Corporations are fierce about protecting their brands. The formula to make Coca-Cola, Hoy Fong Sriracha Sauce, or even the recipe for a great dish at any restaurant is protected like nuclear bomb launch codes. Apple once sued Microsoft because Windows had the same “look and feel” as Apple’s IOS. Businesses spend hundreds of millions of dollars to prevent trade secret theft. You may want to steal a company’s “secret sauce,” but you’d better be willing to fight for it.
Not so with the church. We were just in the season when we sing about baby Jesus being homeless, and born in a barn next to cow, sheep and chicken poop. We brag about Jesus’ primary mission being the transformation of the least of these my brothers and sisters. We promote our core values of sacrificial love, radical hospitality and extreme selflessness. “Come Lord Jesus!” we pray.
And then what do we do with our money? We send a little to charity. We collect some cans of food and give it to the local pantry. We feed people on Thanksgiving and Christmas. We feel good because we made a contribution.
We deposit our giving dollars in global banks. We reduce ministry staff so that we can devote money to keep up the building. We cut local and national missions giving because we minimize the value of collective impact. We think we are good budget managers.
We invest our retirement funds and our church endowments with brand name investment firms. We say, “We must be conservative. It’s church money!”
Meanwhile, poverty increases in our neighborhoods or the neighborhoods nearby. Half of our country lives below the poverty line (mostly children and elderly). Government investment in alleviating poverty decreases dramatically. Christians agree that the government should stop giving away ‘our tax dollars’ to poor people.
Yes, they kept half a billion dollars for themselves, but Dr. Priscilla Chan and her husband Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg decided to give away 99% of their Facebook stock, some $45 billion. In a letter to their newborn daughter Max, the couple said that they were taking this dramatic action to end poverty, fix distressed communities, and eliminate disease.
Facebook stole our brand, and most church folks don’t realize it.
It is probably a good thing. We aren’t doing much with it anyway.
Image via biography.com
The Reverend Doctor Patrick Garnet Duggan is a native New Yorker, the son of a Jamaican cabinet maker and a New York attorney. He serves as Senior Pastor of the Congregational Church of South Hempstead UCC and Executive Director of the UCC Church Building and Loan Fund. He loves writing, preaching, teaching, helping church leaders with difficult building projects, and talking about how the church can use its resources to change the world. Twitter: @revduggan1