The Local Church will Never Fail

Below is an article I recently wrote for JourneyOn Today for Brentwood Baptist Church.

32 Now the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. 33 With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. 34 For there was not a needy person among them because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of what was sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet. This was then distributed to each person as any had need. 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus by birth, the one the apostles called Barnabas (which is translated Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.Acts 4:32-37

A question I am often asked is, “Do you think it is okay to give my tithe to a ministry that is not the local church?” They want to know if it is right to give to parachurch ministries or nonprofit organizations or other Christian organizations in lieu of their tithe to the local church. My answer? “No way.”

Let me explain and let me be clear. I do believe it is right and good to give to ministries outside the local church. There are some great and godly people doing some great and godly stuff all over the world. It is right to give to them.

However.

There is only one institution promised to be built by Jesus and to withstand the gates of hell: the local church. In Matthew 16, Jesus promised to build His church, and He said the devil himself wouldn’t even begin to think about overpowering it. When you give to the local church you are guaranteeing a financial investment that will not fail. Ever. It will make a gospel impact. It will be used to establish Christ’s reign on the earth.

The real question we should be asking is, “Am I working toward being in a position to be financially generous to the local church and gospel causes?” Barnabas not only tithed to the local church, he sold property in order to give more. The question he asked was not, “Where should I give my tithe?” but, “What can I get rid of in order to give more to the church?” He was in a financial position where he didn’t have to sell property in order to pay off debt. He didn’t have to pay off a car loan or a house loan or a college loan. He didn’t use extra to get nicer and bigger and faster and shinier things. No. He used extra to be generous to the one thing promised not to ever fail: the local church.

Usually when we ask things like “Do I have to give my tithe to the local church?” we are thinking about the bare minimum we can get by with to give to a Christian organization and still feel good about it. Even those who do tithe to the local church are guilty of thinking about the bare minimum they “have” to give to be a good Christian. That’s not the way of the New Testament. It’s certainly not the way of Barnabas. He knew how to best invest his dollars: in the thing that would never ever fail…Christ’s church.

Questions for Reflection:

1. Read Matthew 16:18. Do you agree that the church is the one thing Jesus promised to build and prevent from being overcome? Why or why not? How does that impact your perspective on tithing?
2. What is your approach to giving toward gospel causes? Do you seek to give the bare minimum? Do you give leftovers? Do you give like Barnabas? Do you have a plan to be able to ultimately give over and beyond a tithe to the local church and/or Christian causes?
3. Think about your spending. Is your money going toward things that will last forever, or toward things that will be tossed in 3-5 years?
4. If you had property and were able to get top dollar for it, what would you do with the income?

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