They say if you want to know what a person values, just take a look at his or her checkbook. (I’ve also heard a variation that says “if you want to know where a person’s heart is, look at their checkbook” – which is pretty darn close to Matthew 6:21). I guess the updated version of that would include taking a look at their bank statement, but the point is that if you want to know what matters to a person, look at how they spend their money.
The same holds true of the church. In 2000, a study by John LaRue (no relation, though that IS pretty cool… lol) showed that the average church spends about 75% of their tithes and offering on compensation, facilities, organizational fees, and administration and supplies. That leaves about 25% to do hands-on ministry.
The churches who responded to his survey had an average annual budget of nearly $300k. Since I mostly work with small and mid-sized churches, I’m more familiar with churches whose budgets average under $100,000. I would guess that the average small church spends almost half their budget on facilities and almost half on compensation and conferences, leaving about 1 or 2% for outreach and evangelism.
I’ll be the one to say it: if I’m even close to accurate, that’s a crying shame. If we value “having church” more than we value ministering to people outside our four walls, hitting the streets with tracts, going door-to-door to invite people to Christ, feeding the hungry, helping the elderly, giving clothes to those in need, then we’ve lost sight of our mission. Too many churches have mission statements that they don’t carry out. If a person just reads the mission, it sounds like you’re doing great things, but do we actually DO anything more than come to church every Sunday (or Sabbath) and sing and shout and cry for 2 hours (or 3)? I know we enjoy that. It makes us feel good. It’s what we’re accustomed to, so it feels right.Rehearsals, meetings, trainings, classes, usher board, children’s ministry… that’s all great, and God knows it has its place. But there is MORE to ministry than just what takes place in the four walls of your church building.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not minimizing the benefits of a good worship service. I can cry and shout with the best of ’em. But we cannot – we simply cannot forget about the ones who need food, or clothes, or love, or help; the ones we don’t see on Sundays at 11. That’s what ministry is. Anybody can do church. Shucks, these days, EVERYBODY is doing church. It used to be a running joke that in Brooklyn, New York, there are churches on every corner. Nowadays, that can be said of nearly ever major metropolitan city in the US – and even in the small towns. New churches are opening every week… and few of them are doing more than just running through an order of service for a few hours, going home and coming back to do it again the next week. That’s lame. SOOOO LAME.
I challenge you pastors, leaders, and lay members to encourage YOUR local assembly to do more. Show the love of Jesus Christ by serving the people around you. Have your youth ministry rake leaves for the neighbors – for free. Instead of soliciting financial support from the community, give back to the community: wash some cars for free, this time. Adopt a widow or two. Teach people how to write resumes. Start a mentoring program for young men. Collect and distribute winter coats. Offer a free aerobics/exercise class (or if you don’t have the space, organize some walking/jogging teams). Do a food drive AFTER Thanksgiving is over… visit the sick and hospitalized – even if they’re not members of your church. Go downtown and pass out bottles of water on a hot, summer day. Or go to the local park and give out hot dogs and soft drinks. Offer a parents’ night out to the neighbors. Host a weeknight dinner for all the families who live on the block where your church is located. It’s great to give scholarships to your HS grads, but maybe this year you can give one to some other kid who’s not a member of your church (Philippians 2:4). Instead of trying to think of new ways to get more people in the church, try to think of new ways to show more people the love of Christ, thus winning them into the KINGDOM. I Corinthians 9:19 says, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more.” You want to win souls? SERVE THEM!
I encourage all my readers, especially the pastors, to go back to the book of Acts and reflect on how church used to be… how church was designed to be. Go back to the blueprint. And while you have that Good Book open, check out Matthew 25:31-46 (a must read). Flip over to the disciples’ argument about who is the greatest, and re-read what Jesus told them about servanthood (Luke 22:25-27). Let’s reclaim the church for ministry and do what we’re assigned to do.
So the question to ponder or discuss is, does your church do church or do you do ministry?