Church as Mesh: A Thought on Stewardship

Over at the Daily Dish I saw this TED talk by Lisa Gansky, author of The Mesh, about Mesh businesses:

Listening to the talk I was struck by the idea of peer-to-peer car sharing, allowing people to use my car when I'm not using it. It reminded me of my recent post regarding church giving, sharing and hospitality where I offered a few mesh-like ideas.

Here's what I'm now thinking. While my posts on church giving focused mostly on the giving, after having watched Gansky's video I'm starting to think that what churches really need isn't so much a revolution in giving as a revolution in sharing. Because when it comes down to it what was really distinctive about the early Christians was their sharing, their mesh:

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
The phrase in Acts 4 that jumps out at me is "no one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but shared everything they had."

Here's why I think we need a sharing revolution at church. When we talk about our relationship to our material goods the word often used to describe that relationship is stewardship. And more often than not, when churches talk about stewardship, they mean one of two things. First, stewardship means staying out of debt and living within your means. Secondly, stewardship means taking care of your stuff. To be a good steward of, say, our church building is to take care of it.

But this is a very thin notion of stewardship. And I think sharing can help us get deeper into the mesh-like spirit of Acts 4. Specifically, sharing radically reconfigures notions of ownership. And that's the core issue with Christian stewardship. It's to be an inversion of what ownership means. This stuff isn't mine. And I don't think Sunday morning giving really gets at that dynamic the way sharing does, psychologically speaking.

In short, if we really want a church to examine how it relates to material goods we need to do more than give. Although that is a part of it all. We also need to help the church rethink ownership. And the best way to do that is to increase sharing within the church. To live the mesh.

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11 thoughts on “Church as Mesh: A Thought on Stewardship”

  1. As long as private property is still upheld as a value, and individuals within the church are able to make their own choices about what, when and where such possessions are to be shared. I don't believe that government should be the means to re-distribute at their discretion and at the individual's costs. I am not a communist, as personal boundaries are important values to me these days.

  2. I've tried setting something like this up a couple of times in the past in my churches, but it's always fallen flat. It reminded me of Anna Svard's (2007) article on learning as participation and/or acquisition. I think a lot of us have such a strong construct of 'stuff' as acquisition that we find it hard to see goods and services as a way of participating. I can see that Web 2.0 could get round a lot of the communication problems, though. Maybe you've inspired me to try again sometime soon...

  3. sometimes Richard (it seems to me) we "the household of faith" cannot see the forest for the tree because of The sociological hermanudic (traditional Western ideological religion). We find ourselves myopically looking at an I'm an OK an your an OK with GOD, but don't even mess with MY stuff.
    do you not find it interesting, that on one level or another we (the household of faith) all fall into a pit of despair at our "lack of participation" in the "joy of Gods rescue from the captivity of death" by his "sons actions", and do not fully understand the perfect law of liberty, which should DRIVE all of us onward in to acts of thankfulness and kindness through the joyfulness of be zealous of good works.

    very nice artical
    thanks bro
    rich constant

  4. Rich,
    This is a nice place for you. And it is also comfortable, as it is your reality. We all seek our comfort zones, as to how we understand reality. How we understand reality is a way of "coping" or "living rationally". It is a "framing" of experience.

    Others have other realities, and the ways in which we all identify will lead to miscommunication/misunderstanding, because of such differences. We cannot assume that our understanding is everyone's nor should it be. Live your life fully in your "comfort zone", of value and choice. Surely, you wouldn't suggest in the name of "God" we should terrorize another with "our truth". or our reality...
    Some believe that "the greater good", or "ultimate values" or some other collective ideal is what the world needs, but I disagree, because of Human Nature.

    Human Nature is limited, fallible and needs some boundary marker, otherwise, we will presume, assume upon others. and this isn't just disrespect, but can be understood as disregarding.

    Collective identities can be led and manipulated by rhetoric. Use the right terminology and such will follow. Do not allow your life to be determined by others, without your consent. This is the greatness of our Constitutional Republic.

  5. there is no sin in profit; there is sin in coveting.
    loving others as you love yourself was not meant to limit your love of self, it was meant to be a governor for your love of self.

    making our weaknesses strengths, and all that.

    if ethics were intrinsic to a by gone age of business dealings then 10 commandments would have been either (1) unnecessary or (2) intended for this generation, and maybe a few others.

  6. ANGIE HERE'S A different way to skew the perception of participation in the application of doctrinal thought for you...or the sociological development of good in a republic.
    the church or peer group is the dog...
    the fleas are the individual member's of the ethical group you hang out with.One dog belongs belongs to Jesus.
    The other dog is a socially engineered a product, of environmental social ethics based in a principals that are defined by doing what needs to be done (personal agenda)rooted in doing whatever needs to be done as expediently as possible.
    Just being a flea what dog do you want to ride on.
    now then, because of social interaction of behavior
    what does the words "principled people" mean ????????
    now Angie please don"t go to the ex stream.
    although when push comes to shove in every encounter
    ethics and morality god does not change i am thankful for that.
    I have been reading that book now for some 50 years, and the problem I have had with the ancient book have been one's of
    a predisposed idea based in a false theological concept.
    the the only dog i will ride on is the lord's dog.



  7. We also get caught up in the idea of giving. Giving is not an exchange, but a transfer. While we should not quit giving, our focus should always be more on how to share our lives with those around us. The giver can always attach strings and feel superior and control how much gets taken out of their hands. The sharer lays everything down and invites all to partake as those around do the same.

  8. Richard,

    Stimulated by your post, I facilitated our Wednesday evening fellowship group discussion on Acts 4. We met in our home and shared our evening evening meal. Each couple brought what food item they were able and we had a feast. I used the shared meal as an example of how we might develop all-things-in-common spirit in our 21st century fragmented, consumerist, acquisitive culture. The discussion morphed into a streetbank plan which our congregation will soon implement for its members and for serving the community. The church's website will be set up for such sharing.


  9. By Jesus saying that men shouldn't separate what God has joined together (husband and wife) ; however some exceptions are given including adultery. This is of course different from what it had been before, as Jesus comments on the difference between Moses' rules (law) and the new way He was bringing in.
    Other references are made in Paul's writings, where honour is given to those who have only 1 wife.

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