Your Church’s Budget–And Why It May Grieve the Lord


Jesus or Money?I was thinking about how churches spend their money. Given all the verses in the Bible on finances and the sheer number of Christians who ascribe to Dave Ramsay’s philosophies, one would think we Christians in America would have this money thing down pat.

One would think.

But what would happen if we were to scrap the way we think about church budgets and adopt something more aligned to what the Bible says?

I could list a thousand verses on money in this post, but you already know them, right? We all know them. We just don’t adhere to them very well.

Here is what I’m thinking:

First, let’s take church staff salaries off the table for now. This is a baby-step process I’m advocating, and it’s no use angering anyone by suggesting we reevaluate staff costs now. Maybe when we’re more mature in the Lord. 😉

Take the church budget and set salaries aside. Now take all the money leftover and split it into two equal piles: Inreach and Outreach.

The Bible states that we must take care of the needs of the brethren. That’s our Inreach. In truth, staff salaries should be part of Inreach, but we’ve got them excluded for now. Inreach covers the church physical plant, programs, and benevolences given to church members who need financial assistance.

The Bible states that we then take care of those outside the church. That’s our Outreach. Missions, connecting with lost people, and benevolences for the needy outside the church community comprise Outreach.

And that’s your basic church budget. I think that’s a Kingdom-minded approach, don’t you?

Now how many churches out there work that way?

I would suggest that Inreach and staff salaries dominate most church budgets. But there is a HUGE “however”: Inreach as allocated in too many churches leaves almost no money for benevolences given to church members. In fact, benevolences monies, whether for Inreach or Outreach, are often the smallest pool of cash in the church budget.

So much for “Give and it shall be given to you.”

As much as we talk about being others-centric in the American Church, our church budgets don’t reflect this. We really are too self-centered. For many churches, the Great Commission is thwarted by building and physical plant maintenance costs. When a church allocates little money for outsiders, it grows into itself and withers.

If you are a church leader, consider a different way of budgeting that better reflects the Kingdom of God. If it means not erecting a $10 million building so you can use those funds to finance the education of single moms in your community instead, then cancel the groundbreaking ceremony. If it means a Sunday School teacher who has been out of work gets to keep his house because you set aside monies for this kind of help, then go for it.

We live in disconcerting times. If we don’t adjust the way the Church spends money, we won’t be the first choice when lost people come looking for answers. The Church will look like any other worldly, tightfisted corporate entity, and no one is running to Megabiz Inc. for salvation.

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?

The Hell Birds


On Friday, I attended a Bible study led by a friend who comments here from time to time. This friend knows the Scriptures because he dedicates himself not just to reading but to comprehending all their rich meaning.

The text covered Genesis 15. This section caught my attention:

And [the LORD] brought [Abram] outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. And he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
—Genesis 15:5-11

The Holy Spirit spoke to me powerfully while reading this, the kind of kick in the head,  “sit up and pay attention, son” shaking that led me to understand that if no one commented on the part of the passage that drew my attention, then I had to—or else I’d explode. That’s how it felt.

Fortunately, my friend ably covered the topic for me.

In this classic passage that all of us know, God makes a covenant with Abram concerning an heir and the numberless nature of the man’s descendents. Abram believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. So God makes a covenant with Abram, tells him how the necessary covenantal sacrifice must be prepared, and Abram obeys.

Then something happens to the offering:

And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

That passage gripped me.

Here was Abram in the midst of this most important covenant with God. He’d been obedient and done what God asked. He carried out the task of butchering the sacrifice as he’d been told.

'The Crow' by KessiyeAnd the birds of prey descended to snatch away his offering to God, threatening the blessing.

In Leviticus 11:13-19, God pronounces these same birds unclean.  In this passage of Genesis they do not serve the function of God, but they serve another master. They are the hell birds.

In the midst of Abram’s faithful response to God, the hell birds descended to wreak havoc. They smelled the sacrifice from afar and came winging in.

So it is that all of our faithful responses to God’s requirements of us attract the wrong kind of attention. Much truth exists in the old aphorism, “No good deed goes unpunished.” The Enemy opposes by his nature, and so he must oppose the saints when they obey God.

Expect it.

The Enemy will attack any work that advances the cause of God. The Enemy will attack any person who responds to God in obedience. This explains why a child acts up and distracts us at the most inopportune time in the midst of ministry. Why the car won’t start right as we are going to visit prisoners in jail. Why we get sick on the day we are to share our testimony with others. Why people who live simply so they can give their money to the needy end up hit with a massive, unforeseen expense they cannot pay.

I’m old enough to have seen this routinely in my life. I have shared my conclusion on this before, but it bears repeating:

If you are not experiencing active and relentless opposition from the Enemy in your life, you’re probably ineffective for the Kingdom of God. The hell birds don’t come a-swarming without a worthy offering to rend and devour.

Abram chased them away from his offering.

How are we to do the same when faced with the hell birds?

Satan has no authority over the believer. Christians have been rescued from His dominion, translated from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light.

Too many believers let the Enemy rend and savage their offering because they do not stand on the authority granted them at the cross by Christ.

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
—Revelation 12:10-11

Some Christians don’t even try to resist. They perpetually let the hell birds descend and make off with the blessing. Then they fall into a series of excuses, which leads to perpetual defeat.

But Abram chased off the forces of evil that threatened the covenant.

Don’t let the hell birds rob you! Do everything possible to stand on your authority as a believer, as one who is no longer under the thumb of the Enemy. Claim what Christ bought for you. Stand on the Lord’s promises. Fight back. He gave you the weapons:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints….
—Ephesians 6:10-18

I like that last line because it calls each of us into a community where you watch my back and I watch yours. Abram may have had to drive off the hell birds alone, but the Church exists to do so together. Band together, saints! God has given you everything needed to drive off the hell birds. Start doing so!