Monday, February 05, 2007

Dollars & Figures - could we really solve some problems?

Here is my take on church budgets and when I researched I was quite amazed at the kind of cash we are dealing in as a church society.

Giving in 7 National Churches (Canada)

Alliance Church - $22,537,661 (possibly including more countries)
Lutheran Church - $10,924,620
Mennonite Church - $3,420,000
Evangelical Church - $3,836,882
Christian Reformed Church - $9,835,920
Free Methodist Church - $768,900
Pentecostal Assemblies Church - $8,830,044

Total: $60,154,027 (based on giving about $5.00/month for each member)

Some Examples

(1) Alliance Church: Has 429,000 members that raised $22,537.661 - each person was giving approximately $53.00 a year (or almost $5.00/month).

(2) Evangelical Lutheran: They have 182,077 members and if each gave $5.00 a month they would raise $10,924,620 in a year.

(3) Mennonite Church: Has 57,000 members and of each gave $5.00 a month they could raise $3.420,000 a year.

(4) Evangelical Fellowship: They have 15,000 members (and families) and they managed to give $3,836,882 in 2005.

I took all my statistics from each Canadian churches official website - for member counts and some even had annual budgets posted. I found out that churches are raising a heck of a lot of cash - the majority of it is being used by the churches for various projects - for the Alliance those projects mainly include the 'mission field' (money leaves country) and for others very similar projects - some of them even addressed poverty.

My question is this: can this kind of cash help to re-define the Christian stance on poverty? Can we develop new programs to address needs within our inner-cities? Do we have to power base and resources (people/money) to handle those programs? Let's say we gave more than $5.00/month in these churches - what would be the end result? I wish I was dreaming these numbers but 'hey' while we got Capitalism as a system - let's use it for some good - the kind where we address the the ideas in Matthew 25:35-40.

'I have a dream...'

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

It would be great if churches chose to function in society by truly reaching out to the poor. I am leary though of any governmental promotion of such. I want seperation of church and state in order to protect the integrity of the church and I'm afraid government promotion of the church could end that protection.

Pam

SocietyVs said...

"I am leary though of any governmental promotion of such. I want seperation of church and state in order to protect the integrity of the church" (Pam)

I agree, so do I - 100% in fact. Raising money isn't something the church needs the gov't's help with any way - nor in starting new programs - these are things we as the church can do quite easily on our own.

Anonymous said...

I think there's a ways to go in changing the mindset of the modern church before there will be any noticable outreach. We have to move from 'what will the church do to serve my need' to 'how can I through the church fill the need of others'. That movement is wholey dependent upon the Spirit of God. I see that in the emergent movement. I just hope we don't follow our usual patern of recognizing a movement of God and then trying to can it and thereby, lose the power of it. I think we can only truly be responsible for our own actions in trusting God to establish His Kingdom on earth through us and trust that He will do so through others as well. It will all come in His good time.

Pam

dorsey said...

I'm not sure where to find it, but I'd be interested in knowing the U.S. figures, too. Imagine if that money went to make a difference rather than pay the salaries of church "professionals" and mortgages on the monuments they build to themselves. The church could literally change the world if only it wasn't so fucking selfish.

the_burning_bush said...

Is the church supposed to preach the good news of the cross or the "good news" of the hammer and sickle?

The church's role in so-called "society" should be abandoned in favor of its role in the life of single individuals.

Some of the money should go to the poor, sure. I bet it does already. But it should go first to the Church and paying the pastor's salary.

The Church should not change to be like the public. The public should stop being a public and become individuals in the church.

dorsey said...

Maybe you should read Kierkegaard with some critical thought, and perhaps reckon with the scriptural idea of what the Church is (not to mention the thoroughly unbiblical role that the pastor has assumed). If you do, you'll understand that meeting the poor is as much a part of the gospel as your Sunday worship service.

SocietyVs said...

"The Church should not change to be like the public. The public should stop being a public and become individuals in the church." (BB)

I got some news for you - the church has changed to fit into society - not the other way around - the church is almost thouroughly Capitalist in everything it does from it's business mentality, stance on the war, individuality, structure, tax breaks, etc. They aren't changing society in any real ways - it seems to me it's the other way around - they've been infiltrated by another 'gospel'.

