How Is the Church to Be Financially Supported?

Well, it was inevitable. An increased presence on the Internet will, of course, draw more interest; with that will also attract the interest of those who desire to market their products and/or services. One venue of that effort, as most everyone knows, is e-mail. Just as the US Postal Service delivers bundles of advertising (often referred to as “junk mail”) so too, have such efforts bled over to the electronic distribution of mail. What has become known as SPAM (e-mail's version of junk mail) opens up the door to vast sources of opportunities. The Internet is one avenue which could be, and is (responsibly) used for the spread of the Gospel (SPAM excluded), making available to the searching soul a tremendous repository of Biblical material; both good and bad, accurate and inaccurate, true and false, promoting either truth or error. It is unfortunate that wrong doctrine is spread along side the sound doctrine; but that has always been the case even without the Internet, and really began during the days of the Apostles.

But, back to the topic at hand: the church of Christ at Royse City received one such (SPAM) e-mail, “reaching out to your organization to host a charitable shopping party in our store with a portion of the proceeds going to your non-profit organization.” It continued with the percentage of profits which would be paid to our “organization” based upon the amount sold from this fund-raising effort.

Generally, I am one to pass over SPAM when it arrives in my in-box, but this appeared to me a reasonably good opportunity to “reach out,” since this particular e-mail was an attempt to reach out to the church in Royse City. With this in mind I composed a letter describing how we could not accept their invitation because it is inconsistent with how the church is to be funded, and the reason it was to funded that way is because the church of Christ confines itself to those things which are approved in scripture, and abstain from those activities which are in contradiction to the Bible.

The following is an excerpt from my correspondence:

Allow me this serendipitous opportunity to explain why [we cannot take advantage of your invitation], and perhaps familiarize you with the church of Christ, if you would indulge me. I believe it may help you to understand the reasoning behind this decision. The fact that you extend your invitation to churches leads me to believe that you recognize the importance and necessity of spiritual organizations and the more important things in life.
Of the many different and differing churches among the denominations which identify as being Christians, most involve themselves with fund raising efforts. Bake sales, rummage sales, car washes, and other creative methods are pretty common among these denominations. However, you will find that the church of Christ does not resort to such methods; rather it restricts itself to those things which can be supported by Biblical authority. Among those are the specific instructions found in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, where the church was instructed “upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him. . .” This passage clarifies how the church's work is to be funded: the contributions of Christians as they gather every Sunday to worship God. There are other aspects of the church of Christ which are similarly defined; that is, by Bible commands and examples. Since the church of Christ, in reality, belongs to Christ, we do not suppose to do anything which is clearly regulated by him in any way that contradicts his will.

As it applies to the funding the work of the church, certainly the case can be made that more creative means for gaining revenue results in more contributions from without the church's members; and also methods can be implemented which make it more convenient for its members to make its contributions. Hard evidence can be compiled showing the success of these approaches. However, the perceived success (more money) is not the core of the issue. From 1 Cor. 16:1-2 it is clear that the Lord wants his church to contribute toward the work of his church: in this particular instance it was for the famine relief effort for the saints in Jerusalem.

Remember Jesus' sermon on the mount where he taught that a man's heart will be found where his treasure is (Matt. 6:19-21)? The method prescribed in 1 Cor. 16:1-2. to lay by in store, facilitates the opportunity for the Christian to store up treasures in heaven. On that occasion, it also gave opportunity to love the brethren (1 Pet. 1:22), and exhibit one's faith in a practical way (James 2:14-17). In addition, it provides the means to evangelize the world, thereby fulfilling another part of the mission of the church (Matt. 28:18-20; Phil. 4:15-18; 1 Cor. 15:24-28).

It should be apparent that creative, alternative methods for funding the work of the church, such as bake sales, rummage sales, car washes, and the like, are at odds with Christ's will. Since the contribution is to be made on each first day of the week (Sunday) when the saints gather to worship God, what does that say about “on-line” contributions? Will a Christian be absent from the Lord's day assembly, and make a contribution? Well, yes; it is a possibility. When a Christian forsakes the assembling together with the saints, he willfully sins (Heb. 10:23-26). The utility to make contributions on the Internet effectively makes provisions for one to willfully sin: he does not have to be present in order to give of his means. He will not be present to encourage the brethren in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. He will not be present to learn from the carefully prepared gospel sermon exposited by the evangelist. He will not be there to give thanks to God, and to his savior, Christ Jesus, for all that they have done for him in saving his soul from the eternal lake of fire. He will not be there to worship at all.

It seems that, because of the influence that modern religious organizations have, most everyone has a skewed understanding of the mission and work of the church which is written about in the Bible. The misunderstanding comes about because neither the authority of scripture nor how one establishes scriptural authority is commonly understood.

Many people are genuinely searching for truth and that path which leads to everlasting life. The search includes seeking the one true church about which the Bible speaks. How can that church be identified? That is a valid question that deserves a valid answer. Two things that are observable, and usually are definitive as to which church a congregation belongs: does it belong to Christ, or is it of men's origins? How can you tell? John 4:23-24 reveals that God now seeks those who will worship in spirit and truth. Pilot asked this question upon his interrogation of Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38). Jesus confirmed that truth is God's word when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane (John 17:17). To worship in truth is to worship in accordance to God's word. Because we now live in the last age under the new covenant, we appeal to the New Testament scriptures for matters of worship. What are those acts, that the Bible teaches, in which one participates in worshiping God?

  1. Preaching (2 Tim. 4:2).
  2. Giving of our means (1 Cor. 16:2).
  3. Partaking of the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7).
  4. Singing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
  5. Praying (1 Thess. 5:17).
How does a church engage in its worship and other activities about which work it must be? What is the source of its decisions? What is the source of its authority? The claim to be Bible-believing, Bible-centric is in vogue today, especially among Community churches, Bible Fellowship churches, some Baptist churches, and many others. To what extent do they really practice their faith? Do they really abide by all of the teachings in the Bible? Of course, this question could (and should) be asked of Christians (those who commit themselves completely to following Christ after the pattern and teachings in the New Testament; those of the church that belongs to Christ: the church of Christ).

Curtis A. Little – Royse City, TX

Curtis A. Little
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