A friend, and Christian sister, Wednesday Martin, shared a Facebook post that caught my attention. There are some things that get posted on social media, and others wonder why? When something stands out, we miss the message because our brains are overloaded. The result of this overload is that we overlook things that become familiar. For example, consider our Mission Statement: “Being and Making Christlike Disciples.” Our brains become numb to the value of some things. Our sister in the Lord, Wednesday Martin posted on Facebook: Satan does not care if you go to Church or read the Bible, as long as you do not apply it to your life.
Last year the Convocation and I encouraged the Church to live by grace. The grace of God is how complacency is disrupted in the Christian life. This year we have two challenges. The first is to do more than attend church and read your Bible…No, we are calling the Church to do what the Bible says. The congregations who have reported their membership have set an example for us to strive for. This year, we have gained 9,554 new members who have confessed that Jesus Chrit is Lord and affirmed their faith in water baptism. This brings our membership to 214,648 members worldwide.
This year, we want to challenge you to hear and do the Word of God. There is a song that has been sung in our Fellowship for many years, the words say, Word of God speak, let it fall down like rain…. Rain falls, and it falls on everyone. The way we view the rain determines if it is a good and blessed rain or something that is troublesome.
This brings us to our second opportunity to grow in grace. Financial problems are problems when we see them as such. Financial situations can also be opportunities for God to bless us and others. During our previous year we have done many things to preserve the integrity of the denomination through a major pandemic. While we lowered our overhead costs, we have noticed a significant downturn in financial giving which has left many of my team members without a salary.
The Scriptures are clear that a worker is worthy of or deserving of their hire, or wages, (1 Timothy 5:18). Tithes and offerings are critical and an appropriate means for members of the Church to provide for the financial support of their Christian leaders. Remember we have repeatedly spoken about the right heart attitude, and that our actions are an outward demonstration of what we believe or hold important. When the members of the Church of Jesus Christ financially support their leaders, it is an outward demonstration of the inward grace of Christ. It is the demonstration of the people of love of God and respect for their leadership in the Church, but it is more than that. It is part of the members of the Church bringing the sacrifice of praise and lay it at the foot of the cross.
The outward sign of the inward condition of the heart demonstrates the abundance of the heart from which we value things. This can also be a double-edged sword. When people do not financially support the ministry of the Church of Jesus Christ, it communicates that the leaders are not respected in the eyes of the people they lead. The message they convey is that the work and mission of the Church is not essential. There are so many who refuse to send their tithes and offerings to support God’s work. It is not the size of the gift. It is the giving that counts. There are many worthy works of grace that deserve the double honor of financial support. However, we are unable to support them.
Paul thoughtfully taught from Deuteronomy “do not muzzle an Ox is treading out the grain” (Deuteronomy 25:4) The point from Paul is that God provides that we take excellent care of the working livestock on a farm. Why would God refuse to care for the ones God created from his own hand? If God expects the animals used for hard labor to be fed and cared for, it is reasonable that God wants humans cared for also. Thus, the members of Christ’s body should take care of and show proper consideration for their pastors, Elders, and teachers etc., the Church is called to do so by giving its leaders a decent salary.
While the previous passage spoke to the logic of the Law in the Hebrew Scriptures, let us now find another passage with which to defend ourselves. “The laborer is worthy of his hire or “The laborer deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7). As Jesus sent his disciples out to evangelize, he encouraged them with the words that a laborer deserves their wages. The point that Jesus was making, is that the disciples should be thankful to receive food and garments and whatever they were compensated with, to come to the people.
In Paul's letter to Timothy, he explains “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well, are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” A study of the term double honor reveals that it refers to both respect and remuneration. The phrase emphasizes generosity. Paul expects the church to provide reasonable pay for a job well done, and failure to do so indicates a shortage of respect and honor for one’s spiritual leaders.
In the Old Testament, the priests and Levites who ministered in worship were supported by the community of believers so that they “could devote themselves to the Law of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 31:4; cf. 1 Corinthians 9:13). Thus, it makes sense in the New Testament church that those who devote their lives to the work of the gospel should likewise be supported by the congregations they serve.
To the church in Galatia, Paul wrote, “Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them” (Galatians 6:6, NLT). He informed the believers in Corinth, “In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it” (1 Corinthians 9:14).
It is true that Paul earned his own living, supporting his ministry work through tent making (Acts 18:3; 1 Corinthians 9:3–18; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8). But Paul explained in detail that his case was an exception for a particular purpose (1 Corinthians 9:4–27).
It is interesting to note that neither of Paul’s scriptural parallels is particularly complimentary. He first compares Christian ministers to oxen, beasts of burden. Second, he likens them to farmhands. Paul’s illustrations are appropriately chosen, not to demean but to stress that the gospel ministry is an arduous work. Those who serve well deserve to be honored, appreciated, and paid a fair wage. Just as it is right for farmers to feed their livestock and employers to pay laborers worthy of their hire, it is proper and essential for the local church to provide adequate financial support to its dedicated Christian ministers.
This year, Ambassadors of Christ began a different type of giving program. A person can give a one-time annual gift. The other option is to set up monthly recurrent payments at any amount that can be started and stopped at any time. This giving program is in response to the problem of making regular tithing payments. Instead of a varying percentage of payments each month, the giving plan sets an amount, and the individual who gives at their chosen level can use more of their income, and still pay over, and above the amount that they would have paid with a variable monthly tithe. The basic policy if a person selects to pay an annual offering, that individual will pay more than a regular monthly giving, but they will not need to repeat their giving for another year, and they will be less likely to renew their commitment. Whereas a person who is paying a smaller monthly amount will be more likely to renew their commitment.
