Is it just me or is it a real irritant when we hear preachers begging for money. OK, it is really irritating when I hear preachers or church leaders begging for money in order to accomplish some pet project for a local church. When my wife and I drive home after church service on Sunday mornings, one of the local Christian radio stations airs the service of a local seeker church and for three consecutive Sundays, as I listened, this pastor found different ways to turn a sermon into a way to ask for money so they could absorb a church, which is approximately a hundred miles away, into their church satellite system. There are already five churches in this system and it is unique in the way he went about asking, then putting them on a guilt trip, to get them to give. This is a church which has recently asked the first three churches to give approximately $18 million to support the buildings and other expenses of adding churches 4 and 5 into the system. It just amazed me how he was able to twist what he was saying from scripture and his sermon into a way of putting these people on a guilt trip and playing on their emotions to get them to financially support bringing in church #6. Is this right? Should a pastor play on the emotions of those in attendance in order to get them to give? If the Lord has told a ministry to start another church or fellowship in another area that needs it, shouldn’t there be faith in the Lord that He will provide for the needs and also the finances? I have been in the Calvary Chapel movement for almost 30 years and I have yet to hear a pastor stand in front of a congregation and beg for money. I’m not saying it has never happened but I have never witnessed it and I have been in a number of Calvary Chapel churches over the years. Over the span of those years, there have been hundreds of Calvary Chapels planted around the world and the Lord has always provided for the needs of those doing the work. I, personally, was involved in moving from southern California to Pennsylvania in order to start a Calvary and I was never lacking anything I needed and I never had to beg for money or do fund raisers or any other activity to provide for our needs. There is an old saying, “Where God guides, He provides.” I firmly believe that because I have witnessed it.
I have been in a denominational church which used a scheme known as pledging to raise money for a building project. This particular church brought in a special speaker to pump up and hype those in attendance to commit to donating certain amounts of money toward the project over a certain period of time. Then, the pastor and church leaders would hold you accountable to keep your pledge; it was a sorry sight to see. People I knew, who could not not commit to the sums they pledged, were running down to one of the tables set up in the two front corners of the sanctuary. It was like a fever spreading throughout the crowd and I sat and took it all in. I have heard the stories of local churches working their congregations into a frenzy over the need to give for different projects. Some of these churches even went as far as to convince some to take out second mortgages on their homes and give it to the church for the project. Amazing! How could those pastors and church leaders sleep at night? I think the following quote from Chuck Smith adds a lot of common sense to this issue,
“We don’t get involved in a lot of spiritual hype. We don’t try to motivate people carnally, and we aren’t apt to shout at the congregation. I believe this stems from our belief and trust in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. We are of the belief that if the Lord doesn’t build the house, they labor in vain who build it, so all of our hype and pressure aren’t really going to do the job. We simply trust in the work of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ who is building His Church as He said He would.” Chuck Smith, Calvary Chapel Distinctives, The Word For Today Publishers, 2000 p37
You can do the research and find the number of church plants Calvary Chapel has done over the years and know that it was all based on the leading and providing of the Holy Spirit. Calvary Chapel is not the only movement which operates in this manner, it is simply the one I am most familiar with. Denominations all have a distinct ways of planting churches and providing for those involved and many never beg and ask and hype their people into giving monies which they don’t have.
I don’t recall the apostle Paul begging for money as he traveled where the Holy Spirit led him. As a matter of fact, he earned his own keep as a tent maker and was proud that he didn’t need to take money to preach the gospel,
In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it.Yet I have never used any of these rights. And I am not writing this to suggest that I want to start now. In fact, I would rather die than lose my right to boast about preaching without charge. 1 Cor 9:14-15 NLT www.biblegateway.com
Can you imagine Paul coming into town and telling the locals that he is there to share a new religion with them; it has been a mystery for ages, but now God has sent him out to tell the gentile world about it and he needs a vast amount of money to accomplish the work. He goes about the task of providing the hype as Timothy and Silas begin to take the pledges from the locals. The crowds are told that he cannot accomplish this mission without their support and how a great many people are going to be saved from the hell fires and they can share in the rewards by knowing their donations and gifts helped Paul preach and deliver this message to the masses. We all know it never happened that way and Paul, being led by the Spirit, would have never allowed it to happen. Paul did encourage the churches he planted and revisited to help the church in Jerusalem through a tough financial time but also told them to give only what they could afford (2 Cor. 8:11). Any time I was in a position of spiritual leadership, I always encouraged the people to be very careful about discussing church monies or finances around non-believers. People who are not Christians have the idea the Church only wants you to come in so it can get as much money out of your pocket as possible. And the truth is, they believe this because they hear these pastors who preach prosperity or they hear the begging for money and they believe the entire Church operates this way.
