Minting the Mainline

And if the church is so open that there is no difference between belonging and not belonging, then there is no reason for people to commit Sunday mornings to it, never mind their minted-personality-capital. Likewise, if the institution wants that little of me that is distinctive, then the institution itself has little traction as well. So, even if I was inclined to give to the church (for whatever reason) the fact of the matter is, there are other organizations doing the same work and often doing it better.

Factor in the opportunity to give to specific causes and it is not hard to understand why, in a growing world of generosity, people are increasingly less generous to their churches. Why give to a church-based mission that sublimates its commitments when you can give to a secular program that does a more effective job?

This, of course, flies in the face of the widespread conviction that to minister in the name of Jesus is somehow narrow and fundamentalist. But like so many other conversations in the church, we have thrown the proverbial baby Jesus out with the bathwater. There is a difference between being clear that a ministry takes its spiritual grounding seriously and believes it is essential to its ministry and making the aid we offer conditional on the willingness of people to receive aid. Here Jesus' own behavior is instructive: he healed indiscriminately, but he also didn't hesitate to say, "repent."

Bottom line? Until mainline churches recover a commitment to minting their members, giving will continue to decline



11/14/2011 5:00:00 AM
  • Progressive Christian
  • The Spiritual Landscape
  • Community
  • Generosity
  • giving
  • identity
  • Mainline Church
  • Christianity
  • Frederick Schmidt
    About Frederick Schmidt
    Frederick W. Schmidt is the author of The Dave Test: A Raw Look at Real Life in Hard Times (Abingdon Press: 2013) and several other books, including A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005) and Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009). He holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Job Institute for Spiritual formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and Consulting Editor at Church Publishing in New York. He and his wife, Natalie live in Chicago, Illinois. He can also be reached at: