The Bottom Line

Two years into my stint as a children’s minister for a medium-large church, I found myself in our prayer room crying out to God for answers and relief.

My question to him: “Why is this so heavy?”

His answer: “It’s consumerism.”

Next I asked him, “How can we combat consumerism?  It’s everywhere.”

He replied, “It’s the general fund.”

He showed me how undesignated giving gives birth to an entity which vies for its own survival to the detriment of the goals God has for the church.  The institution becomes a codependent parasite draining the vitality from the body of Christ.

“Is it even possible to do church without a general fund?” I asked.

Then he proceded to show me how Christians could meet in smaller numbers.  Because the groups would be smaller there would be no need to build or rent meeting spaces. They could be led by proven people who could develop and endorse more leaders.  These leaders could live on faith, support themselves, or do a combination.  Minus a staff and facilities, the need for a general fund would dissipate.  Without a bottom line to maintain, leaders would be released from the pressure to please and placate and be liberated to lovingly confront.  Appeals to give could be heard as “Give to them.” rather than “Give to me.”  People could be challenged toward real generosity out of compassion rather than minimal giving out of rote obligation.  In short, we could quit “doing church” and start making disciples.

This vision haunted me for four years until I finally gave in and quit.  After three months of uncertainty, God brought me to serve with another church.  So what’s the difference?  Our elders have embraced the preeminence of making disciples.  We’ve acknowledged the danger of survival thinking and we’re moving forward to make disciples rather than maintain programs.

We have a building.  I draw a salary.  We have a general fund.  But we’re launching groups and developing leaders which have none of these things.  We’re getting as lean as we can to make way for these groups to be born and multiply.  We don’t want any group we plant or resource to send money back to the mother ship. This approach will probably affect our organizational bottom line but that’s okay because our eyes are on God’s bottom line – more people becoming more like Christ.