The tithes and offerings in the local church should be utilized to pay the bills and to establish savings for certain projects. There will be times when the local church needs, again I say needs, to add on, make major repairs or purchase bigger properties and this should all be done through a process of prayer and waiting for the leading of the Spirit. Then a decision should be made about how to finance it. I have never been taught by the Lord or any ministry leader to put a direct burden on the people by twisting arms and putting them on guilt trips in order to squeeze money out of them. Are you in a church which is always using a scheme to pressure the people for money? You should pray about where the Lord would have you.
Man Inspired Writings or The Bible
Over the past 20 years and probably more, there have been a number of books which flooded the Church concerning various Christian or Church related topics. That is fine within its self but, the problem lies in the fact that too many Christians spend more time reading these man inspired books than the Bible. When Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven everything books were published, the Christian world went crazy over them. These books inspired an entire seeker movement within the Church. This is not really a bad thing if all you are interested in is planting churches and putting people in the seats; there were some of these churches which did not entertain solid foundational Bible teaching but they had hundreds and thousands of people every Sunday morning. These Purpose Driven books, 40 Days of Purpose to be exact, replaced the Bible in a lot of churches on Sunday mornings; I remember driving past many churches on Sunday mornings and seeing this book promoted as the Sunday morning topic. A number of Christians told me how their church was studying through this book on Sunday mornings. Some churches did it for the mid-week service; regardless which service it was, it was replacing the teaching from the Bible. But, I guess I could ask, “Was there ever a teaching from the Bible in those services before?” That is probably an unfair question since I don’t know and it is unfair to assume or ask that question. There is nothing that can replace the word of God and one of the reasons for gathering for worship is to study God’s word. To replace it with anything else is lacking appropriate Spiritual leadership. I know there are those who will argue that it consisted of scripture quotes and therefore scripture was included in these services but, in the overall context of the book, it was produced by man.
Another book which the Church went bonkers over was “The Prayer of Jabez.” This book written and based on one short verse,
And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested. 1 Chronicles 4:10 NKJV
This is a great verse; it provides encouragement and teaches us to seek the Lord’s blessings and to ask Him for what we need. But there are many other passages of the Bible which tell us that we should be asking according to His will and not expecting Him to provide for all our wants. He provides for our needs; Matthew 6 tells us He will provide for our needs and in verse 33 of that chapter, Jesus tells us to first seek His kingdom and then He will provide for our needs. If we are seeking first His kingdom then our hearts are aligned with His will and we will not be asking for winning lottery tickets and inside trader information to increase our portfolios. This book is a prosperity teaching; Bruce Wilkinson took this one verse and turned it into a design on how to get whatever you want from the Lord. Actually, I was surprised when I read through this book, since I had read some other material from Wilkinson and found those writings to be fairly sound. This book spread through the Church like fire doused with gasoline and again Christians were putting more emphasis on it than the Bible. They were also depending on this book to provide the key which would provide the answers to all of their prayers.
Millions have joined his quest. Many have testified to miraculous answers which demonstrate God’s love, mercy and intervention on behalf of those who seek Him. But these amazing interventions and anecdotal stories don’t prove that God “always answers” this specific prayer. Nor do they verify that this Old Testament prayer by itself “contains the key” to extraordinary favor with God.
It is hard to see how anyone could conclude that Jabez’ prayer “works” better than the prayers of Moses, David, Elijah and Paul — men used by God to liberate His people, slay giants, restore life to a dead boy and bring sight to the blind. The “miraculous power of God” demonstrated through their lives came, not because of the words they uttered, but because they had consecrated their lives to God, humbled themselves before Him, trusted in His provision for sin, and chose to seek and do His will with all their heart and without compromise.
