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 ]

3 thoughts on “Is That So Bad?”

  1. Good thought, Steve. I have a reflexive mistrust when there is profit involved. Not that making a living isn’t OK. We can assume Jesus made an honest living, as did Paul. In our culture, though, I get very cautious when there is a profit motive behind selling things for God. There is a line that gets crossed someplace. Another concern: is there such a thing as being stingy when we benefit from someone’s labor for the kingdom, but don’t feel any motivation to respond generously? I was talking to Ken Eastburn from House2House who said they had been disappointed in the lack of financial support when they attempted to produce resources for little or no cost. They wanted to do more, but couldn’t because of dwindling funds. You can tell I’ve been trying to discover a balance here.

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