(201) Inscription 78_Partners in Ministry
Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 78: Partnership & Obedience
June 3, 2012
Scripture reading: Phil 4:10-13
Talking about money
You may not know that we lived in Texas for about 5 months when my dad was in the military. We had a hard time find a church there and visited several different ones.
In my very limited experience, if there is one thing that southern churches like to talk about, it’s money. You basically got two sermons each Sunday – the real sermon and the mini-sermon before the offering.
* If they talk too much about giving, we make the opposite mistake; it has been a year and half specifically on giving.
I am reluctant to talk about offerings and tithes because of the abuse and the image of the televangelist. Add to that the fear of what a visitor might think.
* I am cheating you by failing to talk about money.
I am cheating you as individuals: Sin is that which harms us, our relationship with others and our relationship with God. Biblically speaking, not giving is robbing God.
* But also obedience brings joy, and I have been robbing you of joy by not speaking about money enough.
The state of the CHURCH
I am also cheating you collectively: Our church is in financial trouble now. When I went part time, we set up a system that barely worked, but it worked.
* It’s kind of like some of you have a budget based on nothing breaking and no one getting sick.
That is not a healthy system. We paced along, but we had one really bad month; we brought in about $5,000 less than average.
Then on top of that our flood insurance came due, which we had to pay with the credit card, because there was not enough.
* Long story short, unless something changes very quickly, we will not be able to make our mortgage payment.
I’ve spent the entire week thinking about this and began with self-evaluation. I’ve failed by not talking more about the importance of giving to support this church.
* And for that I apologize.
Thanks to givers, challenge to non-givers
Many of you given, many of you give consistently and very sacrificially, and I am deeply grateful to you.
* It’s not about dollar amount, but giving that demonstrates that God owns your money and you trust him to care for you.
If you are giving in that way, regardless of how much, you should take a proper pride in what is happening in this church:
* I look around this room and I see stories of what God is doing; in a couple of week we will get to hear more.
The problem is not that this church isn’t capable of supporting itself – many of you are not giving sacrificially or consistently:
* Maybe you are new to church and don’t understand the role each of us play in paying for the church. That is my fault.
* Maybe you know better, but aren’t willing to make the sort of sacrifices needed to obey God.
* Maybe you don’t really believe in the church and are not willing to support it.
I am going to be more direct today than I have ever been (perhaps that is part of the reason we are here), but it is vital for you to know exactly where we are and what has to happen to keep us going.
* Visitors: This is a very unusual sermon, would normal handle in a meeting, but this is too urgent. This isn’t to you.
Let’s plow forward: As it just so happens, our financial news came shortly before I was going to preach on giving from Philippians, which I had planned out a couple of months ago.
Intro to Philippians
Philippians is basically a thank you letter by Paul to the people of Philippi. They had sent him a generous gift in the hands of Epaphroditus (no Western Union yet). In the process, he writes one of the most encouraging epistles.
* My first sermon series here was from Philippians.
At the end of the letter, Paul gets to the thank you note, addresses two very important things about giving.
Philippians 4:14-18a Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. 17 Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent.
Notice two things: 1) in v. 14 “share in my troubles,” and 2) in v. 15 “not one church shared with me.” And at the beginning of the book, Paul talked about partnership in the Gospel (1:5):
Paul planted the church at Philippi, but was only there for a little while. Yet Jesus radically changed their lives and they insisted on funding his mission work in the next city.
* Because of their funding, when Paul went to Thessalonica he could focus on ministry instead of working his second job.
As Paul saw it, they were as much a part of his work as he was. By their prayers and gifts, they became an integral part of Paul’s evangelism of Europe.
* In this passage Paul uses bankers’ language, speaking of money as an investment, which is common in the Bible.
A couple of weeks ago, I said each this is not my church, it is our church. The leadership team is not the professional athletes you come to watch – this is a participation sport.
If we don’t clean the church, it will not be cleaned. If we don’t teach Sunday School, they’ll be in service with us. If we don’t drawn visitors in, they will be left in the cold.
* You have been cleaning, teaching, including; I’m proud of us.
But just as important: If you don’t pay the mortgage, we won’t have a place to meet. If you don’t pay the light bills, there won’t be any electricity. If you don’t pay my salary, I will have to get a full time job.
* You are the partners in this work of the church.
God’s appointed means
There’s an unconscious misperception that “no matter what I give to the church, God will provide.” He could provide, but He often doesn’t. He also could have angles preach the Gospel.
* We are his provision, if we don’t give there is no one else.
* God wants His work to be supported by His people.
Last week I talked about God’s sovereignty and that he works through every situation. The flip side of that is that each of us have to do our part.
* God can still work through our disobedience, but it won’t be the good he wanted to give us.
To put it bluntly, unless those of you who are not giving consistently and sacrificially start doing so, this church cannot survive.
* This past month has shown us how unhealthy we are –when one bill threatens to shut us down.
