It’s an age old debate—where to spend the church’s money. Is our money better suited going to the poor or to a new website? The AIDS crisis or a coffee bar?
Let’s take a look at a story in Matthew 26:
When Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper, a woman came up to him as he was eating dinner and anointed him with a bottle of very expensive perfume. When the disciples saw what was happening, they were furious. “That’s criminal! This could have been sold for a lot and the money handed out to the poor.”
When Jesus realized what was going on, he intervened. “Why are you giving this woman a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me.” (Matthew 26:6-10 The Message)
Does the disciples’ response sound familiar? So often we look at the money churches spend and think, “What if we used that money for orphans, or the poor, or the homeless…? Do we really need another plasma screen/coffee bar/glossy brochure?”
But that’s not the issue for Jesus. And that’s where I have often failed to understand Christ’s perspective. Creating an appealing environment that includes things like comfy—and possibly pricey—chairs or designing marketing pieces that hit their mark—and don’t come cheap—can be very similar to what this woman did for Jesus. Now, before you start sending hate mail or screaming blasphemy, let me explain.
As the woman was serving God with humility and thankfulness, isn’t it possible for us to do the same with our communication efforts? Let them be significant statements of what Jesus means to us. That doesn’t mean we throw cash around. We still need to make wise use of the funds available. But we also shouldn’t have guilt for buying a state of the art projector or top-notch signage for our facilities.
In Church Marketing 101, Richard Reising writes, “Your church might not have Solomon’s budget, but you can still shape what you do have into an instrument that glorifies God.”
For the woman in Bethany, that instrument was a bottle of expensive perfume. For those of us in church marketing, our instrument is how we present the church’s message to those around us. In either case, we shouldn’t cheap out or do it halfway in order to save a few bucks. The gesture only works if it’s total and complete. A half-designed brochure is a failure.
In Matthew 26, Jesus isn’t condoning extravagant waste. What the disciples were missing was how deserving Jesus Christ was for such a beautiful display of service. As communicators and as Christians, we are charged with representing how worthy the message of our Savior is to a culture that demands excellence and relevance.