The other day I was at the local YMCA when I ran into one of the other regular Friday morning swimmers. We had our usual weekly chat. The topic of church came up again, and he told me that his congregation needed some revitalization. The story was all too common: the members were getting older. It had been shrinking over time. And the church was sitting on $700,000.
The thing that surprises me so much about that church is how utterly typical it is: a congregation that is not thriving and has way too much money that is just sitting there doing nothing. I know another small church with a part-time pastor just down the road. They are sitting on $80,000. Do you know what it can be used for? Well… neither do they.
I know a third church a little farther down the road. The pastor grew weary because of the congregation’s continual resistance to missions. So he left. That church is sitting on about a million bucks. Do you think they are thriving?
Presbyterians have tended to be one of the wealthier denominations in the United States. I have found that it is very common to find established congregations that have inherited large gifts from previous generations.
And I have found two common themes about those inherited funds. First, the money may very well be sitting there doing nothing. Second, the session may not even know what the funds may be used for.
There is such huge potential. In theory, we could easily fund church plants, set up community foundations, aid in church revitalization and do so much more. Our funds could be used as an invitation to shared ministry that we are passionate about. They could be used as a joyful proclamation of what we believe.
Recently I was watching a documentary on Netflix about Steve Jobs. In an interview, he said something to the effect that the biggest lesson he learned in life was that we all have the potential to actually create something. We can actively shape the world. And when he learned that, it changed his perspective on everything. I yearn for the church to learn that too – to experience the joy and the growth and the pain and the courage and the tears and the sweat and the imagination and the purpose and the pure fun of being part of birthing a new manifestation of the Kingdom of God on earth. Because if we learn that, we will never be the same.
Many of us already have the seed money sitting there; it holds the possibility of actually doing something creative. And that’s a good place to start.
Darryl Evans is the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Kannapolis, NC. He loves being a part of new missions projects.