Is Tithing Good Stewardship?

07May08

Ok, I’ve been thinking about this a lot so I’m just gonna write about it. The Church in the US has a HUGE problem. We’re the same as our culture – we no different. We’re just as worried, angry, unsure, unhappy, sinful, selfish as non-Christians. We have all this money and we’re doing very little to help those around us.

BUT, we do have some big, impressive buildings. And we have lots of paid staff, and lights, and equipment. Well, I’ve interned at a mega-church and I’ve worked closely with church staff, and I’ve help run a young adult ministry. I feel like our investment in buildings, staff, equipment is not 1) what Jesus intended 2) the best way to do it 3) getting the job done.

Therefore, I feel like we need to adjust the budget. I feel like we need to re-direct God’s resources to help “the orphan and the widow” around us. This, I think, will be a greater evangelism tool than having rock music and comfortable chairs and smart lights – it’s more authentic and requires more love, and shows people that we care.

I have several reasons for this, which I’ll list here:

1) with all this money we have, we’re not doing enough to help people. I think that’s what Jesus would have us do, not build pretty buildings with cool stuff that not’s really changing people much.
a) “but where will me meet!? That’s ridiculous and impractical” you say.
– the early Church met in homes, they seemed to do well. Can we not meet outside? Or in a gym? or at a park? Do we really need to spend gobs and gobs of money to support a building/lights/hvac/staff/programs – willow has showed that programs aren’t really getting the job done.
b) “you can’t meet 5,000 in homes, impossible, plus heresies will come up”
– you can if you do what you’re supposed to do and raise up leaders to lead the home meetings. The Church is a BODY and was never meant to be taught by 1 or 2 guys. Nor is it even possible to have community with 5,000 ppl, nor do sermons for 5,000 ppl really work. Can’t we meet in houses and get together once a quarter somewhere? Heresies, yes, I’m worried about this. But, dude, like I challenge you to get 10 pastors in a room and get them to agree on anything. That’s been the most frustrating part of my journey – having different pastors and books say contradictary things all the time.

2) Christianity is profaned b/c we are bad examples. We’ve built a subculture, but in matters other than smoking, drinking, cussing, sex before marriage, we’re the same. We’re not especially loving or compassionate. What if we were all free to use our tithe to help our struggling neighbors, or help with aid oversees. I think non-Christians would, then, more likely see a difference in us, then more likely think better of us, then more likely be open to the gospel, and more likely get saved. (although I think the ultimate problem we have is we’re not loving like Jesus said to be – still, I think this would help).
c) “But the Church already does this” – not as much as it could. We’re wasting Jesus’ money on flashy presentation and comfortable buildings, this is not what He has in mind. Even if “a church” is already doing this, I don’t think it has as much effect as if individual Christians were empowered to use their money to help people they have relationships with. When a church does something, well that’s alright. The poor person may be somewhat grateful to the institution, or maybe the expect it. When an individual gives you $500 to pay for your car accident, or $1,500 for your medical bills, or even $50 kids school supplies, that (maybe) has a much greater affect than an organization helping you (which also has costly prohibitive overhead).
d) “dude, why are you trying to please non-Christians!? You’ll never please them, you’ve got bad theology” – well, maybe, I hope not. We are called to help the poor and needy, and I don’t think our current alottment of resources is doing it well enough. Also, doesn’t the bible say that our good deeds should shine before men so that they will glorify your father who is in heaven? And aren’t we called to compassion? God wants us as individuals to love/help our neighbors (good Samaritan) – but we can’t do that as easily if we’re giving 10% of our money to support an organization that’s really not doing a good job of representing Christ in our community or helping us grow much (i.e. Willow’s REVEAL study).

3) I’ve seen so much money wasted on Church events that didn’t change people, and on Church buildings, and on lazy staff. I feel like using that money to help/love our neighbors would be a better witness – despite all the supposed benefits of having a mega-church in the community. HECK! the building lies mostly dormant during the week, this is a waste of resources all by itself!!! We should at least be using the property more during the week!

