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Money in Buildings or People?

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by Dr. Bob, Mar 5, 2002.

  1. Chet

    Chet New Member

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    Pastor Larry, :( :( :(

    YUo said:
    But in fact you did. You made a casual reference to Solomon’s temple:
    By this you seem to infer that it is justified to build large pretty churches. It has been explained, by scripture, as to why this is so in the OT. (By LP who had great post.) I can see that you are trying to maintain a balance, and you even conclude that this is a side issue to you. But the simple fact remains, that by and far the church buildings are not in balance by any stretch of the imagination. Any casual observer (especially those without Christ) can determine that there are many people who are in need, yet the church buildings in the community sure has a nice buildings! Its more than unscriptual, it illogical, and unwise.
    Please tell me where in the NT any of the letters to the church instructed them on a new building fund, and to make sure it looked good before
    God.

    Acts 2:45
    Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
    NIV

    Acts 10:2
    He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.
    NIV

    I am reminded of the good Samaritan, who reached into his pocket to help a person, to help him with getting well, with room and board, with food ect... He invested his recourses into a human being who had need.
    Hmmm. So the local church that has a nice building is to be regarded as a good witness to our community. They are honoring to God, you can see that in their wealthy building. But us folks who want to spend our money, time, and talents on a human you have no use for.
    The point Pastor Larry, is that people are turning loose of their money, but putting it in the wrong place. I couldn’t agree more with LP here on this issue, and has certainly provided scriptural support for his position.
     
  2. Chet

    Chet New Member

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    Helen

    I agree with your thoughts exactly.
    Might I emphasize the word you used? Bizarre

    In my profession, I deal personally with people and their budgets. I have several single clients who struggle desperately to make ends meet. Recently my wife and I gave a client a twenty five dollar gift certificate to Pizza Hut and it made the woman cry! I felt badly that it had not been more, yet she was able to take her kids out and have some fun, something that she is not normally able to do. Mere gas money is something these fine people are in need of, just to make it to work. How can anyone truley believe that a building is better to invest in than people. Does God need our money for us to be a witness to others? No. But we are a poor witness when God gave us this resource and we waste it!
     
  3. Pastor Larry

    Pastor Larry <b>Moderator</b>
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    I am not sure what relavence that has here. Being able to recognize a misapplication of Scripture does not qualify me for additional training (though I would certainly like to take some more classes). I am far from perfect, but proper exegesis and application does not make me a part of the problem. I have been around the world for the sake of the gospel. I am well aware of the need and responsibility and I am involved in doing what I can in my community to evangelize the people here.
     
  4. LP

    LP New Member

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    Claiming to see and actually seeing does not make one part of the problem, but claiming to see and not seeing most certainly does.
     
  5. Pastor Larry

    Pastor Larry <b>Moderator</b>
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    Actually you inferred it. I simply said that nice buildings are not wrong since God commanded Solomon to make one. LP, like it or not, as misapplied Scripture to make it say something it doesn't say. Buildings are a necessary part of life for any organization. I daresay your house is nicer than the house of 98% of South America, yet I daresay that you are not running out to sell your house so you can live on the level they live on. Why? Because you realize that it is a totally unrelated issue. Why can you not see through this charade that LP is parading in front of us here?



    How so? This statement doesn't even make sense. First, What is scripturally wrong with having a nice building? (Notice the word "Scripturally;" Please use Scripture is giving your response to this question.) Second, What does having a nice building has nothing to do with people in need?

    I think there is a grave misunderstanding of the mission of the church today and it is characterized by statements such as this. There is no question that there are people in need. The question is why are they in need and what is the church's responsibility to them.



    Please show me any passage where such is condemned. You are apparently following LP down a trail condemning something that the Bible doesn't condemn ... and people call me legalistic and pharasaistic ... :( . Church buildings were not mentioned in Scripture because they weren't used in Scripture.

    Your Scripture passages have nothign to do with this issue. They address how to help fellow church members in need, not whether or not to have a building or even a nice building.



    This is highly offensive to me Chet. I hope you didn't mean it that way. To insinuate that people with nice church buildings have no use for humans is disgusting and inappropriate. You should know better. You have set up a nice dichotomy ... it is just not true. YOu can have a nice building and still care for people. You can have a nice building and be spiritually dead. You can have a shack and care for people. You can have a shack and be spiritually dead. These are unrelated.

    I have not seen very many of God's people turning loose of their money. Some are very generous; most are very stingy.

