WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE UNDER THE LOCAL CHURCH?
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Over the years of seeing the freedom that we have in Christ, especially as it pertains to functioning in church and ministry, I have met other believers who have seen and grown in the same understanding that the lord has given us. I believe this to be a natural process of the body of Christ coming to maturity. When the head [Jesus] is communicating with the body [the church] you often find different members seeing and functioning in the same truths, though they have never personally met each other. Some of these experiences are lessons for the whole church. Many times in trying to express truth there is a natural tendency for fellow believers to respond in a unified way in defense of a wrong [or misguided] way of seeing things. I remember sharing with a missionary family how the New Testament teaches a greater freedom for the functioning of missionaries/apostles than what we put on them today. I showed how Paul simply operated under the spirits guidance and practiced giving and receiving in a voluntary way with all the believers he was spending time with. I showed how even though Paul was an apostle sent out of the church at Antioch [acts 13] that this didn’t mean he was under some type of 501c3 entity at Antioch that he was sending his tithes to in order to be in obedience to the ‘New Testament pattern.’ If you read the story in acts all the apostles and believers functioned as citizens of a heavenly city and saw themselves all equally as part of this new community of Christ followers.
The idea that Paul [or any other New Testament minister] had some type of structural relationship with his ‘home church’ in the sense that he was sending tithes back to his ‘home church’ on a regular basis is simply reading 21st century American patterns into the story that doesn’t exist. You would think that the missionary family would have rejoiced to have seen this truth, as it would have given them freedom in moving forward in new ways in the kingdom. But contrary they were offended in a sense because they truly felt the role of tithing to a specific group of Christians who meet in a building in there area was a New Testament pattern that must be adhered to. While its ok to give to groups of Christians in this way, but to see this as a pattern that if violated would bring the curse in Malachi upon a person is ridiculous. These are ways that we confuse the spiritual temple of believers with the entity/501c3 structures that exist in ministry today. While the obtaining of the 501c3 status, or the purchasing of a building for believers to meet in is not inherently wrong [remember, if its needed for mission it’s o.k.] but to then view that as ‘local church’ which the missionary needs to tithe to in order to be in obedience to the ‘local church’ is confusing the spiritual entity of Christ’s body with the physical entity of American ministry.
When we view ‘ministry’ as a separate organization, we sacrifice the freedom to directly build into people. I was driving through town one day with a friend and as we passed by a certain business I mentioned that I needed to go in at a later time to purchase some equipment. My friend asked why I needed it and I explained I felt the Lord wanted me to buy it for a friend in order to help him in ministry. He questioned why I would spend money on someone who had no type of relationship with us, like a ‘part of our church/ministry’. I explained how believers should be willing to spend time and money for the benefit of others regardless of whether or not they are ‘part of our organization’ [by the way we have no ‘organization’ that someone ‘joins’]. I should mention that the person I wanted to spend the money on was one of our original friends/converts that we worked with in the early days of ministry. So the benefit would be purely spiritual, that is I would receive a reward from God in the sense that one of ‘our disciples’ would benefit directly from this purchase. Paul told the Corinthians that he would gladly spend and be spent for them. He said the fathers spend for the children, not the children for the fathers. He was showing the attitude of building people up for their sole benefit, not simply building staff or employees but giving yourself away solely for the benefit of ‘spiritual children’.
Many times people will unconsciously do the things I advocate, without realizing it! Recently there have been many examples of God working supernaturally in the area of finances. Many people who disagree with my teaching on grace giving have actually been blessed by doing it the way I teach it! People have been giving testimonies of how God would move on them to freely give [apart from the tithe concept] and how after they obeyed his voice to MEET THE NEED OF ANOTHER PERSON, versus ‘paying the tithe’ that the Lord would move supernaturally on their behalf by another person [not institution] being moved to give to them in return. I have been teaching this for years! How when Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for ‘corban’ giving that he told them their mindset of dedicating money to the temple [institution] caused them to neglect giving directly to people [their parents]. So the recent breakthrough in giving that people are experiencing is what I have been saying all along. God wants us to give spontaneously to directly meet the needs of people! I realize this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also give regularly, but the point is sometimes we reject what a persons saying [like me!] without realizing that what their saying is right!
I should note something here; over the years I have consistently taught and believed in the concept of giving as God leads. There have been many times where the Lord would move on me to meet the needs of people. Just a few days ago one of my homeless friends asked me if I was still buying tents for people, I said sure. There was really no second thought or feeling of ‘I already gave the required amount this week, and this is going out of the way’. I simply felt it to be in keeping with the New Testament to give to someone in need. A few weeks back I ran into one of the original homeless friends that I met many years ago. The first thing he remembered and couldn’t stop talking about was how when I first met him I was giving away clothes in the winter to him and a bunch of other people. Theses simple acts of charity are in keeping with the teaching of Jesus on giving. The New Testament says ‘give to him that asks of thee’ ‘if you have the ability to help your brother and don’t how dwelleth the love of God in you’ ‘if someone comes to your door in need and you don’t help, it profits nothing’ ‘let him who is not working get a job so he MAY HAVE TO GIVE TO HIM THAT NEEDETH’.
All these verses [which I just paraphrased off the top of my head, you’ll have to look them up for yourself] speak clearly to the issue of God wanting us to give to meet the needs of others spontaneously and freely. No sense of ‘I already tithed this week to the church’. This legalistic mindset actually works against the spirit of New Testament giving. I am not saying Christians shouldn’t give regularly for the functioning of Christian ministry, I put aside money on a bi-weekly basis in order to fund Christian works. It is because of my priority of doing this that enables me to meet the needs of people when they come up.
I believe Christians should regularly give to the work of the kingdom, I also believe that many people would experience breakthrough in their giving if they truly practiced the New Testament doctrine of grace giving. All the communities of the New Testament [churches] gave this way. There simply was no tithing concept taught to the gentile believers. The scripture says the Corinthians gathered on the 1st day of the week and gave Paul an offering to BRING BACK TO THE POOR SAINTS AT JERUSALEM. Do you see this ‘THE POOR SAINTS’. They were giving to meet the needs of people here. We use these verses to tell Christians if you put in the required amount on Sunday then you’ve met your obligation. We distort scripture to fit into our way of seeing things. I believe its O.K. to put money in the offerings on Sunday, many times the work of ‘building based’ churches is good. Supporting missionaries, planting churches and many other good things. It’s just that we shouldn’t use this as an excuse to by pass all the other instructions in the New Testament to freely give to others in need!
I want to note something here, this is a good example of how are ‘seeing’ church as the Sunday meeting as opposed to the corporate group affects us. The issue of ‘how much should I put into the basket on Sunday’ was a NON ISSUE in the New Testament. There were times where all the believers in a community [the church] gave in a corporate way[ Acts 6, 1 Cor. 16] but there was no ‘Sunday church offering’ that all the ‘New Testament’ churches gave into. Why? Because the New Testament churches are all the believers in any given community. The focus wasn’t ‘going to church on Sunday’ that is our ‘thoughts’ or ways of seeing things [it’s O.K. to go to church on Sunday] but the focus was a community of people living and sharing on a daily basis. So when Paul writes these churches, or when Jesus tells us to give to him in need, they are addressing people directly. It’s not like the focus was on an institution. This is why ‘how much should we give, or should Christians tithe?’ is not seen in the New Testament like we see this question today. The bible speaks of ‘churches’ as communities of people; we speak about them in terms of ‘the church I go to on Sunday’. This basic misunderstanding of church causes us to hold onto a less than ideal view of Christian giving.
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