“It takes money to make money.” Americans instinctively understand the concept of financial capital, which is money used by businesses to start and continue producing products and services. The more money is moving in a certain sector, the more businesses thrive. Then there’s the concept of social capital, which are social networks of relationships among people that enable a society to function effectively and individuals to thrive. Social media web services such as linkedin are used to maximize social capital in the marketplace.
In his book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, Robert Putnam writes persuasively that there is a widening gap between the rich and the poor in America. And one of the chief problems that has resulted is that there has been a significant decrease in “informal mentoring.” The natural social web of connections between adults and youth that was strong and more readily utilized 50 years ago is no longer there. Put plainly, financially disadvantaged kids don’t have as many good role models, coaches, and encouragement as they once did.
It’s easy to see, then, that a lack of financial capital and social capital contributes to a growing crisis in many communities, and the United States at large. But there’s another crisis that has developed as well. It’s a spiritual one. More and more every year, Americans are participating less and less in communities of faith. When I entered the military ministry 20 years ago, soldiers that identified themselves as “no religious preference” (NRP) were a tiny minority, less than 10% of the force. Today, NRPs comprised the largest group, at least in my sphere of service.
What’s needed is an investment of what John Perkins calls Spiritual Capital. In his book Generous Justice, author and pastor Tim Keller writes: “Spiritual Capital refers to the spiritual and moral influence in the neighborhood. The weakening of neighborhoods economically and socially goes hand-in-hand with their spiritual weakening. Strong Christians and churches have left as fast as, if not faster than, others.”
When the Jewish people were exiled from their homeland and forced to move to Babylon, they experienced it as a complete disaster. But God, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, tells them to capitalize on their situation:
“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29: 4-7)
I believe these verses are a vivid description of how to utilize the untapped depths of spiritual capital. The church in America today can and should view itself in much the same way. The message of the feeding of the 5,000 rings through: Little is much, if God is in it. And here’s the corollary: A small investment of faith can produce a rich return.
At Pilgrim, and in all of our faithful churches, let us make a rich investment of our spiritual capital. Let us remind ourselves that God is able to do more than all we ask or imagine!
Your Partner in the Gospel,
Seeking Jesus, Serving Others
Social Capital: the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively. According to Robert Putnam, social capital “connections among individuals – social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them.”
Financial capital is any economic resource measured in terms of money used by entrepreneurs and businesses to buy what they need to make their products or to provide their services
Definition of spiritual capital developed is: “the effects of spiritual and religious practices, beliefs, networks and institutions that have a measurable impact on individuals, communities and societies.”