Monday, September 29, 2008

Money Talk Church

I think about house churches a lot, talk about them frequently, and write about them occasionally. Yet for all of that I've never really been a part of one much less led or planted one, though I have visited a few. It's frustrating and not just a little embarrassing. And it leaves me with persistent, nagging doubts about just how realistic all this thinking is. So naturally I'm thrilled whenever I meet someone who is in a house church. That's always a great encouragement. But I read something in the paper on Monday that really convinced me that this can work. It was an article about the Smart Cookies - a group of women who banded together to help each other get out of debt. Here are some excerpts from the article:

In 2006, these five young professionals living in Vancouver, B.C., formed a "money club," a sort of financial-health support group. After two years, they reduced their collective debt from $55,000 to $10,000. All either own their own homes or are on the way there, and are regularly making deposits in IRAs and savings accounts.

They accomplished this impressive feat by setting individual spending limits at weekly meetings, then holding the overspenders accountable -- over a bottle of wine -- at the next meeting. They shared clothes, low-cost recipes, advice and encouragement. Each week, one member researched a topic to share with the group, such as how to calculate credit-card interest.

"The first meeting was really scary, laying out all our checking and Visa statements for everyone to see. A bottle of wine was definitely involved, which we recommend."

"We'd all tried on our own, read all these financial books, but it had no effect on our lifestyle. Knowing you have to share your saving and spending record for the week helps you resist temptation."

That's not a house church, but it absolutely could be.

Just look at the themes that are in play:
  • Small group
  • Frequent, regular gatherings
  • Self-organizing
  • Openness based on trust rooted in mutual acceptance
  • Real-life relevance and goal-focused
  • Accountability (sought, not imposed)
  • Joy and celebration
What really amazes me is that the very topic we struggle to get people to engage seriously in church - namely money - is the topic they are most eager to focus on!

These days when people are so anxious about money as they watch Congress try to respond to the hosing/credit/banking crisis and the market teeters it really makes you wonder... couldn't we start churches with a mission to help people put their financial houses in order like these women did?

Of course, there would be suspicion. We're talking about money of course. People would wonder if this is just a front to get them to contribute to some denomination or pay the salary of the "evangelist." They'll be watching for the catch and wanting to read the fine print.

But what if the church planter/evangelist took no salary? What if he or she had independent support from other churches that wanted to bless the new congregations, or maybe worked a regular job as well on the side... like making tents or something?

Nah. It'd never work.

Too bad though. I'd love to give it a try.


AnneMarie said...

No way! I have had many conversations on the money thing with churches or even church outside of churches.

I wouldn't be surprised if we see more called to work in the market places to raise their own salary while pastoring. The time will come! The finances of the church will then go to real needs along AND the pastor will be networking with the unchurched which is well needed.

Feral Pastor said...

You may well be right! Among the people I've encountered working on simple/house expressions it does seem common to have a "day job," sometimes just for income and sometimes as an intentional way to be "in the world."

But it does seem like there ought to be room alongside that for a "missionary" model where some people who really want to see churches planted are willing to support someone who's ready to work on that full time.

(Nice to hear from you, AnnMarie!)