Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Some musings about money

There's some pretty big building projects going on in Sydney churches at the moment. Even from the other side of the world the constructions seem impressive and I'm sure there are many people who are going to benefit. But as I read about 'state of the art audio systems', 'cutting edge cinema quality video' and 'up to the minute podcast and vodcast facilities' - and how much all this sort of stuff costs - it has got me wondering a bit about the Christian dollar and the worldwide perspective.

For example, I've just spent a week in a county where the most up to date teaching aid was a handheld whiteboard and the climate control was a couple of fans to push the humidity laden hot air around. Pastors have to have a 'day job' because there's hardly enough money in the economy to eat, let alone pay someone to minister in your church. The course I was teaching cost the equivalent of 1 month's average wage - which of course they could not pay. Some donors in England raised the money - at the cost of an average sandwich and coffee in London per student.

Clearly there is a great disparity here. On one hand christians in one part of the world are spending millions on dollars on new buildings and facilities, while in another part they are scraping together a few bucks to buy paper for weekly hymn sheets.

I know I'm not the first person to identify this disparity or to think about it - but here's a few questions its got me pondering about.

- When we spend megabucks on new buildings and the latest equipment that goes inside, are we being good stewards? Should we be going for something a bit more 'plain' and sending the difference overseas?

- Do we sometimes convince ourselves that the latest and greatest is needed because that is what the non-Christian world is used to and therefore won't give us a hearing if we don't have it? Are we putting too much confidence in technology at this point, rather than in the power of God's word?

- Is there a problem with the way the Christian community gives money? Will we readily give to local projects and buildings - but less so to offshore projects and people?

- Should we be asking similar questions about staffing levels in churches? When we want the money for that new assistant minister / youth worker / kid's minister / .... do we look at the money that is going to our missionaries and see a disparity. If so, should we consider that?

- Are we serious about supporting worldwide mission when it comes to $$?

I certainly don't have the answers to all of this - but I think they (and other similar questions) are worth thinking about.

Today's photo comes from Mexican Independence Day celebrations in the town of Allende, about 1hrs drive south of Monterrey.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Exciting opportunities this week

In the last week we've had some exciting opportunities to be teaching the Bible.

Last Friday Sarah read Colossians with a friend. It was refreshing for Sarah and the friend described it as "like water in the desert". We read 14 verses in Spanish and then talked about it (in English and Spanish) using the light bulb, question mark and arrow framework.

On Sunday Pete met with a leader from church who is keen to be running something to train the uni age people. After discussion it was decided that Pete will teach the Moore College Introduction to the Bible course regularly on Sunday nights.

Yesterday Pete went to the leaders meeting for the Christianity Explored course which is due to start this week. He discovered that he was leading the meeting as he was introduced. But it was a great time encouraging 20 leaders to be leading groups to help people read Mark and let God's powerful word do it's work.

Pete has also been preparing his teaching notes for a course in another Latin American country next week. He'll be teaching Intro to the Bible to 12 pastors who will then train other teachers. Lillian (Sarah's tutor) checked his translation of some of his notes, and he was pleasantly surprised by how impressed she was with his Spanish. It will still be necessary to use a translator for much of the time.

It's exciting to see the way that God is opening doors for us, and then equipping us to step through them. It's also exciting to see people around us asking for help to understand the Bible and grow as Christians.