Friday, December 12, 2008

Financial Crunch at CHOG MINISTRIES

Blogger friend, Lloyd Moritz, excerpted the following from a letter from Dr. Ron Duncan of Church of God Ministries, informing pastors and leaders of budgetary cuts.

“…The manner in which we collectively view these reductions will affect the future of our movement. Some may view these reductions as failure. I certainly have reflected on this point of view. There is an element of these reductions that certainly feels like failure…”

“…failure of our congregational system of polity to support and fund the decisions of the General Assembly,
failure of Church of God Ministries to adequately challenge and provide the necessary motivation to inspire support for the budget,
failure of our leaders and congregations to deal with the gravity of the situation, and
failure on my part to provide the leadership necessary for success…”
Duncan rightly suggests that "throughout the Church of God’s 127 years, finding the financial support for the congregational, state, and national ministries has been a constant challenge.” I believe we have not yet satisfactorily resolved the question of how to live and teach New Testament principles of stewardship.

D. S. Warner, our founding father, began with a message of holiness and unity. He proclaimed and penned that message via “The Gospel Trumpet.” He and a growing number of flying messengers (itinerant preachers) sacrificed heavily to propagate that message through messengers, missionaries, and written publications. Their efforts produced a people now known as the Church of God (Reformation Movement) and a publishing house.

The development of local congregations encouraged permanent pastors, as opposed to traveling evangelists. Self-supporting congregations obviously took from available funding for “spreading the message” (in the sense of national ministries and world evangelism).

For what it is worth,
1. I do not accept this situation as our failure, or of Dr. Duncan’s failure as a national leader. Nor is it the fault of our national leadership team. It may not be all, but it is partially a result of our nation’s economic reassessment and financial adjustment from Wall Street to Main Street.
2. It does reflect our conflicted understandings of New Testament stewardship. Core to “NT” teaching is the principle of the church as the Body of Christ, every minute part working in harmony for the health of the whole body. This has been a central focus of the Church of God movement from Warner until today.
Although we deny being a “denomination,” we do assert that we are a “body” with ears, eyes, hands, and feet. Paul taught that God arranged the parts of the body as He wanted them. We are not different denominations; we are the body of Christ.

As part of God’s Church, the Church of God is not a loose collection of independent congregations. Nor are we ministers simply Lone Ranger’s riding about independently. We are all part of the Body of Christ. We have obligations to each other and to the larger “body.”
Jeannette Flynn is also right in observing that “over the last four to five decades, there has been a serious breakdown in our society and culture of genuine, authentic community” (cf “Communion” Jan-Feb 2008)
I suggest that local, state, and national ministries all have their rightful place in the Body of Christ. Our conflicted tension between independent messengers (local autonomy) and cooperative agencies (working together), reflects the dysfunctional society that is too much in the church.
Congregations have obligation to one another and to our cooperative programs. Ministers have obligations to each other, to their congregations, and to the cooperative programs. We are one body, with one mission, and the church is dysfunctional to the extent that individuals and congregations try to function outside of the cooperating body.
Measuring our worth by the size and success of our institutions, or to conclude that we “failed” because we find it necessary to reduce “national programming” may also send the wrong message and measure by the wrong yardstick.
The Church is us and we are more than an institution. We are a koinonia (community). We are an ecclesia (called out body). We are the laos (people) of God.
Read the story of the sons of Eli the priest in I Samuel 2. Hophni and Phineas lived off the best of the people’s Temple sacrifices with Eli’s passive approval. God called Samuel and brought retribution upon Hophni and Phineas, as well as Eli (vs. 22).
Ralph Clough was en route home the day Air Florida, Flight 90, struck the 14th Street Bridge in Washington, D.C. in 1982. Having just crossed the bridge, Ralph quickly parked his car. The 67-year-old retired Foreign Service Officer (my brother in law) quickly joined the human chain of people rescuing victims from the frigid waters of the Potomac River.
However you philosophize and theologize about individual autonomy and cooperating together, the Church remains a human chain linked together for one purpose--rescuing victims.
That demands our service. And that service, concluded Martin Luther King, is the rent we pay for the space we occupy__

No comments: