Christian anarchists, communists, and socialists seem to view the economic world as a pie. You can only cut it up so many ways. So if a rich person has a lot of money, then he has a larger portion of the pie. For them, economics is a zero-sum game. A poker game is a zero sum game: at the end of the game there is only as much money as what the players originally brought to table–it’s redistributed differently, but its the same amount of money. Thus, in the view of these people, if wealthy Christians have money, they have defrauded the poor. That is why perhaps they support political systems that would force the wealthy to relinquish their riches; but in the end, where ever such a system is tried, everyone ends up living in dire poverty; communism shrinks the pie. We’ve seen it in dozens of countries. In my view, these Christians do not understand economics nor do they have sufficient faith in God: “And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb 11.6).
My goal as a wanna-be righteous investor is to increase the size of the pie. Christian ministries don’t usually generate wealth themselves but depend upon Christian men and women who work jobs or who have successful businesses or other investments. Those ministries like Streams of Justice which aim toward political advocacy requiring more funding for the poor will have a negative impact on the bottom line of these Christians and decrease their ability to give. If we are smart, Christians donors must begin to resist the politics of envy and so-called Christians ministries which have lost faith in a big God and instead turned to big government for solutions.
I found an example of envy and of lack of vision on PoserorProphet’s blog, where he, in his typically jaundiced and imbalanced fashion, criticizes a large Vancouver church for mistreatment of the poor. The sycophants of his blog–I call them that because I’ve learned that if like me you are highly critical of Poser, he will not even allow you to comment on his blog–some of the sycophants of his blog believe that Broadway Church has defrauded the poor with the buildings which are “a country club” for its members. The Pastor of Broadway, Darin Latham came online and defended the ministries of his church, saying that they do devote considerable resources to helping the poor:
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.
But despite his efforts, some of Poser’s readers were unimpressed:
Subversivechurch writes (sic):
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 [institutional church] 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. [snip]
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?
Pastor Darin rightly defended his church as having the building to do all kinds of ministry: Christian education, counseling and worship. For the subversives, the only thing they know is envy which sees economics as a zero sum game and God as so puny that he cannot provide all of our needs according to his riches in glory. So they begrudge the church’s use of an expensive PA system: Envy. So why not have big mega-church? Personally, I don’t like mega-churches and I think they come with their own challenges. But if God called the founders of Broadway Church to build a mega church, then that is up to God, isn’t it? I will testify, however, that the one time that I suffered from want I was helped by Frank Merriwether, who was at the time a College & Career Pastor at Broadway. So I owe a debt of gratitude to that church. Why is it that these arrogant anarchists believe that their agenda is the only one that Christians should concern themselves with. They insist: become like the poor, become homeless, identify with poor homeless, have solidarity with the poor–the whole world revolves around the poor. Yet the homeless in Vancouver number about 3000. I hate to tell you this, but there is over 600,000 people in that city and they all have spiritual needs, every single precious one of them. It is not just about the poor. It is about reaching out to the grandmother whose grandchild was killed in an accident and she can’t pray anymore. It is about the parents who live in an upscale neighborhood whose daughter can’t be found. It is about that depressed computer programmer who wants to swallow a bottle of pills. It is about the widower who lies awake at night wondering if God is there. It’s about teaching kids about God in Sunday school; it’s about helping young people find their vocation in the Lord; it’s about helping the working poor and the working well-off, because we have spiritual needs too. God cares for the poor, but he also cares for every single one of the rest of us too. And it is about that guy at Regent College who was lonely and ran out of money while waiting for his student loan cheque. John 3.16 says that God so loved the poor, right? No, God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son … And what about these passages:
The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3.9)
This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2.3-4)
For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. (1 Tim 4.10)
But why can’t a church like Broadway, if some have a vision, have strategic ministries for the poor (which they do) and keep their building? Is God so weak that he can’t provide both everything the church needs to pay for that wonderful facility and staff in addition to ministries for the poor? Where is your faith? These people have a puny view of economics and they have a puny god.
What happened to the Pauline concept of the body of Christ? Isn’t it possible to have some people care for the poor and others who care for the elderly? Some to care for the teens and others who dedicate their time to missions? Why should the toe or eye say I don’t need you? Why should the belly button say if you aren’t a belly button and do exactly what I do, you are not a member of the body, and you are not doing what you should be doing for the Kingdom. Poppycock!
The Christian God, the one and only God, is big, and he has the resources of glory at his disposal. He can provide Broadway Church both with resources to maintain their church building and to provide for the poor, as he calls the congregation to movement. It is just simply silly to suggest that God would insist that they use that facility for the homeless or as a warehouse for feeding the poor, etc., when it is used by the congregation for worship, Christian education, and all the other ministries. Beware, these anarchists are trying to sow seeds of dissension and envy, and the rest of us, the evil institutional church people, don’t have to put up with it.
