What If Money is Nothing
It was a simple enough question, particularly at a retreat whose central topic was money and faith: "What would our church look like in the future if money was no object?" And yet, as my small group discussed, it struck us that, rather than dreaming up fancifully expensive ideas that we were now free to consider since we weren't bound by the constraint of limited budgets, we were led to actions that cost very little if anything to the church:
1) Individual congregants loving their neighbors and then connecting with other church members for support and prayer in those outreach efforts;
2) Basic instruction for Christian living for different walks and stages of life; and
3) Peer and mentoring relationships whereby support could be given and received, and godly behavior modeled.
Conveniently enough, all three and more can be had in our existing small group structures, whereby groupings of people meet in each others' houses for Bible study, prayer, and mutual encouragement. The church can facilitate these gatherings - by training leaders, providing instructional resources, and offering child care - but largely, these meet-ups are organic in nature, formed and reshaped and advanced according to the whims of individual members.
Conversely, a lot of what we currently tend to focus our time, worries, and money on are things that maintain the church structure itself, whether physical (i.e. the 100+ year old building) or institutional (i.e. programs). As one participant noted, when Jesus sent His disciples out, having modeled ministry for them and now giving them the opportunity to go do some themselves, He didn't first buy a building or launch a fundraising campaign or form a committee or figure out a budget.
In light of this consensus - that church life is about being in nurturing relationships and about supporting each other as we seek to influence those in our own spheres, not about sustaining our existing bureaucracy and physical plant - we wondered if our church's current financial woes weren't a blessing and not a curse. Having less to spend, rather than narrowing our ambitions, could instead focus them on the things that really matter, things that money can't buy but love can compel.
Where do we go from here? I do not know. But, as our dollars dwindle, may our zeal for God's work rise, until we are as He would want us to be, and His name is known in our community and among our circles of influence.