Matt Postiff's Blog

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Posted by Matt Postiff November 14, 2017 under Theology  Society 

Today I received a couple of questions about pastors talking about politics in the pulpit. The questioners' native tongue is Spanish, so I reproduce some of their questions here in the original language:

Que opina que los pastores expresen públicamente su preferencia política? Mi pregunta es si es lícito que un pastor manifiesta públicamente su intención de voto. Te enfocarias en los temas valoricos solamente? Es decir, fijarse sólo en los temas de valores como aborto, matrimonio, etc. Cómo enseñas eso? Diciendo en qué fijarse para votar?
Translation: What is your opinion of pastors who publicly express their political preference? My question is whether it is permissible for a pastor to publicly state his intention to vote. Would you focus on the value issues only? That is, to look only at issues of values ??such as abortion, marriage, etc. How do you teach that? By saying which way to vote?

My short answer is this: A pastor should not speak about his political preferences from the pulpit.

Obviously the question demands a longer answer. First, note that I answered the question about political preferences. Those have no place in the pulpit if all they are is personal preferences, that is, matters of indifference to God. The pastor's preferences are no more valid than the next church member's preferences. The pastor should be occupied with preaching God's word, not man's word.

Second, we must recognize that the Christian faith touches on every area of life, and that includes those areas also touched by politics. Let me say that again, in more modern terms: the Gospel of Jesus Christ affects how we vote. It affects how we think about all kinds of issues. It is not just the good news that Jesus died for our sins. It also expresses the bad news that there are sins--things that are wrong to do or be involved in--and we must repent of doing them!

There are many issues that are not preferences. That is, God cares about these issues because they touch some moral principle. Upon these matters, we can and must preach the whole counsel of God in order to give guidance to God's people in the church. The people need leadership, lest they be like sheep without a shepherd. And yes, they will go off in every direction if they are not taught.

Third, in the United States at least, we are not permitted to preach or campaign for a particular candidate. To do so would be a violation of our non-profit tax exempt status. This situation was created by the so-called "Johnson amendment" which has the effect of limiting the influence of religious non-profits in the political process. But while candidate advocacy is limited, issue advocacy is strongly supported and upheld in our political system.

So, fourth, we should have an influential voice in the political process, by being strong advocates for righteousness in the public square. For example, pastors should preach against abortion, and against supporting those who support it. We should preach against gay marriage and transgenderism because those are rebellion against God. And we should call those who support it to repent and believe in Christ. We should preach against lawlessness, and in favor of the rule of law so that God's purposes for government will be carried out instead of frustrated (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:12-14).

We should preach against the endless accumulation of debt because it ignores important principles in God's word, namely that we must live humbly within our means, and know that the borrower is servant to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). If we are in a society that has property slavery, as we had in the United States in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, we should preach against such slavery, based as it is on man-stealing (Exodus 21:16, Deut. 24:7) and vile treatment of fellow humans created in God's image (Acts 17:26). We should preach against political and financial corruption in society and government.

Here is another example: we should preach against divorce and sexual immorality. John the Baptist did just that, and it cost him his life (Matthew 14:3-12).

Fifth, we can encourage our people to get out to vote. That is part of their responsibility as good citizens of the secular state.

Christians and others in society can be influenced by the preaching and teaching of pastors. We should make use of every opportunity to preach the righteousness of God, and the need for salvation in light of the evils of the society. We must also preach the glorious kingdom of Christ, which will clean out all the evil of our present societies and set up a perfect culture in which righteousness reigns.

Posted by Matt Postiff October 24, 2017 under Theology  Bible Texts  Sanctification 

Early in his Christian life, Pastor Ed Stelling (later, minister of Charleston Harbor Bible Church) was caught up in the tongues movement. He offered his testimony as to why he left the movement. Here are some arguments he repeated from a Brethren writer named Louis S. Bauman, who wrote a book entitled The Modern Tongues Movement, as to why the Pentecostal movement is false.