    Where is the Scriptural support LP has provided? I missed it somewhere. Scriptural support is not decided by who can quote verses but by whether those verses are rightly interpreted. LP has misused Scripture by citing it to make a point that Scripture does not make.

    Again, I think you need to understand the point at issue. The point is, Does Scripture condemn having buildings, even nice buildings? The answer is no. The Scripture gives some directions about money and what the church is to do with it (though even this is questionable -- most of the time it seems directed to individuals rather than to the church). Scripture never addresses the church buildings, either positively or negatively. It is simply wrong to say that it does. LP's case depends on the Scripture saying something it doesn't say.

    Now if LP wants to talk about world evangelism, let's talk about that. If he wants to talk about church buildings, let's talk about that. But let's decide.
     
  6. Pastor Larry

    Pastor Larry <b>Moderator</b>
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    But it is only your unsubstantiated opinion that I am not seeing. The only reason I am not seeing, according to you, is because I don't agree with your opinion which you have provided no biblical support for. Your point was understood; it was simply misguided and misapplied.
     
  7. Karen

    Karen Active Member

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    Might I emphasize the word you used? Bizarre

    In my profession, I deal personally with people and their budgets. I have several single clients who struggle desperately to make ends meet....Mere gas money is something these fine people are in need of, just to make it to work. How can anyone truley believe that a building is better to invest in than people......
    </font>[/QUOTE]You have great hearts, Chet and Helen, but I think that I disagree with you in part. Sure, there are churches that overspend on buildings, but it is hard to see which ones on the outside looking in. I do not see that it is so all or nothing as you have suggested. Churches of differing sizes and ministries may have very legitimately differing needs for buildings.
    The church of which I am a member has things ongoing in the building all the time. There is a lot more than just renting a hall 2-3 times a week for a lot of on-going ministries.

    Supporting the poor, I agree, is something that the church in general struggles with. But one of the things I like about my church is that it not only gives gas money and a sack of groceries, it does things like send people to school so they can get better jobs.
    Another Baptist church in the area does a great job with literacy missions. Both try not to stop at just the immediate need.
    I would like to see more in the area of mentoring people in improving their situations.

    I wish that it were so easy to support widows as Helen suggested. It has not been in my experience. Yes, my church has workdays in which people work on houses and yards of the elderly and widowed in our church. Yes, an elderly 85-year-old widow on Social Security, with family nearby, often does not need that much from the
    church. But what about the widow with a massive health problem and massive medical bills not covered by Medicare? What about the single mother with 4 kids? She needs a lot of cash.
    What about the member with no insurance and who is having a baby? Complications set in and there is an enormous hospital bill.
    In my church, a baby was born with spina bifida. The medical bills were enormous.
    I have seen my church with a building and enough resources respond well to situations like these.
    I have seen very small churches with no building really struggle with just one of them.

    I just don't think it is so all or nothing - no building a sign that you are spending your money right.

    Karen
     
  8. Chet

    Chet New Member

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    Brother Larry, It is not my intent to offend you or anyone else here on this board. :(

    I have to make a business trip today and make a presentation. I actually have zero time to
    even write this, I will not be able to fully respond until tomorrow.

    This is about proper stewardship in the body of Christ. I want to fully elaborate on the
    above, and further explain my position on this issue.

    God Bless.
     
  9. Pastor Larry

    Pastor Larry <b>Moderator</b>
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  10. TomVols

    TomVols New Member

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    I agree with Ernie and others that there has to be a middle ground. Churches don't need gold bathroom fixutres. But churches don't need to be falling apart or slipshod either. I've seen both. Both are equally dismal and don't reflect a healthy theology.
     
  11. Chet

    Chet New Member

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    I’d drop that percentage drastically. My wife and I have a very modest home. You will just have to take my word for that. Just like with church buildings, I think that it would be just as unwise to spend tremendous amounts on a home and its decor. The things people think that they just haft to have to me is a waste. This would be a good place for me to insert this here. I must admit that I have been probably one of the worst stewards in my own finances. While the last couple of years we have improved with the help of God, we have acquired a rather large debt with our unwise decisions in the past. This has in turn damaged our giving and we now reap what we have sown. When I talk about poor stewardship, believe me there are more fingers pointing back at me. I am however, not sure that our personal homes can be used as an example of how the body of Christ is to conduct themselves in the area of finance. But how we maintain our homes can certainly be a witness to others. I see a tremendous amounts of homes in my profession. I see how people live and it can be extremely disgusting to say the least. Being poor is one thing, but to be lazy is another, and soap is cheap. We should have a sense of high maintenance in our homes, and in our church buildings. Keeping them neat, clean, and fix them when broken.

