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Christian Living

How Much Money Does the Church Need?

We Must Be Good Stewards of All That God Blesses Us With

The Old Testament church required a lot of financial support to keep it going. There was a tabernacle to build and transport. The temple later replaced the tabernacle, but it required regular maintenance. The priests and Levites received support too.

This huge need required the people to give their tithes and various offerings, some mandatory and others voluntary. In today’s church, facility costs and payroll expenses make up most of the church’s budget, sometimes all of it.

Yet if we were to do away with these two elements, there’s not so much need for money.

After building and staffing costs, what small amount remains in the budget falls into two categories. First is benevolence, that is, taking care of our own just like the early church did.

Second is outreach, sending missionaries out to tell others the good news about Jesus (Matthew 28:19–20, Mark 16:15–16, and Luke 14:23). Think of all the good a church could do with its money if it directed 100 percent of its funds on these two activities and not needing to pay for facility and staff.

New Testament Church Finances

In the New Testament church, people share what they have to help those within their spiritual community, that is, those within their church. They seldom take offerings and when they do it’s to help other Jesus followers who suffer in poverty.

The third thing they do with their money is to fund missionary efforts. Instead of building buildings and paying staff, they help people and tell others about Jesus. It’s that simple.

Rather than focusing on 10 percent as the Old Testament prescribes, we should reframe our thinking to embrace the reality that all we have, 100 percent, belongs to God.

We are to be his stewards to use the full amount wisely for his honor, his glory, and his kingdom—not our honor, glory, and kingdom.

Paul writes that the love of money is the source of all manner of evil. An unhealthy preoccupation with wealth is especially risky for followers of Jesus, as our pursuit of accumulating wealth can distract us from our faith and pile on all kinds of grief (1 Timothy 6:10).

Keep in mind that Paul is not condemning money. He warns against the love of money. For anyone who has accumulated financial resources, this serves as a solemn warning to make sure we have a God-honoring understanding of wealth and what its purpose is.

When it comes to the pursuit of possessions—our love of money—we risk having it pull us away from God.

Three Uses of Money

We need money to live, but we shouldn’t live for the pursuit of wealth. We should use money to supply our needs, help others, and serve God. Consider these three areas:

First, we should use our financial resources to help fund the things that matter to God. This means we need to understand his perspective. With the wise use of our money, we can serve God and honor him. We must remember that we can’t serve two masters: God and money (Matthew 6:24).

Second, we need God’s provisions to take care of ourselves (2 Thessalonians 3:10). We must focus on what we need, not what we want.

Third we should consider the needs of others. What do they need? How can we help them? Again, as with our own balancing of needs versus wants, we must guard against supplying someone with what they want, instead of focusing on what they truly need.

God especially desires that we help widows and orphans (James 1:27). He also has a heart for us to help foreigners and the poor (Zechariah 7:10).

Therefore, we should give to God first (Exodus 23:19). Then we should concern ourselves with our needs and helping others with theirs. God wants our best, not what’s left over. This applies to our possessions and our actions.

We must direct our money as wise stewards to where it can have the most kingdom impact. Click To Tweet

Where Does Giving to the Church Fit In?

Does this mean we need to give to the local church? Maybe. But it’s much more than that. We must direct our money as wise stewards to where it can have the most kingdom impact.

I question if this means supporting an organization where most—or all—of its budget goes to paying for buildings and staff.

We must reform our perspective on money, realizing that 100 percent of it belongs to God, and we are merely stewards of his gifts. We must use God’s financial provisions wisely in a way that will honor him and have the greatest kingdom impact.

Check out the next post in this series addressing the fallacy of church membership.

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Embrace a Fresh Perspective about Having a Church Building

We Don’t Need a Church Building to Encounter God or Enjoy Spiritual Community

So far, we’ve looked at the Old Testament model for church—of building, paid clergy, and tithes—which we still follow today.

Then we considered how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament and looked at how the early church functions in the New Testament, considering their practices and detailing what church shouldn’t be today. Last, we looked at the essential components for a New Testament-style church.

Let’s now consider what must change in our churches today to better align with the New Testament narrative and early church practices.

We’ve already touched on this when we said that through Jesus, we have a new perspective on the temple (church building), priests (ministers and staff), and tithes and offerings (church finances).

Do We Need a Church Building?

Let’s look deeper into this idea of a church building.

Who needs a building? The early church met in people’s homes and public places. Why can’t we do the same today? Think of all the money we’d save and hassles we could avoid if we removed the shackles of owning and maintaining a church facility.

Not only are our church structures exorbitantly expensive, they’re also underutilized most of the time. At best, one of today’s churches enjoys full usage for only two hours of each week. That’s 1.2 percent of the time. This means that for 98.8 percent of each week the building is underutilized.

Yes, the office staff uses a tiny part of the space during the workweek, and smaller meetings occur some evenings. But these activities occupy only a small portion of the church building. That’s a lot of wasted space.

The prime motivation for these large, but underused, facilities is for a one-hour church meeting each Sunday.

