“…and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice….” -Micah 6:8
I have often heard it said that the first thing to be cut when a church’s budget is tight is missions. While I haven’t done any systematic research on the subject (actually not much I do is systematic), I have heard enough stories to believe in the truth of the statement.
Mission budgets are easy targets because to cut them, initially at least, doesn’t impact the life of the church all that much. You can cut the mission budget and the choir will still sing – the minister will still preach – Sunday school teachers will still teach – the lawn will still get cut – the pews will still be uncomfortable.
But do missions really have to be cut even if we have less money to spend on them? When did doing missions become so closely tied to writing checks? Doesn’t doing justice involve more than divvying up a mission budget?
To be sure, a part of the work of doing justice is financial. While the impact of cutting a mission budget may not be seen, it certainly is felt by those who depend on our support. But the work of peace and justice demands more than our dollars. To do justice is to do – to act – to be engaged. And much of that doing comes cheap – in financial terms. What is the cost of writing a letter demanding housing for all? What is the bill for speaking the truth to power? What is the price of engaging in the ONA process? What is the dollar amount of standing up for those who can’t stand for themselves?
Yes it is true that mission budgets get hit early in hard financial times. And there is an impact to those cuts, even if we can’t initially see it. But to cut the mission budget should not mean that we are cutting doing missions. But does it?
by Peter Wells
Consultant – Center for Progressive Renewal