Sunday, December 16, 2007

If The Shoe Fits ...

Okay, I'm angry. I am ticked off. I'm trying not to be, but every time I think about it, I just get royally you-know-what.

In the past few weeks, I've heard it from two godly men whom I respect in my church that there are members who have told them they are not giving - or are giving less - because they don't agree with what the elders or doing or how they are leading or the direction the congregation is taking or somesuch.

(That, in spite of the fact that there are other members - LOTS of other members - who are giving with extraordinary faithfulness to help meet the deficit between what we promised to give and what we have actually been giving.)

Thankfully, I don't know who those disapproving members are.

Because I would really like to ask them a few questions. Like,

  • When someone in your family gets sick or has an accident or passes away, do you disagree with the elders visiting and comforting and blessing your family?

  • Do you disagree with them counseling couples who only come to them when they're on the thin edge of divorce, or letting young single mothers know that they are loved and a treasured part of the church family, or making the rounds of the nursery wards and the nursing homes?

  • Do you disagree with them praying for you and your other brothers and sisters in Christ at our church - all 1,900 of them? Because those things are what most of their time spent as elders involves.

  • How is your position significantly different from the doctrine of Corban?

  • Does the Bible instruct you to vote with your wallet? Or to set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income?

  • Does it ask, "Will a man rob the elders of the people?" Or does it ask "Will a man rob God?"

  • Does it tell you that you watch over your leaders as if you were to give an account for them? Or vice-versa?


I'm not saying elders are perfect. Nobody's saying that. But they are worthy of double honor, and have authority vested in them by the Lord. They are to teach and help you interpret God's word - and if there's anything that God's word is clear about, it's giving.

We need to do it. Generously. Gratefully. Unreservedly. Unselfishly.

It's true for you. It's true for me.

On this business of giving, we all need to decide whether we're going to be hot or cold; whether we're going to be loving or stingy; whether we're going to fish or cut bait.

Ain't no half-way about it.

And while I'm on the subject, why not try praying for your elders more and criticizing them behind their backs less? Why not take your complaint to them and pray with them about it? How about just accepting the answer they give you whether you agree with it or not because it just might affect more deeply someone whose relationship to God is less secure than yours?

Whattya say to that, huh?

I've said my piece.

If the shoe fits, wear its bootprint on your butt.

Just like I need to.

20 comments:

mmlace said...

*SIGH*

Agreed.

That is upsetting.

"...it just might affect more deeply someone whose relationship to God is less secure than yours..."
Hmmm...is it just me, or is that statement just dripping w/sarcasm???

Thanks for addressing this. Now you should just put it somewhere where more of these siblings of ours would have an opportunity to read it...

Love you, bro.

Frank Bellizzi said...

When Ananias and Sapphira tried to lie to the Holy Spirit, it was about money (Acts 5). Simon the Sorcerer tried to acquire Holy Spirit power by offering Peter and John money (Acts 8). Worldly people want to gain security and power with money. Their heart is not right before God.

That Girl said...

mmlace... one of your siblings read it here. I need to pray more for my elders... I do so like to complain about what they're doing.

Now... please get off my toes so I can go do something about the way I've been acting!

TCS said...

Keith,
I don't have a dog in this hunt, but what about giving cheerfully? If you can't do that should you give grudgingly. Or if you think things are being done or not done that are so offensive to you that you can't follow. Just wondering your thoughts on that.

Royce Ogle said...

Shake if off brother. God doesn't need money from hypocrites. He is quite capable of taking care of His business and His people without those who are not into the "grace of giving".

We have some of those knuckleheads in our congregation too. They never contribute in any way except by populating a spot on a pew once a week but are the fist ones to complain at any opportunity.

Let God deal with them, you have more important tasks to take care of.

His peace,
Royce

Keith Brenton said...

TCS and Royce - I understand your comments ... I just think this is bigger than giving. It's a whole mindset that says "What I think is more important than what God says," or "I know better than the several godly men that oversee my church."

Should you give grudgingly? I dunno. Should you be grudging? (Isn't 'grudging' a contraction of 'grumpy' and 'judging,' or something like that?)

I realize I'm on the very edge of grumpy AND judging about this - but it still don't seem right to me.

TCS said...

keith,
thanks for the reply. I am sure it is bigger than giving. And it (in this case) may be grumpy and judging of godly men and their intentions. We probably have all seen men in those positions that deserved a bit of suspision. In traditions that are probably hyper-protestant some of this comes with the territory.

I guess my take on the subject (not your particular situation) is that good leaders can deal with voices of dissent. Part of good leadership is casting a vision and getting people to buy-in and follow. If there are some that don't agree, there are lots of ways to deal with them. Maybe the most loving thing is to encourage them to use that money they are not giving to help others, to advance God's Kingdom, to seek ways to help those in need. I am reminded of Randy Harris talking about the debates over supporting children's homes...he said, "never have so much ink and words been spent on so little money".

Royce, your always so good with your words, I will change what you said to say that God doesn't need money from anyone not just hypocrites.

Keith Brenton said...

