Tag Archives: stewardship

The Local Church and Supporting Mission Work — Patrick Swayne

The building is paid off. The preacher is paid well. Additionally, he is surrounded by a supporting cast including two secretaries, an associate minister, a youth minister, and a family and involvement minister.  Somehow, there is still some money left in the budget. What should be done with it? The logical conclusion is to get involved in mission work. Several questions immediately come to mind. Who should be supported? Who does the preacher know? Who has sent a letter in the mail, and which letter has the most attractive font? How can the most number of people be reached and/or achieve the most number of baptisms with the least amount of money?

While admittedly this scenario is a caricature of how a congregation might come to support mission work, for some congregations it is a little too close to the truth. It goes without saying, however, that such should not be the case. The local church has a God-given mission to support, uphold, and spread the truth (1 Tim. 3:15; Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). God could have caused Bibles to rain down from heaven upon the unconverted, but instead He left the church with the responsibility of getting the truth to them. What should the church know about supporting mission work?

First, the church should know that prioritizing mission support is intrinsically tied to blessings. Many congregations of God’s people take a reactive approach to supporting missions. Normally, they wait for a missionary to come to them, and then they decide whether or not to help based upon the resources they already have at their disposal. However, reactivity rarely results in world changing activity—only proactivity does. Mission activity is not a vestigial organ to be kept only if it does not cause any problems. Instead, it is the lifeblood of a healthy church. When God’s people are challenged to give to worthy causes, they respond and subsequently are blessed.

The church at Jerusalem illustrates the power of proactivity. This church heard that some wonderful things were happening at Antioch (Acts 11:20-21). They responded by proactively sending Barnabas to help (11:22). No doubt, sending Barnabas was a high price to pay for missions in both money and manpower. After all, the Jerusalem congregation lost the “son of encouragement” (4:36)! Sending Barnabas, however, paid dividends. Not only did the church there grow (11:23-26), but it was also able to turn around and help the church at Jerusalem when famine struck there (11:27-30). Later, the church at Antioch even began its own mission program (Acts 13:1-3), and the congregations this formed also sent money to Jerusalem (Rom. 15:25-26). What if Jerusalem had kept Barnabas at home?

Second, the church should know the wisdom behind a targeted approach to mission work. Many congregations take a “shotgun approach” to world evangelism. In other words, they give a little money to a lot of missionaries. This practice seems to follow the adage, “Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket.” Doubtless, it feels good to help twenty places to receive the gospel. However, when those twenty places are actually twenty missionaries receiving $50 a month each, it probably translates into twenty missionaries needing a lot more to survive. As a result, these twenty missionaries are going to spend a lot more time fundraising, reporting to supporters, and worrying about making ends meet. Missionaries love small churches that give $50 sacrificially, but they struggle when larger churches could do more but choose otherwise.

Though a “shotgun approach” appears to be “safer” and “better,” it usually is not. It is actually incredibly difficult to keep up with twenty or so different works. What often results is poor stewardship as funds are sent to works that are not truly advancing the cause of Christ. A more targeted approach (ideally, picking a field) gives a congregation something upon which to focus. It leads to powerful prayer (less names and places to remember) and a greater connection between said congregation and the missionaries it supports.

Third, the church should know that there are no shortcuts to evangelizing the world. Increasingly, brethren are turning to mass media and short-term mission trips with their mission dollars. This effort often results in less support for long-term missionaries. The justification for this approach is the speed and ease of reaching people when compared to long-term efforts. No doubt, souls are won to Christ through mass media and short term missions. However, one wonders how often vibrant and autonomous churches are established through such efforts alone?

This missionary heard of one short-term campaign in Ukraine which yielded 200 baptisms in two weeks. Amazing, right? A year later, however, campaigners returned and found that there was not even one soul worshipping as the Lord’s church. Essentially, 200 babies were born (John 3:3-5; 1 Pet. 2:2) and abandoned. Had a long-term missionary been there, these babes in Christ could have been cherished and fed (1 Thess. 2:7-8). Short-term missions and mass media ought to work in conjunction with long-term missionaries, but not in lieu of them.

