Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 24, 1954
NUMBER 8, PAGE 8-10a

Church Finances

Cecil B. Douthitt, P. O. Box 67, Brownwood. Texas

By the terms, "church finances," or "the church's money," I mean the finances or money of the church, and not the money privately held by individual members of the church. "Masonic finances" does not mean the finances or money of the individual members of the Masonic Lodge, but the finances under the control or in possession of the lodge.

If the money of the members of the church is the "church's money," and the money of the members of the Masonic Lodge is the "lodge's money," and the money of the members of the Lion's Club is the "club's money," then there is quite a mixture of undivided money in the hands of the man who is a member of all three of these institutions.

1. Importance and scriptural prominence.

Money is an important factor in almost all institutions and enterprises. Many worthy projects have failed on account of mismanagement of monetary affairs, and others have been handicapped through a lack of pecuniary resources.

"They that are minded to be rich," whether "they" be individuals, or families, or churches, will "fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil: which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (1 Tim. 6:9,10).

The extensive space devoted in the scriptures to a discussion of the use of money indicates the importance the Holy Spirit attaches to it in the life of the church. Jesus had much to say about money, goods, lands, houses, wealth and riches. Paul and other inspired writers spoke and wrote on how the church should obtain and use its money, and how every emergency that requires money in the church's activities should be met.

2. The work of the church requires money.

In the scriptures the church is taught to provide the necessities of its worthy poor (1 Cor. 16:1-2). To the elders of the church at Ephesus Paul quoted the words of Jesus: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

The church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15), and through it the manifold wisdom of God must be made known (Eph. 3:10). Money is required in order to preach the gospel to the nations. Meeting places must be provided and equipped, and the preachers and others who devote their time to the ministry of the word must be supported. The Lord has ordained "that they that proclaim the gospel should live of the gospel" (1 Cor. 9:14). With divine approval the church at Philippi sent once and again to Paul's need as he went elsewhere preaching the gospel (Phil. 4:15,16)

In the worship of God and the work of teaching the word to all, many things that cost money are needed. That the church can use its money for the purchase of the things needed in the performance of the work God has assigned to it cannot be denied.

3. How shall the local church obtain the funds necessary for the work God has assigned to it?

Many plans, programs, systems and schemes are employed by various groups to raise the money for the work they want to do. One group depends entirely on the freewill offerings of those who want to give; another solicits funds from the general public, sometimes putting rather heavy pressure on the reluctant contributor; others depend largely upon various business enterprises owned and operated by the church; pie suppers, rummage sales and such like supply some of the money; some use a combination of all these methods of money raising, and a few resort to schemes that are inherently sinful, such as benefit dances, bingo parties and other games of chance.

One of two things is true: (1) God has expressed his will in the Bible on how the church should obtain funds for its work; or, (2) He has not expressed it, but left the plan for uninspired men to decide.

An earnest desire to please God and a proper zeal for righteousness should urge all to search the scriptures and determine, if possible, whether or not His will on how church funds are to be obtained is revealed. If God's will on this subject has been made known by the Bible, then no method of church fund-raising should be employed, except the kind that meets the expressed approval of the Lord. If He has not revealed His will on this point, but left it to human judgment and opinion, then it necessarily follows that any local church can do two things: (1) it can employ any one or more of these money raising methods; and (2) it can exclude or reject any one or more of these methods and adopt a plan never yet tried by any church.

If God's will is not revealed as to how the local church should obtain funds for its work, it can stage pie suppers and rummage sales, operate factories, farms, ranches and cotton gins, receive free-will gifts, and use any other method of money raising that is not sinful within itself. Also, if God has not revealed His will in this matter, but left the HOW for men to decide, any local church has a perfect right to exclude and reject the method of free will offerings, or pie suppers, or the operation of secular business, and use only the method of assessment of its members, if it desires to do so, and if such is not inherently sinful. These statements are axiomatic.

4. God has expressed His will in the Bible on how the church should obtain funds for its work.

Nothing pertaining to the work of the church is more clearly revealed by the word of God than the fact that it is God's will that the church be supplied with the money necessary for its work by free-will gifts. Here are the scriptures; this is the will of God.

"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I .gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come" (1 Cor. 16:1,2). Now, a few observations are in order: ('1) This is an apostolic "order," and not an optional matter with the church at Corinth; (2) this is the same order that the Holy Spirit gave through Paul to other churches — "the churches of Galatia"; (3) this is an act of acceptable worship in the Lord's day meeting of the church, and therefore not susceptible to substitution, change or alteration by any man or church.

Other passages (Acts 2:45; Acts 4;34-37) indicate that money was received by the church in Jerusalem at times other than on the Lord's day; but no church at any time during apostolic days had any source of income whatever, except free gifts of contributors, so far as the Bible shows or anyone knows.

To supply their needs during disasters with which they could not cope otherwise, churches in Judea received money as gifts from other churches. (See Acts 11:27-30; 12:25; 24:71;Rom. 15:25-28; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8:1-4; 9:145.) But so far as the Bible shows or anyone knows, no church solicited or accepted funds from another church, except to alleviate hardship and suffering among the members of the receiving church during a calamity. Even then this money was given, and the churches that gave it had not obtained one cent of it as income from any church's farm, ranch, saw-mill, cotton gin, or sale of pie-supper tickets.