    Pastor Larry I certainly don’t want to sound legalistic in any way. But I think that this issue falls within the realm of simple biblical stewardship, that must be examined. The reason is because we are sacrificing people for the sake of buildings. When I speak of this issue I mostly mean it to be within the U.S.A. As it is my conviction-observation that people in other lands who suffer greatly and are poverty stricken are so because of their own way of thinking. They have neglected the Bible and have literally desired to live as they do because a lot of them believe that if they do live a rough life now, then they will live a better life when they are reincarnated. They believe in the lie of Karma, and the reason for their lifestyle has a lot to do with their heart, not their pocketbooks. This is not to be so broad brushed as to paint every situation in that light. It is our responsibility as the body of Christ to share the gospel with them. It is by the gospel that will change their hearts, money will fall short of this task. I also believe that we have just as many lost people in our own back yard, that we need to witness to. And they too will not be paid off! Money will not bring them to Christ. And the social gospel has done a lot more harm to the cause than good! The whole idea of taking care of the fleshly needs and neglecting the spiritual needs is the concept of Satan and is within the heart of his religion's. But winning people's trust, and their friendship is necessary before we can be an affective witness. As a body of Christ we need to be careful not to allow the birds of the air to nest in our mustard tree. But we must show them charity. And that does necessitate us giving to them. Even more so, as the body of Christ we should most definitely take care of other believers’ needs, and we as believers should not be ashamed to express those needs. This discussion is about evangelism, and outreach because it is a discussion about people Vs a building. That is why I keep referring to stewardship. Paul said:

    1 Cor 4:1-2 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.
    NASU

    Paul here was speaking of how we dispense the Gospel. But I believe that we who are within the body of Christ, both visible/local and especially invisible, we should be wise stewards, being careful as to how we spend ourtime/money/talents It comes down to this. If someone leaves their local Church $100,000 and the community of that church really feels the need to put up a steeple so the they will look grand before the community OR they give that whole amount to a missionary, or give some to a ministry, or widow who is trying to pay her electric bill, or maybe even get a copy of James White’s book KJVO Controversy inside of everyone’s hand so that they will be equipped. Or even equip them with the basics, such as giving them Ryries Basic Theology. Or how about sending one of their new converts to seminary? Its about putting money in a building, or in people. This is a no-brainer to me. I know of a situation where someone left a million dollars to their church, and it went to the building. And now they are in debt. (not to say this one example represents every situation) It is this materialistic world that has saturated us into thinking that we will somehow be happy with these unnecessary things, such as extravagant buildings that will do absolutely nothing to merit favor with God or honor Him.

    Matthew 25:14-28 is another example that the body of Christ can learn the importance of investing our treasures. How will we invest our riches? We should also be cognizant of Christ’s words in Revelation to the Laodiceans:

    Rev 3:17 "Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,
    NASU

    After reading Karen’s post, and Tom Vols, I think it should be defined again of what I mean by large. Speaking of square footage for a known use, or even perhaps a future desired use to me is not the issue. A fairly large square foot building can be purchased for a fair amount. I do think what Helen said is so true, why not rent? To me, it seems there are too many people with this whole idea that they need to start a new church, and they are no different than the one they left to begin with. And they too go out and purchase yet another building. Nor am I in any way advocating a shoddy building. But some people would dare worship God in a barn, if it isn't traditional it is not to be regarded as worthy. Again our buildings should be maintained. But to blow money on such extravagant architectural themes is being poor stewards. It shows more love for ones own community status than for our neighbor.

    The fact that Paul does not instruct any local Church on their building fund also needs to be looked at again. Bottom line, my argument on this point is from silence, but so is yours. Sometimes when Scripture is silent we can learn from that as well. You maintain that the reason Paul did not write about a building was because they met in homes. That there were no buildings. And this would perhaps fall under the guidelines of Romans 14. But I am saying that Paul never indicated to any of the Churches that they would even need a building. (not that a building itself is wrong). Every single time that Paul expressed his concern for giving it had to do with people, and never to do with setting aside anything for a meeting place. Yet we have come from this, to how high do you think God would want His steeple? How big do you think God wants the Baptismal? How big would God want the wooden cross behind the pulpit? How many robes should be purchased for the large choir God would want? (and where is the mandate for NT worship for choirs?) How much would God want us to spend on the big red carpet? How loud would God want the sound system? How many speakers will be enough? Wait... the catholic church down the street looks slightly better than ours... lets pump more money into it! And how is this done? Lets tell people that they are robbing God if they don’t give ten percent of their gross income every week. Lets put an even greater guilt-trip on people, even visitors, as we get the ushers to pass that silver plate around as the music plays softly in the background. IF that doesn’t work we will preach on how much God can bless you if you tithe. THIS is a corrupt system. It is this corrupt system that has discouraged many from going to church, and to top it all off with bad theology when they do go.

