When I visited Brazil last May I found that the Koreans who live there experience the same kinds of financial difficulties as Korean Americans here. And these difficulties affected church life. Some church members borrowed money from other members to start businesses and simply disappeared when they could not pay back the loans. Elders and deacons were being criticized for not paying back money they had borrowed from other church members.
Financial difficulties affected the house churches in a different way. Some house church members asked shepherds for loans, then got upset when they were refused and openly criticized the shepherds for lacking love and concern. As a result, some shepherds resigned, and others refused to become shepherds for fear of such criticism.
A similar situation seems to be developing in our house churches. Shepherds have called me and asked for advice in regards to house church members who ask for personal loans or who ask them to become cosigners for a loan.
It is a Christian duty to help fellow Christians financially so that they don’t go hungry. But some requests from house church members have nothing to do with daily sustenance but are about starting businesses, getting bank loans or buying houses. Shepherds should not have to risk their families’ security by loaning money or by being a cosigner for people they don’t know well simply because they attend house church meetings.
As the pastor of this church I feel that I have an obligation to protect our shepherds. Therefore, as of today I’m making it church policy that shepherds refuse to loan money or cosign a loan for someone who is not a full member of our church or has been a full member for less than a year. Shepherds need not feel guilty for refusing such requests, even if people leave the church because of it.
If such a request comes from someone who has been a full member for longer than a year, the decision is up to the shepherds. On one hand, sacrifice is necessary if people want to be true servants of the Lord. On the other hand, they have no right to irresponsibly risk their family’s financial security. I want shepherds to consider both these factors and make wise decisions.
To our church members, I urge you not to ask your shepherds for financial help. Our church has many provisions to help members meet all their basic needs. We have been providing free sacks of rice. Our mercy ministry team has been buying groceries for those in need. Free clothes and toys are available in the Share Room. Shepherds are already making many sacrifices for their house church members. The rest of us should not burden them with financial requests which are hard to meet.
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