1. The gift of tongues was the least of the gifts (1 Cor. 12:28), not the greatest.

2. Tongues were a sign to the unbeliever (1 Cor. 14:22), not to the believer whereby the believer knows that he is filled with the Spirit.

3. Tongues was only to be spoken when there was an interpreter present (1 Cor. 14:27-28), but many times in public services that Stelling experienced there was no interpreter. No one ever asked if an interpreter was present.

4. The true gift was under the speaker's control (1 Cor. 14:32). In contrast to this, the Pentecostal believers had often told Stelling to "let go and let God." When he experienced the strange power and spoke in tongues, he was in a trance and could not stop speaking in tongues.

5. No woman was to speak in tongues in the public service (1 Cor. 14:34). But women were the chief speakers in the services Stelling had attended.

Stelling testified of several issues that caused him doubts about the Pentecostal experience that he had. One was that it was suggested he divorce his wife because of her unbelief in the baptism of the Spirit and tongues.

He reiterated that the tongues experience he had was supernatural. It was beyond what he could have generated in the flesh. "Since the Word of God proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was not the Holy Spirit, it could only be a deception of Satan, a counterfeit of the true baptism, the true fullness of the Holy Spirit." He was told by his old Pentecostal friends that he had committed the unpardonable sin by turning away from their doctrine.

He says very clearly that, "the experience taught by tongues people, 'that the baptism of the Holy Ghost is an experience apart from salvation, and evidenced only by the individual speaking on tongues,' is of the devil." Also, "the teaching that 'only those who have spoken in tongues have been filled with the Spirit' is of the devil." Their experience is "instigated by Satan himself." He makes it very clear that he is not saying all Pentecostal believers are of the devil, but their doctrine and experience is. He is convinced that he himself was saved, though under this strange supernatural power for a time early in his Christian life.

Listen to his entire testimony here.

Posted by Matt Postiff October 17, 2017 under Bible Texts  Sanctification 

For all the talk these days about how God wants us to be happy, I find it interesting that the word happy is not to be found in the NT translation of the ESV. It occurs twice in the NT of the NKJ, both translated from the word more commonly rendered blessed. The old KJV is a bit more liberal in its use of happy, but it only uses it 6 times in the NT, all from the Greek for blessed.

Rather than desiring us to be happy, God desires us to be holy. But when we are holy, then we are truly happy. And the way of holiness is the way of obedience: first obedience to the faith in Jesus Christ, and then obedience in what He instructs us. According to Matthew 28:20, learning to obey what Jesus teaches is a key element in the Great Commission.

We read of the connection between doing and blessing in John 13:15-17:

For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (NKJV)

Knowing is one thing; doing is another. You might know a lot of Scripture, but you will not have the kind of blessing Jesus is talking about here unless you do what you know.

It is not just this portion of God's word that says so. Check out these additional passages:

If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. (John 7:17 NKJV)

It may be instructive to look at a very literal rendering: "If anyone wills the will of Him to do..." That is to say, the precondition of understanding the source of Jesus' authority is that the person has to make a decision that he wishes to carry out the will of God. You have to make a real decision to "want" the will of God, and then to go about doing it.

But He said, "More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!" (Luke 11:28 NKJV)

Don't just hear. Hear and keep!

But He answered and said to them, "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it." (Luke 8:21 NKJV)
The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9 NKJV)

Here is an explicit connection between God's peace and obeying what we read in the text of Scripture, particularly from Paul's letter. Verse 8 contains some specific instructions regarding how we use our minds. If we dwell on things that are right and true and lovely, we will be far more happy than if we don't.

But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:25 NKJV)
Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: (Matt. 7:24 NKJV)
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and [who] keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. (Rev. 1:3 NKJV)
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. (Psalm 1:1 NKJV)

As I studied this topic more, I realized there are quite a few verses that touch on the idea.

