By Cailey Morgan
Many of our churches have been wrestling with how to respond to the new required attestation on the Canada Summer Jobs application. For those of us who followed in solidarity with the CCCC this year in handing in adapted grant applications, the response has been clear from the government: no funding. For my church, this means the loss of wage provision for about 6 student positions–interns that would usually staff our summer day camp programs around the Lower Mainland and serve as the core energy behind for our summer outreach.
I could ask, “why, God, are You letting this happen when there is so much good that comes from having that money?” There are endless comments I could make about government’s choices, or our rights as Canadians, or even whether this issue solidifies the belief that the Canadian church is in exile. However, because we’re in the midst of a series on discipleship, I would rather adjust my focus a little.
In the next few articles, we will look at attributes that Christ exhibited while on earth. We will discuss how we can grow into Christlikeness, and what it means to use cultural opportunities to come alongside all those in our congregations and walk with them in a Jesus-formed response to what seems to be an unfair flexing of worldly power.
Attribute 1: Jesus Trusted God’s Economy of Abundance. As in every area of life, Jesus exemplified a Kingdom-of-God perspective in the area of resources and finances.
When we live as citizens of the world we can see, we get wrapped up in the economy of scarcity: what’s here is what’s here, so I better make sure I get my slice of the pie. If we operate in this economy, the whole summer grants scenario is a troubling hit to our church’s ministry goals and should send us scrambling to fight for what’s ours.
Jesus, on the other hand, reminded us about the realm that is bigger than what we can see: our Father owns everything. Jesus told us to never worry about our life, food, clothes, because our Father in heaven knows what we need and loves to take care of us. If God cares about dressing remote hillsides with flowers, how much more will He generously clothe His Body and His Bride?
Part of the reason the church in North America languishes in irrelevance is because we all too often ask “what’s in it for us?” This is scarcity mentality in its purest form…
A church that tries to keep its life will lose it, and a church that loses its life will keep it. By contrast a church shaped by the way of Jesus gives freely without expectation of return. It is generous to the point of danger. As a result that church opens itself up to the secret joy and power of being least and last. Jesus overcame the world through being its servant. That’s how the church will overcome it too (Jared Siebert, New Leaf Network Blog).
When Jesus walked on earth, He proved again and again that the Kingdom of God operates in economy of abundance by showing God’s power to provide beyond the human imagination. Remember how He had Peter pull a coin out of a fish’s mouth to pay the temple tax? Or what about turning bathwater into expensive wine for a wedding feast? Or multiplying a single schoolboy’s lunch into a seafood smorgasbord for 5000 families (with a takeaway container of leftovers for each of the apostles, might I add)?
How’s that for mind-boggling math? Abundance beyond human capacity to imagine or produce: that’s Kingdom of God economics.
OK. That sounds great, but how do we actually lean into a lifestyle of K-o-G abundance and draw our people into this kind of trust in God?
Ready for this?
Talk about money.
Use the summer grant finances issue as an excuse to have this scarcity/abundance conversation in your discipleship relationships and your small groups. Teach about trust and generosity in Sunday school for all ages and from the pulpit.
Tell toddlers the stories of God’s provision for His people throughout history. Create Spend, Save, and Give jars with kids and teach them how to steward their allowance money.
Ask teens if they can see God’s huge generosity in creation. Ask the seniors in your church for testimonies of God’s faithfulness throughout the shifting sands of economic ups and downs. Talk with every family in your church about tithing, and see how–like training wheels for trusting God with our wallets–the act of tithing can get families rolling in a Kingdom of God direction.
Take this money conversation seriously and have this conversation frequently. Discipleship is about learning to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength. And as we know, where our wallet is, there our heart is also.
In the past weeks I have been brought to tears by people around me who understand this Kingdom-of-God perspective: students offering to work for free this summer, believing that God and the community can help them find other ways to cover their tuition this fall; families asking how much money we need to raise to pay intern wages; adults offering weeks of their summer to help staff the camps; and the apostles and prophets among us asking the big question of what new thing God may be calling us to in this time when we’re a bit shaken up and confused. These disciples are growing in their trust of God and each other because they’ve been willing to get past the falsities that “my money is my money” and finances are a taboo subject.
Each time we humble ourselves and give over control of our resources to the Lord and the community, we are welcoming the Holy Spirit to come and do the heart-shaping. Which, really, is the true definition of discipleship, is it not?
Next time, I’m going to talk about Jesus’ way of discipleship “along the way,” and how we can see this lack of summer grant funding as an opportunity to re-envision summer outreach as an opportunity to disciple a whole new generation of leaders.
PS: The CBWC is engaged in the nationwide discussion about the Summer Grant Attestation issue, so watch for communications from our Administration Offices as to how you can add your church’s voice to the conversation. But a caveat here: the Church doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to our reactions around changing government policy. The media spotlight is turned on us to see how we will react, which I think is God giving us an opportunity to respond in humility and to cast a vision for the Kingdom-of-God economy for not only our own people but actually the whole country.