Support the Church
People have developed various theories regarding when the church actually “began.” However, most people agree that the church began in its truest and current form on the day of Pentecost as described in Acts 2. On that day, while the apostles were together in an upper room the Holy Spirit came upon them. From that very room, they went out to preach the gospel in Jerusalem. This resulted in 3,000 people believing the gospel for salvation. From that day on, many of the new believers gathered together to form a church in Jerusalem, which we read about in Acts 2:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.
These verses provide a basic description of three priorities that every church should exercise: teaching, fellowship, and prayer.
The author of Acts continues to describe what he witnessed in verses that follow.
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
You can see that early on (literally three verses into the church) that generosity becomes a theme of Christian faithfulness. This theme continues through the New Testament and throughout church history up to this very day.
Money and generosity are consistent themes throughout the Old Testament. God regularly challenges his people to be generous to others and generous in their offerings to him (Deuteronomy 15:7- 8, Psalm 112:5, Psalm 112:9, Proverbs 21:13, Proverbs 22:9, Proverbs 28:27, Malachi 3:10). During his earthly ministry, Jesus actually talked more about money than any other subject with the one exception being the Kingdom of God. He regularly challenges the coldness of his hearers’ hearts towards the needs of the poor, as well as their stinginess toward advancing the Kingdom (Matthew 6:24, Matthew 19:21, Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 12:41-44, Luke 14:28, Luke 16:13-15). Throughout Acts and the New Testament, we see a deep concern among churches for one another. We also see an urgency towards being generous about advancing the Kingdom of God (2 Corinthians 8:1-15, 2 Corinthians 9:7, Philippians 1:5, Hebrews 13:16). Even in Revelation, we see that Jesus condemns the church of Laodicea for the dependence on and confidence in their wealth (Revelation 3:17).
There is so much in the Bible about money and generosity that there is no way that it could be completely summarized by one field guide. However, as we have already seen from the references above, generosity is a priority for the church and we want to give you three practical things to consider as you prayerfully pursue kingdom-focused generosity in your life.
3 Practical Steps Towards Generosity
1. Be Generous for Yourself
Matthew 6:19-21 is a fascinating passage of scripture. In that passage, Jesus says the following:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
You would expect Jesus to say something like, “where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.” However, he actually says the opposite. He actually says, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be.” It is as if Jesus is saying that if you want to have a heart for the Lord, then you need to be invested with the Lord. If you want your heart to be in line with the things of God, then you must get your treasure in line with the things of God.
2. Be Generous for Your Church
As mentioned, just a few verses into the existence of the church, people within the church were being generous towards one another. One of the most striking passages about the early church is found in Acts 4:33-35:
And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
There was not a needy person within this early church account. Isn’t that incredible? The church was so concerned with the needs of one another that they worked to fully meet one another’s needs. Today, we should still be concerned with one another’s physical needs and certainly continue to work together faithfully to meet one another’s physical needs when they arise. However, we should work together to meet one another’s spiritual needs, even more so!
As members bring resources to the church those resources are distributed in various ways. Some are used to hire a pastoral staff who work to care for the congregation and serve to meet their spiritual needs. For example, our Children’s Ministry staff is working to meet the spiritual needs of our children as they partner with parents to help shepherd our kids. Also, our Biblical Counseling Center stays full of men and women with acute spiritual needs, and it’s such a blessing and means of grace in their lives that our church has a resource that can address those needs. Other resources are used for facilities like the Collective and leasing worship space. These facilities give us a place for worship, host Bible studies, hold meetings, as well as connect with the community at large. Other resources are used for specific church ministries that are directed at meeting the spiritual needs inside and outside of the church family. Lastly, resources are deployed for the global mission of the church. By joining together, we can work to support various ministries in our city and to advance the work of Christ around the world.
3. Be Generous for the Mission of God
As we just mentioned, one of the motivations for giving is to see the mission of God advanced outside of our church. Jesus has given us the most urgent and world-changing command in all of history - to make disciples of all nations. The responsibility for people coming to know and follow Jesus, who is the only hope of salvation, has been given to the church. We all must feel the enormous weight of this global calling given to us by our Savior. God being known, worshipped, and glorified, as well as the eternal destiny of billions of souls hangs in the balances of Christians faithfully going and giving to advance the Great Commission. The Great Commission is great in the fact that it is an amazing task, but it is also great because it is a massive task. God has called us to make disciples of every nation, and that takes a lot of resources. Effectively training pastors, planting churches, and sending missionaries is expensive, but if we want to see the Kingdom of Christ advanced, we must be generous as individuals and generous as a church.
