"Self-Reliance and Self-Sufficiency" (Chapter 5)Subscribe
Self-reliance and self-sufficiency certainly is the traditional American way - especially on the frontier, but is it the biblical way for churches? If we're talking about our relationship to the Lord, the church is in a relationship of utter dependence. God forms the church, empowers it, gifts it for service, and includes it in his mission to the world. If we're talking about the larger body of Christ, I see interdependence, not independence as the biblical model.
Although I still have some discomfort with these terms, in the end I found Callahan helpful in thinking through how small churches and their denominations relate to each other. It's easy to see how the two get into a co-dependent relationahip. One of the top five pressing issues identified by EPC pastors of small churches was "Resources: financial, human and physical." Constantly facing the lack of resources makes it easy to think, "We need some help from outside to survive." Or, "if we just had a financial boost, we could grow a little." The church wants help, the denomination wants to help, and sometimes it becomes a perpetual, unhealthy cyle and hard to bring to an end.
Being self-reliant and self-sufficient as a church is healthier than being co-dependant, but I think we have to draw some limits around what this means. Self-sufficiency gone to seed can cancel out dependence upon God. Self-reliance gone sour isolates us from others and doesn't demonstrate the unity of the body of Christ. I do think there is a way that small congregations can cultivate a healthy interdependence that expresses the unity of the the body of Christ and brings meaningful connections between leaders and churches.
Here's one example. Prior to my beginning as pastor of a small congregation, the church had received regular outside financial help, designated for the pastor's salary. For four years the church made little if any progress toward financial independence. When the previous pastor left, the congregation used the common small church budget balancing technique - going for a year or so without a pastor to pay. But in that period of time they decided that they would never again seek outside help for the pastor's salary. It had made them too dependent. They were determined never to ask for that kind of help in the future. Not too long after I arrived we did apply for funds made available by the General Assembly with the understanding that they would be dedicated exclusively toward various outreach and visibility-raising projects that we couldn't finance on our own. Did that put us in a co-dependent relationship? I don't think so. I think it was a cooperative arrangement, not a co-dependent one. The assistance gave a helpful boost for a couple of years and in the process the church got beyond struggling to simply survive.
Add your comments:
What kind of help would you find beneficial from your presbytery or the General Assembly? What kind of "help" would you rather not see?
What do you think of the idea that a pastor can give a church too much help (146-151)?
What helped you or raised questions for you in this chapter?