The individual idea I have very little to say about but I do know some of the reprecussions of this is people leaving the church altogether - not seeing the need for the fellowship (or gathering). Very common thought in Evangelical churches these days.

"Is the church supposed to preach the good news of the cross or the "good news" of the hammer and sickle?" (BB)

Honestly, so wanting the best for every single person in society is a Commie idea? Trying to make a difference for every single poor and broken person that asks is wrong? Taking some of the money we raise to develop programs for those under-priveleged is wrong? I ain't talking abour Marx here - I am talking about the teachings of Jesus from the gospel and his example he left.

Jesus in the gospels - his liefstyle - is very straight forward and his teachings on money always lend itself to investing in the individual - that kind of treasure that moth and rust can't corrupt and truly belongs to God. Jesus' whole life revolved around helping the poor/broken - I ain't making a single line of this up - read the gospels yourself tonight and check it out - every single act he did - he did for those who needed to be 'helped' (mostly poor and broken). Oddly enough he was quite recognized by the poor/broken before he was by the higher up's in his community (whom never believed a single thing he did or they painted him in another picture altogether).

I am not defending Stalin or Lenin here, I am talking about the church and it's stance on money. What's so wrong with wanting to 'make poverty history' - and I speak from experience about poverty - it really sucks. You can't imagine how many times I wished someone had helped out in my lifetime when I was poor and broken - yet that help was very few and far between - so I resorted to taking other people's stuff. Most of the crime in society comes from being impoverished - which is another reason to get involved in 'preventing this stuff'.

I am going to take a wild guess BB - you're a middle class dude, born and bred that way, that never had to struggle for his meals? Applied for jobs and usually had very little problem, ate the finest kraft dinners, and can afford bottled water. Have you ever had to rob a convenience store at night to buy your kids diapers? Ever had an addiction so bad it made you kill those you love? Ever have parents that never cared about you so you forget what the concept 'love' even meant?
These are the stories of some of my friends, myself, and other people that are living in poverty and feel utterly hopeless - some of them are in jail - some of them are out in our neighborhood (one just killed my cousin this week). Thank you church - for saying a lot but doing nothing about it.

the_burning_bush said...

"Maybe you should read Kierkegaard with some critical thought." Dorsey

Honestly, I find that an interesting suggestion. First, make a suggestion about what tools we will use to critically evaluate Kierkegaard.

"The thoroughly unbiblical role that the pastor has assumed."

Could you elaborate on this?

the_burning_bush said...

"Most of the crime in society comes from being impoverished - which is another reason to get involved in 'preventing this stuff'."

I vigorously deny this.

First you are assuming everyone is a product of their circumstances -the central tenet of Marxism which I find supremely insulting (for myself and for the poor). Poverty is at most a temptation to steal, but it does not contain in itself the choice to steal.

"Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."

Each one, as in, individually not socially.

Second you suggest desparation justifies actions when the very opposite is true: despair is sin, and the origin of all sin. Even a good act is evil when there is despair in the one who does it. No one knows for sure where their food will come a year from now, but the righteous will live by faith.

Sin presupposes sin. The more a person sins, the more they are punished and the more "reason" they think they have to make desperate efforts to compensate. He who has will be given more, but he who does not have will have even what he does not have taken away from him.

Third, it is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean. It is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean. The circumstances go into a person's life, but their actions come out. And their actions make them clean or unclean. Not how much money they have or how good-looking their wife is or how many accountability partners they have.

We are condemned to be free. If anyone wants to claim he is not free because of his socio-economic conditions he is free to claim that, but he can only claim this because he is free to claim it. He is choosing not to choose.

Jesus identified with the poor and with criminals, as do you, Jason. But he did not say their works of darkness were justified because of the cruel Roman state (like the zealots) or the aristocracy (like the socialists). It is a powerful testimony to hear what God has delivered you from, but if you justify it and say such behavior is acceptable it is hard for me to understand in what way you have been changed. Could you elaborate on that?

"I am going to take a wild guess BB - you're a middle class dude, born and bred that way, that never had to struggle for his meals? Applied for jobs and usually had very little problem, ate the finest kraft dinners, and can afford bottled water."