5. No church can own or operate scripturally any business as a source of revenue for its divinely appointed work.

The church's need of money for its work of preaching the gospel, caring for orphans and feeding the poor is no greater today than it was in the days of the apostles. The New Testament gives no example of any church's engaging in any kind of business for profit, or accepting any kind of ownership or responsibility that would compel its going into business.

During the days of inspiration donations were received by the Jerusalem church in a way that precluded the possibility of any reasonable excuse for the church's going into business. The inspired historian states in detail that "as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the price of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto each, according as anyone had need. And Joseph, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, . having a field, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles feet" (Acts 4:34-37). Other passages show that this does not forbid the church's receiving food and clothing for its worthy indigent, or a house and equipment for its meeting place. The scriptures show that the churches did have places in which to meet, with a strong indication that some of such places were given to them (Acts 20:8; Acts 2:46). Whether their ownership of these meeting places was permanent- or temporary — for one hour, for one night, or ten years — is immaterial; the fact remains that they did have possession of them. But the example of Barnabas and other possessors of lands or houses, who sold them and gave the price to the church, does forbid the church's acceptance of any property that would necessitate its operation of a business enterprise for revenue with which to do its divinely appointed work.

A few churches of Christ now are engaging in secular business and some are trying hard to plunge deeper into the unscriptural and reprehensible practice. Some have accumulated funds for which they see no immediate need; therefore, they have bought bonds or issued loans and are receiving interest therefrom. These churches are in the banking business. Others are planning, building, or buying residential units, office buildings, or some other form of rental property in order to draw regular income from tenants. These churches are landlords in the real estate business.

Another church accepts title to a valuable farm from a generous and well-meaning, but woefully misinformed contributor with a clause in the deed requiring the elders of said church to operate said farm and to use the income derived therefrom to care for orphans, or provide homes for the aged, or support missionaries, or do some other phase of specified church work. Elders who will accept a title to property that necessitates the church's going into secular business usually know how to make money much better than they know how to please God. They know how to make this farm pay, and pay big. They know that a few hundred acres of this rich land planted in cotton and grain will pay; therefore, they hire a good foreman to operate the church's farming industry. This church is in the farming business. They can see that a part of this farm should be stocked with cattle and sheep. So, the church goes into the cattle and sheep business. These elders, being experts in the money making business, can see as plain as day that a cotton gin on this farm, ginning its own cotton and the cotton of other farms in the area would bring in enough income annually to keep six missionaries in the foreign field, or build and maintain a new cottage for orphans. Therefore, this church goes into the ginning business in competition with other gins of the county.

This church keeps the wheels of a publicity campaign rolling day and night. It flaunts this corruption of the divine order before the whole brotherhood as the work of God. The admiration and confidence of another misguided land owner is won. This land has oil possibilities. The owner of this farm deeds it to the church, stipulating in the title that the church must hold it in perpetuity and use the income for a specified work. This puts the church in the oil business.

It is not good for the people of any nation when either the church or the state engages extensively in business in competition with private enterprise, as demonstrated over and over by countries of the past and of the present. Both state socialism and church socialism are bad for the state, bad for the church.

I do not think that any of these brethren with whom I do not agree can rightfully say, "If you do not like the way we are doing it show us a better plan," for I have shown a better plan — the plan of the Holy Spirit as exemplified in Barnabas and other possessors of houses and lands, who sold them and gave the money to the church (Acts 4:34-37). Do these modern business brethren think their plan is better in the sight of God than the Bible plan? Do they think Barnabas and the apostles used an inferior method of procedure when Barnabas sold the field and gave the money to the church, instead of deeding it to the church with a clause in the title requiring the church to operate the field as a business enterprise?

6. Operation of business enterprises by the church of Christ is subversive and harmful.

Twice during his brief ministry on earth Jesus cleansed the temple, which was then the house of God, of its commercialism. He said to those traders, "Make not my Father's house a house of merchandise" (John 2:16). What will he say at his second coming to all who are making the blood bought church of Christ, the house of God today (1 Tim. 3:15), a house of merchandise? Who today knows of a quicker or more effective way to make the church, the house of God, a house of merchandise than by plunging it into the farming business, the sheep and oxen selling business, the cotton gin business, the oil business and many other kinds of business?

Such commercialism in and by the church of God today makes void the blessedness of giving. God 'Wants us to give to the church the money necessary for its work, not because the Lord needs anything from us, but because it is for our good. It is good for us to give; "It is more blessed to give than to receive." When the church goes into every form of business for profit, the command of God is made void (2 Cor. 9:7).

This commercialism in and by the church is not of faith; it comes not from hearing God's word (Rom. 10:17); it is a sin (Rom. 14:23); it is a going beyond, a going onward beyond the teaching; it is a failure to abide in the teaching; it is not of God (2 John 9).