Harnessing Mammon for Church Health

I sat through an interesting board meeting early this week. Church management underwent some healthy change.

As we looked at our financial statement, someone voiced concern over some costly, “out-of-the-box,” expenses associated with an annual missions project. Specifically, moving resources through a certain country we “tip” officials at various checkpoints. The tips involve a lot of money as does the entire project.

The mission centers around an eye-clinic in which our church sends two doctors and a couple of thousand pairs of glasses to Kenya, helping people with eye afflictions. The thought of a person seeing the face of their family clearly, or being able to read a Bible, is strong motivation for us. The kicker, though, is the number of people who accept Christ through the energies of the larger team. And, the icing on the proverbial cake is that ordinary Christ-followers from Hawaii have taught a Kenyan pastor to disciple his leaders into pastors—they now plant churches with no outside funding.

Vision, Values, Mission, Goals and Policy

Back to the meeting—financial fears reigned for a few moments turning the discussion into a question, “What should we do according to our policy?”

Then a miracle occurred. Someone pointed out that though this particular expense seems extreme (and unjust), the project produces new churches and converts who get discipled into pastors. The response of the group was to shine new perspective on the expense.  We moved from a potentially destructive policy discussion to one that reeked of church health. The board deemed the tips, as well as the entire project, tiny in relationship to our annual budget. Then the fun began…

We looked at our giving outside of the church as a potential tithe to world mission, including church multiplication at home. One person suggested that we generate new policy, based on faith rather than a balance sheet. The upshot is a written guideline which turns our values into policy. The policy now dictates that we attempt to pour 10 percent of our money into disciplemaking and church multiplication projects. Our hope is that future board members grow alarmed if we aren’t spending money rather than because we do.

Most churches possess noble vision, values, mission and 20-year goals. However, cold hard cash often forces a surrender of lofty ideals to stuff like building funds and utility bills. Translating our values into policy should help forestall the nearly inevitable creep of institutionalism (where policy hinders ministry).

Harnessing Mammon

I came away thinking that this was one of the most enjoyable board meetings I ever attended. We decided to serve God instead of mammon. Rather than allowing money to run the church we decided to hogtie mammon to the purposes of God’s kingdom. Not a bad afternoon’s work!

So what can you add to this discussion?

Have you had similar experiences (or frustrations)? Please use the comments box below to help enlighten the rest of us… Also anytime you forward an article to social media you help keep this site alive!



11 thoughts on “Harnessing Mammon for Church Health”

  1. Kelly Michael Hilderbrand

    The Bible supports the giving of “gifts” to open doors (Proverbs 18:16). Whole economies run on “gifts” and without the giving of “gifts” a missionary could not do his or her job (I have lots of stories). What the Bible condemns is the taking of bribes in order to subvert justice. That is not what we are doing. We do not take bribes, but we bless people in order to get better service to accomplish what needs to be done to extend the kingdom of God.

  2. Hi Ralph
    You might contact the Billy Graham Association in North Carolina (who I once worked with) and ask them how then get funding into countries as well as anything else. Franklin does a ton of work in Africa as I am sure you know.

    Loved the article…keep ’em coming. One idea for you…that you might have fun with…at the end of the opening summary where it says..”read more” I would suggest “Read Moore”.
    Love to you and Ruby.

  3. “Tipping at check points” in under-developed regions is a notoriously difficult decision in outreach, community projects and mission work. Having been “into Africa” since 1981, I take gifts such as a pen, book, Bible, keyring, pocket tool or toys for children. Money and bribing has a spirit of its own, in my humble missions submission. Scripture is clear about bribery and the corruption it brings. South African missionaries and outreach workers are often pushed to the back in favour of “rich American missionaries” who strew about money and make locals dance like puppets. It is a problematic subject, difficulties in e.g. Africa acknowledged.

    1. The problem we face is government officials who simply won’t let medical supplies, etc. without payment. The issue seems doing anything involves a system beyond control.

  4. The discipleship model of our church calling us to do exactly that has produced 2 individuals who will be starting their own group ministry in Chinatown. One I’ve been discipling for over a year the other who i oversaw in ministry previously has become the teacher and I have become the student. He will begin a new support group in Chinatown as well. Two new groups starting both have been called strongly rooted in the discipleship model. Each has a disciple at their side to be raised up into making more disciples. The Lord has brought two more individuals to my side one male, one female for me to disciple. All glory to God for the work he is doing inChinatown.

  5. I will speak to the “turning value into practice” issue. In one church I started we managed to finally accumulate some savings, roughly 6 months of reserve. That being an entirely new phenomenon for us it sparked an extended conversation within the leadership. What to do with all this money? Several options were tossed around until one of the newer believers – cast a vision forward using a computer software metaphor. He said, “The only meeting place Acts mentions is a school Paul rented – just like us… and the Spirit promises to release all the gifts we need (so we don’t really need another staff member), so why don’t we just make it our “default mode” that we will start new churches? Rather than default to buying land or a building or hiring staff let’s turn it around. If God wants us to do land – building- staff he’s going to have to speak that to us in some special way… and we’ll just assume we are to start more churches without any special promptings.” That posture changed everything… started 2 churches and in the end the congregation was given a building by a nearby dying church.

  6. Loved the article…reminded me a very difficult time when HopeKailua was rather young five years old I believe and we (the board and mua) went head head regarding whether she ( the Bride of Christ His Body the local church) would be a policy driven church or a purpose led by the Spirit kind of church. I like you going to the next phase of transforming from a policy to establishing new values in accord with what you believe the Spirit is saying. Please keep ’em coming….I have since turned HopeKailua to my associate and working on planting two or more kind of churches whose main thrust is Worship to Word to Witness~SA

  7. Howard Morgenstern

    Once again you and your friends have overturned the cart. Money to build the Kingdom instead of a church holding on to it like a miserly Scrooge McDuck! Over my 15 years at the Credit Union my travels brought to many churches that were filled with very few members and a young/mature frustrated pastor. They were sitting on huge endowments that were so old nobody could even remember what they were for. One Pastor that I became friends with was always saying if we could do outreach to the youth of our city we could really turn this place around. The next time I visited the church I asked him what they needed the most to improve their church. Usually I would get a new roof or air conditioning, but this time he took me to their basement. That area hadn’t been cleaned or cleared out since the 60’s. We went to his office and I took a piece of paper and drew out a plan for a multi-purpose youth center. They did it and over the years they have used it for a springboard into going on mission trips and giving to missions.
    When it comes to money we all must sit down and have a conversation with God about why we are here,what are we to do? When we get around to money we have to listen joyfully to God and follow His plans and great things will we see.

  8. Loved this Ralph. I have witnessed the power of missional giving and mammon released for church planting and health! Posted to my FB today bro!

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