How can the church be the salt and light to the world if its abandoning some of its chief responsibilities? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
This is about a friend.
This is about a friend who is in need.
This is about a friend who is in need and the church is silent.
I wish I could say that this kind of thing is an anomaly, but it’s not.
When you go to church, part of worship is giving some of your tithes and offerings to the church. Now why do you do that? Is it because the church is full of money-grubbing people and that’s all that they want? No doubt, this is true of some churches, such as in the case of a lot of people you will see on a station like TBN, but I have hopes that most churches are not really like this. Most churches have ministers that are trying to do the right thing. Of course, I think too many of them are unequipped and have no business being in ministry, but that does not mean they’re in it for the money.
What all does a minister have to do? Off the top of my head, here are some duties.
Preaching a sermon.
Preparing for a sermon.
Personal study to learn about what to preach.
Church administrative duties.
Visiting people who are in the hospital.
Attending church events.
Could possibly be teaching some classes.
Remaining on-call for anyone in the congregation in need.
And from there, the list goes on. Keep in mind a good minister also has to have his own personal time for prayer, Bible study for himself, and if he’s married, he has to have time for his family. Furthermore, no minister can remain working 24/7. He’ll burn himself out. He needs to have some time to relax and enjoy himself in leisurely activity.
When you pay your pastor’s salary, what you are essentially saying is that the work he does is so important that you don’t want him to have to work elsewhere so that he’s not capable of doing all of that. You are pretty much paying him so that he can be there full-time in order to help meet the needs of the body.
Ideally also, a good pastor will be training others under him to be leaders and thus giving him less that he absolutely has to do, consider the example of Moses in the wilderness who trained others under him to answer questions and left all the really difficult matters to Moses. Had Moses not done this, he would have burnt himself out and been unable to lead the people.
Now what else is your money going towards?
It could go towards other staff members as well, but also, your money is going towards the maintenance and care of the building or the place that is rented and to getting materials such as Bibles that can be used for purposes of evangelism. A church has to make sure that it is taken care of after all.
Beyond that, what?
These can go into a savings for when the church has an emergency, which is just fine, and they can also go to ministry projects, which are feasible and can be carried out, but another need of these funds is to care for those who are in need.
And in this last one, we have failed big time.
I am one who has been unable to find work in this economy for a long time. That’s the way it is. What do I do in the meanwhile? I do work for my in-laws and they help provide for us in return and we do have some government aid.
Hello. Did you hear that?
Yes. Government aid. Ideally, Christians would be giving this kind of support, but they too often don’t. Instead, it becomes the job of the government. The government should not be in the charity business and the fact that the government is the organization taking care of the poor, especially the Christian poor, is proof that the church has failed in an important aspect of its mission.
I said this was about a friend at the start. Let me use that as an example.
Marc is a friend I know through the Christian Apologetics Alliance where we are raising up funds for him. I would love to donate, but seeing as I have no real income, I’m incapable of doing that. Yet as I thought about this last night, it just got me angry.
Now I’m not one of those people who condemns the rich. If you are wealthy, you have a gift from God if you use it right. It is no sin to have money. It is a sin for money to have you. If you have the money and can afford it, there’s nothing wrong with buying a Mercedes or going on a nice vacation or living in an expensive house or enjoying many of the finer things in life.
Of course, if you’re doing all of that and you’re stingy with your money towards the poor, that is a problem.
There are too many Christians who are like that.
Note also in this that I am not making a message of socialism. I am a capitalist. I don’t think the role is that government should force you to give your money to the poor. Rather, God loves a cheerful giver. It should be that you will want to give to the poor because they are people in need of your support.
So let’s go to my friend Marc. What’s his story?