    Pastor Larry, I am not personalizing this to you, but generalizing the condition of nearly all Baptist Churches here in America. I have acquired a great respect for you. And if I have offended I strongly apologize. Perhaps I misunderstood your statement in your post where you seemed to be saying that for a person to want to give to people at the expense of not building huge buildings that you had no use for that. I feel that it is always more important to spend on the lives of people rather than the size of your facilities.

    With that being said, I will also say how important it is to be careful not to foolishly allow people to take advantage of the prosperity any local church may have. Solomon said it best:

    Prov 1:14-15 throw in your lot with us, and we will share a common purse"-- my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths;
    NIV

    Obviously some people will take advantage of the large pool, saved and unsaved. We should be careful not to allow funds to support the ungodly lifestyle of people who seem to be in need yet just don’t allocate their finances on the things they need. Some people have no problem spending a couple hundred dollars on a silly concert ticket, or wasting their money on lottery tickets, but seem to fall short later and expect help.

    We are blessed by God to live in a free country, where sky is the limit. We can work hard, long hours, finance our homes, make them look nice, drive a car, and enjoy life. We have also the Christian liberty as well. But I do not think we should abuse that liberty to pacify all of our selfish desires. People need the Lord.


    God Bless!

    [ March 12, 2002, 12:27 PM: Message edited by: Chet ]
     
  12. Pastor Larry

    Pastor Larry <b>Moderator</b>
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    I do agree that stewardship is an important issue. I don't think money should be wasted. However, I think many of your concerns might not be based on the reality of a good church. If that is your experience in church, I am truly sorry.

    As I say, I do not think money should be wasterd. However, I do not see a building as a waste of money. It is an asset. They are necessary for a number of reasons. A church needs a place to meet. In Brazil for instance, missionaries who have been there for 30+ years have found that a church that has a building will grow faster than a church that is meeting in a home because there is a sense of permanence to it. They have started churches in homes and schools and rented facilities that grow very slowly but once a permanent building is established, the church grows faster. If you meet more than once a week, a rented building is very impractical. A pastor friend of mine right now is renting a building, dumping an obscene amount of money into it and they will get nothing out of it when they leave. Renting a building, in many cases (though not all), can be a very unwise route. The bottom line is this: Church buildings are not forbidden in Scripture so we should not denigrate them now. The stewardship of an individual church is their business. Let us just not buy the line that churches should not own nice buildings.

    Regarding your house, unless you live in a dump, you are better off than the vast majority of people in this world. If you have traveled to some of the places outside North America, you will see what I am saying.

    [ March 12, 2002, 12:55 PM: Message edited by: Pastor Larry ]
     
  13. Lorelei

    Lorelei <img src ="http://www.amacominc.com/~lorelei/mgsm.

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    Some exellent points have been made on both sides of the issue. I tend to agree with Karen, that it doesn't have to be all or nothing. We have a very nice building for a church (not extravagant, but nice and yet costly) yet missions are not left undone. My church does much to reach the lost, assist the poor, touch the fatherless, and help the widow. They even financially support families who have a downs baby undergoing heart surgery. [​IMG]

    I have always struggled with this issue myself, on the one hand, we want something to honor and please God and on the other, we want to be the best stewards of our money.

    We want the temple of God to be beautiful, but now we are that temple, it is not a building, but isn't it sometimes practical to have a place to meet and if it's a place to meet and worship and honor God, shouldn't it reflect that same spirit in it's structure?

    I don't know, I still struggle with what is right and wrong. I personally think a healthy balance is alright, but one point stands out in this thread that will keep me thinking for quite some time.

    I too saw the movie Shindler's List,

    Just how many more souls can be saved with the very money we spend on bricks and mortar? Or would just being better stewards of our time help us to make a difference. It doesn't cost anything to share the gospel.

    ~Lorelei
     
  14. just-want-peace

    just-want-peace Well-Known Member
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    Stewardship IS the key!!! Thankfully, no one here is responsible for any one BUT themself!!!



