Everybody likes pie.
The quote comes from Pastor Mike Greb of St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church in Philadelphia, courtesy of a Christianity Today article that announces Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendel’s signing into law a bill that lets churches sell home-cooked food at bake sales without fear of being shut down by the health department.
I like pie, too. My wife and daughter just made a killer key lime pie last week. It’s the rest of Pastor Greb’s quote that doesn’t sit quite as well in my stomach:
“These fundraisers are our survival,” Greb said. “In tough economic times, they keep the doors open and the lights on.”
Please don’t misunderstand: I’m deeply concerned in my gut for the 1 in 7 US congregations that are flirting with closure in the midst of this present economic gut-punch.
But since when did pie become our financial lifeline?
“In early 2009, an inspector from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture shut down a St Cecilia’s Lenten bake sale,” notes CT’s Trevor Persaud. “Since the food was coming from a non-state-inspected kitchen, the state government considered it a ‘potentially hazardous substance.'”
It is a hazardous substance–when it’s used as a financial lifeline.
When a church or a nonprofit turns to traditional transactional non-cause related ways to support its cause-related mission–whether through jog-a-thons, fruitcake drives, golf scrambles, or even the sale of one of my wife and daughter’s priceless key lime pies–it robs its constituents of the opportunity to learn ever more deeply–and share ever more broadly with potential new constituents–the truth of Jesus’ statement, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Even when what one is receiving is a yummy pie.
In this ruling, the church lost. As much as we don’t like persecution–even pie persecution–it’s what has always driven us on to new levels of scriptural obedience and creativity…and greater distance from the tools, techniques, and strategies of the world. Until we hit Acts Chapter 8, Christianity is a tiny one-city sect. When persecution hits, Christianity hits the world scene.
So is it really true that without pie to sell, our lights would flicker out and our doors would close?
If so, perhaps our lights may already be dimmer than we realize.