Followup re ‘Ex’ & the Poor

Thanks for the encouraging feedback regarding my last email … particularly
1. my now being an ex-Apostolic, ex-minister &
2. the challenge to love the poor this Christmas

FYI – here is some of the feedback (with a couple of comments from me in pink)

1. Re ‘EX’

– speaking as an ex-Baptist, ‘ex’ is a good badge to wear

– Congratulations on your new – but hardly surprising – status as an ex-apo ex-minister…! They used the A word (alignment) on us when they gave us the ex (or is it axe)… It’s not a smart move from their side. Kudos to the Baptists who will at least engage with you…

– Perhaps you were just to ex-citing, ex-treme, and ex-uberant for the denominational heads at apostolic. J

– It’s a great pity that more support and encouragement is not given to those who take “Apostolic Initiative” and investigate and experiment outside of existing models and structures, particularly if they – (as you do) seek biblical support for what they are doing.. Has anything changed since Martin Luther – maybe we have just become more refined in how we exclude people.

– Congratulations on gaining the great Ex factor! I suspect it was always going to happen. I am not sure you can challenge the status quo and win without having to start again. Even Jesus found that out the hard way. There are too many vested interests to overcome. Anyway, you lasted much longer than I did, so well done.

– There was obviously some disquiet with the national leader (whoever it was) and a reluctance to accommodate different ways of doing things. It doesn’t bode well for others of us who want to reinvent the way we do church, does it?

– I find the question asked of you interesting – ‘why are you still in the Apos Movement – with your obviously different values etc’. I’m going to be naughty here in asking this but what ‘values’ do you think you have that are different to the Apo Movement? I would have thought that the issue is model or style rather than values… but I could be wrong & often am!
(NOTE – he is usually right, but wrong on this particular thing. At its heart it is a values issue, rather than a model/structure/style issue. I initially thought the house church thing was a structural difference …. but soon came to realise that structure is less important than values – as Churchill said “we shape our buildings, and then our buildings shape us”. Hence, for organised churches, there are limitations to how much they can change their values because of the constraints of their structures…… more on this topic another day – David)

– You will never be an ex-minister

– Isn’t Jesus absolutely wonderful. Looks like even more exciting times are headed your way as you continue your journey as an “ex”. Don’t know if you have come across the web-site http://www.thegodjourney.com/ but it is well worth a visit. Lots of fellow “ex’s” to share thoughts and experiences with.
(NOTE – this is a good site – worth looking at. David)

2. The Poor

– Appreciate your Christmas challenge.

– We don’t do presents much anyway. Part of the reason we left institutional church is we wnat to give direct to the “poor” via world vision (long term contributors) and Habibtat for Humanity (the latter in our time and finance locally) instead of paying to repaint the church roof and replace leaky windows and maintain the building….. When I was a little girl I wanted to be a guerilla fighter and now my dream has come true. We are a small platoon and we are now on the move!!!!!!

– As for Christmas, I actually think the tide is beginning to turn just a little. Instead of us Christians wining on about the commercialism of Christmas while continuing to spend like everyone else, I am noticing some growing momentum among people to give in the way you’ve outlined. (We) hardly want to be considered paragons of virtue on this count, but the pact that we made at the start of our married life not to give each other Christmas presents but instead to give money away, is something we’ve never regretted and it helps us gain some balance to living in extended families where the value of doing this may not be universally shared or accepted. We too aim to give away more than we spend on the Christmas event. That way we keep things in perspective and at least have a better chance of experiencing the real Christmas.

The Church has Had its Day

Shorter version from NZ Baptist Magazine

David Allis, a member of the Apostolic Church movement, was a guest speaker at last November’s Baptist Assembly in Nelson. He was invited to argue the affirmative in a moot entitled, The Church Has Had its Day. The following is an edited version of a paper he made available to Assembly delegates after the debate…

It is obvious that at a higher level this moot can never be true.  The universal church, consisting of the redeemed from all ages, both alive and dead, certainly can never have “had its day.” The New Testament describes the Church as the body of Christ with Christ as its head. It would be dangerous to argue that Christ has been unsuccessful with his own body.

But if we narrow the discussion to the Church that we are part of, and are investing our time, energy, prayers, money and lives into then perhaps we have the basis for some debate.

