Many of us donate money to organizations to which we have a personal connection. Your brother died of AIDS? Maybe you give money to AMFAR. Your mom died of breast cancer? You volunteer for Komen. Your church offers great programs for your kids AND your grandfather donated the pew cushions? You make a regular pledge to First Presbyterian Church of My Hometown.
We all do this. We live according to our own self-interests.
Maybe it’s the way we’re wired or maybe it’s how we were raised, but we tend to support what benefits us and our own. Is this the original sin? Maybe. But it’s so universally accepted that shifting this way of giving may seem impossible.
Nevertheless . . .
- Imagine that the church you love is dying. And you and the rest of the congregation choose to close that beloved church and donate all proceeds to a new church with lots of energy, a clear purpose, a contagious spirit, and absolutely no personal connection to anybody in the congregation.
- Imagine that a neighboring congregation is ministering to an under served community of people who do not look, speak, or act like you. And you volunteer to take a sabbatical from your own spiritual community to serve that other church for one year so that they might increase their capacity for ministry.
- Imagine that Haiti needs a hospital. Or Malawi needs a school. Or the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago needs tutors. And you have no intention of publicizing your good deeds or padding your resume. You just want to serve – perhaps without anybody knowing about it.
We have churches that need to close. They no longer serve anyone but themselves, and even that service is barely satisfying much less life-changing. They exist for themselves. They vie for personal power. (“I’m in charge of the kitchen fund and you can’t have any money for new spoons unless you come through me.”) These are the churches that need to leave a legacy of giving all they have left to the church down the street that exists to make disciples and love their neighbors. They need to close and share anything they have left over for the church that’s fueled by the power of the Spirit.
The sad thing is that I don’t know of many (any?) churches willing to accept this difficult truth: the future church is not about us. It’s about expanding the reign of God. (But we really wish it could be about us.)
Image is Jesus for the Millenium by Janet McKenzie (1999)