The Common Treasury

We will model our financial structure after Reba Place Fellowship, where I visited about 5 years ago. I also ate a delicious vegetarian lunch with Virgil Vogt and he gave me the book he wrote, Treasure In Heaven. the Biblical Teachings about Money, Finances, and Possessions
Reprinted from http://www.Rebaplacefellowship.org
By Virgil Vogt
Sept. 16, 1983

The common treasury is a vehicle providing corporate support for Christians who want to live out the more radical economic teachings of Jesus. By sharing our economic life, we hope to encourage one another to go beyond the steps we might take if we were each on our own.

Over the centuries the church has preserved Jesus’ radical teachings and sometimes embodied them corporately (e.g. Franciscans, Hutterites, Moravians), but usually it has left the responsibility for administration of finances to individual Christians. The track record for this approach leaves much to be desired. Finances are a difficult area. The teachings of Jesus are so bold and unusual and rationalizing our self-interest is so easy. And we are constantly under the pressure of a materialistic society more so in our own time and culture than at any other period of history.

Thus the Gospel has a number of economic concepts which cry out for better expression. The common treasury is our acknowledgment as individuals that we need help to carry out these teachings. We want strong support and encouragement to carry out the radical teachings of Jesus.

However, the corporate approach does not guarantee results. Each one of us must deal with the spiritual issues in a personal way. We can become selfish and materialistic within the framework of a common treasury. On the other hand, if we are sincerely trying to express the thing which the common treasury is designed to accomplish, the corporate structure does enhance our individual experience.

The common treasury as we have known it at Reba Place is still a basic or elementary expression of Kingdom principles. We should not imagine that this is the fullest, best or strongest expression of Kingdom finances. We still have much to learn in fulfilling the teachings of Jesus.

Furthermore, we must always keep clear that persons outside the common treasury, administering their own finances, can certainly duplicate and surpass the common treasury in the extent to which Kingdom principles are expressed in economic life. We should not assume that those who administer their own finances are operating at an inferior level. We hope the common treasury helps us do better than we would be doing on our own, but we do not translate this into a comparative reflection about how others are doing who are not part of the common treasury.

What are the specific Kingdom principles which the common treasury is designed to express?

1) Renunciation. Jesus said, “Unless you renounce all that you have you cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14). On other occasions and in other ways, he often made the same point. Among the early Christians who were under the strong influence of his teaching, “No one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own” (Acts 4). The link between ownership and utilization had been broken. Possession did not imply exclusive rights of utilization. Instead whatever anyone possessed was available to all.

The common treasury is a vehicle for those who want to express this kind of renunciation, setting aside the normal claims of ownership. As people join the common treasury they are encouraged to do so in the manner described in the New Testamenteither by selling what they have and giving to the poor, or by bringing all of their assets and putting them at the disposal of God’s people, as was done in Jerusalem.

This renunciation finds ongoing expression as we continue to bring all of our income or inherited wealth and turn it over to the common treasury. The twofold experience of renunciation is well expressed by Paul (Phil. 3): “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ (past tense). Indeed I count (present-continuing) everything as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

While the common treasury has helped many individuals to experience this kind of renunciation, there are others who have experienced something different. The same transactions can be seen in a different light with different results. Instead of renunciation, the initial step can be viewed as a move from individual to corporate finances. In this view, one is not giving up his own possessions as much as he is joining them with the possessions of others to form a kind of partnership. Similarly, the ongoing investment of funds in the common treasury is not seen in terms of individual renunciation; rather it is understood as group management of personal finances. Individual accounts are carefully kept and personal ownership is maintained. And the only contribution an individual makes to the corporate well-being is the net gain of income over expense as totaled up at the end of the year. This is the IRS view of things.

As communities we have often fallen into this individual ownership view, not only to satisfy the IRS, but in order to foster an appropriate level of responsibility and economic motivation. This has had unfortunate results. The perception we cultivate shapes our experience. And our experience of Kingdom economics has sometimes been diminished because we have embraced major elements of the traditional individualistic way of looking at financial reality.

