The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls . . . So wrote Simon and Garfunkel in their 1966 hit song, The Sound of Silence. If we pay close attention, we will find that the secular artists (poets, musicians, authors, etc.) of a culture often speak kingdom values and insights to the people of God with a clarity not found among the people of God.
In this blog I explain (for those interested) why as of July 2015, Stephanos Ministries ceased to be a 501-C-3 corporation with IRS pre-approval of donations. For decades we were a 501-C-3, so what follows is surely not a judgment or condemnation on anyone who currently maintains that status. For years I believed being a 501-C-3 was a benign and mutually beneficial exercise of Christian liberty. I do not judge those who maintain that conviction today. However, in the light of recent political and legal trends in the world, I thought an explanation for our conviction and action in terminating our status might be helpful. Most believers I have met are very naïve and ill-informed on the “legal” aspects of operating a “church” or “ministry.” This is my attempt to inform and educate.
How should we fund ministry efforts (local and trans-local) in the kingdom of Jesus Christ, in a new covenant, grace-based, non-coercive way in community? On the one hand there’s the way we’ve been doing it for centuries, that I hope to have convinced you in this book is at least lacking if not utterly broken: tithe to an impersonal institution to support a professional class of full-time clergy who are the real “ministers.” On the other hand, there are the more reactionary elements who believe that no individual, under any circumstance, should be compensated in preference over an another, as we are all equal as “ministers”–the gift of hospitality is as worthy of compensation as preaching and teaching.
It’s obvious that the long-term future belongs to the youngest current generations of adults, The Millennials. The beliefs, values, and giving habits of this generation must be understood if we are going to effectively speak their language, in incarnational love, on the topic of finances and giving.
Is there a better way to express a culture of giving and receiving than blindly throwing ten percent into the mouth of a voracious, impersonal, non-relational, religious machine that consumes resources like the Borg assimilating the universe?[i] I think there is.
But there as many opinions on this topic as there are believers!
Acts 16:14 speaks of a woman named Lydia who was a “seller of purple” who responded to Paul’s preaching and offered to host Paul and his team in her home. Lydia’s gender, her being a “seller of purple,” and her means to be able to accommodate Paul and his band are significant to understanding the implications of this passage.
It is an indisputable fact that there are differences in giving habits between different generations. These differences are deep and not going away. If we expect giving in the ekklesia to continue along the line it has for the last fifty years, or even twenty years, we are seriously mistaken. We ignore these differences at our peril.
The internet can be a very hostile place. Facebook can be toxic. I try not to respond to things I see in social media, because I know how easy it is to be slandered and attacked by people who do not know me. I have been the recipient of that kind of treatment and do not want to make a habit of doing it to others. I much prefer leaving people alone and not “policing the universe,” especially if I do not have a personal relationship with those who some might think need policing!
However, every once and a while, something comes across the internet, which if confirmed, can be so disturbing and so slandering to our Father’s nature and character, that it is appropriate to respond publicly. This is especially so if the source is from someone who influences hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people. With great influence comes great responsibility, and the need for great accountability, and not just from “hand-picked friends and associates!” If someone posts something publicly, a public response is not a “violation of Matthew 18,” neither is it “judgmentalism” nor slander.
I had the privilege of doing a podcast associated with the release of our new book, Money and the Church, with our friends at family Room Media, David Fredrickson, Loren Rosser, and Bob Humphrey. It seemed like it was an invigorating dialogue. Check it out if you are interested.