Posted by: Dan | January 19, 2010

Typical…

So there is a (semi?) regular event that occurs in Vancouver every year called “Missions Fest” which is hosted by an international Christian corporation that travels around the world hosting these events and trying to connect Christians to various ‘mission’ opportunities around the world.  This year’s event happened about a week ago and the keynote speaker was a fellow from International Justice Mission (which is, according to their website, “a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression”).  Oh, and the event was hosted in a megachurch — it has a multimillion dollar budget, building funds the run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, that sort of thing.

Anyway, a friend of mine who runs a local community-based social justice-oriented group called Streams of Justice was invited to come and do a workshop at this event.  Although this sort of thing is a bit outside of their usual sphere, some people from the group decided to go ahead and take a stab at it.  So, they did a presentation on some of the factors that create and perpetuate poverty, oppression, violence, and slavery in Vancouver.  As a part of their presentation, a homeless fellow who struggles with an addiction was invited to come and share his story.  The presentation went well enough, I guess.  They received the standard sort of Conservative Christian response (i.e. one fellow stood up and said: “But don’t you think that the real solution to all of these problems is a personal relationship with Jesus?”).

Anyway, my friend ended up taking off shortly after the presentation was finished and he caught up with the homeless fellow a few days later and asked him what he thought of the event.  Well, it turns out that the homeless fellow got kicked out.  After the event, he began to go around collecting empty pop cans (this is how he makes money).  While doing so he was confronted by some sort of staff member (either of the church or of the conference, it’s unclear which), who told him that the cans were the property of the church and who then required him to leave.

Yep, so here we have a bunch of rich Christians dropping thousands of dollars on a conference about missions and justice, and the one homeless guy who is invited to attend gets kicked out because, dammit, the church is going to get the money for recycling those cans.  Sadly, while this is atrocious, I don’t find it altogether surprising.

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Responses

  1. It´s not surprising, but hopefully revealing to some. Glad you posted this.

    We so much like to give with our right hand, while at the same time applauding ourselves and using or left hand for continuing oppression. (Too many hands, I know…)

    As Tolstoy said, if we want to help the oppressed, the best thing to do is to get off their backs.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jason, Mark Van Steenwyk. Mark Van Steenwyk said: Typical…: So there is a (semi?) regular event that occurs in Vancouver every year called “Missions Fest” which .. http://bit.ly/5vk5o5 […]

  3. This pisses me off.

  4. This is precisely why I’m no longer conservative.

  5. I want to go to that mega-church and break all the locks on their doors so that they cannot keep people out. Then I want to go to all the homeless enclaves and tell the people that there is a new shelter in town and it’s open to all.

  6. I’m the Lead Pastor of that so-called megachurch. If this happened as described, it goes against everything that we stand for and I would like to apologize to that gentleman. You failed to mention, however, that hundreds of thousands of those dollars we raise feed over 150 homeless every Sunday morning of every week of the year, plus we supply groceries to 120 families every week, free of charge. We also run a free clothing depot… Not to mention a few geared to income housing complexes we operate throughout the city. We do some things poorly, admittedly. But please tell the whole story my friend…

    • How about Matthew 6:1-4?

      If it´s against everything you stand for, why not follow the suggestion of Sonja? Why defend your property against the teachings of Jesus?

      • Matthew 6:1-4 speaks to an attitude. We do not do what we do so people will think well of us. We do not advertise what we do to the masses so people will admire us. (Which is why the writer of this blog was unaware of our involvement in the homeless community.) We do what we do because people matter to us.

        I was directed to this blog (by someone I have never met) because they wanted to know if it represented us properly. Are we truly a heartless, money-grubbing megachurch that doesn’t care for the homeless? “Talk is cheap” so I sought to answer the implied accusations by mentioning just a couple of things that we do daily in our attempt to meet the needs of the people around us.

        As to Sonja’s comment: we could have a discussion about the biblical theology of possessions if you’d like. I would gladly engage in such a conversation. Not sure that that is what you are desiring though.

        Let me say this: if writers on this blog are living the words of Jesus at a higher level, if writers of this blog are serving and feeding and housing and clothing the homeless at a higher and more efficient level than we are, they have my admiration and I would like to follow your examples.

