Monday, March 15

Is it God's money or our money?

Imagine if next week the IMB-SBC were to receive notification that our Korean brothers and sisters in Christ had felt led of the Lord to donate to their USA brothers $47-million to help cover current missions giving short-falls, and to help finance the sending of dozens of new missionaries to the field.

Added to this imaginary scenario, our Chinese, African, Indian and South American brothers committed to jointly raising another $10-million/month for at least the next five years, and send this directly to the IMB as well. On top of this, Christians all over the USA got wind of what their global brothers were doing and, themselves, started sending their tithes and offerings directly to missionaries and ministries they know and trust...funds that up until that time went exclusively to their local church. I know all of this is ludicrous, but stay with me a bit longer...

Would we not humbly and gratefully accept these expressions of love and solidarity in our joint global missions task of making disciples of the nations? Or would we view this as an unhealthy dependency issue? "Thanks, but no thanks. We don't want to become dependent upon these monies coming in that are unsustainable over the long haul. After all, if we begin to accept your money now, we will start depending upon it, and the day you guys decide to not send us the funds any more we are back to where we find ourselves now."

I may be wrong, but I think most of us would prayerfully and humbly accept the gifts and put them to good use.

My point is, ALL RESOURCES BELONG TO GOD, not to us as individuals, or churches, or denominations, or missions/ministry organizations. If the Head of the Church, Jesus, wants to move resources from China to the USA, what is wrong with that? He is Lord. He owns all the cattle on a thousand hills. Can he not appropriate from one hill in his Kingdom and move that over to another hill?

In theory, we say, "of course He can", but in practice, "that would be creating a dependency issue and we don't want to go there..."

One of the paradigms I would like to see disappear is the one where we think we have to be the ones to control the purse strings of God's Kingdom. We are terrified to think what might happen if we just allowed King Jesus to run the financial side of Kingdom business rather than ourselves! The bottom line seems to me to be, we trust the Lord for grace, salvation, etc. but not when it comes to money and the way money is handled. We have created all kinds of extra-biblical rules, guidelines, and policies for handling Kingdom finances.

But do we find these kinds of things in Acts, or Paul's Epistles? In Acts all money was laid at the feet of the apostles (scary thing, but that's what they did!) Today we have so many rules, regulations and forms to fill out for money matters my head swims.

So what am I actually proposing?

Kingdom money needs to flow at the discretion of the King. "Seek first the Kingdom of God..." includes our wallet! At first it might seem we are opening up ourselves to mass chaos, but chaos has a way of ordering itself (I am actually reading a book on this subject right now!)

If we believe Jesus is truly King, we have to believe He will make sure money flows to where it needs to go. Can this be any more chaotic or unbiblical than the current accepted way we handle money issues where churches/denominations, etc. keep 95%+ for themselves and send their left-over change for Kingdom causes outside their jurisdiction? Is it God's money we are talking about, or our money?

I await your flaming arrows. Bring them on!

7 comments:

David Rogers said...

Guy,

Very thought-provoking post. I agree with you that the "unhealthy dependency" argument is pulled out too often and too indiscriminately. However, it seems to me that, in order to encourage reproducibility, and healthy church growth, it is best that local churches and pastors be encouraged, as much as possible, to be supported by those within their own congregation, or be bi-vocational. I see church planters, or those with a more apostolic ministry, as somewhat different, though.

Another reality that all of us who have much experience in international missions know closely is that there are many individuals and ministries out there, especially in a lot of the two-thirds world, that are adept at working American individuals and churches for all the money they can get out of them. In the States, we have things like the ECFA in order to help ensure that the money we are giving really is given to those who are being good stewards with it. Overseas, however, that is often a lot more difficult to monitor. Also, well-intentioned Americans, who are not very familiar with some of the complex issues involved in international ministry, are often sitting ducks for emotional manipulation on the part of those who are experts at milking the cash cows, so to speak.

I would agree that the same type of thing can, and does, occur in the US with US-based ministries, as well. But, as I say, at least we have some accountability structures, such as ECFA, to help with that.

What I am arguing for, at the core, is not avoiding altogether subsidizing worthy causes and ministries overseas, but, rather, working to help set up better accountability structures, and encouraging national ministries to set up their own accountability structures. Of course, this is not as easily done as said. And, we run the risk of coming across as paternalistic and controlling when we encourage our national brethren this way. But, I think we all stand to profit (though not in a prosperity gospel sort of way) when we can learn to do things in such a way that the squeaky wheel doesn't always get all the oil, so to speak.

Tim Patterson said...

Guy,

Interesting post. You said, "If we believe Jesus is truly King, we have to believe He will make sure money flows to where it needs to go."

Are you proposing that each individual Christ-follower should give more directly to a person or cause, as the Holy Spirit leads, without any accountability to a body of believers?

GuyMuse said...

David,

Thanks for stopping by and for the good insights to a subject on the mind of many a missionary these days!

I don't know if you have been following all the comments on the Church Planting Forum, but one M wrote the following which I thought was pertinent...

The tension between outside resources and internal resources will continue long after we are gone; but it behooves us to remember one important thing that Guy has implied in his most recent post: it is not a resource issue. It is an obedience issue. Jesus is Lord, which includes lordship over finances. Givers are to be obedient and give as directed. Receivers are required to be faithful stewards of what they have received...to declare those outside sources to be outside the harvest is, in my mostly meaningless opinion, unwise.

In Wolfgang Simson's new "Starfish Manifesto" he spends a lot of time on Kingdom finances and how they are to be handled. It makes for some very interesting reading, but as I wrote elsewhere, "this kind of thinking is still ten years away from being accepted evangelical mainstream thinking." Basically he is for getting back to money being laid at the feet of the apostles (plural) and doing away with all the bureaucracy.

Accountability structures have a lot to do with trusting the individuals/ministries that one is giving to. I find it encouraging that many out there are beginning to question the way finances are handled, and going back to Scripture for answers.

GuyMuse said...

Tim,

You ask, Are you proposing that each individual Christ-follower should give more directly to a person or cause, as the Holy Spirit leads, without any accountability to a body of believers?

I am just beginning to embark on this phase of a journey to better understand Kingdom finances and what the NT actually teaches. This post is a first venture into these waters. I don't have many definitive answers, and definitely more questions than answers.

To try and answer your question though, Jesus says we are to "seek first the Kingdom of God..." If the body of believers are seeking first their own kingdom--and calling it THE KINGDOM--by retaining 90%+ on themselves and their programs, etc. then YES, for me, KINGDOM comes first.

In an ideal world, gathered believers would equally share and talk about what Kingdom needs and issues to address, and then come to a consensus (not a vote). This is what we try to do with the network of house churches. Not all align themselves with the consensus decisions, but at least it is better than everyone doing their own thing.

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Irwin said...

I, for one, believe that the Spirit is now encouraging all believers to redirect His finances to the Irwin family serving in Spain.

All contributions are tax deductible and receiptable.

No dependancy issues will result and no future appeals for donations will be issued as this is only the result of the free-flowing nature of the Spirit who goes where He wills.

So just open those checkbooks!

GuyMuse said...

Chris,

Seems like you're one reader who "got the message" and are taking it for all it's worth! Yes, people, if looking for a worthy cause, just open those check books and send to the ministry of Chris Irwin! For those who can't afford a check right now, would it be all right to send our used tea bags? :)