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$$$ | Part 3

April 14, 2010

Aidan: We’ve spent two posts going into some of the things necessary for understanding finances in a network of churches that has both a center and an edge. It seems a bit tangential as we went into Missional vs. Attractional and how what we need is both, but I think we probably needed to go there to wrap our heads around the finances thing. Real quickly, can you describe the church you’ve outlined in the past few posts?

Mike: The word that we use a lot in England is Minster. A pretty good metaphor is that of an aircraft carrier and a battle group. If the aircraft is by itself, it’s actually not terribly difficult to sink. The same goes with individual ships in the battle group, which may be even easier to sink. But when you have the aircraft carrier and the battle group working and inter-relating together…well that is very difficult and nearly impossible to defeat. You have the giant guns and the sheer mass of strength of the aircraft carrier, but the deftness and agility with each individual boat in the battle group.

Maybe another way we can understand it is through Structure and Texture. In the church, whatever we are growing and building needs the texture of soft tissue wherever it touches the world, but it also needs a strong skeleton that allows the whole Body of Christ to stand up.

And that’s really where we can dive into the finances part of this, obviously with the resourcing/equipping/operating organization as the center, the aircraft carrier, and the skeleton…Missional Communities operating as the “edge,” the battle group or the soft tissue.

One principle that I have always taught is “Low Control/High Accountability”: I don’t want to tell my leaders exactly what to do and micro-manage them. I want leaders capable enough to receive a vision from God, put a plan together and then I hold them accountable to their plan.

With Missional Communities, you don’t want to control them, but it’s crucial for each MC to know from the beginning they are in an interdependent relationship with the center. They play the role of the edge, but they can really only do this because there is a center. Both are needed. But it is far easier and more effective to pool the resources and for the center to resource all of the edges.

Aidan: So from a practical, structural perspective, what does that mean?

Mike: The way we tried to do it at St. Toms was to say it was fine for each Missional Community to have an emergency fund that they kept for the MC when there was a sudden need, but the rest of the money that people give goes to the center.

Just think about it this way: Very quickly in a network of MC’s there will be some MC’s that are richer, and some that are poorer.  As you know, often times the poorer ones are actually the ones in need of the most funding. If it’s everyone fending for themselves, this really leaves the poorer communities out to dry. We seemed to find some real balance in letting MC’s have an emergency fund but asking they give the rest to the center.

Now at first glance that may sound pretty controlling with the money, but because our leaders were in a high accountability structure with Huddles, they were the ones presenting budgets for their MC’s and almost all of the time they received the money they asked for. Again, this creates this beautiful, interdependent relationship where the center recognizes it exists to resource the edges, and the edges understanding they aren’t the only edges that exist.

Aidan: In many ways it sounds what you are asking the edges to do is not be myopic about the Kingdom. Basically, “Yes, you could choose to keep all of your money in this particular MC, but in doing so, you are limiting the expansion of the Kingdom on the whole. Instead of living in a bigger story where everything is connected, you’ve chosen to live in a smaller, more disconnected version.”

Mike: Yeah. Because what happens when the edges (MC’s) don’t inter-relate to the center in this way, they further live in the Western story of hyperindividuality; it’s just now that it’s crept into not only into their individual lives, but the community they lead and are a part of. They may be the soft tissue, but they are no longer connected to the skeleton. They perpetuate the problem of disconnectedness and individuality.

Aidan: Maybe we can pivot a little. We’ve been talking about giving…How do you structure the community in such a way that everyone is resourced? Perhaps we can talk some about creating the kinds of people who want to give in the first place!

Mike: I once heard an old pastor say: “The man with the Vision met the man with the Money. The man with the Vision walked away with the Money and the Man with the Money walked away with the Vision.”

Before people will give, they really have to believe what they are giving to. You need a vision that is inspiring, a vision where people can find themselves, a vision that gives them a story they want to be a part of. Because this is the thing: if you don’t have real vision, you’ll be stuck with guilt, duty, oughts-and-shoulds rather than a generous response to a generous God.

Aidan: So…what are your thoughts on tithing?

Mike: I think tithing is the best approach if for no other reason we haven’t found a better one.

Is it necessary for salvation? No.

Is it necessary for a deeper spiritual life? Maybe not.

But is it incredibly helpful to your personal discipleship? Without a doubt.

For Jesus, he said to his disciples, “When you tithe…” Which seems to be an expectation of tithing. And yes, you can say they were in Israel and Jesus is making a contextual comment, but it’s not as if Jesus made that distinction in a lot of other cases. He says to his discples, “When you fast…” so there seems to be an expectation there. But he doesn’t say, “Now when you wash your hands in the ceremonial water before you eat…” To me, there seems to be a distinction here.

On the practical side of it, I really think the process of giving is one of the clearest ways to test if people understand the Grace of God. A generous God, a Father who gives us good gifts, has been generous in every way with us…will we be generous to a world that may not deserve it just as we didn’t deserve it?

Aidan: Dallas Willard talks about the need for a plan for Spiritual Formation. He often talks about getting people “in motion” so they can at least start the journey. What do you think is a basic plan for spiritually forming someone to be a generous person?

Mike: “In motion,” I like that. And I think that’s where it begins. You have to start getting them “in motion” somewhere.

I think a new person finds it easiest to begin giving at a meeting (Missional Community or the worship service). Pass the plate, whatever you do.

Once they grow, however, then you can start to talk about Stewardship of the life God has given us; and just one of those things is money.

My personal opinion is that setting up a Bank Draft is a pretty clear sign of maturity: Once it’s settled, it’s just what you do. Once you have made the decision, it takes away the temptation of not doing it. Your mind is made up, it’s who you are. I don’t know why more American pastor and churches don’t have bank draft as a way of giving in their churches. It’s just automatic and makes your annual budget so much easier.

And one last note, I do think there is a differentiation between tithe and offering.

Tithe is about Stewardship and Discipleship, taking on the discipline of caring for the Kingdom as a way of life.

Offering is about excess. It is extra. It is on top of tithe. What do we do with this extra money that God has generously given us? Offering is when we have a particular sense of gratitude towards God and want to be generous as he is generous. Scripture seems to say that real generosity begins after the tithe.

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