        Please, no false modesty. Don’t worry – I won’t accuse you of telling us what you’re doing just to make yourself look better. That would be a cheap shot. I am asking you to tell us where and how you are doing what you are doing to help the homeless so that we can learn from you and do a better job ourselves.

        I look forward to hearing of what you are doing.

  7. in conflict mediation they talk about “but” being the verbal eraser. That is, erase everything that precedes it and focus on what follows it, as that is usually really what a person wants to say.

    cheers,
    jude

  8. Nice. Makes ya proud doesn’t it?

  9. Darin. “Writers on this blog” is not a group, you can´t address us as a collective. I have never met Dan since I live in Sweden… If you want a representative for this blog, please speak to Dan.

    Speaking for myself as just a frequent reader of this blog; since I believe that the teachings of Jesus applies to what we actually do and say, and not only to the attitude, I won´t compete with you here about who has the most “effective” ministry for the homeless people. (I am pretty sure you would win that competition anyway…)

    As to property, riches and giving, even there I believe that the words of Jesus applies to deeds, practices and structures. This includes what Jesus says about these matters in Luke 6, 12 and Matthew 5-6. To limit his teaching to a private, inner sphere has no ground in the texts, as I see it.

  10. bah-ha-ha. Somebody must be posing as the lead pastor of the megachurch, cause this Darin dude can’t be for real….or is he??… I guess it’s hard to have time for advertising to the masses when you’re busy defending yourself to the blogosphere masses.

    I for one am not a Christian but appreciate reading this blog because of the better human being it sometimes encourages me to be. Or for the entertainment value of streams of comments like this.

    Dan is a bastard, though, and works for the devil. You definitely don’t want to follow his example (he only brushes his teeth once a week and masturbates on fridays). Just to be clear.

    cheers,
    jude

    • You’re being clearer than maybe you realize. Which “conflict mediation” technique are you using here Jude?

      • Hey Darin,

        Dan tells me you really are the pastor of the church mentioned in his original post. I thought one of his friends was playing a joke. So, that said, I think you deserve more respect than I gave in my last response.

        I gotta say, I don’t envy your role as lead pastor of a large church. You wield a lot of power, as people look to you for guidance in how they will treat others. I’m sure you take this responsibility very seriously.

        Some conflicts should actually be stirred up and not mediated; conflict often needs to be surfaced in order for people to move forward. And one of them is what I would cite as what I see as the problem with your responses. My experience with the evangelical Christian church was mixed, some good, but likely mostly damaging. One of the over-arching themes is one of arrogance – “we have the answer and you need it”. This plays out in a couple of “isms”…sexism, faithism, homophobia…men are seen as better than women, gay people are sinners, people of other faiths need to repent and convert to Christianity.

        In your responses you continue this vein by challenging people to doubt your work with the poor, to see if anyone is doing what you are, but at a higher level. All of a sudden, evangelicals, who have notoriously ignored issues of social justice, are the measuring stick for responding to them.

        Now, the problem with blogs is you come to represent more than you are – you are not “all” evangelicals – yet, I can’t help but wonder where this defensiveness comes from. It might come from the implicit message coming from your camp that you have “the answer” and it is not to be questioned.

        Interestingly, though, I didn’t read Dan’s post as a knock against your church. It was a sad story about one human being who continues to be marginalized even as people are trying not to do this. That was the whole story. Instead, his post made me think about ways in which I give to charity with one hand while keeping people oppressed with the other, which fits with a theme of his blog: that charity needs to be rooted in justice and walking alongside those who are on the margins. Probably one of my greatest struggles as a human being. I’d rather make a lot of money, give some away, but use most of it to fix up my house and go on sunny vacations.

        Good luck to you in your work.
        cheers,
        jude

      • This conversation reminds me of a comment Vinoth Ramachandra (who recently wrote a great book called Subverting Global Myths) made on his blog. I quote:

        The poor don’t really need us. Unless, of course, they are utterly destitute, severely sick or disabled, or the victims of war and natural disasters. What they need is not our charity, but a recognition by us of their rights. They want us to remove the barriers that we (the rich) have erected, locally and globally, that prevent them from participating in their own sustainable development.

        This actually ties into a conversation Jude and I were a part of on a previous post — regarding a friend of mine who is looking to move towards something akin to homelessness. Reflecting on this (after having shared his own home with homeless people for 20+ years), he writes:

        I would also say that our move into poverty is not so much a move to be “like” people who are homeless, poor and addicted; it is more a rejection of private property and the capitalist economics of endless consumption and upward mobility which undergirds the injustice and inequality around us.

