This is _______, the church planter in _________ – we spoke a few times at Synod this year.
I’ve been enjoying your blog (or rather, the 25% or so that I as a financial layman can follow). Your prognosis (correct me if I’m wrong) seems to be short/medium-term “doom and gloom” – thinking aloud, for instance, that once we reach a debt load of 150% of GDP foreign lenders will probably chicken out. That sounds like a move toward a second Great Depression.
Now, I’m not writing you for investing advice or anything like this. Instead, I’m writing as a fellow church leader to get a discussion going on what you think the church can do in view of such a scenario. The typical evangelical reaction (see Hal Lindsey; Y2K, et al.) seems to be panic and self-defense: I’ll move into a bunker with canned soup and a rifle in case anyone comes for my stash or my family – and I’ll certainly “flee the burning cities” (to quote Doug Wilson’s letter to Gary North pre-Y2K). That seems more than a little different from the historic Christian reaction to disaster. It was Christians who, over the ages, went back into the plague cities to care for the sick and dying, often at the cost of their own lives.
Further, riffing on Nassim Taleb (I just read Black Swans), it’s wiser to prepare than to predict. So, ruling elder Merkel, how do you think the church (as local congregations especially, but also as denominations and presbyteries) should be changing its way of operating to prepare for the unknown?
I appreciate the Christians that read The Aleph Blog. Hey, you are my brothers in Christ. I owe you far more than everyone else.
As for my pastor friend who wrote to me, he brings up an important issue. What do we as elders do in times of trouble?
I have thought about this a great deal, and this is my opinion: first, as elders and pastors, we do not seek our own safety, but we seek the best for those that we care for in our flocks. We are shepherds; we do not abandon the sheep. I knew of some ministers that panicked ahead of Y2K, but what does that say to the members of the congregation? We must tend the sheep.
Second, we counsel our flock to be generous in adversity, giving as much or more in bad times, that we might aid those in our congregations who fall on hard times, and even those beyond our congregations, where the needs lend toward the furtherance of Christ’s Kingdom.
Third, we must keep the lines of communication open in the flock to find the needs as they arise. We must teach members to seek our help, and not go over the the credit card companies, who will devour them if they get a chance.
Fourth, much as we teach against greed, we must teach against fear, which comes from a greed for safety. Our safety is in our Lord, as much as our prosperity is, so call the flock to trust in their God for their safety.
Fifth, beyond that, we should be prudent with the resources of the church, so that we have something to give when the need arises.
Sixth, we should set up a diaconal network among the congregations, to aid in needs that are too big for any one congregation to meet. We should do it at two levels — a presbyterial network, and then a synodical network. That will bind our congregations together in a proper way.
Seventh, we should pray. Pray that our God would have mercy on his church, and that the gospel would be furthered in hard times.
May the Lord bless us in hard times. Things are looking a little better now, but I think it is an illusion that will be shattered. May the Lord have mercy.
Your Brother in Christ,