Funding Fears

From: Worldmag.com, “Obama,” November 15, 2008

Will the nation’s economic storm zap U.S. charities? While the data won’t be in until well after the holiday giving season, the nation’s nonprofits are already bracing for a blow.

World Vision’s Phillipe Guiton, for example, said his group plans to trim hiring, a move that will likely affect the delivery of overseas aid. “What we are going to do now is to issue an order to reduce spending, to delay recruitment, delay purchases of capital assets, etc., until we can see clearer how much our income has dropped,” Guiton said

Other groups, such as Catholic Relief Services and CARE International, say they’re watching to see whether major donors will recover from portfolio shock in time to continue year-end giving at previous levels

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As I read this the words that came to mind were from the Kingdom Prayer (aka. The Lord’s Prayer). “Give us this day our daily bread.” We pray this prayer out of the surplus of our lives. Granted we spend on borrowed money, we often partake in bread bought at a high interest rate but we also play hard and collect toys that are so far superfluous. Though spending may go down this holiday, it is highly unlikely that we will stop to consider if God’s provision really intended we buy the Nintendo Wii go along with our PS3, or to replace our 2006 model Chevy pickup truck with a 2009 because of all the good deals (Here’s a shout out to all my car dealer brothers and sisters in Christ who readily demystify these bogus incentives), or a new doll to sit next to the other five dolls that sit in our daughter’s closet. At the risk of an overgeneralization, it is difficult to imagine that out of the great generosity of God that we operate in this American culture, that we could even consider giving up our contributions that go to aid the poor, the hungry, the widow, the prisoner, etc. OR hold back on our giving in order to protect our own skin as though we have ever had control over this in the history of the world.

In Acts, one of the most challenging stories for us “New Testament Christians” (whatever that means) is the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. The story goes like this. This is after Pentecost and the outpouring of Spirit, over 3000 people were saved and daily people were selling everything they had and giving to those who had need. To be sure, radical at best. Enter Ananias and Sapphira. Read the rest of this entry »

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“I love the church!” Isn’t it a profound thing to say. It seems like such a given, right? Yet today, it seems that more than ever the church is under attack from even her members. Perhaps, I should qualify this and say, the church in America is under attack even by her members. Things like, the problem with the church is… Or if I had it my way, I would…

Truth is, I have been one to have speak in less than honorable ways about the church as well. Now, I want to confess and say I am sorry to all who listened to my moaning and groaning, as though I knew the direction better than those called to cast vision and move the church into Christian formation. To my youth ministers, I am sorry for thinking you didn’t know what you were talking about, though I chalk that up more to, my teenage mentality. To the ministers overseeing the Seekers class at University CofC in Abilene, to the shepherds and ministers (and my mentor, Doug Peters) at North Davis CofC in Arlington, to my professors/shepherds at Minter Lane CofC and finally to the Singing Oaks shepherds and ministers, though only with you for a short time, I AM SORRY FOR MY ARROGANCE AND LACK OF HUMILITY. I was seeking to manage the unmanageable. For Christ gave up His power, he relinquished his equality with God. While, I sought to bring it to success. The notion is laughable considering the two thousand years of growth and survival.

Please pray for your family at VineLife for God is moving powerfully among us and yet the evil one is seeking to destroy what God has already set in motion. I believe he has a plan for this body that is huge and magnificent but evil is lurking around every corner. May we not succumb to the management of Christ’s body, for He has had a plan since the beginning of time. I believe that in the management of the body we are serving the destructive ambitions of the evil one. May we all remember that when we speak ill of the body and it’s members, we speak ill of Christ, himself. In Matthew 25.31-46 Jesus says…

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Our goal is not the management of the body of Christ. Our job is to live as Jesus out loud and for the world to see. To submit to His love so that we may love. To grow in his image so that others may see Him. To see in others the face of Christ, who was born of a virgin, lived among us, died on a cross and was raised to the newness of life so that we may enter into His glory by the power of His Spirit Holy. When we speak against the church, we speak against Christ. When we speak or tear down our brothers and sisters, we in turn are crucifying our Savior yet again. But when we build up the body and serve the “least of these” we in turn serve Christ himself. I long to hear our Savior say to his church, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Won’t that be a grand and glorious day.

A qualification for this article is in order. To those of you who know me, I am not one who believes that the end all be all of Christianity is showing up to church on Sunday. Instead, I believe that we live church, which might call some of this article into question. This is not the case. While the language of church as something you “go to” is in this article, hear it instead as a concern for living in the community and gathering when the community gathers, especially where our primary intent is to worship and praise God as our Lord and Savior.

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This article copied from:

The Christian Century Magazine

Living by the Word

October 04, 2005

Balance sheet

Matthew 22:15-22
by Judith Johnson-Siebold

Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matt. 15:20-21)

I was emphasizing to parents of confirmands that the young people should be with their families in worship as part of their preparation for membership. “I’m afraid we don’t have time for worship,” one mother told me after the meeting. Her words were soothing and gentle, yet they sounded condescending, as if she were explaining something to a not-very-bright child. “We’ve committed to soccer and cheerleading for my youngest on Sunday mornings. We have a full plate. Maybe in a few years.”

This same woman had been adamant that her children be baptized and confirmed. Although she and her family could fit in brief forays into religious rites, other activities were more important than a steady commitment to the church. Read the rest of this entry »

WARNING! All tangents, rants and meaningless opinions (which this is) are barely edited and typically thrown out there without a concern for correct spelling, punctuation or grammar.

