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30 May '14

The poverty mentality in many churches

Posted by T.J. Addington in American church, poverty mentality
One of the challenges of working in the majority (poor) world is that there is often a "poverty mentality," which focuses on what they do not have rather than what God has actually given them to use for his purposes. Some of the training we do in these contexts is to help folks look around them and discover the resources God has given them and then how to use those resources for ministry, rather than thinking they are poor and need outside resources for everything they do.

A poverty mentality is not only the domain of the majority world, however. There are many church staffs who believe that "if only they had more resources," they could get more done for Jesus. This sometimes translates into heavy handed and even manipulative "God talk" from the front on how the congregation should be more generous in their giving. I have seen this in churches of 5,000 and churches of 500. 

Often this reflects the dreams of a leader more than the intentions of God for a congregation. I believe that God is fully capable of providing a congregation with whatever they need to do what God is actually calling them to do. If we don't have enough, perhaps we are doing things God has not called us to do. Or going about it in the wrong way.

Furthermore, the answer to all ministry opportunities is not simply money. We have people who have skills and gifting that can be brought to the table. My experience is that God's people are generally very willing to be involved personally in ministry when it is in line with their gifting. What they resist is the pressure by staff to get involved in things that they are either not gifted to do or programs that fulfill a dream of church staff that they feel no compulsion from the Spirit to participate in.

We need to get away from the thinking that ministry is simply what happens inside the four walls of the church or must be a program of the church. What would happen in terms of impact if every individual was simply living out the "good works God prepared in advance for them to do (Ephesians 2:10)" in their places of influence. That takes no money, no staff, no programs. It is just us living out the calling of God on our lives.

Don't get caught up in a poverty mentality. God provides what we need for what He has called us to do. And remember, it is not all about money.