One of the most destructive problems in modern Christianity is the situation in which people decide how and what they will do for God.
Judges 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
Every kind of ministry conceivable has been hatched by somebody and is out there functioning at some capacity. We simply do not know what is the work of God anymore, so everything has become the work of God. Myself being a missionary, I find this extremely frustrating. I hear ministers who call everybody in the ministry a missionary. I hear people talk about we are all responsible for our brethren, so we are all pastors. We are told that every Christian is to be telling the gospel to others, so everybody is an evangelist. I find pastors who have graphic artists on their staff and want them to raise their own support as a missionary to draw graphics for their church and school materials. This confusion clouds the meaning of these words, and worse, clouds what is really the work of God.
We have removed all emphasis from missions and from the real work of God (the principal or primary work of God) by elevating everything to be “the work of God”. I have made a defense of the “real work of God” in this following study. You will need to study this to understand my position of the rest of this page.
We need to understand that God has not given us general directions, and then left it up to us to decide how we best want to do the ministry. As a minister, I have specific instructions and directions, a pattern or model laid down before me, and I cannot vary from that model. Any change from the model as presented by God in the Scriptures is simply sin.
The ONLY PATTERN AND MODEL FOR DOING GOD’S WORK IS THROUGH A LOCAL CHURCH. When you break from this model, you are sinning. So let us understand this model well before we go any further.
A local church is a group of believers organized to do the work of God. It is not a religious organization based on a man, a ministry, or some specific way of doing a ministry such as a Christian camp, a Bible institute or university, a Christian singing group, or any of a thousand other “ministries”. It is a church. So let’s define and study what is a church.
First a church is composed of Christians, only truly saved people. It has a watershed element that eliminates some people. All church members must be professing Christians. They must be able to give a testimony that at least sounds like they understand and embrace the plan of salvation.
Secondly, a church is subject to the authority of God principally by the authority of Scriptures (Bible). The reason for their formation is because it is the model given to them by God to follow. The structure of the church is set by the authority of God’s word. There are only two official positions within the church, pastor (leader), and deacons (servants). The point of multiple elders helping the pastor is conceded or accepted. They are in essence assistant pastors, equal but submissive to his leadership.
Thirdly, the only purpose of the local church is to do God’s work. Everything that happens in and around the church is because God has ordained it.
We are a brotherhood of redeemed. No one person in the church is morally of greater value than others. The best description or explanation is a large family of children where the parents have left for a few weeks and they have designated the elder, more mature children, to be in charge. These children do not have the right or authority to make new laws and rules. The parents have already left a long list of instructions and rules. What are not on these lists we can guess at but observing how the family is run when the parents we present. We can also discern from the general moral and spiritual principles of the parents what is unacceptable, and what they would want in any given situation.
First, the leaders are chosen because they fulfill the qualifications set forth by God. Anybody can enter into leadership position (but excluding disqualified people). Any leader that disqualifies himself is removed by the brethren if he does not voluntarily remove himself. All leaders must ascribe to the norms of God (see below), and they must promote and continue these established biblical norms or step down.
Secondly, God established a norm, and those who refuse it are expelled. God presents a Christian norm or standard which every member must ascribe to, and those who refuse to accept this or live by this are excluded from the church. This is church discipline. Everybody sins, but every Christian strives to remove sin from his life when he understands that something is sin. The battle against sin must always be waged by everybody. Anybody who surrenders to sin and refuses to fight sin, indulging himself in sin, is disciplined by the church and if he continues in his course is cut off from the brethren and treated as an unsaved person, and fellowship is refused to him.
Thirdly, the finances are established by God. By this we understand that the church accumulates common property which is at the same time everybody’s property (everybody should take care of it and protect it), and nobody’s property (personal appropriation of church common property is prohibited). Leaders and members may come and go, but the property accumulated remains with the group, and they must maintain and promote the biblical norms which are historic. The only source of income for the church is the free will voluntary tithes and offerings of God’s people. What’s more, the church makes no charge for their services, but all are to freely receive the services and benefits of the church. Part of the whole counsel of God is the teaching that the Christian is to tithe and go beyond his tithes in giving offerings to support the work of God in his community (i.e. his local church). This should not be limited to 10%, but 10% is a beginning point.
When new converts grow into maturity, they understand their obligation to support God’s work, and then begin to do so. This is the only focus on raising money that God has given us. Being faithful to God with our possessions and income. This is a matter of maturity, and the immature are not obligated to give against their will. There are no other sources of income for the church.
Expenses for the church are limited to (by order of priority and percentage) (1) salary of the ministers of God working and serving among them, (foreign missionaries would be included here), (2) the poor brethren within that same church, (a very infrequent sending of gifts to Christians in other poverty situations through the leaders of their local church can be included here), (3) normal functioning of church such as buildings, Bibles, hymnals, etcetera. Other expenses should be a small percentage of the budget.
