtuous reasons.  We thought we were doing the Lord's work but the Lord's work is not done setting up boardrooms and bylaws.  They can aid what we do but they can also detract from what we do to the point where who even knows if we are doing the Lord's work anymore.

We all know that it shouldn’t have to be this complicated.  Why must we form non-profits to provide for all the good causes and honorable intentions -- from housing for the homeless to feeding the hungry to serving the needy to advocating for those without voice to the cause of the liturgy or church music or pure doctrine.   This is not simply the bane of the left.  No matter where you stand on the evangelical spectrum, the magnetic call of the non-profit is hard to resist.  Now don't get me wrong.  Non-profits do actually do amazing things -- at least in the beginning but the numbers of those who are effective over the long haul tends to dwindle over time.  I support many of them.  We as a congregation supporting many of them.  But as a church we no longer know how to stop them when they no longer serve their purpose well.  Maybe they cannot be stopped. 

All God ever needed to do His work were a couple of billionaires to fund all the NGOs and non-profits that the Lord would have known how to do if He had only asked us first. 

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