Our part of the New Zealand Church is an evangelical, Bible-believing, modern, Western, organised, institutional church visible through its buildings, ministers and services based on preaching and worship. So before I launch into any critique I want to affirm the hard working godly and committed members and ministers. Any critique of our Church is not because of their lack of dedication, hard work, commitment and prayer.

Neither am I a critic throwing rocks from the outside. I am personally committed to extending God’s Kingdom and helping establish the Church as He would have it in New Zealand today.

It is also important for individual Christians to be a part of a Christian community so as to encourage each other, build accountable relationships and gather together for mutual encouragement. For the sake of God’s Kingdom it’s important for Christians to be connected with other parts of the “body.”

But, as we do with any enterprise that absorbs huge amounts of time and money, we need to honestly review the effectiveness of the  “organised Church.”  Is our Church working as well as it could or should be?

I want to argue three reasons why the modern New Zealand evangelical, organised, minister and Sunday service-centred Church is past its best.

1. It isn’t working.

2. It isn’t Biblical.

3. It is actually harmful.

1. Our Church is not working/effective

a). Our Church is not growing:

• A few are growing rapidly at 5%, 10% or 20% a year but most struggle to remain static and many are in decline.

• The successful “mega-churches” are few and far between, usually dependent on a unique leader, and can’t easily be duplicated.

• For every successful mega church there are hundreds of less successful wannabe mega-churches which would love to grow, but don’t.

• Many churches that appear to be growing are doing so through transfer growth – at the expense of other churches.

• New immigrants are creating an artificial impression that the Church is not declining

• Overall, census data shows the proportion of New Zealand’s population in the main denominations has decreased steadily over the past 50 years, and they now have only 45-90% of the proportion of New Zealand’s population they had in 1956.

• The Apostolic Church movement, of which I am part, grew in the late 1980s and mid 1990s but has since declined to the same number of members as it had in 1993.

• The Baptist denomination’s numbers are static and when adjusted to allow for New Zealand’s population growth since 1956, are in slight decline.

• In a typical year both the Apostolic and Baptist Churches see a third of their churches grow and the other two thirds remain static or decline

• By contrast, Buddhist, Hindu and Moslem religions have shown considerable growth in New Zealand since 1971.

• Many denominations have a huge backdoor. Baptist churches, for example, are baptising the equivalent of nearly 10% of adult church members each year, yet there is little overall growth in the denomination.

b). Our Church isn’t what we hope/dream it should be.

We dream of churches with lots of people getting saved, growing and being discipled, of queues at the door on Sundays, overflowing offering bags and so many volunteers ministries have waiting lists.

The reality is that the local church of 70 adults 10 years ago is still the local church of about 70 adults. In 10 years of hard work, prayer, programmes, and planning there has been little overall change.

But it could be worse. We are happy our church hasn’t closed, or is in rapid decline. It might not be growing but at least it’s not falling apart!

c). Our church isn’t producing obedient disciples.

Overall, Christians are little different from their neighbours.

Statistics from American sources show the divorce rate among church attendees in the United States is much the same as among non-attendees while the rate of pre-marital and extra-marital sex is about the same in both groups. New Zealand church-goers may be different in some of these areas, but are we different enough to stand out?

One area of difference is the “Christian Vote.” About 20% of the New Zealand population attends church monthly, yet Christians are ignored politically while much smaller groups have greater political influence. Politicians believe there is no unified Christian vote in New Zealand and that Christians typically vote the same way as the rest of society.

d). There is a leadership crisis in our Church

There is an overall shortage of ministers in most New Zealand denominations, along with a high level of burn-out and disillusionment. Statistics in the United States show 80% of American pastors and their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role; 80% of Bible School and seminary graduates who enter ministry will leave within five years; 70% of pastors battle with depression; 50% are so discouraged they would leave the profession if they could but have no other way of making a living; 80% of pastors’ spouses feel their spouse is overworked and wish they could choose another profession.

The situation in New Zealand may not be as extreme, but we probably face similar problems.

e). There is a membership crisis in our Church

In New Zealand there is a big gap between the number of people who call themselves Christian and the number that are committed to local churches. In December 2004 a NZ Herald poll of 1000 New Zealanders showed that 67.7% of those polled said they believed in God but only 20.6% said they often attended a church. The 2001 Census shows just under 60% of New Zealanders claiming to be Christian.