4) I think that “church,” the way we do it is not what God intends b/c
a) One guys speaks upfront and makes most of the decisions. This is unbiblical – we’re a body and it’s intended that we all minister to each other in a variety of ways. This is why pastors burn-out, b/c they’re not intended to carry this load.
b) in a large church, it’s hard to get to know people, develop “real” relationships, and share deep stuff. Without these things, I think it’s too hard to grow and change. If we met in houses, this would be much easier to attain.
c) we’re all supposed to be using our gifts and ministering to those around us. BUT we’re all acting like Christianity is a spectator sport when we go Sunday to get a pep-talk and then do nothing the rest of the week. The way we do “church” is not only un-biblical, it’s facilitating and encouraging (even while it preaches against) a culture of Christian spectators who think they have no responsibility – the pastors and staff are the people who do stuff, not me, I just give money
d) So people don’t want to do anything, and our institution has a lot of momentum, so they just come Sunday, and pay money, and some of us live off of them and use that money for the show on Sunday. Not many people are changed, not much community outreach (we’re attractional), the system is perpetuated.

Therefore, I propose we trust in the Holy Spirit, we cut costs on salaries and buildings, we rather invest in equiping/discipling people, empower them to spend their tithes and offerings on helping/loving their neighbors, empower them to Be The Church – using their gifts/build up the body, use buildings we already have – homes – and meet in a series of more intimate gatherings where people can be real, and get prayed for, and get truly discipled (not ra-ra preached at with no relationship). This will be more attractive to outsiders. This will more effectively teach us to love, it will empower us to minister, it will show more of Jesus to outsiders, so more people will get saved, our HORRIBLE reputation will turn-around and even more people will get saved.

Feedback, please.

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16 Responses to “Is Tithing Good Stewardship?”

  1. Jesse,
    I think I disagree with every single point you made. Virtually nothing you said has any basis in fact.

    1) “with all this money we have, we’re not doing enough to help people.” What would you suggest would be “enough?” All the gyms in our town wouldn’t hold all the people who go to church in our town. Furthermore, good luck trying to get a city park to host a religious event. Perhaps in Atlanta that’s cool, but in many many other towns that will never happen. See Jefferson’s letter regarding church and state.
    2) “What if we were all free to use our tithe to help our struggling neighbors, or help with aid oversees. ” That’s simply not biblical. Malachi 3:10. The tithe is to support the local church and the ministers, and nothing more. Give to your neighbors all you want, MANY people do, but don’t give your tithe to them.
    3) “I’ve seen so much money wasted on Church events that didn’t change people” I’ve seen a whole bunch of money spent on church events that did foster change in people. I’ve personally seen hundreds of lives changed at events.
    4) building lies mostly dormant during the week, this is a waste of resources all by itself!!! ” Again, just plain incorrect. Most megachurches have TONS of activities going on during the week. If they don’t they won’t stay “mega” for long.
    5) “we’re all supposed to be using our gifts and ministering to those around us. BUT we’re all acting like Christianity is a spectator sport when we go Sunday to get a pep-talk and then do nothing the rest of the week. The way we do “church” is not only un-biblical, it’s facilitating and encouraging (even while it preaches against) a culture of Christian spectators who think they have no responsibility – the pastors and staff are the people who do stuff, not me, I just give money” AGREED to some extent. But don’t forget that there really are a whole bunch of people who are really getting after it.

    I think what you have to realize is that there are literally thousands of ways to reach people for Christ. We shouldn’t be so arrogant and narcissistic to think our way is the only way when it comes to reaching people for Jesus Christ. I personally don’t care how people do church as long as what they are doing works.

