Promoting Christ-centred Biblical Ministry

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reprinted from the Winter 1993 edition of Essentials  


At ease: discussing money and values in small groups

Rhys Bezzant

Rhys Bezzant ministers at Unichurch St Jude's Carlton in Melbourne

  The premise of John and Sylvia Ronsvalle and U. Milo Kaufmann is a great one: that money is such an delicate issue in our churches that small groups are one of the best places to thrash out the emotional and theological undercurrents in our thinking and acting. When I saw the title of this book, I bought it at once. Not only do I need some material for our Home Groups to discuss, I have also had other publications of the Alban Institute recommended to me. It proved to be a strange amalgam of Biblical theology and small group dynamics.  
  The first section was too long-winded. I was repeatedly invited on a unique and life-transforming journey, but it took a while for the train to leave the station. However, as we were being primed, some very helpful insights into the psychology of money were suggested: money as identity, or possibilities, or power (pp4-7). The danger of money to isolate and ensnare was also well explained. It was clear that the authors, or perhaps better collaborators, had a good grasp of the story of the Bible, from ruin to regeneration through Christ, and resisted the moralising temptation to quote isolated texts about the evil of money. Their presentation was firmly embedded in the broad sweep of the Scriptures.  
  I particularly liked their argument that dealing with the issue of money and resources forces us back to the mandate of Genesis 1 to care for the creation, and the implicit understanding that care for the created order is a corporate activity. Thus leading us to the place of small groups in God's economy (p15)! The book is not about how to set up increased giving appeals or stewardship programmes narrowly defined, but rather developing safe zones for broaching difficult areas of discipleship. They have to be commended for that.  
  This slender book has lots of great stories about setting priorities, and incisive quotations about money for sermon series. I shall be quarrying these pages for a series I am about to preach on wealth in Luke's Gospel. Indeed, the second section of the book is the best part, as it gives a graded series of excellent questions for discussions of money, starting with issues of self-awareness, moving on to practical issues of stewardship and budgetting revolving around texts from the Bible, and concluding with broader challenges to our lives as Christians: whom do we trust, Christ or money, crosses of gold or the Cross of Christ.  
  The least satisfying section was the third part, which gives a potted overview of the history of small groups and the dynamics which leaders are prone to encounter. This would have been better kept for a volume devoted to the issues of leadership in small groups. While the points made are true, they are too brief to be really helpful. I would have preferred some more discussion of how insidious the world's values concerning money are. Not even pastors are immune from the pressures to conform. Let's keep the issue before each other and the congregations we serve, and this book will get us started.  

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