Hello, Mr. or Ms. Millennial! Have you made it this far in these blogs? Good! I am glad we can have this discussion about serving our Lord together! I will, however, for those of you who may have missed it, give you the links of my previous blogs on this subject:
Part 1 http://wp.me/p4tk5J-4S
Part 2 http://wp.me/p4tk5J-5o
and the link to the article to which my blogs respond:
I gather from your concerns that you wish to talk about money. You mentioned in the article that you don’t trust institutions and desire transparency. You are concerned about where “thousands of” your “hard-earned dollars” are going. Great—these are valid concerns that anyone who gives to a church should have. (I also wish to mention here that if you have given thousands of dollars to churches, Baby Boomers/older generations have given tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands over the years.) You also mentioned helping the poor, which is another concern that could potentially involve money. Let’s explore some of these areas.
A mistrust of institutions is common among many (not just those of your generation), and, unfortunately, we have all heard about or read stories of misallocation of funds/resources in many institutions. Are we, as Christians, to trust institutions? Absolutely not! Our trust should be placed in God, and God alone. Does that mean we are to blindly trust our churches and what they do with our money? No, it does not. Let me explain.
You state (in Complaint #6 in the article), “Over and over we’ve been told to ‘tithe’ and give 10 percent of our incomes to the church.” Who exactly is telling you over and over to give? Could it be Almighty God Himself? If you are going to blindly obey anyone or anything, please make it Him! Do you know Him and His character enough to blindly obey Him? (He does ask this of us in 2 Corinthians 5:7: For we walk by faith, not by sight.) Even if you are one of those who believes that tithing is “an Old Testament thing,” you cannot argue that He tells us to give. The thing about giving anything is that you forfeit the right to dictate how it is used. Are you willing to trust that God knows what to do with your money? Do you want His blessing on you for being obedient with your money?
At this point you might say, “I trust God, but I don’t trust that the people at the church are doing what should be done with the money.” Your request for transparency is noted, but, having been a member of my church’s budget team for many years, I’m sorry, but we are not going to put a document on our church’s homepage where you can track every dollar (as you have requested)! (No company does this anyway.) Is it because we are trying to hide something? Of course not! (I hope not, anyway. I know that we have nothing to hide at my church; heaven forbid other churches would have matters they would wish to conceal from anyone.) Financial information is sensitive; that is why on your Facebook profile it will ask for your name, age, birthday and place of employment, but not how much you make!
So what should you do?
Here is where your intellect must kick in. Before you join a church, you should observe and ask questions (yes, you must interact with people) about where and how their money is used. Be aware that you will probably not agree with any church 100% about their usage of funds, so be prepared for that (and imagine in your head that your money will support what you do agree with!). And, if you are not a member of my church, I am probably not going to tell you exactly what each of our pastors makes, but will tell you something like that it is in line with what other churches our size pay their pastors.
Any member of my church’s (and, I hope, any church that you would join) budget team would be very willing to discuss or even receive input concerning our church’s budget, but, over the years, very few people have asked or made suggestions; and many assume negative things about the budget that are simply not true, but they will not ask! Ask me—I’m here for you, I’m listening, and I would consider it a privilege to earn your trust!
On to helping the poor: Your issue here seems to be that church attenders seem to spend many hours in “church-type activities” (Bible studies, meetings, groups, etc.) as opposed to “serving the least of these.” Please don’t write these church activities off as unimportant! The church is to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12), much of which is accomplished through these activities. Just because a person is saved does not mean he automatically knows how to let his light shine (Matt. 5:16)—there is much to learn for everyone in the Christian life as long as he or she is alive!
Now, can churches become too self-centered? Of course they can! Can they spend too much on buildings, programs, and the like at the expense of helping the poor? Sure. (In fact, most of the excess money I see churches spending in today’s day and age is spent on temporal, tangible items designed to attract millennials to church—‘nuff said.) But I would ask that you not judge in this area based only on what you see. Studying the Bible yields the information that we are to first meet the needs of our families:
1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
and then of our Christian brothers and sisters:
Romans 12:10-13 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
(Note that when the Bible talks about “brothers” or “saints” it means your Christian brethren, and “one another” means Christian to Christian.)
There is a lot of helping the poor going on, at least in my church, but an “outsider” will never see it. (And that is Biblical; please see Matthew 6:1-4.) Why? A Christian who is in need will generally not advertise his need within the body (he may tell his church leadership of his need, and he certainly should express his need to God); his brother must get to know his church leadership and fellow church members well enough to either demonstrate a willingness to care for others’ needs or discern for himself when there may be a need. (This type of concern and how it is best handled is becoming rare in a society where we see “gofundme” pages on social media and people begging in the medians. 2 Thessalonians 3:10b says “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”)
Here are some ways that either my church, my church family, or my own family have participated in taking care of the poor: Money has been given for medical needs, cars have been purchased for others, education expenses have been taken care of, rides have been provided to those who have no transportation, meals have been provided, cash has been stuffed into people’s hands, clothing has been provided, living expenses have been covered (rent, electricity and the like), and I’m sure there are many others I know nothing about.
When your church has taken care of the family’s and its brothers’ needs, by all means, it should go to the world and take care of the needs it finds there as well; Christian individuals as well as churches should do this. (My church does this, too.) Ask any potential church you might join about how they help the poor–just because you don’t hear about their methods doesn’t mean it is not being done. By the way, I hope you also understand that no one can “fix” world poverty. That is why Jesus says in Mark 14:7a, “For you have the poor with you always.”
I hope this all makes sense to you. Most present-day churches you find do have Godly reasons for doing the things they do, but no church is perfect. Don’t summarily dismiss them if they don’t meet your standards, endeavor to find how they are meeting God’s standards! Please, let’s work together to accomplish any necessary change! I love you, and next I’ll address your concern that no one is listening to you!