Let’s be clear here. God has imposed a system, a structure upon all Christians that is obligatory, and that is the local church. Some people in Christianity (even though they attend and are at times pastors) hate this imposition. They want something else, something modern, something man-made. This is the problem. Today we have churches that very simply are trying to be everything to everyman but fail to be what God commands them to be.
The local church system has a genius that can only come from God. First we see that it has its own way of beginning without much capital, in people’s houses. It has its system of gathering funds to cover its expenses, every Christian should (1) tithe 10 percent of their income, (2) give offerings over their tithes, and (3) give specifically to raise their church property and pay their church’s ministers. While other Christian ministries try to motivate and create a burden for supporting their ministries, the church simply goes to the Bible and we have commands from God for this. How simple for us, how difficult for them.
As pertaining to the accumulation of properties and equipment and things (pews, chairs, desks, etc), the local church has a concept of communal property. Even though there is somebody that is a leader to overseer (concept of “bishop”) the affairs of the church, the property is not in his name. It is communal. By that we understand that it is for the use of the church, organized around a concept of God’s work, and whatever is involved in that is valid, and anything breaking with that is invalid. The pastor cannot take tables and chairs to a national park so that his family alone can have a picnic. That is invalid use of communal property.
If something happens to the church and they shut their doors, again the concept of communal property enters, and the church people that are left closing the doors cannot divide the assets between them, but they must find another church of like faith and donate it to a parallel movement or group outside of themselves.
In a Christian ministry, their is almost always a single person or family that owns everything. If their doors shut, they instantly become millionaires from the sacrificial tithes and offerings of God’s people over the years. Moreover most of these ministries are built almost solely from what local churches consider “missions money”, money designated for worldwide missions and this ends up making some single person or family rich.
For those who hide behind boards overseering a Christian ministry, that doesn’t work either. Why? Simply because a board of directors have to have the power to exclude, expel, and discipline the leader (CEO) of the organization for them to really be a board. This never happens in Christian organizations and many are deceived because they think it can. When issues arise, the person who leaves is always the board members that “cause problems”. In a very rare case will a board appoint a new CEO for the ministry and shortly thereafter fire him for some reason. He has not had time to gather and build his control structure and this is when and how it happens if it ever happens.
Concerning the CEO of Christian organizations, the Bible presents a drastic change from what we see today in Christian ministries. First of all, the Bible presents a specific list of requirements for pastor as well as a specific set of leadership duties and obligations. Finding this in Scripture makes this inspired and again settles all questions. Any biblical church has the right, obligation, and burden to check their pastor’s spiritual requirements before he enters that ministry, and to remove him when he is disqualified. This is because God has commanded this in the Word. The entire concept of pastor of a local church is one that is temporary. Every pastor lives with the idea that some day he will step down and somebody else will take his place, whether that is retirement, or death, or because of his own inability to continue for some other reason.
But we turn Christian ministries and we find a drastic different set of ideas. The “founder” of the ministry is the CEO. (Christ is the founder of the local church.) Almost universally this founder has all the power, makes the decisions, and owns the property (although usually in a hidden way so that he is not accused directly). Where the director goes in his spiritual life, he drags the tithes and offerings and missions monies with him. If he turns to speaking in tongues, he takes your money with him to that doctrinal anomaly.
If one surveys the history of famous Christian religious organizations (not local churches), we find a very common occurrence of some CEO going bad doctrinally or getting involved in sin, and refusing to step down. Then the churches and that ministry’s “board of directors” have the displeasing and impossible task of trying to forcibly remove him which usually fails also. Then they have to “eat crow” and where they for years publicly endorsed this ministry and asked for their people to sacrifice for it, now they have to ask their people and their church to stop giving to it and to break with that ministry. Those in that situation find that their people were all too easy to convince to support that, they then allowed that ministry to send years of promotional material, banquets, and all kinds of things that endear their supporters to them, and suddenly to break doesn’t work. Their people continue giving outside of the church to that ministry no matter what.
God’s design has the ministry and the ministers staying under the guidance and administration of the local church. If somebody goes astray doctrinally or has problems in their conduct, then the local church replaces that person, disciplines him, and usually that person is removed from public ministry but stays in the family of the church. The funding is not broken because it is not necessary to do so. The issue is always local (local church) and so the people who support that ministry under a local church know the issues and the people involved, and they understand clearer than with a ministry being supported on the other side of the country.
God’s design clearly has the advantage of local laymen viewing the ministry and personal lives of the ministers and giving on the basis of what they see and the spirituality and correctness of those ministers and that ministry.
