by Ben Garrett
In Matthew 6:21 Jesus offers us a frequently quoted truth: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Often this verse is used to help us as individuals reflect upon our own spending habits and challenge us to put them in the context of seeking the kingdom. Though this is its typical use, it seems to me that this truth could be applied to more than just the unique spending habits of individual Christians. What if we took the rubric of “the location of one’s treasure is the location of one’s love” and applied it to the church?
Christianity Today surveyed over 1,000 churches and discovered some interesting facts about where churches have placed their treasure. Among the surveyed churches, 33% of their budget goes to paying staff, 26% goes to paying for their building, and 17% goes to ministries within the church and support for local and international missions. Judging by this breakdown, it would appear that churches mostly love their pastors and their buildings.
Now I know what you are thinking. You're thinking I am just some radical millennial who hates institutions, buildings, and traditionally salaried pastors. I am not that millennial.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with church buildings or salaried pastors. I definitely don’t think there is anything wrong with institutions. After all, EIRO exists as a servant to the church. Plus, I am not a big believer in cutting overhead. I learned from David Meister that you can’t cut your way to a successful organization. I am, however, a big believer in more pie.
When you are at a party with lots of people and only one pie you can do one of two things: 1) You can cut the pie into smaller and smaller pieces. This strategy makes for a crappy party. Or 2) You can all pitch in to make more pies.
The idea that we ought to take the money we already have and just assign more of it to missions is just re-slicing the same pie into smaller bits. The idea that a church might find new and better ways to join in the work God is doing in its community is a way of making new pies.
When churches intentionally seek to partner with their community, they might open a coffee shop, offer affordable exercise classes to elders, hold arts events, or a million other things depending on what the community hopes to see. (To swim in the deep-end of this way of thinking, see Starting a Nonprofit at Your Church.) Each of these offers to a church new revenue streams (aka more pie), and more importantly, allows the church to answer its call to be a blessing to the world.
I personally want to see a world with more pie, and I suspect you do too.