This is another guest post from a skonkworker, a friend of mine:
It’s estimated Jesus walked up to 20 miles a day to spread the Gospel. He travelled light. He wasn’t looking for earthly possessions.
Jesus was looking for a relationships. Jesus was looking for people. As a church we intend to follow the example of Jesus, sowing the kingdom of God, seed by seed among the people we interact with.
Money seems to bring with it a desire to expand personal space.
The more money the bigger your property. The wealthy generally have more land and property than poor people, and this isolates them from their fellow humans. The houses of the poor and the rich aptly illustrate this:
The same principles seem to apply with the growth of a church. A church that exists primarily in big groups meets in big properties. The risk is that a church with a large turnover, properties and meetings can become distanced from the people it’s trying to reach.
I would rather see twenty poor, small churches that live among the people than one large, impressive and self-sufficient church that serves itself and protects its assets.
Large gatherings are good. Organised voluntary sharing is good. But treat money like manure, of very little use except when it is spread around (Francis Bacon Sr). Let faith and action always rule.
Lets address the balance, not too focused on being a city on a hill that we forget to be scattered salt. Money must never distract or block our connection with people. The church must reposition itself where the harvest is plenty but the workers are few.
“At the start of a community, God’s action can often be felt very tangibly – in the gift of a house or money, the arrival of the right person at the right time, or other external signs. Because of its poverty, the community is completely dependant on Him. It calls and He responds. It is faithful in prayer. It lives in insecurity, it welcomes whoever knocks on the door, it shares what it has with the poor, and tries to take all its decisions in the light of God. In these early days, it is often misunderstood by society. People judge it as utopian or quite simply crazy; to a degree, it is persecuted.
Then with time, people see that this crazy project is working; they discover its values and its radiance. The community is no longer persecuted; it is admired and becomes renowned. It has friends which meet its needs. Gradually, it becomes rich. It begins to make judgements. It becomes powerful.
Then there is danger. The community is no longer poor and humble; it is self-satisfied. It no longer turns to God as it did before; it no longer begs His help. Strong in its own experience, it knows how to go about things. It no longer takes decisions in the light of God; prayer becomes tepid. It closes its doors to the poor and to the living God. It becomes proud. It needs to be jolted and to go through some serious trials if it is to refind its child-like quality and its dependence on God.“
From ‘Community and Growth‘ by Jean Vanier, fast becoming one of my favourite books.
Another guest post from a skonkworker:
Corporate wealth will always eventually end up as a snare and a stumbling block to the Church and ours will be no exception. How will we know when we are too rich? We seem so far from being the “Church of the poor” that we style ourselves as.
Do we really believe that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”? If we did we’d always be skirting debt and miraculous provision would become blessedly normal. I believe both God and the members of our church would be much happier to give generously to a generous church than to a selfish church, protecting its assets for a rainy day.
The answer to the dilemma of corporate wealth is to decentralize it, and to give the purse strings and the decision-making processes that go with it, to the elders of each regional Body.
Autonomous, decentralised governance (with patriarchal rather than dictatorial apostles) is much more scriptural and has much more scope for ownership by the members in that locality, with charitable giving from the surplus wealth going into people and projects on their own doorstep. When members of a congregation know how much or how little is in the pot, they will recognize the need for faith and will claim God’s provision.
The “bank in the temple court” which threw Jesus into a zealous frenzy will be totally turned around as the moneymaking temple courts become a place of emancipating equality and generous distribution.