This is a time for you to use the power granted by your privilege to elevate others’ voices and to make substantial changes wherever possible.
Next, let’s think through what local faith communities can do to utilize this strange power. When I was serving as the pastor of a church, I wrestled with this question daily. On one hand, I deeply appreciated the rituals and religious functions of Christianity and loved “performing” them within the context of a worship service. But as I became more convinced that this function was, first, not what Jesus ever intended, and second, increasingly irrelevant to our culture, I wondered how we might rethink what our church looked like and how we channeled our time and resources.
My very first realization was that most churches spend most of their money on maintaining an organization and building rather than doing actual work that transforms their neighborhoods. As I sat with my small church’s nearly half-million-dollar yearly budget and realized that a good third of the funds we raised went to the mortgage, building maintenance, and salaries, I felt my stomach turn in knos. Every day I would walk up to our campus and find a new person experiencing homelessness sleeping on our porch. Every day I thought about what it would take to get that person some food, some clothes, and a cheap apartment. I realized that for the amount we were paying every month in mortgage, we could easily provide for a good portion of the individuals who found their way to our campus.
Then I looked at what we were paying folks, including myself – very little, to be honest. While I loved the fact that I was able to be paid to do ministry full-time, the fact is, the hundred thousand dollars or so that we spend on a few salaires could have gone a long way to start many initiatives in our community to help dismantle white supremacy, fight climate change, and provide for those in need. And the meager sum left over after general operating expenses – usually not more than maybe a few hundred dollars – did very little to help anyone or anything in our church or beyond.
I also struggled to figure out how we could justify gathering a couple hundred folks every Sunday morning for a glorified social gathering and TED talk where we banged on and on about justice and God’s vision for the world, but then sent the congregation home without provoking them to take any substantial action collectively or individually to make Jesus’ social vision a reality in their lives or sphere of influence.
From “Filled to Be Emptied: The Path to Liberation for Privileged People” by Brandan Robertson – Westminster John Knox Press