Friday, April 6, 2012

The Other Side of Church Commodity Trading

Commodity trading is not confined to Wall Street, or even to financial centers. Commodity trading wages in the church.

Temptation ebbs and flows in congregational life where "outreach" easily becomes commodity exploration. A connection in the community can become a  prospect for congregational membership. This is not inherently bad. Connections in the community are good for the congregation, but sometimes they are only seen as good as that person has a commodity being traded in the congregation. Sunday school teacher? Board member? Musician? Someone with children? An income with the ability to make a regular offering?

A good theology of vocation includes that everyone has something to offer. While this may be true in theory, there is a hierarchy of value upon which a church economy often operates. In order for the church to exist in many Christianity economies, a congregation will invest their efforts in the commodities listed above, sometimes at the expense of connecting with people solely because they are made in the image of God.

It's no wonder this commodity trading happens. Pastors often carry large student loan debt, and congregations carry huge mortgages. The debt load and commodity trading in many congregations spawns a culture of overwhelming anxiety and mistrust. Anxiety and mistrust are not good currency for relationships and friendships, let alone outreach. Desperate people and congregations struggle to make good decisions. There's a fine line between desperate and passionate. While we want our congregations to be passionate, what we often invest in leads to desperation.

This reflection is written on Good Friday, a sobering account and reminder of the power of deadly things in which we invest. Christ will overcome them. We are redeemable through Christ. But the carnage along the way is humbling.


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