One significant difference between the two views is that in the renunciation approach what one contributes and what one receives have no relationship to each other. You contribute all that you have, and you receive whatever you need. In this respect all participants are equal. No one gives more, none receives less. This has been most characteristic of our common treasury experience over the years. In the IRS view, what you receive is always related to what you have given, and the net result is carefully calculated. In this approach there is great diversity. Some are big givers, and some are dependent. While we may need to keep records of this sort to satisfy the government, we do not need to accept this way of interpreting a Kingdom experience which actually moves on other assumptions.

In spite of its limitations, the common treasury has been amazing in the extent to which a large number of ordinary Christians have been encouraged to profound experiences of “renouncing all” for the sake of Christ.

2) God will provide life’s basic necessities (Matt.6). Common treasury members agree to settle for the basic necessities of life and give up other economic claims and ambitions. This puts us in a kind of “life-time voluntary service” stance, a most significant step. There are times when this does not seem to differ a great deal from what we would be doing in any case, since many of us go through periods in life when we are barely able to provide the basic necessities. However, many of us go through other periods when our productivity far exceeds that which is required for the basic necessities. In such periods the common treasury stance produces amazing results. And even when the external situation is little changed by this understanding, internal attitudes are profoundly affected by a systematic readjustment of economic goals.

How are the basic necessities provided? Not by seeking for them in the manner common to people throughout the world, but by seeking first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness. Whenever we are diligently seeking first the Kingdom we have the promise of Jesus that the necessities will be “added”. Our experience in the common treasury has confirmed this time and time again.

3) Seeking first the Kingdom of God. In a common treasury situation, members are encouraged to base their life decisions upon Kingdom principles, first and foremost. Economic considerations are deliberately moved into a secondary role. The common treasury has created a situation in which many individuals, moved by the Spirit of God, have been courageous in shaping an alternative approach to life. While economic considerations can still have an unwarranted determining effect upon Kingdom decisions, the fact that all of the money is already located in a bank account which is dedicated to Kingdom priorities helps to keep things in proper perspective.

4) Laying up treasure in Heaven. This is a positive goal towards which other renunciations and disciplines move. Jesus intends that his disciples should be eagerly diverting their resources into Kingdom efforts and Kingdom investments. Where this is working properly, money will be set free for giving to the poor, making friends, giving where there is no hope of earthly return, helping people and investing in Christian world mission.

The common treasury has certainly helped many of us realize a sustained level of Kingdom investment which surpasses what we would have done without the corporate support. In fact, the level of giving within the common treasury over the years has been phenomenal. So many ministries have been sustained, people helped and Kingdom efforts carried forward because of this generous giving.

5) Preparing for the future. People in the common treasury sometimes think that we are not preparing for the future. This is not true. It is rather a question of which future we prepare for. Picking up on the teachings of Jesus, we have tried to put future funds into the big picture, the eternal Kingdom. We have not put aside money for the intermediate future,–the next one to fifty years which may remain for us upon the earth. Yet we are, as Jesus explained, “providing purses that do not grow old” (Luke 12). We expect these purses to cover our intermediate future as well as the eternal one. Thus we have encouraged one another to divert funds from savings, insurance and pension plans, making these monies available for current utilization in a Kingdom sense. So far the promises of Jesus concerning the intermediate future have worked out well.

6) Loans. The common treasury has encouraged us to follow Biblical teachings which apply to borrowing and lending. These might be briefly summarized as follows: be slow to borrow, quick to loan. Do not charge interest. Do not insist upon repayment of the principal.

These have been life-giving ideas, particularly at this point in American history. I am grateful for brothers and sisters who want to maintain a stand on these issues.

Jerusalem Artichoke Project

Growing Jerusalem artichokes will be one of our main jobs this spring. because we can survive on this food. I am going to find a ton of places to grow them all over both the ecovillage site and the event center land.

Ever since I read about about how a village survived by eating Jerusalem Artichokes (I can’t find the article any more) I have been inspired to grow these for a survival food–just in case our food stores run out.

