I often wonder where people assume the church gets funding from. I’ve heard unchurched people ignorantly say things like, “Why don’t all those churches take care of [insert issue here]?”
Churches are not magical entities loaded with goods and finances to clean up the messes of others on a whim. Sure, it would be fantastic if churches all over were able to stand up and be able to help with issues in the community. But the awful truth is that many churches struggle to make their own ends meet because even people in the church see it as the all-powerful organisation that doesn’t need help.
Our church, since we bought our building nearly five years ago, has learned a lot about ownership and stewardship. We get questions like, why aren’t we doing this? or why don’t we just pay someone to do that? My response is usually, who do you think is going to do it or who do you think is going to pay for it? And their response is usually one of confusion while they may or may not come to the realisation that the church’s finances are not infinite and that we must be good stewards of what we do have. While it would be great to be able to hire someone to do all the work, when funds are tight, if we can do it ourselves, we do.
Let’s go back and take a look at the first church building project.
Back in Exodus, Israel has escaped four centuries of slavery in Egypt only to find themselves adrift in the wilderness. But they’re okay. God is with them. In fact, He’s going to camp out with them. But He needs a tent. And He’s very specific about His tent. God gives Moses a seemingly impossible list of required items as well as how to make them and put them together. It’s a massive project.
I can relate to Israel here. We have a 35,000 square foot building constructed in bits and pieces between the 1940’s and 1970’s that has never been fully renovated. We have an average weekly attendance around 65. Big, impossible project.
Let’s take a look at some of the final tallies for Israel, shall we?
- Gold: 2,200 pounds
- Silver: 7,545 pounds
- Bronze: 5,310 pounds
In addition to the staggering amounts of precious metals, also required was acacia wood—enough for the furniture and all support beams and poles, yards and yards fine spun and woven linen for the tent itself as well as the priest’s garments (I’m a spinner and a weaver—this is a HUGE project), leather enough for the entire roof, and the list goes on.
All but the silver—which came by way of a census tax—were gifts. Yup. Gifts. One of the pastors in our movement says, “If it’s not free, it’s not God.” It’s my understanding that his ministry has never had to pay for a building yet.
All of this is to ask a simple question: what do you bring? When the church has need, how do you fill it? Out of your overflow or out of your own need? Do you give just enough or, like Israel, give more than enough. How much would it take for your pastor to have to tell you to stop giving?
Daily Bible reading: Exodus 37-38, Matthew 23:23-39