Ministering Money the New Testament Way


The other day, I mentioned a post about Ted Haggard and his return to the role of pastor. Regardless of what one might think of Haggard, his church offers some interesting takes on standard church practice.

Here’s the section in that post that grabbed me most:

Ted instructed everyone to take out an offering, not their tithes, but an offering. Then when everyone had it [in] hand, he further instructed that we share our offering with someone in attendance as we felt led of the Lord.

The purity of that action speaks volumes:

1. Money isn’t automatically designated for the leaders or for the church grounds or functions.

2. Giving is focused on the needs of the church body as individuals.

3. The Holy Spirit is given free rein to direct the actions of church members.

Right now, I’m sure people in your church and mine need just that kind of practice of giving, yet how rare it is to see such a true-life example!

Be a futurist for a second: What do you think would be the end result, good or bad, of churches in America ministering money in this manner?

13 thoughts on “Ministering Money the New Testament Way

  1. Interesting concept. The book of Acts refers to people bringing in money to lay at the Apostles’ feet, meaning that there is some oversight involved. I think it’s wonderful that people would share as they saw a need, but many people have needs that aren’t known. Of course the Holy Spirit can guide a giver to a recipient. But the means of distribution is through the church. If they (the elders and deacons) misuse it, God will judge them harsher for it.

    So it’s good to encourage the people to help those who need it, but the elders and deacons need to be utilized in their ordained roles as well. A healthy mix may be the answer.

      • Vince

        Doug, there is ONE passage in the Book of Acts that refers to ONE incident of leadership “oversight” in the giving of resources, and a few other miscellaneous passages in the NT that do likewise. But there are NO words in the NT that dictate this as any kind of rule or law, nor is there anything in the Word that says that the “means of distribution” is to be ONLY through the church or its “official leaders.” The overwhelming majority of related NT scriptures simply implore believers to share their blessings and look out for the needs of their brethren, with no mention of “oversight” or other clergy-restricted channels whatsoever. And nothing about “tithing to the church” either, by the way.

  2. Paul Walton

    To be honest I didn’t see the connection in the original post between the article about Haggard’s church, and “church” being for believers only. But that is most likely my own dullness.

    By the way I think unbelievers should be encouraged to attend a church meeting, I don’t see anything in the NT saying they should not be, in fact I think the idea is dead wrong not to invite them. Though I think I would invite an unbeliever to coffee, or over to my home first so we could hash out any questions they may have before attending a meeting.

    But to answer your question, is what Haggard’s church doing concerning sharing the offering a good idea, I think it is a great idea. I hope his repentance is genuine, my question is does he have a group of elders he is accountable too. If not I would stay away from his church, no man is an island especially a pastor who has shown himself to be very weak in the flesh.

    • Paul,

      Again, I believe this is a “the good is the enemy of the best” issue. I don’t see a contemporary seeker-sensitive model in the Bible. I don’t see the early Church inviting unbelievers into their assembly. I see them going out, making converts, then bringing those converts into the assembly.

      We rely too much on our leaders to do the “heavy lifting” when we should be doing it ourselves. Doing an end-run around the responsibility of doing evangelism ourselves creates all sorts of maturity and discipleship problems that explain a good chunk of the problems Evangelicalism faces in America 2010. The model is broken, and I think part of that break is due to the flawed way we do evangelism.

      I agree that Haggard’s church’s idea for giving is great, though I think it may need to be tempered now and then so that certain less glamorous needs get met. (“Hey, we’ve got no money to buy toilet paper for the bathrooms!”) I think the model of giving displayed reinforces the need for us to learn to hear God and to look for what He is doing. Jesus’ statement that He only does what He sees the Father doing is a reality too few of us personalize. I think if we took that more to heart, the Church in this country would be transformed. Instead, we tend to see a hole and think God wants it filled rather than watching to see if He is starting to fill it Himself so that we can join in.

      • Paul Walton

        I would suggest that even believers shouldn’t attend a church where the word of God is not preached unabashedly. The “best” is the gospel being preached to those who are dying, and facing eternal judgment.

