Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Philosophy of scarcity or abundance?

Do we live a philosophy of scarcity or a philosophy of abundance? The difference became apparent to me when I learned of the difficulty that missionaries faced in Bolivia in the late 1960's. The farmers harvested their "potato" crop long before the "potatoes" matured.

They feared their neighbors would arrive in the dark of night and steal their crop. Neither the farmers nor their neighbors believed there was enough for everyone. Therefore, they harvested their crops prematurely and there was insufficient food for everyone. Their fear induced behavior produced the results they anticipated.

Fear and anxiety hang over many people in this country. The global recession caused many individuals and companies to collapse. Some congregations suffered from the same malady. They made bad decisions, assumed they would experience significant future growth, and these new members would be very generous contributors to the church's desired future. The recession hit and their response was to cut ministries and focus their energy on finding sufficient money to meet their financial obligations instead of concentrating on God's mission and calling.

God promises to meet our needs, but not our wants and wishes. God provides sufficient resources so that no one needs to go hungry, without shelter, or deprived of an education. God provides, but God assumes that we are willing to take only what we need and share with those who do not have what they need. God expects us to keep our eyes and hearts focused on our mission instead of allowing our fears and anxieties to lead us into acting as if God is unable to provide for our needs.

Several years ago a congregation invited me to consult with them about designing strategies for their congregation's future. It became obvious that the leaders were unable to envision big hairy audacious goals. Everything was restricted by what the leaders believed they could afford. Even when I urged, begged, and pleaded with them to allow an awesome God to use them in ways they had never known before; they were unable to shake off the philosophy of scarcity. They did not have enough money and could not imagine carrying out the ministries without the infusion of far more money than they had ever known before.

This philosophy of scarcity is contrasted with another congregation in the community that believed God would provide. They dreamed of doing ministries that some thought were impossible. They refused to allow the lack of financial resources to curtail their assurance that God would transform the lives of individuals in their communities beyond their wildest expectations. They learned to do many of the ministries without additional money. They became the resource people instead of hiring individuals to do the ministry for them. They learned leadership skills they did not know they possessed. Those big hairy audacious goals became a reality.

We worship and follow an awesome God. Our God provides for our needs. As Eugene Petersen paraphrases Paul in his letter to the Church at Corinth, "Just think-you don't need a thing, you've got it all! All God's gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale" (I Corinthians 1:7).

Grace & Peace,

--by Bishop Max Whitfield

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God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey

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