“Not long ago my car needed to be repaired for a leaky transmission. Since I’ve been out of work I couldn’t afford the work. Some people offered to pay for the work, and so my car was towed (because it was not running) to a local dealer. The mechanic there drove the car and blew the engine, then the dealeship said they don’t do replacement engines and that was that. The dealership took the $1600 for the work they claimed they did. I was desperate and took some bad advice that I could get enough money through a student loan. That didn’t happen. So now I owe a different mechanic $3414 for a new engine plus labor plus lot fees, and he’s filed a mechanics lien. So I will lose my car that I had already paid for. Since becoming unemployed I’ve ran through all my savings, and just recently (after the whole car mess) became homeless. I won’t even have my car to sleep in. If you can help, please do. The money goes to Dave’s Automotive in Carbondale, Illinois
Plus, having a car again GREATLY expands where I can apply for jobs.”
This Christian has been going through a hard time including doubt and anger. It’s been a real struggle, and I think one of the biggest struggles is that Christians are not helping out.
And sadly, this is common.
You see, I happen to have a great interest in math. Let’s suppose you have a church of 200 people. That’s a fairly decent number of people to be in a church. Let’s suppose this church wanted to help Marc out. One Sunday, everyone in the church gave $20. Now it’s quite likely that no one will be breaking the bank, but you know what they will do?
They’ll break Marc’s debt.
Can’t do it that way? Okay. Picture a month with four Sundays. Each Sunday, every person gives $5.
The same result happens.
You see, most of our money in the church is really wasted. My ministry partner wrote an excellent article on this here. Churches get started in huge elaborate building projects and never finish them. That’s money that could have been used for the Kingdom of God gone to waste. Following the principle of Luke 14 and counting the cost before you start something, that’s also an embarrassment.
We also spend money on projects that aren’t worth the investment. Again, another example of that is here. I have seen so many churches with these Family Life Centers and I can’t help but wonder how many of them are really being effective in ministry. Looking at the way the church is going in the world and how many people are falling away, I’d say they’re extremely ineffective.
Let’s compare that to a ministry like this one here, the ministry of Deeper Waters, an apologetics ministry.
Now I’m not one who really cares about having a lot of money. I care about having enough. In fact, if I generally have extra money, aside from buying books, the main thing I’m thinking of is how can I do something nice for my wife. Can I take her out to dinner or buy her something that would put a smile on her face? We also would like to be able to give on our own to ministries like Voice of the Martyrs.
So here is pretty much what I’m doing most of the day. I wake up and I check my emails and Facebook and see what needs to be done. Then, I go about writing the blog. The rest of the day is spent in many cases reading and studying and often times, answering questions that come in from various people. Throughout the week, I’m also preparing for the weekly podcast where I hope to bring the best information to people. Also, I am regularly sent books by groups like IVP to review and in addition to that, many people will come to me asking about a book and if I can find it at the local library or if they’re willing to send me a copy, I will read it for them and tell them what I think. They can send me web sites or YouTube videos or things of that sort that they need addressed. Lately, there has been more public speaking going on for me too.
None of these I am paid for generally. Some people do donate, but not money.
Just like ministry in the church, when you donate to an apologetics ministry, what you are telling the person is “I value the work that you give so much that I want you to continue doing it.” Often times, I think apologists are seen as villains in the church because we do that wicked “debating” and “arguing” and we are so caught up in the life of the mind that we are missing out on the true essence of worship which is all about our passions.
Just ignore that little part about loving God with all our minds.
Sometimes, I think it’s like being the police force. The apologist shows up and the church members are like “Oh great. Here comes that guy who wants to make sure we’re all walking in line and that all of our beliefs add up correctly.” In some sense, we are. We want to make sure the church is not straying into heresy. This doesn’t mean eliminating every wrong belief. It means eliminating those that are so serious they put someone’s salvation in jeopardy.
At the same time, we’re also like a military force. You know why many of you can sit safely in church and worship? It’s because people like the apologists among you are out there in the front lines and are busy taking bullets on your behalf. We’re the ones that are engaging the atheists and cultists and such in the hopes that they will leave you alone. (Of course, we also hope they will come to Christ, but many are just not open yet.)
