Is That So Bad?

[Continuation of thoughts from December 15, 2014]

Mona Lisa photo
Photo by Planetrussell

So, should we never spend money in the ministry? Are ministry products bad? After all, there are things that need to be done in the church that cost money—think music, books, children’s resources, a conference here and there. Buying and selling is part of our culture. Heck, they even did that in the Bible and Jesus only got upset about it when He found it in the temple or it was used to exploit the poor. No, the free market isn’t bad. Our economy and culture runs on it and as long as we get a fair return on investment we feel good about it. In short, value matters. The product that has awakened these thoughts may well be a good value. Not for me, but for somebody.

Lithograph Mona Lisa

In Chicago, I admonished the facilitators about marketing to simple churches. I was trying to warn them of a significant wariness in this particular market segment; wariness about the allure of mammon and the promise that it can deliver Kingdom results. Fewer house churches are living with the rancor and disgust over the system that characterized many a few years ago; still there tends to be an allergic reaction to market-driven Christianity. It reminds us of stewardship Sundays, sermons on tithing, “love gifts,” budget meetings and bookkeeping debacles. Mingling faith and finance feels like hanging a lithograph Mona Lisa over the mantelpiece. Nobody is fooled by the image and it does nothing to enhance the fireplace. In other words, many house church folks (and more than a few brethren in the institutional church) are unwilling to “buy in” to prepackaged ministry programs—been there, done that, bought the T-shirt…sometimes literally.

So, yet another marketing blitz in Christendom may have an uphill battle among house churches. Many consumers there have seen campaigns for books, movies, conferences and programs—enough for a lifetime—and aren’t motivated any more, no matter how well designed. That may be unfortunate since some such programs have been helpful—more than a few lives benefited from Promise Keepers and The Purpose Driven Life—but the most important program, when all is said and done, is a community that loves one another and welcomes new friends into the circle. And that doesn’t cost a dime.

[Next: Waking Up Sleepy Churches ]

…They’re Coming For Us

[Continuation of thoughts begun on December 4, 2014]


It’s the holiday gift buying season and those who don’t seek refuge behind the keyboard and screen, must brave the retail jungle. It goes like this: I browse the aisles, find my Christmas treasures, and head for the cashier. After a few (OK, maybe quite a few) minutes I stand by a little machine that looks up at me, begging me to swipe my credit card. I do — a few tense moments as a computer someplace thinks it over. What will be the verdict? And then: APPROVED. I have been approved!

Thank heaven. I crave approval.

What that little dance at the register means is that the store with which I am doing business is pretty sure it will be able to get money from me. And that brings me back to my previous post about my journey to Chicago… Continue reading …They’re Coming For Us

The Church in China

I recently read an article forwarded to me by a friend. In its entirety, it is an interesting look at the broadening influence of the house church movement in China. The paragraph below was at the end of the article.  
From The Economist, November 1, 2014

4225449328_8c0bac603d_m_small-groupCracks in the Atheist Edifice

The rapid spread of Christianity is forcing
an official rethink on religion

The paradox, as they all know, is that religious freedom, if it ever takes hold, might harm the Christian church in two ways. The church might become institutionalised, wealthy and hence corrupt, as happened in Rome in the high Middle Ages, and is already happening a little in the businessmen’s churches of Wenzhou. Alternatively the church, long strengthened by repression, may become a feebler part of society in a climate of toleration. As one Beijing house-church elder declared, with a nod to the erosion of Christian faith in western Europe: “If we get full religious freedom, then the church is finished.”

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