Fourth, the church should know the dangers of supporting third world missions. Brethren often favor supporting third world missions because, as more than one elder has told this missionary, “You get more bang for your buck.” “Bang” generally refers either to reports advertising large baptismal figures or to the relatively little money required to support indigenous preachers. However, the question must be asked: Where are the vibrant and autonomous churches from third world efforts? In particular, where are those vibrant and autonomous churches in which the American church has paid an indigenous preacher? Such congregations do exist, but fewer of them than one would expect. Too often, third world missions are plagued with corruption and/or result in anemic churches which will forever depend on America for guidance and support. Americans going into the third world need to go in with eyes open (cf. Tit. 1:12-13) and with an exit strategy for their support so that planted churches can learn to stand on their own two feet.

Fifth, the church should know that supporting mission work is more than just sending a check. Ideally, supporting mission work is a partnership. Paul thanked the brethren at Philippi for their “partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:5). Paul did not work for the brethren at Philippi—he worked with them. Yes, they sent him financial support (Phil. 4:16-18), but they also appear to have collected funds for him from others (Phil. 4:15). They were not content to just get a report from him. On the contrary, they sent Epaphroditus on a short-term mission trip both to deliver support and to help him (2:25). Though not explicitly referenced in Philippians, a supporting congregation should also be a partner in prayer—praying specifically and frequently for the needs of the missionary (Rom. 15:20; 2 Cor. 1:11; Col. 4:3; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1).

In conclusion, this missionary wishes the church knew one more thing about supporting mission work. Simply stated, he wishes that brethren knew of the many congregations which are already applying these thoughts and achieving great things through their mission programs. May God bless reader’s congregation as it strives to support missions meaningfully.

swayne@gmail.com

Editorial: Good Stewardship, Financial Report, Coming Soon Next Year (November/December, 2014) – Jon Mitchell, Editor

The Carolina Messenger has seen some changes over the past year. Several sound brothers in Christ were added to the board of directors: Michael Grooms, Steve Miller, Michael Morton, and Spencer Strickland. Terry Wheeler turned the chairmanship of the board over to Paul Kirkpatrick before leaving the Carolinas to pursue a good work in Florida, and we all wish him and his family the best. David Pharr retired as editor after many years of serving the publication in that role, and the board as well as our readership thanks him wholeheartedly for a job well done. After several months of Paul Kirkpatrick and myself serving as interim editors, the board recently asked me to serve as the publication’s new editor. It’s a privilege to take on this responsibility, one for which I am very grateful.

Under brother Pharr’s guidance as editor, the Carolina Messenger taught and edified many souls in the Carolinas and beyond due to his decision to publish articles written by sound men who taught biblical truth in a loving, balanced manner. I’m reminded of the words of the apostle Paul to the Corinthians: “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Cor. 4:1-2, ESV).   “Stewards” comes from the Greek word oikonomos, and is defined by Thayer’s Greek Lexicon in part as “a manager, superintendent.” David Pharr’s work as editor of this paper was the epitome of good, trustworthy stewardship, and my hope and goal is to follow in his footsteps by managing this paper in such a way that it continues to lovingly proclaim sound, balanced truth that will convict, encourage, edify, and admonish as needed. I ask for your prayers that our Lord helps me to do a good job so that his name and kingdom are glorified.

The scriptural principle of good stewardship applies not only to the work of Paul and his fellow workers, nor solely to those of us who preach and teach God’s Word from the pulpit or on the printed page. Christ’s parable of the talents as recorded in Matthew 25:14-30 teaches all Christians about the need of good stewardship over the abilities and opportunities our Master has placed before us in order to be fully prepared for the day he comes again. The three servants of were each given “according to his ability” varying amounts of “talents,” extremely large sums of money. The two servants who had each received a plurality of talents “went at once and traded with them,” doubling the amount originally given to them and thereby proving themselves to be “good and faithful” stewards or managers of what had been entrusted to them. However, the third servant who had been given a single talent “went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money,” thus proving himself to be a “wicked and slothful” steward in the eyes of his master, who upon returning and hearing of his poor stewardship “cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness.”