    God NEEDS our buildings like I NEED the Asian Flu!! BUT, did not God allow Solomon to build a real doozy? Did God approve of the deed? Did God NEED the temple? Does God NEED the money that has gone into a real nice building? Can God not accomplish His will if the building is nicer than YOU think it ought to be?

    Folks, this topic is totally irrelevent, unless you have the authority to decide each congregation's building needs; do you?

    If God has led the 10th Baptist Church to build a $25 million building, what concern is that of yours. If God has led the 9th Baptist Church to buy an old warehouse that needs $100k of repairs, who are you to tell the congregtion it's money down a rat hole?

    As noted in the above scripture, God owns all of it anyway, so what's your problem how it's spent by others? Do you not think God can supply WHATEVER is needed to an obedient congregation? Do we have to limit God to what we can see? (Read YOUR GOD IS TOO SMALL, by J B Phillips)

    You are responsible for your little "half acre" only , not mine; nor me for yours!

    One last passage to put it in perspective:


    Are there buildings that are too costly? Most likely; at least in my view! Are there some that need to be upgraded? Most likely; again in my view! Are any of these buildings my concern? NO; unless it happens to be my home church that I give my tithes & gifts to. Otherwise it's between God (not me, or you) and the other congregations!!
     
  15. blackbird

    blackbird Active Member

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    We're in the middle of a building project--355 seat worship center for a church in rural Mississippi. Projected cost--$650,000.00! Modest compared to some. Can a rural church in Mississippi afford it? Yes!

    What's really spooky is seeing literally hundreds of these so called Megachurches that build these monster buildings with parking lots large enough to land jet planes--usually located along major Interstate highway systems. Can they afford to build? Yes--but they'll always be faced with the problem of "What happens when the crowd leaves?" I mean, everything is honk-tee-dor-ee right now but I feel sorry for the pastor who will come following the one who put the skyscraper building up--because he'll know--"Gee! I didn't get in on the glory of building this monster--but my work is cut out for me in trying to keep it going!"
     
  16. HankD

    HankD Well-Known Member
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    &gt;&gt;"What happens when the crowd leaves?" &gt;&gt;

    Job 1:21b …the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away…
     
  17. rsr

    rsr <b> 7,000 posts club</b>
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  18. LP

    LP New Member

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    Are there buildings that are too costly? Most likely; at least in my view! Are there some that need to be upgraded? Most likely; again in my view! Are any of these buildings my concern? NO; unless it happens to be my home church that I give my tithes & gifts to. Otherwise it's between God (not me, or you) and the other congregations!!
    </font>[/QUOTE]So, if a church is advocating for fornication do your principles still apply? If Scripture has spoken on a matter...we can speak what it says on a matter--obviously. Scripture has certainly spoken on Church and Money.

    Here is an article I encountered today on the topic that is outstanding:

    To this day, Catholic and Protestant Christians alike appeal to this old covenant protocol. Many of us have heard more than one sermon from Protestant pulpits comparing our tithes and offerings to the sacrifices of old which the Israelites shared with their priests. We are also told that in withholding this tithe, we are robbing God of what is rightly His. On the other hand, we are told, God's blessings will rest on us if we tithe as we should (Mal. 3:8-10). Sometimes it is even described as a sort of investment plan whereby we may be assured of financial solvency if we give our ten percent to the church organization, whether we can ostensibly afford it or not. If necessary, it may be portrayed as an act of faith.

    The unfortunate flaw in this system is its failure to consider the full ramifications of the cross. The Gospels tell us that when Jesus died on the cross, the Temple curtain before the Most Holy Place was torn in two "from top to bottom" (NIV). Hebrews 8 through 10 spells out the theological meaning of this remarkable event. At that moment, the sacrificial system was fulfilled. Jesus' death brought the old covenant to completion and initiated a new covenant, sealed in his holy blood. The religious institution, complete with its Temple, its priesthood, and its sacrifices, was replaced with the organic reality of Christ's body. With his subsequent resurrection and giving of the Holy Spirit, the process was complete.

    Now Jesus is the only mediator. No Temple curtain, no institution, no priesthood stands between God and man. Christ's body, the church, is now a nation of kings and priests (Rev. 1:6), "a royal priesthood" (1 Pet. 2:9, NIV). Nowhere in the New Testament can we find the idea that our churches are filled with "lay people" who are to financially support "the clergy" or "priesthood" and the buildings of mortar and stone we call "houses of God." As Stephen put it before the Sanhedrin, "the Most High does not live in houses made by men" (Acts 7:48, NIV).

