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An Interview with Gary Moore: 19 Questions

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  • Author: Martin Davis has a blog called Faith and Fumbles/
  • Updated: 02/12/2010
  • Copyright: Martin Davis
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Interview found on the blog Faith and Fumbles/

July 16, 2008
An Interview with Gary Moore: 19 Questions
By Martin Davis

Gary Moore knows money--he's a Wall Street veteran, was an insider at some of America's largest mega-churches, and is friend to some of the world's richest individuals, though he will help any size investor. So  when it comes to the church and finances, he's understandably outspoken. But he isn't just about how churches account for their ledgers (though that's important to him). He wants people of faith to re-envision how they understand money altogether. "I'm trying to reclaim the biblical notion that stewardship is not simply ecclesiastical giving, but how we manage 100 percent of our time, talent, and treasure, particularly treasure," he says in this first ever Faith and Fumbles interview. Among those pushing hard for reform in the Protestant tradition, Gary is carrying the financial standard. But his ideas are about far more than money. They are about what it ultimately means to live a Christian life in the modern age.

What is your church affiliation?

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I grew up Southern Baptist but joined my wife in the Episcopal Church upon marriage. We eventually compromised on becoming "liturgical Baptists." Lutherans are down-home people and adopt a democratic polity, which is important to me as I actually studied political science. I also have a lot of stubborn German blood in me!  My mainline friends often think I'm evangelical as I wrote a book for my mainline church that was picked up by an evangelical publisher when it went commercial. I was immersed in that community during the '90s. I call that my decade in the financial desert. Evangelicals do a lot of things very well. Money isn't one of them. They simply don't have the traditions to understand how stewardship has continued to evolve. So they go strictly cultural or back to the Bible, which prompts some very selective exegesis as biblical people lived on 400 dollars a year. It was actually the Protestant reformers who morally legitimated investing for profit. And the Mennonites might best reflect my understand of what a Protestant political-economy might look like. So I advocate both scripture and tradition, as well as reason, when it comes to money.

Are you involved with a particular faith community?

I don't care for churches that try to be spiritual cafeterias as I don't think you can be all things to all  people. But I take "best practices" from where I find them. I love Martin Luther's humble dependence on grace, but I admire evangelicals' passion and certainty of belief, when not extended to mundane matters like the federal debt, Y2K, politics and so on. I love the Baptists' embrace of the Scriptures, but also love the Pentecostals' embrace of the Holy Spirit. I love Catholic tradition, but also love WillowCreek's creativity.

In what area are you "pushing the envelope" over the way in which the Protestant church operates?

I'm trying to reclaim the biblical notion that stewardship is not simply ecclesiastical giving, which is how virtually every pastor, and therefore most Christians, view it. It's about but how we manage 100 percent of our time, talent and treasure, particularly treasure. The treasure part takes me into areas of responsible investing, micro-enterprise finance, community development banking and so on. But the bigger picture is about how we live, and not simply what we believe. The paradox is that Robert Wuthnow has written in God and Mammon in America that the only way our ecclesiastical institutions will increase funding is to teach stewardship in a more holistic sense.

Do you work principally within the institutional church, or outside of it?

I've always preferred to work within. But as so many have said, the church is a poor steward of the laity's talents. There's little room within for what I do as the Church is almost exclusively focused on institutional survival when it comes to money. To use a graphic metaphor, fundraising begins with the pressing needs of our institutions, so it's much like fighting the gators. On the other hand, stewardship  begins with the spiritual needs of our members. Given the weak state of the Church, we have to do fundraising. But the reality is the gators will never go away permanently until we do stewardship. I'm trying to help with that. I can't say I've been real effective though. So I continue to contemplate seminary and working from the inside. It's a real dilemma for me, as it is for all the non-ordained who seek to do serious ministry. My guess is I'll find an institution, whether on Wall Street or in the Church, one day that seriously wants to do holistic stewardship and I'll have found my promised land.    

Name the Christian writer(s) or thinker(s) who has most influenced you.

Beyond the Scriptures, they would be Sir John Templeton, Peter Drucker, and C.S. Lewis.

Name the non-Christian writer or thinker who has most influenced you.

