Every movement needs a financial engine. A financial engine is simply a way to make income to support what God is doing through His people. For some movements, the need is small and the means are close at hand: i.e. donations. For other movements, the needs are great and so another means of finance needs to be sought: i.e. business.
Recently, while I was in the African bush, God revealed to me the financial engine that He wishes to use for the Tabernacle movement. Though the idea came in a small way the ramifications of this economic engine and its possibilities have been exploding in my mind ever since.
To begin with, I believe that the non-profit model of normative churches has been a hindrance as much as a help ever since it was adopted. It essentially muzzles the church and makes the vassals of the various tax authorities. They have given some of their freedom away to act as God might direct all for they dubious privilege of not paying tax on their donations. This method of survival on donations has meant, in many cases, a poor church that lacks the financial muscle to do the will of the Father. Furthermore, ministries have had to resort to all sorts of mechanisms to induce their people to give to the level that permits them to maintain what they have and move forward. It is gotten so bad that some “seed of faith” ministries essentially sell favor with God in order to support themselves.
I believe this model is flawed and what is needed is to explore new ways to support the work of the ministry. We should seek to have a well funded church where not only the ministers have their needs met but also the congregation is able to support themselves and their families in a manor that demonstrates the blessing of God. I am not advocating for golden chairs and a Rolls Royce but merely sufficient income to live in this world while we do the will of Christ and prepare for the next.
Essentially, I propose to form business cooperatives from members of our churches. These cooperatives will exploit differences in geographic prices that exist for goods. For instance, in Africa the price of fish may be 100 shillings per kilo at Lake Victoria while it is being sold for 250 shillings per kilo in Nairobi. Between the lake and the city their is 150 shillings per kilo to be made if sold correctly. What generally happens is that brokers buy the fish at the lake which are then sold to those who transport the fish who then sell it to city brokers who in turn sell to vendors. Each step in this economic chain of sellers makes a small profit until what is sold for relatively little at the lake is sold for quite a lot to the city consumer.
Through our churches we have people who are geographically positioned to both buy and sell products. For instance, those at the lake can buy directly from the lake thus by passing the brokers. Those in the city can sell directly to the vendors or even the public. By cutting out the middlemen we can offer a competitive price to the lake side suppliers while selling at a competitive price to the vendors or public at the end of the supply chain. If we form cooperatives from within our churches our people can reap the benefits of doing business.
In our cooperatives, we will operate on the “trust principle” meaning that we do business with integrity. Business, in the normal world, is fraught with those who wish to take advantage of each other in order to gain a competitive edge. This is essentially the “dog eat dog” model of business. However, within our churches, we will operate differently by “loving our brothers as ourselves” so that we seek to create win win scenarios in our joint business ventures. We will speak honestly with each other, we will sell honestly to each other, and we will do so for the benefit of all involved.
Those who buy from the source will deal directly with those who sell to the vendors or public. Our aim will be that all involved benefit from these transactions so that our members might be blessed and also so our church ministry might be funded. It will be a requirement that at least 10% of the profits made by each individual be donated to their respective congregation.
Cooperatives, in the beginning, will be small enough to manage effectively, perhaps no more than 20 people at a time and will be organized around whatever products that can be purchased or sold by that group. Founding groups will be created out of interested people who agree to work together as Christians under the “Trust Principle.” After the group is established and is running smoothly future members may be sponsored by those within the group as apprentices. The apprentice period will last for a period of one year. An apprentice must show themselves trust worthy, industrious, and prove that they add some benefit to the group through their unique talents. After the year is up a vote will be taken that determines weather or not they are admitted into the group. If they are admitted then they will be given further responsibility within the group according to their abilities and become a member. If they are denied admittance to the group they will have a chance to reapply within two years as an apprentice.
Sponsors will be responsible to train their apprentices in whatever part of the business that they are currently undertaking. If they are responsible for buying fish then their apprentice will follow them around and learn how to do what they are doing. If they are at the other end selling fish then they will learn that part of the business. Apprentices will support and help those who sponsor them. Sponsors are responsible for the behavior and integrity of their apprentices. Failure of their apprentices to deal honestly or work satisfactorily will result in their apprentices being dismissed from the group and a warning given to that particular sponsor. If a sponsor has two successive apprentices dismissed from the group due to dishonesty or lack of good Christian character then the group will determine if they should be dropped from the group themselves. You will only be able to sponsor one apprentice at a time.
We will also follow the “Separation of Business” principle. Meaning, we will allow only a few, highly trusted people, to have access to the whole cooperative network. Those at the lake will not share sources or practices with those who sell for them in the city. Those in the city will not share sources or practices with those of the lake of how they sell in the city. While we want everyone to make a fair profit from their labors we do not wish to encourage people to go outside the group and start buying and selling independently of the cooperative. Doing so will result in immediate suspension from the group.
Trust will be maintained within the group and information about our practices and sources will be kept within the cooperative. In order to protect our business advantage we will mandate that those who benefit from doing business within the cooperative protect our trade secrets by keeping that sort of information in-house. Failure to do so will be deemed a breach of cooperative conduct and will result in disciplinary actions and even possible suspension. The core principle is that we are doing business for the benefit of those within the group and to benefit the work of the ministry. Anyone who endangers the working of the group as a whole must either be sufficiently corrected or if that is not possible, dismissed from the group.
It is simply in everyone’s best interest for each of us to deal fairly and trust-worthily with those within our cooperatives. We seek for everyone to be blessed and in turn, as they are blessed, for our churches to be blessed. We desire for our congregations to be taken care of to the point where they have more than enough to maintain their churches and the ministries that God mandates. Our evangelists should be supported well so that they can devote themselves to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our churches will be maintained and expanded with sufficient funds because those of the congregation give generously through being blessed themselves. It is, in short, a way of doing things that is opposite of how they are done now.
Opportunities will expand as our churches expand into new regions and even other countries. Eventually, even international trade between the groups will be possible. This will support our efforts to bring the Tabernacle message to diverse areas of the world and plant this seed firmly within them. We will be economically strong so that if we face opposition from without we can weather it successfully. Young people will find a way forward by working with successful mentors as their apprentices. Our youth will benefit from the maturity of those who teach them a trade and find, within our congregations, a means to support themselves and their future families. This will strengthen both them and our church bodies as a whole. These types of cooperatives will work anywhere and will give opportunities to those who fellowship with us everywhere.
I have used the example of fish to demonstrate the concept but this concept works with any commodity where their exists geographic price differences. Fish, grains, soaps, tractors, cars, building materials, engines, spare parts etc. are all candidates for this type of business venture. The greater the geographic separations the more opportunities will open up and present themselves. Income thus is generated from within the churches by the members and as they prosper the church prospers.
In conclusion, this is a brief sketch of a mammoth undertaking. This is a small glimpse of a financial engine that can power the Tabernacle movement anywhere in the world. There is a lot to be done, much to be talked about, and even more to be created. However, this is the start of a very powerful way forward for everyone who wishes to experience and become part of the Final Feast.