I was, once again, greatly taken up by Charles Simeon and the fact that he saw those who went out and did the stuff as brothers rather than his Curates or clergy. The problem is that as we (the Church) progress (in a temporal sense) we appear also to be diminishing in a number of areas and you know what? I think I know why ... Our problems coalesce into the sadness that is 'Sustainability' - that awful word which translates into a desperate attempt to cut our cloth according to our means and is in reality a contraction of Church as we read from the Book of spreadsheets!
If we look at what we can afford we will never have a thriving Church because we start off at square one but limiting that which we, and therefore by inference God, can do. We decide that church (here meaning 'local' body of believers) cannot afford to have ........ and therefore we see to it that they don't have it. And then we bemoan the fact that numbers dwindle and congratulate ourselves on our shrewd management skills in that we identified their weaknesses long before anyone else!
Of course we will never know whether our actions brought what might have been an otherwise stable structure tumbling or merely made the right decisions. How clever we are in that we have used sound management techniques and good fiscal management to build the Church. But then again, we're not building it are we?
One of the wonderful expressions the Bible has given the English language is that of 'casting our bread upon the waters' - stunning words from Ecclesiastes 11 that mean ... Mean what exactly? Let's have a bit of a think:
'Cast your bread upon the water, and you will find it.'
Chucking your Hovis onto the water is a sure path to having inedible bread. Of course it might be a reference to feeding ducks or have as its source the wisdom of an early Jewish Baker! So what does it mean?
It means that if you use what you have generously with those who might not, on the surface, appear to have a cat in Hell's chance of repaying you then it will reap volumes in returns! God tells us that we are to build the Kingdom of heaven, not become financially astute businessmen and women. Now this doesn't mean that we are to be profligate or foolhardy either - but we live to different rules and dance to a different tune!
Our church members are family, not independent revenue streams.
Our churches are family gatherings, not 'cashpoints'.
We are called to be courageous and missionally-minded and this means believing in the product we market. After all, if any business behaved as we do as Church none of us would be at all surprised when they folded.
If you want to be successful then you need to have a good product - we do!
If you want to be successful then you need a great sales team - generally we don't!
If you want to be successful then you need product placement - our sales force hide it!
If you want to be successful then you have outlets that are welcoming, attractive and you have plenty of them!
I think one of the big problems is that we are trying to build and maintain Church as if we are businessmen and we're not - we're Saints! We are risk averse where God is calling us to be risk takers. Leaders see their church members as pew-fodder whilst they, in return, see themselves as anything other than the sales team and this makes them liabilities!
We need to break the circle and see them as brothers (and sisters) and one of the easy ways of doing this is to grab them - even if it means one-at-a-time, and take them out and teach them to witness, to share and be part of the marketing g team God calls them to be. We need to live as exemplars and drag them with us - encouraging them to 'do as we do' - and then WE ARE BROTHERS.
What's that Reverend? You do t do that?
Balancing the books is something you might be applauded for doing - winning the lost, discipling them and sharing with them in the missional calling we have - now that Prophetic and profitable ;-)
Your choice my friends - where you going to lay up your treasures?