Paul goes from the language of banking and investment to that of worship and sacrifices.
Philippians 4:18b-20 They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
At a deeper level than investing in God’s work is giving as an act of worship and obedience.
Sacrifices, offerings, and giving to God are not optional:
Malachi 3:8-9 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse – the whole nation of you – because you are robbing me.
I was very pointed in talking about the church not being able to operate unless all of you invest; I want to be equally pointed about this:
* Refusing to give sacrificially out of what God has given you is an act of rebellion.
It is sin as surely as sleeping with your boyfriend or cheating on your taxes.
Q Think about that: Do you really think it is possible to be a spiritually mature Christian while disobeying in giving?
“Yeah,” you say, “but this is the NT and we are under grace, not the law.” Yes, we are under grace, but grace should never be used to as an excuse to sin, whether fornication or robbing God.
When we met on Wednesday to discuss all this, Josh Krause made a really good point: Make sure you delve deeper into why people are being disobedient. I really appreciate that from Josh.
Let me repeat – I know that many of you are operating out of ignorance. That is my fault. I have not taught about giving enough. But some of you know better.
Here is the basic theology: Everything we have is God’s, we own nothing. He gave us our very breath to earn the money we have.
* The question is not “How much do I give?” but “How much of God’s do I keep?”
You don’t believe that God will provide for you. You fear that if you obey God, he won’t do his part of care for you:
Malachi 3:10-11 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty.
The point is not “give so you can get,” but that God will take care of you when you give.
* We are living on very little right now, but still tithe.
3. Wrong priorities
The biggest reason people don’t give is that they don’t think they have enough money. Ten times out of ten they do have money, they are just spending it on other things.
It is not about the amount, it is about making a genuine sacrifice to obey and honor God and support his work.
* Jesus praised the widow who gave two pennies.
More likely it is simply that you care more about your little pleasures than obeying God. I talk about enjoying this life, but that flows from obedience, not disobedience.
What about tithe?
The Biblically astute of you may be thinking, “Yeah, but tithe and Malachi and all that is OT.” Yes, tithe is an OT rule, but giving is not:
Paul gave four basic principles that we should pursue:
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income...
2 Corinthians 8:3 For I testify that [the Philippians] gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.
2 Corinthians 9:7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
* Give consistently; give proportionally; give sacrificially; and give cheerfully.
Christians disagree whether or not the strict 10% tithe still applies. But is does give you the ballpark God expects.
If someone invites me to lunch, I push them to suggest a couple of places so I know the ballpark – it’d be awkward if I suggested Outback but they were thinking McD’s $1 menu.
* The tithe show us God is thinking Outback, but many of you are only taking him through the McD’s drive through.
And for other’s of you, McD’s would be a step up, you are just giving God whatever scraps you have left.
Call to action, call to obedience
The leadership believes that this is a defining moment for this church: Will we be a church that worships God with our money?
* Do we believe in what this church is doing and are we willing to partner together sacrificially to keep it going.
I believe that Marilyn and I have demonstrated that we support this church by me taking a second job and living on an insanely tight budget to make it work.
I said that we are willing to lose our house to keep The Gathering open. But we are not willing to lose our house only to have The Gathering still close.
* I need to see same commitment and partnership from you.
In your court
We as a leadership team believe the ball is now in your court. I believe in this church and what we are doing. We may not be the coolest, best run, or best anything, but we are a community, and family that I love.
* I want to see my daughter growing up with your kids, being taught by you.
* I want to see people to come in and grow closer to Jesus.
* I want to continue to live my life with you.
But unless something changes, that cannot happen. We need three things to pull though this and be stronger on the other side:
1. We need to be able to cover our immediate needs.
2. We need to have an increase in monthly giving so this won’t happen again and we stop living month to month.
3. We need a numbers person who can help us keep better track of our money and keep the church informed.
Because of the urgent nature of this matter, we are going to handle things differently than we ever have (again, apologies to visitors).
* First we will have time for Q & A, which I will take form the congregation.
Then we will hand out response cards, and during the first worship song I want you to be praying about your giving.
After that, we will have time for you to quietly consider and discuss with your spouse your giving. Then we will collect the response cards.
Q & A
* The leadership team needs to know if this church will be able to support itself.
If The Gathering is not your church, they you don’t need to do anything. But if it is I want you to respond in some way.
Let me close by paraphrasing something Paul said in 2 Corinthians – I regret having to speak this harshly, yet I do not regret it, if it brings more of you into obedience and joy.
* Please text “Sunday School Teacher” ; service is almost over
Response Card Questions:
1. I/we will continue to give sacrificially, approximately _____ a month, with God’s help,
2. I/we commit to giving approximately ____ a month, with God’s help.
3. I/we need to learn more about Biblical giving.
4. I/we need to spend more time thinking and discussing this. Please contact us later.
5. I/we want to give a onetime gift of _____ to help reestablish The Gathering’s fiscal health.
6. I am interested in helping with bookkeeping.