Spiritual Surplus

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments...
Moses Gives the Ten Commandments; Source Wikipedia

Jesus told the disciples to ‘love one another as I have loved you’ and then he sent them out to work among the people expecting them to listen and preach the Good News.  In some ways it was the earliest form of “crowdsourcing” where the interaction of a group of people creates a higher energy level, sense of commitment, and follow-through that in our high tech lives of today would be described as “sticky”.

The church is among the most sticky of institutions and has survived for more than 2,000 years by retelling the Good News so that each succeeding generation can also become one with the body and blood of Christ.

OK, but the church is not a business!

I hear that feedback from my friends mostly when I’ve hit a sore point of theirs.  But the principles of the church are the foundation of our business as well as our personal lives.  The rules of good behavior just like the Ten Commandments were intended to be our guide and to order our behavior to live in community into the teaching of the church from its early days.

The church is not immune from the laws of nature or economics. When congregants sitting in the pews don’t like the sermon or don’t feel welcome or take offense at some action of the lay or ordained leadership in a parish they often vote with their feet and find another congregation.

In the church as in business poor service results in fewer occupied pews. But good service fills us up with the Holy Spirit and makes us want to do more and be a bigger part of the work of the church. It’s simple math—multiply the number of people doing the work of the church and more work gets done.

Our spiritual surplus is therefore the level of congregational satisfaction. It is the difference between what members of the congregation are willing to contribute to the church relative to how good they feel about the actual work the church is doing.  We want the church to have a high spiritual surplus because that means the faithful feel welcomed, loved, actively involved in the work of the church and thus feel the warm embrace of God in their lives—so they want to do more, contribute more, serve more.

Think of area ministry as a form of crowd-sourcing. It seeks to incorporate more people into the work of the church by giving them opportunities to roll up their sleeves and get involved.  It builds commitment, it improves satisfaction and a sense of well being—it makes the church sticky! It seeks to give people an organized way to contribute their hearts, and hands, and ideas, and caring kindness along with their money to do the mission and ministry work of the church.

Our spiritual surplus is that good feeling we get when we are doing God’s work and serving others less fortunate with our own hands.  It is feeling welcome and a part of the church family.  It is being accepted and incorporated into the process of doing the mission work of the church.  It is feeling like we belong and that we are part of something bigger than ourselves by focusing on serving others.

Spiritual surplus is our loaves and fishes multiplying our efforts and feeding the faithful with an unending surplus of love, of a helping hand, a warm meal, a pair of clean dry socks or just sitting quietly by our side.

Spiritual surplus is God’s way of turning our free will into good will. It is the foundation of outreach.  It is the reason for stewardship and it unites us as the Body of Christ in a light so bright it warms our hearts and all that it touches.

The business of the church is to create spiritual surplus in each of us so the world is changed for the better—and we are changed for good. And then send us out into that world spreading the Good News knowing that as one or two hands gather in His name in service to others multiplied scores of times across hundred of congregations reaching thousands of people God’s work has truly become our own.


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