Should Churches Own Assets?

Erik Cooper —  March 17, 2011 — 3 Comments

Sometimes I struggle to write certain things (ask my wife). I’m not just a blogger. I’m a pastor, who happens to write a blog. Most days I want to stick to the middle of the road where it’s safe. A little humor here, a little insight there, with an encouraging biblical reference as the cherry on top.

But this blog is intended to be a vulnerable look at my family, my own spiritual journey, and my role as a church leader. And sometimes I stumble into hard spaces. Questions that make me uneasy (like I’m watching Joe Biden speak in public).

So I’ll risk being mislabeled a cynic and chuck this one on the table.

Should churches own assets?

I know, I know. The guy with the 2 year old church tosses out a covet-laced question buried in an ocean of false-humility. Maybe. You might be right (see, there’s that concocted lowliness again).

I’m not asking if it’s morally or biblically wrong (If you’re curious, I don’t think it is). I’ve been on both sides of this conversation, and I see benefits (and pitfalls) to each. But I can’t keep these instructions from Jesus to His disciples from setting up shop in my brain:

“Jesus called the Twelve to him, and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority and power to deal with the evil opposition. He sent them off with these instructions: Don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this. You are the equipment. No special appeals for funds. Keep it simple.” –Mark 6:7-9 MSG

The word asset has inherently positive overtones. We’d all love to be called a great “asset” to our organization, right? But in business school, we also learned that all assets have offsetting expenses or liabilities.

And in that way, assets can complicate. They need to be managed. They dilute our focus. Scream for attention. Demand our resources. And truthfully, they can begin to define us. To own us.

Before you mistakenly think I’m calling out mega-churches with sprawling campuses, fancy offices, and drive-through coffee shops, save your inner cynic for talks of federal deficit reduction. Church assets don’t just show up on balance sheets.

  • Our preferred method of ministry can be an asset.
  • Power can be an asset.
  • Denominational hierarchy can be an asset.
  • Political connections can be an asset.
  • Shoot, even anger and cynicism can become an asset on which we build the church (it’s certainly not hard to build a following of people who are bitter at the church).

Maybe the issue isn’t so much owning assets as it is allowing them to begin owning us. Defining us. Defining God.

No bold declarations here (maybe I am just a jealous church planter). Just something I’m pondering as we move forward. Thought you might want to ponder, too.

What do you think? Should churches own assets?

3 responses to Should Churches Own Assets?

  1. Christina Duitsman March 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    I think it’s great for churches to own assets. But as you stated, only as long as the church is not defined by those very things.

    I struggle, personally, with going to large churches who have the funds to build this and that, or buy this flashy item or that flashy item. I understand the need to draw or attract people to the church, but in doing so is the church losing its power to deliver the word of God?

    Although I currently do not attend church I do know my preference in churches. I grew up in a rather large church and while it was a wholly awesome church in it grandeur, it felt incredibly impersonal. I never felt connected to my pastor and doubt he ever knew my name. In recent times, I’ve been to other large churches and found that I was unable to focus on the sermon being spoken, but rather was focusing on the ten television monitors behind him that were swirling beautiful, nearly hypnotic colors constantly, seemingly dependent on the mood the sermon was taking.

    In attending a small church of approximately 70 members or so, I found that I was able to be more personal and active with it’s members. If I didn’t show up one week for morning services my phone would ring to ensure all was well. I see it as more of a community. Everyone relies on everyone to do a certain job. This church did not have a lot of money or glitz, and there wasn’t anything to necessarily draw new members to it, other than the delivery of the word of God. I heard every word of it as if the pastor was speaking directly to me. They didn’t have anything to define them, expect for the word of God and the apparent family atmosphere everyone shared.

    It is not my intent to slam large churches because they do much good for many people. It’s just my opinion and observation.

  2. I have a preference in music, but I know that God loves all styles of worship personally, because He is a God of endless creativity and the one who invented music.

    I don’t see how God would or could have a problem with assets, since He owns the entire Earth and universe, and can make anything He needs at anytime.

    But since the beginning, our job has been to be managers. Managers of what He gives us, whether it is a physical asset or a relational asset, or even just our time or His presence inside of us which is the best asset of all.

    My own personal commitment, is to be an excellent one (manager). To be faithful in the small things, and pleasing to God with all the large things, and this is something that takes a lot of refining and ongoing review because the purpose for me managing is to live in and share freedom (where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom), and like you said, it is really easy for assets to own us, even if that wasn’t the original game plan in our hearts starting out!

    I think that the Church, which is essentially people, should have assets. I don’t in any capacity think that the assets should have us.

    Not only do I think we should have assets, I think that we need to have all of the assets that God says we can have, for His glory, and to accomplish His work, which I don’t see often enough. Holistic, holy, prosperity. Lacking no good thing, and having plenty to share. *And by that, I mean God’s idea of a good thing, not common culture’s trends.

    What I think really needs to happen, is we need to have a full understanding of what exactly an asset is, because I don’t think we are taking inventory enough and grasping the complete meaning.

    I love the questions.


  3. P.S. This doesn’t mean I think churches or ministries need buildings. I think whatever enhances the work God has for us, let’s use it. And whatever makes us less effective, release it.

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