When someone (or some organization) tells me who they are, I take them at their word until proven otherwise. The recognized founder of Religious Science (who took what he had learned in Divine Science and Christian Science and reorganized it into Religious Science) said the following:
“Science of Mind…is Christian-oriented, fundamentally following the teachings of Jesus.”Ernest Holmes in ‘The Spiritual Universe and You’ (Los Angeles: Science of Mind Publications, 1971)
In any teaching that purports to be built on “…fundamentally following the teachings of Jesus“, it is critically important to know those teachings! Jesus, did not establish a religion built around large buildings, weekly gatherings where a basket was passed or capital campaigns. Instead, he lived as an itinerant teacher, traveling town to town and teaching people spiritual Truths.
“…Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”from Matthew 8
Catherine Ponder’s prosperity gospel best-sellers aside, I do not believe that the historical records have any support for the teacher Jesus being a millionaire (although it’s admittedly a catchy hook for selling books).
The biblical accounting of what Jesus believed the relationship between money and the church is documented in Matthew, Mark and John.
14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: 15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; 16 And said unto them that sold doves, “Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise.”from John 2
Fast-forward to the 21st century, and it should be no surprise to anyone that there is a serious disconnect between any religious or spiritual organization that claims to be based on the teachings of Jesus that ALSO builds its foundational infrastructure on generating money from the teachings that he (as well as as many others) taught to uplift humanity across the ages.
While churches, centers and other organized religious and spiritual organizations continue to struggle with membership and relevance, many are pulling out old playbooks to rev up the (remaining) troops. This often falls into continuing to do the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Some people have classified this as the definition of insanity.
I’m not sure it’s technically insane, but it’s certainly a zero sum game. If the circumstances of the global pandemic have taught us anything, it is that old paradigms are done, and a radically new way of being is in order. While this is true in many corners of society, the one I am interested in most is the paradigm shift needed in organized religious and spiritual practice.
The circumstances of the global pandemic are forcing businesses of ALL kinds to rethink their strategies. According to some of the smartest economic minds available today, the economic damage from the COVID-19 crisis is likely to extend for years, not months. This reality means that most churches, spiritual centers and related businesses do not have the luxury to wait out the recovery.
Some will say that the demise of organized religion is long overdue. I don’t entirely disagree, but will caution a full embrace of this belief. There is great value to be found in communities of like-minded people who hold a shared belief system. Research has shown that prayer has a positive impact and that the caring actions of a committed community can effect positive outcomes in difficult times.
It is for these and a few other reasons that I believe that the paradigm shift in organized religion – and now I am speaking specifically about metaphysical spiritual organizations – needs to shift away from the model where there is a minister who is paid a salary in addition to expenses around location, and services.
The post-pandemic model I am suggesting is one where there is an established community whose members agree on a shared vision of what is important and what they are willing to support. This may be a monthly rent or lease so that there is a space to gather. It may also include stipends for those who maintain the books, or organize the logistics (operations).
While some people cannot imagine how an organization could function without a paid grand poobah, there are many successful organizations that exist and succeed because of capable people who are well-able to manage working full time jobs and time in a volunteer leadership role.
The first thing that needs to go is the belief that every organization needs a talking head. Our culture already has way too many talking heads with questionable skills in presenting content in a compelling way and they are littering the airwaves with mediocre talks.
Thankfully there are also plenty of good speakers with a compelling message available. Groups that want to refresh their learning on spiritual Truths can log in – separately or in a gathering – to hear some of the greats who are available on sites like YouTube and Facebook – for free.
Teachers of spiritual Truths can offer their wares in classes, seminars and workshops and more and “the market” will respond. Those offerings which are compelling and worthwhile will attract a following and those that are stale and non-relevant will see dwindling attendance. I’m not necessarily a capitalistic guru, but the forces of the market do have wisdom to share. When the market is saying over and over and over that it isn’t interested in what someone is selling,… it’s time to sit up and listen.
This new paradigm will require a different way of being financially but it is fundamentally a more honest way. Instead of promising the Grand Poobah a set salary, and then hoping that their whiz-bang oratory skills and wit will attract people from the 4 corners of the earth; set up the expenses for the community (location, basic services like utilities, internet, etc.) and secure a core group of founding members.
If the basic expenses are $1,500 a month and you only have 5 core members, they must be willing to give $300 a month every month. If that’s not a workable solution; decrease the basic expenses or recruit some additional core members.
As new people show up for talks, classes and more they can simply contribute a love offering. Those that continue to show up will be offered the benefits AND responsibility of becoming a core member.
In addition to a commitment to contribute a set amount each month, core members will receive member benefits. Here is a partial list of some Core Member benefits that a Spiritual Community could offer those that sustain the group with their financial support:
- One monthly session with a practitioner/coach/spiritual mentor
- One date they can use the location for a class, workshop or meeting each month (or each quarter, depending on the size of the organization and the number of core members) at no charge – love offerings always accepted.
- Reduced cost sharing for any additional use of the location
- instead of a 50% cost sharing, members get to keep 70% of the revenue from the event they host at the location
- Opportunity to “advertise” their offerings in the community newsletter (with community board approval)
This option allows for practitioners of many metaphysical arts to share their gifts with the community (Board should establish guidelines for what is acceptable and what is not and it would vary by community) AND support their metaphysical spiritual community.
This is much more egalitarian than the old model of paying a minister, whether or not they are delivering value, and it shifts the control of the organization back where it belongs: in the hands of the members.
Some may ask what the difference is between paying a minister’s salary and paying for a class or workshop.
The BIG difference is choice.
Today as tithing and attendance dwindles in churches and centers across the country, those who desire to remain in the community are held hostage and pressured – either directly or indirectly – to give more and more money to pay the preacher. This causes undue stress and is unfair at best; unethical at its worst.
The membership model provides defined, accepted upfront costs that all agree on and pay to sustain the COMMUNITY – not to pay a figurehead. The obligation is to the sustenance of the group and the structure necessary – as agreed upon by the members – for the group to remain viable.
The OTHER offerings; talks, classes, training, workshops, seminars (etc.) are optional. This separates the things that are not getting traction (e.g. the market is not responding) and allows those to die on the vine without taking down the entire community.
It also allows people to vote with their wallets without taking down the entire community.
The MEMBERSHIP donations each month are strictly intended to support the community organization – regardless of and separate from the ministers and others that come and go.
It’s past time to separate the communities that people rely on and invest in from the need to pay a minister – who may or may not be invested in the community; and who may or may not be able to provide services that others find valuable enough to support.
Teaching spiritual Truths means that we teach about a Divine Source that always provides. How can we stand up and lecture others about that out of one side of our mouths while haranguing the few folks that come around for money out of the other side of our mouths?
It’s time to actually walk our spiritual talk; to reverse the practices that have twisted the teaching of spiritual Truths into a commodity. When we do the work, we are provided. And no organized extortion is needed. It’s time to dispose of the model that requires churches and spiritual centers to be houses of merchandise, and honor the intentions of founder Ernest Holmes.
(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path