Sunday, August 17, 2008

Uh oh, peeps are stirring trouble.

Tracy over at The Best Parts is stirrin' up a heap 'o trouble with a couple of posts about the role of the Church. I pretty much agree with every word of it so I'm going to link to both posts here.

A New Model for Church

Non-Conforming Behavior is Welcome

One of my favorite lines that she quotes from Robert Capone's The Astonished Heart is:

"The model we're looking for should not have a tendency to steer in the direction of self-preservation rather than must be able to love persons even at the price of hating itself."

Most of the time we steer in the direction of self-preservation. We choose not to start new programs because of financial concerns, we cut budgets, and we choose to stay inside and worship instead of leading out.

And we're able to hang on for another year. Yippie.

At the same time, families are forced to make a decision concerning their giving. Do they give to the church or do they give to another charitable organization? We know which decision they've made as church giving (and membership) has declined over the past thirty years. We also know that in 2006 there was a record set for charitable giving in this country. It's crystal clear that it's not the economy driving the decline in giving to our churches, it's our priorities. If one has $100 to give to an organization, I'm not sure I could come up with a convincing argument to give that money to our church rather than The People's City Mission or The Food Bank. We know that if the $100 goes to the City Mission or The Food Bank, it will put food in a mouth or help someone have a warm place to sleep at night. If it goes to the church, it will pay some utilities. Or administrative costs. Or buy some crafts. Or maybe pay for some insurance. It's easy to see what's uninspiring about giving $100 to the church. The only thing in that list that might speak to people is the craft supplies, but there's a good chance that utility costs or insurance premiums will win the battle for that $100 anyway.

Is that really why some people tithe? So they can pay utility costs? I don't know about you, but like my actions, I would hope that my giving would have an impact. Keeping the church open is not the impact that I'm hoping for. There's a whole bunch of stuff in the New Testament about compassion and love, and these are priorities that aren't met when our focus is administrative and operating costs. What little is left over might go to Christian Education, but it will be just enough for us to say we have a program and not enough for us to say that our program is a beacon that shines in the community.

People will go where they're inspired. Ho hum won't do it. Coffee hour won't do it. Contemporary services, rummage sales, church clean-ups, cantatas, Sunday school, and new church signs won't do it either. If the work of the church speaks to people, they'll go and give as they're inspired. If it doesn't...well, you know what happens.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Financial message that will revolutionize things that have been ready to be revolutionized for a while now


Me again.

Maybe you've heard that the church's finances aren't doing so hot this summer.

I've come up with a solution in the last four or five minutes that I think will solve everything. It's called "Metric Tithing" and will revolutionize church giving. It will also revolutionize your finances at home as well.

When people convert from Celsius to Fahrenheit, a way of calculating a rough comparison of the two temperatures is to double the Celsius number and add thirty degrees. Thus 10 degrees Celsius is about the same as 50 degrees Fahrenheit. I'd like to relate that practice to tithing.

Let's just say that 10% of your income is $300.00. Let's call that the Celsius or Canadian tithe. We don't use Celsius here in the U.S.; it's used by Canadians. We use Fahrenheit as the numbers are bigger. We don't drink Canadian beer so we shouldn't use Canadian tithing either. We need to double the tithe figure and add thirty. Now our original figure is a nice $630! That's American tithing!

You might be thinking that it's kind of a lot of money, and might be around two thirds or half of your mortgage. If you're in an apartment, it could be your entire rent payment*. That's basically the beauty of the new tithe; it takes money away from you (and you'll just blow it on doctor bills, groceries, and overpriced living arrangements) and puts it in the hands of the church who will blow it on keeping the air conditioning blowing 7 days a week during the summer. Let's face it, the church needs coffee and coffee beans aren't getting any cheaper if you haven't noticed.

We know times are tough for you in the congregation. It shows in your giving and we're not happy about it. Let's quit giving like Canadians and start giving like Americans, okay?

*If you live in the midwest. This does not include you people that choose to exist where housing is much more expensive like on the coast or in Minnesota.