This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. (Titus 3:8 NKJV)
Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (Matthew 7:21 NKJV)
Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book." (Revelation 22:7 NKJV)
You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. (John 15:14 NKJV)
He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. (John 14:21 NKJV)

Posted by Matt Postiff September 7, 2017 under Family  Sanctification 

Today's question: why does my Christian spouse keep doing the same sins even after repenting of them? He continues to become angry, or avoid speaking with me, or make fun of me, or be mean to me, or use bad language, or not notice when I need help, or nag at me, or ...

Here are some thoughts for you. First, you need to correct a latent assumption in the question, namely the assumption that a spouse can be perfected in a certain area and not sin again in that way. That is an assumption that is not warranted by Scripture. Certainly your Christian spouse should be improving in those areas where he or she is weak. But if your assumption were correct, and your spouse repented of sin #1, and then sin #2, soon he or she would be just about perfected. Your dear spouse is still a sinner, and will always be a sinner until he or she dies.

Second, make sure that you are not being hyper-sensitive. Maybe you are incorrect in your analysis that your spouse is sinning against you. Maybe you have a feeling that he is mean, or she ignores you, or he is always angry, when in fact those things are not the case. Try to look at the situation from a couple of other perspectives to see if you may be over-reacting. Perhaps what you are after your spouse about is not a sin or even a big deal, but just a shortcoming that is part of this sin-cursed world.

Third, realize that your spouse's struggle against sin is just as real as your own struggle against sin. He or she will continue to struggle with some sins just like you do. We believe Romans 7 is a reflection of the apostle Paul's own struggle with sin as a believer in Christ. He knew the right thing to do, but didn't do it right all the time. He had a battle against his own flesh (not to mention the world and the devil). What believer is there who has not engaged the battle with sin? There is no such thing as a Christian believer who is not engaged in that battle! If your spouse is beset with some sin, you have to be patient with him or her, just like God is patient with you. You must forgive 70 times 7, just like God does for you. You must love your spouse, even if he or she does sometimes act like your enemy (you love your enemies too, don't you?)

Fourth, as much as you can, try not to make situations where your spouse can more easily fall into sin. For example, don't press an issue (or even bring it up) when your spouse is hungry or tired. If your nagging makes him angry, and then you get upset by his anger, how about trying to slow down the nagging? If your perfectionist tendencies or preaching frustrate her, how about cutting back on the perfect expectations or the sermonic material? If poking a little fun or bringing up past mistakes upsets your spouse, how about zipping your lip about those things? It is not your God-given job to test your spouse beyond what he or she is able, in order to see how they fare in your testing of their sanctification! Your behavior can help your spouse be more sanctified or increase his or her struggle in sanctification.

Fifth, don't just focus on the negative! Exercise Christian love toward your spouse by highlighting the positive things in your spouse. Encouragement, support, positive feedback, appreciation, thankfulness, etc. are all demonstrations of love that will help your spouse and will set a positive tone in the home. This positive tone is self-reinforcing and will spiral up into a better atmosphere in the home. Focusing on the negative is also self-reinforcing and will spiral down into a worse atmosphere in the home, causing more problems.

Putting these five points into practice is what love looks like in a home where two or more sinners reside. May God bless your marriage in these things!

Posted by Matt Postiff August 28, 2017 under Theology 

Some years ago I read an article by Greg Bahnsen entitled "The Crucial Concept of Self-Deception in Presuppositional Apologetics". Since then, I found that it is available as a much longer PDF file and on Kindle. A helpful summary article on this subject appeared at The Gospel Coalition.

For some reason the idea and Bahnsen's attempt to explain it was fascinating to me. I have by no means wrapped my head around the concept yet, but I wanted to say something about it that struck me quite forcibly within the last couple of weeks.

It was just this: sin is so deceptive that it masks its own existence from the one who is committing the sin. Sin has a self-cloaking or invisibility device that allows a practitioner to somehow not recognize that sin is actually present. Bahnsen explains that this happens because of various motivations and evidence rationalization. This deception can extend to others, as in Bahsen's example of a mother who can't believe her son is a thief.

This is a critical topic to understand in Biblical counseling, for sin needs to be uncovered and repented of before real progress will be made in counseling situations.

