One of my dogmas has been to "leave as much money in the local church
as possible." As an organization we've worked to become as lean and
efficient as possible. Over the past 12 years some pretty serious downsizing
has been made in Indianapolis and at conference levels: eliminating
departments, cutting staff, pushing ministries down to local levels,
outsourcing publishing and marketing, superintendents on razor-edge budgets, to
list a few. This wasn't only driven by the desire to "leave as much money
in the local church as possible," it was also an adjustment away from an
institutional mindset of command and control to an entrepreneurial mindset of
The latter dogma I love, the former, I have doubts about. I mean, isn't trying
to leave as much money in the local church as possible basically a
self-centered dogma? Shouldn't the desire be for the local church to "give
away as much money as possible?" Shouldn't the local church want to
participate in ministry outside of its area of immediate influence? In addition,
the dogma fosters a sense of "it's our money," that defiles the
beauty of what an offering is…it's a gift, it's something we've really given,
not something we've symbolically given.
Now here's where I agree with this dogma: if the local church is using its
money to reach and disciple broken-hearted people, who aren't "in"
the church, then I'm all for it, because it's not self-centered. At that point,
the local church has the best knowledge of how to invest the Lord's money in
Kingdom ways right around them. There's no way that an off-site office could
better use that money. In that case, yes, leave the money in the local church.
Like most dogmas, this one starts with a great desire; to enable those
nearest to the need to creatively deploy resources, but can easily play into
our carnal desire to turn around and use our tithe for ourselves. For a gift to
be real, it has to leave our hands and go to someone else. Let's adopt another
dogma, from our brother John W.: "Give all you can."