Not a very wild guess ... I am a middle class dude born into a middle class family. My family has fallen on hard financial times, though. I toiled at an asparagus farm throughout highschool. In college I worked very, very hard to pass Calculus 2 and I only graduated with a large amount of debt.

I got my highschool diploma, worked hard to earn money, and stayed a virgin until marriage and I've been faithful to my wife. All of those things are options for everyone and God blessed me for my commitment. A person cannot be "born" into commitment. Ultimately they have to be 'born again'.

Jason, I admire your sensitivity to the poor. I truly believe you went through the school of hard knocks (at least partly) to help shake the rest of us up about the poor.

And you are soo right about the value the Bible places on giving to the poor. I cannnot agree with you enough on issue. There are many, many verses that quickly come to mind on the matter. My contention is merely that this command is not obeyed when money is taken from some people and then given to others.

God bless you, Societyvs.

I believe in you!

SocietyVs said...

Thanks BB for the comments - I appreciate the feedback and the honesty with which you 'bring it' - nothing wrong with anything you're saying whatsoever - it's all a dialogue anyways.

"but if you justify it and say such behavior is acceptable it is hard for me to understand in what way you have been changed. Could you elaborate on that?" (BB)

Oh I am not justifying it - I am merely saying it exists in mass hysteria in local inner cities where the conditions of poverty work at their finest. I don't find any bit of that behavior acceptable for anyone - namely the person stuck in it. I am just stating we shouldn't be so quick to think they have the hope we have - were dealing with two different sets of train-tracks here. But if they lack that hope - how are they supposed to find out exactly? By a sermon?

I appreciate the biblical stance and the three points you raised about 'choice' - I find that all true. But no amount of a sermon is going to make that real to those suffering - they need some 'real love'. I think as the church this is our mandate and nothing less 'to love those whom God loves'. My question I raise is how do we love the poor who cannot even love themselves?

I only bring up money because the church has a lot of it - why is it so hard to develop ideas to help those struggling with some of that cash we donate? I see Muslims doing it all the time and also Mormons - do they have more of the truth than us? I hope not. But if so, then I almost have to think those are my brothers and sisters (which I do).

This whole thing has nothing to do with money whatsoever unbelievably - but I am facing the facts that our societies run on the dollar bill y'all - and in order to do something we need money to support our programs. No money means no programs - no resources means no way to get the program functioning - no ideas means no problem. The problem is 'my eyes have seen thine light' and like Keith Green I think the church us 'asleep in the light'. Screw money - I just want those people struggling to have as much hope about life that I have - which is what God has commanded to us as the 'golden rule'. But I propose an idea - and that idea can be done in many ways - and many of those ways mean we give to it so it can be sustainable. I actually don't want to take your cash or the next person's cash - but this is a cash system - so what are giving then?

dorsey said...

Mr. Bush,

I don't pretend to know the breadth of your belief, and I grant that I may have assumed more (or less)than might be there. However, SK's individualistic Christian is an incomplete picture of what Christ intended for His Church, according to scripture.

The example you offered from James 1:15 is missing some context. When you consider the myriad of scriptural passages that refer to the larger body, from Ecclesiastes (a cord of three strands) to Christ's prayer (make them one, as we are one), you must conclude that we are meant to be in this together. Paul's letters contain large volumes of instruction about how to get along with one another.

Individuals make individual decisions, of course. But scripture teaches us to make those individual moves within the context of the larger body. That's why Paul talks so much about community. That's why Jesus was such a social creature (He drank in bars with hookers and thieves, and He never condemned them. In fact, He called them friends). That's why He replaced Mosaic law with "Love the Lord, and love your neighbor."


Regarding the role of the pastor, I'll refer you to this article, which comes as close as anything else to my personal view on the matter

dorsey said...

One other thing. You seem peristent in your belief that we're talking about a governmentally coerced redistribution of wealth. I don't see where anyone here has endorsed such a thing.

