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Sowing into the Kingdom Last update: August 2011

I often hear Christians speak about the various activities and tasks that need to be done at  their local church. I also attend local church perhaps not as often as others do although I attend home group or home church meetings as often as I can. I believe taht to congregate with other believers under the authority of a spiritual leader is very important. These I  have found to be very intimate and fruitful indeed. Home group meetings can,  however, cause you to be inward looking and not allow other Christian thinking and influence to shape your Christian beliefs and character.  It also does not allow for praise & worship in the same way that 'normal' church services do.

That said, I really  wonder whether or not the current church system is a sound one? For the most of  it I cannot answer 'yes'. The reason being that the church, and I have attended a couple during my lifetime (as you may gather  from My Story), works on the premise that believers contribute physically and  financially to a centralised facility or institution that serves their needs in  terms of teaching, praise and worship, fellowship, prayer, administering the  sacraments and (sometimes) counselling. These contributions, particularly the financial contributions, are referred to as "sowing into the Kingdom" - thereby equating the church in question with the Kingdom of God. This, of course, is a false premise, whether the pastor or priest or minister knows it ir not.

The Kingdom of God is not represented by anything physical (refer Romans 14:17), which says that only the righteous have the Kingdom of God and that it has nothing to do with traditions or values or how things are done. Therefore, if a person is not righteous before God through faith (refer Romans 1:17) he or she cannot enter the Kingdom of God. To suggest that the Kingdom of God is represented by a place, even if it is a church, is a false claim.

Good, the enemy of Excellent

Nevertheless, the coming together for preaching, sharing the sacraments, etc. is a good thing on face value. But, perhaps ‘good’ is the enemy of ‘excellent’ in this matter? Why? Because what happens is that the church congregation starts off in a school  hall or tent and the small following is ministered to by a person who has a  real passion for God and His message.

As his passion for the Word or for God’s love or for the community or for healing or for whatever other theme grows, so does the number of followers. Still, fantastic.

Then, because the  tent or school hall, which was hired for a minimal amount, gets too small the congregation, led by the pastor, decide to get a ‘permanent house’,  which simply means that they now want a ‘decent’ place to congregate in so that everybody who wants to come to the services can sit comfortably. They reason that since the pastor does such a fantastic job they should have other people hear him as well.

Perhaps there is not too much wrong with that; this is how I got saved - someone invited me to church where I heard the Word of God being preached.

But it is the need for finance that becomes a stumbling block for both pastor and congregation. Some will look at the lavish surroundings of King Solomon of the Old Testament to justify really expensive internal decoration. At this point the congregation and the pastor become captives to something called overhead expense.

Overhead expense

That simply means that they now have fixed outgoings, which they need to fund. As before, they rely on the contributions - physically and financially - of the congregation  members to “sow into the Kingdom”,  which is another way of saying they “pay money and do work at the church in the interest of spreading the Gospel”, or so they  think. This appears to be a harmless thing and the assumption is made that ‘bigger is better’ - the more people the pastor can minister to the better, right? Wrong.

Because the church has become captive to overhead expense it can no longer afford to preach a message that might be or offensive to some. The Bible says that by its very nature the Gospel will be offensive to some (refer Matthew 11:6 and Matthew 15:12). This, of course, is the problem. To preach God's truth the pastor needs to preach everything that is in the Word of God because that is how Jesus prayed for people to get sanctified or are made holy: "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17).

The Word, diluted

Therefore, because the church, by virtue of having to pay expenses every month, needs to attract enough members every Sunday to pay for these expenses, it can no longer afford to preach the complete Message, which God gave us in its purest form - the Bible.

Why? Because its members need to continue their contribution or else the church will fail.  Should they withdraw their contribution it would ruin the operational and financial model of the church, and they cannot afford that. So, something has  got to give and it is usually the message that is preached. No wonder we have such an emphasis on (church initiatives / activities and rituals)  as well as prosperity preaching. There needs to be something that will bring the people back, and it is not going to be something that might offend some.

So, the pastor  preaches ‘sow into the Kingdom’ (the fact that his church does not represent  the Kingdom of God, which is unseen, is besides the point); as a result the  congregation give more (in tithes and offerings); as a result the pastor’s  salary goes up (because he is ‘running a bigger operation’) and he personally prospers more; as a result he  preaches even more prosperity on the basis that it works for him; his rationale is  that because it works for him it should work for others as well.

Self-fulfilling prophesy

The notion that the pastor is fulfilling his own prophesy by virtue of guiding his congregation to think they are giving to God, whereas they are reall giving to the church and the people who derive their income from it never comes up for discussion.

Dear Pastor, it is no doubt so that God wants His people to propsper. We see this from Old Testament examples such as David, Abraham, Joseph, Solomon and Jacob in particular - just to mention a few. But what examples are there in the New Testament of Christians who went out to preach the Good News to the people around them and whom we find made a lot of money through it? None. To the contrary, most Apostles lived a very harsh life while preaching the Gospel.

What is  written in the Word about prosperity, particularly for New Testament Christians, has got more to do with living a  successful (godly) life than what it has to do with getting more money. It has more to do with the responsibility to look after others in need than what it has to do with living a life of luxory and comfort yourself. The New Testament Christian lives an unselfish life and he / she encourages others to work hard, look after their own family and well-being, and live unselfishly themselves.

Captive

And so the church,  which started off with someone’s true calling and passion ends up in a place  where it is held captive by overhead expense. The focus is lost and it becomes a mere institution of faith where there needs to be more than ‘just the  message’ that brings people there. Perhaps a sense of morality, perhaps socialising with other believers, perhaps a place where they are accepted, perhaps a place where they can sing and dance?

All these things are good but they are not the primary thing. Proverbs 4:7 says, “Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.”

I believe the “get understanding” talked about here is an understanding and acceptance of God’s person and character so that we may change to be more like Him. The way to get that understanding is to study the Word and to be taught the Word and not to be held captive by anything prejudice, overhead expense, personal reputation -  or anything else.

All of this does not happen consciously the pastor and members of the congregation see the recruitment of more members as a Godly thing. They are right. But what they fail to see is that ‘Bigger is not  always better.’

Instead of delegating the preaching of the Kingdom of God to the pastor, the members should be doing it themselves. That way they are fulfilling great commission (Matthew 28:16-20). Instead of spending  money on paying for the electricity bill and the sound system and the cleaning  people and all the salaries of the church staff the members of the congregation  should be spending their money on helping sister Susan or brother John or the  Peters family to cope with their dire financial situation.

Sowing, the Biblical way

How can the love of Christ be in anyone if they'd rather pay to have the church buy a new sound system than to give money or assisstance (or both) to a strugling brother or sister? “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17, NKJV).

How then should we be 'sowing'? The Bible actually tells us how important it is to give directly to others according to what your heart determines - not (neccessarily) to the church institution according to what the pastor says:

How should we give?

"So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:7-8).

Where should we give?

"For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you" (2 Corinthians 9:12-14).

What happens when we give in this way?

      • the needs of the saints (believers) are taken care of,
      • God gets the praise. As such you are praising God through yuor giving,
      • the recipients prays for you

Yet, what we hear in churches, generally speaking (there are exceptions, of course), is not this. Why? Because we as Christians have learnt not to read our Bibles, to simply follow what others say who seem to know better, and not to think. No wonder the world believes Christians are misguided and that their doctrine is false.

 

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Please consult the Bible and test what is written here. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom in this area. Keep that which is good and reject that which is not Scriptual. Should you come to a different understanding than I please let me know - perhaps I can learn from you.

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