According to Mark Elsdon, the church is not broke! We just aren't using our resources very well. In a recent book, entitled "We Aren't Broke: Uncovering Hidden Resources for Mission and Ministry," Elsdon describes the current situation.
"When we say we’re broke, it honestly isn’t really true. We may not have the program funds coming in or the plate-giving funds coming in, but we actually, in this moment as a church, own massive amounts of assets."
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Elsdon is the first to note that this concept depends a LOT based on tradition or affiliation. For example, an individual congregation may very well be broke, but one that is part of a wider denomination is connected to an incredible amount of assets. Another way to look at it would be thinking about "The Church" not as your church or your denomination, but all the Christian churches around the globe. As a whole, we certainly are not broke.
But if this is true, then why do we each feel like we are struggling? Why is each congregation just barely getting by? Where are these supposed assets and resources, and how can we utilize them for ministry in our community?
One of the things that Elsdon suggests is the idea of impact investing. Many denominations, and even individual churches, have investment or endowment accounts. But these are generally invested in the stock market. With impact investing, those funds could be loaned to ministries at low (or no) interest rates.
After all, so many ministries are stalled because they don't have the money to build or expand, but in order to get that money, they need to be able to build or expand! What's more, conventional financing (like with your local bank) just isn't a realistic option anymore. With impact investing, things begin to change.
It's not new information that Christians hold the majority of wealth in the world, but are we using it according to God's purposes? Or have we been thinking of our investments as being "outside" the arena of our faith?
There's something else to consider beyond the ways we are missing out on furthering God's Kingdom through impact investing, socially responsible investing, faith-based investing, values-based investing, etc. We need to ask if the way our money is being used in the stock market even aligns with our beliefs in the first place.
Take a look at the companies listed on the S&P 500. Christians disagree on many things, and the ethical nature of the companies on this list would also be up for debate, but consider if you are proud supporting companies involved in oil, pharmaceuticals, weapons manufacturing, gambling and risqué entertainment, meat-packing, tv news, tobacco, alcohol, etc.
Asking about the ethical nature of investments isn't just a question for those with bonds, stocks, mutual funds, etc. but those who have an IRA or life insurance policy, which are also invested in the stock market. It seems like everything leads back there! But the point is this: Both individually and as Christian organizations, we need to find new ways to use our money, God's money.
The broader question is, of course, how we are utilizing the direct assets a church may have - the building and property. Are these being kept like a lamp under a bushel, used only a few hours a week? Or is your facility used by the wider community more frequently?
Need some ideas about what that might look like? Contact email@example.com to continue the conversation.