This quote provides an example of how some Christians used this book instead of the Bible to guide them in the search for answers to their prayers. There are other books which have swept through the Church with grand popularity. The Shack, The Secret and most recently, the Harbinger. The Shack has some problems,
Many others have pointed out the theological errors they find in the book. They fault Young’s view of revelation and the Bible, his presentation of God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ death and the meaning of reconciliation, and the subversion of institutions that God has ordered, such as the government and the local church. But the common thread tying all these errors together is Christian universalism. A study of the history of universal reconciliation, which goes back to as early as the third century, shows that all of these doctrinal deviations, including opposition to the local church, are characteristic of universalism. In modern times, it has undermined evangelical faith in Europe and America. It has joined with Unitarianism to form the Unitarian-Universalist church. www.thebereancall.org
The Harbinger most recently had great success within the Church, grabbing the attention of those who believed it was truly describing a prophetic meaning of the 911 attacks. This book was promoted by specific prophetic publications and web sites. It grabbed the attention of many Christians who believed the Isaiah 9:10 prophecy was accurately depicted in this book. But, there were many who questioned the accuracy of this book and many began to do the research and many found it to be lacking in a sense of true prophetic accuracy.
However, because of serious flaws throughout the book, the potential dangers may well outweigh the benefits. Many of the author’s views and ideas as presented in The Harbinger are misguided, having both significant exegetical and theological problems. Additionally, the book could well leave its readers with serious misunderstandings about how to appropriately interpret and apply the Word of God. Not only does The Harbinger fail to reveal a mystery in Isaiah:9:10, but in spite of the much-needed call to repentance, the book presents a danger to believers and unbelievers alike.
Serious misunderstandings about properly interpreting scripture is the phrase that stands out in this quote. There are simply too many Christians who don’t take the time to do the proper study of the Bible. They will read a book like this, take what they read as being absolute truth and never take the time to do a diligent study of the verse or passage which was used in the writing. We have to be Bereans and know how to study and interpret God’s word. We cannot just take the word of any man who decides to write a book and use scripture as its basis and in this case one single, out of context scripture.
Invite to Church or Tell Them About Jesus
The last item I want to talk about is how some Christians will invite a non-believer to Church but never tell that person about Jesus. I’m not saying don’t invite a non-believer to Church, I’m saying we need to tell them about Jesus more than anything. If we have the attention of someone who is not saved, then we need to tell them about Jesus and His death on the cross for us. We need to give them the opportunity to get saved, know Jesus as their Lord and savior. If we can be successful in getting that individual into Church, there is no guarantee he/she will get saved while they are there. Many Christians think it is the responsibility of the pastor or one of the other spiritual leaders to “get people saved.” The pastor is not the only Christian who can tell people about Jesus. We are responsible to be witnesses to the world (Acts 1:8). I have observed Christians doing this and they are pretty good at how they approach the individual. They have said something to this effect, “I have to apologize to you,” and the other person naturally wants to know why and they continue, “Because I haven’t invited you to Church.” At that point in the conversation the individual usually replies by telling the Christian it is OK because they would never go to church anyway. Others have simply walked up and invited them to come to their church. I’m not going to say a person won’t go into a church on Sunday morning after being invited and not get saved. It is all in God’s hands. The fact is, the cold hard fact, people who are not saved don’t feel comfortable in church! Unsaved men are the hardest to get into church; they are macho and believe that it is for women and kids. In California, during the NFL season, the early games start at 10 AM Pacific time; there was no way I was going to get some guy into a church pew on a Sunday morning while he was missing the Raider game!! But, I could talk to him about Jesus while we were at work or playing ball or somewhere else. Talking to people about Jesus is really easy; most people, particularly if they know you, will listen. I have approached people I didn’t even know and would simply ask them if I could talk to them and then tell them about Jesus. It is amazing how many will listen. They don’t all get saved but I had the opportunity to plant the seeds. If it is someone you know, just waiting for Jesus to open the door and then talking to them about the Lord on a continual basis will allow the Holy Spirit to soften that person’s heart for salvation. Then you invite him/her to church.
There is no set formula for how to tell people about Jesus; where, when and how you tell them. If you really believe the Lord is telling you to invite someone to church or Bible study, then do it. We should always be in prayer for the people we know who are not saved and ask Jesus how to approach them. Jesus know hearts, not just Christian hearts, but all hearts. He knows what is the best way to reach any particular person and most of the time it is not a cold invitation to church but it might be you telling them what Jesus did for you. Tell them about Jesus, invite them to be saved and then invite them to church. Trust in Jesus, He will lead the way.