Thursday, May 20, 2004

Denominations and Money 

I really like being part of a denomination. It has its downsides, sure. But the upsides more than make up for it, I think. There is, of course, the issue of whether it's required by Scripture, which I believe it is. But that's another subject.

I just got back little bit ago from our meeting in Wisconsin. One of the things that denominations make a lot easier, it seems to me, is an orderly sharing of resources, with oversight to minimize waste and the like. A great deal of the time was spent deciding how to spend funds, and whether money was being spent and distributed properly. Now there are always people who resist and resent any inquiry into how they're using your money. We call those people Democrats. :) But in general, I believe it's very wise, not just for the other guy but for me too, to have some other eyes and ears looking into how money's being spent. Basically, we're asking larger, more prosperous churches to foot some of the bill for smaller churches, and I'm very much in favor of that, but human nature being what it is, I'm also in favor of some checks and balances around the spending of money.

I'm preaching on Acts 6 this week. I think it's remarkable that the first recorded division in the church was on the subject of money. The Apostles responded to the problem by putting structures in place that would result in better handling and distribution of the money. They didn't just ignore the problem, say "well, the kingdom of Heaven isn't about money, so we're not going to worry about that." No, they addressed it by having deacons elected.

Denominational controls continue this tradition. It's not perfect. If anything, my particular denomination is not even as careful as I sometimes think they ought to be. But of course, it's always the other guy's cause that I think needs mory scrutiny, not mine.

So it seems that without this authority structure in place, churches would either not have access to the funds of a larger group, or there would be little oversight in how those funds were spent. Neither sounds very appealing to me. And of course there's the question of whether it would be even better if we were all part of the same authority structure, all under just one hierarchy, as many think the ideal situation would be. I guess I'd respond to that by saying that we can look back in history to a time when just such an arrangement existed, and it doesn't seem all that desirable to bring it back. I like the idea that no one denomination can get too arrogant and unresponsive to its members, for fear that they could just go to a different denomination. I don't really think that's a bad thing.

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