Yes, the economy is having an effect on us all. In hind sight of Advent/Stewardship Season/Christmas, a lot has been said to the effect of “Generosity, generosity, generosity.” This theme is at the core of what it means to be submitted to God. While many in this world are hoping for “things to turn around” economically, the fact is that there are so, so many signs out there that it may take a lot longer than anyone would like (personal debt, governmental debt, institutional debt).
In my humble opinion there may be two clear options forward economically for our society and the people within it, 1. austerity and 2. pushing the collective debts forward (okay a third option may be to offer up a combination of the two). In all, there are some serious decisions to be made by all of us in the near future. What is more, every one of us will be effected by these decisions. Everyone of us, even if we’re debt free with money in the bank, our institutions, our ability to invest and the general value of the dollar will be impacted – THE ECONOMY OF THE CHURCH WILL CHANGE.
We are already seeing the movement toward a day in the life of the Church in America when we are expected to DO LESS with MORE! Salaries are down and they most likely will be for a long while. People are being hired part-time and primarily locally. Movements within the itinerant clergy has slowed down significantly because of the costs that are incurred by the local churches. Construction of facilities are at a minimum with rentals of space being highly competitive and existing churches moving to graduate their debts.
Churches are being required by necessity to do more with much less and, by God’s grace, it seems to be happening! From my non-scientific point of view, attendance at local congregations is steady. Giving continues to be steady in the congregations that I hear about from my pastor-friends across the land (though down somewhat). In all we’re hanging in there. However the downside is this: What would the Church do if she is expected to work with less?
My thoughts are that we would just do more! We are being called to serve more with less. I believe that our calling is to employee everything at our disposal (time, resources, love) to offer real ministry to the world. I really think that we are being called to do more ministry and perhaps being expected to stand firm in our committment to our calling despite significantly fewer resources at our disposal.
Necessity IS the mother of all invention and this necessity for ministry amid the lacking of “stuff” may be the engine that leads the next great awakening in this country and perhaps even a generation of generosity in Christ. I truly believe that we are on the front end of the Church’s finest moment in North America in many, many years. I hope I live to see it all happen because I am convinced that it will be amid the institutional church’s perceived economic shortfall that the body of Christ will be able to completely see and recognize the hands of God working in our midst.