The local Christian radio station is gearing up for its annual (or semi-annual, I forget which) pledge drive. In a matter of days the station hopes to get enough donations pledged to cover most of its operating budget for the year. That’s no small feat!
Hopefully, we’ve heard it said time and time again that the church is not a building of wood and stone, but the people who occupy it. We are one family, brothers and sisters in Christ, living together as a community, as a family. Although I believe that the phrase “charity begins at home” is typically applied in a selfish way to justify our lack of concern for others, we do need to remember that our responsibility to love and care for others begins with our family. Imagine if I left my wife and children to survive on government assistance and the generosity of my family members while I sponsored a whole village overseas to provide food and shelter for them. My wife and children may be well cared for, but I’d still be a deadbeat, regardless of the good I do for others, because I’m not providing for those toward whom I have more responsibility. Likewise, a Christian has more responsibility toward the local church community of which they are a part than to Christian ministries in their city, state, nation, or world. A Christian who gives to support other ministries but won’t give (or won’t give much) to support his local church is a deadbeat.
Part of the reason you have more responsibility toward the local church than any other Christian ministry is because of the relationship you have to the church. God established the local church as a Christian community to carry forth his word and to build up believers. A Christian non-profit ministry isn’t going to hold you accountable or take responsibility for your spiritual wellbeing. The local church does that. I may hear a lot of good sermons online from Desiring God ministries and I may feel the desire to support that ministry, but no one from Desiring God is going to baptize my children if they believe in Christ, rebuke me if I fall into sin, embrace me when a loved one dies, or meet with me to disciple me. It’s a good ministry, and it is worthy of support, but not to the detriment of my local church.
When it comes to the idea of tithing, I think we need to be careful. Although I personally believe the tithe to be biblical, I can’t bring myself to say that it is mandated. That said, I don’t believe I can consider myself to be giving generously if I don’t give at least that much to my local church.
Each believer should think and pray about how much to give, but none of us should wonder whether the local church should be our primary recipient of our giving. As for me, I give primarily to my local church. If I know of a worthy non-profit that I’d like to support, I first make sure to give generously to my local church. Then, if I want to give beyond this, I give to other ministries. If I find that I don’t have enough left over to make as significant a contribution as I’d like, I try to bring other believers together and may even encourage my church to support the ministry. If you’re concerned that the church isn’t giving enough of its money toward worthwhile ministries, consider advocating for a more missions-minded budget and give so the church has more than enough money to meet its needs.
Remember, the church is not less than the sum of its parts. If the church members—you and I—are stingy with our giving, it’s not surprising if the local church is too. The solution begins with you and me. Let’s get to it.