Ayn Rand, in the sense she's my "anti-christ" and is probably the Church's, though few understand that. She wanted the worship of money to be America 's next religion. That sounds odd until you understand psychologists say men now think more about money than sex, which is far ahead of religion! It's our state of consciousness. And the Library of Congress has judged Rand's gospel Atlas Shrugged, which ends with her secular savior making the sign of the dollar across the world, to be the second most  influential book in America, just after the Bible. That's a pretty good metaphor for America. Most of us, particularly businesspeople, unwittingly worship God on Sunday but money from Monday to Saturday. Some now believe that is fine. Ray Kroc supposedly said his "priorities are God, family and business but when I go to work on Monday all that reverses." Some of the top corporate implosions earlier this decade therefore occurred under very visible Christian CEO's. I actually served with Ken Lay of Enron on the board of a major ministry. And he was a very generous donor. Still, he won't go down in history as a great Christian steward. The clergy should reflect on that.  

Briefly describe what you most wish to see changed in the Protestant church.

I would love to see the Protestant churches experience a second reformation in its priesthood of all believers and the Protestant work ethic. Both would reclaim the ministry of the "laity," perhaps even eliminating that word from our vocabularies. The institutional church might then stop its drift toward clericalism, as well as irrelevance from Monday to Saturday. It might also slow the feminization of the church, which sociologists are increasingly seeing. Men in particular find the church "frustrating," to use the word of religious sociologist George Barna, as they watch our institutions be managed in ways they could never tolerate in business.

How are you working to make this a reality?

Primarily as Luther did, by raising hell in the church! Actually, I try to be considerably more graceful than Luther! I have no moral authority to whip modern money-changers. But I aspire to be nearly as honest as Luther and Christ. So I'm writing and speaking the truth as I see it to anyone who will listen. But we know how the institutional churches listened to Christ and Luther in their days. So most of those who care about my work are also usually in love with God but frustrated with the Church.  

In your book Faithful Finances 101, you describe how spiritual investing connects the soul of theology, the mind of economics, and the heart of politics, freeing the spirit for "balanced riches" that benefit not only individuals but the world. In your experience, what is the greatest obstacle in getting religious people to "balance" theology, economics, and politics in a meaningful way?

Very simply, the clergy's focus on tithing to our institutions, as so ably documented by Robert Wuthnow while he was at Princeton,  Laura Nash of Harvard, and Dave Miller of Yale. Again, we can learn from Luther there. Over a third of his 95 Theses were about the Church's self-centered attitudes toward money. That just seems to be institutional behavior, whether businesses, governments or ecclesiastical. They are born when visionaries see a way to help people and die when bureaucrats focus on the institution.  

To what extent does faith "get in the way" of Christians being effective in society?

One of my favorite books is titled God Hates Religion, in which a Christian professor details the harm done by legalism and the religious pride it engenders. Pharasiac attitudes and behaviors simply alienate more people from the kingdom than hypocrisy, which is related, and other dysfunctional behaviors combined. Secular eulogies for Jerry Falwell and Jesse Helms were good examples. The Economist was absolutely scathing. It will take a lot of work on some of our parts to present a different message about the grace of God to business leaders, if we even get a chance. The irony is the Economist said those leaders were admired by my "evangelical" friends, despite them alienating non-Christians. Too often some of us seem to insist on creating little evangelical ghettos in which to associate with people like ourselves.  

How would you define a "mature Christian"?

To walk humbly with our God and love every neighbor without exception, including one's enemies. We make deep and seriously nuanced judgments about the ways in which we live our own lives, while also leaving the judging of others to God.  

You have been involved with a number of mega-churches. What is it about these institutions that have been so successful in attracting individuals to Christianity? Where have these institutions fallen down in their responsibility to grow mature disciples?

They have their places, just as the Temple did. Christ loved going there when he was young but it was never the focus of his ministry. In fact, the longer he ministered, the more he seemed to go there to raise hell. So I say mega-churches are great for spiritual seekers but questionable for spiritual peakers. Many are a simple reflection of capitalism, or our culture, in that they offer an appealing breath of goods and services. But as with capitalism, some mega-churches can be downright harmful to both individuals and society. As Willow Creek has recently confessed, most admirably in my opinion, that breadth is too often accompanied by shallowness, as in "a mile wide but inch deep." But that's also a characteristic of popular religion in general, particularly mass media-oriented evangelicalism. As I discovered when doing two minute commentaries for UPI, there's a reason the gospel didn't come as Cliff Notes. Stewardship in particular is about going deeper through discipleship, not evangelism. Christ did both but spent far more time making disciples of the twelve than he did preaching to the masses on the Mount and Plain. Measuring success as capitalism does can cause you to miss his more humble but effective use of time and talents.  

