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Yes, Sometimes We Can Serve Both God and Mammon
Image: Photo courtesy of Jessica Lynch and Charlie McGlynn

Yes, Sometimes We Can Serve Both God and Mammon

My congregation's experiment in using market values to grow our mission.

A Providential Windfall

As fortune came to pass, our church recently sold a piece of land for $2 million. Most of that went to retire a sizable debt and building repairs, but we knew that to spend the entire proceeds on ourselves was unfaithful. We voted to allocate 20 percent to serving outside our walls.

The sensible way to spend the 20 percent would have been to find a successful service agency and write the check. But I hated that idea. Surely we could leverage this money in a way that would let us get personally involved.

Yet how to pick? We assessed. We discussed. We hired consultants. We prayed. The heavens stayed silent.

We had the money. We had the wisdom and experience, especially in fields related to business. What we lacked was our particular calling (or the energy to follow it through). What if we challenged young adults in our church and wider community to generate an idea that could become our calling?

I proposed we take $250,000 and sponsor a social entrepreneurial competition. We could invite innovators ages 35 and younger to submit project proposals with gospel values of grace, justice, love, redemption, and reconciliation. We'd ask that applicants affirm the Apostles' Creed, because we wanted our effort to promote Christian faith. Our church would provide funding and expertise, networking, creative community, and acceleration toward successful launches. We'd use business acumen to make the projects sustainable and stress measurable outcomes.

When I pitched the idea of a business-based social entrepreneurial competition to church leaders, some presumed I'd lost my mind. This was too large an amount of cash to risk on unproven ventures. Better to give it to a proven enterprise and maximize our return on investment. To put it in biblical parlance: Be a good steward. Church and business don't mix. "You can't serve both God and Mammon," Jesus said (Luke 16:13).

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Comments Are Closed

Displaying 2–6 of 10 comments

Paul Schryba

October 12, 2013  8:59am

Rick: We are called to not sin. The sins of Christians take away from their witness to Christ. Serving mammon, making material gain the first priority, is clearly sin. Far too many Christians are silent about the greed and money making priorities of our society, and complicit in it. For Christians to effectively bear witness, they must be 'in' the world, not 'of' the world. The aim of these individuals to create 'businesses' whose priority is service, not 'maximizing profit', does not take away from 'preaching' the gospel and the good news. It is the application of it, and not some kind of 'social engineering'. It gives Christian witness to the materialism and greed, the misplaced aims of worldly 'business' practices.

Rick Dalbey

October 11, 2013  11:30am

Paul literally gave an early taste of fulfillment of this Matthew 25 scripture. He was persecuting Christians, taking away their homes and throwing them in jail. Jesus stopped him on the road to Damascus and said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?” Saul echoes the very question of Matthew 25, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” Jesus’ identification with His disciples is so deep that if you mistreat a believer for their faith, you are mistreating Jesus in disguise. Saul was imprisoning the brothers and sisters of Jesus exactly because they were Christians and Jesus said, you are persecuting Me, which surprised Saul. There is nothing wrong with building non-profit Payday loan businesses, building printing shops or mobile grocery markets, or other businesses that benefit society, it is right and good, but this is not the primary mission of the church. Jesus was very clear about our mission and then we see it played out in Acts.

Rick Dalbey

October 11, 2013  11:11am

Yvette, when the disciples ask at the beginning of matthew 24 “when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the END OF THE AGE?” He spends two chapters answering what the times will be like. He describes them with 3 parables ending with the judgement. The residents of earth are sent to hell for mistreating Christians who are persecuted and imprisoned for faith. He says, “to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine.” Who are His brothers? He tells us several times in Matthew. “And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” His brothers are disciples. This is not a passage urging us to alleviate world poverty and visit all prisoners in the world or risk going to hell. Its subject is the treatment if disciples in the end times. Some mistakenly use this passage to encourage social engineering.

yvette moore

October 11, 2013  8:54am

Well the title was off-putting, but it did its job: it got me to read the article, which I liked. This church's program is kind of like a U.S. version of the microcredit programs many churches and nonprofit fund in developing countries to help impoverished women earn funds to send their children to school etc. except in this case the loan wasn't micro. I always thought we needed those kinds of microcredit programs here to help poor families themselves or others who don't have money to start their business. Banks are only an option if you already have money. Microcredit loans would be especially helpful when a person has a criminal history and can't get hired. To Rick: I get your offense at the title, but using money to help people help themselves is not serving Mammon; it is mission that helps "the least of these," Christ's brothers and sisters. That's a good thing. There's plenty of Mammon worship in our society today, but this isn' it.

William Halverson

October 11, 2013  4:49am

Interesting article with a peculiar title. It is hoped that most read past the title. Truly, God and earthly wealth do not mix well. John 16:13 However,when He,the Spirit of truth,has come,He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority,but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. Galatians 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Romans 8:16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. Psalm 51:11 Do not put me away from before you, or take your holy spirit from me. 2Ch 16:9 For the eyes of Jehovah run to and fro in all the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him.

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