The local church also has the advantage of having all of its income originate locally in its own people. If a church has financial problems, it has the solution always at hand, evangelize and disciple. The local church does not waste time, money, energy, and personnel raising funds by running around the country visiting churches. If the church follows the biblical guidelines, then they will only depend on funds from tithes and offerings. This reduces all of this to simply a few words before the offering and an occasional sermon on certain verses. All Christian ministries devote large amounts of resources, funds, and personnel in fund raising. Looking at it from a stewardship perspective, this is money thrown to the wind, because nothing good comes from it. Why not pay a missionary’s salary to win people to Christ, or pay an assistant pastor’s salary to visit the unsaved? Why don’t people look for something spiritually profitable to come from their tithes and offerings instead of investing in the wind?
Here we need to bring into the discussion a consideration of doctrine. First of all, let’s just restate that our doctrine comes from what pleases God, not man. God gave us our doctrine in the Word of God. God also specifically outlined our conduct on numerous situations in the Word of God. We have no choice in this except obedience to God or rebellion to God. But many have picked away at the authority of God’s word to the point where they regularly question what is obvious in God’s word.
Jude 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
God presents our situation as a spiritual battle against spiritual enemies. In this spiritual battle our enemies attack our doctrinal position, and try get us to “fall” in our conduct.
A local church has a built in defense. Its financial support comes from inside itself. Its own people are who financially makes it stable. Moreover, every week the people who make it solvent come together and they are indoctrinated in the concepts that are distinct to that group. The enemy attacks God’s work, then they try to close the doors, and the easiest way is through the financial failure of the organization. But if that local church confronts the hard issues, its people are already convinced and stay faithful and supporting even in the hardest of attacks. These norms, standards, doctrines, and heritage are passed on from one generation to another within that local church.
A Christian organization is a completely different bird. It has no income locally but only expenses (employees, buildings, operating expenses). All of its money or at least the significant portion of its operating budget comes from “out there”. If all the people that support that ministry were exactly of the same mind set as the ministry their financial woes would be less, but that is never the situation.
In order to get sufficient funding, the ministry has to walk wide and far flung paths, and those who support the ministry is a very diverse sort. This immediately destroys the effectiveness of the ministry from a doctrinal and conduct standpoint. In order to operate, they must always work on the basis of a minimum amount of doctrine and conduct.
By this I mean that they must reduce their essential doctrines to as little as possible. This mentality comes from people who must raise funds among people who would refuse them for their strict doctrinal positions.
For example, you will never find missionaries and Christian organizations getting “too specific” with what they believe, except in a close door session with somebody. This is because somebody asks about eternal security and if they come out strong on eternal security then some other church down the road will cut them off at their knees because of it.
Being a missionary myself, I have found myself in situations where I just don’t believe like the majority of the missionaries and pastors around me in a mission’s conference. I do not think it is correct to be invited into a conference and then go against what those people practice and believe verbally rebuking them. I simply do not go if I know ahead of time, and if it gets too far from what I believe, I leave early sometimes before I have had a chance to say anything. They usually don’t allow “outsiders” to speak or have influence anyway.
My point here is that one can greatly tell the moral fiber of a minister by what he publicly boldly states for all to see in his website (like this one) or in promotional material. It disturbs me greatly when I find ministers and especially missionaries that refuse to publicly denounce tongues, Charismatic issues, and liberal denominations (like the Southern Baptist Convention). Their resistance in condemning these publicly usually mean they have contemporaries or supporters that they do not want to offend.
So in a local church, the doctrine stand can grow stronger (like in the early debates among churches that resulted in the clarifications on the Trinity) and a local church can hold a difficult doctrinal position even though it is not popular (like the biblical position on homosexuals or the prohibition of women in positions in authority).
A Christian organization is hopelessly lost in all of this. They must minister, but to do so they must have content to give to those they minister to. This “content” is Bible. But they have already taken their scissors out and started cutting away at the Bible, and you cannot do that. Every ministry has the potential problem of needing to touch any doctrinal topic. A Christian camp ministry may only try to get kids saved, but these same kids have family problems, single parents, in our day, there may even be two same sex parents. You cannot minister without having a clear biblical position on these issues.
This is the hidden side or problem of these ministries, because the answer is that the organization “officially” has no position, so every worker takes whatever position he personally likes, and when they open the door broadly for financial support, they usually get workers from a broad baseline of doctrine beliefs.
Perhaps a specific example of where this ends up is appropriate here. Billy Graham started out as a Fundamentalist. Good. But very quickly he saw this issue, and he disliked the restrictiveness of being in a single group. So he opened the door widely. Very soon he refused to take invitations from cities for crusades unless he had the support of all or most of the churches in that city. This came to include the Catholic churches also. Well, it is invalid to ask for their support and not make concessions to them, so as a regular practice of the Billy Graham association, they had Catholic priests and nuns to receive those coming forward for salvation. This is where all of this goes.
