The most popular workshop is not what it should be
Many are being misled to think that the biggest “Christian money workshop” is Christian when the advice is no different than any secular planner might give.
Hosting a Christian money workshop or money class is popular in churches today. And there is no doubt in my mind that the way we think about and handle money is an important spiritual issue. But many are being misled by the most common church money workshop. I’m not sure anyone is asking, Is this program built on a biblical foundation? Is the purpose of this class really the exaltation of Jesus? Is the goal to develop faithful Christians who are better equipped and focused on living for King and kingdom?
Even though it’s very appealing, the most popular money program in churches today is not what it should be. It’s packaged well and the materials are first rate but the program itself has little to do with living as a disciple. The problem is that it fits into a money-focused, ten percent is God’s and the rest is mine way of thinking. So, of course ninety percent of the time will be focused on independence, self-sufficiency, and accumulation, and very little time, if any, will be devoted to living changed lives for Jesus. In other words, this is the very same conversation we could have with any secular financial planner. There’s very little that’s Christian about that.
So, here are four problems with this:
Moving down the path of least resistance.
The first problem is we’re moving down the path of least resistance rather than a path of discipleship. The path of least resistance is a money conversation that takes place in the church but still allows me to think about money in a secular way. We’re all tempted to self-focus as we deal with money – it’s the path of least resistance. It’s easy to discuss the issues we can all agree on like adultery or pornography or prayer or loving others, but it’s difficult to talk about being a disciple of Jesus in the way we think about money. Often there doesn’t even seem to be a working definition for what that might mean.
The good news is that there are still churches that understand that Jesus is meant to be the purpose of everything. Some still long for a deep and faithful walk with Jesus where the gospel is at the core of life itself. But many are taking the path of least resistance in the money conversation.
The wrong goal
Second, we can easily have the wrong goal. Our goal, in everything we do should be to glorify God (1 Cor 10:31), proclaim the excellencies of our Savior (1 Peter 2:9), and love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind (Matt 22:37). This should should also be our goal as we live with money.
This does not mean we shouldn’t buy a house or put money in our 401(k), but all financial decisions must be made as stewards and as disciples who long for God’s glory above everything else. When our primary concern and focus is financial independence, we have the wrong goal.
Underestimating the results
Third, we can underestimate the results of bringing compromised, money-focused (rather than gospel-focused) teaching into the church. The result of a secular money discussion this will most likely be self-focused and compromised Christians. What the congregation hears about money should align with Scripture and the call to follow Jesus in everything. The impact of embracing the wrong message can mean damaged people and a damaged mission.
The wrong leader
And last, it’s easy to have the wrong leader. Often the assumption is that the best person to lead this discussion is a church member who is in the financial services industry. While that might be true, it could also be very wrong. It’s easy for someone like that to think too highly of investments and accumulation and tactics, or maybe even a sales opportunity instead of a Jesus-focused mission. It’s easy for an investment person to align with the wrong emphasis.
A few months ago, I was talking to a pastor who was concerned about a church member who wanted to lead a financial class in the church. The pastor was concerned that the message would not be what it should be. But since the pastor was not a financial person, he felt intimidated and helpless.
If you are a church leader, you must exert oversight on this issue. Money can easily deceive us, and you are responsible for those under your care. If there is a faithful Christian who is living a Jesus-first life and is also in the financial services business, that person can be a real asset. But be careful when you pick someone to lead a class on money. Just because you have a church member who’s in the financial industry does not mean he or she should be leading this discussion.
So, in closing, I’d like to say two things:
First – Since money is connected to so much of life, thinking about it the way we should is critical to a growing disciple. But, if we’re serving money instead of serving Jesus, we cannot be who we should be.
Second – If we, through the power of the Holy Spirit, embrace our mission here – lives devoted to Jesus in everything – money decisions will actually become much easier. These decisions are not as complicated as the wall-street marketing machine would have us believe.
Money is one of those dominating, core, battleground issues like sexuality or gossip. And we must always fight to live with money in a way that’s anchored in Scripture, faith-driven, and exalts Jesus. Please be prayerfully careful when considering this discussion in your church.