It has been said that Jesus told us what to do but not necessarily how to do it.  “How” to do things can be very fluid based upon many factors; examples being predominant culture or even availability of certain resources.  In a moral ministry, the end does not justify the means, but the means can vary greatly.

Jesus made the purpose of the ministry very clear.

(Matthew 28:19–20 ESV) “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

(Ephesians 4:11–15 ESV) “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,”

The ministry is to make DISCIPLES.

Every aspect of our ministry is to be weighed against the command of Jesus to make disciples.  If our ministry activity is fulfilling this command, then we are flowing in what Jesus instructed us to do.  However, having a lot of ministry activity does not mean that we are making disciples.  It is also highly likely that any activity that does not focus on making disciples is taking away resources intended by the Lord for what He has commanded.

A disciple of the Lord is a person that is disciplined to live by the Word of God.  They will come to church, pray, study, worship, and bring the tithe to their church by way of discipline and will not have to be “inspired" to do these things.  It does take time to make a disciple out of a convert.  But, every convert that truly loves the Lord seeks discipleship.  Notice the following scripture.

(Acts 2:42 ESV) “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

In the very initiation of the church, people who were getting saved devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and they were hungry for God. Disciples are made with teaching.

Our present church culture often tries to devote people to the Lord rather than the people devoting themselves.  As a minister, I have learned that I cannot make anyone want more of God.  I know that if a person does not devote themselves to being discipled then I cannot do it for them.  One man said that it was like trying to wash a pig - with enough effort you can do it, but it annoys the pig and the pig will return to the mire anyway.

A financial base comes through teaching.

Whatever is needed in a church is placed within it through consistent teaching of the Word on the subject.  When taught thoroughly, the results will follow. Sometimes pastors are reluctant to teach thoroughly and consistently on tithes and offerings.  The concern is to not offend people.  Some say that new believers are not ready to hear about tithing and the pastors don’t want to overwhelm them.  I have found that any concern about teaching on tithes and offerings is based upon fear.

A large group of undisciplined people are an expensive group of people.

Having a lot of people come to church doesn’t always mean there is a lot of money in the church.  Usually, it’s the opposite.  If we focus on having a large group of people rather than on true disciples, we might get the people but not likely the money, and it’s expensive to provide for a large group of people.  Also, true disciples are much easier to lead than a carnal crowd.

The Bible is much more stern about financial matters than most pastors are.  We seem to want to hold onto people that the Lord would sooner let go of.

(Luke 13:6–9 ESV) “And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

The obvious issue here is “bearing fruit” in a reasonable time.  In the Lord’s mind, after a reasonable amount of time, resources should not be used up by something that will not bear fruit.  It was only the man that wanted to hold onto the fruitless tree.

A word of wisdom to ministers from the Lord.

(Matthew 10:7–14 ESV) “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.

In this context, a “worthy” person is one who will support the ministry of the Word to them.  The Lord’s command is to move on to others if they will not support you.  Yet, many pastors hang onto people that will not support what God wants to do.

By the numbers.

Everywhere I go pastors tell me they need more money to accomplish what they believe God wants them to do.  The Bible is very simple and plain about God’s plan for financing the ministry - through the tithes and offerings of the people being ministered to.  God knows where you are and what is available to you - there.  A problem I often see is that a minister in a foreign country will watch satellite TV and see a mega church in America and decide they want one too.  Yet, their community economy couldn’t even pay the electric bill on a building if they could build like the one they saw on TV.  Time for a reality check.

Let me present two hypothetical churches to you, church “Disciples” and church “Numbers”.  For the sake of comparison I will use the 80 - 20 rule and assume that everyone makes the same amount of money per year.  In America studies have determined that less than 20% of church members tithe so the 80 - 20 rule is a good guide here.

Disciples Church

Numbers Church

80% tithers

20% tithers

350 members

1,000 members

Income per tither: $50,000

Income per tither: $50,000

Annual tithe income:  $1,400,000

Annual tithe income:  $1,000,000


The disciplined smaller church has more money than the large church. Here is the problem - a 1,000 member church filled with undisciplined and carnal Christians costs likely three times more to provide for them as does the 350 member church.  Its all about square feet, electricity, heat, air-conditioning  and staff members.

Money ahead with less people.

The needed money for ministry is already sitting in the chairs.  However, it will never be realized until the focus is on making disciples.  Pastors don’t want to lose 650 members because they teach on tithes and offerings - but they would have more money if they did.  The problem is often status and prestige.  Having a 1,000 member church gets a front row seat at the minister’s convention, but a 350 member church does not.  However, the pastor with 1,000 members has also got 650 headaches.

The smaller church has less members, more money, costs less to provide for, and is easier to lead with fewer staff.  It can actually accomplish more and do more for the Kingdom.  It just lacks the prestige that most pastors want.  A big ego can be expensive and hinders the fulfillment of the ministry.

NO, it is not all about money!  However, it is certainly not about continuing to minister to people that will not become disciples.  Those who will not become disciples usually take money away from the ability of the church to find other true disciples.  Choice of focus is ours to make.

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