        So, Darin, I suppose if you are looking for suggestions on improvements, you could begin by inviting the homeless poor into your private home (this is something I have done and something practiced by a good many who stop by this blog), and from there you may want to consider becoming homeless with others who are poor.

        Also, regarding the incident that occurred at Missions Fest, I spoke with my friend and he confirmed that the homeless fellow was kicked out by two people who identified themselves as elders in your church. My friend called the people at Missions Fest to address this situation, and they stated that they would pass this information on to you. My friend never heard anything from you (so I guess someone along the way forgot or didn’t think it was a important enough to address), so I’m glad that you had a chance to learn about things on my blog.

  11. […] beskriver ack så avslöjande om vad som hände då en canadensisk evangelikal megaförsamling a la Willow Creek (?) i hans […]

  12. Is it just me or does the story about the homeless guy sound a lot like the guy Happy Gilmore picks up to be his caddy? You know, the homeless guy at the country club washing windows for some spare change, digging through the trash, washing his underwear in the ball-washer? The guy who gets kicked out for not belonging but Happy invites him in and makes him apart of his life, much to the chagrin of the country club members?

    Sad that the actions of this church make it sound like the antagonist of an Adam Sandler movie.

    -mike

  13. Lots of great thoughts here that I would love to engage. However, due to the way my mind works, I tend to come across as argumentative and, although it works well for me when I engage in formal debates on college and university campuses, it never translates well in this format.

    Regarding the latest information from your “source” for the incident that began this whole stream, this intrigues me all the more and confirms my suspicions. You see, we don’t have “elders” at Broadway and do not even use that terminology.

    The Missionsfest event was not a Broadway event. The organization rented our facilities. That’s why the line in your blog where you say the gentleman was told, “The cans belong to the church” didn’t make sense to me.

    Thousands of people attended this event and hundreds of booths were set up by various organizations, including a few vendors selling food. None of these booths or vendors had anything to do with our church. They were contracted to the organization that rented our building. So, the scenario of “Broadway elders” roaming in packs of two policing aluminum cans that don’t even belong to us at an event that was not our event just didn’t ring true to me – especially knowing what I know regarding the efforts and investments we are making to feed, clothe, house, and honour the disenfrancised of our community.

    All that being said, it was great connecting with you folks. Dan, I look forward to our coffee together!

    • Oops, that’s actually a typo, and I’m glad you caught it. For ‘elders’ read ‘board members’.

  14. Darin,

    I appreciate your response to this blog and I find your response very intriguing for several reasons. It seems as if your church is set up in a similar manner as a corporation and the terms you use are all about productivity and efficiency. If you have a church of a couple thousand and your helping 270 people, does this mean that Dan only has to help out less then .20 of a person per year to be just as efficient. I would just question your use of the word efficient. I think both of you bring a lot of strengths to the table. Darin you willfully admit that you have a problem communicating in this type of setting, is it possible that there may be areas your church has a hard time communicating too. Is it possible to work with someone like Dan to communicate with people that your church will never be able to communicate too. Darin your able to communicate to the masses but Dan is able to communicate to those that do not fit society’s mould. I just see an opportunity.

  15. I’ve wrote my share of posts sharing stories about churches (larger ones) that I’ve had other similar situations with. This is the first time I’ve seen the pastor come and engage theStory. For that, at the very least, I’m impressed.

    • You can’t blame pastors for not wanting to dive into conversations like this one because it is a no-win situation for them. When you look at the comments here, mine included, blogs that are critical of the institutional church(IC) aren’t a condusive place for dialogue. There is not going to be some, “I see the error of my ways” moment taking place on either side.

      Even if Dan’s story is completely wrong about the homeless man, one thing is still not addressed and that is the country club mentality of the IC. Sure they help some families and in and of itself that is not a bad thing. Those actions however seem to be used as a justification of why Broadway Church needs a massive building for its members.

      But helping the needy and the poor and the homeless the way that most churches do, is merely treating the symptoms of those conditions, not the actual source of the problem.

