This is part of a series entitled Confessions of a Church Planter, all the posts from this series are listed below.
- Confessions of a Church Planter:An Introduction
- Is Church Planting Just A Phase?
- Pastors, Salaries, Leaders and Budgets
- Planting a Church And...
- The Revolution (Church/Body of Christ) Will Not Be Funded
- Thoughts on Paying Pastors
I wrote a post two years ago entitled Thoughts on Paying Pastors. I just re-read it and I think that it is pre-requisite reading to this post. So go read it first. The comments are just as good of a read if not better. I’ll add that post to this series. I also wrote a post called The Revolution (Church/Body of Christ) Will Not Be Funded which quotes one of the best resources I’ve read on this topic, so it’s worth a read as well.
From there, I would add a few more thoughts.
The church needs to move away from its imagination being captured by their budgets. Right now what ends up happening in many churches and non-profits is all the creativity, love and energy gets poured into fundraising money and then managing it when it gets there. Unfortunately money is a drag, so when all you can do is imagine things where you need cash, you’ve been dried up and need to remember what the organization exists for in the first place. Maybe this is why there is elder boards and deacon boards in the church and they are separate? If that is the case, I like it. I would like to see us make more steps towards separating money from our mission rather than bringing them closer together.
Churches are not built on anything that really needs a lot of money. Now, I say this fully realizing it took money to hire Joe, and money to get our building, which are all good and were important things. However, I don’t think church’s lives and mission depend on a paid pastor or bricks and mortar. Sure it will look different if you reduce it, but it’s certainly not the ethos. It wouldn’t hurt us to learn how to be the church without budgets, without any money at all. Many times it feels like the services, buildings, salaries, boards, singing and tithing are all just a big ruse that distract us from everything important. OK, most times. Churches have become caught up in the rigmarole of doing things out of obligation, habit and simply because they are afraid of losing tithe dollars.
Churches that start moving into realms where Jesus actually calls us to will not do well financially. They just won’t. No one actually wants to fund subversion. No one tithes to a church that only caters to the marginalized. No one donates to an organization that stands firmly against the way that they achieve the money in the first place. Churches aren’t financially sustainable if they are being churches. Which is why churches need to learn new ways to sustain themselves outside of the world of economics.
I won’t pretend I know what this looks like fully but I do know that to do it well, the entire community needs to move along side of it, it just can’t be their leader (s). For instance, if your pastor is expecting 60k a year because this is what he deserves, then my guess would be this will fall apart very quickly. The community learns to hold each other accountable and help each other become more simple over time, not acquire more. As the community builds a culture of simplicity into it’s way of living, then the community can depend on less, the pastor can depend on less and you are less dependent on money overall. Generally this doesn’t work. Society is always saving money, getting bigger houses, more cars, buying useless shit, upgrading that useless shit and acquiring more of anything that is on sale. Very, very few communities take any intentional steps to have less. Communities that want to actually plant churches must exhibit this kind of living if they want to be sustainable. They can’t just come up with better fundraising techniques. You can’t plant churches in today’s society and still play friendly with the luxurious, consumeristic lifestyle that we are all used to. You just can’t.
We just can’t run our churches like they have been run. We can’t work on deficit budgets. We can’t build grandiose buildings and maintain them. We can’t pay competitive salaries. We can’t live competitive lives against the Joneses, I doubt they can even be our neighbours. Rather we live humble, simple lives as individuals and especially as communities. We seek to downshift our lives, we look to build a community that lives in radical opposition to the anti-kingdom values of our consumeristic, individualist culture. It will work. We can still start churches, but we just can’t take our cues from institutionalized churches that have gone before us.