Let’s add value to the Kingdom, rather than milking it for all we can get


Over at Harvard Business’s online blog, Umair Haque launches a blistering attack on Wonga, a UK payday lender that charges 2,689% annual interest!  In other words, a $100 loan paid back a year later will cost the borrower $2,689.  Incredibly, Haque points out that three venture capital firms have invested in Wonga because they think they’ll get a great return.  Haque disagrees, and contends that Wonga is part of what got us into this financial crisis in the first place — greed.

Haque says that Wonga has the worst business plan in the world because it is based on extracting value from others rather than creating value for others.  Creating value is the new business model, Haque argues.  Which brings me to the spate of requests, solicitations, and “check out my site” invitations that I get every day.  From Facebook to Twitter to email to snail mail, I am bombarded everyday with Christian ministries trying to sell me something.   Half my “friends” on Facebook and more than half my followers on Twitter are pushing something they want me to buy — trying to extract value from me rather than create value for me.

I have often thought that if you have a better way to win people to Jesus, or a better way to do church, or a tried-and-true method of discipleship, shouldn’t you give it away?  Shouldn’t we all be trying to add value to the Kingdom, rather than extract all we can from it?

And, if we all did that — pooled our collective gifts, talents, and abilities — wouldn’t we all be better off? Wouldn’t the Kingdom cause advance more quickly and effectively?  Instead, we’re all trying to sell stuff to each other.

The whole “Christian-industrial complex” reminds me of an well-known multi-level marketing event I went to several years ago.  Turns out the speakers made more money from selling how-to tapes, books, CDs, and trinkets than they did actually running their businesses.  The same thing is true of those real estate infomercials, or other pitches offering you the tried-and-proven secrets to making a million dollars.  But first they have to sell you their system for $299 or $29 or whatever.

Of course, I want to write books, too.  I want to speak at conferences, too.  But, first I want to create some value for you and others like you who pastor small churches like I do.  I try to do that, and I try to give away the best that I do — sermons, ideas, methods, outreach programs, links to articles — so you can get value from them.

I realize that goods and services cost real dollars to produce.  But it seems like we have more folks trying to extract value from us, rather than add value to us.  Soong Chan Rah, in his new book The Next Evangelicalism,  laments the fact that while there are only about 150 “emerging” churches in the US, over 50 books have been published about the “emerging church.”  Where, he asks, are books about minority pastors who drive a taxi during the day, attend seminary at night, and pastor their churches on the weekend?

Les Puryear at Joining God In His Work has had little success trying to get a book about small church ministry published.  Why?   Book agents say publishers see it as a small niche market — in other words, they can’t make any money.

But, what if we in small churches created our own network of individuals, ideas, books, resources, and encouragement.   And what if we gave it all away for free because we are the ones creating it?  An “unconference” of small church leaders could develop its own agenda, collaborate to produce its own content, and present it to any and all who wanted it for free.  Same for resources, videos, outreach methods, sermons, Bible studies, mission projects, and so on.

What do you think?  Am I just crazy, or are you tired of all the promotion and hucksterism today?  Let’s do something about it.  Let’s start our own small church resource conversation and figure out how we can add value to the Kingdom.  Let me know what you think.  Our church is available as a host site, we can cook our own meals, plan our own agenda, and I’ll find homes to stay in for anyone who’s interested.  Any takers?

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9 Comments

  1. Chuck- I agree with you. It’s been a rough process getting there because the other examples are so prominent, but this has to happen. We have to work together.

  2. One of the struggles that I have had for years regarding the internet and blogging/facespace/twitter etc is the temptation to simply self-promote. It is refreshing to find a great blog now that has enough readers to carry great conversations, but not so many that there isn’t community. I remember being at conferences where it seems everyone is trying to play “king of the mountain”. As a seminary student that is almost done I get tired of people telling me, “You have a great personality…you should go church plant, because its what people like you do”, and then they go about telling me how to pimp my pastoral call. It’s almost as unnerving as when the church website can be reached by randompastorsname.com

    I am all behind the idea of any sort of network that really pushes the little guy. There are more of us than there are of them anyway.

  3. Chuck,
    As one of your corporate twitter followers I thought I’d weigh in. I’m encouraged by your post here. I’ve been debating over which direction to take our tweets. I don’t want to be a pushy salesman because it’s not our way. I’m trying to steer it towards things that add real value, community events, and sort of real-life tweets. I think salesey tweets diminish the value of twitter. Much like salesey presentations of the Gospel diminish it’s perceived value.

    What you propose is akin to something that lots of credit union people began a couple years ago. They created an ‘unconference’ called BarCampBank to get together and discuss innovations in financial services. The only real cost of the conference was transportation. I did not attend personally but I read much about it from those who did. I found their thoughts and ideas very refreshing in regards to the credit union.

    Anyway, I do website development on the side and if you get some traction going on your idea I’d be glad to help you with a community website for it. For Free. Credit union employees have something called EverythingCU.com where we all get together and talk/conference on various topics.

  4. Thank you Chuck for speaking to the elephant in the room. You are absolutely right with this idea of this grass roots network of small church pastors who contribute to one another to add value to God’s Kingdom. I would be happy to contribute in any way I can. Our church does a lot in food distribution to needy, free meals and getting the sponsorship and grants to pay for it all. But the prime objective of this giveaway is one-on-one relational evangelism. If this could help anyone we want to share it.

  5. Thanks, everybody! Great comments and there are at least a few of us who feel the same way.

    Jason, I agree, this has to happen.
    Christy, Memphis would be great and let’s think about how we can go multi-site.
    Les, thanks and I understand your frustration, but value your experience and passion for the small church.
    Chad, good points about the “ego-driven” aspect of ministry. It really is not about us, but about the body of Christ.
    Dan, thanks for your offer to do a site. I would love to have small church community site. And, I love BarCamp and the concept, so let’s pursue this.
    Ed, your ministry experience and story is encouraging. I’d like to know more about it and will email you.

    Thanks to everyone. Let’s think about how we can go about this from a small church perspective and keep the conversation going. –Chuck

  6. Chuck, count me in! There is so much to share! I have been journeying with the same little Presbyterian flock in Rocky Mount, NC, for almost nineteen years. ( I tell folks I hit the jackpot on the first call!) I just know God is up to something around here, and when God is done with this fresh movement, “church” is going to be different, and yet the gospel will be the same. Tomorrow I’m preaching a sermon called “Dare to Be Different” on the text in which the elders of Israel tell Samuel they want a king so they can be “like other nations.” Too often we want to be “like other (bigger) churches” instead of welcoming God to use us and to transform us into the church God calls us to be.

    I’m looking for ways to share my “small church take” on many, many, many biblical texts. I want to encourage other small congregations and their pastors. And another thing I’m looking for is a way to develop a web presence that is not a cookie cutter imitation of a busy, programmatic church web site. It needs to share a message and having changing, thoughtful content, and not just be an online list of announcements.

    Well, enough for now. I am close enough to Chatham to drive up there, and that’s more doable now that school is out. Thanks for what you do!

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