The Scriptures mention the concept of sin's deceptiveness several times:

Romans 7:11 - For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.
Hebrews 3:13 - but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
1 John 1:8 - If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

What to do about this? Like I said, I'm not fully grasping this notion yet, but I do know this: we must be diligent in our own lives to do battle against the self-deceptive characteristic of sin. And, when we counsel others in their addictions, marriage problems, etc., we must recognize that self-deception is likely present at some level. This is why one person in a conflict can give a one-sided view of the situation so convincingly (Prov. 18:17). He or she really has gotten themselves to believe what they are saying. They may well be blinded by sin(John 9:40-41).

Jeremiah 17:9 - "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; who can know it?

Posted by Matt Postiff August 21, 2017 under Dispensationalism  Theology  Eschatology  Kingdom of God 

In Perspectives on Israel and the Church: 4 Views, Chad O. Brand and Tom Pratt, Jr. criticize Robert L. Thomas's view of the kingdom on page 150:

He then identifies that as the millennial kingdom, which in his view includes only Israel with Christ in the Holy Land.

I read Thomas's chapter, and I did not get that exclusive of a definition of the kingdom from what I read--only Israel? It strikes me that Brand and Pratt are imposing their view of dispensationalism upon Thomas.

Granted, I could have missed something in my reading of Thomas with my own predisposed view of dispensationalism. That matters far less than this fact: the text of Scripture is clearly against such an exclusive view of the kingdom, even on a dispensational reading of it.

For example, Isaiah 19:25 speaks of Egypt and Assyria along with Israel, and a highway connecting them. We understand this to be in the millennial kingdom. Zechariah 14:18 speaks of judgment on any nation that does not come up to share in the Feast of Booths with Israel during the kingdom. Psalm 2 refers to the nations who will be subjugated under the world-wide rule of the Messiah. This too is during the millennial kingdom. Revelation 2:27 promises power over the nations emanating from the iron-rod rule of Christ. The Son has always been destined to rule all nations, not just Israel, according to Revelation 12:5 and 19:15. This reign will be shared with resurrected saints of unspecified ethnicity, according to Revelation 20:4, 6. We know that the faithful in Christ will be privileged to participate in this reign, according to 2 Timothy 2:12.

Thus the nation of Israel will be the head and not the tail: they will sit atop the nations of the world as closest to the Messiah in His reign (Deut. 28:13) instead of in the despised position they occupy in this age.

Let theologians of every persuasion be clear, whether progressive dispensational, covenantal, progressive covenantal, or new covenant, that the millennnial kingdom includes Israel in its holy land, and Christ, and the nations of the world as well.

Posted by Matt Postiff August 1, 2017 under Kingdom of God 

Here is today's question, responding to the belief that the kingdom of God is future to the church age:

How we do explain Colossians 1:13, Romans 14:17, 1 Corinthians 4:20, 1 Thessalonians 2:12, etc?

Colossians 1:13 indicates that our citizenship has been transferred from the domain/kingdom of darkness to the domain/kingdom of Christ. We are therefore citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). So, our citizenship has changed, but our location has not changed. We still live in this earth, and Jesus is absent from this earth. His kingdom will come with Him when he returns. Remember--we are strangers/foreigners/pilgrims in this life.

Romans 14:17 teaches that because our citizenship has changed, our conduct should match the conduct of a good kingdom citizen, even as we live here in this place while we wait for the kingdom. In other words, our future living arrangements and our present change of citizenship must affect our present conduct.

1 Corinthians 4:20. Earlier in the chapter, v. 8, Paul criticized the Corinthians for their attitude. They acted as if they were "kings already." They were not, because they were not in the kingdom. If the Corinthians were in fact reigning in the kingdom at that time, Paul would not be suffering the hunger and persecution that he was suffering! Their boastful attitude consisted of words. But Paul, who was an apostolic representative of the King, had "kingdom power" that was more than mere words.