  2. 2 Asher Emmanuel

    Let me chime in on what Michael said and what I think you (Jessie) are trying to say. There are PROBLEMS in the church. That much I think we can all agree on. I think we also can all agree on is that Christianity does not have a holy and perfect historic record. There are many many times the church as made terrible terrible decisions. For anyone one of us to say that “I wasn’t part of the past and I certainty would not make such terrible decision” fails to understand their humanity. We “all” are imperfect but more so, we all can be seduced by whatever. Christians as well as non-Christians know Christians tendency to act self-righteous and to neglect compassion the minute they can achieve power or success or whatever vice you prefer. I think these we all can agree on.
    Jessie we have talked about this issue before so let me highlight your main talking points.
    1) There is nothing wrong with meeting in homes. People always go back to the “early church” and refer to it as the golden era of Christianity. I would like to add that people rarely read past this moment. For in one day 3,000 people came to Christ and that is when meeting in homes is no longer practically an option. Jesus never commanded the church to stay in local homes so because the church first started in homes, does not mean that is the end point for a church. The bigger a group gets the better organized that group has to become, in order to function well. Practical, planning, and strategy are not less spiritual then random, organic things. We have a funny way of thinking that is the case when in fact they are not. God gave us minds, and imaginations to plan, organize, leadership, and creativity. As Christians we ought to use these gifts for His glory.
    So this is what churches do. They create small group environments so that people can connect with a small group of people (individually and in a home). Wow. So you mean Christians can still minister to people and meet in a home. YES! Which begs the question. Have you joined a small group? Yes you have. You attend tribes. I personally think that this is not a “small” enough group but it will prove my point. Jessie you have access to church gatherings and ministering to people in tribes… You have what you have been arguing for. What is missing? Many many churches have small groups and environments for people to connect.
    You claim that people are spectators and they basically go to church and give money. People WILL feel like this unless they get plugged into a small group. Unless they serve and volunteer at church or get involved in church outreach they will feel disconnected. As far as I can tell this “problem” has been addressed by the church. Its up to people to show up and engage. I will say it again. Its up to people to SHOW Up and ENGAGE. No more blaming the church. If you cant find a small group that connects with you at a local church then go to another one.
    2) It is not more spiritual to have the “Holy Spirit” lead and basically anyone does whatever they want whenever they “feel the Holy Spirit” lead. That is chaos. You know what Paul says about that. That there should be order in worship (1 Corinthians 14:26). Thats right organization and leadership are just as spiritual and an organic feeling. I have no idea where we get the unbiblical notion that all we should do is pray and feel what the “Holy Spirit” is doing. The bible constantly says pray but also it says work. You heart towards heaven but your hand on the sword. Its one world. So the church should use leadership/planning with prayer and the Holy Spirit press. God works through everything and uses the talents and gifts he gave us to build up the church. Why limit his work???
    3) Lasting tithing. There is much I can say about this topic. I would like to echo Michael point. Give all the money you want to your neighbor but the tithe belongs to God. Tithing is not a money thing but it is a heart thing. It is the most tangible way that you demonstrate that you love/trust God. You are a steward of all He has given you and you are simply returning to Him what he gave to you. If you are not tithing the authenticity of your walk/faith is lacking. Severely. To say you love God but you heart/trust is not in him is… well how should I put it. Malachi 3:8-12. You are not only robbing God but you have neglected your first love.
    So you might respond “I do tithe but I’m not sure the church is using the tithe well”. Good question. You use your practical reasoning and investigate how the church uses the money. How much does it go to outreach, compassion? If you do not agree with how the church uses its money asks questions. If you still don’t agree and you think the church is in error find another church. Simple as that. You ought to tithe (if you love Jesus). If a church is mess managing it find another one.

    I really want to stop casting blame on the church. There are problems with the church. I mentioned earlier that social justice instruction is one of them. Others are present. We have to start taking personal responsibility for our actions and what we do. We can blame the church for being imperfect, but to be honest it is because we are imperfect. The church has problems because the people who attend have problems. I mean how much of your income comes to your neighbors? How are you doing love people and inviting people to church. Do you have more Christian or non-Christian friends. The answers to these questions reveals your heart. Which means before you can ever change something God wants to change you first.

    Great questions and conversation. May God’s mercy be new every morning.

  3. 3 jessephillips

    Michael, Asher, thanks so much for commenting to me! O HOW I WISH I could dialog with you about all of your counter points. I’m going to try, but this medium is cumbersome! Please dialog with me, if you have time. I feel passionate about this, and, although I’m biased, I think I have something worth saying.

    Michael – great points, I don’t have facts. Let me address your objectsions

    1) what is “enough”? Here I’m relying on the fact that our culture sees us as hypocritical and no different from them. Also, on the fact that most churches spend most of their budget on building,staff,lights,marketing etc., and not so much on helping the community. I simply suggest that if we used that money to love/help our neighbors, we would show Christ more tangibly than we currently are.

    Mike, you also bring up under “1)” the problem of meeting places. I suggest homes – they are private and free. I’m originally from California (came out here last year). The bible belt is worlds apart from what I’m used to. I suggest personal meetings in homes. I don’t think a lot is gained from huge group meetings. Most people come and go anonymously, or chit-chat, with no real connection in those huge meetings (I attend and have attended mega church for 8 years now). The only reason for a building is for Mega-meetings – but I suggest that those aren’t as helpful as you might expect considering the fact that probably 80% of our resources are going toward holding that mega-meeting. I simply feel that the ROI of mega-meetings is very low – you disagree, I know.

    Do you think we’re getting it done? How much does your church spend on helping others? How much does my church spend on helping others? Probably less than 10% of what they get from me. Francis Chan is doing 50% I think. Still, I think it would be more authentic if it were from the people to their neighbors directly.

