Book Review: ‘We Aren’t Broke: Uncovering Hidden Resources for Mission and Ministry’ by Mark Elsdon

For good reason, we tend not to picture Jesus as a redemptive entrepreneur or a venture philanthropist. But perhaps we shouldn’t be so averse to thinking this way.

He did, after all, multiply loaves and fishes in a way that would impress VC firms like Sequoia Capital. He one-upped Silicon Valley happiness theorists by turning water into wine at a wedding. More visionary than Steve Jobs in a black turtleneck, Jesus told the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14–30), challenging his followers to see resources as tools for good, not just gold.

It’s this portrait of Jesus, as redemptive entrepreneur, that pastor and financial consultant Mark Elsdon presents in We Aren’t Broke: Uncovering Hidden Resources for Mission and Ministry. Elsdon’s thesis is that the church shouldn’t wallow in self-pity over its declining membership figures and shrinking pool of financial resources. Rather, he proposes creative ways to use property, endowment coffers, and other assets as vehicles for multiplying impact.

Elsdon critiques the church’s historic “two-pocket” approach, which involves receiving money in one pocket via business, investing, tithes, and other sources and then giving money away from a second pocket in the form of philanthropy, donations, or almsgiving. “The real question we should be considering in the church,” he writes, “is this: What is the purpose of our capital? What is the purpose of the money and property that the church owns? Is it to make more money? Is it something else?”

Elsdon is motivated by a mixture of MBA studies in social enterprise, theological education at Princeton Theological Seminary, and his work for the University of Wisconsin campus ministry run by his denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA). In this latter role, he pioneered a $17 million project to rescue and expand Pres House, a hybrid student apartment building and worship center located on the massive state university campus. He makes a case that the church should practice this kind of entrepreneurship more often.

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Source: Christianity Today, Paul Glader