Friday, November 27, 2009

Blood, Money and Mission

I went to the Blood Center the other day to give blood. I went because they called, as they do frequently, and expressed a need for blood.

I’ve done this for a while, but there were things about this particular visit that I really hadn’t noticed or thought of before.

They have the latest and greatest technology. Well, I mean, it’s a medical enterprise, what would you expect? It’s important work, you’ve got to keep up with technology.

On the walls around the interior are hung giant posters of people’s faces. These are the faces of those whose lives have been saved or changed by the blood we donate. I know this about the posters because also around the room are smaller pictures of the same people, the smaller versions containing the testimonies of how donated blood changed these people’s lives.

That got me thinking about fundraising. The Blood Center is a nonprofit corporation. But I don’t suppose they have trouble raising enough money to keep the doors open. Why? Because everybody knows how important the work they do there is. It’s work that saves lives. Why, they just call up people like me and say, “We need your blood,” and I show up. Because the work they do is important and I know it. I bet that when there isn’t enough blood to go around, people don’t blame the Blood Center. Nope. They are there to take the blood that people donate. If there isn’t enough blood it’s because people are too selfish or too busy to give it, not because the Blood Center failed in any way.

Anyway, I did my check in and then got sent to do some paper work necessary before they take my blood. It was routine. Same paper work every time. I have the answers memorized. I finished in record time but I had to wait for 40 more minutes. So when they took my blood pressure it was a little high, only because I noticed that people who came in after me were being leaped-frogged in front of me and time was getting on and I had another appointment. Plus, they were about to stick a huge needle in me and I wanted to get that part over with. But hey, it’s the Blood Center, they know what they are doing, it’s important work, and so I just sat there and re-read the impressive fliers telling me about how important it was I was doing what I was doing.

When you finish giving blood, they treat you to your choice of juice or water or coffee and whatever kind of cookies or muffins you want. No charge. It’s free. In fact, the bakery across the street donates their day old stuff and so as a donor I can take home a whole sack of bagels or bread or muffins. Free. Because I gave. And because other businesses recognize that what they do is important.

I didn’t realize it, but the Blood Center also has a point system. Apparently, whenever I give blood I get points. And these points are redeemable on line for Blood Center merchandise: water bottles and sweatshirts and the like.

Some of you are saying, “What’s your point?”

Here is my point:

When the church calls for volunteers, do you think we get a better response than the Blood Center?
There is never enough money in the church budget to keep us current with the latest technology, even though communication is critical to what we do.
We get criticized for spending money on posters that tell people what we’re doing and sometimes we even get criticized for testimonies because “it makes it sound like it’s about the person or the church and not God.”
The church is also a non profit corporation and yet whenever we fail to hit our numbers it is our fault, not the fault of the people who didn’t give.
A lot of church members get mad if they aren’t served within what they consider is an appropriate amount of time and not only do they give feedback about how our procedures need to change to give them better service, but they might just walk out and never come back.
When we tell people what we do in our literature, we get criticized by our own folks for thinking too highly of ourselves.
If our coffee hour doesn’t pay for itself, somebody’s going to hear about it. After all, it’s a luxury, and people don’t really need it.
And as for point systems, give aways, or thank yous, well, it’s the church. If we spend money on that then we’re told that people don’t need to be thanked and if we don’t spend money on that people tell us we’re ungrateful.

Why do two organizations, both specializing in blood (red blood cells or the blood of Jesus) receive such different reactions when they are both simply going about their mission?

I think that part of the answer is that we need to loose some of our “self righteous church people attitudes” that keep us from telling others how important the church is. Fifty years ago the church was seen as important to society and most people attended. Not so these days. And part of that may be our own fault for being so concerned about not being seen as not humble that we come across as insular, insecure and irrelevant.

Another part of the answer, in my opinion, is that almost everyone considers the work of the Blood Center to be life saving and life changing and important. But the work of the church? Only a few realize that we are also a place where lives and eternities are saved and changed. This might also be part of the difference between growing churches and dying ones. Take a look at the materials from your local blood bank some day. No doubt that they consider their work of critical importance. Then look at your church materials. Do you see the same kind of confidence in the critical nature of the church’s mission? Will it ever be different? Will more people come to realize that what we do as a church matters in a life saving way? I believe the answer is “yes.” But only when more people experience the life saving/life changing power in the blood of Jesus. And that is our mission.


  1. The modern American evangelical church has in part adopted a capitalistic business model. We own property, we pay salaries, we write and follow budgets and we make decisions based on “is this good value for my money?” We seek growth.

    I do not want to go to a church were people are complaining about the little stuff. If we really belong to the church, it will cost us everything. If we give mercy and forgiveness, it will cost us and we may not see any material return.

    The latest technology and the donuts are not my religion. I want to celebrate what God has done. I know that I do not deserve what I have received. I need to remember that I am not superior to any other person, either within or outside the church. I need to give to the needy. I am called to do good works.

    Only God can save. God may choose to work through the church, but he is not limited to only working through the church. God will work less through the church the more we think it depends on the church. He will not share his glory with another. (Isaiah 48)

  2. The modern American evangelical church has created a nebulous God of love. We have ignored God’s entire self disclosed description of himself in his word. We think he is dependent on us. We think he has limited power to save. We have reduced God to one of his attributes. We have eliminated his wrath. We have eliminated his holiness. We call sin, not-sin. We need to see God in the complete complex description of himself from Genesis to Revelation. God is one.