Of the 60% who call themselves Christians, less than one third are regular church attendees while the rest are outside the normal church. A Massey University ISSP study of 1244 people in 2005 shows that only 37% of New Zealanders have never belonged to a church and that while 16.5% of New Zealanders are active church members, almost three times as many (44.8%) have current or previous church links but now aren’t actively involved.

f). Society is changing and our Church is being left behind.

Historically, the Church has taken the lead in areas such as the value of human life, education, and the abolition of slavery. Now we are behind in other important areas we should be leading, such as gender equality, ecology and the “green” movement, world justice and the elimination of poverty.

We find it difficult to distinguish the modernist aspects of our current church values and culture from those that are an essential part of Christianity.

g). Our Church is not impacting society, either in the local community or wider society.

Most (but certainly not all) churches are isolated from their local community and have very little effect on that community. Most communities wouldn’t notice if the church closed. Some are valued as venues for weddings and funerals but are otherwise not seen as important.

Yet, the Church should not just be different from society, it should be way out in front.

2. Our Church isn’t biblical

Our church has some theology, values, structures and practices that don’t reflect New Testament priorities.

a). We don’t love the poor.

The Bible is clear that we have a responsibility to help the poor, yet rich Western Christians and churches control trillions of dollars in assets and income, while 850 million people, including 200 million Christians, are currently starving.

UN studies show $US70-80 billion a year would provide essential health care and education for all the world’s poor. If Western Christians gave just 5% of their income towards this, it would solve the problem totally.

We rich Christians say we love people, and that the Church is the body of Christ, yet we do very little for the poor.  It is sobering to reflect on how much we would do to save our own child’s life, and how little we do to save the life of other children.

b). We don’t really care about world mission.

Despite Christ’s command to evangelise, two thirds of all people from AD30 to the present day have never heard of his name.

Christians spend only a relatively small amount each year on mission to the non-Christian, non-evangelised world – $250 million annually is spent on these 38 countries and 1.6 billion people. By contrast, Western churches spend $810 million a year on  annual audits of churches and agencies, $16 billion of church funds is embezzled each year with only about 5% of those responsible being caught, $8 billion a year is spent by Christians worldwide travelling to over 500 conferences to talk about missions, the combined personal income of church members is $15 trillion a year while each member spends on average  $7.80 a year on foreign missions or about one one-thousandth of their income.

We are unfocused and ineffective with world mission, with the total cost of Christian outreach averaging $330,000 for each and every newly baptised person.

c). We have built a church model centred on the extra-biblical – particularly professional ministers and Sunday meetings focused on corporate-sung-worship and sermons.

Preaching in the Bible is always in the context of evangelism, whereas we typically preach to the converted (week after week for the rest of their lives). The preaching in Western churches is extra-biblical and is typically either teaching or a pep talk.

One of the main reasons we gather on a Sunday is for corporate worship, yet corporate sung worship led from the front is conspicuously absent from the New Testament.

We say we believe in the “priesthood of all believers” but typically centre our churches on a paid (or volunteer) professional minister or leader.

Many churches say they are “purpose driven” yet in practice they are usually quite programme orientated.

d). We offer theology that is over-simplified and doesn’t accurately reflect Biblical values.

We offer “cheap” salvation which results in untransformed lives. This salvation appears like a “get into heaven free” opportunity, rather than an encounter with the living God who calls us to radical discipleship.

We focus on narrow areas of sin such as those relating to sexuality and honesty but neglect other important ones such as pride, gluttony, greed and materialism

3. Our church is harmful for the Kingdom

The Church is often focused on building itself, rather than building the Kingdom.

a). We value our local church more than the Kingdom.

Where does the first of our money get spent? It typically goes towards operating a Sunday service, including the costs of buildings, ministers, sermon preparation and music equipment. Only a small proportion of the income is spent on Kingdom activities outside the local church.

Our model of church is expensive with a huge financial cost involved in operating organised churches in the Western world. For New Zealand Baptists the cost per church attendee is about $750 income a year, plus $10,000 capital per attendee.

As well as financial cost, there is a huge cost in volunteer time in operating the normal organised church in New Zealand. Millions of hours are given to running the church and its programmes each year.

We waste our resources on maintaining church for Christian consumers.

Church volunteers’ time is also used predominantly for activities associated with operating the local church, rather than wider Kingdom activities. I estimate that, typically, 90% of a church’s time, energy and finances are spent on maintaining the church for its members.

