On the FaceBook newsfeed I’ve seen several articles and videos about where the money goes in mega-churches. It must be part of a capital campaign, or trying to answer questions since Mars Hill in Seattle is having cutbacks take place, and etc. It is a great question because even though I’m a pastor, I can imagine having the same question if I was a member in the church too.
First I want to applaud some of the mega-churches for giving the statistics about where the money goes. Openness is paramount in my opinion when dealing with money. Many of these churches have been secretive in the past, but some are being transparent and that helps when ministry is being performed in a suspicious climate.
I would like to offer another idea about where the money goes from a small church pastor’s perspective. I have been in ministry for a while now and I’ve seen various moves, or fads, within The Church. I’ve learned that people are a bit fickle when it comes to commitment to a particular Body of Christ. In fact, people are very migratory. In other words, people seem to only commit to 2 to 3 years in one church. Then, something better comes along and they are gone.
This really isn’t an article about church attendance as much as it is about commitment. After all, there are consequences when commitments are broken. While poor church attendance is frustrating, it simply just keeps things from moving quicker. Therefore, I would like to share some of these consequences to leaving the small local community church.
For starters, when Christians become migratory by leaving their community church because of age on the facility, preferred style of music, because of problems with the people in the church, or because the pastor is not someone they want to follow, there is impact to the church that has been left. In addition, there is impact on the community that the church is in. Plus, it is helpful to remember that relationships and problems are easily worked out by those who love Jesus; but that is another article.
Consider that for whatever reason, someone simply leaves a local congregation and attends a church out of town. When this happens they take their financial resources with them; not to mention their manpower. Furthermore, they take their influence with them too. In fact, they join the vision of the pastor who may be in another community that has nothing to do with the community they live in. This causes the local church, when enough people un-commit, to go into a type of survival mode. I am aware that many “super leaders” in The Church would say that this is poor leadership. Yet, it will take time to re-calibrate the vision he had for the community; if he or she had one. Besides, the people the pastor believed were behind him or her are now no longer available. It takes time to for a small church to replace them.
This matters because we could assume that God has that church planted in its particular community so that church could be a blessing to the people in that community. For instance, their ministries cannot be accomplished within the community that God has placed these local churches. This leaves people to wonder, “Where does the money go?” After all, the money shortfall stalls the ministry to the community from moving forward. The answer may be that the money that God gave His people who live in their community to bless and finance ministries that meet needs of people has gone into the large productions of mega-churches that are in other communities.
I should note that often I talk to believers from the community who tell me how they desire to see God do something in the community that they used to attend church. These people will encourage me and still have the expectation that I have an assignment, but these continue to be non-participants in God’s redemptive purpose for their community. Yet, they will travel out of town on Sundays.
Recently, a non-denominational ministry that is designed to reach kids before they are 14, ran out of money because the churches within Liberty, my local community, were not able to give enough financially for the ministry to operate. As of now, it is operating; thank The Lord. Yet, why is it so hard to finance that ministry? It seems it could be argued that God’s people refuse to remain committed to the Body of Christ, that likely, The Holy Spirit placed them in. What is worse, the local Body of Christ that they left is now stumbling and cannot move forward in a way that benefits the community. The resources were there to meet those needs until many Christians became migratory and went to a comfortable environment that was more pleasing.
Obviously, there are “experts,” or expert debaters out there who may be able to dispute my observations. Yet, the fact remains, as a small church pastor, I ask, “Where does the money go?” Once I begin the process of speculating, as I am now, I can’t help but come to this type of conclusion. Once I reach this conclusion my next question is, “Why do people blow off the local church for the mega-church setting so readily?” Guess who is usually contacted to go see the sick and dying. You guessed it. The pastors who are left in survival mode. Many do not realize that one day this service won’t be readily available if the migrations continue; but that is another article too.
I think what is amazing is that Christians have not stopped to ask, once they are part of their new churches, a couple of questions: “Where does the money I give go?” And, “How does my giving at this new church help my community 15-30 miles away?” It’s amazing how much vision a local community pastor can have. It’s also amazing how little is accomplished in the community because the manpower and finances have left the community.
In my community it is not just my small church that experiences the consequences of migration from one church to another. It actually is close to the same from church to church. If my opinion is close to right. then, what type of answer will many of these Christians have to the question Jesus will likely as about faithfulness with what He gave to so that they could bless their community? Or, does it really matter?
This was not a scientific approach and very well may be mere opinion. Yet, in the local church that desires to serve the community, one has to ask, “What is the motive for the exodus from small churches to mega-churches outside of the community?” Somehow it seems Christians have an agenda and God has one too. They don’t seem the same.