Monday, February 20, 2017

Mission support and denominational differences

I read an article last week stating that a large Southern Baptist church in Texas was putting their mission giving to the denomination in escrow while they discuss their concerns with the direction of the SBC. We are talking about $1 million so it is a substantial sum of money that is being at least temporarily withheld.

Although the article singled out some actions and public statements made by an official in the denomination, the pastor claimed that the congregation's concerns go beyond one person. You can read the article here if you are interested.

I am not Southern Baptist and do not plan to speak to any issues this church may have with their denomination. My concern here is the withholding of mission money for any reason. Over the past few years we've seen a number of churches withdraw from our denomination (American Baptist Churches, USA) and others significantly reduce their mission giving, or eliminate it completely, over concerns they had with decisions that were being made at the national level. Regardless of denomination, this is wrong.

This is the equivalent of church members withholding their tithes and offerings because they disagree with the pastor or a decision that has been made by the church. No pastor would want church members doing that so why would a pastor encourage the church to do that to their denomination? I have worked with two churches who had people stop giving to the church in an effort to force the pastor to resign. In both cases it worked. When I was called in afterwards to work with the churches I told both of them that such action is spiritually immature and unbiblical. I consider the withholding money designated for mission work to also be immature and unbiblical.

At a time when we need to be sharing the Gospel more than ever why hamper the work of missionaries and judicatories by withholding money because you disagree with something that was said or done? I don't see that the church has any disagreement with missionaries in the article, so why hinder their ministries by taking this action?

There are two possible actions that a church could take. One is to work to correct the problem. The other is to leave the denomination if the conflict is too great to resolve. Either of those would be far more biblical and ethical than withholding money because you disagree with an issue.

Again, I am not singling out this particular church or denomination. They are just the latest to make the news for this type of action. As a judicatory leader I saw this happen over and over again in the churches I served. Because of such action denominations and judicatories are facing serious financial shortfalls and cutbacks resulting in fewer staff and less resources to assist churches. Nobody wins in this scenario.

I can tell you that denominations are not perfect, and neither are their leaders. Denominations are no different than churches in that regard. Mistakes will be made. Honest people can also disagree on some issues. When they occur we need to extend grace while addressing our concerns. Unless our differences involve heretical teachings or actions mature Christians should be able to work together to further the Kingdom of God.

I would encourage every church, regardless of denomination, to pray long and hard before deciding to withhold its mission support. Too many innocent people who had nothing to do with the issues are hurt when churches take such action.

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