Church Life and the Mortgage Crisis

Cnn this afternoon points to a very interesting Time article by David Van Biema. In his article Van Biema seeks to answer the question, “Did God Want You to Get that Mortgage.”

His thesis is that many prosperity gospel preachers have put their congregants in very unstable waters by encouraging them to embrace the “blessing” of the housing market for the past few years.

I would hypothesize that this is a problem that defies socio-economic or even denominational lines, but it does raise interesting questions.

For churches, they must ask themselves, “Have we been relevant enough to speak on these issues even though it could hurt us?”

I recently read an article by pastor Jonathan Wolfgang on his facebook page expousing the troubles this is causing in his midwestern congregation. Lee Coate, one of the pastors at my church, the crossing, recently said that the church is retooling the sermon series lineup to address these issues. While I applaud such a quick response (which is incredibly pastoral), I cannot help but once again wonder: why did we as church leaders allow this “elephant in the room” level sin to persist in our congregations for the past few years?

We sit and point fingers at the “fat cats in washington” and the bank leaders as those who are to blame. Yet I cannot help but wonder: where were we as church leaders? Were we caring for and protecting our flocks during this time? Were we above reproach in our own financial dealings during this time?

Perhaps our congregations would best be served by top down repentance. Then they would take responsibility for their irresponsibility during this time. Then, insteasd of finger pointers we would be grace embracers.

Oh God, in this time of crisis, restore Shalom to your church that we might restore Shalom to our country.



6 Responses

  1. So Good. My favorite part is “maybe our congregations would be best served by top down repentance”, which is something i’ve seen VERY little of from pastors in my entire lifetime. Good word.

  2. Matt how would top down repentance help the situation?

    I think the whole thing is a mess and like what ryan wrote on here earlier this week. It made me think about how all of us need to take some ownership in this crisis and not think it is all some other person’s fault.

    Sadly, our economy is driven on two emotions; greed and fear. Greed was in full effect as everyone prospered off the housing situation and now it is a season of fear. Blaming people for this stuff just seems to be a waste of energy. I think we all just need to understand that depravity manifested in our economics. And that when people have the chance to do what is best and for the greatest number, or what will give them the most gain, they always choose their own self interest.

  3. Todd,

    I don’t think top down repentance will specifically “help the situation.” I do, however, think that it will be the impetus for the church to take ownership. I think the top down repentance will serve as an example to the congregation as to how to view the situation. I do not think I did a very good job flushing that out in the post.

    My purpose in writing was not a solution to the problem but more of a call for us as church leaders to not ignore such prevalent sin as it exists in our culture. I completely agree with your “depravity” economic theory. I just think gospel oriented preaching looks for the depravity in our culture and speaks to it. Not just the big stuff (sex, alcohol, country music), but the elephants in the room like the greed that fuels the “American Dream.”

  4. Good response matt, but it begs me to ask; How in the world would you preach against/about greed, materialism, debt when people are financially thriving. I mean I am sure pastors will speak about the situation now, but if you were a pastor in Vegas a few years ago when everyone was raking in the money and not thinking about the long term consequences what would you have said?

  5. Um, I guess the only way to preach on it when people are thriving is to grow a sack. Everyone knew what was going on 3 years ago, and even talked about a “bubble burst” in the coming days the way kids take about their parents coming home in a few hours when the house is a mess and needs cleaning. We in the church knew it was a mess, the problem was our hands were just as dirty.

    Not sure how I would preach it, but my text would be 1 John 2:15-17:

    15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

  6. “why did we as church leaders allow this “elephant in the room” level sin to persist in our congregations for the past few years?”

    Because some of them were making money on real estate speculation, and contributing to the problem of overvaluing assets? Just sayin’.

    And Todd: “Blaming people for this stuff just seems to be a waste of energy. ”

    Maybe, but pointing out faulty policy, and those that defended it, is one step toward ensuring that this doesn’t happen again.

    The church is out of its depth trying to deal with the financial issues here. Economists don’t agree on what is happening; how does the church think it can sort things out? The church should focus on dealing with issues of heart and morality, and where those intersect with economy and society.

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