Financial Survival For Christians, Part 7 (Church)

Title: Financial Survival For Christians, Part 7 (Church)

Text: 2 Timothy 4:1-2, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Matthew 5:42

Time: July 23rd, 2010

So far I’ve talked about how we can survive as Christians in an economically hard time by standing on the promises of God and through prayer. But today I’d like to explain our relationship as an individual Christian to the corporate Christian church in times of economic recession. What is our relationship to the Body of Christ – on in other words, the Christian community, the church? How should the church respond to us? How should we respond to the church? To begin with, it’s a little difficult to talk about “the church” in general, because there are so many different aspects to defining the church. Are we talking about the denominational structure, such as the American Baptist Church or the United Methodist Church or the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, for example? Or are we talking about the local church – the First Baptist Church of Hammond, IN or the First Assembly of God in Erie, PA, for example? So we have to be careful in talking about “the church,” that we’re talking about the same thing, otherwise, we’ll misunderstand ourselves and miscommunicate something. For this message I’ll be limiting myself to the local church, the one we normally attend on Sunday, the one we go to hear God’s Word taught, where we worship through song and prayer, the one we participate in fellowship, where we give financially also. What is our responsibility to the local church during financially hard times? What is the church’s responsibility towards us in economically tough times? Throughout this message series on surviving financially through hard economic times, I’ve mostly addressed our role as individuals responsible for our own money matters, but today I’d like to talk more in terms of our role in community – how we should be functioning with others in the church during financially challenging times. Obviously, if everyone in a community is hurting financially, the church community as a whole will also suffer, because the combined impact of everyone giving makes up the church budget. Churches going through a building campaign or facility expansion might have to put that on hold for a while until the economy turns around. Church communities in heavy debt load might have even bigger worries to think about, especially if the loan comes with higher interest. I haven’t heard of many churches going bankrupt, but I’m sure it happens from time-to-time. I have heard of denominational structures going bankrupt – for example, the Roman Catholic Church in Boston, I think it was, filed for bankruptcy, not the local churches but the overall Diocese of Boston. Hopefully, local churches can weather the economic storm just like individual church members without going bankrupt. But the question remains, “How can the local church help us during our struggle through financial problems?” What is realistic help coming from the local church to individual members? Let me list three ways.

First, the local church can be a place for us to receive instruction from God’s Word. 2 Timothy 4:1-2, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” Here the Apostle Paul teaches local church pastor Timothy his leadership priorities in the church – Preach the Word! The primary calling of the local church is to teach and train people in God’s Word. Now some people may react and say, “Hey, I’m going through financial problems. I don’t need another Bible lesson; I need money! I don’t need to know another Bible story, I need a job!” I’ve heard these kinds of reactions many times as a pastor. People often prioritize things in their life by weighing their Christian spiritual responsibilities with their material and financial responsibilities. During hard times they feel justified in jettisoning their Christianity or spiritual disciplines because of their financial needs. But it doesn’t work that way. We need to hear God’s Word taught every week because we need God to speak to us about all of life, not just the financial part. A lot of times, the very reason we are in financial difficulty is because we haven’t heard God speak to us in every area of life because we haven’t listened to him. For example, how many people today are buried under with debt, or losing their home through foreclosure because they couldn’t keep up payments because of the huge interest rate on their home loan? Why did they choose to take out that much debt at that high a rate of interest? Could it be because they got a little too greedy? Or maybe it was because they missed the Sunday sermon that talked about greed and lusting after more material goods? Do lessons from God’s Word make any difference in life? They should, whether they do or not depends on the individual. But there’s no question that part of the problem, one of the reasons why we are in such a deep recession is because a lot of people forgot to be content with what they have, they lusted in their hearts for more than they could afford, and consequently, they overreached financially – and now they are suffering for it, we all are suffering for it too. That’s not the reason in every case, but my point is, we need more than money to pull out of our financial troubles; we need God’s wisdom and knowledge which comes through hearing his Word on Sunday morning and other times. The church must continue to preach the Word – in season and out, in good times and bad, in prosperity and poverty. God is speaking to us from his Word, will we be in church enough to listen? Or will we be at home, sitting around reading the doom and gloom about the economy in the newspapers and worrying ourselves over what we’re going to do. We need the church during our personal financial struggles because we need to hear God’s Word preached week after week. We need all of God’s wisdom to help us with our challenges in life.

Second, the local church can be a place for us to receive encouragement. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” In addition to the instruction from God’s Word we should receive from the local church, and which greatly helps us in receiving the wisdom and instruction of God, we should also receive encouragement in the church. There should be a lot of comfort and sympathy found in the local church. For example, one of the best ways of encouraging those who are going through financial difficulties is prayer. A few years ago I happed to be visiting a small church in Brighton, Michigan where one of the leaders of the church was leading the congregation in prayer. I was surprised but pleased to hear him pray this in front of the people, “And Lord we pray for those buying and selling homes today.” I’d never heard a public prayer for buying and selling anything before, but it made sense! Now our encouragement through prayer in the local church should not only come at the larger public meetings, but also in the context of smaller group meetings as well. A healthy church will usually have a number of smaller groups for people to attend in-between Sunday morning meetings. These are really good places for people to pray for one another – and good places for people going through financial difficulties to receive prayer for their specific situation. We all need prayer. It’s an encouragement to give and receive prayer in the local church. Then, in addition to prayer, there is fellowship and support from other people who are either in the same financial situation, or others who’ve gone through it before who can encourage others. It’s hard to go through any struggle all alone. It’s better to go through difficulties with others who can help each other out. Sometimes it’s important that people just get together and talk about their troubles; that’s important. The unbelievers and non-Christians may visit the local bar and drown in their own sorrows with others. The poor bartender probably has to play the role of counselor and friend to quite a few people every day! But the local church is a lot healthier place to give and receive encouragement. Sometimes we all just need a little bit of encouragement from others. Sometimes we need someone to pray with us. Sometimes we need to tell someone our troubles, what we’re going through. An important part of church is fellowship. This is something important the local church can give us as we go through financially tough times. It may be just what we need to make it. Don’t ever underestimate the power of encouragement.