    2) “tithe is to support local church and ministers”
    The tithe is to support the temple – not local church. This is a HUGE problem with my argument, and it is somewhat shaky ground. It’s a HUGE hurdle I face in holding this idea, I acknowledge that. One way I can combat it is with a few week arguments – a) the tithe is to support the temple! not local churches/ministers. Temple is gone. We are God’s temple. God is doing a new thing. The tithe is never mentioned in the new testament, I don’t think. Rather, 1 Cor. 16 speaks of taking-up a collection for people in need.

    I, of course, agree with the idea that my resources are God’s, and I should give them all to Him. But, b) I’m having a harder and harder time believing that God wants us to use His money to building buildings and lights and projectors and marketing and spend very little on helping orphans and widows etc. Although we should “share all good things with your teacher”, Paul demanded no money – God did say it’s right that ministers of the gospel should make their living from the gospel, yet I get the sense that the first Christians didn’t tithe, like we do, to buildings and paid staff. Okay, just b/c they didn’t do it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. Not strong arguments, but the idea of using the tithe now is not completely solid either. There are lots of things that we did in the OT, that we now do differently, or not at all in the NT. Lots of things that were a shadow, pointing toward what’s to come. Could the tithe be one of those things. Back then God said “eye for an eye” – now He says love our enemies. Back then God said no adultery – now, He commands our hearts to be lust free. Then God commanded outward actions – now He’s more clear that He wants our hearts. Back then God commanded 10% to the institution, now he commands our whole lives a sacrifice – when you think of it this way, it’s almost legalistic to still stick to the 10%

    c) perhaps I’m wrong about this? How about this compromise: can we at least use more of our money to help people and less on buildings and staff?

    Did the early church tithe? Are you sure tithing was not just co-opted by the Catholic church or someone, back in the day, and now we’re still living that as thought it’s necessary? I feel like it has so much cultural momentum in the Church, much more than scripture gives it.

    3) “lives changed at events” – well, this is a point of disagreement. Of course people come forward at events, but I think many agree, and are now saying, that although people come forward at events, they often go back to what they’re doing. You may not be referring to “going forward,” if not, let’s get gritty, what do you mean when you say you’ve seen hundreds of lives changed at events – please give examples. I agree that God is changing tons of lives through churches, I think it’s a slower process, and I think some specific events change people (my experience), but working for a young adult ministry I’ve seen very little life change compared to what I’ve seen from small groups – the kind where people are safe to share their stuff and pray for each other.

    Studies are showing that people aren’t that changed by the weekly sermon. REVEAL from Willow is showing that their whole focus was not working. My own life is testament to this, Heck, the Church is testament to this. Millions of us sit through sermons every week, but we’re obviously doing a horrible job representing Christ or being Christlike to our nation.

    I would love to talk about this further. hundreds come forward, hundreds pray and cry, but they (I) do it again next week, or next month. How do we measure life change? Perhaps I’m wrong about this – it seems radical and I have no evidence – but many are saying that large group is not getting it done – and from what I’ve seen, I agree.

    How are lives changed at your church? What have you seen? Do you think the same effects can be achieved in more intimate meetings?

    4) “tons of activities” – again, I guess this is a matter of opinion, or which church you’re at. While, yes, they have stuff during the week, I think it stays dormant 50% of the time. Again, I’ve been part of mega-church for 8 years. I worked for a whole year at one. Although they did have tons of events during the week, they were mostly small sized events – and only in the evenings. I would say their facilities were empty 70% of the hours between 9am and 9pm in a week. AND I would say 50% of those meetings could have happened in someone’s home. So too, the current one I’m at is even more empty during the week. And those gigantic sanctuaries sit dormant 85% of the week. – some megas have schools – which is a good use I guess.

    Well, if we have to have a building, can’t we better use it. We’re paying so stinking much for it. I don’t think God wants us to have these expensive buildings and neglect the poor the way we do. Perhaps I’m wrong about this, it’s really an ROI question – if you think it’s good enough to have the building even 50%, then I guess it’s okay. I think it’s a waste.

    How often is your church building used? How much are ya’ll paying per hour for it? How much per person is spent on having your crown-financial class of 15 ppl meet there? Or even your crown class of 100 – can’t it be broken into 10 meetings?

    4) as long as what they are doing works – I don’t think what we’re doing is working – Books like unChristian, They Like Jesus but Not the Church, Blue Like Jazz convince me that it’s not working. Talking with non-Christians, doing evangelism, seeing my own life and my peers, reading the New Testament convinces me that we’re not getting it right. Sitting through sermons, living in the Christian bubble, reading reports, blogs, stats, shows me it’s not working.

    Is your church working? Is it working in your life?