Christians, our Lord and Savior has entrusted with us the responsibility of being “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15). The need for us to be trustworthy stewards of this responsibility is very great.

Within the Lord’s church several deride and reject the concept of “follow(ing) the pattern of the sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13) and “have crept in unnoticed” (Jude 4), “draw(ing) away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). Indeed, more and more seem to be ignorant of even the basic teachings found in the sacred writings. Even among those of us who wish to uphold sound doctrine regardless of what persecution may come, a decidedly noticeable apathy exists when it comes to being as evangelistic and spiritual as God calls us to be. This issue lists some of the problems facing the church from within along with some of the ways all of us can easily bring the saving power of the gospel to more people.

Yet in spite of these obstacles, the church of Christ still stands, and will continue to stand regardless of these problems (Matt. 16:18; 24:35). Moreover, “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” continues to be found “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3-4), i.e., in his body which is his church (vs. 22-23). The Lord’s church continues to be a blessing especially for those who are a part of her, as this issue will also bring out.

The reason we as the church of Christ continue to experience these blessings from God comes from the power of his grace and providence, but also because of those of us who respond to his grace as he instructs us to do (Tit. 2:11-14). When we “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions” and “live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives,” we are proving ourselves to be trustworthy stewards of the privileges and responsibilities God has entrusted to us. When we “do good to everyone,” especially by bringing them the saving power of the gospel of God (Gal. 6:10; Mark 16:15-16; Rom. 1:16), we are good managers of what God has given to us and God uses us to be a blessing to many. However, we join the ranks of those with poor, untrustworthy stewardship when we allow ignorance, apathy, and worldliness to dominate our lives and hearts.

Paul, whom we are told to imitate (1 Cor. 11:1), was a good steward of what God had given him. As 2014 ends and 2015 dawns, let us likewise work to be found trustworthy in the management of our own God-given responsibilities as Christians. — Jon

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The board of directors and the writers of the Carolina Messenger would like to thank each of you for reading this publication. We also thank all of the congregations and individual Christians who financially supported our work this year. Without your generous contributions we would not be able to use this publication to bring the saving truths of God’s Word to so many in the Carolinas, the United States, and abroad. As many of you know, this publication is given free of charge to any who subscribe, and all who write for the paper do so without cost to the publication. We depend on the generosity of you, our readers, to be able to continue to print this paper and mail it to our subscribers. As 2014 ends and many churches, families, and individuals plan their monetary budgets for 2015, we ask that each of you consider contributing toward the support of the Carolina Messenger so we can continue to produce this publication for the benefit of the kingdom.

Below is the latest financial report of the Carolina Messenger (4/8/14-10/31/14):

Church contributions

Duncan, Wildwood, Mauldin, West Walker, Concord, Corinth, Charlotte Ave, Cape Fear, Meadowbrook Road, Cornelius: $3700.00

Individual contributions: $622.00

Total contributions: $4322.00

Expenditures

Bates Printing: $7226.34

Labels: $359.88

Accuzip: $1590.00

P.O. Box: $56.00

New checks: $26.85

Total expenditures: $9259.07

The Carolina Messenger currently has a balance of $9558.43 in our checking account. As our long-time readers know, we used to be able to produce 11 issues per year, but recently have had enough funds to produce only 7 issues in 2014. Our monthly expense to produce those 7 issues is about $922.00. The board of directors and many of our readers would like to be able to return to producing 11 issues per year. In order to do so and also pay postage, labeling, and banking costs, we need your help.

Please use the enclosed envelope to contribute to the Carolina Messenger and help the gospel reach more souls throughout this land while edifying your brethren in Christ. Again, thank you so much for your support. — Jon

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COMING SOON NEXT YEAR…

The Carolina Messenger is not the only thing that has seen change in recent days. Christians have watched our society undergo numerous changes in the past year or so, not all of them for the better. The religion of Islam has gathered much attention recently from the terrible, murderous actions of ISIS overseas. In our own country, we have been saddened to see the sinful abomination of homosexuality become increasingly accepted by more in our culture, even among those who profess to follow Jesus Christ. Many among our brotherhood struggle to cope with these realities along with problems, and questions which Christians have faced for decades.