Third, the local church can be a place for us to receive assistance, help. Matthew 5:42, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” I place this benefit and blessing from the local church last for a good reason – we shouldn’t first turn to the local church to meet our personal financial needs directly. What would happen if everyone in the church looked to the church organization as a social welfare organization? What would happen if everyone viewed the church as a source of money? It would soon go broke, it would have to shut down, it couldn’t pay its electric bills, it would have to sell it’s building and liquidate all of its resources. No. The local church shouldn’t be seen normally as a source of money. In the ancient church, before the days of government programs, life and health insurance, unemployment insurance, for example, the local church was a last resort for desperate people. Today, thankfully, we’ve organized society in such a way that the local church doesn’t have to bear the burden of feeding, clothing, and housing large numbers of people. It can focus more on its primary spiritual mission of evangelizing and discipling people for the kingdom of God. But that doesn’t mean that the local church shouldn’t do something for people in material and financial need. And fortunately, most churches do some kind of assistance for the truly needy. Most churches have something which might be called a “Deacon’s Fund” or some similar named category in which to meet the emergency needs of its people. Like I said before, we shouldn’t normally count on the local Christian church to give us any money or provide for our material needs in life, but on occasion, if in an emergency situation, and if we’ve tried every other avenue and still we lack, we should go to the church and inquire if there is any kind of fund available for people in emergency situations. There usually is, but one must usually ask about it to find out. I believe every church of any size should have an emergency fund, a charity fund, for people who are truly needy. And sometimes, I don’t say all the time, but sometimes, this can be a place to turn to when there is no other alternative. If your church doesn’t have such an emergency fund, maybe you can help establish it. A few financially stable persons of the church could initially fund it in order to get things going. Then, once it’s been established it could be maintained in order to meet the emergency needs of people that come up from time to time. Should you ever use the church charity fund? If you are truly in need and there’s no other alternative, yes. If it could save a family from losing their apartment or home, if it could help someone from starving, if it could help someone fix their furnace in the winter to stay warm, for example, it’s worth it. Again, don’t be too proud to ask for help, even the church, if you really need help. But again, don’t take advantage and abuse charity, because if you do, you are taking away from a truly needy person.

So we can see that the local church can be a blessing and benefit for all of us in going through financial struggles. It doesn’t just come down to money either. We probably benefit more from the intangibles that we receive from the church, than we ever do from any financial or material resources we’d receive. Then again, we need a place like the local church to continue to give also. There are some people who feel that when they run into financial struggles that it’s an excuse to cut off all giving to the local church. They feel that once they get their own financial house in order, then they can think about giving to the church. But that’s wrong. The Bible teaches us to give out of our lack. There are plenty of examples in the Bible of people giving out of their own needs. There’s the example of the “widow’s mite” in Mark 12:41-44, where a woman gave into the collection a coin that she really needed to survive, but she instead gave it to God. And Jesus commended her for it! From a psychological perspective, one of the healthiest things we can do is to never label or think of ourselves as poor, as in poverty. Now the irony of it all is that we may indeed be poor and living in poverty, but if we can think of ourselves as above it, we’ll do better in the long run. And one of the best ways to avoid the self-label of poor is to continue to give financially and not just receive financially. For example, as a pastor of a number of small churches, some in the inner city, at times I’ve actually qualified as “poor” or below the official poverty line as determined by the U.S. government. But I’ve never seen myself as poor, not have I ever acted or talked as if I were poor. My identity was never with poverty or being poor, even though I was technically in that category. One of the big reasons for my ability to rise above my low income over the years was my giving to the church. If you can just keep giving at some level even in the midst of your financial struggles, then you can always see yourself as making it or at least not see yourself negatively. Always try to keep up your giving to the church, even in the midst of your own financial crisis. Like the widow who gave her last coin in the collection plate, we should always continue to give financially to the church because that’s what God would have us do. Also, there are promises from God such as Luke 6:38, “Give and it will be given unto you,” that apply whether we give a little or a lot, whether we can afford it or not. Somehow, someway God takes our willingness to give and turns it around and blesses us in some way. So then, there are lots of reasons why we should not in any way pull back from church participation during financially hard times, in fact, it is in such time that we should draw closer to the church – and draw closer to God also.

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2 Responses to “Financial Survival For Christians, Part 7 (Church)”

  1. Glenn Roepchand Says:

    Dear sirs,
    I am from Surinam south- america, and we are looking for a financial help so that we can build our parochie and also for painting our church “Johannes De Doper Church” it will cost 600 us dollars. to do all that thing. In these we like to ask you some help.
    we are looking forwward for your reply. thanks and GOD Bless You all.
    Glenn Roepchand.

  2. valeri Says:

    Dear father iam in avery much and an urgent need of 40 000 rupees will you help me

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