This was posted some time ago elsewhere and I wanted it on this blog for reference sake. Thanks to all who commented and read my last note. It was suggested that I hadn’t yet proposed any solutions to the crisis in the Church. It is true, I hinted at it, and suggested that a study …
What I am pasting below is an essay from long ago that I posted elsewhere. It’s old, but I wanted it on this blog for reference sake. I have been asked to write this note. I cannot write as long of a note as is required. My thinking here is years in the making. I …
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:19-21)
How many times have you heard someone complain that their congregation talks about money way too much? You may have said the same. Your complaint may very well be valid, and yet the congregation’s need is probably genuine. Probably, in most churches, the leadership would much rather not lodge any requests at all. Ideally, people would be ‘Gospel motivated.’ When it becomes difficult- or impossible- to meet the payroll or pay building expenses, the leadership has to bite the bullet and issue the plea(s).
What is really going on is a lack of familiarity with what the Scriptures say about money and a lack of courage or foresight within the leadership to teach about money. Actually, a lot of it is that some folks don’t even care what the Scriptures say on the issue. Their views on money, like so many other views, are born of one’s own ‘natural reasoning.’ This post is not about them. This post is about folks who do care. Let me share some of my experiences leading a ministry that relies a great deal on donations. But first, let me state plainly what I hope this post will accomplish:
The reader will open up their Bibles for themselves and study what it has to say about money (time, talent, and treasure) from beginning to end.
The greatest guilt today is that of people who accept collectivism by moral default; the people who seek protection from the necessity of taking a stand, by refusing to admit to themselves the nature of that which they are accepting; the people who support plans specifically designed to achieve serfdom, but hide behind the empty assertion that they are lovers of freedom, with no concrete meaning attached to the word; the people who believe that the content of ideas need not be examined, that principles need not be defined, and that facts can be eliminated by keeping one’s eyes shut. They expect, when they find themselves in a world of bloody ruins and concentration camps, to escape moral responsibility by wailing: ”But I didn’t mean this!”
A pastor in Nevada chastises me, “The little old ladies in our congregation are extraordinary in their faithfulness. They do everything in the church. They run the committees, their generosity pays the bills, they tend to the facilities. My congregation is 95% filled with these little old ladies who are lions in the faith.”
No doubt, they are the lions in the faith. Yet in under 10 years they will all be dead from simple old age. 10 years from now, when they have all passed to be with Jesus in his glory, and there are just 10 people left in the congregation, might we stop to wonder if the reason for this is not because the church is being faithful to its principles, but because it is not?
How can we call it faithful if the youngest person in the congregation is 40 years old? Does that really sound consistent with the Scriptural vision for believers? Seriously?
I was recently invited to submit articles for consideration in a mag called Christian Video Magazine. I was delighted to take them up on the offer. My first article was published today in their August edition.
Interestingly, our online apologetics conference presenter Robert Velarde also appears in this edition. Check his article out. It’s worth it.
“He has set eternity in the hearts of men…” So begins chapter three, verse eleven, of the book of Ecclesiastes. I bet everyone sometimes falls into the habit of thinking that the only real things are those things we grasp with our five senses, but I would also wager that we have all experienced the angst and restlessness that shows that our rat race lives cannot provide us all the satisfactions we need. Christianity would offer another interpretation for that unsettled feeling: it is homesickness.
If our gatherings are not marked by love- that is, attending to the genuine needs, desires, and wants of those around us, rather than seeking our own fulfillments- they are ‘nothing.’ As far as I am concerned, I would be happy to endure just about any kind of ‘worship’ form if I saw a community that was geared to look out for each other, even to the point of laying down their lives for each other (1 John 3:16).
Now, of course there is some attending to needs in the way gatherings are structured. It isn’t an entirely loveless endeavor, and of course the whole work of the Church does not occur one hour on one day a week. You wouldn’t know this from listening to those engaged in the ‘Worship’ Wars, though. I honestly can’t remember the last time I read something by either side where ‘love’ was mentioned at all.
The title of this post does not do the matter justice. The word ‘abuse’ is too mild, and it might be even more accurate to say that in actual fact the sweeping trend within Christendom is that there is outright plain ignorance on what these terms mean. The charge only matters at all to those …
God has chosen to operate through people and tangible, physical stuff like sound waves (the Word), water (baptism), and bread and wine (the Eucharist). (Some will object to baptism and the Eucharist, but at least people and the Word should be conceded). To attack such things in the name of spirituality is to attack that which the Spirit is actually using. In fact, this line of attack sounds an awful lot like Gnosticism, which considers matter inherently corrupted and only the spiritual things pure.
As a quick, pointed example, the accusation that the Christian community abhors all things concerning sex isn’t an entirely fabricated. There are indeed Christians who will talk about sex as though it were some base, physical act that only serves to get in the way of spiritual pursuits. But God made us as sexual beings, and marriage was God’s way of creating godly children (Mal. 2). One gets the idea for some Christians that God permits people to have sex, but only reluctantly- so we should try very hard not to enjoy it and participate in it only as duty requires. Yea, compare and contrast that with the Song of Solomon, why don’t you!
But sometimes they just get all in a fit all the same if you include people as agents carrying out God’s mission. That is when you see the ‘hyper-defense’ on display, as if by acknowledging the fact that God uses people to carry out his will, that takes away from the credit that God rightly deserves.
The simple fact is that the Biblical witness is pretty clear: God does tend to use people to carry out his plans on earth. He could have delivered the Israelites from Egypt without involving Moses at all. Sure enough, it was by God’s power that the people were delivered, but he still brought Moses in. Then of course Jesus appointed disciples to go out after his death and resurrection to spread the word. God certainly could have just personally appeared to each and every person on the planet and delivered his message directly. For that matter, he could speak into our minds and be done with it. But he doesn’t do that. Not only does he work through ‘means,’ but he works through people- that is, people themselves are means.
I was reading CS Lewis’s The Four Loves and came across the quote below. Obviously, Lewis is not specifically addressing universal health care or liberalism or the question of using the government to administer love. Even Christians can be found thinking that it is a noble expression of a loving society to have the government do the loving… and this with no apparent thought to the actual effect that this ‘loving’ will have on the people ‘loved’ and the attitude it fuels in the people-government doing the ‘loving.’ The most important thing seems to be that, well, people’s intentions are good, and it’s better to do something rather than nothing. Here is the quote:
This [is] Gift-love, but one that needs to give; therefore needs to be needed. But the proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift. We feed children in order that they may soon be able to feed themselves; we teach them in order that they may soon not need our teaching. Thus a heavy task is laid upon this Gift-love. It must work towards its own abdication. We must aim at making ourselves superfluous. The hour when we can say “They need me no longer” shall be our reward. But the instinct, simply in its own nature, has no power to fulfil this law. The instinct desires the good of its object, but not simply; only the good it can itself give. A much higher love- a love which desires the good of the object as such, from whatever source that good comes- must step in and help or tame the instinct before it can make the abdication. And of course it often does. But where it does not, the ravenous need to be needed will gratify itself either by keeping its objects needy or by inventing for them imaginary needs. It will do this all the more ruthlessly because it thinks (in one sense truly) that it is a Gift-love and therefore regards itself as “unselfish.” (pgs 50-51)