Wheelbarrows Full of Money

This economic crisis just doesn’t seem to let up, does it?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down for the seventh straight day yesterday, the worst slide since 2008.  In the conversations I overhear at the hardware store people speak in hushed tones about how hard it’s been and wonder when things are going to get better. On the evening news analysts speculate that the jobless rate is down only because many people have simply stopped looking for jobs that aren’t there.  And on the back of the worship bulletin I see that even Richmond’s mighty First Baptist Church is not immune: we’re showing a deficit that’s nearly five percent of our annual budget. 

As pastor (which some people think of as “CEO”), I’m concerned.  I’m concerned mostly about those people who have had to cut back on their giving because they’ve suffered a reduction in income.  I wonder what kind of conversations they’re having around the dinner table, and what worries keep them up at night.  But I’m also concerned about this institution we call First Baptist Church.  Like many of our members we may have to make some hard decisions about where the money goes when there’s less of it, and I wonder how our mission and ministry will suffer because of it.  

I’m not concerned about the church of Jesus Christ.  I believe that it will thrive no matter what becomes of our earthly institutions.  If European churches empty out and American churches go broke, revival will break out in China, or Ghana, or Chile.  This movement lives because Christ lives.  Nonetheless, if it’s going to thrive somewhere, why not here?  Why not water the roots of the church right where we are?  

I’ve been wondering what would happen if the people of Richmond’s First Baptist Church doubled up on their attention to the institution and made sure it was ready to carry out the mission of Christ.  What if the buildings were immaculate, gleaming, and smelling of fresh paint?  What if the lawns were manicured and the hedges freshly trimmed?  What if there was plenty of free parking, and shuttles running smoothly from a covered garage?  What if our worship services were broadcast across the greater metropolitan area?  What if the staff was capable, well-compensated, and eager to do its work?  What if the ushers came down the aisle pushing wheelbarrows full of money?  What if lives were touched and changed by our ministries?  And what if the people were so full of Christ’s spirit that the Kingdom of Heaven came to Richmond, Virginia, every day of the week?  It sounds good, doesn’t it?  And the truth of it is that most of those things are already in place: the only difference between that picture and what actually exists is the wheelbarrows full of money and the Kingdom coming day after day.  

I don’t know if we will ever have wheelbarrows full of money, but I believe that even when we have empty pockets we can fill our souls with the abundant spirit of Christ.  If we do that, then maybe even before the economy recovers revival will break out,

And the Kingdom will come.

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Photo illustration by Daniel Hurst, acclaimimages.com

3 thoughts on “Wheelbarrows Full of Money

  1. IN MY RETIREMENT, I ENJOY TURNING ON MY HOSE AND WATERING MY GARDEN AND FILLING THE BIRD BATHS. NOW, BECAUSE OF YOUR REMINDER, WE NEED TO REMEMBER THAT THE ” ROOTS OF THE CHURCH” ALSO NEED THEIR NOURISHMENT. QUITE A GOOD ANALOGY.

    AND I MUST SAY, THAT IN CONTINUING THE EFFORT OF BEING A MISSIONAL CHURCH, A 125 YEAR OLD LOCAL COMPANY NOW KNOWS WHAT F B C IS ALL ABOUT. YES, THERE IS MORE TO PREACHING THAN “spreading the word”. THANKS, JIM.

  2. I have followed First Baptist Church for many years (as a member of another local Baptist Church). I was always thrilled to hear Dr Adams, one of the most esteemed pastors I ever knew.

    But Dr Somerville is a refreshing change from the sometimes “stuffed shirts” that walked those hallowed halls. I am no longer much on getting out (at 75); but I watch the Sunday TV cast faithfully, almost every Sunday.

    I have to say that this blog of July 3, is the only time I have ever heard or seen Dr Somerville speak of finances.

    Back when I was young, I remember well watching Oral Roberts drive up to his famous church in a large black Mercedes. I remember his weekly call for money and more money; and I remember seeing my retired school teacher uncle pull out his checkbook and dutifully send him $5 or $10 dollars every week.. (Well, a Mercedes burns lots of gas).

    I once walked the halls of the Pat Robertson complex and was truly amazed at it opulence.. It is more like a palace than a church ministry. I was even more amazed at his circular Partner Chapel, with its many phone booths completely surrounding it, where volunteers spent hours requesting donations by phone. A large part of his TV shows are regularly given over to requesting donations.

    I know that the economy is bad – its well borne out by my own finances.

    But, I for one, truly feel that a contribution to First Baptist Church will actually go to the work of the Lord.

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