1 Thessalonians 2:12 has the same idea as Col. 1:13 and Romans 14:17. God calls (present tense) us into His kingdom. Therefore we should walk as good citizens.

A good source to read on this question is Alva McClain, Greatness of the Kingdom, chapter 25, p. 431-441. He points out that many times in the epistles, the kingdom is spoken of as coming in the future. For example, "If we endure, we shall also reign (future) with him" (2 Timothy 2:12).

In summary, the future kingdom has important effects on present church life, but church life is not equal to kingdom life. God is using the church in the present age to call and prepare citizens of His future kingdom.

Posted by Matt Postiff July 24, 2017 under Theology  Bible Texts 

I believe that people are totally depraved, meaning that sin has thoroughly affected every aspect of every person's being--mind, soul, spirit, heart, will, inclinations, etc. This doesn't mean that every person does every bad thing they can--but they could. As a corollary to this, man is unable to save himself. This is why salvation must be of the Lord. In this way, Jonah's helplessness is a perfect picture of our own predicament (Jonah 2:9). Salvation cannot originate in man.

Total depravity implies total inability. Man is helpless and therefore salvation requires God to step in and do some drastic things in order to illuminate, regenerate, forgive, cleanse, justify, and therefore save a person. Note that total depravity is not precisely the same thing as total inability, but they are tightly inter-related.

But why do I--and why should you--believe this? Simply stated, the plain meaning of several Scriptures demand this understanding. Study the following verses:

Ephesians 2:1 says that apart from salvation, every person is dead in sin. The same is taught in Ephesians 2:5. Theologically, spiritual death implies inability to do spiritual good.

Colossians 2:13 teaches that we were dead in our transgressions and the uncircumcision of our flesh. Again, death implies inability to do good spiritual things--like repenting or believing.

Romans 8:7 is clear that the mind controlled by the flesh is at enmity with God and does not submit to God's law.

The same verse goes on to say that the fleshly mind cannot submit--it is unable to submit--to God's law. This is one of the clearest statements of inability.

John 6:44 says that no one is able to come to Jesus unless the Father pulls/drags/draws him.

John 8:47 says that those who are "of God" hear what God says. The reason that someone does not hear is that they do not belong to God (see also John 10:26 and 1 John 4:6).

John 6:65 teaches that no one is able to come to Jesus unless the Father has allowed him to come.

In John 8:43, Jesus rhetorically asks why the unbeliever does not understand what He is saying. He immediately gives the answer: "because you are unable to listen to my word."

1 Corinthians 2:14 is very clear that the natural (unsaved) man does not receive or welcome the things of the Spirit of God because they are foolishness to him. Even worse, he is unable to know them, because those things are discerned by means of the Holy Spirit.

Luke 12:25 says that we cannot add a single hour to our life by worry. If we cannot do a small thing like add to our lifespan, Jesus asks, why should we worry about anything else? By extension, if we are unable to do that small thing, how can we think we are able to save ourselves, or even start the process of salvation, which is far harder than extending the span of our physical lives?

Luke 13:24 says that many will try to enter the narrow gate, but will not be strong enough to do so--they will not be able.

It bears emphasizing that the word unable that is used in several verses above (Luke 12:26, John 6:44, 6:65, 8:43; Romans 8:7; 1 Cor. 2:14) refers to the fact that the person does not possess the capability to do something.

So, because the unsaved sinner is unable to save himself, where does the ability to be saved come from? It does not come from man, or nature, or anywhere in creation. It can only come from one source--God. So, if you are unsaved, simply cry out to God to save you. That's all you can do. In fact, without God opening your eyes to your need, you won't even get that far.

Posted by Matt Postiff July 20, 2017 under Theology  Bible Texts 

Should we practice so-called "friendship evangelism"?

As I understand it, the common ways that it is practiced can easily lead to unbiblical practices. I can summarize the problems this way: sometimes there is too much friendship; sometimes there is too little evangelism; and sometimes there is the wrong amount of both!

