Congregations: Mission Outposts or Banks

Churches are channels through which resources flow from Jesus to others via mission.

By Randy Bloom, Board of Directors Vice Chair

In Matthew 6:21, Jesus made the statement: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be.”

I’d like to juxtapose this passage with a parable in Matthew 25:14-20 where we are told: “He who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.” Jesus continued to explain the end result (“reward”) of the actions of the servant in question.

A reasonable conclusion we can draw is that the servant’s heart was not where it should have been. He was fearful and faithless, so he buried his treasure. This was an indication his heart was not set on “higher” things (i.e., Jesus and his kingdom). He was not being a faithful steward of what his master had given him. He didn’t seem to know and trust his master, so he didn’t put the treasure he had been given to good use. We could say he sat on it.

We have all been given great treasures: life, talents (abilities), opportunities and financial resources. These vary from person to person, and from congregation to congregation.  This is how I want us to examine and apply these passages: to our congregational life.

All of Jesus’s congregations have been given “talents” and in this context I’d like to focus on financial resources. Some have more than others, but all have them. An important question for us to ask is: “What are we doing with them?” Many are actively using financial resources to participate in Jesus’s mission in various ways, depending on local context, opportunities and needs. Other congregations are not able to be as active in Jesus’s mission in their community, and for legitimate reasons. Age, health, distances, etc., make it difficult for people to get together and engage in community service, outreach and disciple-making. But they are faithful in mission through their prayers and generosity in supporting GCI ministry initiatives that extend around the globe. And for this we are grateful. Their prayers and donations help spread the gospel and change lives.

What is interesting is that many of these congregations also have large financial reserves held in bank accounts. These reserves are the result of years of generosity and following sound financial accounting procedures. We applaud such generosity, and we thank pastors, treasurers and financial teams for their faithful stewardship in these areas. Congregations should maintain 3 to 6 months of operating reserves to cover unexpected events, loss of a facility, loss of a major donor, etc. and they should budget for pastoral transitions, training and other operating needs that support the gospel in the congregation.

But what I’d like to ask such congregations to do is to consider whether or not allowing these reserves to continue to lie idle in bank accounts is the best use of them. Why are they being held onto? Fear? Fear of what? Insecurity? (Do you think a large bank account is security?) Jesus has placed our congregations in the Father’s hands and he will never let them go. Fear and insecurity are not signs of a healthy church. So can those funds be “dug up,” in faith and hope, and put to good use for the sake of the kingdom?

Some congregations have discovered they can “unearth” a sizeable portion of their reserves to invest in GCI ministry initiatives (GCNext ministries, the Ministry Training Center being developed near Oklahoma City, regional projects and support etc.) and they still survive. In fact, they flourish (experience greater health) because they know the joy of participating in Jesus’s mission by supporting something that is bigger than they are, and which is an investment in the future. They are enlivened by knowing they are creating a legacy for their congregation through their generosity.

Nothing we have belongs to us. Everything we have belongs to and comes from Jesus. Financial reserves are a gift from Jesus for us to be able to participate in what he is doing. They are not to hold on to. Churches are channels through which resources flow from Jesus to others via mission. As such, congregations are missional outposts for meeting missional needs, not banks for preserving money.

It’s important to be good stewards by saving, budgeting and managing local church financial needs. We applaud following legal accounting procedures and completing timely and accurate financial reports. These are important. But there is more to faithful stewardship.

To return to the key issues introduced at the beginning of this article, let’s remember: where our treasure is, our heart will be. When we place our treasure first (give), our hearts will follow. Jesus said this and he knows what he is talking about. So we can trust this process works. But if our treasure is in the ground (in a bank)….

Giving is an act of faith, hope and love—all focused on Jesus, who provides our needs, and the needs of his mission. Can we let loose of a generous portion of our reserves? Can we do so and trust Jesus to provide our needs? Can we do so in order to invest in Jesus’s mission, future leadership for GCI and new churches? We certainly can, because we have been summoned to serve and live for the Lord of all things in whom and by whom our needs are met. Please talk with your financial and leadership teams, pray about it and contact your regional director to find out how your congregation can make a major donation to support GCI ministry initiatives. Thank you and God bless you for your faithfulness and generosity.

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