Jim and Cathy Mellon, live in mystical teachings of jesus began their first House Church in 1992. They had a desire to see finances handled differently from the traditional church they were a part of. That House Church grew over the years to a network of six churches.
What happened with their finances? Here’s Jim’s summary: “Over the last 17 years we have been able to deploy approximately one million dollars away from building payments and salaries towards benevolence and missions. We have helped plant over 450 churches in India, influence our community, and save a life through benevolence giving.”
How would the function of churches change if our expenses were cut in half, or, even better, removed all together? What would we do differently? What could we do better? Would we able to help those in need and pour those resources into the hurting and needy people around us – things we’ve come to expect more from the gvernment than The Church?
The next largest aspect of a church’s budget is payroll (I hope I didn’t just lose the attention of scores of ministers). What would happen if all paid ministers and ministry staff got part time jobs and went half-time at the church? What if they quit and got FULL-time jobs where their job was their ministry? (Leave it to a Workplace Chaplain to say that.) I know it’s frightening; most pastors don’t possess many marketable skills, especially after many years at the helm of a church.
I contend that the results of removing the financial burden of salaries from The Church would be positive and here’s why:
First, it would lessen the financial burden the paid staff put on the church budget while freeing up resources to reach our communities which would likely contribute to even MORE church growth.
Second, it would force the staff to interact with the community (also likely to add to church growth). One of the saddest aspects of our modern church structure is that the better we get at ministry, the more time we’ll likely spend inside church buildings. This, in turn, causes us to be disconnected from the people and realities in the community around us and almost completely removes the ministerial personnel from outside evangelism (by the way, we would also remove the stress level experienced by so many miserable ministers who are some of the loneliest, unfairly evaluated, unappreciated humans on Earth, functioning in a role for which there is no Scriptural example and for which most have never received training).
By removing the financial aspect of ministry, a major motive in how we “do” church would suddenly change and resources would be freed up to do the work Jesus calls us to.
Our Simple Church network in my hometown is thrilled to pool our resources in an effort to assist others. I’ve never seen anything like it in my Institutional Church experiences and am constantly amazed at the amount of money sown by each small group. In contrast, a traditional church pastor has a keen eye on the budget and attendance, and that shapes how they conduct Sunday services. Questions such as “Do they like the music? Are the wealthy Members happy? Is my wife pleasant enough?” are always gnawing at their thoughts, not to mention being pulled in many directions at once as CEO of the spiritual corporation we call ‘church’. Where Simple Church is concerned, such thoughts never cross our minds and we don’t make compromises in order to attract a larger crowd. Life and ministry are just simpler when money isn’t the motivator.
We don’t need to go any further than Jesus to see the value of a small group. On multiple occasions, He left large crowds in preference to small groups or solitude.
Yet for some reason, we have preferred larger, more complicated, concert-style gatherings to smaller groups where relationships are the norm, not the exception. If smaller, more relationally-based church has thrived in countries with fewer resources, then why do we insist on a more complicated, populous model just because we can draw a larger crowd? Rock bands and football teams can do likewise. I can’t picture Jesus organizing such large meetings at the expense of smaller, less formal groups led by less-polished people. Strangely, we do everything in our power to draw (and keep) a crowd, declaring success through head counts. Given the choice, Jesus got in His boat and left the crowd. What can we learn from this?