Sometimes friendship evangelism has too much friendship, and other times it has too little evangelism.

We have to be careful. Friendliness does not a gospel presentation make. It does not convince anyone of the truth about Christ. It does not even communicate the truth about Christ, which can only be done by proclaiming the propositional truth of the gospel from Scripture. And, this approach ignores the many examples in Scripture of what I will call "cold turkey evangelism" where Jesus and/or the apostles happened upon someone and told them of the need and provision of God's salvation before befriending them.

Even worse is that many times, the friendship centers around entertainment or social interests and doesn't get around to talking about the gospel very much. This is the approach of "live well and that's enough" or "live well and they will ask you about your faith." They might ask, or they might not. And living well by itself doesn't cut it.

In addition, friendship with worldly people can lead us into friendship with the world, which is the opposite of what we are called to be (James 4:4).

But I don't think we should throw out the entire idea that the phrase "friendship evangelism" evokes when we hear it. Our gospel witness should be friendly, loving, and winsome. And, after all, Jesus was a "friend" of tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 11:19, Luke 7:34). I want to be like that every day of the week!

If you have time, here is another helpful article you can read.

Posted by Matt Postiff July 20, 2017 under Society 

On a lighter note...I need some nice soil for my garden, so I did a quick Google search for where I could buy dirt in my neighborhood. Here is what came up:

Google Search results

Meijer is a good possibility for bagged topsoil, but I need a larger quantity. Check out the second and third options. Avon is not dirt, but it's not even close to what I'm looking for. As for the third option, need I say more?

Posted by Matt Postiff July 19, 2017 under Theology  Bible Texts  Eschatology 

For just about a year, our church has had the privilege of getting to know Pastor Malcolm Borden. A 1959 graduate of Dallas Seminary, he has been blessed with many ministry opportunities over the years. Circumstances recently brought him to Ann Arbor where he joined our church for the past year. Now, he has to move to a retirement facility nearer to his family, so he will be leaving Ann Arbor.

This occasion prompted us to republish his master's thesis that was finished in May 1959. Because it was typewritten, it was not accessible to a larger audience. We are hopeful that with this digital edition, more people will be able to access this short book and the key idea it contains: that God's grace will be operative during the future Tribulation period. The Tribulation will not be a period solely consisting of judgment; it will also evidence God's grace toward individual Jews, individual Gentiles, and the nation of Israel corporately.

You can access the thesis in two formats: .docx and .pdf

Grace in the Tribulation, by Malcolm Borden (Master's Thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1959, 57 pp.) (docx, pdf)

Thanks Pastor Mal, and we will miss you!

Posted by Matt Postiff July 18, 2017 under Theology  Church 

Should I give a tithe? NO.

The tithe, or 10%, was a law in the Old Testament. Christians are not subject to that law today. This becomes even more clear when you realize that the tithe in the Old Testament era was not a single tithe, but multiple different ones. Further, in the Old Testament there were legally required tithes, and then there were offerings. The New Testament never legislates 10%. It directs a grace-based approach in giving, more like the free-will offerings in the Old Testament and not at all like the legally required tithes.

To make a longer story shorter, your offerings should be offered willingly, sacrificially, generously, proportionally, and joyously (2 Corinthians 8-9). And you might decide that in your budget, 10% works well. But that is a fairly arbitrary number...maybe 9% or 15% or 17% fits and helps you to accomplish the goals for your giving that Paul sets forth in 2 Corinthians.

Should the church give a tithe of its offerings to missions? NO.

Well, it could do so if it determines that works well for it in the particular situation it finds itself. But it does not need to do that to follow any Biblical command.

Should I promise to give before I have the money? NO.

Some have called this "tithing in faith." It is more commonly called "faith-promise" giving. 2 Corinthians 8:12 is explicit here: "it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have." In other words, do not make a promise like this: "I promise to give $X00 dollars every month toward missions." You simply do not know if you will have that money to give. You could be injured or lose your job or an emergency could arise. Instead, when you receive income, take a look at what you have, and give out of that amount. If you receive a regular salary, then it is fully acceptable to plan this giving in advance using a budget, but you should not vow to do so since you do not know the future.