    While acknowledging this fundamental change between the covenants, some argue that the law of the tithe is not grounded in Mosaic Law but in a more enduring divine principle. The practice is traced back prior to Moses, all the way back to Abraham, who gave a tithe to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18-20; Heb. 7:1-10). This argument not only de-emphasizes the cross as the fulcrum of the new covenant; it also fails to note that Abraham gave his tithe to Melchizedek the priest (Gen. 14:8; Heb. 7:1). The tithe is part and parcel of this sacramental religious system, and as such has no place in the life of the new covenant. Nowhere does the New Testament teach that Christians are to tithe.



    The Pastoral Salary

    Nevertheless, if practitioners of the system under consideration cannot produce sound theological arguments, surely they can argue from apostolic precedent that leaders in the church are to be set apart, financially supported so that they can dedicate their energies to full-time ministry. The principle text is taken from 1 Timothy 5:17,18:

    It is often pointed out that the Greek word for "honor," time, can be understood as an honorarium. But that usage is rare and far removed from the time of the first century.Reference2 Furthermore, the context itself suggests another interpretation.

    The word time is also used in the next chapter of 1 Timothy. There we read that Christian slaves were to "consider their masters worthy of full respect" (6:1, NIV). The word for "respect" in this verse is also time. No one extrapolates from this that slaves were to provide their masters with annual salaries; clearly "honor" or "respect" is the correct meaning. And certainly diligent leaders in the church are worthy of double respect (1 Thess. 5:12,13).

    Neither does verse 18 of chapter 5 imply that elders were to be salaried. Notice carefully the structure of the argument. The elders are no more identified with the wage-earning worker than they are identified with the ox.Reference3 The point is clear: As the ox is not to be muzzled, and as the worker is to be paid, so the leader is to be given respect. This meaning is also more in keeping with verse 19, which states that accusations are not to be brought against elders without two or three witnesses. This practice is consistent with the principle that elders are to be trusted and held in high esteem.

    This does not rule out all financial remuneration. The first part of the chapter calls Christians likewise to "give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need" (v. 3, NIV). Although this would primarily involve helping with chores and other forms of care, financial assistance would also be in view.

    Similarly, in Galatians 6:6 Paul writes that "Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor" (NIV). Again, financial gifts may very well be part of that sharing. But even so, a financial bonus is a far cry from a burdensome annual salary with benefits.

    But what about the Apostle Paul? Did he not write to the Corinthians that he was fully deserving of complete financial support, had he wished to claim it (1 Cor. 9:1-15)? Yes, but not as an elder in the church. The financial support that Paul deserved was the support due an apostle or itinerant evangelist. Unlike established church leaders, itinerant evangelists had to rely more heavily on the hospitality of others (cf. Luke 10:1-7). Yet Paul, himself a travelling evangelist, usually chose to forego this privilege. In Acts 20:33-35 Luke records a most telling reason for this denial. The context is Paul's last meeting with the Ephesian pastors/elders.

    Notice this remarkable turnabout! Rather than receiving the "first fruits" of the church's labors, the elders themselves were asked to give! Paul himself chose not to exercise his prerogative to be well compensated as an example to those who had even less business earning a living off the gospel. The doctrine of the professional elder is difficult to find in the pages of the New Testament documents.



    Objections

    It may be objected that the distinction described here between the apostle (1 Cor. 9) and the elder (1 Tim. 5) breaks down in 1 Corinthians 9:5 where Paul rhetorically compares himself to James and Peter, both of whom were counted as elders (cf. Acts 15; 21:18; 1 Pet. 5:1). However, it is James and Peter [in their capacity as travelling evangelists that Paul has in mind, since he describes their "right to take a believing wife along with" them (NIV). James in particular appears to have been stationed in Jerusalem as a leading figure, but this would not have ruled out short-term missionary endeavors.

    It may also be objected that Paul's application of Deuteronomy 25:4 (1 Cor. 9:9), here clearly with reference to financial remuneration, should dictate Paul's meaning when he cites it in 1 Timothy 5:18. This may indeed weaken the distinction between 1 Corinthians 9 and 1Timothy 5. However, the base principle Paul has in mind may be simply that of honor, which may or may not entail financial remuneration (certainly in 1 Cor. 9, possibly in 1 Tim. 5).

