47%.  The average church in America (likely not much different from Canada) spends 47% of it’s annual budget on salaries and staffing.  For the math geeks out there.  That’s approximately 50%.  When you add in the costs of facilities from that same article, the number balloons to 69%.

69%.

70 cents from every dollar pays for a building and a man/woman to work.  30 cents is left to run all programs, help the poor and needy in the congregation, buy curriculum, train volunteers and everything else that happens in day to day, week to week church life.

Missions?  5%.

Now, before you justify those numbers (and they may be completely justifiable) first sit with them.  Feel them.  Let your eyes run over them a few times so that you can soak them in.  If you aren’t feeling slightly uneasy then just click on a different article or read something else online.  But before you do, answer this question:

Would you donate to World Vision, the Red Cross, Compassion Canada or any other relief and development organization if 47% of the budget went to salaries?

“But pastors do great work!”  (Of course they do; I know and respect many of them)  “And church buildings and facilities host valuable programming for the community!”  (In some churches, that’s debatable but in the ones where it is unquestionable, let’s be honest: for as much value your building brings to the community, the biggest room is likely the one built for the purpose of worship services that appeal to congregation members.)

The phrase “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” is helpful here.  What do you believe in?  What do you really believe in?  How is that belief demonstrated?  If your church says it believes in missions, is it fair to ask what percentage of the annual budget goes there?

I’m not being smug.  I wouldn’t be struggling so much myself if I were.  And if you think this is coming from the perspective of someone taking pot-shots at the church from the fringes, think again.  The intention of Rhythms is to create a gospel movement/community that humbly wrestles with these tensions.  Having all the answers is easy if you have no intention of implementing them.

But my desire is to make an impact IN community; not just on my own.  I have been challenged openly by those who have said you can’t create a gospel movement/community this way.  You can’t create any missional momentum without buildings, budgets, programs etc.  People won’t rally around pure altruism.  You have to give them something in return for their engagement.

In short, the simple joy of following and obeying Christ is not enough.

Except, I don’t believe that.  And if I don’t believe that, there has to be others out there who don’t either.  And if enough of them will join me and we can do this together, then maybe, just maybe, we can create some momentum and see something beautiful develop.

So, what do you say?  Wanna grab a coffee?