    Michael, I would love to dialog with you more about this!

  4. 4 Corey

    My dream would be the the church could be a worship area on Sunday, and then a community outreach the rest of the week. I agree that lots of churches waste their money on flash just to tickle the eyes of newcomers. Make the building very functional, but for a better purpose. Have free low income day care through out the week, job training classes, soup kitchens, and daily bible studies for those in need. Stop spending so much on marketing, and spend more on the community that has needs. The church needs to be a light in darkness. But it seems like we are just trying to blend into darkness to make sure we do not offend anyone.

    Would be cool to see the church change it’s focus to the hurting and broken, and use the gifts and money that God has given them to truly do that.

  5. 5 jessephillips

    Thanks, Corey, I agree! Ok, let’s still tithe, but can we at least use our money more wisely?

    ASHER, broseph, let’s talk. Thanks for your comments, you are so thoughtful and insightful. I appreciate your dialogging with me!

    + 3,000 ppl = no longer possible to meet in homes? I disagree, we have millions of Christians, but we don’t all meet in one place. I wonder, after they added 3,000, did they start renting out the colliseum and meeting there? Did they start renting large auditoriums to meet? I don’t know. I doubt it. I bet they continued meeting in homes and medium/large sized halls (we know they did have meals together and such). We hear of several meetings they had in homes, like the time when Peter got out of prison and they were all praying at someone’s house. I think it would be cool to meet in a large group, but how-about once a quarter? and charge admission to pay for it efficiently.

    + But Jesse, why! Why, why, why do you advocate meeting in homes, what’s better about that?
    I think the current mega-meeting is not working. Here’s what I wrote to Michael McGough:

    “It also needs to be said that it seems the large services aren’t getting it done. That they’re too impersonal, that there’s no love or accountability from the speaker and very little love and accountability from members of the congregation to each other. They seem to deny the idea of the body being empowered to minister to itself, which perhaps causes the congregation to be lazy and not represent Christ well to the community. They seem to waste resources, or rather, they tend to use very few resources to help the poor, or needy, or non-Christians – and more resources on buildings/programs/staff.”

    + what’s wrong with impersonal? Tons of Christians are wearing the mask and dying inside. We need intimate environments for ppl to be honest, get prayer, be held accountable and develop community. BUT SMALL GROUPS, DUH, you say. Well, I don’t think “small groups” are working. although “closed small groups” seem like a nice idea. I agree, I think Tribes aren’t the right size and I think they aren’t working either. And if they are working, why do we need mega-meetings?

    + Good point about needing organization. Good point about organic being sexy, but not better. I admit, I think the organic thing is sexy, it also feels more biblical to me when I think about how the body is described and such. Look at the meetings they had in Jerusalem – they all had to kind-of agree, there was no pope – people were doing different things. I feel like when we centralize it too much, it becomes less authentic, it’s less about The Body, the Holy Spirit leading and more about man’s wisdom – maybe. Maybe not. Really, this is not Key to me – BUT I think it’s worthy of note that there are 100’s of Millions of Christians, and many of us work independently, yet unified. Who’s leading God’s Church? There’s no pope over everyone who’s saved. Who’s leading it? Who says what we do? On a Macro level, it’s God. Is it also on a micro level too? I guess I’m simply proposing we shrink the size of the individual churches. Perhaps the “church” could evolve to a more unified “Church” of united cell groups? As a compromise?

    + “Why Limit God’s work???” – I don’t understand. How would this limit God’s work?

    + tithing – the tithe is God’s. Yes, I agree. but why do I have to give it to a non profit that has a good speaker and plays worship music? Is giving it to help Liz Vinke, who recently got in an accident, is that not giving it to God? I’m not trying to be difficult, walk with me through this process, why do I have to give it to a non-profit org with a cross on their building?

    + Maybe a better question is: what makes a church a church? Is it a priest? There’s a priesthood of all believers. Am I a church? I might argue that biblically, we are the Church, I am the Church. Do I have to be a non-profit? Do I have to have a building? Do I have to give a message? Is a house church a church? How many members must it have to be a church? A collection of Christian friends, who want to better steward their tithe, (the relational tithe idea) is that a church?

    + Asher, you’re right. It is the responsibility of the people, not the institution. However, I must say that the institution has a HUGE influence on the members/individuals. the dominant/popular structure of “church” in America determines in a very real way what the individuals do, doesn’t it? Is this wrong? If it’s true, then won’t the only change be made by changing the institution? – tell more about this. I seek to change the institution, and thusly influence the individuals – are you saying I should, instead, focus on the individuals first? I guess if I’m not doing it myself, then I should not worry about others?

