Old joke: What is the difference between a pastor and a pizza?
Answer: A pizza can feed a family of four.
That joke hardly works these days, because few people know any pastors who are struggling financially.
Gone are the days when congregations expected their ministers to be in humble circumstances – vicariously living out, on behalf of their flock, the supposed call for Christians to be poverty stricken. And a good thing that is too.
However, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction.
When I had a pastor’s credential from a large denomination, and was leading a rural church of limited means, I was told that I would never build a significant church if I couldn’t raise money.
I don’t know if I failed God in that church, but I certainly never “succeeded” the way many city churches expect to succeed and to prosper these days.
I don’t even believe in tithing for Christians – generosity in giving, yes ( 2 Cor 9:6-7 ) but according to one’s means ( 2 Cor 8:11-13 ). So, I’m no longer with those good people, but that’s another story, and I can only bless them in all their endeavours.
Of course, if you do want to raise money in a church and, let’s be charitable here, I am not suggesting that the raising of money is to line the pastor’s pockets but, let’s say, it is to build a “God-honoring” meeting facility, then a sure-fire way is to tell the adherents that God wants them to “prosper”, and that all the money they give will be “seed” for the spreading of the gospel and the growth of the Kingdom, and that it is a spiritual principle that if you give then it will be given back to you multiplied.
It’s a message of getting rich, to help God out, that fits well with the values of a materialistic society. Christians also have “role models” with TV preachers who boast publicly about their private jets and mansions in gated communities.
Ah well, if there’s a problem, then it’s God’s problem. I can’t preach it though. You see, it’s not what the Bible says, and it’s not the way Jesus lived. And don’t tell me that Jesus sacrificed His opportunity for “the good life” in His time on earth, so that we wouldn’t have to, because another example we have of New Testament living is the apostle Paul – and he went round in rags ( 1 Cor 4:11-13 ).
Cheer up – you don’t have to give everything away, and be a burden on society, in order to find acceptance with God. You are simply called on to be content with what you have ( 1 Tim 6:6-8 and Heb 13:5 ). It’s wanting and desiring more that is a trap ( 1 Tim 6:9-10 ). That’s why I don’t like the “prosperity gospel” line of preaching.
Living simply is a blessing ( James 2:5 ). There are lots of people who don’t have the Holy Spirit in their lives who recognise that, and the ambitious Christians they see on the television throw them into confusion and a rejection of the true gospel. That, to be honest, makes me angry.