How can you get 100,000 people into a stadium unless you open the door broad and wide? The problem here is not something that can be solved by seeking ministers with “more spiritual fiber” but the concept is flawed from the beginning. A Christian ministry is always going to have these forces pulling at it. A local church seldom if ever does. When it does it is usually because they have a concept of themselves as a Christian ministry that “reaches the world.”
We should also mention that Christian ministries always have to try to “shore up” their financial base. Some still try to do this by appealing to doctrinal positions and trying to defend them through Bible exposition. Most who grow beyond a certain point give up on that except in theory. They all have to go to an emotional basis of what “they” are doing for the Lord, and try to create sympathy for themselves among their supporters. This is where doctrine becomes unimportant. We get a general doctrinal consent, “We believe the same as you do.” What does that mean? It means “please do not ask me about my doctrine because I do not want you to cut me off.”
We see in good local churches, biblical local churches, that this is always correctly dealt with. What we believe is what we preach constantly. What we publicly and boldly affirm. In some cases there are local churches that don’t believe in the Trinity because they never preach on it. But the point is that you know from attending and hearing what your church believes. What is important for them. With a Christian organization, the only thing you know for sure is that they want your money and financial support because that is the clear message constantly coming from them. They really have no doctrinal stand except, “I believe whatever you believe”. If it was morally correct (which it isn’t), you could call them up and say that you are a Pentecostal pastor and you want to know if they believe, accept, or are not bothered by speaking in tongues, and most Christian Organizations today will mealy mouth some answer that will not offend a Pentecostal. Hang up and call again and say you are a Fundamental Baptist pastor of a church of 4000 and you are considering them for monthly financial support (a big monthly check) and then ask the same person about their position on tongues as being condition of the support, and they will be blistering against tongues.
What does all of that tell you? They fall clearly in the marks of a false prophet, which use people speaking inflated words to seduce the innocent (unknowing). Seldom will a Christian organization come out on the issues, except when the issues are well defined among a large group. Even then they don’t want to lose support so they will mealy mouth and speak of Christian love for our brethren when they are grabbing their pocket books to make sure they don’t lose supporters.
All of this is common among Christian religious organizations. If you want to put them on the spot, asking them about controversial issues like women in leadership, tongues, working with tongues speaking churches and people, working with the Southern Baptist Convention, eternal security, etcetera. Once they have “read” you and know what you believe, you will get a very “tailored” answer exactly what they think you believe. Then ask them to show you those positions in promotional literature that they put out. Ask them to put it publicly in statements on their website. You will see a cold should form instantly. It is impossible for them to do that. Some may try to send you something that “looks” public even though it is only for you.
All of these issues are what are destroying the work of God today. People do not get saved because (1) nobody has the conviction to do it, and (2) the Christians that are out there have no moral standards or fiber. This they learn from their cherished Christian organizations, and local churches that have fallen wholesale under the same concepts as these Christian organizations because they want a super church.
As an obedient child of God, we need to find a biblical church that preaches the word of God, and stand firmly for it. Part of this is to not give credence to religious organizations. Many use secular public relations firms to refine their “pitch” to make great presentations to Christian people for funds. The bottom line is that everything that God did as far as ministry in the New Testament He did through local churches. What cannot be done through local churches is usually because it shouldn’t be done or shouldn’t be done like people want to present it.
The most important thing here is to cut off these Christian organizations from what they want from us. They want (1) money, (2) prayers (our attention spiritually speaking), (3) our participation. If we refuse them these things, they cease to exist. As a church we need to return to a biblical concept of things. We need to clean our church missions budgets of all of the Christian organizations and return real missionaries to these budgets. Study the Bible, the only thing that local churches or Christians gave to outside of their local church was poverty conditions of Christians in a fellow church, and missionaries. They are the only valid giving outside of your local church ministry. We should also note that those churches that sent to the poor Christians in Jerusalem during their famine, agreed as a church, and sent the money to THE ELDERS OF THE CHURCH at Jerusalem, so that they could intelligently distribute it.
When we touch the issue of missionaries, we should observe that the only missionaries in the Bible were men of God (not organizations) that were involved in evangelism AND planting local independent churches. To be a valid missionary the person must do all of what a missionary is, and so that means he must evangelize himself, he must disciple his own converts, and he must plant local churches of these two activities. This is the biblical concept of missions. Our church missions budgets are bulging to bursting with “missionaries” that are Christian organizations that do not qualify as true missions.
It is like a large church that “gives half of its income to missions”. But when you examine them closely, they consider their own youth ministry a “mission” so the youth pastor is a missionary, and their own Christian school is also a mission work so they pump money big time into it, and when it comes down to supporting missionaries that are evangelizing, disciplining, and planting churches in a foreign land, they have few to none of them.