      Notice Darin does not touch on the topic of the operating expenses (salaries, ultilities, upkeep, etc.). And the chances are pretty high that he won’t either because when people start looking at the revenue… I mean income… I mean tithes of a church and where they go, you start to see why I refer to the IC as a country club. The amount of money that stays within the IC for the benefit of the members is vastly greater than the money that is used outside of the building.

      -mike

  16. Lots of great thoughts here. I would be more than happy to do a “one on one” interview where I have the opportunity to address one person on a single track of thinking (as opposed to trying to respond to several people coming from several different directions.) Perhaps such a format can be arranged?

    Having said that, let me briefly, finally, and succinctly make a couple comments in answer to some valid observations:

    Re: “money staying within the church for the benefit of the members”… If I hire people to help other people, is that money staying in the church? If our buildings are used to help other people (anyone who wants to come), equip them in areas of grief recovery, divorce care, anger management, marriage preparation and enrichment, feeding, clothing, etc… are these resources “for the benefit of the members”? The country club analogy doesn’t stand up to the reality of what actually goes on. The only thing that only “members” can do is vote and be legally liable.

    Re: our buildings. If thousands of people choose to pool their resources (time, talents, treasures) for the purpose of reaching a common goal, why is this a bad thing? If we feel we can accomplish more together than apart, is this wrong? In the long run, which is a better stewardship of these resources: to rent facilities at an ever increasing rate and to always be subject to the whim of a landlord, or to own facilities, thus communicating stability to a community? Isn’t criticizing a church for investing money in buildings like criticizing doctors for investing money in a hospital? By the way, as far as I know, NONE of the money was actually invested IN the building – it all went to pay the salaries of the construction workers, architects, and local tradespeople so that they could feed, clothe and educate their children. As far as I know, there isn’t a single penny actually IN the building…

    Someone asked earlier why I seemed defensive; they commented that they didn’t read the post as “a knock against your church.” I guess I saw it differently. It was a story of a guy who gets kicked out of a building by church leaders. The post is entitled, “Typical.” The implication is that this is what we are known for. This is what we do. This is expected of us. Reading that, I had a choice: ignore it and keep doing our best or engage and seek to clarify.

    Re: being criticized for being “efficient.” By “efficient” I mean “wisely using the resources entrusted to us.” To me, this critique helps to illustrates a level of my defensiveness. To be criticized for seeking to be “efficient” in how we use the resources entrusted to us belies a deeper bias. How is efficiency bad? Reread the previous posts: we are criticized for trying to be “efficient” in one and for not being “efficient” (by having buildings) in another.

    Please don’t misread my tone: I am not angry nor comabative. I am simply doing my best to rationally engage here, and to show “the rest of the story.”

    Certainly we don’t do everything well. I am more aware of that then anyone. There are ways we communicate that are very poor. I am very open and willing to address these things and learn how we can do better. Thanks for your thoughts folks!

    • Darin,

      I’ll be the first to say I don’t do everything well either and I appreciate you taking the time to respond. I’m sure our words seem sharp to one another because we care passionately about our topic, not a bad thing in my book.

      While your building may be used for other purposes (which are good things), in the mind of many members and the general public, it is viewed as a place for Sunday morning.

      Of all the things you listed; counseling, feeding, clothing, etc., all of those things can be done without a building as well. So when you ask, ” If thousands of people choose to pool their resources (time, talents, treasures) for the purpose of reaching a common goal, why is this a bad thing?” I would answer, it isn’t a bad thing, but ask in return why you need the expense of a building with a great big lighting and a/v system and seating to accomplish those things?

      If the primary focus of your building is to store clothing and food as well as counsel people then why have all the seating? Why have the big sound system?

      You ask, “In the long run, which is a better stewardship of these resources: to rent facilities at an ever increasing rate and to always be subject to the whim of a landlord, or to own facilities, thus communicating stability to a community?”

      Your question about stewardship points to what I am getting at and what I think others who have posted are getting at as well.

      How many square feet is your main auditorium? How much was your a/v system? Your seating? You mention all of your outreach, which is a good thing, but how do the things listed above benefit those in need? Would it not have been a better use of funds to build a shelter in all of that square footage? Or beds instead of seats? Or classrooms and daycare services so folks could get training and know their kids were safe while they tried to find a job or worked at a job?

