The problem with ‘resourcing churches’

As regular followers of this blog will know, I have been on something of drive to see larger churches linked up with smaller churches. I want to see those churches with financial and human resources proactively sharing them with those churches seeing real gospel fruit yet who struggle to get people and finances to move to their area. I want to see churches in affluent areas with wealthy congregations sharing what they have with those in deprived communities with poorer congregations. The sending of prayers, funds and workers would be a clear expression of our gospel priorities. After all, fine words doth butter no parsnips.

How delightful, then, to know that some consider themselves to be ‘resourcing’ or ‘hub’ churches. These guys want to grow their churches so that they might send their workers and finances to resource other needy churches. It’s wonderfully thoughtful but a few things bear saying about it.

First, the essential problem with ‘resourcing’ and ‘hub’ churches is that so few ever meaningfully manage to resource many, if almost any, other churches at all. In fact, as far as I can see, they generally hoover up all the available resources, in the name of wanting to be a ‘resourcing church’, so that other churches end up going without resources they sorely need. It does seem like a flaw in conception to suggest that the way to resource needy churches is to hand funds and workers over to larger, wealthier churches first who then might deign to use it to support the poorer, smaller church if they’re lucky.

Second, ‘resourcing’ churches typically don’t recognise that they have been resourced for years by smaller, needier churches. During the course of a recent twitter discussion, my friend Dave and I made the following comments:

The context seemed relevant but the key point came from my friend Dave: ‘those churches have been resourced for years’.

The point here is that resourcing churches can be slow to share the very resources that they have often received from needier congregations already, usually in the form of students who have been taught well by their home church. I am all for smaller congregations being generous with what the Lord has given to them, but I can see how it is a little galling to go cap in hand to a larger resourcing church to ask them, if they wouldn’t mind ever so much, sending back just some the resources they originally received from us to begin with. It feels a bit like the UK rebate from the EU to whom we pay our money and are, ever so graciously, granted a small proportion of what was already ours back. We are then expected to kowtow before the benevolent gesture of our unelected, technocratic overlords when we are receiving back only a fraction of what is (according to some) already ours.

Then there is the question of need. Resourcing churches are just those that have grown large enough to send funds and people to other places. That is well and good. But what sense is there is sending more resources to a church that is already well resourced, often on the backs of smaller churches whose young people have gone to university? Whilst the local church should be able to determine wherever its resources are used, it doesn’t make much sense to keep sending resources to larger churches on the grounds that they might decide to resource smaller ones. Just send the resources straight to where there is need.

In truth, there should be no such things as ‘resourcing churches’. There should simply be gospel churches with gospel priorities. The mission of the church isn’t to resource others, it is to advance the gospel. If that is our main concern, we will see smaller and larger churches being much more open-handed with the resources the Lord has gifted to them. It is when we begin setting ourselves up as ‘resourcing’ churches that we begin to determine that we need certain amounts of resources to credibly be able to give them away and to maintain our status. But if those larger churches recognised that many of their members came from smaller congregations, we might begin to see more gospel generosity as the advance of the kingdom and the making of disciples takes priority over our own empires and ability to spread our largesse.