The mission of the Carolina Messenger is to teach God’s Word in love and in an understandable, balanced way that not only opposes error but also instills habits of thought which promote godly morality and Christian character. Thus, we will publish in 2015 articles that give a balanced, biblical approach to the following topics:

  • The need for evangelism
  • The religion of Islam
  • Christian apologetics
  • Works of the flesh
  • How to contribute to unity
  • Same-sex marriage
  • Godly leadership
  • Godly marriages
  • Avoiding foolishness
  • Lessons our youth need to know
  • Proper perspectives on prayer
  • How to react to persecution
  • The Christian’s involvement in politics
  • Spiritual gifts
  • And much, much more!!

We hope you continue to read and ask for your continued prayers that the Lord bless in 2015 both the Carolina Messenger, his church worldwide, and his disciples and their families. Lord willing, see you next year!! — Jon

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DON’T MISS THIS!!

The 16th Annual Carolina Men’s Fellowship

Saturday, March 14, 2015

9 AM to 3 PM

Location: Gold Hill Road Church of Christ, Fort Mill, SC

Questions? Call the Charlotte Avenue congregation at 803-327-7853 or email charlcoc@comporium.net or drpharr@msn.com

—AND—

The 71st Annual

Carolina Lectures

April 5-8, 2015

Theme:  “What The Church Needs”

Location: Duncan Church of Christ, 1234 S. Danzler Road, Duncan, SC

Questions?

Call the Duncan

congregation at 864-439-9263 or email

carolinamessenger@gmail.com

Lessons Learned From The Jerusalem Church – Tim Bench

Acts chapter 2 discusses in great detail many of the attributes and details of the church established in Jerusalem. It can and often has been often argued that the ideal, perfect, and biblical precepts of how a church is to be operated is exhibited within this chapter of Acts. In this article, we will briefly analyze and discuss four facets of this first century congregation and how the church of the 21st century can, and should, in many ways emulate this example.

The amazing effectiveness of the evangelistic efforts of the Jerusalem church

We are to “take the Gospel into the whole world” and “unto every creature” (Mark 16:15). Nowhere in scripture does a church fulfill this command and commission more effectively than the church at Jerusalem.

In Acts 2:41, we see 3,000 conversions from a largely Jewish audience in a single day, with 5,000 more on another day (Acts 4:4). Mass numbers of Jews had ventured to Jerusalem for Pentecost, one of the three feasts of the Jews (2 Chr. 8:12-13), with the others being Passover and Tabernacles. “Pentecost” was also known as “Firstfruits,” “Harvest Festival,” and “Feast of Weeks” (Lev. 23:15). Having such a massive Jewish audience would provide the perfect opportunity for these earliest Christians to widen their following. These mass baptisms likely occurred at the pool of Siloam, just south of the Jerusalem Temple, or possibly Upper Gihon or Lower Gihon (“Pool of the Sultan”).

The sheer numerical tallies, impressive as they may seem, of these early evangelistic efforts do not serve to adequately express the impact of these early efforts. We can certainly assume there were uncounted and unrecognized results from that first sermon in the power of Pentecost, lost to history. Masses of people heard the Word, and were converted, and obeyed and received baptism, and were thus added to the Lord; these people would soon return to their homes and native lands across the known world of the time, and would thus help dramatically to help spread Christ’s message. We can never know precisely how many souls were ultimately affected and influenced for the cause of Jesus Christ due to the Jerusalem church efforts, but certainly it would be exponentially higher than the specific numbers we are provided in Acts 2. A seed was planted, so to speak, which would spread across the Middle East, and ultimately the world.

Even Jewish priests, seemingly the ones who would be the most resolute in their dedication to Judaism, were brought to the gospel (Acts 6:7). Souls were added to the church daily (Acts 2:47), proving that these jaw-dropping evangelistic results were ongoing, consistent, and startlingly effective.

