Are We Resource Challenged?

While preparing for my message this week on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem I was reminded that Jesus instructed his disciples to borrow the donkey that he would be riding into the city.  The King of the Jews, their Messiah didn’t own his own donkey.

While preparing for my message this week on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem I was reminded that Jesus instructed his disciples to borrow the donkey that he would be riding into the city.  The King of the Jews, their Messiah didn’t own his own donkey.  As I continued to ponder that thought I was also reminded that Jesus never owned anything.  He often borrowed those things he decided would be useful to his ministry. 

  • At his birth his parents borrowed a barn to bring him into the world.  Luke 2
  • When he wanted to feed five thousand people he borrowed a boy’s lunch. Matthew 14 
  • He borrowed a donkey when he presented himself to the Jews in Jerusalem.  Mark 11
  • After his death he was laid into a borrowed tomb. Matthew 27
  • Responding to the reality of material poverty he said, "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Luke 9:58

 I believe all this was intentional to send an undeniable message to his disciples that life and ministry are not dependent upon the material. As Americans we have become accustomed to the idea of material ownership.  We are told that owning our own home is what’s expected since it is part of the American dream.  Ownership equates with success and power in our society. While owning material possessions is not sinful we all can readily acknowledge how they can easily own us if we are not careful.  Debt becomes a natural consequence of ownership and will inevitably become our master.

 Just about two years ago I read the book Radical.  Pastor David Platt wrote about his journey of being freed from the American dream as it relates to money and possessions.  What gripped me about the story in his book was the reality that not only as individuals do we allow the pull of the culture contribute to our desire to pursue the material but the same is true for us as church leaders. We place great effort into acquiring the bigger and better because we believe it is a must to do ministry.  As David Platt wrote about his experience within different cultures and seeing the poverty and constant needs of the churches I was convicted by how we in the western world erect buildings costing millions while most of the world struggles to get by each day.  At the same time it has been argued that for all our material wealth the church in America is no healthier than the church in other parts of the world where ownership of land and property are nearly impossible. In fact a recent report by Rebecca Barnes and Lindy Lowry (“Church Leaders”) revealed that church attendance in America has declined consistently since 1990.  At the same time more mega churches have opened their doors in America. Maybe bigger isn’t better?  Jesus said, And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  The church that Jesus was building was not made of brick and mortar but of people. Church was not a property or building but a group of believers united to accomplish his mission by the power of the Holy Spirit with or without material resources.

 I recently sat with a missionary friend on furlough from southeast Asia.  I asked him how his church planting efforts were going.  As he told me about all the victories among his toughest challenges was making sure that his new church plants would keep from adopting the strategy and growth models of the western church.  Most of these strategies identify approaches that focus on what I call budgets, bucks and butts.  This is the need for more people to bring in more money to fund larger budgets. Business models that identify metrics and material resources as a priority are not even transferable to struggling third world environments.  As I listened to him I wondered if instead of leading the world in what a church should be we in America are providing examples that may be contrary to Jesus’ example of freedom from needing to own the material to accomplish the spiritual. At a minimum rather than pouring more money into the material here why not support in greater ways what God is accomplishing where resources are non-existent. Jesus used the material to serve the purpose of the spiritual. He never said material ownership was wrong but he was a tremendous example of doing the will of his Father apart from it.  Now that is radical!


   Barnes, Rebecca and Lowry, Lindy, “7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America” Church Leadership Retrieved from:


  • SonShine

    Exceptional blog~
    Am so delighted to read this blog and I totally concur with what you have written. Thanks for this and the references as well.


  • Stephen J. Drain

    God forgive the Western Church

    Good column, brother.

    Some, but not all, of these churches who want big buildings, big budgets, and many butts seem to have forgotten about missions and missionaries, their suffering brothers and sisters throughout the world, the persecuted church, even the poor in the neighborhoods and cities around them.

    Remember the final scene in "Schindler's List", when Schindler basically points out that he could have done more if he hadn't kept his car, his gold pin, wasted so much money, etc. Will the church, each of us included, be called to account for our building projects and self focused spending while forgetting that there is a whole world out there that we could help?

    Didn't Paul collect funds from the churches in order to take it to others? He didn't go and ask how much they had raised for their pet project,

    But we're all guilty.

    God forgive us in the Western church.