If we were to take money out of the equation, how different would the Church be? If pastoral services were rendered as a volunteer status, would there be empty pulpits? If those producing Christian literature were asked to distribute their products free of charge, would anything be offered? If Christian artists were asked to share their talents for gratis, would there be any concerts or recordings? The marketing of Christianity has become big business. Not only has the monetary pyramid become a symbol of contemporary Christianity, but it has involved a base of Believers who covet financial benefits as evidence of their active faith style.
Let's look at it another way. The undershepherd (Pastor) stresses financial giving to the local assembly, which is done by tithes, offerings, and gifts. Out of the plate comes the paying of financial obligations, such as the Pastor's financial package, building maintenance, and obligatory aid to supervisory leadership of the denominational church. There is also the continuing fulfilling of pledges to organizations or individuals (Missionaries) who are reaching out to those the local church cannot reach. If there is not a weekly deficit, there is the building program or upgrading of the cosmetic condition of the local church.
One of the comedic tragedies of the contemporary church is how much we desire to be like the New Testament Church. The problem is we want to pick and choose only the areas that would fit into our comfort zones. The Biblical Church was concerned with promoting the Gospel through their lives. They did not try and copy the Jewish custom of building synagogues for the assembly of believers to hear the Pentateuch. They met in homes to pray and discuss the letters of Paul and Peter and to hear what others experienced in their walk with Jesus. Volunteerism was the pinnacle of service. If someone had a financial need, they would dig into their robes and share whatever was necessary. When they left their meetings, they exhibited what they were taught. In Paul's journeys, some of the churches he founded would send financial relief whenever the need would arise. Paul was not always comfortable with these gestures and stated in I Corinthians 9:18 that when he preached the Gospel, he did it "... without charge, that I abuse not my power in the Gospel." One is hard pressed to find any inference where those involved in ministry were on the payroll of any church. That is not to say that supporting those in ministry is forbidden in Scripture, rather, it is encouraged, but only as the need arises. What concerns me is the abuse of financial receptivity. Every Pastor needs to ask himself, "Am I truly doing what I am being paid to do?" "Are my days filled with study and prayer?" "Am I representing God, or promoting my own agenda?" "Do my spiritual interests outweigh my daily carnal interests?" Some Pastors hold the Bible in one hand and extend the other hand to receive "honorariums" for Baptizing, Marrying, and Burying. Preaching series are usually from messages already presented by others. Much of preaching today is keyed to catering to the wants of people, thus guaranteeing the financial sovereignty of the local body.
Maybe one of the reasons the Church is failing to exhibit the Kingdom of God is we are exhibiting a different kingdom. If we would remove money from our "interests" list and begin to center on God's Grace, we would experience the true riches of God's Kingdom. I know there are many faithful pastors that have recognized the hazards of striving for financial success, and as a result, have chosen to believe that God, and not money, will lead to a successful church. They live as examples of the Scripture they preach. I have lived at both ends of the spectrum, from living on little or nothing, to having a large financial package. Many of my greatest blessings started when I refused or returned financial incentives. Great (not necessarily large) churches are not built by money, but by humble servants who understand their reward is from above and not from what goes into their pockets. Let us render to Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's! (Matt.22:21)
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