Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?… Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
This may come as a shock, given what you’ve seen and what you heard from Christian ministries in the past, but the Kingdom of God is not dependent on dollar bills in order to keep expanding. Let me explain.
When you came to Christ, regardless of the context you heard the Gospel in, the critical element was the exchange of the message of Jesus from one human being to another. Now, there were probably multiple things involved in that moment that were paid for: a Bible, possibly a building, maybe a paid speaker or pastor, but at a basic level the Gospel was freely given to you.
In China and in many other countries around the world, the Gospel spreads not because the people are able to give exorbitant amounts of money–they can’t. The Gospel spreads there because people received the true Gospel and they are willing to give up every part of their life so that others can hear the same transforming Gospel. So without buildings, paid pastors, and often without Bibles, the true message of Jesus continues to spread.
But in the West, we’ve become so consumed with money and the place it plays in our lives, that to suggest that the Gospel could spread without it is met with charges of heresy. Who will shepherd us? Who will teach us? Who will share the Gospel with others if we don’t pay someone to do it? And what about the building? How does that work?
The reality is these things can and do work without money. House churches, for example, work regularly without paid staff, dedicated buildings, or a ministry budget. Small groups of believers meet in each others’ homes, teaching each other, caring for one another, and sharing the Gospel all without any cost. Missions? That can still happen, depending on how you define it. Locally is easy, non-locally is tougher but can be achieved through relationships, hospitality, and tent-making.
My point isn’t to glorify house churches in writing this, but to open our eyes that ministry can happen with little to no budget. If you are a traditional church with a building and staff, that’s not an evil thing. It’s just that often I’ve seen ministry stop when the money stops flowing, but it doesn’t need to be like this. We need to lower the power of the dollar in the minds of the church and lift up the ability of Jesus to not only to sustain the church, but extend the Kingdom, with or without money.
The same Jesus that told us to look to the birds and the flowers for our personal natural provision is the same Jesus that can bring ministry forth with very little (and even no) money. May God help us see that there’s no amount of money that can achieve God’s purposes, only hearts fully surrendered to Him.
[This is part of an ongoing discussion on Financing a Kingdom Revolution.]
Discouraged. That’s one of the words that consistently describes my attitude toward Kingdom finances. The reason? I frequently see much of the money given in the name of Jesus used in ways that Jesus didn’t use money. And at the same time I see a number of legitimate people attempting to follow Jesus but lacking crucial funding that could amplify their substantial work. Somewhere there’s a disconnect when there are starving children in Africa America down the street* and we’re concerned because the carpet on the floor of a church building is wearing out.
It’s a startling fact, but some statistics say 97% of money given in churches is spent on people who gave the money. This means that no matter how much we say we desire the lost to be saved, the hungry to be fed, and the nations to be reached with the Gospel, our money is not where our mouth is. Now I could spend a lot of time debating on the legitimacy of pastors’ salaries and church building budgets, but the truth is that buildings and salaries only consume about 60% percent of most churches’ budgets. My question is where does the other 37% go?
My point in bringing all of this up is this: our giving tends to go right back to ourselves. We give and feel good about being sacrificial, but in reality we are consuming so much of what we give that no radical change takes place. Those who are strategically placed to significantly impact the world and extend the Kingdom of God often struggle with financing very real needs in spite of our overwhelming “generosity.” This is why no matter how much money we give, we fail to see significant Jesus movements take shape.
This is nothing new. Whenever the church has found herself disconnected from her apostolic purpose, she has used her resources poorly, most often for herself. But God has a financial system that is designed to meet legitimate needs and fuel the Kingdom of God. Our part in the process is to stop using our resources poorly, get connected with the purposes of God, and begin to channel money towards people and ministries who are actively pursuing those things that are on God’s agenda.
What if we put our money into the hands of people where God is powerfully manifesting His Kingdom right now? What would happen if we actually supported men and women who were raising up multiplying disciple-making movements in the earth? What would happen if we actually fully funded apostolic teams planting churches and reaching unreached people groups? What if those who were frequently engaged in caring for the poor or healing the sick through the workings of miracles never had to spend time writing another support letter? Would that be better than the new carpet?
*Editor’s Note: Africa (especially) and America in general both have significant needs. By striking them from the record my goal is to show that need is nearby, not that one form of need is greater than another.
For those who missed it, Andrew Jones of TallSkinnyKiwi fame wrote about the unseen financiers who supported the Protestant Reformation. Jones writes about different important “Kingdom Investors” who at various points gave significant amounts of money and resources to aid the spread of the Reformation. Reading the post, I was struck again by the need for a financial revolution that undergirds every genuine move of God.
