Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Church and Debt

Hi Everyone, if you look to your right you can see that I've created a poll about the church and debt. Should the church go into debt to buy stuff that would make the church seem more attractive (by the world's standards)?

I'd love your feedback so feel free to leave your anonymous comment below. If possible, back it up with a scriptural reference.

Thanks for participating!


Anonymous said...

I wanted to select "It depends." I believe that it is OK to go into debt to make a church more attractive to seekers IF that is what God is calling the church to do. Churches go into debt all the time to build buildings where people will want to congregate. But Christians should not need the building - we should be able to worship God in our homes or in the park or wherever. Buildings and sometimes debt allows us to have community with each other that we otherwise might not have and to also reach more people who do not yet know Him. So, if the church it honestly seeking God's will and God's will is to go into debt, then yes. After all, it is God's money and it is His debt, too. Who are we to judge how He plans to fund His work here on earth?

Sorry, I do not have scripture to support my comments.

Stephanie said...

Justing thinking outloud because I can never answer yes and no questions !:-)

So, I think that, like in our personal lives, our churches can spend money (on what I see as) unnecessarily. There are times that spending money (that maybe needs financing, etc.) could be justified- facilities too small, maybe children being way undeserved, van costing more money that its worth, etc.

Then there is the very gray areas. Like, one hand sounds systems make services more clear, etc. and they are quite expensive...when is it okay to spend that money (or upgrade, etc.) and when is it not? Some situations may be yes, others no...what do you think??

Anonymous said...

This is what Dave Ramsey said on his website:

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot

The American Church is $33 billion in debt.

Think about that for a second. The Church could easily extend relief to Africa, Katrina victims, and even our inner-city homeless with that kind of money. But with that overwhelming debt (that some consider manageable), our hands are tied. If we're going to be the hands and feet of God, we must begin managing God's resources better.

After all, that's what stewardship is all about.

We're Not Owners
Sometimes, it's hard to remember that we're just managers - not owners - of all our stuff. Our credit-crazy culture tells us the opposite, but throughout the Bible, God tells us that we don't own anything. We are managers of the resources He has generously given us. It's still hard to see ourselves as stewards. If we put our 10% in the offering plate on Sunday morning, isn't that enough? Isn't the rest of our money ours?

God calls us to more than a Sunday morning tip. He even calls us to more than a tithe. He calls us to give our lives away so that He can give us something we cannot lose. That's why He calls us to spend and save the remaining 90% of our income in a way that honors him.

That means:

Living debt-free so that we are not servants to our lenders (Proverbs 22:7).
Saving our money and leaving an inheritance to our children (Proverbs 13:22).
Giving generously from a glad heart (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
When we steward God's money in a wise way, not only do we become free, but we are equipped to lay hold of the vision God gives us for touching His Kingdom.

Once we're free to give generously, then we can truly ask ourselves, "What could the people of God do for the kingdom of God if they were debt-free?" And the answer is even more exciting than the question. We could change the world!

Stephanie said...

Love having a discussion-

no disagreement that churches can be bad stewards of money and that it can, and does, affect the work of meeting people's needs and that as people, we need to give and then we could meet the needs of others.

Now, to how that looks: Does that mean that you think that churches should never go into debt for any reason?

The Vogels said...

It's a hard one, that's for sure. I think that purchasing something (like a piece of property) that would be an investment might be okay. But unfortunately, I can't find anything scriptural that says it's okay to be in any kind of debt.

But again, it's a struggle. I do think if you have an adequate space, that using credit to buy "fluff" to fill it cannot be justified.

Brian Mitchell said...

Churches across this country have become so saddled with debt to the point of where it seems to have become the norm for churches in our society. There are, however, so many issues with the church going into debt.

Every single mention of debt or borrowing in the Bible portrays it as something negative and not to be desired. This is a clear indication the debt should not be the norm for a church (or for an individual Christian).

There are two very big problems in terms of church debt from a Biblical perspective. The first is that debt presumes upon the future. James 4:13-14 says "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." When a church borrows money, they are presuming that they will have the money come in in tithes and offerings so that they can pay that debt back. They do not know what will happen to the economy, and if half of their congregation suddenly becomes unemployed, they will definitely see a drop in tithes and offerings. This could lead to an inability to repay their debt, and the Bible states that “the wicked borrow and do not repay” (Psalm 37:21). Some people say that this is "stepping out in faith", but doing something that God's word directly advises against doing (i.e. going into debt) is not a matter of faith, it is a matter of presumption.

Secondly, Proverbs 22:7 states that "the borrower is servant (or slave) to the lender". When a church goes into debt, they are putting themselves/their congregation in the position of a servant to a secular financial institution. The only master that a church should be serving is God. They certainly should not be serving a bank.

Furthermore, when a church rushes out and uses debt a solution to meeting a "need", they often deny God the opportunity to show Himself mighty in the way that He can provide. The majorly expensive Chrystal Cathedral in California was built without one cent of debt. Churches would often be better off by waiting on the Lord rather than looking at how they can finance an expense. Is God always going to provide? No, but in the cases where He does not provide it may mean that He was not wanting the church to do what they were planning to do in the first place.

I could probably go on and on about this subject, but instead I will close by saying that I do not think it is a good idea for churches to go into debt, and from what I read in His word, God doesn't seem to think so either.

Stephanie said...

I agree that simply buying "stuff" is not a reason to acquire the debt. And clearly debt is a HUGE problem. And clearly God does not desire for us be restricted from doing his work by money owed...

Clearly it is much better to have no debt owed. So do does this mean churches should not finance buildings?

The Vogels said...

Brian, I don't know who you are... but I think that is a very wise response. Thank you so much for taking the time to post it.

Valerie said...

Personally I don't see the need in any extras. I enjoy doing church on the streets, in the park, under the bridge, etc. I would be happy without a building, but I guess that isn't very practical is it. I think we put too much emphasis on appearance and 'sound' to draw others. Shouldn't the unchurched be drawn in by our (His) love? That's just my opinion. (:

Stephanie said...

I love it when we discuss things- we need this more! What does living this out look like in practical life.

I think for some reason we just do things the way we always have done it, just because!

Thanks Kirsten for the discussion!

Meredith said...

I agree with Brian (although I may be partial since I know him).

I just want to point out too .. that maybe it's not the building that needs to be more attractive to the outside world. Maybe we should focus on making ourselves better people that attract others to God. Most people aren't looking for the glossy new thing, it's their soul that yearns for relationship and connection. Guess what . . that doesn't cost any $$.

Lisa said...

I do not think churches should go into debt, any more than Christians should. We are governed by what enslaves us. Debt enslaves. I also don't hink churches should spend exhorbant dollars on facilities. The Crystal Cathedral is one example. Seriously...how many orphans, widows or homeless could that money have helped. God did not place in our hearts a need for nice church buildings, He placed in us a need dfor Jesus. Go to Africa and witness firsthand the Spirit filled worship in the primitive places. We are so off base in the US it turns my stomach sometimes!