What Does Your Church Budget Say About Your Church? (pt 1)
by John Richardson | July 18, 2012
Note: Part 1 of this post is a "high view" of budgeting. It sets the framwork for part 2. However, if you are looking for something quick and practical, see part 2.
Have you ever thought about the fact that Jesus and the disciples had a treasurer? It is hard to get to this idea, because any mention of Judas takes us straight to the betrayal. But, if we were able to set aside the “who” for a minute, does the “what” intrigue you?
What was the role of a treasurer for a “homeless” Rabbi and His disciples? What was their source of funding? Did they regularly catch fish with coins between their lips? Did they ask for donations? What were their expenses? Did they set aside McDonald’s money for the trips? Did they use it for boat repairs or new sandals? Do you think they ever stopped and stayed in that inn-with-no-room at Bethlehem? Did a tax collector like Matthew ever feel cheated out of the money handling position?
What was the financial system like for this small, non-profit, Jesus-group?
Those questions bother me. It doesn’t bother me that I don’t have many solid answers. However, it bothers me that the Jesus-group had a method for collecting and spending money. They had a financial system.
I don’t like that. I know that sounds petty, but it messes with my mental image of this group. I’ve typically thought of Jesus as an all-faith, no budget type of leader. I tend to think of Jesus regularly telling the disciples “Don’t worry about tomorrow. Don’t worry about feeding this crowd. Don’t worry about it because the Father will provide exactly what we need.”
Obviously, there were many times where He did lead in that manner. But, He also had a treasurer. However informal it may have been, He had an accounting system in place.
Recently, I have been asking the big question – WWJD about budgeting. Additionally, I have been asking, “Does my church think more like Jesus or Judas when it comes to money?” In other words, what do our budgeting practices say about us? How does our budget display our faith?
So, from the little that we do know about the accounting system of Jesus, let me throw out some church budgeting thoughts:
1. The budget was a helpmate for the mission. The gospel writers devote four entire books to the mission of Jesus. Conversely, they are virtually silent about the financial practices of Jesus. So, the mission always took priority over the budget. The budget simply existed to help carry out the mission.
As simple as that idea is, we often get it backwards in church. We figure out our budget and based on the available funds, and later determine the scope of the mission. Jesus apparently figured out the mission of the Father first and then determined how the budget could help accomplish that mission. Mission first. Budget second.
2. The budget focused on needs, not comforts. Since we do not know what type of collections they had, it is hard to say how excess funds were used. But one thing is clear – their spending was rarely (if ever) directed toward personal indulgences. They feared the destruction of their boat during a storm; no large, sea-worthy vessels for this group. Jesus “had no place to lay His head;” no vacation homes along the path. In Jerusalem, Jesus had to borrow a donkey; no spending on transportation or even colts to help with the group “luggage.”
Interestingly, Jesus never pursued a “comfort” budget. When the rich young man ran to His side, Jesus told him to go sell all that he had, give the proceeds to the poor and then follow Him. He didn’t see this man’s money as an opportunity for His group. He saw the man’s resources as an opportunity for spiritual growth and as a way to care for the needy.
3. The budget was a foundation for dynamic teaching. Do you remember when Jesus told the disciples to feed the crowd of 5000? Philip said, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Jesus knew they didn’t have that kind of dough in the moneybag. But, He made the disciples think about their resources so that He could teach them about God’s Lordship.
Too often, in church settings, we only discuss the budget in business meetings and when we are making public appeals for more money. Jesus, on the other hand, regularly used their budget as a springboard for developing faith and spiritual understanding.
So, how do your church financial practices stack up? I know some will say that I am comparing apples to oranges, but if Jesus was beginning to develop the first church, maybe we should consider His financial practices, too. Maybe we should assess our church finances to see if our money-values align with His.
To read part 2 of this post, click here.
For a sample chapter of a new book on budgeting and generosity, go to http://www.generouschurch.com/collection-plate-download#
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