. of view

Earl Marshall

The Way We Think About “Church” is Dead Wrong

With thanks to @chrisfromcanada, I watched Dan Palotta’s TED’s talk, “The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong” .  If you are in church leadership I would encourage you to watch the video.  I found it not only inspiring but very helpful in framing the challenges that most churches face.

I consider the “social problem” that our church is trying to address in terms of disciple making.  There is a sin problem in our region and the challenge for our church is how to engage in this solution with the gospel.  Our elders are considering how we can engage in a church multiplication strategy that would see groups of followers of Christ reach the towns in which they live with the wonderful good news of Jesus death, burial and resurrection.  How awesome would it be to see scores of churches that are committed to this all across our region and country.  This is a great vision and we trust a God given one.

This kind of vision takes risk and inevitably will include failures along the way.  The problem with this is that our churches, as is the case with most non-profits, are wired to be risk adverse.  There is no greater test of this with how we spend our money.  Churches are dependent on donations and for the most part those who donate their money want to donate to organizations that are vision oriented but also frugal with financial resources.  Palotta put it well when he said “morality does not equal frugality” and yet that is what most people think.  It is this risk adverse mentality that leads churches to be resource challenged (financial and otherwise).  How many church meetings have you sat in where it feels like the only question anyone is concerned about is whether we are in the red or black.  Don’t misunderstand we need to manage our financial resources well but we also need to be risk oriented with them not risk adverse.

It is this mentality that leads us to consider “overhead” as a necessary evil instead of a vital part to the mission and vision that God has called us on.  What if you could be part of a church that was able to develop and recruit the best church leaders in the world who could in turn help equip everyone else in the church to fulfill the vision that God has called you to.  Would you like to be part of a church like that?

Watch the video now and tell me what you think!!

1 Comment

  1. Fascinating, particularly since I just finished reading my organization’s annual report. Seth Godin said something similar about risk for non-profits a few months back:

    “The biggest, best-funded non profits have an obligation to be leaders in innovation, but sometimes they hesitate.
    One reason: “We’re doing important work. Our funders count on us to be reasonable and cautious and proven, because the work we’re doing is too important to risk failure.”
    One alternative: “We’re doing important work. Our funders count on us to be daring and bold and brave, because the work we’re doing is too important to play it safe.”


    I do wonder about Puritans and Calvinists being the cause of the problem. If nothing else it would appear that he got the facts wrong about the percentage. 5% a tithe. I assume that’s what he was referring to.

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