I spent time this morning trying to catch up on mail and office stuff. Kind of clearing through the piles of stuff on the desk before Christmas time, besides I was trying to delay working on my expense report which is long past due. (Bless my treasurers very patient and endearing heart who reads this space…)
Anyway, as I was working through the slog of mail that comes to visit us each christmas time I quickly realized that its the end of the year, and the end of opportunities for people to give in 2009. Needy Christmas appeals, one after another, went through my hands. I did honour them by opening each one and reading their needs and hopes for people to give before the year end.
The stories ran together, one after another. "Giving was modest this year and there was still $400,000 needed towards their $700,000 goal," or "We've to-date received $30,000 of the needed $45,000." There was even an Adopt-a-Pastor scheme where you could give monthly to keep a pastor in Asia, eating and ministering the Gospel.
Good Grief Charlie Brown.
So many opportunities for seminars and conferences, classes and learning opportunities to be invited into your church to help improve things. So many worthy Bible Schools and Retreat Centers, mission organizations and food banks to give your money to. It's amazingly overwhelming. Who deserves the money? Who is doing what God asked of them? And why is everybody asking me for money? If the organization is called into being by God and led by God, should it not be sustained by God?
I know, I know, semantics, I hear ya. But maybe it's not just semantics? Maybe we are called of God to raise up some work and God leads and grows it and when times get tough, instead of looking to see if we are still called of God for this work, and instead of relying on Him for provision, we shift our position to lean on God's people. "Just communicating the need" we say. And it's partially true. But it's also a partial shifting of our dependancy from God to people.
I'm not the guy to say I long for the good old days, but when did the ministry get so professionalized? When did we stop banging on the windows of heaven to provide for what we felt God clearly call us to, and start hiring fundraising agencies and relying on people to provide for God's work, rather than relying on God himself?
Let's face it, some "Christian" organizations should be done. Some churches should close. Some are so broken down with systemic issues and poor past decisions that they should consider closing to be a blessing to the broader community. Some God-started and God initiated works have been coasting for years on what God did at the beginning and they are no longer even aware that God may have left the building a long time ago.
Hey, I know there are internal pressures in these organizations to keep things going. To keep the salaries paid up well so the prominent staff will remain. To give participants a "quality experience" with inviting facilities and activities. I know these things, I'm on a board or two, and there are pressures, subtle and not so subtle.
If you really believe that you are called into a certain ministry, by God himself, then first off do what you can with your financial choices. Lead by example. Then lean into God like you've never leaned before and bang on the windows of heaven so that your creator and sustainer can do what he promised to do.
...as opposed to sending me nice shiny requests for money I mean.