Here are some really great articles about Jerusalem Artichokes.

https://permies.com/t/53764/great-big-thread-sunchoke-info

http://thegreedyvegan.com/growing-and-harvesting-jerusalem-artichokes/

http://theprepperproject.com/two-must-have-survival-root-crops-jerusalem-artichokes-and-cassava/

Facts About Veganism To Memorize In Order to Share Your Message Effectively

I got these succinct facts which you can share with people who are not vegan from this wonderful web page: https://www.carnism.org/what-we-do/booklet

Remember to listen empathically to people and how they feel about these facts.

Booklet References

Christian Vegan Retreat in Philadelphia Was Fantastic!

Sarah Withrow King, co-director of the Christian animal welfare organization CreatureKind , organized and facilitated this wonderful retreat which helped a group go deeper into our connection with each other,  with Jesus, and our animal welfare missions.  I was really happy to have attended this event for many reasons which I want to share in this blog post. 

I decided to attend the retreat because I had gotten to know Sarah when we worked on a project together. When I heard about the retreat, I was excited and signed up immediately. Connecting with other women who were Christian vegans seemed like a place that would be kind of like heaven on earth! And in many ways, it was.

Sara designed the retreat based on the needs of the participants. She thoughtfully sent out a questionnaire to get a sense of where we were all at in our lives, and I think she did a great job of making the retreat a memorable and satisfying experience, including writing each of us a personal note of encouragement.

Of course, the nine other ladies who were there for the whole weekend made the retreat beautiful as well.

I really learned a lot from every participant. I  was glad to reconnect with Kathy Dunn of Shepherding All God’s Creatures. Kathy was the first Christian vegan I met when I first realized I wanted to be an activist. Because of her letting me know about the Creature Conference in London, I was able to get funding to attend this amazing event with her. 

I also was very happy to get to know Deann Thomson better in person. She is Humane Society Of the United States Faith Outreach Manager,  and I had numerous fulfilling communications with her via email. I enjoyed so much getting to spend time with her both during large group time, small group, and one on one.

Meeting Sarah was also a wonderful experience. I met her through Darryl booth,, director of Sarx, and we had only met via phone and email.

There is something about face to face interactions that really help deepen and cement relationships. This is so essential as we build a movement–to create relationships where we trust each other, encourage each other and support each other in our endeavors.

I believe the seeds were planted with each of the women who attended where we have the potential to build lasting relationships.

Each one of us offers something unique to the table of spreading the animal welfare message to the church and to all of humanity.  I pray each day that our time together will yield beautiful fruit.

Arriving at the Crainaleith Spiritual Center located on the outskirts of Philadelphia, I was greeted by a kind resident who showed me to my room. In those brief moments, she shared the fascinating history of this beautiful place, including how they ministered to the homeless, veterans, and activists who need some respite from their intense lives.

We gathered for dinner in the lovely dining hall where the roundtables were the perfect size that was conducive to lively conversations, and the vegan food was scrumptious! What a treat–to be able to eat everything on the serving table!

After dinner, we gathered in the cozy living room. A resident nun from the Sisters of Mercy which owns and runs the retreat center told us the history of the retreat center. We were all excited to know that Susan B. Anthony, a social reformer, Quaker and women’s rights activist who played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement, had met with other suffragettes in this very room to talk about how to get women the right to vote.

Some women voiced excitement about how we were gathering for a different cause, yet an important social movement none-the-less. We felt hope that our cause could also be successful and a sense of destiny as well.

Sarah asked people to share a story about a special animal.   As each of the women shared their story, evening session I was touched by how deeply they loved animals.

I was glad to get to know people better, for I was eager to develop deeper relationships with people with whom I shared so much in common.

We started each session and most of the meals with a prayer that Sarah read from a book that Sarah used throughout the retreat. The prayers were unique and included a focus on our relationship with all of life, especially animals. I was glad to hear such prayers from someone else because when I do my spiritual practices live on Facebook, my prayers usually include all sentient beings. This is a bit unusual in our Christian circles.

