I’m convinced that when all of the five previous holy currencies we’ve discussed are flowing and we are alive spiritually, that money will flow as simply one of the links of exchanges. Church members will give when they realize how church ministries have fostered wellness for them and their families. When there are strong relationships and mutual trust among our members, where truth events continue to surface issues or needs and then are adequately addressed, faithful and generous stewardship happens naturally. Still it is important to think further about our last holy currency, money, as many of us struggle with this one. In fact Jesus spoke more about money than any other issue so we need to put it into perspective.
I don’t know about you but some biblical stories really trouble me. Take for instance the account of the widow’s mite as told by Jesus in Luke 21:1-4. “As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."
So how do I know if my giving measures up to God’s expectations? Would Jesus praise my offerings and gifts the same way as this widow? Here is a poor woman, at the bottom of the social scale, whose gift is praised above the more affluent majority, even though their gifts were objectively much greater. Jesus makes clear, however, that the bottom line for measuring giving is not the amount of money given but rather the devotion of the heart and the cost to the giver. What does my giving really cost me is the operative question for each of us.
I once heard a preacher say, “Give until it hurts! And then give some more until it starts to feel good.” Does that sound like a bit of a stretch or emotional arm twisting? Well, compare that preacher’s claim to the Apostle Paul’s example of generous giving by Macedonia believers. “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.” (2 Corinthians 8:2-3). Again, the question to each of us when it comes to considering our giving it is not the amount we give but the personal cost to us. If we hardly notice what we’ve given, I suspect that we have not really grasped yet the principle of sacrificial giving. Paul would graciously encourage us, “But just as you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us --see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” (2 Corinthians 8:7).
“Are you keeping well?” How often we use this greeting with friends or acquaintances in polite conversation. I think we all have the desire to be “well” and wish it for others also. But what do we really mean by well? In one of John’s short letters in the New Testament he writes, “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” (3 John 1:2).
Wellness as a currency means creating opportunities for people to be restored and renewed both spiritually and in other ways. We need to develop this currency in order to help accomplish God’s desire for each of us to experience his shalom (wholeness, wellness, peace). Growing spiritually is a key contributor to personal and emotional wellness. Seeing the wellness of people increased is an important and desired outcome of our ministries. How do we do this?
As Eric Law states it so well in his book Holy Currencies, “Developing the currency of wellness means creating opportunities for people to rest, play, celebrate, give thanks and encounter each other…” As part of a church’s agenda, we need to plan for “wellness events”, and think of wellness as an outcome or goal for an activity both for our members and others in our communities. For example, recently Trinity hosted and facilitated a special workshop on the topic of “How to support a grieving family member or friend” and was held at the Newtown Library. This was designed to bring wellness to people struggling with grief issues.
Wellness events come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Church or personal retreats are one example. Providing pastoral counseling, spiritual direction and programs like Stephen Ministries are another. Small groups and fellowship gatherings are helpful as well. Each of us as members of Trinity needs to take seriously the biblical principle of sabbatical rest in terms of a healthy rhythm of work/rest/re-creation. We need to pay attention to our physical well-being which so affects our emotional and even spiritual well-being.
The currency of truth is the primary exchange in the development of wellness. Internally truth events serve to diagnose the wellness of our church community. When there are conflict and hurts, lack of unity, or discouragement we need to be aware and seek to address these as a path to wellness. Externally, truth events help us to discern the needs that exist in the wider community. The currency of truth pushes us out of denial and helps us to see the reality of our church or wider community. Wellness is God’s intention for each of us. We also need to infuse a commitment to wellness in everything we do.
Jesus promised that “The truth will set you free.” (John 8:33). Does that mean we are set free to do whatever we like or to abandon our responsibilities? Hardly! He sets us free to be able to experience God’s best and blessing for our lives. We are set free to be able to truly align ourselves with God’s good and perfect will. Truth is a currency we cannot live without.
Truth is what energizes a church to carefully observe, ask questions, and to seek to understand needs and opportunities within or without. It is what ignites the desire in a church to engage in implementing change and seek to improve, restore or help.
The currency of truth challenges church members to rethink how they use their money, time and the places to which they have access. It also ignites a passion for justice, that is, to a commitment to address problems and face up to issues with a view to doing something to correct or improve.
In the past year the Visioning Team has worked hard in discerning where we are as a parish and what is happening around us. It is the truth of those reports and observations that is now propelling the Visioning Management Team to identify areas of weaknesses and improve them along with targeting strategic opportunities to seize.
Our commitment to the refugee resettlement project is a good example of our parish responding to the currency of truth about important needs in our community. The desire to improve Trinity’s pastoral care ministries is another.
The currency of truth is the commitment to stay aware and alert to needs or problems within the church that might hinder its welfare, but also to discover what leads to the well-being of members and the ministry. Likewise, the currency of truth can be used to discover needs and opportunities within the community or beyond that God would call us to address.
The currency of truth easily flows into the currencies of wellness and relationships. When our church is a place where truth is spoken, we learn vital facts and grasp more fully our context. We understand and seek then to increase our leadership capacity in order to act and mobilize resources accordingly. We need regular truth events to help us learn from each other and to discern what God is then calling us to do as a parish and as individuals.
In recent weeks we have been looking at the 6 holy currencies introduced by Eric Law in his challenging book, “Holy Currencies: 6 Blessings for Sustainable Missional Ministries.” These currencies provide us with a helpful framework to see both needs and opportunities within our church and in our community. These currencies also help us to assess how well we are using all of our resources.
We believe that Trinity has a God–given purpose and mission. Scripture makes clear that God has provided all the resources we need to carry out his work here. As the Apostle Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” His resources may not always be discernible on the surface but they are there if we would prayerfully and carefully follow his leading and trust his promises. Let’s look at another currency that is vital to the cycle of blessings.
3. The Currency of Relationships. Believe it or not, money is not the primary issue in most financially struggling churches. The deeper issue is relationships. Having strong relationships and mutual trust among members of the church is essential for a sustainable ministry. These relationships are primary to accomplishing the ministries of the church by being exchanged for the other five currencies. Church members will gladly offer their volunteer hours for ministries when they have strong ties to the church community. Through healthy internal networks of the church, recruiting leaders for ministry is more easily accomplished, usually by friends asking friends to take up responsibilities. Members can offer their gifts and skills when they sense a strong tie to others and buy into the mission and vision of the church. Church members will offer financial support for a church that provides them with a meaningful supportive network of relationships.
The key purpose in developing relationships internally is to create wellness, unity and trust within the church community. In that environment, church members can mobilize other currencies (time and place, gracious leadership, wellness, truth and money) in the cycle of blessings.
Activities or programs that help create positive and constructive relationships within the church are not optional. Investment of time and resources to strengthen relationships both within and without can translate into spiritual growth of members and positive impact within our communities. The new small group ministry that Trinity will launch this coming October is one means of generating deeper relationships that hopefully will lead to wellness and increased ministry impact. How well are we using the currency of relationships?