I spoke to a friend the other day that pastors a church in a neighboring city. He was depressed after reading the annual printout of his church’s finances. The one item that leaped out was the paucity of giving by some of his most affluent congregants. An example is the case of one regular attendee whose annual income exceeds $200,000. His total contributions for the year: $15. (That’s not a misprint) And he’s not alone!
We are all too familiar with TV hucksters preying on the gullibility of viewers to provide themselves with lifestyles of the rich and famous. They buy new Gulfstream jets to travel the world in opulent splendor, ride about in their new Rolls Royce and line their Swiss bank accounts with megabucks, all in the name of Jesus. Several of the best known are currently under investigation by a Senate committee at the behest of a Christian group called Ministry Watch.
As sickening as this recurring spectacle is, there exists a plethora of men doing God’s work unheralded, unnoticed and unsupported by their congregations. My friend, this pastor of a church with several hundred members, has gone without food to pay for some of the expenses of his ministry, a ministry that reaches thousands via email and monthly snail mail. Stamps cost money!
He wants to believe that the awful state of our nation’s economy is the cause of the church’s financial woes. But an inspection of the receipts gives the lie to that hypothesis. Why do some, unfortunately the very few, make personal sacrifices of time, an irreplaceable commodity, and money, too often from a very limited supply. At the same time, the vast majority of churchgoers part with nothing other than insatiable demands.
There is a reason! No pastor wants to admit it or face it. After all, he knows these people. He has broken bread in their homes, enjoyed their companionship at sporting events and other recreational activities, baptized their children and officiated at their weddings. They are his friends. They attend church regularly and call themselves “Christians”. So what is the explanation? Is there an answer?
People haven’t changed in their years on this planet. The mode of dress and the transportation have changed but we remain the same. Let’s look at some of the folks who lived several thousand years ago through the pages of the Bible. There are two occasions depicted in which the priests of Israel called for a special offering and received so much that they told their flock to stop giving. The Lord saving the people of Israel from certain destruction preceded each instance with a miraculous intervention. They knew what they owed Him, their lives!
Contrast this picture with chapter 1 of the book of Haggai. Those folks, several generations removed, had forgotten the Lord. Oh, they attended church regularly, never missed services in fact. But the Lord’s house was in disrepair while they were busy upgrading the paneling in their homes. (If my friend is reading this, it will remind him of the church roof that needs mending.)
The Israelites of that bygone era were saved and knew it. The Jews of Haggai’s time were just churchgoers.
Churches in our large cities send out countless mailings addressed to “Occupant”. They realize there is a market and are attempting, often with Madison Avenue techniques, to tap it and gain a larger “market share”. A declining percentage of our countrymen and women attend church and consider themselves Christians. I submit that the vast majority of these individuals, if they lived in another part of the world, let’s say India for example, would call themselves Hindus. It is the socially accepted norm.
I’m afraid my pastor friend’s difficulties are, to some degree his own fault. He has been addressing the symptoms rather than treating the root cause of the problem. Evangelist Billy Sunday put it this way, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going into your garage makes you a car.”
In America, despite our present economic fears, we live in the most affluent society in mankind’s history. The sermons from Malachi 3:8-10 simply fall on deaf ears and cold hearts. Until and unless the churchgoer realizes what is coming, both in this life and the next, he has no pressing need of salvation.
Until that parishioner understands his plight, he will not submit himself to Jesus. Until that churchgoer is converted and becomes a CHRISTIAN, he will not support the lord’s work. Why should he? Until he is saved, he is, like the folks in Haggai’s congregation, just another churchgoer. All preaching on giving is wasted until he’s got it!
Doyle Brunson summed it up nicely, “You can’t send a duck to eagle school.”
March 11,2009 The Cab Driver
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