Must the church wait until it has a certain amount before it gives any money to missions? NO.

Since I was just speaking about budgets, a church needs to have a budget. The leadership should know to a certain extent how much they normally take in offerings per month and per year, and then they can make conservative plans based on that. Then, a plan to use that money should be formulated. That plan should focus on the Great Commission responsibility of the church.

Suppose the church would like to take on the responsibility of supporting a missionary at $300 per month. That's a nice goal, but maybe that is a bit aggressive at the present size and financial health of the church's offerings. So maybe back down to $200 per month. Still, the church does NOT need to have $2400 in the bank already to support the missionary. Why? Because: the church, when it takes on a missionary, is not making an irreversible vow to support the missionary forever. It is understood that the money can only be sent as the church is able. It may need to quit due to unforseen circumstances. The church must give proper attention to the grace of giving and careful budgeting, and this will reduce the future possibility of having to drop support to a missionary.

Should the church support a missionary while our pastor is financially struggling? NO.

The pastor is the first "missionary" supported by the church. You might object by saying, "He's a pastor, not a missionary!" That neglects the fact that both missionaries and pastors are agents charged by God with fulfilling the Great Commission. One does so overseas, say, and the other does so locally. There is no appreciable difference because of location.

Of course, the definition of "struggling financially" has to be answered by the church leadership and the church itself. but if the pastor is making significantly below what an average middle-class family is making in your locale, then there is a problem. It is not a virtue to "keep the pastor poor," which is just a way in which the congregation tries to lead, control, and lord it over the pastor.

What about multiple priorities? No problem! Big line items in your church budget may include your building expenses, your pastor, and a missionary. If after a while you find that you have some more income than you budgeted for, then adjust the budget so that you split the extra between your priorities. You might not be able to fully fund the building project or the pastor or the missionary, but make a reasonable attempt to allocate the resources God gives you to accomplish His purposes. The church leadership and the church body are to be good stewards over their collected resources. You cannot just sit on money without a purpose.

Does this type of giving include faith at all? YES.

I get the feeling sometimes that some people believe if you are not "edgy" enough in your budgeting, or if you have a budget, then you are not spiritual and not exercising enough faith. My take on that kind of approach is simply this: faith does not require foolishness. If you have 10 people in your church and you think you can support 10 missionaries and your pastor, you have a serious lack of wisdom—not a superb amount of faith! Similarly, if your budget is $4000 per month and you want to support a missionary for $1000, you very likely need to re-evaluate the wisdom of that idea. Faith does not put God to the test. If God has given you a certain amount of income, be happy and thankful. Work hard to use the finances effectively and see more people saved who can provide further finances.

So what exactly is the difference between giving in faith versus presuming upon God? Faith consists of belief in God and, as a corollary, obedience to His Word. It is not defined by how outlandish your hopes may be for your budget. I believe faith-promise giving is presuming that God will give you a certain amount in the future when you are not promised that He will do that. I believe that a typical middle-class person giving 90% of their salary every payday is presumptuous, because they have responsibilities to feed their family and carry their own load which they will be unable to fulfill with that kind of giving. In other words, faith is always realistic even at the same time that it trusts in God.

An individual designs and executes his giving plan in faith when he trusts that God will provide his every need, and gives in January expecting that God will provide the needs in February even though he doesn't have the money in hand just yet. He may even have—if he can—a three-month emergency savings account in case the Lord has other plans.

Similarly, a church designs and executes its budget in faith when the leadership and the body trusts that God will provide through their own giving enough to meet the needs of the church in upcoming months. They don't have December's money in hand yet, but they plan to keep on going for the Lord, and continue supporting missionaries and their pastor and other needs each month prior to December.

A couple of audio resources. In 2015 I delivered a couple of short Bible studies on tithing. They are available here:

The Tithe, part 1

The Tithe, part 2

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