Being around people with similar values was and talking about the topics relating to caring for animals extensively was inspiring and motivating.

After our evening session, there was plenty of time to hang out and talk to people in the variety of sitting rooms. Vegan snacks, tea and coffee were made the atmosphere hospitable.

The next morning, I was eager to take a walk around the grounds to get exercise and fresh air. I have become rather addicted to both ever since I had my “dark night of the soul” experience four months ago. Taking care of myself has become more important to me as I saw that one of the reasons I spiraled into a kind of depression and separation from God was because I was not attending to my personal needs but rather focusing on projects and getting things done. I was glad to be in a retreat setting where we were encouraged to take care of ourselves.

The acreage was lovely. There were lots of trees, a big garden, beehives, flowers, a pond and wide expanses of lawn. I didn’t even want to venture out to the neighborhood because I enjoyed the sense of peace and protection that the retreat grounds afforded me, much like the country life I experience every day in the Ozarks at our Jesus Vegans Event Center.

With a very clear schedule of meals and events provided by Sarah, it was easy to make it to breakfast and all of the activities on time. Once again, the plant-based food was delicious, with lots of raw options including a delicious green smoothie! What a delightful surprise for me because I thought I would have to do without my favorite breakfast for a few days.

Our conversations were lively and intimate. We all bonded so quickly and shared details of our lives that showed trust was being built in the short amount of time we had been together. I was really grateful to be present with these women who encouraged me and listened to me as I shared some difficult times in my past.

We reconvened in the living room for our morning session. I was so eager to just be with these lovely women so much that I didn’t even take a break to get a breath of fresh air!  We each had about two minutes to share about an object that was meaningful to us, and I felt inspired by each expression as people shared their hearts. Soon, Sarah had us divide up into groups of two, except for my group–which was three.

Sarah had thought a lot about how best we could connect with each other, and she paired up people with similar interests and/or circumstances.  I was with my dear friend Kathy Dunn, of Shepherding All God’s Creatures, and Leslie, an animal rights activist from Washington DC. I liked the way that even though we were a small group, we agreed to time our sharing so that we could make sure we had equal time.  Our conversation was vibrant and left me feeling energized and uplifted.

Sarah’s questions really helped to spark interactions between us that helped us build trust with each other as well as discover aspects of ourselves that we hadn’t experienced before.

I appreciated how Sarah worked hard to design a retreat with varying degrees of connection to others. She scheduled some alone time so that we could by ourselves focus on a spiritual practice called Lectio Devina which is a meditation on the scriptures. I think this was great since being with people all day, even for extroverts like myself, can sometimes be overwhelming.

After a delicious whole-foods vegan lunch, Our small groups met again in the afternoon. We decided to add two more people to our group to shake things up–and Sarah was not rigid about what we decided.

The five of us once again decided to time our sharing, and the questions Sarah asked helped us to get to know each other on a deeper level–something I am always up for! I loved hearing the enthusiasm these ladies had about helping animals, and I felt profoundly inspired.

After dinner, we came together as the whole group–our second night together.  I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the group sharing. Even though I love being around people so much, I had not allowed myself sufficient space to reconnect with myself, and with Jesus. I decided to leave the group before the session was over. I was so torn, because I had wanted to be part of every single activity.

Sarah had said from the beginning that if at any point we didn’t want to participate, that was fine. When she said that, I couldn’t imagine wanting to do anything but be with these new friends I had made. But I am glad that I could tune into my feelings and needs and disengage from the group. I sensed that my inability to be totally present was not going to be beneficial to me or the group.

I retreated to my room and did some deep processing of feelings that had come up during the retreat. I sensed that this alone time actually was really what I needed more than anything. I had been praying for breakthrough about some issues I knew needed addressing, and I believe I got that breakthrough and am now free from destructive behaviors which have been limiting my ability to fully connect with Jesus and to truly love people.

The issue? The need to please people and compromising my needs and goals so people would not be upset with me, and would approve of me.

I felt touched that two of the retreatants came in later to check on me. Their willingness to comfort me and listen to my feelings deepened the already blossoming friendships.

