Money, Money, Money (Must Be Funny, in a Rich Man’s World!)

‘Not the Pentecostals! Watch out – they’ll be trying to get all your money.’
     – The reaction when a new Christian told her Muslim uncle that she’d got saved and           started attending a Pentecostal church. 
‘Hello, I’m calling from [“Christian” TV channel]. We have some great deals on advertising during our broadcasts and wondered if the church would be interested.’
     – A phone call yesterday. 
     – the amount one American church is appealing to raise to produce a worship album 
$750 plus expenses
     – an American amount recommended as a gift for visiting preachers 
‘US pastors paid up to $300,000 - are Church of England vicars getting a raw deal?’
     – recent Headline in Christian Today

£5.75 million
     – the amount of money an evangelical church down south is trying to raise for               building improvements.
     – the amount two American pastors are raising to produce a six minute teaching video
Money has been on my mind a bit of late. Not my money, but what evangelicals and Pentecostals do with their money, and our reputation when it comes to money. The statement at the top of the post, made to me by a new Christian last week, opened my eyes with a nasty start to the reputation of Pentecostals among the wider world when it comes to money. And I think the phone call I got trying to sell advertising time on "Christian" TV was the last straw. It left me shocked and appalled by the low to which we have sunk in this country (not only with what we do with money, but also with our notion of "success" and the accompanying lack of trust in the power of God's Word - Christ grows His Church by His Word, not through marketing and advertising!).

We all know that western churches have much more money than those in the majority world, but even within the west there are huge differences (as can be seen in some of the crazy dollar amounts above from America!). Yet, still, that’s not the whole story. It isn’t simply that the Americans have much more money to throw around than the rest of us. Even within the UK there are huge differences. Down south churches tend to be much bigger and richer. Up here in the north people still refer to evangelicalism as ‘south coast religion.’

Now, I live in the north. In fact, I live in Yorkshire, which supposedly has proportionally fewer evangelical Christians than Japan! I’m quite used to getting on with the work of the ministry without great financial resources, and perhaps that’s what makes me so sensitive to how money is spent by Christian organisations. But of late the ways in which so much money seems to be being used – so much of the money contributed by God’s people – so much of God’s money in fact – has been weighing on my mind more and more. Of course, I don’t know all the details of these sums of money or the (probably agonizing) decision-making that went on behind them. But I can’t help but wonder how else such sums could be used.

The $25,000 (that's £15,500) for one six-minute teaching video, for example, is significantly more than the annual salary of many pastors in the UK. Their aim is to raise enough to produce one such video every month. The £5.75 million a church wants for building improvements would meet my church’s entire budget for roughly the next 350 years. (Seriously!) Alternatively it would pay 10 years’ full-time salary for about 28 ministers or evangelists to preach the gospel and plant churches around this country. And if it could do that huge amount in the UK, just think what it could do in the majority world.

Rather than raising vast sums of money to produce music albums or videos, and spend on lavish gifts and TV ads, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could raise money to support gospel preaching in the areas where it’s unaffordable. Just imagine if we had the resources to send faithful ministers to preach the gospel in Cumbria, or Dumfries and Galloway, or Powys, or Fermanagh. Or even Yorkshire. Just imagine if we could send missionaries across our one land border to Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal, and the rest of Ireland (outside of Dublin). Just imagine if we could provide gospel-preaching ministers to faithful congregations who would never be able to afford it by themselves. Just imagine if we could plant Christ-preaching churches in towns and villages where there has been no gospel witness for years. Maybe if we weren’t spending our money on advertising and albums we could. Maybe if we realised that it’s the Lord's money, not ours, we would.