We may well never equal the amazing numerical conversion results, but we certainly can, and should, apply the evangelism efforts seen in Acts 2 to today’s world, largely apathetic and indifferent to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As is stated above, we cannot know the effect, for untold generations to come, of a person who obeys Christ…saving “merely one” might well be the prelude to saving many, many more. One saved soul, fervent and dedicated to the cause of Jesus Christ, may influence many more to follow, across geographical areas as well as for the future.

Stewardship and need

We see a startling view of wealth, money, and stewardship from these early saints. Let us briefly consider the circumstances and atmosphere of the day. There were literally thousands of people on pilgrimage in Jerusalem, many of them hundreds of miles from their homes, with no effective way to provide for themselves food and shelter. The only realistic way to provide for the gathered masses was for followers of Jesus Christ to surrender their own possessions, selling what they owned so that the proceeds might be given to the church for “distribution” to every man who had need (see Acts 4:31-35).

The Jerusalem church was filled with cheerful and supportive givers (2 Cor. 9:7). There was no rampant greed, no thought of self, no hoarding or desire to gather and accumulate the temporal possessions of this world. Possessions were “all things common,” the expressed ideal of community of goods, lands, wealth, and possessions. This phrase does not, as some would claim, indicate that everyone was obligated to sell off everything that was owned, but instead illustrates the ideal that all held their possessions not for satisfaction of their own wants and lusts, but as a communal trust for the good and benefit of all. We see this theme expressed in 1 John 3:17 as well.

Many of the Jews present had traveled vast distances and had few, if any, supplies. People willingly give what they had so that others might have what they needed. This is a startling and foreign mindset for many in modern culture, where the pursuit of wealth and “things” is tantamount to self-worth and “success” for many people. The Jerusalem church did not merely give from convenience, as we often do today, but gave until they impoverished themselves (see Heb. 10:32-34, Acts 11:27-30, Rom. 15:25-27) for the cause and the mission of Jesus Christ. These amazing first century Christians did not regard their possessions and wealth as belonging to them, but instead as the property of the brethren as a whole, and thus to be shared as need arose (see Acts 2:44 and Acts 4:32).

How many of us today would truly be able to say that we would do likewise? Could you literally sacrifice EVERYTHING you owned in the name of Jesus, to help provide for the needs of others you do not even know?

Necessity of baptism clearly established

Numerous faiths, denominations, and “churches” of today will claim that baptism is not at all necessary for salvation, or that salvation may be a necessity but somehow precedes salvation. It is imperative that churches of today can effectively address this all-too-common viewpoint, which is also thwarted in Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, etc.

A cursory reading of Acts 2:37-38 seems to clearly illustrate the necessity of baptism, except for those who simply choose to not read the text openly. The Jews, upon hearing the preaching, were “pricked in their hearts” and ask the eternal question of “What shall we do?” for salvation (this clearly demolishes the viewpoint that “faith alone” or “faith only” provides salvation). Peter does NOT tell them that they are saved by faith alone, and replies “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Scripture is abundantly clear here in response to the “What shall we DO?” query. What they were “to DO” in response to hearing the Gospel is stated with no ambiguity by Peter. They were to be baptized for the remission of their sins.

Earthly leadership established

The church at Jerusalem was established and organized as per biblical principle, not upon the whims of culture of popular opinion. Specifically, elders were selected and installed to oversee the church (Acts 15:6 and Acts 15:22). Deacons were likewise selected (Acts 6:1-7). These men (and contrary to popular public opinion amongst many today, elders and deacons were NOT to be women) were selected based on qualifications very clearly specified and described in 1 Tim. 3:1-10.

It is important to note that the church at Jerusalem, established biblically, did NOT belong to or adhere to dogma from any “society”, national group, “accrediting agency”, “convention”, denomination, ecumenical “alliances”, board of directors, or any other earthly foundation. Each individual church was to be established and overseen by elders, who would be responsible for their individual congregation (Acts 11:29-30).

In summary, the Jerusalem church serves as the epitome of Christianity in its most pure, first century-form. The structure, function, and amazing effectiveness of this church should serve as the inspiration and goal of Christians every bit as much today as it did nearly 2000 years ago. We have no better model to emulate or imitate than the Jerusalem church.

Tulsa4@aol.com