If you are just getting started in Kingdom generosity or if you have been giving to the church for a long time, there are two important passages worth meditating on regularly when thinking through why and how you should support the church.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
2 Corinthians 8:9
If the reasons above aren’t motivating enough to move you toward greater generosity, then listen carefully to what Paul is saying here in 2 Corinthians - that ulti- mately we give because God has given so much to us in Christ. Jesus who was rich became poor so that we could be rich in him. Jesus wasn’t just rich; he was the Lord of the entire cosmos. Everything was his and he was the Lord over everything. Yet, he willingly gave up everything to become like us. The Lord of all became a pauper for all.
Jesus didn’t just become physically poor. He was physically poor in his life, but on the cross he became spiritually poor in his death. He took on all of our sin and became the object of God’s wrath. The debt of our sinfulness that we could never repay was placed on the very Son of God on the cross. In other words, the richest became the poorest so that we who are poor before an almighty God might become rich, being called his sons, daughters, and heirs to his worth and glory. If we believe this is true, it should motivate a radical Kingdom generosity in all of us who know God in Christ.
As we see in the above text, Paul urges the Corinthian church to give in light of the gospel, but he also teaches them how they should give in 2 Corinthians 9.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:7
There are three principles for giving that can be drawn from this passage.
1. Your Giving Should be Structured & Planned
Faithful Christian giving is not something that you do on a whim, rather, it is something that you budget for like any other financial obligation in your life. We encourage each member to pray and think about what he or she is to give when joining the church. This plan should consider times throughout the year when you get a raise or bonus and should be reevaluated at least once per year. It’s good to set spiritual goals at least once a year, and giving to the Kingdom of God should be one of these goals. Many members try to increase their giving by a percent or half a percent every year resulting in more and more resources deployed to see God’s Kingdom grow as he continues to provide. Some Christian churches make a big deal out of tithing (giving 10% of your income to your local church). At Christ Covenant, we see that while the tithe is a good principle and that it typically represents a generous gift for many people. However, we can also see in the New Testament that Christians would often generously give beyond a tithe to advance the work of Christ.
2. Your Giving Should be Consistent & Obedient
Once you have created a plan it is important, of course, to follow the plan. The best advice on this is to make your giving habitual and regular. While you can give by check in the offering basket that we pass each week, the easiest and most efficient way to give is by setting up a direct draft online. You can set up a regular gift and give additional one-time offerings as the Lord leads by visiting www.christcovenant.com. While one-time and end-of-year gifts are great tools for generosity, the practice of giving regular weekly or monthly gifts is a great discipline to develop. Think about it in the same way that you would save money. If you try to just save money once or twice a year, you will never save very much. The best way to save is to make savings a regular (usually monthly) part of your financial plan.
3. Your Giving Should be a Joyful Priority
While giving might certainly be a discipline, for those of us in Christ it should be a joyful discipline. We are giving to advance a never-ending Kingdom of truth, righteousness, and joy. We are giving to advance the only part of our lives that is truly eternal. A walk through any of our basements or attics will reveal a number of things that we probably regret buying, but have you ever regretted investing in the Kingdom? As Jesus tells us, what we give yields for us an eternal return.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:19-20
God has given us a huge responsibility to take ownership of his Kingdom work on earth. We pray that this guide helps you to join in with what God is doing at Christ Covenant and throughout the world. We also pray that this guide will move you to place your treasure in the Kingdom and by doing so that your heart would love God more deeply. If you ever have any questions about how money is used at the church, interested in learning creative ways to give, or anything else pertaining to finances and the Christian life, our pastors would love to talk. Also, please plan to attend our quarterly member meetings where we decide how to use the resources that God is providing our church, together. Finally, join the members of Christ Covenant in Kingdom generosity as we collectively pursue the pleasure and glory of God.