A kingdom response to recession

March 16, 2009

church / culture

I’m a somewhat regular listener to NPR‘s All Things Considered. Today, there was a story about a church near Grand Rapids that is trying to respond to the city’s worse-than-the-rest-of-the-country economic situation. The church itself has around 2,000 members, and has seen its giving drop a lot due to local economic troubles, especially in the furniture industry. It has also had to lay off some staff, drop salaries, and have staff take unpaid vacation time.

All of this is certainly not surprising, and is part of the reason that I believe the economic crisis offers the potential for the church to embrace change in unprecedented ways. But in listening to this story, I was reminded that aside from the reshaping potential, there are churches that are taking the opportunity to really serve the poor in creative ways.

The pastor of this church offered 50 $100 bills to 50 people in the congregation, asking them to follow Jesus’ parable of the talents, in which people are given a little bit of money and asked to multiply it. The people in this church were asked to take the small amount they were given, and invest it in serving the poor of their community.

One person invested the $100 by buying admission tickets for an event in a donated gym space with donated games and all kinds of things. This event raised over $12,000, which was given to a family with a hospitalized child, who could not afford the medical bills.

Others in the church used their money in similar ways, and these small amounts of money did incredible things in that city. I felt entirely surprised, and am confident that I heard a glimpse of what the kingdom of God’s response can be to this kind of thing. I wasn’t expecting to hear anything like that, in days when we have church leaders praying over the bull on Wall Street, asking God to restore our unsustainable addiction and greed.