      The building and the internals are for the members, paid for by their tithes, which can be construed as membership fees at a country club. You may not think so, but if you and the staff at Broadway stepped up one day and said you were going to renovate the building into a shelter and Sunday’s would be spend serving instead of sitting, what would be the reaction?

      I wonder if any pastors have had a Schindler moment when looking at the property paid for by tithes. I am referring to the point in the film when Schindler has to escape the advacing Russians and realizes how many more Jewish people he could have saved. He looks at his ring, his watch, his car and realizes they could have saved another life.

      Would a congregation realize that if they hadn’t built such a large structure, they could have helped a mother avoid depression by feeding and clothing her child, or a father not decend into violence because he can’t find work and feed his family?

      I agree that if we pool together resourses we are more effective, but why do we have to siphon off from those pooled together funds to build such opulence?

      I understand why the analogy of the the institutional church to a country club seems abrasive. Country club sounds opulent and eliteist. It sounds self-centered and haughty. It doesn’t sound like Christ. And that is exactly the point. People want to belong to something that is visible and shows success, a run down dinky little church in a crappy neighborhood doesn’t do that. It also doesn’t bring in large amounts of revenue/tithes.

      I have noticed a trend that the larger and grander an IC building is, the louder it proclaims to help the less fortunate. It is as if by helping more people, the IC is justified in spending more a/v equipment and professional musicians and paid staff and all that kind of stuff.

      And this is why I think the IC subconsiously treats the symptoms of poverty instead of the the actual conditions that create poverty in the first place. The IC needs poverty to to survive, otherwise people would realize they can strip away the buildings and “stuff” and could help others on their own. But how many would actually sacrifice or give of their home or possessions to help others?

      I venture to say that number is small. Part of that is because the IC continually reinforces the idea that people need the IC and all of its trappings and hierarchy. The other part is that people are generally self-centered and wouldn’t give otherwise. I think even those of us outside of the IC would agree that we have to overcome those feelings of self-centeredness.

      So maybe the IC is a good thing. Maybe it is able to extract funds from those who would otherwise not give. Hum, that is something to consider.

      -mike

    • Actually, it’s the whole ‘stewardship’ model that I think is problematical (from a Christian perspective). In this regard, I can not speak highly enough of two books: Faith and Wealth: A History of Early Christian Ideas on the Origin, Significance, and Use of Money by Justo Gonzalez, which looks at the ways in which the Church Fathers understood matters related to wealth and property (and which then undercuts most of what we take for granted in terms of private property today); and The Fear of Beggars: Stewardship and Poverty in Christian Ethics by Kelly S. Johnson, which directly attacks contemporary notions of stewardship and proposes an alternative economics based more closely upon the practices of the early Franciscans and those like Dorothy Day. Both books are quite short, very readable, and extremely important.

  17. I agree with Dan and subversive church. Jesus didn´t tell his disciples and hang arounds to keep their wealth and “use it” for good purposes. He told them to get rid of the riches, to give it to the poor and to then come follow him. The best way to use Mammon is by giving it away in a way that makes you no longer rich. Or, if we´re not prepared for that, at least we could quit defending “our property” through locks, insurances, guards, alarms etc.

    And by the way, Darin, you seem to not even notice that not having a church building is a valid option. The early christians, at the same time as they had the most alternative lifestyle, and reached most people, didn´t have any church buildings. They met in homes.

    • Actually Jonas, he told ONE man to do that, in Luke 18. (A man who was clearly ruled by his possessions.)

      Interestingly enough, in the very NEXT chapter (Luke 19) Jesus meets up with another man, Zaccheus, who joyfully declares that he will give HALF of his possessions to the poor. How does Jesus respond? Does Jesus say, “Sorry Zach, half isn’t good enough. My requirement is that you get rid of ALL your riches, give them ALL to the poor and then come and follow me?” No, he didn’t. He said, “Today salvation has come to this house!”

      A great resource that helped me to gain a better grasp of the WHOLE picture of what scripture teaches on this topic is the book: “A Biblical Theology of Material Possessions” by Gene A. Getz.

      BTW, I realize that early Christians met in homes. Microsoft started in a garage… What’s your point? (Ever wonder whose homes they met in if, as you claim, Jesus demanded that they “get rid of their riches and give them all to the poor?”

      Christ followers meeting in homes instead of buildings is a legitimate expression. I once attended just such a group. I found that it had great advantages and I found that it had great limitations.

