The local church is God’s plan A for carrying out his mission, caring for the needy, equipping his people and reaching the lost. When we give to the local church, we give in accordance with God’s plan A.
Perhaps you have never thought about giving in this way. Your giving may be ad hoc, sporadic and based on what you regard to be important. I want to encourage you to rethink this approach and to make regular, generous giving to the local church your priority. Here are three reasons to do this.
The New Testament pattern
In Acts 4 we see that there was real poverty in the early church. The believers’ response to this was to bring their gifts and lay them ‘at the apostles’ feet’ (Acts 4:35, 37). They trusted the apostles to use the money wisely and recognized that the church leaders were in a better position than they were to administer the funds fairly.
The same principles are at work in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 where the amazing example of the Macedonian churches is set before the Corinthian church. How could this relatively well-off church help the poverty-stricken church in Jerusalem? They made regular, weekly collections that were given to the leaders of the church, who in turn arranged for the funds to be taken by trustworthy men to the leaders of the church in Jerusalem.
Acts 6 provides a further example of the local church meeting the practical needs of those in the fellowship through funds provided by the people and administered by trusted men.
The New Testament church was not only involved in meeting the practical needs of the believers but also in supporting the work of mission. Paul makes this clear in thanking the Philippian church for their financial support which was received on multiple occasions (Phil. 4:10-19). The pattern was clear: members gave to the local church, the church entrusted the money to a good man (in this case, Epaphroditus) who in turn delivered the gift to the missionary.
The Old Testament principle
We are no longer under the Mosaic law and the details of tithing, but surely we can take and apply the principles. One of the tithes (there were three tithes not one!) was given to the Levites who were responsible for looking after the temple and the priestly ministry. We no longer have temples and priests, but we do have pastors and churches. Pastors have mortgages and bills to pay. Churches have ministries to run and overheads to pay. A regular source of income is needed by both and that must come from us.
The command to support those who minister
The Bible is so clear on this:
Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches (Gal 6:6).
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The labourer deserves his wages’ (1 Tim. 5:17-18).
To leave the local church unable to pay the pastor and workers properly is to dishonour God.
Therefore, the local church is God’s means by which we care for the needy, support the work of mission and provide for the ministry of the Word. When we give to the church, we are supporting multiple ministries. This is God’s plan A and should therefore be our first priority.
He has appointed those who lead in the church and put them in a position to use wisely the funds that we give. The leadership knows best the practical needs of those in the fellowship and the spending priorities of the church.
There is certainly a place for personal giving to other ministries and projects that you have a burden for as well as individuals who are needy but, in so doing, do not neglect the local church. It is God’s plan A!