The Bible’s Object Lessons in Church Fund Raising
I am personally convinced that many Christians do not believe their own Scriptures. At least you wouldn’t think so by the way the Bible is used selectively in our modern church sermons and Bible Studies. I would like to do a survey of the Top 25 Bible passages that sermons are derived from, because I bet most sermons and homilies are derived from the same few Bible passages. The 10 commandments (Exodus 20), The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and the Resurrection accounts would certainly make the cut. However, there are several passages in Scripture, which are useful and relevant in our modern world, but are avoided as if they never existed.
While we are on the subject of tithing from the last article on de-conversion, I would like to bring up one of my favorite examples of fund raising tactics from my old church. Just as I was leaving Christianity, my old Baptist Church was undergoing a huge fundraising campaign for the new Childrens’ playroom. They had to make room for the ever expanding main sanctuary, so the church needed money to buy and renovate a building across the street for the youngsters. The church spent months on their campaign to raise the funds. They got onto this standardized investment strategy for churches called “The Great Investment”. It was managed by Great Nation Investment Corporation, which is a lending and strategy company that specializes in church fundraising. This had to cost a pretty penny, but I also know that many churches are following this same investment strategy.
For months, the congregation heard a weekly message on tithing and on the need to give back to God. This was followed by a plea to the church for a pledge of a specific dollar amount we would give. We were encouraged to sign this pledge. There was also a weekly painting contest where children of all ages painted sunflowers, which were sort of the mascot or logo for the entire campaign. We then had a Wednesday night congratulatory dinner, complete with a dinner jazz band, where we congratulated ourselves for our selflessness and faithfulness, and we were encouraged by our pastor to fulfill our dollar pledges made following the message on tithing from the previous Sunday.
Now, I am not berating our church for these tactics. After all, I feel there was nothing sneaky or backhanded in what they were doing. Our pastors were pretty upfront with it all and honest, and they used modern, proven techniques for raising funds. But let’s face it, they ain’t biblical.
The Bible mentions nothing about investment strategies, or sweet talking the congregation into giving and fulfilling their pledges. The Bible does give clear instruction on how to handle fundraising and commitment to God, but none of this clear instruction was used for any of the fundraising. There were many Bible passages used to encourage giving and generosity, and even tithing, but the most explicit biblical examples of commitment to church pledges were totally ignored. Because of this, I am convinced that most Christians do not believe large parts of their own Scriptures, or at the very least pretend they are not there.
The first biblical lesson in fundraising can be found in Acts 4:32 – 5:11. It is the story of Ananias and Sapphira, the would-be disciples who dared try to steal from God. If you don’t know the story, here is a quick recap. Picture this scene as if this were happening in your church; it is really quite hilarious. The early church was apparently without need, since everyone sold all that they owned and gave the money to the apostles, who distributed the funds to the poor.
For example, there was Barnabas who sold some of his property and gave all the profits, every last penny, to Peter.
What a guy! Barnabas is the example to follow!
But there was a couple, named Ananias and Sapphira, who conspired to trick Peter by selling their property but pocketing some of the funds for themselves. None of this 10% sissy tithing stuff with Peter. It’s all or nothing with this Apostle! So while Sapphira is elsewhere, Ananias lays the partial funds at Peter’s feet. Peter suspects something fishy is going on and said, “What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” At this point, Ananias drops dead, and some young altar boys come dispose of the body! A few hours later, Sapphira comes, and Peter asks her if she is sure her husband gave him everything. She sealed her fate by answering “yes”. Just then she dropped dead, just after she heard the footsteps of the altar boys who just finished burying her husband!
WOW, God does not fool around when it comes to church pledges! There is one and only one point to this story in Acts – don’t think you can get away with ripping off the Church. Give your due or else the wrath of God is upon you. It is Scripture. Christians claim it is inspired, ordained, inerrant, and sanctioned by God Almighty. But does this particular story follow the same rules? Not that I’ve noticed, since I don’t think I have heard it used as an object lesson from God in modern fund raising. There is no other purpose to this story than as an object lesson. It is there for a reason. Yet, I never heard that mentioned in the Great Investment strategy, and I bet no Christian reading this has ever heard this story as part of a fund raising drive. “You better give to God, or you could keel over DEAD!”
The second object lesson ordained by God is the story of Jephthah the Gileadite in Judges 11:30-39. Our churches do not have enough sermons, homilies or inspirational messages from Judges. Church would be much more entertaining if they did, wouldn’t you agree? Here is the story. Jephthah was a mighty warrior, who was chased from his own land when it was found his mother was a prostitute. But when the pesky Ammonites decided to attack Israel, Jephthah was called out of exile!
Jephthah’s determination to beat the Ammonites was so great, that he made a vow with God. He prayed to God, “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”
Can you see the setup here? The analogy that our modern Bible teachers will make with the sacrifice of tithing from their congregation is pretty obvious.
What happens next? Predictably, Jephthah crushed the Ammonites in only two verses! When Jephthah returns from battle, who should come out to meet him first but his only daughter! And a virgin at that! Jephthah cried in anguish because of the deal he made with God, but as a great man of faith, he carried through with his commitment to sacrifice her as a burnt offering. But merciful God did give a small leniency, as she was allowed to roam the hills and weep for two months before she roasted on a pyre as a sweet smelling savor unto the Lord.
What a guy! Jephthah is the example to follow!
So, these are the two object lessons in fund raising and keeping our commitments to God that you will probably never hear in any church. Hey, I don’t blame church pastors for not using these stories. Bible study leaders and fund raisers would drive away half the congregation using scare tactics like these. But, like I said, it is Scripture. These stories are supposedly inspired history from the inerrant Word of God. They serve no other purpose but as object lessons. But I cannot help but wonder what career pastors are thinking. Are pastors not ashamed of passages like these being in their Scriptures? Do they just pretend that they are not there?
Do they really believe their own inspired and inerrant Scriptures? Has doubt crept into their hearts when they intentionally ignore passages like these? I am serious when I ask this – it is entirely possible. As I have confessed on this site that I intentionally avoided certain passages of Scripture when my wife expressed an interest in Bible Study. I knew there was a problem when I did that, and doubt crept in upon further investigation. Does this happen with church leaders also? They cherry-pick with the best of them. What is going on?