Wolfgang Simson will be the first person to tell you that much of what you’ve heard about money in church is wrong. We often teach about money in a way that causes us to put all of our hopes in non-Kingdom financial principles. However one thing that remains true is that all Empires (including the Kingdom of God, which is the empire we belong to) have a financial system in place to fund their activities. Not all money given to a church is used well, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t use our finances to further this Kingdom revolution.
The truth is that all of us have a part to play in financing the advancement of the Kingdom. I remember reading Brother Yun’s book Living Waters where he described offerings that the Chinese house churches would take for members being sent off as missionaries. Some of the members of the house churches were so broken because they didn’t have money to contribute that as they wept, they would place themselves in the offering sack as pledge to devote their whole selves to the cause global evangelism.
This is the kind of giving that moves forward the Kingdom: Financial giving that flows from a life fully given over to Jesus. That’s what makes the testimony of the early church so powerful. They were continually giving everything extra they had to the cause of Jesus and His Kingdom. This enabled the poor to be taken care of and the Gospel to continue to spread through the apostles and others. Today the Kingdom of God continues to spread, but it does so with little access to the funds that could so enable to spread quickly and without the financial sacrifice that is characteristic of an apostolic movement.
So how do we finance a Kingdom revolution? It begins with giving our very selves to God and letting our finances reflect that level of sacrifice. In our next post we’ll look at where those finances need to flow to. But today, let me ask you this question: What do you think holds us back from joining God in financing the advancement of the Kingdom?
Every week here at Pursuing Glory I try to bring together the best posts I’ve found that will equip the end-times church to operate in her God-ordained destiny. These are the best blogs, articles, books and other resources related to our purpose here at this site. Feel free to visit, comment, and make use of the resources found at each site.
This week I’m super excited about being able to feature several new bloggers who I know personally. You might notice that I personally know a few people who blog. What’s exciting about this edition is I think a few of the posts some of these new bloggers posted this week were edifying at a level to be included here on the Food for Thought post. Let me know what you think.
Wrestling with finances is never easy. Dave, one of our new featured bloggers, tells a story about God’s knowledge of our situation and his ability to provide for us in our lack. This will be a needed message in the days ahead.
Because I’ve known Josh, I’ve gotten a chance to see the kind of humility that is birthed from the insight he describes in this post. I think this is a powerful post to read, particularly if you’ve walked with the Lord for a long time. Humility is the key to continuing to grow.
Felicity is in the middle of blogging about the reality of the spiritual realm and how it impacts our lives. This story is a dramatic testimony of that fact. Experiences like this cause impact not only our view of God and His involvement in our lives but they also impact unbelievers.
Here’s a simple blog post with an idea that people need to think long and hard about. If it’s premise true, then we need to adjust the way we “do church” in a significant way.
“Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband,and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan. If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows,” (1 Timothy 5:3-15).
Paul in this passage is addressing a situation in the church at Ephesus. Timothy was left to set the church there in order and part of that process in Paul’s mind was straightening out the church’s support of widows. Now I’ve read these verses twenty times or so in the last few months and I’ve come to appreciate the wisdom Paul gives Timothy to lead those at Ephesus. But here’s what struck me the other day: the Church of the New Testament took caring for widows as a serious responsibility.
That sound’s like a “duh” statement, but think about it for a minute. Paul gives these instructions “so that [the church] may care for those who are truly widows.” At the heart of Paul’s instructions is this burning desire to make sure the church can care for those who are really widows. Paul didn’t write these words to show us who wasn’t worthy of care and he didn’t write this in response to an isolated first-century situation (cf. Acts 6:1, James 1:27).
But we have missed the forest for the trees. We talk about who should be on the list but we don’t support any widows. We don’t take care of women who cannot take care of themselves. We affirm the truth of what Paul writes but regularly ignore what Paul was actually doing. All of this is to say that the church needs to be about the things that are on the heart of the Lord. For Paul, this wasn’t just a mercy ministry, it was essential to the Gospel. He wrote these instructions so that we could care for widows well and teach those in our midst how to care for their family. This is part of the church being “a pillar and support of the the truth,” (1 Timothy 3:15). This is something we need to return to.
So…how are you caring for widows? Have you seen a church do this well in the past? In an age of social security and looking to the government to care for us, is this even possible? How would the way churches spend money have to change if this became a reality? Also, please remember Guideline #5.
Neil Cole is blogging about who the Bible says should receive full time support from the church here, here, and here. This is a huge issue that needs to be addressed, especially in light of the current financial crisis which is now hitting churches everywhere. Neil is brilliantly simple and able to cut to the heart of a matter. I highly recommend checking it out!