Our New Idol for the American Church - The Economy
Have you been hearing what I have been hearing since October 2008? The sky is falling, the sky is falling! It's the economy, stupid.
But I want to challenge and even chastise our American church (by church I mean all of us, not just pastors and denominations) about this topic. Our pastor was teaching through the Ten Commandments and when we got to the Second Commandment I was struck: Thou shalt have no other Gods/idols before Me. We have a new idol in America! (And I do not mean the one on TV.)
It's the economy.
So what is an idol? I believe it is anything we go to for comfort, peace, and guidance instead of going to God.
What I hear and see today in the church and church leadership: We will give more when the economy is better. We will be more involved when the economy is better. We will be happier and more content when the economy is better. And from pastors: I know a lot of you are struggling with the economy. I know a lot of you are really down about the economy right now.
My response is a little confrontational. (It's my eNewsletter!) Who is your God? Who is your source? Who is your provider? Where does money fit with contentment and joy? Why does our generosity and contentment depend on an outside, nonspiritual source like “the economy”?
To address this critical issue I suggest a few things to consider in your ministry of development:
Do a personal bible study on how God is our source and provider, so that YOU are sure of what you believe.
- Read The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn. Note how one of his principles relates to how money has an emotional or psychological grasp on us.
- Consider why Jesus spoke so much about money and its hold on us. Consider how happy Satan is with the American church right now.
- Yes, we have hurting people among us. What did the early church do when people had needs? See the book of Acts. What were those who had much asked to do? To give more! Yes, we are called to be MORE generous during tough times. God knows who has what. And he is watching!
- Look at the apostle Paul's teaching in Second Corinthians 8 when he shared about the church at Macedonia. They begged him to be able to give to his ministry. But the key point is – it was during their most severe trial. During difficult times they begged to give to his ministry! If only we had stewards doing that through this economic down time. What would the church look like then?!
- Take a real look at the numbers regarding giving, unemployment, and the “real” economy. We are not suddenly a poor country. Did you see people fighting over things to buy at Christmas sales? Did you see how strong the buying is right now? Did you see how much people gave to nonprofits during the 4th quarter of 2011? Did you know the average giving per American household is still only 1.9% of annual income?
As ministers of development we must be educators, researchers, and willing to share about the front lines of our ministry. So often untruths become facts when we let media or even our Christian publications lead the way. An annual study from a friend of mine at Maximum Generosity leads with the statistic that 38% of churches reported their giving was down in 2010. But as you read further you see that 62% of the churches met or exceeded their goals in 2010! There is good news out there. But some believe the bad before they study it.
I have read projections that 2012 looks to be good for philanthropy and then I read another that said just the opposite. Who knows? God does. So be faithful and help your stewards and donors be faithful.
Who is our source?
Praying you see Him as your source in 2012,
Dr. John R. Frank, CFRE, CCNL