Great post Peter
i agree — great post
Peter, I agree with you once again, but I can also see part of the point of the “anarchists” as you call them. 🙂 I don’t agree with the criticism of Broadway Church, but I can see why they might have a low view of the expense of the buildings and such. This is where that balance you’ve discussed in other posts comes in. No, it’s not wrong to have a church building and facilities. But we also have to guard ourselves and check our motives in such things. It can be easy for greed and selfishness to rule our decisions. Now I’m certainly not saying that’s the case for Broadway. But I think this is part of what the anarchists are reacting to. It’s probably not the right reaction though since they can’t know the hearts of those in that church. They have no way of knowing their motives in building the facilities and how they run their programs. So while it’s certainly wrong to try to judge men’s hearts, we must also be careful of why we’re doing what we’re doing.
That’s the struggle I think – how do we find that balance between enjoying what God has given us while not letting greed and selfishness take over? The anarchists are pushing hard to one side, perhaps because greed and selfishness are so prevalent in society and even in our churches. But pushing hard to the opposite side wouldn’t be the right answer either – doing whatever we want just because God is generous and wants us to enjoy His blessings.
I have to admit that I’ve made some comments along the lines of the anarchists before – though probably not quite as strongly. For me, it’s always been a struggle because I can see the internal struggle I face and it’s strong. However, I’m also realizing that asceticism is not automatically “holy”. We can have the wrong motives in that as well. More and more I’m focusing less on trying to have the “right” answers and focusing instead on how do I become like Christ – fulfilling the law through a righteousness that comes from the inside out because I’ve been conformed to His image. I have more questions than answers though – more and more all the time.
I came across the case of Joyce Meyers who lives in an extravagantly expensive house and each of her children, at the expense of her ministry, all while taking a large pay cheques, each of them and her husband too. Then each day she solicits funds from her TV audience. The words nepotism and trafficking in the gospel come to mind.
Broadway is just a large urban PAOC church. Many such churches exist in North America and they can be an effective means of reaching out to their communities: especially when it comes to the need for Christian education. I personally attended the church and it basically reminded me of dozens of Assemblies of God Churches that I had visited or attended in the US, including my home church in Anchorage, Muldoon Community Assembly; these churches are meeting many spiritual needs of thousands of people. Their pastors have relatively humble salaries and live in houses that are similar to the homes of their parishioners. It is very difficult to criticize if you are not swayed by a dysfunctional and wrong-headed belief that Jesus’ focus in his own ministry was only on the poor.
I remember also working as pastoral intern under Neale Sheneman, founding pastor of Muldoon Community Assembly. He was an austere man when it came to his own needs, for his goal in life was to plant a big church to the glory of God that met the spiritual needs of Anchorage. He achieved this lasting legacy, and he is beside the Lord today, and can be proud of his accomplishments.
Right, Peter – cases of extreme opulence are clearly a problem. This is very prevalent in those preaching the health and wealth “gospel”. I see things like that and it upsets me – not because of envy, but because it’s such a disgrace to the name of Christ.
So I think what happens for the anarchists is that they see examples like Joyce Meyers and in their zealousness take the extreme opposite approach. Then anyone who even seems to be heading in the direction of opulence is called out as having wrong motives, disobeying Jesus, etc. Rather than just guarding our lives and hearts against greed and selfishness it becomes a rejection of all things that go even barely beyond necessity.
The danger in that is that there are so many things that are unnecessary. If you’re going to that extreme, then anything that does not meet the minimal requirements for satisfying a need are extravagance. An RV becomes an extravagant home where a tent will do. Any food that is not the cheapest while still satisfying nutritional requirements is extravagance. Having more than one set of clothing becomes extravagance. For those who push this stance, I think it will be far too easy to find hypocritical examples.
But I do think it is absolutely right to be guarding ourselves against greed, questioning our motives, and moving more toward generosity. For me, it boils down to my priorities, devotion, and worship. Am I more concerned about how I’m going to get the stuff I want (so I can impress others, feel better about myself, etc.) or am I more concerned about seeking God’s Kingdom and His righteousness? This doesn’t preclude preparation and saving for the future. Do not worry does not mean don’t plan for the future. What it does mean is don’t let these things consume you. Don’t let your life revolve around your net worth. Don’t constantly worry that you’ll be eating dog food in retirement. Do the necessary things to plan ahead, but then have faith that God will care for you. He knows what we need and He will provide it. We are already perfectly blessed and perfectly safe once we enter His Kingdom – regardless of what our life looks like here or what may happen.