In our last session together, we shared prayers and encouragement in various ways which were very meaningful. We were together in the large group as well as our smaller groups, and Sarah artfully helped us to make the transition from the sacred space of the retreat to going out to the world again.  We gave each other hugs and goodbyes, knowing that we had done something very meaningful, and that some of us would be furthering our friendships.

We all signed a card to tell Sarah our appreciation for her wonderful facilitation and organizational abilities.

One of the women started a Facebook page so we could stay connected. Another created a group email thread which will also help us to continue to cooperate.

We were a diverse group from many walks of life, different racial backgrounds, and socio-economic statuses, but our common threads of being Christian women who passionately want to raise awareness about animal welfare within the church and with everyone,  wove a beautiful tapestry of love.

Already we are enriching each other with posts on our Facebook page, and encouraging each other. I  believe our ongoing collaboration will yield productive fruits of helping to spread a message of veganism and caring for animals in a way that is truly effective.

I hope that Sarah can fulfill her desire to organize and facilitate many more retreats like this which can help our movement grow stronger.  If you are interested in contacting her about hosting a retreat in your area, you can contact her here.

I would love to hear from you about experiences you have had at retreats that are meaningful. I would also enjoy hearing your story of being involved in veganism and standing up for animals rights.

Being Bold About Veganism At Church–Compassionately

I was inspired to write this post because I mentioned on the Pro-life Christian Facebook page that I shared my veganism boldly but lovingly in our little church. Someone asked me how I do this.

In a few sentences, this is how I do it: I genuinely love people and don’t judge them for their meat-eating. I take every chance I get to state that I am a vegan and to inspire conversations about veganism where I can listen empathically to other people’s views and inspire them to ask me questions.

This was a journey for me. I had made a commitment when I was around some pretty hardcore animal rights activists not to even sit at a table where people were eating meat so people so I could make a statement and hopefully inspire people to think deeply about the issue. I didn’t want to be around meat-eating, and almost didn’t attend some very meaningful events which would have only estranged me from my friends and family.

But I came to the realization that if I am going to talk to Christians about veganism, the best time is to do it when everyone is hanging around eating animal products.

First, I will say that I have come to the conclusion that if every person who is vegan chose to share their lifestyle with others in a way that we as Christians are called to share our faith, I think that veganism really could spread to a critical mass point. At that point, non-vegans will be the ones who are in the minority and will thus need to defend their diets.

Since I have studied Nonviolent Communication as taught by Marshall Rosenberg for three decades, I have a fair amount of experience and knowledge about how to effectively communicate. I am also taking a course from the Equal Rights Institute about how to have great conversations about abortion–probably the most difficult conversation to have in a peaceable manner.

Yet Josh Brahm and his cohorts are so effective in helping people to see how their views on abortion are not logical. I am going to adapt their techniques so that vegans can talk to non-vegan Christian pro-lifers as well as anyone else who they want to talk to in order to help them make a decision for veganism. (That sounds kind of funny–but I think that helping people convert to veganism is in many ways like helping people make a decision to follow Jesus.)

I want to learn from every source possible–how do we most effectively communicate with people who even admit to having cognitive dissonance about their meat-eating.  Having this skill will help us as vegans learn to communicate more effectively with each other as well. We need unity!

So how do I speak boldly about veganism at my church and in Christian circles in a way that has inspired people to be more compassionate towards me and even move more towards being vegan?

First off,  I started a community which has a name which shows people immediately what I am about. Jesus Vegans was a name that my former husband, and member of our community, came up with. I believe this name was Holy Spirit inspired because the name itself inspires conversation about Jesus and veganism.

So the people in the rural neighborhood I live in, many of whom attend Resurrection Church where I also attend, know that I am passionate about veganism. Some of them even came to a photo shoot so we could have pictures of what we envision for our community, and their images are on our website–even though they are not vegan!