    Thanks, Asher, for your discussion.

  6. Wow, lots of writing going on here! Well, I’ll just add that for a committed follower of Jesus tithing should be just the beginning. 10% is not the end game, we should be striving to constantly give more away and as we do (as leaders) we should be focused on our churches doing the same thing. Give your 10% to your church and then go ahead and give above that to some of places that are doing real stuff to fight oppression in the world.

  7. Jesse, I’d say that tithing is setting aside the first 10% of what God has entrusted us with to contribute to the smaller part of the greater Church body that we are connected to. Now, how that looks for each of us is going to be different but each of us is individually responsible for connecting with other believers that we can share life with and live missionally in community with. I think that we each also have a responsibility to connect with a community that uses the tithes to work toward an “earth as it is in heaven.” Building The Kingdom, not a kingdom (as you rightly point out many churches do.)

    For some this may mean that God is calling them to be part of a home church that pools the tithes and then spends it all in making a tangible difference in a person’s life, for others it will mean being part of a church with many staff members that they are helping to pay for, but for none should it be about giving to a church that is reinforcing a consumerist life.

    Bottom line is that there is no clear cut answer, but I think we box ourselves in too much when we only think in terms of 10%. We need to give more, give to our church, give to our neighbors, give to Compassion, make loans on Kiva (dangerous one there for some people, no tax deduction 🙂 !), etc…

  8. Wow, I’ve been missing all the fun in the comments.

    On tithing, the passage in Malachi seems to point to the fact that people not tithing caused those in need not to be helped (read the whole chapter). Also, those priests supported by the tithe in the OT didn’t have an inheritance in the Promised Land. There is a lot of Biblical history before the tithe, as well. The NT seems to point to sharing with each other, supporting missions efforts, supporting Christians in poverty in other cities, and giving as you have the ability. Let’s be honest; almost all of us could make changes in our lifestyles that would allow us to give much more than 10%.

    As for church buildings, a subject close to my heart as a former church administrator and worship leader, we are really missing the boat here in my opinion. How many churches have to build their budgets around their debt for a building? Is a church being in debt even Biblical? How many churches hire fund-raising consultants (who take a cut) for major building projects? I visited a religious college campus recently that was ridiculous in the way it spent money on buildings and such. If there is an engraved gold plaque on the back of every seat (pulpit, hymnal, offering plate, wall, toilet, etc.), something is very wrong. Is it a monument to God or man?

    I don’t think there is ONE WAY to ‘do church’, but new models are needed to reach my generation. Our current model is less than a century old. Church models are generational. The things many Christians hold dear about church (Sunday School, VBS, congregational singing) are only a few centuries old. Until the printing press, most people didn’t even has access to read the Bible on their own.

    This change is painful, especially for someone who thought they were going be have a career as a minister. I’m (apparently) not metrosexual (or entertaining, personable) enough to be a worship leader in most of the ‘cool’ churches. But God called me to be a minister, regardless of my vocation. So I’ve got to figure this out and be where he wants me to be. This is as close to being ‘cutting edge’ as I will ever get.

  9. 9 jessephillips

    Michael, thanks for your comment. You seem very reasonable. I think you make a good point when you talk about debt and building projects. – and, sadly, the entertaining/personable thing is a harsh reality. That’s another topic too – worship seems so much about appearances and coolness and less about actual “worship” – at least less than I would expect.

  10. 10 Asher

    I have been missing out on the fun as well. ( Jessie I like how you opted not to respond to my last paragraph ^_^)

    I started to write a response to everyone who has commented and wanted to introduce counter arguments. Instead I will be brief and pose a question or two. My intent is to get to the heart of you (Jessie) concerns and argument. First is home meetings and second is tithing.

    Does the location of where one worships a solution to making Christians more authentic? You said that small groups are not working including tribes. How then do you figure that small home meetings (instead of churches) would work any better? For you if the church just met in homes and abandon their “large building” then all would be well in the Christian well (or at least better). I think it might do us well why churches are large and why they employ technology (that is expensive) in the first place. Its to communicate with the culture. Why aren’t cathedrals being built anymore, and further more why don’t Christians ride around in donkeys or why aren’t services preached in Greek? Its because we live in a different culture and time period and therefore the church would be an artifact if it did not adapt. Somehow I get the feeling that you think if something is expensive or nice that the church should have it it.