A Wrong Perspective

At one church I visited, the pastor in his pre-sermon prayer pleaded with God to supply a facility for them. “You know God, how much we need a building,” he begged. “Please provide it for us.”

Although their rented space offered what they needed on Sunday morning and other options provided office space and accommodated their weekly meetings, it appeared that his perspective was that to be a real church they had to have a building.

In a later discussion with one of their church elders I said, “You don’t need a building. You may want one, but you don’t have to have one.”

In most all cases, it costs a church much less to rent space than to own and maintain a building. But even better then renting space for Sunday morning service is to decentralize the church to meet in people’s homes.

Despite this, most every church thinks they need a building. While owning a building may be convenient and may be a preference, it isn’t a necessity. And sinking mass quantities of money into a church building that goes unused most of the week certainly isn’t being good stewards of God’s resources.

In today’s developed countries churches routinely spend millions of dollars for worship space for people to go to on Sunday morning. The cost of the facility is disproportionately large in comparison to the lifestyle and homes of the congregation.

Building Campaigns

In another instance, a large, growing suburban church had frequent building fund drives to expand its facility. Though the people enthusiastically supported each expansion plan, one effort met with opposition.

They wanted to raise $1 million to build a ring road around the campus to ease the flow of traffic. One million dollars for a road. It was a hard ask for the people to accept.

Even in developing countries, where the expectations of the church edifice are much more modest, it’s still disproportionate to the lifestyle of the people who will go there. In one developing country, a church constructed the concrete shell for its church building and ran out of money.

For several years, they’ve worshiped in their half-finished space and continually asked for donations to complete its construction. Since the members are poor, they can’t finance the construction themselves. They look to the generosity of those outside their community to complete the building.

Instead of focusing all his attention on his congregation and local community, the pastor diverts some of his time to solicit donations from those abroad.

We must rethink the importance we put on our church buildings and replace it with a people-first perspective. Click To Tweet

Church Buildings are Expensive

Regardless of where we live in the world, our church buildings are expensive compared to the lifestyles of most of the people who go there. To have a building, we must either buy or build.

This often requires borrowing money and paying off a mortgage. And if a church falls behind in their monthly payments, the lender may have no choice but to foreclose on the facility. In this instance, no one wins, and the reputation of Jesus’s church is tarnished.

But expenses don’t stop with the acquisition of a building, whether bought or built. The ongoing costs add up. For starters, there are utilities, maintenance, and insurance. And we do all this so we can go to a place to have a one-hour encounter with God on Sunday morning.

Maintaining a church building is costly and does little to advance the kingdom of God. Remember, through Jesus, our bodies are God’s temple. We don’t need to go to a building to go to church so we can connect with God. We take church with us wherever we go—or at least we should.

We must rethink the importance we put on our church buildings and replace it with a people-first perspective.

Next week we’ll look at church staff.

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Does God Receive Our Actions as a Memorial Offering?

Cornelius is a commander in the Roman army; he’s also a man of faith, who prays often and gives to the poor. One day, during his afternoon prayers, he has a vision. An angel appears to him and says that God has received his prayers and gifts as a memorial offering.

Imagine that. God sees Cornelius’s prayers and help of those in need as a gift directly given to him. It is an offering, something done in his name.

I don’t know if God accepts all our prayers as memorial offerings or holds all our efforts to help others in such high esteem, but it is something to contemplate.

I think to be counted as a memorial, it must be done in Jesus’ name. And to be received as an offering, it must be presented with right motives. So when we do things for Jesus with pure intentions, it may be that God will likewise receive our actions as a memorial offering to him.

As a kid, I was confused by how we could directly give to God. Maybe this is how. May all we do be a memorial offering to him.

Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Acts 8-12, and today’s post is on Acts 10:4]

Read more about the book of Acts in Tongues of Fire: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church from the Book of Acts, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. [Originally published as Dear Theophilus Acts.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

How Do We Give to God?

The Bible says to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.

While there is no biblical command to give 10 percent of our income to the local church, that doesn’t mean we should ignore giving.

Jesus’s detractors try to trick him into saying something condemnable about paying taxes. They figure they can use his words against him regardless of how he responds.

If he tells them to pay taxes, then they can accuse him of putting the Roman government over God (of literally worshiping Caesar instead of God). And if he tells them not to pay taxes to the ungodly Romans, then they can turn him over to the authorities for treason or even insurrection.

Either way they win.

Jesus responds wisely. He tells them to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Luke 20:22-25). Once again Jesus foils their seemingly foolproof plan to discredit him.

But how exactly do we give to God?

As a small kid I connected our church’s offering ritual with Jacob’s ladder in the Bible (aka the stairway to heaven, Genesis 28:12). The ushers passed the plates and walked the collection up the aisle to the minister.

I assumed that on Monday he would climb Jacob’s ladder to heaven and actually give our gifts directly to God. It made sense to me then. And it made giving gifts to God so easy.

So the question remains, how do we give our gifts to God? Since I can’t actually make out a check to God and hand it to him, what am I to do?

Again, Jesus has the answer. In a parable he teaches that whatever we do to help the less fortunate, we effectively do for God (Matthew 25:40).