Society has a poor perception of Christians and the Church and we are known for the wrong issues. For example, in New Zealand we’re more known as the people who are pro-smacking, than we are known as people who love the poor.

b). Our church is harmful for Christians.

It insulates and inoculates Christians, usually keeping them dependent on sermons and church programmes, and leaving them biblically and theologically illiterate or immature.

Our church drains people’s time, energy, vision, finance, enthusiasm, initiative and responsibility. It generally suits “yes” people who fit in and help maintain the status quo.

Because of our structures and practices we disempower and create dependence on Sunday meetings, sung worship, sermons, professional ministers, programmes and buildings.

Church styles foster a brand of consumerism, as we create and adjust programmes to cater for the needs of our members and those we are trying to attract.

Typical church members aren’t discipled, and their lives aren’t radically transformed. We typically “write off” any Christians outside the organised church and think that people only leave because they are “back-sliding” or have unresolved issues. Yet in reality people leave for a wide variety or reasons including spiritual survival and a realisation their church doesn’t accurately reflect biblical priorities.

The New Zealand Church has major problems, yet many church leaders are unable to see these, or are reluctant to face them directly, or are unsure what to do about them. Many church members see these problems and have become uninvolved, problematic, or even left the church.

But pointing out the problems is always easy. Doing something about them is much harder. The challenge facing all of us is how to transform our imperfect church into a church that we and Jesus can be proud of. This can’t be achieved by minor adjustments, or designing new programmes. Major reformation is needed – the sort that would make Martin Luther proud – a reformation of the core values, purpose and methods of the church.

There will not be just one answer, or any on way of “doing” or “being” church in New Zealand. Rather, we need a variety of experiments, models and attempts to be relevant in this changing society.

Some of these will work and others will fail but we need to be committed to honestly evaluating what we are doing, communicating and working together to find relevant solutions, so the Kingdom of God will grow.

• Unabridged copies of this article are available at http://www.edgenet.org.nz/ideasfromedge/thechurchhashaditsday.htm

 

David Allis is married to Margaret and they have six children. He has a theology degree, and was involved in full-time Christian work for 16 years, including missions work in Calcutta, and running a Bible College in Auckland. Two years ago, he transitioned from leadership in a large city church, to joining with Margaret in developing a missional church in their home and attempting to extend the kingdom in their community. They network with other house churches in New Zealand (www.edgenet.org.nz ), and have started some businesses “to pay the bills and feed our hungry children!”

We can change the world … if we want to

I’ve been reflecting on some things over the past couple of months relating to poverty in the world … every day 35,000 people die from starvation – they will die today, and another 35,000 will die tomorrow, & so on … until some people do something about it …..

A few days before Christmas (last year), I suggested in ‘ideas from the edge’ that Christmas was a great time to remember Jesus, friends & family, & the POOR.

I had been reading “Exiles” by Michael Frost (I still haven’t finished it – I get distracted by books like “When Bad Christians Happen To Good People” J .. a book worth looking at just for the title).

Mike Frost in Exiles says that every culture has ‘gods’, whether they are overt or hidden. He suggests (I agree) that one of the main ‘gods’ in the west is materialism (& selfishness) … he says we need to confront / challenge this ‘god’ … particularly by living counter-culturally. We ‘rich’ Christians are typically as rich & materialistic as the ‘not-yet-christians’ around us … or at least there aren’t overt, highly visible differences between us ….

Could you spot who are the Christians in NZ / US / UK society by only looking at their use of $, spending on themselves, the poor etc???? … I suggest that this would be very difficult … as typically ‘we’ aren’t much different (apart from possibly giving $ to our organised church, which spends typically 90% on providing wonderful ‘services’ for our own use – a bit like golfers paying to be part of the golf club etc) … we’re not radically counter-cultural enough to draw the world’s attention to our different allegiance & values …

So … just before Christmas I offered a challenge (for us all) “…. for christians who are called to love the poor, give to the needy who can’t repay etc etc …. Can you / we / I … spend as much on helping the poor this Christmas as we spend on giving to the rich (our selves, friends & family) …. OR … if you / we / I don’t have enough $ to do it that way around, what about trying to only spend as much on the rich as we’ve already spent on the poor ….. (ie give to the poor first …)

