On March 20-21, 2015, First United Reformed Church of Chino addressed this important subject in its annual Growing Reformed Churches Conference under the theme, “Financial Freedom: Liberated From the Love of Money.”
Chino’s Youth Pastor, Rev. Quentin Falkena, explains the theme choice: “Every year we strive to pick topics that bear on the Christian life. Some years they are more theological in nature, other years they deal with more practical issues. [This year] we picked a topic that always stirs interest: money. The title was a collaborative effort, tying together terms from the financial realm, the graphic from the brochure, where the words ‘liberty’ and ‘In God We Trust’ are visible on the dime, and Hebrews 13:5-6.”
In the ESV, that text says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?’ ”
Featured speakers were Dr. W. Robert Godfrey (Professor of Church History at Westminster Seminary California), Rev. Mark Vander Hart (Associate Professor of Old Testament Studies at Mid-America Reformed Seminary), Dr. J. V. Fesko (Professor of Systematic Theology and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California), and Rev. Chris Gordon (Preaching Pastor at Escondido URC).
Pastor Quentin says, “The speakers were pastors and theologians, rather than financial experts, so the content was largely biblical and spiritual in nature. Each speaker also has a different field or specialty, which helped round out the material. Dr. Godfrey shed some light on this topic from an historical perspective. Rev. Vander Hart explained a lot of the Old Testament materials and drew out some implications for the church today. Dr. Fesko addressed the biblical connection between idolatry and greed, and spoke to the matter of sanctification in the midst of consumerism. Rev. Gordon, coming specifically from a pastoral perspective, spoke to the heart issue of giving in light of how much we’ve been given in Christ.”
About 100 people attended the conference, one of whom was Rev. Andrew Compton (Associate Pastor at Christ URC in Anaheim, CA). He said other members of his church who attended either work in the finance industry or are involved in financial stewardship programs.
“They voiced on Sunday that they would have liked to hear more black-and-white ‘do-this-don’t-do-that’ advice from Scripture, but all appreciated the fact that God’s word doesn’t always speak directly to many of the same financial questions we have these days. They all recognized that the best tactic was to spell out the theology of money and giving and draw some more modest advisory conclusions.”
He added, “Most of us want an answer specifying that God desires at least 10%, but not necessarily more than 18% of our gross (or net) income, not including what we earned from investments and not including what we received via tax refund the previous year and yet making provision for yada yada yada…. Of course, I am getting silly here, but my point is that our questions about giving are usually too pragmatic and wrongly prioritized whereas they need to be better rooted in a broader understanding of God’s mercy in Christ and of proper gratitude. Too often we draw this connection too quickly and sound as though we are just ordering people to give more and guilting them for not being grateful enough to God for his mercy. But the speakers didn’t hurry us along this path. Instead, they led us on the journey and unfolded the glories of God’s grace, patiently helping us to see the relationship between our giving and God’s grace to miserable sinners. This enabled everyone to be in a better position to then even ask the question: how much do I give each week to my local church?”
Many attendees related how much they appreciated the speakers and their practical presentations, which were Christ-centered rather than money-centered. Several mentioned how they valued the opportunity for fellowship with other Reformed believers in southern California.
This year’s conference was the 17th hosted by First URC of Chino. Pastor Quention emphasizes that the church secretary, Mrs. Joan Dundon, deserves credit for the design of printed materials and many other church members voluntarily assisted with registration, the sound system, in the kitchen, and in many other areas. Gary Anderson chaired the committee and developed the list for a book table.
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 12 & 13 of the April 29, 2015, issue of Christian Renewal.