#1 . . . At Least #2
What is the fastest way to damage and destroy a church?
How would you answer the question?
The number one answer might be — especially these days — “If the senior pastor gets involved in sexually immoral behavior.” That would be a very good response! It may well be accurate — just ask some church ministries today — should we list them out?
I would say that it would be creating a church environment where those attending have little regard for the words of the pastor. Where those who attend are not impacted by what is being said because they no longer trust or believe what their pastor is saying. The people are there; they are there hearing; they are not there heeding – listening.
The damage and destruction may not be as immediate and apparent, but the reality is that the church is not much different from what happens in #1). It . . . .
- is less visible
- is far more quiet
- may be crumbling unknowingly
- all moves in slow motion
One way to close the ears of God’s people to what is being preached and taught is not often enough addressed by those who know about it from the inside. After years of teaching in state universities, Christian colleges and seminaries, and even teaching public address at Keiser University this year . . . . AND after years in pulpit ministry — I know that . . . .
“ethos” impacts attention and persuasion.
“Ethos” is about “credibility.
Why should we listen to you?
Are you genuine?
Is what you are saying consistent with your life as we know it?
Do you really have anything to say to my situation?
Is there a consistency between what you say and how you live?
One area of “ethos” which accompanies a pulpit ministry, more than most other speaking professions in life involves the area of MONEY!
Your Words Won’t Matter Much
If You Are Financially Disingenuous!
Unfortunately, in our society, “Money Talks.”
The stories of what people will do for money and with money seems endless! As it is often said . . . .
“Just Follow The Money Trail!”
Those writing on this theme will find no lack of examples of the lengths which people will go to ge their hands on money. It is revealed in . . . .
governmental corruption stories
the exploitation of senior citizens
promised high percentage returns on investments
undisclosed damage to a car (requiring “Car Facts”)
carefully worded warranties
scam phone calls — “you have won”
undisclosed and/or hiding house damage
Bernie Madoff schemes
“genuine imitation” labeling — “faux”
selling “knock offs”
stealing of patented goods by other countries
selling what is not yours to sell
a pre-meditated plan to not pay — i.e. rent / car
avoiding payment for a product — i.e. song stealing
cheating on one’s taxes
the richest of people misreporting income on tax forms
etc . . . .etc . . . etc
It all goes back to GREED (There is a reason we use the color green when speaking about greed!)
The Local Church
Unfortunately, the misuse of money even touches the local church ministry. Anyone who does not think that this is a fair criticism doesn’t even need to “think back to” — he/she only needs to read today’s newspaper concerning the . . . . .
spending habits of some pastors
houses built and lived in
amenities some religious leaders flaunt
words of TV evangelists
“wealth & health” preachers
bold and shameless requests of preachers for donations to buy this-or-that
cars / boats / vacations / attire / jewelry
accumulated wealth of churches and ministries
All too often it is justified and explained using arguments which actually betray that he or she is . . . .
- is actually wrapped up in this world
- not much different that those who know not Christ, this world is their home
- does not want to pass through this world without getting his/her hands on at least some of it before arriving in glory
- knows how to make evil sound good, especially to the many who give to him/her
Some might even say, let’s not address — greed, corruption, the “poor” stewardship of money, the misuse of money, financial irresponsibility of those in the world — until we have our house in order.
In a church, the misuse of money shows up in various GREEN garments . . . .
- poor stewardship
- spending money without a serious examination of alternate purchasing options
- buying new without a serious consideration of “used & good” — which is what we do in our families
- having work done without a serious & diligent search for other bids
- paying for higher shipping costs because of poor planning
- paying other businesses for work which could have been done by seriously planning and promoting a work day
- spending accounts / money for lunches and dinners which could have been hosted at the pastor’s home – or at a member’s home — ?(“given to hospitality”)?
- unreasonable or unnecessary employment of staffing personal
- heavily loaded and/or unnecessary administrative staffing
- hiding or fogging actual costs by non line-item budget reporting
- hiding actual costs by “placement blurring” it under another budget item
- using money to promote one’s own goals and interests
- hiring of staff and personal without any real or sincere oversight permission
- salary concerns for those on the top of administration, but not the most needy
- too little financial concern for members facing read need
- too much concern for those who face the smallest needs
- spending like the government (criticizing them while we do the same)
- a lack of real and meaningful oversight of finances by the deacons – elders – trustees – elected officials – or other designated church officers.
- “Robbing Peter To Pay Paul”– paying for this-or-that by taking it from another ministry.
- using money which was given or generated from one area of ministry to finance and support another area – while hurting or damaging the area which generated it.
- crippling debt — which causes a pull-back from the ministries which a church could be and should be doing.
- accumulating large sums of money in a bank account, with no real vision on how to use it as seen by no strategy on how to engage in meaningful ministry
- no real financial disclosure to the membership about line-item spending
- misrepresent financial issues with nuanced words
- hide excessive spending under another line-item category
- Employing and paying family members differently than what most others are paid, or for little to no substantive work
All these various and several factors have lead people in the church to become cynical and/or stop the practice of tithing through the church — not tithing, but no longer giving money to and through the local church.
Tithing through the local church is the last argument of “the church body” AND may be the only message which the leadership finally hears — yet perhaps too late. As long as the costs of ministry can be sustained there is little pause to question the decisions and direction of the leadership.
It will be a loss of finances which will perk up the ears of leadership. It will not be . . . .
the lessening of church service attendance numbers
a sporadic attendance pattern by many members
the lack of support by participation at this or that church ministry or event
the sparseness of serving in a church ministry
the need to hire out more and more work from outside
the absence, loss of key members of the ministry
the acquiring of new members who go AWOL quickly
the radical difference between Sunday Morning Worship and all other services
clear, personal and honest criticism to the leadership
It will be monetary issues which will finally speak loud enough to get the concern and attention of church leaders about what is happening in the church!
It will be monetary issues which close the ears of men and women to the pulpit ministry.
√ That is why there is so much written in the Scriptures about stewardship & money . . . .
How we obtain it
How we value it
How we dispense it
√ That is why one of the first sins addressed when the church began was about money — Acts 5
√ That is why Peter said, “But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.”
√ That is why Jesus said, where your money is, that is where your heart will be also.
√ That is why Paul warned Timothy about money
√ That is why one of the qualifications of being a Shepherd is not greedy of filthy money!
If you want to kill your ministry and/or close the ears of those who are “serial listeners,” abuse your financial stewardship in a local church setting.