      That, in my mind, is the beauty of the church of Jesus Christ: it is a chameleon. It has so many varied and valid expressions. What we do at Broadway is only one of many valid expressions.

      • Darin. Well, you´re wrong. Read carefully, to begin with, Luke 12:13-34. Especially verse 33. This a teaching that Jesus directs to all disciples. You also don´t seem to have followed Luke 18 all way through. I think verse 28-29 makes clear that the rich ruler was no exception. As to Sackaios, you fail to mention that he also said that he would give back four times to those that he had been steeling from. How much he had left after this, we don´t know. And we also don´t know if Luke thinks he was later on a part of the community of goods of the early church (Acts 2, 4). And, still, if he kept some riches for himself, how would this prove (against Jesus´s teachings) that riches is ok? As disciples, we´re all on a journey.

        If you want more implicit och explicit criticism of riches, please read Luke 1:53-55, Luke 3:11, Luke 6:20-26, 27-38, 8:14, 9:3, 14:33, 16:13, 16:19-31, 19:45-48, 21:1-4. And that is only some of it from Luke, similar teachings is all over the place in the NT and in the early church.

        As to the churches, in the beginning of the fourth century, the christians seems to have been a large minority within the roman empire. And they had become that without any (or at least extremely few) churches. They avoided building churches for almost three hundred years. Was that really a coincidence? Or could it have something to do with Jesus teachings above, and the fact that they view themselves as an underground movement, not an established institution.

  18. Darin I really appreciate your responses as does everyone else on this blog, it is much appreciated. My comments should be looked at as simply observations as opposed to criticism. In regards to buildings and efficiency everyone who visits this blog does not have the same opinion on this blog so please do not lump all the opinions together as one.

    I would however like to reiterate my point that your responses seem more like that of a corporation. I would just like to illustrate the impressions I get from your responses. First, you say it is thousands of people contributing wealth to working towards the same goal, well I guess you can consider every member a shareholder. Second, the” early christians were meeting in homes and microsoft started in a garage what’s your point”. I guess I have to ask what is your point? Is the church more developed now that it has reached the pinnacle of expansion and development because we have bigger buildings? Third, doctors do not invest in hospitals, taxpayers do.

    I am certain the people handing over their money are not expecting you to preserve it but use it.

    Why would you not consider speaking with Dan on how to improve communication with the marginalized. He does however have a tremendous amount of experience with communicating with those that are extremely marginalized. I do not believe this is throwing money away in a use of resources. This may be of no interest to you but I think if your church is trying to be the one stop shop of churches, I am sure there is a large portion of your “potential” members that you would be able to retain if you had a more challenging component of Christianity in your church. A large portion of Christians feel marginalized for this exact reason.

    PS What is your church’s mission statement?

  19. Jonas, I am wrong about a LOT of things, but I don’t think I’m wrong on this one. You still did not answer my questions: if all or nothing was the standard, Zaccheus’ “I’ll give half” offer wasn’t a sign (as Jesus declared) that “salvation had come to this home.” It was a sign of a guy who was trying to barter with God. You say, “Who knows how much he would have left over after repaying those he cheated?” That’s my point, if you’re right, that shouldn’t even be an issue!

    Neither did you explain whose “homes” the early Christians met in if they all were commanded to give away everything. Which leads me to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians… Addressing them about their abuse of the Lord’s Supper by getting drunk, by feasting before everyone arrives and not saving anything for those who arrive late, he says, “Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of
    God and humiliate those who have nothing?” (1 Cor 11:22-23) In other words, the wealthier Christ followers were not respecting the poorer Christ followers. “Feast in your homes” Paul was saying, “not at public gatherings masquerading as The Lord’s supper!” Hold on, if you’re right, EVERYONE would have had “nothing”. If you’re right, Paul’s admonition is meaningless or he should have been saying, “Hey, what are you guys doing having money for feasts int he first place?”

    Then, discussing how to receive an offering for the impoverished church in Jerusalem, Paul instructs them to do the following: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” (1 Cor 16:2) What? If they have already given everything (and perhaps continue to give everything to some communal pool) what is Paul talking about? Why would he instruct them to “set aside a sum of money IN KEEPING WITH HIS INCOME?” (Proportional giving). Clearly, Paul was encouraging (not commanding as he says later in 2 Corinthians) these people to share THEIR PERSONAL RESOURCES with the Christians in Jerusalem. This doesn’t fit at all into the world you have described.

