Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Measuring Success - Radical Generosity

Metric #2: Money In vs. Money Out  (Fundraising vs. Radical Generosity)
Most conventional churches cannot help but be preoccupied with the amount of money in the bank account. This doesn't mean that church leaders are corrupt or have bad intentions. It is just a matter of running a business. And church in America is very much a business! Bills must be paid, services are provided, staff members earn salaries, and many of the operations of the organized church deal with a religious version of "customer service." Since typical North American churches use 50-90% of their budget on internal costs to simply maintain the organization, they need a sustained system of bringing in revenue. For most churches, this system is the Old Testament practice of tithing. In many cases, members are instructed to give a tithe, or one-tenth, of their income to the local church. Some churches take pledges or hold campaigns to raise money. As 501c3, non-profit, tax-exempt, charitable organizations, most churches are consumed with the task of raising and spending money. Quite frankly, as good businessmen and women, they have to be.

A simple church approach to finances differs sharply from the organized, institutional church. First of all, large amounts of funding for buildings, property, programs, and/or staff are not required. Since the expression of the church is in the ordinary places of life that we already frequent, there is no need to construct other places to worship or serve. Secondly, while the Old Testament practice of bringing a tithe to the storehouse is now obsolete because of what Jesus accomplished through the cross and Resurrection, the underlying principles related to caring for the orphans, widows, strangers, and poor still apply. In the New Testament, we never read of believers continuing to tithe, but we repeatedly read mandates to care for those less fortunate and defend the cause of the fatherless.
Our hope, then, lies in a commitment to radical generosity. The metric for effectiveness is not based on how much money we are raising or bringing in, but it is based on our willingness to sacrifice and give to others. Simple churches can discuss and agree upon how to carry out this commitment, individually and corporately. Without the overhead costs associated with conventional church structures, there should be more freedom and ability to give money toward direct acts of service. Money and time are best spent on blessing others.

What would changing the scorecard in regard to money look like in your situation?
How would a commitment to radical generosity instead of fundraising shape this generation’s understanding of church?


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