A friend came back to me re this & said … ‘thank you very much – a good challenge – but it would be better if it came with more warning/time, rather than just a few days before Christmas .. as they had already spent their Christmas $. He had a good point … so I thought I’d issue the challenge again, with a bit more warning, for Christmas …. (10 months warning … remember its only 310 days to Christmas … J )

Is it possible for us to care for the poor as much as we do for the rich? Is it possible for us to spend as much on the poor at Christmas as we do on the rich? Personally, we’ve been trying to move further that way … our children & relatives are getting used to being given goats & pigs & toilets & orchards for Christmas … through the gifts for the poor programs of World Vision & Tear Fund … a couple of years ago my mother-in-law said the goat she was given was the best present she received (she got a photo of a goat which was given to a poor family somewhere) – she now looks forward to something similar each year

In January, Margaret (my wonderful wife) said ‘so how did we personally do’? We sat down & did the sums, & figured we needed to give a bit more money away … & then we had managed to meet the challenge. Maybe the challenge needs to be extended beyond Christmas … is it possible this year to spend as much on the poor as we do on the rich? (on the unnecessary luxury things)

I took 3 of our kids + lots of unicycles to Parachute Music Festival in January (a large Christian music festival). At Parachute, there was a debate on world poverty – I didn’t get to the debate, but recognized one of the debators as a former bible college student I had taught. I bumped into him later & asked how it went, & whether there were any conclusions. He said that one of the conclusions was that poverty couldn’t be stopped in our lifetime. I was surprises, & I’m sure a lot more good things were said in the debate … but I’ve been thinking about this statement ‘poverty can’t be stopped in our lifetime’, & have decided I disagree.

Poverty could be stopped in a year or 2 if everyone in the world decided they would do everything they can to eliminate poverty (including the unjust rulers, billionaires, criminals, ordinary people etc). But if it was only the Christians who focused on it, poverty could easily be eliminated in our lifetime … if all, or lots, of rich Christians decided it was a priority.

But we know it won’t happen (& maybe this is what the debate concluded). WHY – because all christians won’t do it …. Why not – probably for a variety of reasons including selfishness, materialism, lack of understanding of the biblical mandate, different priorities, dualism (ie wrongly thinking that the spiritual & material can be separated, & that the spiritual realm is more important) etc etc

BUT – we can still each, personally, do lots (& lots more) to help the poor.

I had a conversation with another friend who is a minister – we’ve talked lots over the years about the $ spent on churches vs the $ going to help the poor. He argues that if all Christians gave generously to their churches (rather than only the 20% of people who tithe to their church), then there would be plenty of $ left over to help the poor. I disagree … it seems to me that most churches are very good at spending all (or most) of what they get … if the income to a typical local church doubled, it would probably quickly find ways to spend that extra income (on new programs, better equipment, buildings, staff etc etc) … rather than on the poor. As Tom Sine says “Let’s quit kidding ourselves; we even tithe to ourselves. Everthing we put into our churches we take back. We are not, as Bonhoeffer said, ‘the church for others’; we are the church for ourselves.” (as an aside – I am convinced that tithing as it is taught in many churches is biblically inaccurate & wrong)

So .. if a church really cared for the poor, maybe it could give the first part of its income to the poor …. Or what about a church which gave ½ of all income to the poor? Surely actions like this would indicate that the church (church leaders & members) placed priority on the poor.

I met another old friend at Parachute. Following a comment I made about how I love house churches because they are financially cheap to run & hence can potentially free $ for other things (like helping the poor), he said ‘our church is cheap to run – it has a building with no mortgage, & a budget of about $100k pa for 250 people’. Reflecting on this later … I figured that the building is probably worth $1m, & hence could generate about $100k pa income … so the total cost of running the church is about $200k pa (+ volunteer time) … $200k each year could save a lot of lives – I dusted off my calculator & worked out that its enough to start 20 micro-enterprise banks each year, which each make about 350 loans every 3 years, & affect 3000+ lives, & carry on long-term. So my friends church, over 10 years, could potentially spend $2m on itself – or start 200 micro-enterprise banks, making 128,000 loans, affecting 1,100,000 lives … & this would carry on long-term.