    Finally, one may wish to argue that Paul's imagery in 1 Corinthians 9:13,14 closely parallels Cyprian's doctrine cited earlier. There Paul writes: "Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel" (NIV). But this is an analogy which falls far short of actually applying the old covenant law, or casting some Christians in the role of "clergy" as opposed to "laity." The analogy could well hinge on the distinction between the priests who served at the altar directly and the thousands of other priests who didn't. Otherwise, Paul would have severely mitigated the priesthood of all believers so frequently affirmed in the New Testament. In addition, the "preaching" described here denotes the work of travelling evangelists proclaiming the gospel - not local teachers preparing polished oratories for Sunday morning services.



    Financial Giving

    The New Testament supports neither the doctrine of tithing nor the doctrine of the salaried pastor. But this is not to suggest that the church ought not to give. On the contrary, the new covenant principle is that the church ought to give even more. But on what basis?

    Today tithes and offerings are ritually collected in offering plates which are passed among the congregation during Sunday morning services. Often little envelopes can be found tucked into the backs of pews for the convenience of the giver. Frequently one can find a verse, like 1 Corinthians 16:2a, printed on the envelope as Scriptural justification for the practice: "On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income" (NIV).

    What is not often realized is that this verse belongs to a very specific context. A terrible famine had racked Judea, and Paul was gathering money from the Gentile churches to assist Jewish Christians during this most difficult of times. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul urged his readers to save money ahead of time so that he could collect it on his arrival: "so that when I come no collections will have to be made" (v. 2b, NIV).

    The Gentile Christians were giving money for a specific, identifiable, personal need. The money was not earmarked for mortgages or salaries, but for a pressing social crisis. In his next letter to the Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9, Paul explored in much greater detail the new covenant principles of giving. The principle is not based on percentages or ritual, but upon the premise, first, that God already owns all that we have. The Macedonian churches, for example, "gave themselves first to the Lord" (v. 5, NIV) and then, in keeping with God's will, vied for the privilege of sharing their resources with other saints. The second principle is bound up in the first: Since we are merely stewards of God's resources, we ought to share what we have freely, whether we can spare only two percent or whether we can afford to give fifty. "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7, NIV).

    In sharing our resources with others, Paul writes, we ensure greater equity among ourselves (2 Cor. 8:13-15). In this way Paul confirms the principles of giving expressed in Luke's writings. For example, in Luke 12:33 Jesus says, "Sell your possessions and give to the poor." Dismissing this teaching as impracticable, many believers regard it as culturally bound to the time of Jesus' ministry only. Yet Luke later shows us how such difficult teachings can find practical expression: Within the community of faith. "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had" (Acts 4:32, NIV).

    This last passage, too, is frequently dismissed as an outdated phase of early church history. Unique conditions in the early Jerusalem church, it is argued, created the need for this temporary arrangement. Yet Luke does not describe it as such. We read in verse 33 that "much grace was upon them all," and in verse 34 that "There were no needy persons among them" (NIV). What translations such as the NIV and the NRSV don't tell us, however, is that there is a preposition between verses 33 and 34. (The NASV preserves the preposition, but maintains the sentence break.) The passage should more accurately read, "much grace was upon them all, for there were no needy persons among them." God's grace rested upon the Jerusalem Christians because they were caring for their own.

    This arrangement is no mere accident of history. It is rather one more way, Luke is telling us, in which the church is confirmed as God's covenant community. Consider Deuteronomy 15:4,5,7,9:

    In sharing their resources, the early Christians nurtured a community spirit (not necessarily a "commune") in which individual needs were met. This practice, as we have seen, was confirmed among the Pauline churches (2 Cor. 8:13-15).



    To Believers Only?

    But are Christians to share their resources only with one another? What about those outside the church? Just how generous should the church be?

    It is true that we read most about the early Christians sharing with one another. When Paul collected money for the famine in Judea, we are not told that he was collecting money on behalf of those outside the church. In addition, we are told by some that the church should offer spiritual bread to the world prior to offering material bread. Our calling is to preach the gospel, not to feed the poor who will always be with us (cf. John 12:8). Our resources should be saved for evangelism instead.

    This approach represents a false dichotomy. Jesus came preaching not only spiritual salvation but also freedom from social oppression (cf. Luke 4:18-20). The two go hand in hand. When Jesus asked us to give to the poor, he did not specify the Christian poor only. On the contrary, Jesus told us to share without asking questions (Matt. 5:42)! He also commanded us to be all-inclusive in our love (Matt. 5:43-48). Hence our giving is not to be limited to Christians only.