My wishful thinking is that the Church might wake up and begin to become inspired/encouraged to treat offerings in a more biblical manner. The American institutional church gives less than 8% (some say less than 5%) of it's revenue to reach out to the poor. According to scripture (James 2:15-17, Matthew 25:31-46, Matthew 7:21-23), most of the institutional church is going to hell for its negligence. I don't think a government is capable of accomplishing such a task, but people who are motivated by love and compassion can most assuredly make a difference.

SocietyVs said...

Dorse, great message - even used scripture to back that up - and I have to say I agree 100% with all of the info you just wrote.

the_burning_bush said...

"That's why Paul talks so much about community." Dorsey

Despite what the disciples of Rick Warren teach the Greek word for community does not appear in the New Testament. The closest word, koininea, is a relationship between individuals ("fellowship") and not a "group".

Have you ever noticed (tell me if you do not share my opinion) that those who talk the most about loving society generally care nothing for their neighbor? As believers we are called to love our neighbor ... not an organization, system, or society.

"According to scripture (James 2:15-17, Matthew 25:31-46, Matthew 7:21-23), most of the institutional church is going to hell for its negligence." Dorsey

Excellent passages. The command is not for an organization to follow (for surely at the great judgment there will be no organizations on trial) but for individuals and those who would follow Christ. I think we may not be far from agreement -although in a strange way, people who seem to be close to agreement can still be very far apart!

"You seem peristent in your belief that we're talking about a governmentally coerced redistribution of wealth." Dorsey

I remember SocietyVs asking what was so hard about forcing the rich to give their wealth to the poor. Perhaps he was 'thinking outloud' and not prescribing a new set of policies for the Church.

If I have misunderstood the discussion (as I often do) I give my heartfelt apology ... I have no other contention provided we agree people are totally free and responsible for their choices.

I am sympathetic to your John 17 reference. At Bible school they pounded this chapter into our heads sometimes as often as three or four times a week (with different teachers). This chapter is socially acceptable, but what about Matthew 10:34-37?

"Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come
to bring peace, but a sword.
"For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN'S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.
"He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."

My understanding of these two passages tell me that God wants us to get along with each other (as you say), but it is infinitely more important to be right with God than to be on good terms with everyone else.

SocietyVs said...

"but it is infinitely more important to be right with God than to be on good terms with everyone else" (BB)

I personally have no problem of humans being in the right terms with God - none what-so-ever - I agree. But that is not the essence of what I am mentioning in this blog about 'money'. I'd be a fool to say people should abandon their faith - actually I am asking the opposite.

I ask the church to take a closer look at the teachings of Jesus and examine the use of property and money - what was it used for. I also ask the church to use it's societal clout to make a marked difference in the area of poverty -which seems to be at the heart of Jesus in those Matthew 25 passages. Each person was judged individually - doesn't mean they didn't work together (even the early church worked closely) - or for the same purpose - which seems to me to be - the total eradication of poverty, hurt, brokenness, etc - basically following Jesus' example.

But I can sum up what I am saying in very simple terms. We all personally read Jesus as someone that died for us (singular and plural) to pay for our sins (a propitiation). Were we worthy of that? Did we do something to deserve this great gift (salvation)? You mean we just got the greatest gift of all time for free - and did nothing to deserve it? Now go and look on the poor the same way.

dorsey said...

Mr. Bush, I think you interpretation of the Matthew 10 passage is incredibly narrow. I have always taken the Lord's words to mean that He had come to upset the old way of thinking (which He did), and that the results of such could be harsh. It is far better to accept Christ in disobedience to a parent than to submit to that authority and reject Him. But you seem to be suggesting that Christ doesn't intend that we get along at all. This is the antithesis of the remainder of the New Testament.

Don't get me wrong. I do not discount the actions of the individual, but that doesn't logically mean that there's not a larger context. Your individualist approach appears to deny the societal context that scripture clearly provides. It seems that you would hear Christ say, "Love God, and be nice to people if they agree with you, but mostly just love God." The thing is, your relationship to the larger community is the measure of your love for God.

Here is what I just said to someone on my site who suggested that being right is more important than relationship:

"How can you love God and not your neighbor?

If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20)

I've heard many times, from people in my own family that "righteousness is more important than relationship," and I've seen the hellish fruit of that kind of self-righteous bullshit.


It's not either/or. If you don't make the individual decision to be in relational community, you're missing the whole point.