God’s Voice in the Global Market Meltdown

by Dave Gibbons

I imagine you may be paying more attention to the market news. Our 401Ks have turned into a 201Ks! The markets are in transition. Most likely this recession will not be quickly fixed with bailouts and the lowering of interest rates. The unraveling of our security seems to be happening at unprecedented speed, leaving many disoriented and stressed.

This is affecting churches too. Giving is down. Layoffs are happening not only among our members but also our church staffs. I spoke to one friend who said their giving is over thirty percent below what was expected. Many of us in church leadership are facing hard decisions. To avoid some of these hard choices by closing our eyes only delays the inevitable pain.

When chaos happens it's easy to just hunker down, think of quick strategies to get out of the mess, or make rash choices. But perhaps slowing down for a season of reflection would do us well. What might God be saying to me, to our country? While we gravitate quickly to happy endings and stories of inspiration, perhaps a period of confession and repentance is also in order. Could this be a disciplining from God?for America?for our churches? for me?

Sure it's easy to shamelessly wag our finger at Wall Street bankers, traders, and lenders. Their avarice, greed, and ostentatious ways are notorious. But before we strain our finger, let's not forgot who they've been working for. We're also involved in their trades, their transactions, and the thirst for MORE. The hard reality is, we are Wall Street. We are the lenders, we are the traders, and now we are the debtors.

The church is not untainted by this. I understand a need to be a healthy and purposeful church, but have we gone overboard with our focus on formulas, numbers, size, influence, marketing techniques, and branding? Have we forgotten what makes the church the church? At the end of the day, are we really driven by God's heart? Are we really motivated by Christ's love and not the money or the numbers?

Of late the church has become increasingly "cause" focused. Justice and advocacy is our mantra, but how much do we need to pour into advertising this? I thought the right hand wasn't supposed to know what the left hand was doing? How much do we really need to be spending on self-promotion within the church?

While in Thailand, the Muslims we worked with on one of the southern islands were sick of the Western "help" they received. They said after the tsunami, "western Christians came to give us things without asking what we needed, and then they took pictures with their banners and left." Their conclusion, "The Christians used us."

November 18, 2008

Displaying 1–10 of 12 comments

clg

November 20, 2009  1:13pm

I've seen stats that say about 87% of a churches resources go for overhead and internal(top down) programs and about 13% go to missions. A glitzy new sound system and marketing plan or help the poor, marginalized and oppressed? (by giving a hand up vs a hand out) People in general are successfully creating and looking for sustainable, holistic ways to have impact and bring world change. They do not perceive the church as a vehicle to do so. "Dave, be careful of the big three: money, interactions with women, and pride." You might want to be more specific about the type of interactions being referred to here. Does this mean professional or social interactions with women are to be feared, avoided and viewed among the worst sins? or that any interactions will lead to sin so women should be alienated? You might (when considering your conversations about "justice and advocacy") want to consider the lens and light in which you frame women who are also valuable contributors and promising leaders in God's work.

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jarrod

November 20, 2009  11:22am

Dave, Your comment about Christians who do their good deeds, then take photos with their banner in the background, made me confess and repent. I've been guilty of using the cause of Christ for my own advancement way too many times. Forgive me, Lord. Let me serve you, not me try to figure out how you can serve me.

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Cornelia Becker Seigneur

December 03, 2008  12:49am

I so agree with his statement: "Of late the church has become increasingly "cause" focused. Justice and advocacy is our mantra, but how much do we need to pour into advertising this? I thought the right hand wasn't supposed to know what the left hand was doing?" - - we become so much about the program and when someone asks "why are we doing this" to leadership, the response is often, "well so and so church does this" and "it is the modern way of doing things. . ."- We need to respond to questions by asking What would Jesus have us do. As Cat Stevens wrote in his song, [yes, I know where he is spiritually, but there is wisdom anyway there]- "We keep on building till there's no more room up there..." Rilke said, Live the questions- we need to ask the questions- what are we doing and why - cornelia seigneur

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Bill Harnist

November 30, 2008  7:41pm

Most of the "mega-churches" also have "mega-mortgages" that need to be serviced: i.e., paid off, refinanced, etc. We have mortgaged our future to get the "now."

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Bill Hull

November 27, 2008  10:06pm

Dave way to go...... liked it

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Sonelta

November 24, 2008  11:02am

Certainly a challenge for the church today to stand up in integrity. A prophetic call for repentance in light of the current situation. Thank you http://otiumsanctum.com

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Rev. John Flipsen

November 22, 2008  11:21am

What did happen to the US.It did forget its poor, and to provide them with a descent and affordable health care system .If iread advertisements which tell me save three to five thousand dollars a year on health care premium .Than I do ask the question what is the real premium .Who can afford all of this .Health care should never be a profit object .And it should be ther for every one .If I read that seniors have to come up with 175 , 000.00 dollar top buy themselves in at a care facillity . How much yet do they have to pay every month on top of this .How do we look upon the Gospelhow well do we live up to the words spoken by Jesus . I do have some difficulty with understanding all of this looking at the amounts given above incomparising to the words of God (Jesus) ,Blessings john Dcn

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Sonelta

November 21, 2008  6:39am

Thanks for your honest, insightful article. I am intrigued by the churches response inlight of the economic crisis We (as in society) seem to be where we are because of GREED, CORRUPTION & FEAR, and it seems the church has followed suit. Perhaps if the church led by way of GENEROSITY, INTEGRITY and LOVE we would be a leading force in the midst of global crisis?!

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Johnny Johnson

November 20, 2008  11:06pm

I agree that the effects of the economy are present in the local church. However, lately I suggested to our church members to bring help wanted ads and post them for our members. I am encouraged that there are still several opportunities available in our community. Every week there are jobs posted for persons to inquire about. The Lord is our Shepherd....

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Scott in Vegas

November 20, 2008  10:17am

An interesting observation in my neighborhood…we have several family around us that live six to a three bedroom house. As an American, that seems overboard. But, is it? Is it crazy to think that, by choice, we would choose a smaller house or invite another family to live with us? Would that be crazy to make actual, major changes to how we live? How would that affect our faith and the faith of others? Thoughtful article…I linked to http://www.newchurchreport.com to share it with others- thanks!

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