    In Galatians 6:10 Paul confirms this principle. He writes, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (NIV). Note that the family comes first, then those who aren't part of the family; but the good is ultimately to be spread among all people, not believers only. As God was not tight-fisted with us, neither are we to be tight-fisted with others.



    House Church Finances

    The house church setting is ideal for this free exercise of financial giving. Without institutional facilities and professional clergy to support, the financial resources of house church members are freed for more pressing tasks. Without a temple or a priesthood, the tithe is unnecessary; and in the intimate setting of members' homes, families' needs can be more readily recognized. Both evangelism and social ministry benefit from this ideal arrangement. "On a practical note," writes Bill Grimes, "who is best able to sponsor missionaries, an institutional church of 1000 members that is saddled with a mortgage payment, utilities, janitorial fees, building maintenance and pastoral salaries 3/4 or a network of 1000 house church people with no staff to pay nor buildings to upkeep? According to a 1989 survey of U.S. Protestant congregations, 82% of church revenues go to buildings, staff and internal programs, leaving only 18% for outreach. With house churches the percentages are reversed!"Reference4

    Let us not be satisfied with tithing our resources to self-perpetuating institutions. Let us instead dedicate our full energies, and as many resources as we can manage, to the Lord and His work.



    Notes

    1Citation from Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.).

    2Steve Atkerson, editor, Toward a House Church Theology (Atlanta, GA: New Testament Restoration Foundation), 1996, p. 86.

    3Note also that the citation about the worker is taken from Luke 10:7, in the context of Jesus' instructions to itinerant evangelists, not established elders of local congregations.

    4Toward a House Church Theology, p. 40.

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    [ May 14, 2002, 12:33 PM: Message edited by: LP ]
     
  19. Johnv

    Johnv New Member

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    I can't speak for all areas of the Country, but I live in the LA/Orange area of Southern California, where we have a handful of megachurches of different denominations. All of the ones I'm aware of are indeed beautiful God inspiring structures. Here's the kicker... they're all in areas of little or no affluence, often in poverty-stricken areas. Most of the money and labor was given by the poor members of the church surrounding area, who actively desire that their churches be shining monuments to God in areas that are otherwise pretty run down. I see nothing wrong with this. Also, here in this area, there is no majority race or culture (whites generally maky up about 45% of the religious populations).

    I don't remember the last time anyone slammed the Washington National Cathedral, even though its cost was in the hundreds of millions of adjusted dollars. Maybe it's because it looks like a medieval structure. Maybe it's not large buildings we don't like, but large buildings that look more like modern edifices and less like Notre Dame.

    I don't necessarily disagree with you on your view about megachurches, but I think churches that get stuck with the "mega" label often get a bad rap because they're more prominent, even when they are still faithful and responsible stewards of tithes and incomes. Of course, I have no idea of what it's like in other areas of the country, only in this area, where the more dense population is capable of supporting lerger congregations.
     
  20. LP

    LP New Member

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    ...and all the buildings were most likely constructed by such persons under the leadership manipulated delusion that such building are what God wants, rather than that God would far rather have them turn their resources and labor into the actual surrounding area, but more importantly, into the people of the surrounding area, so they themselves are no longer in poverty.

    It is the difference between imposing something from the top-down or joining God in helping to bring about fundamental change from the bottom-up.

    In other words, did the surrounding community, the unchurched "average Jill and Joe," want the mega-church building, or was it the misguided dream of some man who convinced some followers that the building was what God's real priority was?

    Is the building what would most minister to them, i.e., the people of God taking action for a building? Or would the people of God taking action for the poor most minister to them?

    I have spoken with many-of-many average Jill's and Joe's around mega-churches and otherwise who see and feel deeply our homage to man and structure.

    I can tell you that when they view such things, it brings absolutely no glory to God. Rather, it is as if God's people are "grinding the faces of the poor" (to use Jeremiah's words) by their deeds, as Israel did before them.

    But worse, such people are doing it in the very Name of God, and sometimes still worse, in the Name of God "on behalf of the poor," and frequently in the name of evangelizing them, and this when there is absolutely no New Testament precedent of "build it and they will come" or "build it so you have a place to take 'em."

    But it is really one of the biggest self-interested shams in the modern Chruch, and one I maintian will be but dust at many people's feet one day. Meanwhile, they will see those who could have otherwise been reached...except for the earthly idols of cement, wood and glass, that diverted attention from the true call of being Jesus to those in need.

    [ May 16, 2002, 12:26 AM: Message edited by: LP ]
     
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