I was reading an article by Amy Butler on the ABP News site recently on the season of church budgets. She was responding to a writer who was comparing church budgets with budgets of other nonprofit organizations. Basically, the writer was complaining that the church spent too much money on staff and buildings and not enough on social ministries (such as supporting the food pantry). His solution for what is ailing the church is to increase our budgets on the “doing good things” line items that fulfill the two Great Commandments.

I can’t put it any better than how Amy responded:

The… author is dead wrong [in] that he’s approaching a new situation — the decline of the institutional church in America — with an old solution.

In the past we churches thought of ourselves as the backbones of society, places where good, moral, and faithful people gather to pool resources so we can go out into the world and feed the homeless and convert people in order to save their souls. Keeping administrative costs as low as possible would help us to help the needy … [But] with our role in society shifting, we are no longer bastions of benevolent and overflowing food pantries that we graciously bestow on the less fortunate and then return to our churches filled with other scrubbed and spiritual do-gooders to plan new ways to do ministry.  (from The Shocking Truth About Church Budgets)

Effective churches today understand that the church’s mission isn’t to re-make the world into a better place with liberty and justice for all… at least not directly. The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ… not just “believers” who come to church to cheer on the 20 percenters, but disciples who live their lives with mercy, grace, and justice. As they do, they take their faith with them to work, to the club, to the polls, and yes, even to the local food pantry. But they do all that because their church is committed to achieving the prime directive of disciple making. And if that means some other organization has to run the food pantry, then so be it.

If over the last hundred years the church had been as committed to the Great Commission as it has been in doing good things, the world would be a better place with liberty and justice for… well, for more than there’s justice for now.

This year, as you look at your budget, rethink where you’re going to cut and where you’re going to pad. Your church will make more lasting cultural and societal change by focusing on the mission of making disciples than it will by trying to mend the ailments of humanity.

Question: Where do you see your budget lacking now? Where is it strongest? How could you change it to increase your church’s effectiveness? Share your thoughts and questions in the Comments section below.