We also heard Tony Campolo speak last week – he was great (I’ve only seen him on video before). Part of what he said, as he gave impassioned encouragement to sponsor children, was that its not about generosity, its about justice. We Christians (& others) do generosity well (eg the response to The Tsunami & Hurricane Katrina was great), but we aren’t good at long-term justice issues (eg the 35,000 dying every day). We live in an unjust world, where we are fortunate enough to be the rich ones, and we supposedly serve a God who clearly commands us to give generously to the poor & to work to right injustice.

Tony spoke well, encouraging everyone to sponsor a child. I think he could have pushed people a bit further … if you sponsor one child, why not stretch & take a second one, or if you have 2, why not stretch a bit & sponsor a third. I know of university students on very tight budgets sponsoring 2 children, & high school students earning $6/hr for casual work sponsoring one child … quite a challenge for those of us who earn real wages.

To quote NZ singer Brooke Fraser in her song ‘Albertine’, “Now that I have seen, I am responsible. Faith without deeds is dead”. We have seen – we are responsible – what will we do about it?

Blessings

David Allis

A Christmas Challenge

Greetings.I want to wish you a blessed Christmas …. before I ‘switch off’ until sometime in the New Year. I have more great articles ready to circulate next year, & also ideas for more articles I might write (God & time willing) … on things like “Do Christians need to gather together?” “The problem of ordained/professional ministers” etcChristmas – a great time to remember Jesus, friends & family, & the POOR.I’ve been reading “Exiles” by Michael Frost – a great new book that I highly recommend for Christmas (or 2007) reading …. One of the things he says is that every culture has ‘gods’, whether they are overt or hidden. He suggests (I agree) that one of the main ‘gods’ in the west is materialism (& selfishness) … he says we need to confront / challenge this ‘god’ … particularly by living counter-culturally. We ‘rich’ Christians are typically as rich & materialistic as those ‘non-christians’ around us … or at least there aren’t overt, highly visible differences between us …. Could you spot who are the Christians in NZ / US / UK society by only looking at their use of $, spending on themselves, the poor etc???? … I suggest that this would be very difficult … as typically ‘we’ aren’t much different (apart from possibly giving $ to our organised church, which spends typically 90% on providing wonderful ‘services’ for our own use – a bit like ‘non-christians’ paying to be part of the golf club etc) … we’re not radically counter-cultural enough to draw the world’s attention to our different allegiance & values …Here’s a challenge …. for christians who are called to love the poor, give to the needy who can’t repay etc etc …. Can you / we / I … spend as much on helping the poor this Christmas as we spend on giving to the rich (our selves, friends & family) ….OR … if you / we / I don’t have enough $ to do it that way around, what about trying to only spend as much on the rich as we’ve already spent on the poor ….. (ie give to the poor first …)As we celebrate Christmas, which is typically linked to over-eating & indulgence, can we remember (& do something about) the people starving in the world, including the 30,000 children that die of starvation every day (including Christmas day)

Blessings

David Allis

Giving

Giving By David Allis – written 1999, revised 11/4/06

1. Giving Is An Act of Worship
Both stewardship & giving are acts of worship.
– God is owner of all things. When we give a gift to ministry, it is one way to thank Him for His love & generosity shown to us.
– We are called to worship God with every breath, every ounce of energy, and everything we possess. Our lives should be lived as acts of worship to God, including our stewardship & giving.
· Genesis 28:16-22 Jacob realised that all belongs to God, and used his tithe as a means of worship
· Leviticus 22:17-22, 29 God deserves only the best of what we have to offer
· 1 Cor 10:31 Everything we do (including giving) should be done for the glory of God
· 2 Cor 9:11,12 Our giving results in thanksgiving to God
· Acts 20:35 It is more blessed to give, than to receive

2. Put God First
Do we look after our personal needs first, and then give God a slice of the leftovers? NO!
The first share of what we receive belongs to God, & then we live off the rest.
All of what we have belongs to God. Lk 19:11-27
· Neh 10:3739 God is given the first fruits of all produce
· Prov 3:9,10 Honour God with the first fruits of your wealth
· Matt 19:16-24 If the rich cannot part with their wealth, they are not following Christ

