A Question I Was Asked:
“Is It Really Biblical, or, The Godly Way, For Me To Give All My Tithes and Offerings To My Local Church? My Minister Has Said That Is Exactly What I Should Do!”
Oh dear, I really hate it when I cannot back up the authority of local churches or ministers, but when I started up this ministry (four years ago as I write this) I knew that I would always have to speak the truth as I saw it – based on my honest understanding of Holy Scripture - and I will continue to do so.
Time was when a Christian believer would live their entire Christian worship life by and through the physical and instituitional offices of their local church; that is still the way it is for some, perhaps for many; so - in other words: their entire Christian life will be wrapped up with and involved with their local pastor/minister and the congregation which meets in that particular place of worship. One cannot knock this since it appears to be the original God-ordained path which we find in the Book of Acts.
However, times have greatly changed - mainly in the following ways:
In the Book of Acts and the first few centuries of the Church there was just one form of 'Christianity', or, if you prefer, just one 'Christian Way' – there were no denominations for believers to have to worry about – believers were very fortunate indeed to find just one Christian meeting place within a hundred miles or so of where they lived. Of course, that remains the case in some parts of the world, but - for most of us – we will live in or near a town or city with anything from 5-25 different denominational meeting places - probably over a hundred if you happen to live in London or New York!! What are new believers to make of all this?
It was impossible for believers of the first few centuries of the church to be aware of anything other than their local Christian scene and they quite rightly fully supported that local scene – but we now live in an age of mass-communication and Globalisation, so modern Christians will be aware of Christian issues and Christian life all over this world. Many, for example, feel burdened to support groups like the Barnabas Fund which seeks to help and support persecuted Christians in numerous countries where persecution is severe. Some believers who would have poured what financial resources they may have had into their local congregations a hundred years ago now give such resources to Barnabas and similar Christian funds and charities which have a world-wide dimension!
Denominationalism encouraged believers to just show loyalty to their own denomination, and especially, to their own local congregation of that denomination. But many of us believe that the age of denominationalism is now just about dead. Bible-believing evangelicals are generally perfectly happy to work with similar evangelicals in several denominations (I consider this internet ministry which the Lord has apparently entrusted to me as non-denominational). I happen to believe that denominationalism was not all bad by any means but that it served in an age which is now probably passing.
So - bearing all the above in mind – I believe that it is now wholly unrealistic for local pastors/ministers to expect Christians to pour what resources which they may have available into just their local church! This is especially true where a particular local church may have done almost no evangelistic work of any note for the last 50 years!! In other cases, however, local churches are sometimes quite affluent and there is much “activity” (of sorts) but truthfully little is being achieved. There are also huge churches which have lamentably bought into the 'youth-based growth strategy' where there appear to be almost perpetual reminders about the need for member's giving to increase even well all the indications are that the church does not lack money but member's offerings are sometimes being spent unwisely.
Now, every Christian who is fully involved in a particular local congregation should certainly show a willingness to help financially support them but money should never be mentioned from the pulpit by the minister and an appeal to tithing is frankly outrageous!! In this day and age many Christians may well be actively involved in supporting several global-scope Christian works/charities and will have a little less to put in their local church offering – this should be accepted without questions or quibbles by the minister.
Now let me make this plain:
No local pastor/minister has any mandate before God or Jesus Christ to insist that an attending Christian should ONLY support their local church (and not also support another Christian work/works).
Neither has any pastor/minister any mandate before God or Jesus Christ to insist that such a person tithes (gives a tenth of their income to their local church).
We can be quite sure about the above matters because if these things were required the New Testament would have certainly made it clear.
For their part, Ministers should not continue to behave as though we were still in the middle of 19th century denominationalism which insisted on loyalty to the local church alone, rather, pastors should warmly encourage their members to be very aware of world-wide issues facing Christians and the Christian Gospel and should rejoice when their people feel impelled by conscience to support more global Christian endeavours – such as the Barnabas Fund.
Yet, to be frank, some ministers (especially older ones) still attempt to operate as if we were still in the heyday of denominationalism. About four years ago, for example, a man whom, I believe, was a deacon e-mailed me to say that this ministry of Museltof Countercult and Apologetics (UK Apologetics had not arrived then) has no authority if it was not set up by a local church. Well, I believe that that man had some authority in a small congregation of perhaps less than 40 people. That congregation has now probably gone but this internet ministry now has over 150,000 'hits' every year, and I receive regular e mails from people in all corners of the world telling me how much they are learning about the gospel through this ministry. These facts seem to tell me that while we were not set up by any local church the Holy Spirit Himself is illuminating and opening minds through us (of course, I don't claim only through us). This might indicate that the Lord has graciously 'opened a door' for us (biblically, the Lord 'opens a door' when He presents a window of opportunity or a clear pathway to preach the gospel which He will bless as long as such a group or church never compromises on biblical truth). Such 'doors' can open but also apparently close.
By the way, my article on tithing is HERE.
Robin A. Brace, 2005.