    Aren’t you overlooking all the good that the church does? I’m sorry your 8 years around mega-churches have been poor. The church gives away millions and millions of dollars to invest in the community it is apart of. Mission trips, building programs, addressing homelessness, preaching the gospel, restoring marriages, etc. Just look at 12Stone. Look at the way the church has given itself away. Just one local church and look at the change and impact it is doing. Incredible. I think we can get in this negative oppressive mood when we only look at one side of the issue.

    Tithing. First fruits go to the God. Right off the top. You bring in the first ten percent (notice I did not say give) to God if He is your first love. Its a practical and tangible way you show you honor and love God. Tithe means ten percent. This becomes Legalism IF you tithe without your heart and without joy. If its becomes duty and not desire. What you do with the rest of your money is a thing between you and God. So if you feel the press to give to Liz or give to your neighbor thats your deal. But you already know where ten percent of it goes.

    Yes it goes to your local church. We can debate about what is a church, but I think you know what a church is. A people who gather together reach out to spiritually unresolved people, invite them on the spiritual journey, and raise up wholehearted people of Christ. If a church you attend is not about this then find another church.

    Tithing is the most practical way that demonstrates the heart of stewardship. In fact, it is stewardship, It is affirming and confirming that all of your resources are not yours but God and that you honor God as your main provider.

    Jesus said wherever your money goes so does your heart. Where has your hear been these lately?

  11. 11 Ryan

    Not sure if this is helpful to the conversation but i think it may be. Can someone articulate from the new testament a foundation for the concept of tithing? I see christ followers giving sacrificially into the needs of others. I see christ followers selling their possessions and laying them at the apostle’s feet. i see christ followers having all things, (presumably this includes money) in common. what i don’t see is a traditionally jewish tithe. obviously there is much wisdom to be gained from the old testament but the new testament sentiments regarding money seem to have little if any connection to the jewish tithe. perhaps is we handled our money like the apostolic church did in the “golden age”, (which was also the age led by those whom Jesus directly charged with building the church and which is described in the books we hold to be holy scripture) this conversation might be entirely different.

  12. 12 Michael

    Wow. So many points that I cannot comment on all of them. And I’m not going to debate you, its doubtful that I’ll convince you of anything and the converse won’t happen either.

    Ok. Here’s my last point. People don’t need a building. People don’t need a park. They don’t need donuts. And the don’t need microphones and guitars. They don’t need house churches either. (I know of many homes that are larger than many churches.)

    In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you will not find any of those items. You’ll find this at the number 3 need: love and belonging. This is number three behind physical needs (breathing, food, etc) and safety (for family, and self).

    The bottom line is this: Both ways work. It’s unwise to think that your way to do things is the only way to do it. If your church exercises poor stewardship then hold them accountable. But do not tell everyone else that they’ve been doing it wrong for 1800 years, lest you be unwise.

    If they love people, churches work. period. Once we agree on the Jesus thing, loving and encouraging others is really all that matters regardless of group size, building size, building facade makeup, ground covering, steeple shape, or what kind of shoes the pastor wears.

  13. 13 Rachel

    I’ll admit it…I haven’t done much more than skim the comments here (you’re right, this medium is pretty cumbersome)…but here is where I’m coming from, with as much brevity as possible:

    I am part of both a “house church” and a larger gathering. The house church could be equated to something more like a family gathering where we eat cookies, drink way too much coffee, worship, get into the Word, talk about Jesus and the Kingdom and life and pray for one another. It has been going on for years, but I have only been part of it since January or so. The majority of the people that come to the house meetings are also involved in other churches of varying sizes. And we’re okay with that. It’s the most dynamic group of people I have yet to encounter. We consider each other family…the way it should be.

    I think there is a balance that needs to be reached in all of this. Tithing to the local church is indeed Biblical. Michael makes a solid point. We should be willing to give more than 10% and our church budgets are often upside down. I itch to get “out” of the 4 walls and to reach out to the hurting community that surrounds. But on the other hand, I’ve seen my church mobilize massive efforts and network with several churches across the city to make some incredible things come about. You just can’t do that with house churches. Communication becomes cumbersome if there are thousands of sections, and unity can be a big issue.

    I do have issues with mega-churches that water down our faith to a point where what they present is ineffective and, at best (and worst), entertaining and easy to swallow. But we can’t go around pointing fingers at one another, either…honestly, I’m not so sure how I feel about you calling Willow Creek out specifically. I don’t know a lot about them, but I think it’s safe to say they have reached a lot of people (and turned off many, too.)

    I could go on, but I’m going to stop here. Maybe I’ll take some time this weekend to read over comments and see if I have anything more to give you as far as feedback.