If we're good stewards of what God gives us we'll hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Click To Tweet

So we give to God by helping the poor. We can help them tangibly address their physical struggles and we can help them eternally by meeting their spiritual needs.

We can do this directly through our own actions, and we can do this indirectly when we support organizations that help those in need as they point them to Jesus.

If your local church can do this most effectively, then give to them. But check their budget first. For most churches only a very small fraction of the money donated is actually used to help those outside the church.

If another organization has less overhead and uses a higher percentage of donations to help others, then give to them.

Remember, we are to be wise stewards of the money God entrusts to us. We want to hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21) and not “You wicked, lazy servant!” (Matthew 25:26). May we use our money wisely to advance God’s kingdom and hear his approval.

How do you give money to God? How do you ensure you are a wise steward with the money God assigns to you?

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

What is Your Greatest Accomplishment?

At church a few weeks ago we were asked a question, “What is your greatest accomplishment?” We were supposed to write it down on a piece of paper.

As a writer you would think I would be good at such things, but since I do all my writing in solitude, with as few distractions as possible, I have great trouble coming up with anything to write when in a public setting. Focus alludes me, and any words that do tumble forth seem woefully inadequate.

As I ponder this question, other people quickly scribble down their answers. Gee this is hard to decide. I have many notable accomplishments, but none seem truly great.

As I try to determine which of my good-but-not-really-great accomplishments rise above the others, I start thinking outside the box. I sometimes do this, often to the dismay of others.

My greatest accomplishment is still to come. That is true; I am optimistic about the future. I have no doubt that God has amazing things in store for me. In complete confidence I know my future will surpass my past. How cool is that? Should I write that down?

If they read our answers will people think I’m snarky or even arrogant? Then I remember the setting. This is church after all. I should think of a spiritual answer.

Then truth hits me. It is clear and pure, without false modesty or feigned piety. I have accomplished nothing; Jesus has done it all. Still I hesitate to write. I try to figure out why they are asking this. While still in the middle of this exercise, I’m trying to anticipate the endgame.

I don’t want to call attention to myself; I don’t function well in the spotlight. Frozen in indecision, my hand won’t move.

Our leader tells us to bring our accomplishments forward. She holds up a trashcan, presumably the only handy receptacle. Others spring forward to offer their greatest accomplishments. I hesitate. I want to participate as instructed, not be the maverick who doesn’t follow instructions.

Reluctantly I circle back to the beginning. What is my best accomplishment to date? Nothing comes to me; my mind goes back to God. He deserves all the credit.

Our leader issues the last call and scans the room. One person scrambles to write down an answer. He dashes to the front and throws his paper in the trash. I sit in rigid stillness and say nothing. The window of opportunity has closed, and I’m okay with that.

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Confident that everyone has now participated, she holds up the trashcan. “All of our accomplishments are garbage to God.”

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Contemplating Cain and His Gift to God

The account of Cain is well-known. The Bible records his story as the world’s first murderer. It is out of jealousy—and possibly premeditated—that Cain kills his brother, Abel. But what are the events that lead up to this tragedy?

Cain and Abel each bring an offering to God. Abel’s is accepted but Cain’s isn’t. There is speculation as to why God disses Cain’s gift, but the reason is not recorded for us to know.

What’s disconcerting is wondering if God ever disses our gifts. It’s a shocking thought. I always assumed God is ecstatic over anything and everything I offer to him, be it money in the offering plate, alms, or acts of kindness offered in his honor.

I liken it to a small child showing Mommy and Daddy the picture he or she just drew. The parents are pleased, praising the child profusely, even though they may be clueless as to what the picture is. I expect God to act like that whenever I give him something.

God, may my gifts and offerings be pleasing to you. Click To Tweet

But what if he doesn’t? After all, God is sovereign—and almighty. What if he doesn’t look at my offering with favor?

It’s a sobering thought. I certainly don’t want to be giving God a sorry little picture—thinking it is good and that he likes it—when he is expecting and desiring something so much more.

God, may my gifts and offerings be pleasing to you.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

The World’s First Murder

Cain and his younger brother Abel both gave offerings to God. This was well before the life of Moses and the laws that God gave to him, therefore, there was no requirement to give an offering. In fact, there was not even a precedent for doing so. 

Cain and Abel’s offerings were the first ones recorded in the Bible.

For reasons not fully explained, God accepted Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. One possible hint is that while Abel’s offering was a choice part of the best that he had, Cain’s gift was merely “some” of what he had. 

Another hint is found in the New Testament letter to the Hebrews, where Abel’s faith in giving a better offering is affirmed. Implicitly, Cain’s faith was lacking.

Regardless, Cain reacted poorly to God’s snub, becoming jealous of Abel and angry, culminating in the premeditated murder of his brother—the world’s first. However, even after this brutal act, God did not turn his back on Cain. 

Although God meted out punishment to Cain, he also provided protection.

Cain did an evil thing; however, he was not an evil man. Despite Cain’s downfall, he was a man who had sought God, giving a gift that was not asked for or required.

[Genesis 4:1-16, Hebrews 11:4]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.