Remember Satan does not care if we go to Church or read our Bible. However, Satan does get angry when we do what the Bible says. The Bible is clear be saved and baptized. Baptism is the outward visible sign of the death burial and resurrection of new life in the believers, we are called to live by grace, meaning that we are not complacent in our walk with Christ, and everything we do in art, music, writing, service, in giving, even in fellowship is an outward sign of the inward grace of Christ. As certainly as your works of grace can be seen and glorify God, the same is true of your complacency. Failure to give is a clear sign that the Church will need to go in a different direction.
God has called each of us to be Ambassadors of Christ, and when we fall short because we fail to live according to the Scriptures, we dishonor leaders, the Church of Jesus Christ, ourselves, and Jesus Christ who saved, is saving, and will save us from our trespasses and sins.
Let me share a recent testimony. While preparing this report, I asked one member who has been faithful in giving how much they have given since they became a member. This individual has paid out of their own pocket over $3,000.00 to missionaries. Missionaries that we all should have tried to support. There are 208,000 individuals around the world who identify with Ambassadors of Christ. If every member gave $1.00 each month, we would have $208,000 dollars. Why is one member left with the responsibility to care for missionaries?
It is time to enter a season of giving. There are many opportunities to give to missions. But why should we give to Missions financially? Consider Paul’s relationship with the Philippian Church. The goal of every congregation that makes up the Church is to look more like Christ by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, for the glory of God. Paul shows that the Christian life involves being transformed into the image of Christ for service to others and a generous spirit.
It is critical that we adjust our thinking about giving to the ministry. It is time that we begin thinking biblically about what it means when we give to the mission of God. It is important to point out two things that are not Christian in giving. First, God is not a vending machine. Some have the idea, put cash in, and God will pour out blessings. This thinking is the false teaching of the prosperity gospel. The blessing of the true gospel is Christ and eternal glory with him, not material wealth in this life. The second thing to remember is that God knows what we need. There are many times when our wants translate in our minds as perceived needs, but God truly does know what we need. God loves us, and we can always trust that God is going to do goof for us and provide for the heirs of God’s kingdom.
With these caveats in place, the Church can move forward with the understanding that God will supply every need according to His riches in Glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). So, why should we give money to support the mission of the Church?
1. Giving is compassionate
Paul provided for his own ministry, but he still suffered throughout his missionary journeys. The Philippians sent finances to care for Paul as a demonstration of compassion. This is the reason Paul wrote to the Church at Philippi, “Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble” (Philippians 4:14). Christian compassion will always extend beyond care for people’s physical well-being to their spiritual well-being. If a person never knows Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, his or her life will end in tragedy. As Christians, we keep that at the forefront of our minds. When you support Christian ministries striving to advance the soul-saving, and eternal-comfort-giving gospel of Jesus Christ, you are being compassionate.
2. Giving is ministry
The Philippians were doing more than supporting Paul on God’s mission with their giving. Paul wrote, “…no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. (Philippians 4:15). The Philippians were doing more than supporting Paul, they were partnering with him in ministry. The financial assistance of Paul’s missionary activities made the Philippians part of the ministry. It is critical to understand that giving is not simply a way to support Christian ministry. Giving makes each of us part to the mission of God.
3. Giving is wise
Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.” (Philippians 4:17). We may not know much about investing, but we have the grace of God, and we can understand that good investments yield good returns. Scripture calls Christians to invest our resources in the Gospel. There are multiple times where an investment in the gospel is wise because it bears fruit. Notice in the passage how explicit Paul is to say that his end goal is not merely financial support, instead, Paul is seeking the fruits of the Spirit which increases our credibility. Paul is reiterating Christ’s teaching. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth… but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matthew 6:19-20). Jesus is clear that it is possible to invest in all types of things in this life. Earthly treasures can be taken from us. There is an investment that is completely secure. When we set up our treasures in heavenly things like God’s Mission, we have a safe investment on building Christ’s kingdom. Financially investing in Christ’s kingdom produces an amazing return.
4. Giving is worship
Paul’s next words demonstrate to us that giving is an outward sign of worship. “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18). When reading the commands in the Law about worship through sacrifice in the Bible, we will find the language of worship repeatedly (see Leviticus 1:9). Paul used words like fragrant offerings and acceptable sacrifices to make it clear that the Philippians giving was an act of worship that is pleasing to God.
To be clear, when we are looking at giving as worship, it is critical to understand that financial giving does not earn us God’s love and favor, we already have God’s favor, forgiveness, and eternal life. Faith in Christ alone makes us right with God. We worship when we give to God’s Mission. Giving is not merely about supporting a person or a ministry. Giving is about heartfelt worship to the Lord.
5. Giving is secure
Paul wrote, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Investing involves risks, and often risks are the obvious reason we struggle with giving. My own testimony learning about giving as an act of worship is the question that I struggled with If I give to the Lord, if I support Christian ministries, how can I be sure that I will have enough money for everything else? This verse provides an amazing assurance and security in which we can rest. God will supply every need that we have according to God’s own riches in glory, in Christ Jesus. Let that sink in for a moment.
In conclusion, Hear the Word of God, and do it. Giving is compassionate, giving is ministry, giving is wise, giving is worship, and giving is safe because we serve the God of abundant riches. He will take care of us. Our greatest desire is that the God who made us, the God who saved us, and the God who will bring us into his kingdom one day will receive glory forever and ever. There is no greater motivator than the glory of God and giving is one way we honor him. But we must remember that every Christian virtue, including giving, happens under the banner of his grace. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Philippians 4:23).
This 37th Bishop’s Report has been Respectfully Presented to the Members, Convocation, and assemblies of Ambassadors of Christ General Convocation Worldwide by Right Reverend Richard J Lee, Presiding Bishop of the United States