Many of us have a gnostic view of money. Church planting good; fundraising bad. Preaching great; money evil. Pastoral ministry is truly spiritual, business, finance, and administration are sub-spiritual. This is not a biblical view of the world. We were baptised into one faith and one Lord who is both Creator and Redeemer. He is lord of the physical and lord of the spiritual. To quote Rob Bell, “Everything is spiritual for God.” Gnosticism is a dualistic philosophy that exalts the spiritual over the physical, the eternal over the ephemeral. The recent issue of Cutting Edge contains a series of article that address Church Planting and Money. The opening editorial reads:
ONE OF THE OLDEST ERRORS IN THE CHURCH IS FALSE DUALISM, PITTING “SPIRITUAL” REALITIES AGAINST MERE “EARTHLY” REALITY. IN THIS VIEW, PRAYER, BIBLE STUDY, AND CHURCH SERVICES ARE TRULY SPIRITUAL AND WORTHWHILE PURSUITS, WHILE DEALING WITH MONEY, ADMINISTRATION, OR LEGAL MATTERS ARE SEEN AS UNFORTUNATE REQUIREMENTS—DUTIES AT BEST, AND CORRUPTION AT WORST. WHILE YOU RARELY HEAR A PASTOR SAY “I HATE DEALING WITH PEOPLE’S PRAYER LIVES” OR “I HATE TEACHING THE BIBLE,” IT ISN’T UNCOMMON TO HEAR SOMEONE SAY “I HATE DEALING WITH MONEY” OR “I HATE ADMINISTRATIVE DETAILS. (p.3)
Some of us need to repent of our dualism, of seeing God as sovereign and concerned only with our piety and not with our pocketbook. Some of us need to redeem our view of money with an understanding that the Gospel redeems consumers to spend, not just “spiritually” but practically. Our money should be governed by the gospel and move towards mission. But that is uncomfortable. We would rather live with the comforts of unspiritual spending, than invest our whole lives into the mission of God. Our idols of comfort, clothing, and standard of living hide beneath our functional gnosticism. God is calling us to repent and believe that Jesus is Lord over our entire lives, finances included, to bring us into a life of joyful giving and worship.
As I write this, Austin City Life is approximately 55% self-supporting, and our outside support is in decline. We have had public church gatherings for just over a year, though we existed in decentralized form for a year prior. We are experiencing gospel renewal, radical community, and growing mission. But is Jesus Lord of our finances, our budget, our discretionary income, our savings? We need to consult our hearts and our spending patterns to find out who really is lord of this part of our lives. We also need more financial support, to be a community that loves with our giving and not just with our being.
Pray. Repent. Give. Love. And enter into the joy of obedience to Jesus as Lord, and of full participation in his mission. For Jesus, everything is spiritual and nothing is gnostic.