A Statement of the Lutheran Church in America, 1964
Adopted by the Lutheran Church in America at Its Second Biennial Convention, Pittsburgh, PA., July 2-9, 1964.
The Christian is grateful for God's love and mercy. As a member of the church he finds himself faced by the needs represented by the mission of the church. It is this call to involvement that leads him to make responsible decisions as to financial response commensurate with the need. Thus the giving of the individual Christian, to the church, testifies to the task and mission of the church and is integral with it.
Commercialism, the selling of goods or services in the name of the church, with the purpose of securing funds for the operation and mission of the church, its auxiliaries, and church-related institutions, vitiates the clear relationship between the giving of the Christian and the mission of the church. It fails to bear testimony to the mission of the church and creates a false image of the church.
Commercialism further weakens the lire of the church and a true sense of stewardship for the following reasons:
- It involves the church in other than its true business of giving
— giving the Gospel to all men.
- it is used instead of giving. The church languishes and suffers from a lack of support, due to an improper understanding of and commitment to giving by its members.
- Buying from the church often suggests supporting the church. This leads to a false sense of security which satisfies the consciences of people not vitally related to the church.
- It places the church in competition with private business.
- It wrongly exploits the church by causing participants to feel obligated to support the projects thus endorsed by parish, auxiliaries, and institutions.
The relinquishing or commercialism offers new and deeper opportunities for service, participation, and fellowship in the life of the church.
Many of the recognized institutions of the church face special difficulties because their fund
— raising affairs are among the few channels they have developed to bring their program and needs before their constituents. These institutions are invited to move toward the development of other means of publicity and interpretation so that commercial activities can be abandoned as rapidly as possible.
Congregations are encouraged to work towards the total financial support of their mission and ministry, both local and churchwide, through the stewardship response of their people.
Commercialism — Rationale, Interpretation and Application
Presuppositions of the Commission on Stewardship in adopting its draft of the statement on commercialism.
- The statement on commercialism, together with any subsequent recommendations as to application and/or implications, is educational In nature. The statement is not intended to be legislative. However, this does not imply relief from the responsibility to teach, practice, and grow in the grace of giving.
- The statement is not a definition, description, or general statement on stewardship, bur rather a stated position based on stewardship principles.
- The statement is not intended to give offense, to fault the convictions and practices of those who have done so much to support the church in the past.
- It does attempt to reflect the thinking, desire, and direction of the church today by:
- Obeying the injunction of the church — "The underlying, pervasive purpose of the commission shall be to arouse and lead the members of the congregations of this church to practice their Christian faith in all aspects of their daily lives. An immediate objective shall be to encourage Christian giving through offerings for the Lutheran Church in America and its congregations and synods." (By-Laws of the Lutheran Church in America, Section XI, F, Item 2) "This committee (committee on stewardship) shall stress education and growth in Christian stewardship in every aspect of the Christian life. It shall endeavor to lead the congregations of the synod to higher levels of Christian service and giving and shall discourage the use of all unscriptural methods of money raising." (Approved Constitution for Synods of the Lutheran Church in America, Article Six, Section VI, Item 1)
- Providing a policy statement that mirrors the position which many congregations have been requesting and reflects what has been developing in the hearts and minds of Christian leaders, both lay and clergy.
- Supplying guidance and encouragement to those individuals and congregations who need and look for assistance in building and strengthening their personal and corporate responsibility.
- Camouflaged in the argument for "commercialism" and advanced as reasons for ~t are motives and practices which are desirable and should be encouraged. These are fellowship or participation
— the wish to be involved, to work together in a common task; and service
— a desire to feel needed, to have the opportunity to help the church or a fellow member.
Stewardship principles and practices clearly indicate the genuine need for service and fellowship. They should be developed creatively and courageously in order that people may have the opportunity to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and the mission to which He calls them
— to grow in faith as they find fellowship in His work of serving and telling.
- However, there is a third motive — a desire to work and serve for a profit
— to make money instead of giving money. It is this third motive which is in question and to which the statement directs itself.
- There are basically four ways by which property may be transferred or possession taken:
3. Buying selling
The grace of giving has a unique place in the faith and action of the Christian person and the congregation. This is part of our stewardship.
- God provides and calls. He does not call His people to a task for which He has not already provided the resources. God does expect each one to respond as he has been blessed, both spiritually and materially.
- Christian stewardship is dynamic. It is a living responsiveness. Therefore, each situation must be approached with an attitude of creative faith and growth. The motives and principles should be the same for each situation, but the ways and means will vary as each person, unit, and congregation grows in faith and understanding. Each must determine by the Spirit of God what is the better way for its life.
Nothing can help a congregation more than a clear conviction of it being mission and faithfully expending Its life in the variety of ministries to which the Spirit directs.
Application and Implications for Congregations
- Education begins with the leadership of the congregation.
- The pastor's personal position as well as that of his family has more bearing on the situation than perhaps any other one factor.
- The council will need to lead out privately and publicly, individually and collectively, if solid education is to take place and progress is to be made.
- The stewardship committee will be most actively involved
— motivating, training, and encouraging the congregation in the principles and the practices of Christian stewardship.
- Auxiliary leaders should collaborate by encouraging a better understanding and careful consideration of the motives and the objectives for the auxiliary and its service projects.
- Other influential leaders will need to be convinced and enlisted in the cause of a church growing in mission and ministry. Much good is accomplished when the leaders champion the cause, personally and graciously.
- Educate before you decide.
It is better to gain a consensus of understanding before deciding to adopt a policy about commercialism.
- Build a "case" for Christian stewardship.
- Prospect the history, reasons, and problems of commercialism in the congregation.
- Find the members who are looking for a better way — every group has them. Encourage them.
- Find the "key" persons — generally, they are also the key to what is being done or will be done. Convince them.
- Replace poor practices with better ones.
- Build — create — substitute — don't condemn and tear down.
- Develop a sense of mission in the congregation. Find the specific ministries which will fulfill the mission.
- Make certain the "need" for the service is valid.
- Consider giving the service — not exchanging it for money.
- Check the motives of projects:
a. Now in existence
b. Being considered by determining what will happen If the "profits" are completely removed.
- If the valid service necessitates "covering costs" consider the congregation underwriting the service as to cost of materials and the individual members supplying the personal service.
- Service projects or the ministries to which the congregation is called are most often discovered by determining:
a. Need — the validity of the project in relationship to constituency and community.
b. Capabilities — the resources of abilities — actual and potential
— in the congregation.
c. Motives — the dedication to truly serve — not for exchange but for giving.
- Recognize that the congregation is an embassy as well as school.
God's people perform their greatest work as His servants (ambassadors) in the world. They do this through their occupation, trade, or profession
— their daily living.
The congregation, as any household, has housekeeping duties which not only serve the family but should also provide training for the Christian's service in the world.
- Faith precedes work.
The Holy Spirit of God calls to His people in a variety of ways Indicating what and where to serve. The congregation, individually and collectively, as It is willingly sensitive to His leading will through faith find the kinds and places of ministry to which the Spirit constantly directs.
- Formalize the congregation's position on commercialism.
After a period of education, when the understanding and time seem appropriate, the church council will propose a stated policy, in harmony with the statement of the church, for adoption by the congregation.
"Commercialism" in one form or another seems to be perennial. New members and other leaders moving from one place and situation to another will require education and enlightened leadership. Understanding and Commitment can lead to a more excellent way
— to growth in mission and ministry for the person as well as for the church.
Division for Parish Services, LCA 2900 Queen Lane, Philadelphia, PA. 19129