Funding a Matthew 25 Church

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : April 12, 2006

Earlier today, as I was catching up on my blog reading, I read the following from Sam Rima, a professor at Bethel Seminary, in regards to Matthew 25:31-46:

Then he will summon the sheep and say, "Come, you who are blessed by my
Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the
world." And the basis of this selection is how the sheep treated the hungry, thirsty, alienated, naked, sick, and imprisoned
people of the world. It is not a passage we hear preached much in our
churches today; and no wonder, it is quite convicting. Jesus seems to
be saying that how we deal with the marginalized of the earth is a true
reflection on our relationship with him. It is a sobering standard of
true spirituality. And yet, for how many of our churches is this a
PRIMARY concern? Do we see as our primary mission on earth Loving Jesus
by genuinely loving and engaging with the hungry, thirsty, alienated,
naked, sick, and imprisoned people of the world? What will it take to
reorient the evangelical Church to this revolutionary standard? What
can each of us do to help reorient our own community of faith and give
leadership to a vibrant, church-wide ministry to "the least of these"
among us?  Any ideas or thoughts?

Below is my response, which I posted on his blog, followed by a few questions of my own.

As a new church plant, we were expected to be self-sufficient within
1 year…we are finishing with year 2 and I have had to be creative
with fund raising…it seems that the only way we can get funds from
suburban churches is if we can really pitch we are more of a parachurch
urban ministry than a church! Denominations may throw token money at
the sort of ministry that you are talking about, but most money is
invested in starting churches that are shiny and attractive. And most
shiny attractive churches tie up their resources in staying that way.
The most needy places get the crumbs from the table.

It is really frustrating. As one of the few BGC urban churches [in Minneapolis/Saint Paul], I
have been asked by a few well-intentioned pastors if I have though
about quitting. They see what I’m doing as a failure. They don’t
understand that I simply don’t want to have a big fancy church that
merely gives a portion of its budget to the needy. We are small and
committed. We are messy. That is why the evangelical church resists
going in the direction of Matthew 25–they would have to give up
prestige and power. They would have to be uncomfortable. They might
even have to be small.

Here’s the thing, ye urban church planters.  You may get funding, but it is in the best interests of denominational systems to focus most of their resources on churches that will be big and bring in resources.  The church tends to operate on a tithe mentality…spend 90% on furthering your own suburban ministry through staffing and facilities, and maybe give 10% to missions…some of that to urban churches.  The problem with this setup is that wealth stays localized in wealthy places.  The church basically follows free market capitalism.

The only way that the church can really be a Matthew 25 church is if it priviledges the needs of the needy above the wants of the wanton.  We must put our resources in the places that have the most needs. 

Churches aren’t likely to do this automatically.  And denominations may help in redistributing the wealth (if they are centralized), but they will tend to priviledge numerically and financially successful churches.  De-centralized denominational systems (like the baptists) generally leave it to individual churches to make up their mind about how to support various causes.  I think this is a good thing, but unfortunately the culture of the BGC, of which I am a part, doesn’t have an ethos that cares much about urban stuff and the poor. 

Where does this leave the would-be church planter?  With good old fashioned fund raising.  I have to go foster a spirit of generosity in others.  I have to be a mendicant on behalf of my church…and I think many that would be urban church planters need to become mendicant as well.  I’ve made it a goal to become a good fund raiser…and here is my promise: if I get good enough at this fund-raising thing, I will raise funds for risky church plants in urban areas. 

Here are my questions:

1) Do you know of any groups (other than denominations) out there that fund urban church planting?

2) How can we encourage suburban churches to give more to the urban core?

3) Do you know anyone interested in supporting an urban ministry in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis?


for further reading . . .

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3 Responses to “Funding a Matthew 25 Church”

  1. Michael Binder on April 14th, 2006 7:31 am

    A thought Mark - are we equating urban church plants with Matthew 25’s insistence that we care for the poor, needy, etc.? It seems like a bit of a jump to me. I grew up in an urban church, and we didn’t do much of anything for the poor around us except turn them away regularly. I write this because I think, at least in your comments here, you make an assumption that may be hurting you in your efforts to raise funds. I think most people assume the church isn’t the place where the poor and the needy are cared for and helped. Non-profits exist for that, most poeple think. So unless we can show that the church actually is the place in the urban climate that the poor are helped, we’ll battle a pretty strong stereotype and money is way more likely to go to Marie Sandvick (sp?) or wherever. Thoughts?

  2. Van S on April 14th, 2006 9:08 am

    You’re right, Michael. And thre are indeed some suburban churches that helpd the poor and needy among them. It is just sad that we assume that care for the needy has been outsourced. Having said this, however, it isn’t as though there are a lot of funds flowing to Marie Sandvig Center or Caring and Sharing Hands.

  3. Bizomenyimana Pierre on April 14th, 2008 7:28 am

    We want to plant a church in urban area ,to spread the gospel in muslim area but We need initial grant to start could help us to get grant ?
    Weare from Burundi Bujumbura East africa

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