3. Trusting God
One reason God asks us to be stewards & give is to test our willingness to trust Him. Our God who created the universe doesn’t need the 10%, 20% or 100% of His resources that we return to Him. He can get the job done with us or without us, through us or in spite of us. His desire is for us to demonstrate that we are trusting, obedient and faithful in our relationship with Him.
· 1 Kings 17:7-16 The widow of Zarepath provided food for Elijah out of her depleted reserves
· Luke 6:38 The measure you give will be the measure you receive
· 1 Tim 6:17-19 Put your hope in God, not in your possessions & money
· Eccl 5:10 Wealth is meaningless & unsatisfying
· Matt 6:19-34 Seek first the Kingdom of God

4. Stewardship of All God has Given Us
The typical Kiwi attitude is that we are self-sufficient & responsible for all we possess.
The Biblical perspective is different – we are merely overseers of God’s earthly domain, responsible for taking care of His resources until Jesus returns. We are called to be the wise managers of God’s wealth, rather than the creators and consumers of our own wealth.
· Genesis 14:17-24 Abram acknowledged that his victory spoils were a gift from God
· 1 Chron 29:14-18 Everything is God’s. We watch over it for Him. (also Psalm 24:1,2; 50:10-12)
· Luke 16:10-12 He will only trust us with much after we prove ourselves faithful with a little
· 1 Cor 4:2 Paul exhorted those who were being trusted to prove themselves faithful
· 1 Tim 6:6, Phil 4:10-13 Be content with what you have
· Matt 6:24 Master money by serving God with it

5. We Are Commanded To Give
1. Generously Dt 15:7-10; Ps 37:21; Prov 11:24,25; 2 Cor 9:6
2. Secretly Matt 6:1-4
3. Strategically Acts 2:44,45; 4:32-37
4. With Honesty Acts 5:1-11 (Ananias & Saphira)
5. Sacrificially Mk 12:41-44; 2 Cor 8:1-9
6. Joyfully 2 Cor 8:10-12; 9:7
7. Setting an Example 2 Cor 9:1,2,13 (your giving may encourage others to do the same)
8. Investing in the Future 2 Cor 9:6 you reap what you sow – therefore sow bountifully
Matt 6:19-21; 1 Tim 6:18,19 gain treasure in heaven – no moths, rust or thieves
Matt 19:16-24 This life is short, & then we face God
9. To Support Your Local Church (if it is a structured church)
To Build the Kingdom of God Through the Ministry of the Church
Luke 8:2,3; Gal 6:6; 3 John 8; Luke 10:7; 1 Cor 9:9; 1 Tim 5:17-18;
As a wise man once said ‘While you have temples & priests, you need tithes & offerings). It costs money to operate a structured local church – hence church members need to pay for the running costs of that church.
10. To Build the Kingdom of God Matt 6:24,33, 1 Tim 6:6-10, 17-19
11. To The Poor 1 Tim 6:17-19, 2 Cor 9:6-12, Deut 15:11, Lk 12:33, Gal 2:10, Prov 19:17

6. Tithing
· Tithing is the giving of one tenth of your gross income to God. Under Old Testament Law, God’s people were required to give a tithes (10%) of their gross income to God, which went to provide for the Levites (their spiritual leaders). [Gen 14:20; Lev 27:30; Deut 14:22; Neh 10:37-39; Mal 3:8-10]
· Now we are under New Testament grace brought by Jesus. We are no longer under a Law to tithe, but it remains a fundamental biblical principle, and in fact the NT principles go far beyond tithing. (ie tithing is the easy way). All that we have belongs to God (not just the first 10%), and He commands us to give generously (ie much more than just tithing).
· Experience proves that we all need to establish discipline in our lives. Many people have the concept of giving, but without a stated discipline or commitment, in practice they give little.
· Many Christians can testify to the blessing of God, as they have established tithing as the starting place in their giving, with other offerings and gifts given in addition to their tithe.

7. God’s Response
· 2 Kings 4:1-7 God’s blessing for obedience
· Matt 14:14-21 God can multiply the little we have (feeding the 5000)
· 2 Cor 9:6-12 We will always have enough to be generous
· Lk 6:38 Give & you will receive, overflowing amounts

8. Questions to Consider
1. How committed are you to the work of God? Does this commitment extend into all areas of your life?
2. What is youy starting place for giving? ie what regular commitment have/will you make?
3. In Nehemiah 10:39, the Israelites decided “We will not neglect the house of our God”
What does this mean for you?
3. George Barna said “God expects each of us to fund the church generously, He accepts no excuses for stinginess, and our lives are materially affected by our generosity”. Do you agree with this? What are your reasons?