Killing Fields, Part 3--Materialism
We live in a world that is being eaten alive by materialism. The average American family has over $9,800 in credit card debt. One in ten homes is up for foreclosure, 3 in ten are at least 30 days behind on payments, and 4 in ten is "under water", with more owed on it than it could be sold for. The average American family has less than $100 in non-retirement savings. Most American families, as this is being written on the eve of 2009, would never catch up if they lost one month's paycheck.
I Timothy 6: 10 is often mis-quoted as "Money is the root of all evil." That's not what it says. It is the love of money that is at the root of all kinds of evil. We live in a world that uses money as a medium of exchange, but we can't allow ouselves to love the money or the things it can buy. When money takes on too much of a priority, that's when the problems begin. For another look at Christian priorities, please see http://www.dovercoc.org/Sermons/priorities.htm .
There is a special expectation of shepherds when it comes to money. 1Timothy 3:2, 3 "Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. " Titus 1:7 says that an elder must not be greedy for gain.
In terms of personal integrity in handling the church's money, here are some suggestions:
1. Contributions should always be counted by at least two people.
2. Receipts from the bank should be reviewed by at least two people from the church.
3. The flow of money in and out of the church should be as transparent as possible. No closed systems. The most transparent system I have seen involves a monthly business meeting of a finance committee which reviews every single transaction made by the treasurer. And in that system, the church' s checkbook is open for review by any member on any particular day.
4. For whoever physically handles the money, he should never make himself a loan, not even for the briefest amount of time. Church money cannot be comingled with the church treasurer's personal money.
Moving from the elder's personal integrity to the matter of the eldership's management of the money, consideration of the missions of the church is paramount: evangelism (most important), edification, benevolence, worship, fellowship. Each congregation is different from others in some way and it is not desireable. But a recent set of statistics from Truth for Today and from World Bible School tells us some things about our use of the Lord's money that are particularly disturbing:
1. The U. S. has about 95 percent of the Church's wealth, world-wide.
2. The U.S. has about 5 percent of the world's population, Christian and non-Christian.
3. Churches of Christ in the U. S. are spending about 95% of their money within the U. S.--on a population that is responding less and less positively to it.
What businessman would allow this to go on for very long? And hasn't the Lord called us as elders to be good stewards?
I don't know a magic percentage of the local church's budget that should be spent for evangelism, but I'd bet that it isn't 5 percent.
Let us be careful not to spend too much at home on ourselves. At some point the pews will be about as comfortable as they are going to get, the PA systems in the church buildings will be load and clear enough for anyone to hear if he wants to, and the parking lot will be big enough to park the number of cars that can be reasonably expected.
Books that have been useful in preparing these lessons include:
Anderson, L. (1993). They smell like sheep. West Monroe, Louisiana: Howard Publishing.
Gangel, K. O. (1984). So you want to be a leader! Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: Christian Publications.
Grimsley, R. W. (1964). The Church and its elders. Abilene, Texas: Quality Printing Company.
Lewis, J. P. (1985). Leadership questions confronting the church. Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate.
Lewis, J. P. (2008). The question of instrumental music in worship. Searcy, AR: Truth for Today World Mission School.
Sanders, J. O. (1989). Spiritual leadership. Chicago, Ill: Moody Press.
Strauch, A. (1991). A study guide to biblical eldership: An urgent call to restore Biblical church leadership. Littleton, CO: Lewis and Roth Publishers.
White, J., & Blue, K. (1985). Church discipline that heals: Putting costly love into action. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press.
Yeakley, F. R. jr. (1980). Church leadership and organization. Arvada, CO: Christian Communications.
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