Unfortunately, the church has had a habit of neglecting the apologists in its community and the work they do and supporting those that are parasites on the community. Think of how many people pay to go see Joel Osteen for instance. I have said before that when Michael Licona, N.T. Wright, William Lane Craig, and Alvin Plantinga are names every Christian knows and Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, and others of that ilk are out there trying to get support, we will have a much more equipped church ready to handle the challenges.
The question is, do you really value the apologetics work that is done or not? When you see people who are serving, do you want to help them with preparing the ground for harvest, or do you just want the fruit of the garden? Now some people are unable to donate, and I understand that. If you’re in that camp, offer prayers and support. This includes your own pastor too. If your pastor does a good job with what he does, let him know. Pastors often go extremely unappreciated. For us, we pray for our pastor every night. We want our church to be prepared to fulfill the Great Commission.
This also doesn’t just apply to Deeper Waters. I do hope you will donate to us. (If you do, just click the donate button and then email me or Mike and Debbie Licona and let us know that you want the donation to go to us.) There are several several other ministries that could use your support. Of course, there are major ministries like Risen Jesus, Reasonable Faith, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, and others that need your support. There are also several starting up that need your support. J. Warner Wallace has gathered a list of tent makers and they could use your support. That list can be found here.
Also, I am certainly not saying to support only apologetics ministries. Support ministries that give to the poor of your community. Support ministries that are doing overseas evangelism. Just don’t lose sight of the ministries that are right outside your front door. These ministries involve people who are giving their lives to the kingdom in service.
With people like Marc being among us and in desperate need of help, it is a scandal for the church that we are unable to care for them. It is certainly true that we will always have the poor among us, but if we abscond our responsibilities to the government, what message are we sending? We’re giving the government the go-ahead and saying “The church of Jesus Christ is incapable of meeting the needs of the people around it and ask that you in the kingdom of this world help us out.”
If we are to show the love of Jesus to the rest of the world, we have to be able to show it to those who live among us. While the passage is written to Israel, I do think it applies to us. In Malachi 3, God asks the people of Israel to test Him. Can’t He rain down blessings so they will not contain it? If God loves a cheerful giver, is it not likely He will enable that person to keep giving? No. This is not prosperity Gospel. This is not give to get. This is give so you can keep giving.
Remember also, start with your local church. That is the immediate body that deserves your help. If your local church is not worth giving to, then you need to find a new local church. In our day and age, it can be hard to find a good church that really seeks to uphold the truth of Scripture and encourages discipleship. Keep looking. They’re out there.
From there on, move to other ministries that you think are worth supporting. Think Deeper Waters is worth supporting? Then support us. If not, then don’t. Remember, this is not just me. There are several others. I linked to Wallace’s article with some. There are also ministries like that of my ministry partner, tektonics.org, and ministries like Adam’s Road, a ministry to Mormons that gives all of their music away for free.
Also, please help out someone like Marc. If anyone among us is fallen and in need of help, we are obligated to help him. Remember, if any one of our body suffers, we are all suffering. It would be awesome to have Marc get this taken care of as soon as possible and know that the body of Christ was behind it all.
Another point that needs to be made is I am in no way telling you to give what you don’t have. I’m not interested in grandma cashing in her Social Security and sending it all in. You must take care of yourself and if you don’t have the resources, you can always pray and encourage. That is more of a blessing than you know.
I wrote this because Marc is a friend in need, and Marc is an example of the way the church is failing to do its job. By all means, we must continue our ministries of reaching people who have not heard Christ and tending to the sick and feeding the hungry, but we must also help those in our own household who have fallen and can’t seem to get up. We must also support those out there who are doing the work that not everyone is capable of doing or has the time and resources to do so the rest of us can rest easy at night knowing the Christian faith is secure.
If you have the resources, please consider being generous with them and helping out those who are seeking to do what they can to help the Kingdom.