Crazy rich Christians: Are we really being inclusive?
Ong Ching Hui // July 18, 2019, 4:14 pm
I was once chatting with a group of first-generation Christians, and I found it really perplexing that many of their parents were more concerned about the financial cost of their new-found faith rather than the spiritual implications.
The fear? Going to church might mean an increase in expenses.
This made me reflect on the way we spend our money in church, more specifically, the amount that one needs to fork out to participate actively in fellowship.
For many of us, there probably isn’t a real need to worry about money because Christians are generally middle-class.
According to research on church-going protestants in Singapore, mainstream church-goers typically come from privileged backgrounds, while mega-church-goers tend to belong to the emerging/new middle class.
Most of us probably have little concept of what being poor is really like, e.g. excessively considering every cent you spend. In fact, being poor doesn’t just lead one to calculate money, but also time. For example, time spent in church could have been allocated to taking up a part-time job.
We may not be exclusive, but can we really say we’re inclusive? How welcoming are we to those who may not be as well-off?
How are we going to reach out to our friends or family, particularly those who are poorer, if we do not actively plan activities that align with their financial (and time) constraints?
And even if activities are free for newcomers, how sustainable is it for them to stay in the church? Though there might be subsidies for church-wide events, what about fellowship expenses such as cell group retreats or suppers after conferences?
Consider how if we all chose to spend less on fellowship activities, we could even pool our unspent money together to bless the poor (Matthew 19:21)!
Throughout the Bible, we see God’s heart for the poor. At times, it even comes with a command.
“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11)
I don’t have any authority to tell Christians how to spend their money, but I don’t think that our fellowship would necessarily be compromised if we spend a little less.
Here are a few suggestions on how we can be more mindful of our spending in church.
1. HAVE OPEN CONVERSATIONS ABOUT MONEY
Speak with your friends in church about money, particularly in relation to church activities. While churches already offer some help to the needy in the form of subsidies and charity work, I believe that greater attention to other classes of society is needed at the cell group and personal level.
2. ACTIVELY BUDGET FOR FELLOWSHIP ACTIVITIES
You could do this as an individual or with a group of friends based on how much you think is appropriate.
3. GET CREATIVE WITH HOW YOU FELLOWSHIP
Consider lower-cost activities. Instead of going café-hopping, why not try hawker-hopping? What about cooking together at a friend’s house before going for a picnic? Or consider staying at a church mate’s house or a chalet at Changi rather than travelling overseas for a weekend retreat. You could also do something different for fellowship, such as volunteering together.
May we make it a habit not to overspend when it comes to fellowship!
- Do you have a personal budget that you track?
- Has your cell group or ministry team ever discussed the issue of money, especially when it comes to how much you’re spending on fellowship?
- What are some practical ways to look out for a fellow brother or sister who might not be as well-off?