Perhaps you are concerned that I would even ask such a question. However, I felt compelled to ask this today because I am amazed how fearful of times we live in. We are quite frankly seemingly afraid of our own shadow. Then again, perhaps it is just me. Perhaps, I am the only one who wants God to make things simplistic for me. I try to define him, to control him, to excuse him, to defend him, to protect him, to make him sound big (as opposed to realizing he is big) and the list could go on. So I ask you, how big is your God?

Well, I must admit for sometime there is another closely connected idea that has been troubling me. It is the idea that people love God but hate religion OR that they love Christ but hate the church. Now, these words at first may bite us a bit, if not make us cringe but let’s really listen to what people are saying when they make such claims. As such, there must be a realization that, while we would rightly say that as the bible defines the church that one cannot possibly hate it and love Christ. Yet, this is not necessarily what I think people are saying. It is my own humble opinion that what they are really saying is that they love what Christ stands for but are extremely questionable about how distinctly different the church (Christ’s body) lives that out. Hence, you hear things like the church is full of a bunch of hypocrites. What I have found this to mean is, they say that we are to be Christlike and yet instead of being sent ones “like sheep among wolves,” they have built bigger and more expensive sheep pens to keep the wolves out. Read the rest of this entry »

I thought this piece of satire was quite convicting. Myself, I often sit from afar and pray for, talk about, ask God for direction on how to but rarely do I get up off my own lazy hinquarter to love God’s people where they are hurting. Perhaps you and I can feel just a twinge of shame in order to move forward in loving ways for those we often feel are untouchable.

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Hey, I care about those poor people too!

Written by Chad Ellens : May 6, 2008

From Jesus Manifesto

I’m tired of being accused of indifference to the poor. Fringe folks and radicals (like the readers here) usually give me a hard time. Sure, I’m wildly successful. Sure, I wear $140 pants. Yes, I drive an Audi and/or my wife’s Lexus SUV. But just because I am the affluent pastor of a suburban megachurch doesn’t mean that I don’t care about poverty. I care about those poor people too!

Every week, I look over thousands of faces…looking to me to help them understand what it means to follow Jesus. We all know that Jesus cared about poor people. And in my own way, in my own suburban context, I too have a ministry to the poor.

Hey, maybe it works for some of you to live among the poor in urban neighborhoods, doing your gardening, protesting, letting people in off the streets, or whatever-else-it-is-you-folks-do. But the rest of us are looking for more practical, mainstream ways of caring for the poor. Here are 10 things I, or my church, have done in the last year to help alleviate poverty:

Invite high profile speakers and or musicians to help raise awareness. Last week we had a huge youth concert at church featuring Derek Webb. That guy is ALL ABOUT caring for things like poverty. In the past year we’ve had guest speakers from Bread for the World and Evangelicals for Social Action. We even had Shane Claiborne come speak at a special youth and young adults rally last year. Sure, these sorts of events are expensive. But you can’t put a price tag on awareness.
Promote the One Campaign. In the southwest corner of our lobby (by the E parking lot), we have an information kiosk where people can learn more about the One Campaign. And every quarter, we include a blurb about the One Campaign in our projection announcements.
Give some of your church budget to global poverty. We set aside 1% of our multi-million dollar budget for World Relief. That ends up being a lot of money. And when we spent $19 million on building expansion last year, we put $190,000 towards organizations like Compassion International and Bread for the World. At our church, we have particular concern for foreign poor people.
Do a sermon series. Last year, I did a sermon series called “Poor People of the Bible.” Each sermon began with a hilarious little skit featuring different poor Bible characters. At the end of each sermon, I offered practical steps for faithful living. Sometimes it was a hard task…especially with the teachings of Jesus. Jesus overstates things a lot and it takes serious translation work to help it apply to my congregation.
Serve the poor. Since there aren’t any poor people in our suburb, we have built partnerships with urban soup kitchens and shelters. My small group, for example, helps serve breakfast to the homeless every month. It makes my heart feel warm to help out. Afterwards, as a reward, we treat ourselves to a swanky brunch at our favorite restaurant.
Buy Fair Trade. Most people are poor because of bad choices. But some people are poor because they can’t get a decent wage. That is why it makes sense to buy Fair Trade goods on occasion. For example, whenever I order a double mocha at Starbucks, I make sure that they use Fair Trade Coffee. My wife could spend hundreds on new purses, but sometimes she make a sacrifice by making hand made purses from women in Peru. Since they only cost $90, she usually buys two at a time.
Put pocket change into those little cans at grocery checkout lines. I think that money goes to alleviate child homelessness. Every little bit helps.
Create jobs. Most of our janitors at church were unemployed for a long time before we hired them. Sometimes people need a helping hand. And personally, by utilizing a gardening service and a maid service, my family is employing exactly the sort of person who would be poor without a job.
Don’t throw it away, donate it. It may be junk to you, but often times, poor people aren’t that picky. Consider donating it to Good Will. After all, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.
Vote for Obama. While I can’t official endorse a candidate as a pastor, as a person, I am endorsing Barack Obama. In the past, I’ve always voted Republican. But Obama fills me with such hope. A vote for Obama is a vote for hope. If you vote for anyone else, you don’t care about poor people.
Pastor Chad Ellens doesn’t exist. He is the satirical creation of Mark Van Steenwyk. Fictionally speaking, Pastor Chad is lead pastor of the Crossing Pointe Community Church in Brook Springs, Colorado (a suburb of Denver). His 5,000 member church is pushing the envelope on what it means to follow Jesus in large buildings with a large budget. Ministry is his passion, but his wife Tammy and their 2.5 kids is his life.