The Secularization of Ministry

Christian ministries in Australia are experiencing some significant challenges – including challenges to the perception of ‘public benefit’ and tax-exempt status. With religious freedom also a very hot topic, along with significant changes to the fundraising landscape, many ministries are finding it difficult to plan for future Gospel and ministry work.

In recent not-for-profit forums there have been firm recommendations for Christian ministries to ‘secularize’ in order to survive, encouraging them to update their vision and mission so it’s more accessible to those who don’t appreciate the ‘on the nose’ faith elements.

We’ve heard a fundraising masterclass speaker boldly assert that she ‘secularized’ a major church welfare agency so that they could raise more money. Yes, more money means we can do more good work – but, when money-focused thinking takes over, it’s no wonder mission-drift looks so tempting.

If you’ll indulge me for a moment, let’s remember what happened when Moses called God’s people to give to help build His sanctuary. In Exodus 36, you’ll read that a decree was later sent out to tell the people to stop giving because there was “more than enough” to do all the work. Moral of the story: When the hearts of God’s people are given to Him, there is more than enough to do all the work.

So, it’s time to start a counter-movement to stop the drift and demonstrate there’s a better way. Not a secular way, but God’s good way.

So, if you have influence in shaping the direction of a Christian ministry – as a board member, leader, staff member, donor or volunteer – stay true to the unique mission God has called you to. Be motivated by your faith, not ashamed of it. At some point you’ll be tempted to sell out of the Jesus story for the promise of financial security. But remember that Judas’ 30 pieces of silver were just the start of that cautionary tale.

Then, as you approach a key giving time of year, take a moment to consider how you prioritise your giving. When you look at all you have, remember God has put it into your trust. And for the steward to whom much is given (yes, that’s you) much is expected. After all, anyone can give to charities who just do good work. But if Christians don’t give their hearts to unique God-breathed ministry… who will?

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