Thursday, September 11, 2008

Must all church be self-sustainable?

I'm talking monetary wise. No one pledges to give money to a church plant indefinately. The idea is that as the congregation grows so to will the offetory and outside funding becomes redundant. The reason I ask the question is because I want to be involved in church-planting, but I want to be involved in ministry to the poor. So for instance if someone was to slam 50,000 dollars on the table and say "you've got 2 years to make a sustainable church in Tregear", it ain't gonna happen.

The reason I find it slightly disheartening is because the best church planting seems to be done outside the current institutional structures that are in Sydney (if Driscoll et al. is correct), yet low socio-economic environments need these structures because they've got the coin to support it. So it leaves me in a dilly of a pickle. On the one hand, I want to be involved in some progressive church-planting, and get trained and all that, but the reality may be that I need to go with the Anglicans or Pressies (and I don't think it would be the end of the world to do that, I just think there are some downsides) to be able to have the backing of structures that have the coin.

What to do, what to do eh? any ideas?


Dave Miers said...

think like a missionary.

i think there are ministries that should be sustainable themselves.

but if a ministry isn't sustainable i reckon 1 of 2 things needs to happen.

1) shut it down if it's not viable.
2) keep it running recognising that it may never be viable... and therefore be more creative in funding the ministry.

i don't think that hooking in with a system (ang or pres or whatevs) is the only way to do.

many missionaries raise their own support to work in contexts that will never sustain their cost of living.

although hooked in with AFES, for the most part most of the guys and girls working on uni campuses across australia find their own supporters so they can minister amongst 'poor' uni students.

geoffc said...

Thanks Dave

Come to think of it I know of a ministry amongst the poor that is backed up a large structural organisation and they're assuming that it will be made sustainable eventually.

It won't.

Anonymous said...

Hi Geoff, I found my way here from Craig's blog.

Great question - there has been lots of discussion about this in overseas mission for over 100 years and there is still no consensus.

If you look up "Indigenous church mission theory on Wikipedia you will get an intro into the discussion in mission circles.

There is also a lot of discussion about the dangers of giving and creating dependency on

All this focuses on overseas mission but it is probably relevant for your situation too.

I think it is a balance of helping those in the church plant learn to give so they don't develop a welfare mentality, and on the other hand recognising that some situations will never be able to financially sustain a full-time worker by themselves.

We currently struggle with the situation of transitioning working class church plants from having a missionary who gets all his money from overseas, to local leadership who have to work part-time to make a living. Local pastors working on the side to make a living is very common in the two-thirds world. The churches just don't have the cash to afford a full-time pastor. Some will eventually, some never will (e.g. a church of homeless people.)

It would be great if Australian churches could treat local church planters like missionaries - provide money to get going, and a willingness to give them freedom and time to do the job.

I think Dave is right - there is a need to be more creative in funding pioneering ministries and also a great need to trust God will provide without the need of the structures.

Being in a mission started by Hudson Taylor we are constantly reminded of his statement that "God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply" -i.e. if He wants you to do this, then the funds will be there even if it looks rather impossible at the moment.

geoffc said...

thanks Phil, I look forward to reading the articles.

It's good that the articles are in a missionary context, because my family and I feel it is the direction we are heading in. We are keen however to be doing it here for a while first so we have some skills we can share with other local indigenous churches.

Thanks again for your words

lachlanb said...

come to macfields geoffy....
the minister's up for church-planting amongst the poor

geoffc said...

Keep chatting to me Lachie, it's definately an option!