In this forum, the topic is often money. Without money there is no mission. But what happens when money gets in the way of mission?
My friend David Scavuzzo seems to hate Swiss steak dinners. Maybe he doesn’t hate the dinners (anything covered in that much gravy has to be good, doesn’t it?) but he wants churches to stop spending so much time on them.
I asked Reverend Scavuzzo if he really does hate these dinners. His response: “I would be open to churches “serving” meals, if they were for free or a part of a real gift (grace) giving ministry. Meals and rummage sales can really be ministry but when they become a means for the church to make money or survive rather than us offering a wild, untamed life-changing relationship with a living and loving God through Jesus … then I do hate them.”
Now how in the world do you argue with that?
You can almost imagine the sign in front of the church: “Wesley United Methodist Church, all are welcome. Admission $8, kids under 12 $5, under 2 free.” Not exactly the centerpiece of the Rethink Church movement is it?
He believes that if churches took the volunteer hours and energy they invest in dinners, rummage sales, flower sales and all the other things they do and invest that time in evangelism the church would be better off.
I happen to agree with him.
While nothing is guaranteed (other than death and taxes which happen to be favorite topics of the Foundation’s planned giving program) it’s tough to believe that so much energy pointed toward the community wouldn’t pay off in new members, a stronger sense of mission and a return to Christian and Wesleyan values.
Did I mention that Reverend Scavuzzo is the Superintendent of the Western Reserve District? He has told his churches that if they take him up on the offer he would help them make up the money lost on these events. Care to guess how many churches have taken him up on his effort? If you guessed two churches you’re too high. He did have one take him up on it.
We would rather spend 50 hours in a hot kitchen clogging our arteries than a single hour knocking on doors in our neighborhood. We would rather tie up Fellowship Hall with a dinner than a classroom with a parenting support group. We are very comfortable selling dinner tickets around town, but inviting others to worship is a different story, isn’t it?
I firmly believe in the value of fellowship. I think peeling potatoes and doing dishes develops a strong sense of community within the church; it gives members a place to plug in and get to know each other. And never ever discount the value of opening your church to the community for events like a dinner.
But wouldn’t we get the same sense of community knocking on doors? Wouldn’t the community rather come to our church to be fed spiritually than literally?
There are lots of restaurants in our communities where people can pay to be fed. Let’s leave the restaurant business to them and decide the Church will be about something else.