We aren’t fooled when money gets pitted against ministry. We know it’s a setup! Our deeply held Reformed conviction that “our world belongs to God” points us to affirm that dollars and cents are also included as targets of God’s redemption in Jesus Christ. It's not "money vs. ministry" but "money and ministry" or "money with ministry." We can't be fooled!
But I wonder...
Why, so often, during my 23 years of parish ministry, did my own actions and attitudes related to money betray my faith convictions about it?
Why was it so easy to let last year’s budget process prescribe this year’s?
Why wasn’t vision for ministry tied more often to giving?
Why was meeting the church budget always more urgent at the end of the year than at the beginning?
Why were there times when the deacons had to ask for “a sermon on giving”?
Why weren’t there more conversations with church members who weren’t giving at all?
Why weren’t those who gave beyond their ability thanked?
Why were dollars-and-cents treated like second-class citizens compared to making visits to the nursing home or teaching a Sunday school class?
Perhaps you’ve asked some of these same questions!
Finding answers doesn’t take very long. I have to recognize that, even when a proper “theology of money” is in place, it’s still easy to over-spiritualize ministry and de-gospel money. In other words, it’s easy to get fooled.
I have to continually remind myself of the entire scope of God’s redemption in Christ Jesus. Because Jesus is the complete Savior – whose saving work extends across creation from A to Z – it stands to reason that the renewal that takes place in His name includes church budgets.
It’s “money and ministry” and because it is, the sermon on giving and that painful and/or joyful conversation about giving habits ends up being exactly about the ministry of the church.
In Jesus’ name, there’s no such thing as dirty dollars-and-cents because, in Him, all things are restored! I know that… I know that… I know this; but like I said, I still get fooled.
Rev. Phillip Leo is the Church Communications Director at Barnabas Foundation. Read Phil's online bio.