We are fortunate to have a testimonial time where anyone can share for a brief time. I almost always find something to do with veganism to share about. For example, recently I went to a Christian Vegan Retreat and so I talked about that. I also shared about how I miraculously met the husband of a Christian vegan woman in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

I rarely try to inspire people to be vegan–I just talk about it effortlessly whenever I get a chance. I don’t put anyone down or act like I’m disgusted by the meat dishes at the potluck, where many of the conversations transpire.

I very lovingly ask people if there is some animal product in the dishes that are not obviously meat dishes, and, usually, they will practically apologize if there is because they know I won’t partake.

Often I will wear some kind of low key vegan Tshirt.

I will ask people about their diet sometimes and just be curious. I haven’t done this yet, but I think I will ask new people before they eat–“are you a vegan by any chance?”  If they say no, I will say, “Oh, that’s fine–I just wanted to know because I am a vegan, and I try to scout out what foods I can eat and I wanted to help you out if you were a vegan.”

I am finding more and more that people are actually trying to tell me things like:

“I am 99% vegan.”

“Can you eat cheese? No? Okay, I won’t sprinkle this parmesan on the tomatoes. I’ll put it on the side.”

“I love animals. I felt really bad when I accidentally killed a lizard. Do you think I am going to hell because I eat meat?”

“Look, I brought something you can eat for the Thanksgiving meal–cranberry relish.”

“I was thinking of you when I put out the fruits and veggies for the Thanksgiving meal.”

“Oh, I am so sorry–I didn’t think about how you can’t eat gelatin when I made that dish. What can I substitute next time?”

“Here are the mashed potatoes without the butter I made especially for you, Mom. Josh (her husband) reminded me to leave some out cause I almost forgot.”

Whenever I talk about veganism, I don’t trot out Bible verses. Most people in my church know the Bible much better than I do. All that will happen is a battle of the scriptures. I do talk about how much I love Jesus and what He is doing in my life. People respect me, I think, because they know how committed I am to sharing Jesus with others.

I post vegan things on my Facebook page quite often (I want to do so more) and many of the people at my church are on Facebook.

At a support group that I attend, they have a potluck meal at the end of the 12-week session. I boldly requested via our chat group on messenger–that we make the meal all vegan so that I could partake of everything. I shared how so often I feel left out because so many things contain things I could not eat. I made it clear–this is a request, not a demand.

The facilitator quickly said, “Well, let’s maintain unity,” or something like that. But then one man, who was getting a bit defensive, immediately asked me what he could bring. I suggested guacamole and he was so proud that he was able to bring something that I could eat–and most of the food was vegan!

Because veganism is so important to me–it is easy to bring up the topic during small group discussions. This lead to a young woman saying, “You are an older version of myself–a tree hugger and an animal lover.” She was not vegan, but she really identified with me.

I find that by being bold, then people who want to be vegan, are vegan, or have questions about veganism–will approach me and share where they are at in their diet and their treatment of animals.

This really gives me an opportunity to listen to them empathically and draw them out. I never criticize anyone on their dietary journey. Often they admit they are addicted to meat or have cognitive dissonance about the topic. Also, I can offer resources to help them.

When I share my vegan path with Christians, I do so with great confidence and love–never apologetically.  And I am genuinely curious about how they eat and how they justify their eating.  I never point out how illogical they are.

I know so many facts about how, for example, egg production and chicken production leads to rooster chicks getting ground up alive. I mentioned this to someone rather casually in a text–and she said she never knew that and might need to rethink her diet.

It is true that I am a very outgoing person and I have spent my entire life learning to be free of fear of what people will think. I find that the more I am my authentic self, the more true friends I have. And even people who don’t agree with me respect me.

When I identify as a vegan Christian with non-Christian vegans–I have the perfect opportunity to share my faith, and tell people the hopeful news of how a growing number of Christians are embracing veganism.

Being willing to listen empathically to someone after I share my views is essential. I am astonished at how many people are changing their views, and actually seem to please me with the steps they are taking towards veganism.

I want to write another article about how I boldly share my Jesus walk with atheist and agnostic vegans.

Thanks for reading this! I hope you will share your thoughts about what you read and suggestions for boldly sharing your veganism.