    Interesting/frustrating discussion, for sure.

  14. 14 jessephillips

    Rachel, thanks so much for your post. I appreciate your even handedness – you seem very reasonable. First, let me say, I’m not trying to knock Willow Creek! They did a study on themselves called REVEAL, which found that they were doing things wrong – in their own words.

    The tithing issue: this is not a hill I’m willing to die on. I wish I could just use my tithe to help whoever, but I’m willing to compromise and not do that if churches will better use tithes. But, I’m not convinced that 1) God wants me to “tithe” to an institution 2) that it must be “the local church”

    Let me give a counter argument to the “local church” idea.
    1) we are the Church. We are all the body of Christ – we are all important parts, I am the church.
    2) If I must tithe to a church, what constitutes a church? Can I start my own church? If so, what would I have to do to start it? Do I need a building? Do I need to meet someone on Sunday? Does someone else have to come and meet with me? – all this to say, can’t I just be a church and use God’s tithe how I see fit? — seriously, I think this is a great point!!! The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that this narrow idea of tithing to a non-profit that has a good speaker and an organ – that this is just tradition, but not what God intends or desires. Please, counter this idea, please convince me why a group of people that have a building are more legitimate and entitled to God’s resources than my little church of one person?

    Good point about house churches being unable to organize themselves. That’s a shame. Yes, I’ve been part of a few major outreaches, but they are few and far between, and it seems to me that the churches give maybe 10% of their resources for things like that – it’s not a priority for them – as much as having a building and staff and debt and etc. I think if a church is giving 90% of its resources to that, then thats AWESOME and I’ll shut-up. But, having worked in a church, and being close to churches, I get the feeling that very few churches do this, which, to me, just doesn’t make sense anymore.

    Please, Rachel. You seem like a very sharp woman. Convince me, using scripture, that I should continue tithing to “the local church” – and define for me, using scripture, what that is.

  15. Hey Jesse. I will do my best to line this out for you…right now my internet access is a little limited. But when I get some time, I will respond properly. I appreciate that you see me as level-headed and sharp…I try, but fail pretty miserably sometimes. haha More soon.

  16. 16 earthforaliens

    Hey Jesse! I don’t know how I got here, but I really enjoyed your post. We share some similar views. I’ve been a pastor for the last 9 years and have been dependent on people “tithing” their money to the church for my income – And I’ve been exceptionally uncomfortable with it the whole time. I constantly wonder if I’ve done enough to earn the money that people give away. Our church’s biggest expense is by far the staff wages…

    I’ve scoured the Bible and have come to the conclusion that 10% tithing as we know it is actually not actually in keeping with the New Covenant at all. In fact there’s no evidence of formal tithing in the first 300 years of the early church. It’s definitely there in the Old Testament, but not in the New. They DID however give freely out of the goodness of their hearts (which flowed from the freedom and joy of their Life in Christ) but there was no rule that said they HAD to. I’ve said this to people before and been jumped on by the heresy police, but I can’t justify mixing and matching Old and New Covenants to fit our cultural version of church. The NT clearly tells us that the Old Covenant was laid aside when Jesus brought in the New Covenant. The law served it’s purpose and is now fulfilled in Christ (Galations). It seems though, that the church has become so accustomed to mixing the two covenants that we don’t even question it – The issue of tithing being a prime example. I think it’s great that you are even ASKING these kind of questions.

    In the OT tithe was there for the Levites because they were forbidden to work the land and earn wages so they could concentrate on religious practices and spiritual leadership of Israel. In the New Covenant, there is no more temple building and we are all priests (like you mentioned) and the spiritual leaders can earn wages any way they choose. It’s a totally different scene than the Old Testament.

    I am certainly not saying that we should not give, in fact I think without having a law in place, believers are free to give more. The early church gave like crazy to wherever there was a need…

    I long for a church where there are no staff, no buildings, no programs, just brothers and sisters in Christ meeting whenever and wherever and as often as they can, with Jesus as the sole leader. A church like that doesn’t need “tithe”, although there would still be plenty of widows and homeless and missions for people to give to. There are believers all over the world doing this already, but it seems a far cry for us in North America to abandon our Sunday morning Church culture…

    And no, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with NOT giving to the “church organization”. I don’t do it. I give to people… I give wherever God asks me to… Giving to the “church organization” is tempting so I can get that nice tax deduction, but wrong motives for giving brings back that nice story of Ananias and Sapphira (here come the heresy police again).

    Anyway, sorry for the novel… but that’s my $0.02


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