This guest post on Steve Kneale’s blog has generated plenty of further discussion among those with a particular concern for Gospel ministry into working class and urban contexts. THs has highlighted that as well as passionate concern for the Gospel to go out to unreached areas, there is understandably disagreement at times about how we approach it.
One of the issues highlighted has been about the need for resources, money as well as people into areas where there currently aren’t churches that can support themselves. However, some urban practitioners have challenged this. One leader observed that we need to repent because m/c churches boast and lie about how much they support w/c churches whilst w/c churches have been guilty of lying and boasting in order to maximise support. Alongside this, the question has been raised about whether or not we should even talk about money at all. Does this betray an over confidence in worldly resources and lack of trust in the Lord to do his work in his way.
Well, I think that the accusation that Christians have been dishonest and disingenuous in their conversations about money will make for uncomfortable reading and if true should give us pause for thought. I also agree that we can become over dependent on our methods and resources, we do need more faith. I am also inclined to agree that at times people overstate the financial cost. There are more cost effective ways of planting and making disciples.
Between 2010 and 2020, we began to do church planting in our context out of one existing church. By the time the pandemic hit, we had stated 3 new congregations, one of which was formally becoming an independent church. We were also trying to get a fourth additional congregation up and running and we were helping with a replant. Now under modern church planting rules, we probably should have budgeted over a million pound over the space of a decade to support such work. We spent nowhere near that.
However, the reason for that is that we were able to share the resources of an existing staff team and building. However, as time went by, we knew that congregations developing their own identity would look to find their own meeting space and employ their own staff. The costs would start to come eventually.
So, I would like to put in a word of caution against the assumption that we just get on and do things and don’t worry about the money. I also want to suggest that it is completely Biblical to talk about financial needs and even to openly ask others to support your work.
We’ve been running a little series on the book of Romans for Faithroots Live. What is striking is that a significant reason for the letter is that Paul intends to visit Rome and wants to be blessed, encouraged and helped by the church there. What form will that help take? Well, Paul is planning to go on to Spain with the Gospel and is looking for the church in Rome to help him in that task. I suspect that will include people going with him but it also includes financial help.
Now, it is important to notice that in the modern world, financial support tends to come via the patronage of people who want something done but prefer to pay others to do it. That means it comes with conditions and expectations attached. In Paul’s case, however, he sets the agenda. It is much more a case of “This is what I’m going to do. Who is in?” This means Paul sets out the parameters. Partnership will be on the basis of a shared belief in the true Gospel. There will be no manipulation. Therefore, we can observe that there are unhealthy and healthy ways of approaching the money question.
However, the concept of support and of asking for support is there in the Bible and if we are keen to see churches planted and replanted in needy areas then it is right to have conversations about this.