Thursday, November 19, 2009

Douglas Wilson on debt

I've been unhappily reading through Douglas Wilson's book Mother Kirk this week. I've now read six of Wilson's books, and loved all of them, with four exceptions. Ok, ok, that was a Wilsonesque attempt at humor, but the truth is, I always find Wilson to be a very mixed bag. But more on this later.

Late in the book, he has a section on why a church that practices tithing should be able to build a new building without going into debt. And it appears that he's completely serious when he attempts to illustrate thusly:
Imagine a congregation of one hundred households with an average income of $25,000 annually. Such a church (if tithing) could support two full-time staff members and one missionary family at a very reasonable wage and still be able to save $750,000 in five years.
So let's do the numbers. This church has around 400 members (maybe a few more if the average family has 2.3 kids), their annual budget is $250,000, of which they are apparently spending only 100k, and banking the rest in a savings account.

Where even to begin with this? By asking how a church of 400+ is managing to get by with only two staff members? No youth pastor? Music guy? Secretary? Or by asking why these two staff members are so woefully underpaid? Only 33k per year in total compensation? (this is assuming they also give the missionary 33k, and since they only support one missionary, I assume they are attempting to pay his whole salary. oh, and this assumes that salaries are the only expense this church has!) Or might one ask why this church only spends 33k on charitable giving, but manages to put 150k in the bank each year?

Perhaps I'm being too hard on Wilson, thinking about what he writes like this. In fact, he doesn't argue in this section that debt is unbiblical or immoral, only that it is unnecessary. And his main argument for its unnecessariness is this one absurd example.

I suppose its just happily ironic that this section on debt comes right after the section in which Wilson opines passionately against boring, modern, cost efficient buildings, and encourages churches to build grand, lavish, expensive cathedrals.

1 comment:

Ken Shomo said...

Oh, the topics you have just unleashed! Pastoral salaries. Youth pastors vs. Family-based ministry. Cathedrals vs. Multipurpose Warehouses. And, for that matter, Doug Wilson. This should keep our blog rolling for quite some time!