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The $6.3 billion church question

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The Exponential Church Executive (Part One)

We are in what is now called, “The Exponential Age,” in which, compared to the tech sector, “most of human society — government, social institutions, conventional businesses — have struggled to adapt to that pace, creating what [the author of the book Azeem] Azhar calls an ‘exponential gap.'” (Axios)

For example, Amazon’s Research and Development budget alone was $39 billion in 2019, which was larger than that of the entire United Kingdom.  The rest of society simply has not been able to catch up, probably a gap that is only widening.

The gap in the Church

That gap is also observable in The United Methodist Church today.  Namely, it shows up in the ways that the denomination applies linear solutions to its exponential problems.  For example, it likes to throw people at its problems – a method that will ultimately lead to failure as problems rooted in systems require platforms to counteract.

We will be talking about that more in subsequent newsletters.

But, today, I wanted to go back to that $39 billion figure.  What if The UMC spent $39 billion a year on research and development?  What would (or, should) it spend that on?

To put this into perspective, The UMC’s total giving in 2018, for all purposes (meaning, giving from people in local churches), was $6.3 billion.  So, $39 billion would be six times the total giving of The UMC.  If we had that on hand, what would (or, should) it be spent on?

The gap in the model

Whatever it is, I can be almost 100% certain of one thing: it should not be spent on anything that we are currently doing – it should be spent on some new things.


Well, beyond anything else, the reason for me is that, whatever we think it is that we are doing, it is not producing the kind of growth and transformation that we should want to see in ourselves and in the world.

Thus, this brings us to one of the foundational ideas of The Last Seminary as it pertains to The United Methodist Church: it’s not that there is not enough money to spend – it’s that not enough is going to the right places.

This is a core challenge that the Exponential Church Executive must address and engage in this decade.

Until next Monday, keep your eyes on the future – your hands and feet will bring it to life.


James J. Kang
The Last Seminary

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