One of the most toxic statements a church member or group of church members can make is, “We pay the bills at this church.” Not only is it unbiblical, it is clearly divisive. It creates an “us versus them” mentality in the church.
Why is the statement so harmful? Here are five reasons.
- It makes giving more like paying country club dues than biblical stewardship. Thus, a certain level of giving by a member or a group engenders a sense of entitlement. The people who give with this attitude never really let go of the funds. They continue to hold on to them with strings of conditions.
- It is manipulative. In essence, giving becomes a controlling mechanism. If the church doesn’t do what I want it to do, I will withhold my funds. I have known church members and groups of church members that have held onto funds until they finally got their way. At that point, they released the funds to the church. They were truly holding the church hostage.
- It becomes a way of circumventing the budget. Most churches approve a budget every year. It becomes the guide for the church to steward the funds given to the congregation. On too many occasions, a malcontent in the church decides he or she doesn’t like the approved plans for spending, so they threaten to withhold their funds. One person told me smugly he knew the church was not spending funds in the best way, so his implied threat to withhold funds was necessary. I wonder what he thinks of the biblical story of the widow’s mite (Mark 12:41-44). She gave without reservation, but I doubt the Temple was the paragon of stewardship excellence.
- It creates different classes of members in the church. There are those who have and who can make such threats, and there are those who do not have and, thus, have insufficient resources to make demands. As noted earlier, this statement is both inflammatory and divisive.
- It is contrary to the servant spirit of Christ. Jesus was crystal clear on his mission. He did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). Some church members utter the toxic statement, “We pay the bills at this church” to get their own way. Jesus made the sacrificial statement that He would put others before Himself, so much so that He would die for others.
“We pay the bills at this church.”
It is a toxic statement.
It is an unbiblical statement.
It is contrary to the spirit in which the Lord Himself came to serve, to give, and to sacrifice.
Posted on January 14, 2019
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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I remember one morning, when I was an assistant priest in Karachi, Pakistan, the Parish Priest said there wasn’t any funds to run the parish church. We had no money at all to buy food, petrol for our cars, and our staff had to be paid. That morning both of us prayed at the church, just us two. For an hour we didn’t utter a word but stood in God’s presence, arms outstretched to the heavens. Then we when our way, visiting people in hospital, at home, at schools and all that time I’ve been preoccupied with questions, one in particular was:”Will God help us.”
That night the PP came smiling to our dinner table, which contained only a couple of chapatis (flat breads), He handed me a cheque of 1500 rupees. Astounded, I look up at him and what he said has stuck with me for 25 year of ministry: “Yes Hugo, always remember, prayer and people can do miracles, that is our faith.” The money had come from an unknow source at the hospital thanking the PP for his good works.
As an old time SBC person at heart, neither the pastor nor a committee holds the authority. Jesus Christ does that.
And under His leadership, as NT Christian who believes we are not under the law of the tithe, we feel free to contribute as much and to whom or where we feel the Lord leads us. Most of the time that is in line with church budgets and the desires of the pastor, but not always. So be it.
But on rare occasions, very rare, in small towns where there are not an abundance of churches and may well be only one, I can see where the long time lay people (and if that makes them old, who cares? does Jesus not love old people equally?) MIGHT be correct in believing new paths being taken are wrong paths and refuse to fund those new paths.
I have seen it happen personally–new pastor came in under “I am not a Calvinist” then proceeded to reform the church to new Calvinism, and once when it was “we will always do the hymns and some contemporary music” but rapidly decided the cowboy set needed hip hop and rap. The people in the pew in the second church voted, begged, pled, and all to no avail. Not being Baptists they were assigned their pastor. The only thing they could do was “we pay your salary”.
Saw it happen in another denomination in the northern plains where what was being pushed was gay marriage and ordination. There the people sat on their wallets, came for coffee hour, and boycotted the service.
I cannot help be believe when leadership both explains their ideas clearly and Biblically AND pays attention to feed back, this whole sad hassle can be avoided.