Jason, Chris, and Aaron have all been chatting recently about this issue and I believe it to be a critical lesson for all those who are looking into “simple church” or “missional church” or whatever you want to name it all.
One issue I see is that we (the church) have created a non-sustainable economy. While since before the beginning of “the way” there was an idea of pastors who received their pay via the gifts brought into the temple, what we’ve done with that notion has puffed it up beyond our ability to maintain it. I remember rambling on about this five years ago when I was still a youth pastor. (I’m sure you can find it somewhere online) Back then, I was asking the question of how long the average church could sustain this idea of a paid, professional youth pastor. It is still a relatively new concept, and I continue to doubt it. When I am paying $3.69 per gallon, rice is being rationed, and the mortgage industry has bottomed out – we better buckle up. The truth is, those seminary trained (myself included) lot may not be ready to make the changes that are coming.
I proposed on J’s blog that I believe that those of us who’ve made the choice to live out church in a different way need to be re-trained to better serve our communities. I believe that one answer lies with learning new skills to network with non-profits, businessmen and prayer leaders in our neighborhoods. (hence, why I am partnering with Kingdom Causes) I see this as a way for me to fulfill my missional call, and allow me to provide for my kids via transforming and creating a new sustainable way to benefit my community. Let the money go to mission, and stay in the community. One thing that Bush did right (maybe the only thing?) is opening up non-profit grants to faith-based initiatives. One thing we’ve done in Tapestry is offered a class to train others on how to write grants for community projects. Again, this isn’t “the” answer – and I don’t believe that there is one answer.
The bottom line is that people are weary of churches, I mean “normal” people are. The idea of giving money to pay for a person to preach isn’t flying in most missional contexts. People will give to mission. That’s why we have made our budget reflect this. At tapestry, 90% of all money received goes right back to the local mission of their community. The other 10% pays for book-keeping, planning, paperwork, technology and less than 5% goes to eric and I for some housing help. That’s it. That’s all we are ever going to do. I want to add that I don’t think that every community, church, or network can or should adopt this budget plan. It’s just what we’re called to do.
So, what happens to all these paid clergy? How are all the seminarians going to get re-trained? I don’t know. I don’t think it’s possible to know. But, after getting forced out of a mainline church and thrown into the deep end of missional church in 2003 I can say this: a) God has always provided b) when you have to, it’s amazing how quickly you’ll adapt to a new type of income source. while I hated my role at Citi bank, without it I couldn’t have gotten the type of disability insurance we know partly live on.
*Point of clarification: I still believe that it is a healthy, and necessary part of our call as God’s children to keep all aspects of what we are entrusted with in balance via stewardship. Money, the highest failing for most people, is perhaps the single most transformative balance that we can learn to be stewards of. We fail when we begin to believe that it is our money that we give to God (or the church), it’s better understood that all we have has been entrusted to us by God, and a way we live holistically and in balance is through giving to one another, especially within the context of a jesus community. Let it be the black eye of the church where there’s one person in its midst going hungry, not being able to pay their bills, or get gas. Just because we live in a horrible economy does not mean that I advocate people to look out for #1. If we learn ANYTHING from Jesus’ life and ministry it is that we are called to be the church, broken and spilled out for others. If we can’t take care of one another, than is our news still good?