I believe that the church (universal and local) is of great importance in the purpose and plan of God. For a disciple I believe it is good (necessary) to be committed to a local body of believers and to be active within that. Expressions of that commitment include giving time, prayer, money, attending meetings, encouraging one another and much, much more. I confess that sometimes I have slipped up and not given 100% and have needed to repent of my thoughts and actions.
The article below which is written about giving money, reminded me that whilst that is considered of great importance in most churches, is far from the totality of my commitment to the church. I read it here in the context of Larry Osborne talking about whether pastors should know who gives, and how much, to their church.
Our church was being picketed by the carpenters’ union. Their huge “Labor Dispute—SHAME ON NORTH COAST CHURCH” sign showed up during the week and during our worship services in an attempt to “motivate” us into firing a non-union subcontractor we’d hired to work on our new campus construction.
After the first weekend of picketing, we received an email from a concerned parishioner.
He informed us that after prayer and reflection, his family would no longer be giving their “first fruits” to our ministry. He said he would still give the Lord what was His, but it just wouldn’t be to North Coast—at least not until the issue with the union was resolved.
He then went on to say that though he didn’t particularly care for the methods the union was using, he felt our church had a moral obligation to support companies that provide a living wage in order to show the community we care about people and not just the bottom line. He concluded by thanking us for the way our ministry and teaching had blessed his family and promised his entire family would continue to pray for us as we worked to resolve the issue.
If you were in my shoes, how would you respond?
Not just what would you say or write, but how would you feel?
Based on content and tone, it’s clear the writer is a union member, but he’s also a strong Christian, fully committed to the church, praying for it regularly and supporting it with his “first fruits.”
My bet is you’d wonder if other families like his were thinking the same thing—and, if they were, what they might do in response.
Here’s how I responded.
I asked my assistant to get me some facts. Who was this gentleman? What was his attendance pattern, involvement in our small group ministry AND his giving record?
Here’s what I found out.
He’d attended our church for a couple of years. He’d never been involved in a small group. His “first fruits” giving the previous year was all of $500. Year-to-date, it was zero.
Now, come on. Let’s admit it. That changes things a bit, doesn’t it?
Frankly, for me, the facts changed everything.
Rather than crafting a response appropriate for a strong Christian, highly committed to our church, I needed to put together a response designed for a big hat, no cattle Christian making an empty threat about cutting back his non-existent financial support. It needed to be addressed to someone who talked a good game, but whose deepest loyalty ran far more with the union movement than his local church.
Once I had the facts in hand, I realized the best way to respond would read something like this:
Thank you for sharing your concerns about resolving the issue with the protestors. I fully understand in light of your union loyalties why you might be hesitant to give God’s “first fruits” to a church that hires non-union workers.
Perhaps that’s a sign we are not the best church for you or your family at this time; especially since we’re likely to continue to use our donated funds to hire the lowest qualified bidder on this and other projects in the future.
In light of your concerns, I have asked our finance department to return to you all the “first fruits” gifts you have given to our church so far this year so you can forward them on to a ministry you can fully support. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a record of any such gifts.
Rest assured, if we find any, we will send them to you posthaste. In the meantime, may God guide you and your family as you search for a church worthy of your full support.