November 20, 2003

Money sucks

I don't use the word "hate" much. As a child, I commonly applied that verb to anything that left me less-than-satisfied, like peas, my little sister, and riding the school bus. In fact, anything that I didn't love, I hated. Today I'm much more choosy with my verbs, I have a much broader vocabulary at my disposal, and hating seems such an unchristian thing to do that I reserve the word for more occasional usage. I'm a pretty content, accepting, and emotionally stable person; I just don't have many opportunities to use the word "hate" in its official, dictionary sense. So when I say, "I hate church finances," I hope you understand exactly what I mean.

I hate church finances so much that, for the first two and a half years of my pastoral tenure, I completely ignored the fact that our church had any ties with filthy lucre whatsoever. The treasurer eventually quit supplying me with monthly financial reports altogether due to my obvious disinterest. In those days, we had a bundle in savings, and so my disdain carried with it no (immediate) consequences. Ignorance, indeed, was bliss.

The surplus dried up not long after we called a second full-time staff member, and I was forced to dirty my hands with the whole money thing. Today I spend a couple of hours a week analyzing the church's financial situation. Back in the good old days, I spent less time than that on church money in a year!

This week our Budget and Finance ministry team finalized their proposal for the 2004 budget. It's a great budget, and the team did some awesome work. God led and did some of His "God Stuff" to bring it all together. I've never been tempted to apply the adjective "redemptive" to a budget process before, but this one was. I was (I can't believe I'm saying this) blessed by the whole thing. Incredibly so. The team leader is even going to help me put together some spreadsheets that make the weekly analysis less painful.

But I still hate church finances. I'm always left feeling a little bit dirty when I've been mucking about with the money. I mean, how do you overlook the fact that Judas was the first church treasurer?

(Any thoughts out there on a theology of corporate stewardship?)

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