“The Church is Only Interested in Money”
Author and avid Facebooker Diana Butler Bass recently posted this on her wall:
“On today's flight, I was sitting next to a 30-something fellow, married w/little kids. A former Catholic, he now goes to a small Protestant church with his family. Despite that, he is not satisfied. Told me that most churches are 1) overly interested in money; 2) too programmatic; 3) inauthentic; and 4) preach too much about politics instead of serving the poor…”
Each one of these points deserves its own discussion, but the one that (of course) piqued my interest was his #1 pet peeve: “churches are overly interested in money.” At workshops I ask, “What do you fear most about the topic of stewardship?” Time and time again I hear that 30-something’s refrain, “people will think we talk too much about money.”
What does this mean? As our dear brother Rev. Bill Mullette-Bauer says, “Jesus talked a lot about money.” When someone says the church talks too much about money, I mind moves immediately to the annoying and slick TV evangelist (you know the one I’m talking about) who constantly asks for cash to keep the show on the air.
Perhaps Diana’s seatmate had a similar experience – the pitch was the same but in a different context. I am guessing that this fellow was attending a church that was dying and the preacher was begging for funds to “keep the lights on.” No one, and I mean no one, wants to give to a sinking ship. It’s distressing for people in the pews to keep hearing “how money is tight” or “apportionments must be paid.” All that might be true, but if that’s the sole message about money, no wonder people view it negatively.
Because we are faithful followers (or are at least striving to be) of Jesus, and because Jesus talked about money and possessions nearly as much as he talked about love, it is our responsibility to challenge people in the pew with the reality of the Gospel. Some potential questions might be: As Christians, how should we look at money? What does Jesus say about possessions and what’s the implication for first-world believers? Besides talking theologically about money, also and always tell people how their hard-earned dollars are changing lives – inside and outside the church. That’s a far different message than pleading with people to fund a budget.
Some day, I pray we will get past the fear that someone will reject us because “we are overly interested in money,” especially if we are talking about money because we are preaching Jesus.
Follow-up: In January I posted I Do Exist! Getting the Thank you Letter Right where I kvetched about not receiving a thank you letter for a special memorial gift I sent. I am happy to report that last week, four months after I sent the letter, I received a very sweet, hand written thank you letter. This goes to show you that it’s never too late to say “thank you.” People remember and they notice.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.