    These are only a couple instances off the top of my head where your interpretation does not seem to fit with what actually happened even during the apostolic era.

    Egg,

    Appreciate your comments. Couple of quick responses…

    1. I said we all contribute our resources together for a common goal. You say that sounds corporate and we sound like shareholders. (Strangely enough, Jonas is arguing that we SHOULD be doing this as a sign that we AREN’T institutional or corporate, and that our problem is we don’t contribute ENOUGH!) The word “corporate” simply means “body.” We are a “body” of people that contribute to a common pool of resources (not just treasures, but time and talent as well). We do this, not to make money but to help others.

    2. My “Microsoft” comment was simply an observation. Of course the very first Christians did not own buildings. They were an upstart, fledgling group who were organizing on the fly (like a start up business or a young married couple that rent an apartment before they own a home.) It would naturally be a while before structure and assets would accumulate. (Just because those words are used by corporations doesn’t mean they are only true of corporations. You have structure and assets as well!)

    3. Where did you get the idea that we are “preserving” the resources people hand over to us? We don’t preserve it. We use it as we inform them we will use it before they give it to us! We don’t charge people. We tell people what we are doing and they choose to invest in it with us. We then have open meetings where we give an account for how we used the funds.

    4. I think you understood my “doctors/hospitals” comment. We don’t complain that the money should be spent on treatment for the patient instead of a building in which to do the treatment. The same principle holds true for churches.

    5. Dan and I are already planning to meet to discuss these matters further. I have offered to meet at his convenience and he has told me he will contact me when his schedule clears.

    Our mission statement is as follows: “To produce fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.” We are about more than clothing and food and shelter (although these are part of our mandate.) We agree that addressing these things do not treat the deeper roots of poverty. We believe that the deepest issues are heart issues and so we seek to address things in a holistic manner. That is why we don’t turn our auditorium into a giant shelter – because we do more than shelter people. We use the arts, lecture/teaching format, multi media, etc… all in our attempt to interact with and influence our culture in a relevant and meaningful way.

  20. Darin. I´m not speaking of how we should organize the community of goods in the church, I´m just saying that Jesus and the early followers condemned private wealth. To become a follower you had to make a clear break with your possessions, and you had to share what you had with God´s people and the poor, instead of defending and holding on to your riches. Whether this should mean full community of goods in connection with baptism (as some anabaptist group practices it), or that the rich people starts off in a way similar to Sackaios (like the group I belong to do it) is not the main question to me. It´s fine for me if you do like Sackaios, just go ahead. I´ll be very happy!

    “Paul´s” view of this seems to have been that keeping wealth for oneself is wrong. 2 Kor 8:12-15, 1 Tim 6:1-12. Becoming rich is something the man of God should FLEE. To me, this is the very point of the texts in 1 Kor 16:2 and 1 Kor 11. If we have more than we need (food, shelter, some cloathes), we should give it away and share it.

  21. You still haven’t explained to me where the early believers met if they were commanded to give away all of their money and possessions.

    You still haven’t explained to me whose homes Paul was referring to when he said, “Don’t you have homes to eat in?” if they were expected to give away all of their money and possessions.

    You still haven’t explained to me where Paul expected the Corinthian believers to get the excess money he was asking fthem to put aside so he could give it to the Jerusalem church.

    You seem to be implying that Jesus accepts a “ramp up to it” approach: start where you can and move up to giving everything away later… Hmmm… He didn’t accept that approach with the Rich Young Ruler in Luke 18 though, did he?

    Could it be that in Luke 18 Jesus was addressing a specific “love of money” in that young man’s life? Could it be that Jesus was laserbeaming into the idol that stood between that young man and a relationship with the true God? Could it be that, just like Paul’s declaration to the jailor that if he “believed in the Lord Jesus” he and his “entire whole household would be saved” we are dealing with a situation-specific statement and not a wider kingdom declaration?

    Zaccheus’ declaration of his willingness to give half away and then pay back those he robbed (with interest) revealed that he did not have the same problem that the Rich Young Ruler had. Therefore, Jesus did not give him the same instructions.

