23 February 2022 Hits:1748
As Senior Pastor of Bayside Church, I am incredibly grateful for the generosity of our church community and for their faithful support, financial and otherwise. Every church, charity, and other not-for-profit organisation relies on members and partners who resonate with the vision to sustain that vision with finance. In turn, these organisations need to be honourable, trustworthy, and accountable, including how they raise money.
The Bible has much to say about this. 2,350 verses in the Bible speak about money – twice as many as devoted to prayer and faith combined. 15% of Jesus’ teaching was about finances. In fact, he said more about how we are to view and handle money and possessions than any other subject.
When I pioneered Bayside Church, I promised the people that I would never beg for money. I have kept that promise. In my teaching of Scripture, I have taught on giving, investing, getting out of debt and more. I have made needs known, but I have never begged for money.
But in my four-plus decades as a Christian, I have seen some horrendous abuses of people and their money by Christian leaders and organisations. One landed in my email inbox last week. It was from a large Australian, not-for-profit that regularly uses fear and alarm to motivate people to give. Upon reading this latest email, I believe the Holy Spirit prompted me to write this blog to help people recognise when they’re being manipulated.
The email was full of panic. It could be illegal to pray; Christians face hostility for their faith; churches, Christian organisations, and individuals can be harassed and silenced. Your religious freedom will be limited. You could be fined or end up in jail for praying.
It then quoted three instances to “prove” its point. By the way, these same three examples have been cited by others to support similar scaremongering.
Following these scary examples came the financial ask. Here’s the proof; now hand over your cash. We’ll make sure we’re fighting for your freedoms. It’s unholy fundraising!
I’ve wracked my brain, and I cannot think of ONE instance in Scripture where fear is used as a tool to raise money. If you find one, please let me know.
As mentioned earlier, the Bible has much to say about giving and supporting God’s ministers and work. The apostle Paul used the example of the poor but generous Macedonian Christians to stir up the generosity of the Corinthian church (2 Cor. 8:1-4). Scripture teaches about the blessings of generosity (Malachi 3:10). If you’re part of a church, you are responsible for making sure the pastors are supported financially (1 Tim. 5:17-18). Followers of YHWH and Jesus are challenged over two thousand times to look after the poor (Proverbs 19:17). But no fear, no intimidation, no shock tactics because that would constitute unholy fundraising.
The New Testament teaches us that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:6) and that we are not to give either reluctantly or under compulsion (pressure, coercion, force). The original word translated as “compulsion” can also mean “to torture somebody.” It infers outward pressure brought upon someone by using unholy methods to, in this case, hand over their cash. Paul says, “don’t respond to pressure like this as it doesn’t please God” (My paraphrase).
I do not deny that some Christians (as well as people of other faiths) in Australia face opposition from time to time. But we are not a poor, persecuted, picked-on minority. Christians still make up over 50% of the Australian population.
The Bible tells us to expect opposition and to rejoice when we do because we share Christ’s sufferings (1 Peter 4:13). Many people suffered opposition in Scripture, but they didn’t follow it with an offering! Peter reminds us that “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed.” He continues by telling us to make sure that if we suffer, it’s because we’re doing right, not being foolish and unwise. “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:12-19). In other words, don’t use this as an opportunity to scare people into giving.
I hope my comments here will help you discern honest, from unholy, fundraising. I encourage you to be generous to God’s work but to never give in to the profane tactics of fear and manipulation. In fact, challenge them and bring them into the light (Eph. 5:13).