Tommy, you're right about elders being different from one place to another; no question of that.

At the same time ... if you can't financially support their leadership, how can you give by serving under their leadership ... how can you enjoy the benefits of their fellowship subsidized by them and others?

I have a lot more respect for folks who can't do those things and leave - and take their money with them to give to God somewhere else - than for folks who stay, withhold and complain.

TCS said...

I agree, too much left out of the conversation on these short comments. I was thinking of those who often feel they have no where to go and no voice. They can't go elsewhere because elsewhere is wrong and they have no voice because they are not heard when they speak.

They probably can't serve very well under that situation. Maybe they should leave, but if they are not leaving then maybe a leader should seek out their concerns.

I recently heard of a church that has a policy that every member at least claims to follow. Whenever someone has a complaint or problem involving someone else. They say, "I'll listen to your concern, but remember that if you don't talk to them about this in 24 hours, I'm going to talk to them about it." I would guess that nips a lot in the bud.

DJG said...

bootprint duly noted....

but, do you think the only way to give in a way pleasing to God is through the local church? If so why? Just wondering...

Keith Brenton said...

No, Donna; I don't think the only way to give to God is through a local church. But one principle I get from Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42 is that no matter how small the gift to God is, it ought not to be left un-given. Jesus paid the temple tax (Matthew 17:24-27), even though he knew the priests were corrupt and rejected God ... and even that the building that the tax paid for would be obliterated within the lifetime of some of His friends. God even miraculously provided the coinage in a fish Peter caught to pay it.

Tommy, I don't agree with a lot of the things my great-great-grandfather preached, but one of them was that if he couldn't find a church that he thought pleased God, he'd make every effort to start one. Maybe there's something to that.

DJG said...

I have tried to never let the gift go ungiven...but there have been times when I could not in good conscience reconcile what the Bible teaches about giving to blindly writing a check and feeling good that I had put it in someone else's hands. Maybe I am wrong, but for the most part I think God has shown me blessings through this more personalized approach to my giving (and I don't mean monetary blessings...if I give for that reason, that is just sad.)

David U said...

The type of attitude you are talking about is rampant in our culture today. It's the mindset that says "this situation is not going the way I want it to, but I can gain control via money". Sometimes it's GIVING so I get my way.........sometimes it's WITHOLDING to get my way. Either way it idolatry. Idolatry? Yeah, because the person who uses that kind of reason is being controlled by money instead of God. Are we suprised by the plague of this perspective? Nah, it's a product of our consumer society. Money and consumerism are our idols. I just came home from the poverty in East Africa, and I can promise you the Christians there have deeper concerns than trying to get their way thru controlling the budget of their struggling little congregations.

God forgive us!
DU

annie said...

Thanks for posting about this terrible situation, Keith. I know firsthand that the elders are deeply troubled over this attitude of some at our congregation. I'll NEVER understand how anyone who is saved by Grace AND has THE Holy Spirit dwelling in their bodies, can have such "black widow" hearts.

Alan Gable said...

It's a pretty frustrating situation to watch. I've seen how hard the elders work and how they labor over what they are called to do. It's hard to stomach watching hypercritical sheep. It also makes guys my age question whether they would want such an honor. It is disheartening but God is faithful anyway.

bruced said...

"Comply or die"

Money ruins everything.

Keith Brenton said...

bruced, "You cannot serve God and self."

Generosity improves everything.

bruced said...

Whatever you say, bro! Who can argue with that kind of logic?

shannon said...

From childhood, I am presuming, most of us have been taught that “giving” is what we do in worship when making a contribution to sustain an organized system known as the church. This bit of truth may meet with disbelief: There is no instruction or example for continuing, regular collections to be made by all congregations through the centuries. In our most used text (1 Cor. 16) concerning giving, Paul instructed the Corinthians to store up money for a single, one-time collection to be taken to the poor saints in Judea. It is wise to note that he did not write, “Now concerning the contribution for the saints; as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you and all other churches in generations to come also are to do.” But that is the way I was taught to understand it. “Lay by in store for the poor in Judea” has been changed to “collect and spend to sustain an organization.”

Keith Brenton said...

shannon, I can't disagree ... and I think there may be churches of every budget range and need, too. What gripes me specifically is wealthy folks at my wealthy congregation which is trying to invest in reaching our community with God's love, but these folks don't agree with some of the methods the elders have chosen. So they won't support them. No scripture cited, to my knowledge; they just don't like the methods.

Do we have to give to God through His church? I guess, by the logic of these folks, no. Not if you don't trust or approve of the elders under whose leadership you tacitly serve. But are you serving fully if you're not giving to God through the church you attend? Is good stewardship just a matter of giving where you want to, when you want to, and as little as you wany to ... when Christ gave all and His life to establish the church you attend - as well as all the others that bear His name?

You see, if we only depend on scripture as something to 'authorize' what must be done, there really isn't that much we 'must' do. Jesus paid it all, so why should I write a check?

That's just wrong-headed, and worse, wrong-hearted.

We give out of gratitude for what Christ gave and did.

Not out of what we want to get and to have done.