Keeping the denominational connection. Yes, it includes funding.
A much-loved conference minister within Mennonite Church USA* has been widely quoted as raising four questions to which everyone should answer yes if a particular church tradition wants to hold its center together around a common connection. They are:
1. Is Christ Lord?
2. Is Scripture authoritative?
3. Is the Confession of Faith ours?
4. Are we being led by the Holy Spirit?
These are good questions. They make those who ask and answer face one another and be honest about their thoughts, rather than turn away from one another in disunity and with an accusing spirit.
To these good and powerful questions I'd like to suggest the most honest question of all remains unasked and unanswered:
5. Will I help to fund our common mission?
No church is built, no institution pays its bill, no denomination holds together if the people it serves are not generous and ready to share in the mission they hold together. Not surprisingly, the loudest voices of criticism--arguing that the church has departed from the faithful way--whether to the left or to the right--and even from the center--are not making financial contributions. Nor do they intend to.
Common belief that Christ is Lord should have us pouring out our offerings at his feet.
Common assent that Scripture is authoritative confronts us with the example of profound generosity demonstrated by the early church in Acts 2 and 4.
Common confession of Christian faith has us stating our belief in the firstfruits principle where the first and best of our lives are set aside for worship of the God who saves us, and the rest is used in generous, hospitable ways that bring glory to God.
Common leading by the Holy Spirit guides us to care for orphans and widows in their distress, something we cannot do if we withold financial support.
The point here is not so much that we should have a fifth question, but that if we answer yes to these questions, they should lead to unquestioned and lavish generosity. If that generosity is not there, we should wonder if we are being honest when we answer questions 1-4.
And yet, maybe we should ask question 5. If we do not ask it then those who do not give, but shout their dissent, will dominate the conversation while their denomination goes slowly bankrupt and those who were giving relocate their giving elsewhere.
-mark l vincent
*Chuck Neufeld, Conference Minister, Illinois Mennonite Conference.
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