Do Dollars Talk in Church Leadership?

shutterstock_153411764Money Is Not the Only Currency!

There was a day when employers held employees and entire communities in a stranglehold. The owners of the company that employed most of the people in a village had huge advantages—and they used them. They paid the workers. They also owned the stores where the workers shopped. They were certain of getting almost every penny they paid to their workers back. It must have felt good while it lasted.


Then came unions.


That type of thinking grew out of European feudal society. Indeed, it is difficult to break away from the Middle Ages, especially in the Church. That’s when the church structure we practice today was solidified. With a few little blips—like the Reformation—it has resisted challenge. Even the Protestant denominations are tempted to revert!


The day for change has come. There is no stopping it. But it is not the change church leaders look for. They want to find ways to keep the Church structure as they know it going. They have been running a “company store” for centuries.


People are no longer limited by geography to live and work. When they are unhappy, their griping has a larger audience—the world.


Church members are discovering other spiritual outlets and communities. They are a new source of energy and spirit that can augment the Christian message if not dismissed automatically as a challenge to the faith.


The reaction of the vertically structured, “feudal” Church is to do what they’ve always done—throw around some weight. “If you don’t do what we think you should do, we will take away that grant we promised. If you still insist on doing things differently, we will limit the choice of pastors available to serve you. If that doesn’t work, we’ll show up on your doorstep with a locksmith.”


OK, the last one is a bit extreme, but it happened to 2×2’s sponsoring church, Redeemer Lutheran in East Falls, Philadelphia!


The first two happen often.


These strategies are growing weaker and weaker. They live where fear allows them to live—and so they will be around in some form for a while.


But people of faith, who have a strong spiritual foundation will challenge them. Today, we all have access to the world.


That’s going to make the Vertical Church nervous. They will take for granted that the purse strings they are pulling tight will be magically refilled by compliant parishioners. It will surprise them that people can give directly to any number of causes that resonate, without having their gifts filtered through denominational hierarchy. They will assume that church members will cower in fear and that they will not have the time, talent and resources to stick to their sense of mission without the traditional controls of leadership and money.


All Over A Washer and Dryer? No, It Was About Power

Here’s a story from Cincinnati, Ohio, that proves it. An arch diocese withdrew a grant to buy a washer and dryer for an approved outreach project in an attempt to rein in a woman overstepping leadership boundaries in a different arena. In the old days, this would have been quietly effective. People would have been kept in their place. In the old days the Church controlled its media. However, a number of news outlets and Facebook publicized the arch diocese’s actions. Support dollars began pouring in.


What will happen next?


Church leaders might examine the value of the project they were content to scuttle in relationship to their desire to silence an independent leader. But by taking an extreme measure at the outset, they are far more likely to dig in their heels—even when it defies reason.


More posturing and muscle-flexingis likely to result.


That was our experience here in East Falls, Philadelphia.


It takes a while to understand that money is not the only currency. Love works magic!


As for what is next with Lydia’s House—the organization that the Church sought to whip into shape: they shared the donations with similar organizations. Many benefited when the denied contribution would have helped just one. That’s the power of the Horizontal Church.

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