Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Inbox: Priorities, Priorities

Bellator writes, “Someone asked me to read The Post-Quarantine Church by Thom Rainer. I attach a copy of page 5.”

Well now, there’s an invitation we can hardly pass up!

Turns out the quotes Bellator selected were not related to the author’s recommendations about what our churches most need to learn from the events of the last two years, but rather to his observations about the priorities pursued by church administrators once lockdowns were announced and Christians stopped gathering together for worship.

I consider those priorities disturbing. You may too.

Bye-Bye Offering Plate …

In fact, there were a couple of cellphone snaps attached to B.’s emails on the subject, which I have excerpted below. From page 5:

“The financial support for many of these churches came primarily through the offering plate. Consequently, with no in-person worship services, there was no offering. With no offering, there were no incoming funds to support the ministries of the church.”

“As our Church Answers team started working with church leaders on the emerging new realities presented by the lockdown, we focused initially on helping them move as many members as possible to digital giving. We encouraged tech-savvy and highly relational members to work one-on-one with senior adults who had serious apprehensions about the digital world.”

If that doesn’t strike you as parasitic, I’m not sure what will. If the first thing a locked-down senior inspires in you is the consuming desire to persuade him/her to send you money, you have reached a very sad place indeed. But I guess keeping the “ministries of the church” solvent (most of which were inoperative because of the lockdown rules at the time), was considered job 1.

Bellator comments, “I forgot that the first priority of churches was to make sure the money kept flowing in. Not out to people in need, but into the budget lines. I forgot how much emphasis there was in churches all over the place about finances. I’m disgusted at the memory. When crisis hit, the inflow of cash was the first priority and, according to this book, the first move of leaders and church consultants alike was to secure the funds. The world ran to the store to buy toilet paper while church leaders (the hirelings specifically) ran around trying to secure their money.”

IC replies, “The ‘care bears’ show up to collect the cash. Wow.”

Serious Apprehensions

Incidentally, there are plenty of good reasons people of my generation and older have “serious apprehensions about the digital world”, and not all of these have to do with the dubious joys of navigating new tech. The Canadian government recently reached a new low when it used data hacked from a charity by a social justice crusader to identify and suspend the bank accounts of contributors to the trucker convoys.

These are precisely the sort of apprehensions I have always had about operating in the digital world. It creates a set of footprints that can be followed algorithmically back to the source, and funds shut off in an instant. Had I been contacted by one of Rainer’s “highly relational members” (code for “smooth talkers”), my impulse would have been to hang up. If I still had my old-style phone, I’d do it with a resounding bang.

But apparently that is not how many of those contacted responded. From page 108:

“Second, many of these members and guests started giving financially to the church. This particular Florida church saw giving increase more than 25 percent during the pandemic, most of it connected to the retirement homes.”

I spent a fair bit of time visiting a retirement home over the last few years, and I can assure you not everyone you find in such establishments remains fully equipped to make optimal financial decisions.

Now, I have it on good authority that it is not at all uncommon in Christian circles for seniors to do a huge percentage of the giving to any perceived good cause. That is not a problem if the giving is fully-informed, voluntary and non-coerced, but when it is being facilitated by people schmoozing to keep their own paychecks coming, that’s hardly what you call doing the Lord’s work at an arm’s-length distance.

IC comments, “When people on a fixed income, people with a shorter lifespan remaining, are your concern for donors, you’re either moribund or preying on the vulnerable, or both.”

The Final Word

I’ll let Bellator have the final word:

“Maybe the Lord really did shut the church doors to wake people up and shed some of the falseness. I can’t imagine he was unendingly willing to overlook finance driven, money first ‘churches’ who only mislead people about what a church is.”

Amen to that.

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