Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Church as Charity

One of the things that we want to encourage in the church is the idea of compassion or charity. Charity is the old French word “charité," which was derived from the Latin word for precious affection and loving-kindness. Hence the translation in the New Testament of the Greek word "Agape" for love.

Where Christian charity abounds, the Lord abounds. However, at the same time, the local church can quickly become distracted from the primary mission of reaching the lost, preaching the gospel and making disciples.

It’s not unusual and actually welcomed when the local church is approached because of a charitable need. Churches typically establish benevolence and “good Samaritan” funds for these particular needs and love to encourage individuals within the church (also known as the “body of Christ”) to identify these needs and meet them either themselves, within their family or within their small group. When a need is identified and that need is met, ministry happens.

The local church however, is not a charity to the extent that a longer-term need for housing, clothing, education, counseling, employment can be successful provided. While some community minded churches do a pretty good job at meeting some of these needs and organizing ministries that are equipped to handle these community requests, special purpose ministries and nonprofits are best equipped and more single minded in this regard. The body of Christ or the Church with a capital “c” extends these charitable ministries through specific ministries and nonprofits as the Lord provides.

Staying focused on the primary ministry focus of the local church: preaching, teaching, reaching the lost, creating disciples, creates churches that are beacons to the lost and serve their communities best.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Generous Church

It’s interesting that often one of the definitions of church success is measured in the size of its buildings or the number of people that attend. If that is true, then this definition of church success is based on how generous people have been to that particular church.

Let that thought sit in your frontal lobe for a minute. If the church has lots of money then isn’t it the generosity of the people that have created the magnificent buildings, gleaming auditoriums and lush park-like settings of many of our churches?

So what does a “Generous Church” look like?

It may be hard to define but I have some ideas of what it is not. Most likely, generous churches don’t see themselves as an oasis in the midst of a hostile and threatening environment. They don’t have a fortress mentality nor create a “Christian” version of every athletic, educational and social program that the world offers. Generous churches don’t consume 95% of all their funds on salaries, benefits, church buildings and programs.

When I was with the ECFA, I visited a large church that was proud that they gave 10% of all of their funds to foreign missions. The only problem was that if you included the debt that the church was also stacking up, they were actually spending more than 120% of all of their income on themselves.

I think that likely a generous church would be people that understand that they are to be salt and light in that hostile and threatening environment. True generosity happens in the church when we understand that the resources we have all been given, including our time and our financial resources, don’t really belong to us; they are to be available when a need is identified and when individually, or corporately, we have the ability to meet that need.

A generous church is staffed by people that don't run ministries but develop people. Their objective is not only to give them a spiritual makeover but to find the very heart of God in everyday compassion for others.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Does Size Matter?

Does size matter with respect to a local church? Well that is a great question and likely there are just as many that prefer a small church as those that prefer a large church. Larger churches or “mega Churches” often get criticized (often by smaller church pastors) for a lack of spirituality, or a “watering” down of the message or being too concerned about growth and not about the gospel.

However, a relatively new study by the Barna group supports the idea that the size of the church is related to spiritual beliefs and behavior. The bottom line however is that contrary to some opinions, the difference between the smallest and the largest of the churches gives a distinct advantage in spiritual maturity and belief to the larger churches.

The survey showed that the attendees of larger church were much more likely to give more theologically conservative responses to questions about the affects of sin and the nature of God. Attendees were also much more likely to be active not only in worship but in serving as well as attending a small group. Smaller churches attracted an older crowd (adults in their sixties or older), were more likely to home-school their children and were less likely to attract college-educated younger adults.

Perhaps the study partially can be explained more by demographics than behavior.Most of the larger churches tend to be in the suburbs and in the larger population centers of the Mid-South and the South. Evangelical Christianity continues to remain strong in the Bible Belt.

WHY A NON-DENOMINATIONAL EVANGELICAL CHURCH?

Our small Christian non-profit ministry recently requested and received approval from the IRS to be re-classified as a ‘church’.      ...