Please describe your program, Financial Seminary.

It's evolving. It began with hopes to train pastors; but they are too busy, or allergic to business, to do in-depth study in an area they believe is non-spiritual. Evangelical pastors in particular seemed to believe sexual dysfunctions are the root of all evil. We then hoped to help financial professionals; but securities laws make it extremely difficult to go deep theologically when you're in business, and therefore also know what you're doing financially. There are definite pressures to do capitalism with a Christian shellacking. I call it "economies in conflict" to mirror what Chuck Colson experienced when attempting to integrate Christian ethics and politics. When institutional arrangements prevent you from working within, your only option is to do your best by working informally outside, as Luther discovered. So, like him, we just speak and write when we can, often irritating people in the various institutions in the process, as Luther did.

What is the single greatest obstacle to spreading Financial Seminary in seminary curricula?

Like most of our institutions, seminaries are content with their finances and therefore the status quo. Most are not rich but they're getting by thanks to long-established endowments and denominational loyalties. Unfortunately, those are weakening--and rapidly. Sooner or later, probably sooner than we hope, the church and its related institutions will be forced to deal with the world outside its four walls. The more-educated boomers insist on relevancy and effectiveness, and most boomers trained in the efficiencies of capitalism do not immediately associate those concepts with the church.

We never want the church to become a business. Businesspeople need to understand the church is  about effectively creating the Kingdom, which requires scattering some seed on barren rocks. Business is about efficiencies. But the Church should still be a good model of stewardship. Unfortunately, if we imagine the Parable of the Talents as being about the three sectors of society, I'd imagine boomers see corporations as the best stewards of resources, with governments next, and non-profits third. We know what Christ said about the third! Even our friend Peter Drucker once quipped that non-profits are not so much badly managed as they're not managed at all. The key to our mainline churches surviving, much less thriving, may actually be in them reclaiming a holistic sense of stewardship. After all, the entire world seems to be going capitalistic. That simply has to begin in our seminaries as it's too late when our clergy get to our churches. I'm excited that some, including Luther Seminary which uses my book Faithful Finances 101 (Templeton Press) and lectures, are now doing so.  

Explain capitalist efficiences vs. Christian efficiencies when it comes to money

For example, Vanguard taught us to efficiently allocate money across the five hundred largest companies in America for a quarter of a percent expense by using index funds. But it's been calculated that nearly a third of those companies are engaged in some activities Christians are also combating with their charitable and tax dollars, such as casino gambling, abortion, cigarettes, adult entertainment and so on. So it's not terribly effective morally. And having served as the board treasurer of a micro-enterprise ministry, I know businesspeople in particular often object to their over-head as the smaller ministries can burn as much as twenty-five to fifty percent making, tracking and recovering two hundred dollar loans in the two-thirds world. Yet Oxford tells us that even then, one thousand dollars can effectively change the lives of two or more people in a significant way. So I don't think we want to sacrifice moral effectiveness on the altar of economic efficiencies.

Who, in your estimation, is on the cutting edge of re-imagining how to make the Protestant faith relevant and meaningful to those outside our faith tradition?

In my area, I'd say Peter Drucker was, and is, by far. As a management theorist, he essentially assumed the role of teaching the most enriching uses of time, talent, and to a lesser extent treasure, from the Church which had formerly taught it. As he was also a great theologian, it was natural for him to adopt those teachings to our modern moral and educational institutions.

My mentor John Templeton may have been the most influential in the area of capital, though he had largely lost faith in our institutions, too. Groups like Empty Tomb have long described how we unfortunately "give to ourselves" through our churches, with very little going outside America to the desperately poor. As the Dean of Global Investing, Sir John literally gathered billions of dollars from affluent North Americans and invested it for the material welfare of lesser developed nations. In a sense, he helped the market fill another void left by the weakening institutional church, much as for-profit publishers have filled the void left by the disappearance of denominational publishing houses.  

What is the prospect for Protestant Christianity playing a major role in American society over the next 50 years?


Name the one area of the Protestant Church that is most in need of reform?

Indulgences/syncretism, as they're related.  

That is least in need of reform?


What term best describes your theological perspective?


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