Families are more blessed when they do things together. There are two things we never see in Scripture. We never read about a rogue pastor or deacon being the solo church successfully. We never see healthy local churches in which the members are not at work. Our church bylaws explicitly state that
“administering the business affairs of the Church that pertain to its material assets” (IV.3.b.vi.)
“administering a fund to assist the poor and needy and otherwise providing aid in times of crisis or distress” (IV.3.b.i.)
are the responsibilities of the deacon body. Is the stance in our bylaws biblical? If so, why are deacons given the explicit responsibility to manage the local church’s material assets?
There is nothing explicitly in Scripture about how the finances of the church should be managed specifically. There are those who argue that funds should be managed by the elders based on Acts 11:30. There are those who argue that funds should be managed by the deacons based on Acts 6:1-6. Both arguments are made from inference. The argument based on Acts 11:30 in favor of elders managing the finances of the church does not, though, consider context. Paul was collecting money for a relief mission. It was not a general offering but missions money donated so that Paul might disperse it in his personal ministry. The argument made from Acts 6:1-6 in favor of deacons managing church finances is more convincing. According to the descriptive text in Acts 6, deacons manage the practical and material ministries of the church, and elders manage and oversee the spiritual ministries of the church. Thus, it is good that our bylaws prescribe deacons as the financial and material managers of The Church at Sunsites. We understand that the elders oversee the deacon ministry (Bylaws IV.2.b.vi; cf. Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:2), but deacons are to manage the finances faithfully.
We desire mature believers to manage the finances of the church—those who meet the qualifications given for deacons in 1 Timothy 3. The Church at Sunsites is guarded in two ways. First, the elders have the freedom to focus on the spiritual health of the congregation and minister to the community. Second, a qualified team of deacons administers the money of the church according to God’s will, not merely human preference. Hopefully the money is used on the kingdom of heaven rather than the kingdoms of people—for God’s glory and the good of those who love Him.
On December 29, 2019, we appointed a few deacons and instituted our deacon ministry. Throughout 2020, we have been increasing our understanding of the purpose deacons serve in the church and community—conforming ourselves more to our own bylaws and the heart of Scripture. In 2021, I want to call our local church to take the next stride forward in our ministry.
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). That’s what Jesus says, correct? In the same instruction, Jesus teaches us to build up for ourselves treasures in heaven rather than on the earth. We can tell what anyone worships by looking at his or her bank statement or budget. Like Paul, I do personal missions and invite others to contribute. That’s the work you see through my personal blog. I hope you do personal missions too, for we are Christ’s ambassadors. The same is true for a local church. We can observe the expenditures or budget and see what a local church congregation worships. Are we building up treasures in heaven or on earth? We cannot do both. Where our treasure is, that is where our hearts are. That’s why New Testament churches prioritize paying their pastors and missionaries (cf. Luke 10:7; 1 Corinthians 9:9-14; Philippians 4:18; 1 Timothy 5:17-18) and the distribution of food (cf. Acts 2:41-42; 6:1-6) over most everything else. The pastors provided spiritual food, and the deacons provided physical food; both spiritual and physical life are necessary investments, and neither is to be neglected. I have seen two different types of budgets in different local churches.
The first type of budget prioritizes programs and staff positions required by those programs. I refer to this kind of budget as an inward-focussed budget. Buy the technology, fund the youth program for our youngsters, pay a man for his charisma rather than his ability to train the saints for ministry, get the pretty curtains for the church building, but don’t give anything to the needy because we don’t want them taking advantage of us; their probably going to just buy drugs anyway… Where our treasure is, there our hearts are. Do we worship Christ or ourselves? Is this a church gathering , social club, or corner store? In all the churches I have seen with this type of budget, they are all plateaued or declining. If they happen to be growing, it is only for a season—until something newer and cooler comes along or until their personality preacher retires.
The second type of budget prioritizes people. I refer to this kind of budget as an outward-focussed budget. Churches spend less on their amenities and programs, more on providing sincere needs in their communities. When churches provide sincere needs, the Gospel goes out, people receive Jesus, and the local church grows. Surprise, the last are first like Jesus teaches.
I love being a pastor. I love my church, and I love my community. I invest more and more with every passing day because I want people to know Jesus and experience the justice and peace He brings. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: There is a limit to the Gospel impact I can have in our community as a pastor. Shocking, I know. Most people think a local church’s success depends only on the guy who gets to present the word on Sunday morning. Nothing could be further from the truth. Gospel ministry depends on the work of the whole congregation. I serve by preaching, evangelizing, and doing missions. I am a fellow servant with you. Every successful pastor depends on his congregation and the biblical ministry of the deacons. After a turbulent year of preparation and solidifying our deacon ministry, I believe we are ready to implement a deacon benevolence fund.
This benevolence fund is a discretionary fund for our deacons, vesting in them the authority to provide sincere needs within our church body and community. God has called all those who serve in the office of deacon to such a work for His own glory and the good of His people. When we become aware of any needs, our deacons will be equipped to help on behalf of the church body, and the Gospel will flourish even more as a result of the whole congregation’s ministry according to our calling in Christ.
I will see you on January 14.