Thursday, September 16, 2010

money, money, money...MONEY!

So as I look at the landscape of the American church and reflect on the things that God has been doing around me lately, I thought this would be a good time to put some thoughts out there on what is probably the most controversial topic in the church in America today - money. We all should be aware of the fact that money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Therefore how we approach this topic as well as how we handle money within the church is very important.

One of the biggest complaints that we hear from people outside the church is "all they want is your money." My suggestion is that before we try to counter this in any way, we simply admit that, yes there are churches, pastors and ministries out there that this would be true of. There are television ministries that exist for the sole purpose of raising money. There are churches that spend so much time talking about money and taking offerings that it would be hard to not conclude that it is the most important thing to them.

There are churches and pastors that do ridiculous things with money, that is reality. The fact that this reflects on the church as a whole, drives me crazy. Therefore, I have to say to those looking in with a jaded eye, "I understand your questions and concerns and I share many of them as well." There are a lot of things that we do in the church in America today that I simply do not understand. So much so, that maybe I should reserve that for a much deeper discussion which may fill many more pages, if you know what I mean. But for now let me just say that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and He has enough money to do all that He desires in and through His church. Does this mean that we are not called to give? No. Does it mean that we don't receive offerings? No. It simply means that we should give to him with a cheerful heart and not under compulsion as we are taught in Scripture (2cor. 9:7).

God desires for us to give and even give sacrificially. However for this to take place in a biblical way where there is no compulsion and with a cheerful spirit, one must have confidence in the people and place they are giving. The needs of people must come before bigger buildings and church budgets. We must have a global awareness of how rich the poorest person in America is, in comparison to the rest of the world. Church books should always be open and no question about church finances should ever be shunned. People shouldn't feel bad when they ask questions about where money goes. Answers should instill confidence and not more questions.

The lives of church leaders should look more like Jesus than they do the CEO of a company that is comparable in size to the church they lead. A humble spirit should accompany a modest lifestyle. I have heard people say crazy things to justify the extravagant lifestyles of some church leaders like "I am glad that my pastor is blessed, because that means I am going to be blessed as well." That is messed up on so many levels. First of all that's not biblical, that's prosperity propaganda. Also when we equate blessing solely with finances, we miss the fact that blessing can come even in the midst of trials, pain and poverty (take the lives of Jesus and all the apostles for example).

Jesus desires that we give him our lives. As we give him our lives, that means we submit our finances to him as well. We have an obligation to be good stewards. This applies to us as individuals as well as to the church as a whole. We are all on a journey of growing and following Jesus. The key is that we must be led in order to follow. When we are led by him and seek first his kingdom we are promised that all of our needs will be met (matt. 6:25-34). If our needs as individuals or as a church are not being met, I think the first step is to look at what we are seeking first and foremost. Are we building and seeking His Kingdom or our own?

I am so glad that I do not have to be a fund raiser for Jesus (as I was once told that all pastors need to be). It is hard enough to try to stay close to Him and follow His leading. I can't imagine having to try to raise funds to build giant facilities and support exorbitant salaries.

To keep it simple, we must live for Jesus and use the money that He gives us to do the things that He calls us to do. When that is happening there will be no need for arm twisting and manipulation. People will see the beauty of serving, loving and giving to those in need and they will find that attractive.

We would all do well to remember the following verse...

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." - Matthew 6:24