        • Paul Walton

          One other thought Dan who are we to decide whom is truly trusting Jesus as Lord, savior and treasure. I think we talking about two different issues, I think your main concern is with present day evangelism, and how most Christians leave it to their pastor to share the gospel. Inviting unbelievers to meeting is very scriptural where in the NT do you read we shouldn’t invite unbelievers to meetings?

          Like I said I would spend time with a “seeker” before inviting them to church. But the gospel is for those who are perishing, I think you are off on this one in my opinion

          • Paul wrote: “Inviting unbelievers to meeting is very scriptural where in the NT do you read we shouldn’t invite unbelievers to meetings?”

            I guess I would first reverse that question and ask where in the Scriptures the early Church actively invited the lost into church meetings so as to convert them.

            Here’s the pattern I see in just five short examples:

            1. Jesus sent out the 72 to meet people in their homes and town centers.

            2. Jesus ministered to people in their homes and in public gathering places.

            3. In Acts, note the following:
            * In Acts 2:42-47, it is believers only who are referenced and who meet together in each others’ homes.
            * Paul evangelized the philosophers in their gathering place.
            * Peter evangelized Cornelius’ family at the family home.
            * Phillip evangelized the eunuch outdoors.
            * Many evangelized the Jews at their synagogues.
            And on and on.

            4. The word “go” in the Great Commission is best translated as “as you go,” “while you are going,” or “when you go,” which again puts the emphasis on being sent out to meet people where they are, not bringing them in to be where we believers are.

            5. We know Paul’s letters were read to the assembled believers, or as he often notes, to “the Church….” His epistles are clearly targeted to believers and not to unbelievers. In fact, at no point that I can recall does Paul make points directed at unbelievers in the assembly who may end up hearing his letter read.

            The pattern of evangelism is to go out, evangelize, then bring in those who believe. We are to meet the lost on their home turf rather than attempting to bring them into ours.

        • Paul,

          No doubt.

          But I also know that many Christians, particularly those within certain faith traditions or denominations, never hear anything from the pulpit but a salvation invitation. In the minds of those preachers, I’m sure they are convinced they are preaching the Gospel. But the Gospel, as you well know, is so much more than a “repent, believe, go to heaven” message. Yet some people never hear that “much more” part. I know this because I get emails from those folks.

  3. Interesting. This makes the assumption that people will bring a tithe for the church and on top of that an offering. Anyone who has not done so will feel glaringly unholy while everyone is else is whipping out his or her “offering.” Plus, I see opportunity for a lot of subtle grandstanding here–I wish the same giving could be accomplished “in secret.”

    • Bob,

      I’m not sure if a tithe was implied, just an offering. If just an offering, that’s pretty radical, at least compared with a few churches out there.

      I am not a tither but a believer that needs are to be met when they arise. Our church had a simple need this week and I met it. That I did it personally rather than dumping some money into a tray for someone else to deal with personalizes my involvement and builds a connection. Plus, I can see and experience the result of my giving.

      I agree that grandstanding may happen with the immature. But it seemed to me that going with an idea that one person meets another person’s need takes away some of that public grandstanding. If I know that Steve can’t pay his recent medical bill, I can simply go to him and give him my offering one-to-one. This takes away some of the public element of standing up in front of everyone while an elder pats me on the back and declares to the assembled that that I am giving Steve money.

      That said, I think secret giving is great, too, especially if the need is well known. But I also think we need to leave room for the Spirit to lead as He will in the midst of our assembly—and that is certainly less well planned (or even known beforehand).

  4. Ted is right on target here (did I just type that?). I think that if more churches followed a “widows and orphans first” philosophy there would be a lot less worry over buildings, salaries and sound equipment. Why? Because wallets would crack open at the sight.

  5. DC

    “The pattern of evangelism is to go out, evangelize, then bring in those who believe. We are to meet the lost on their home turf rather than attempting to bring them into ours.”

    We are uncomfortable on their home turf so we use the homefield advantage to gain some sort of ‘upper hand’ if you will. We’re afraid to go out for fear of what we may find there.

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