    You have quoted 2 Corinthians 8:12-15 and 1 Timothy 6:1-12 as evidence that Paul’s view was that “keeping wealth for oneself is wrong” and “becoming rich is something the man of God should FLEE.”

    2 Corinthians 8 refers to Paul’s encouragement of the Corinthians to share their wealth with the Jerusalem church. This is where I see an inconsistency with what you have vehemently claimed all along. How can you share what you aren’t supposed to have in the first place?

    If the entry-level expectations of the kingdom of God were “give everything away” why is he encouraging and instructing them on how and where they should give some (not all – remember that he said, “in keeping with your income”) of their wealth? What actually happened in apostolic history does not seem to fit with your theology of apostolic expectations.

    1 Timothy 6:1-12 teaches about contentment, it does not teach that “the man of God should FLEE wealth.” Paul does not teach that money is the root of all evil. Paul teaches that “the LOVE of money is A root of ALL KINDS of evil.” If money is evil and we shoud flee from it, why would we give it to the poor?!! That’s like saying, “Germs are bad, so sneeze on the homeless.”

    Paul is teaching that one’s priority should be the pursuit of God, not mammon. That does not mean that it is wrong to work for personal wages. In fact, Paul teaches and modelled the OPPOSITE! In 1 Thessalonians 3:6-15 Paul reminds them that, while he was with them, he paid for everything he got from the wages he personally received from the work he did! He claims that he lived off of his own resources while he was in Thessalonica. He then says if people don’t follow that example, they should be shunned!

    Having said all of that, you and I seem to be arguing for the same principle, only from opposite ends.

    I agree that one should use their God-given resources to help others. However, that is something that a Christ follower does in response to their understanding and appreciation of what God has done for them and the situations placed before them. A Christ follower is to steward the property that God has entrusted to them. We are not to see it as our own, but as His property, and we will be held accountable for how we used it.

    You seem to be arguing that it is forbidden for a Christ follower to have (or protect) private property.

    Hmmm… Why did Jesus have someone in charge of his money then? (See John 12:6) Yes, Judas abused that role by stealing from the bag, but again, that only makes my point. You can’t accuse Judas unless he took what didn’t belong to him. If it didn’t belong to him, to whom did it belong? Whose property was he placed in charge of? Whose property was he guarding? Who did he steal from?

    I guess I am saying that I respect how you have chosen to follow Christ. I respect your “stewardship model.” However, to place your view as the mandatory model for all sincere Christ followers does not, as far as you have shown me, have any grounding in the bible.

  22. My view is that according to the teachings of Jesus and the early christians;
    1) property should be shared with the brothers and sisters in the Messiah (=community of goods, however administered), and
    2) it´s wrong to be rich (all abundance should be given away, not be kept).

    I don´t know why you keep bringing up that the early church met in homes and 1 Kor 16 etc as a problem for my view? Please explain. I don´t in any way think Jesus condemned all occasions of using money, cloathes, buildings etc. Neither is it necessarily a bad thing if one has a higher income than needed for basic needs, as long as one does as Paul instructs in 1 Kor 16 and 2 Kor 8-9 (give it away)!

    I also note that you ignore my references to what Jesus says in Luke, including chapter 12.

  23. Thanks Jonas. I suppose it all comes down to what one considers “basic needs.” For example, apparently you feel a computer and internet access are “basic needs?”

    I think we’ve gone about as far as we can go on this. Praying God’s blessing upon your life!

  24. Darin. I don´t.
    God bless you too!

  25. Darin, I’m an aussie who cruised by this blog.

    Just wanted to drop a word of encouragement.

    I know nothing of the situation being discussed beyond what is in this blog, nor nothing of your church. However, irrespective of opinions regarding the ‘Institutional Church’ or ‘money’, your thoughts and the care you have demonstrated were a great encouragement to me.

    Incidentally, I find your reasoning compelling throughout this discussion. Yet more importantly I think your attitude is awesome. I also think many American churches (pooled resources or not) do a much greater job of serving their communities than many of the churches here in Australia.

    I don’t know anything about you or the church at which you serve, but I’ll pray for you and the work you’re involved in. I’m sure Jesus can sort out the rest. Bring glory to his name.

    Good on ya mate.

  26. Thanks Marcus. You are very kind. I’m a Canadian living and pastoring in Vancouver, B.C. I guess we “colonials” think alike?


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