The Church Up The Street handled finances differently than most congregations: We didn’t take offerings or have a church bank account. We could legitimately say we didn’t want people’s money. We got asked a lot why and how we could operate this way. Here are several answers:
First, we believed the Gospel would be more effectively communicated to the lost if we took away the constant complaint of non-Christians: “They just want my money!” We didn’t, and our philosophy about that gave proof.
Secondly, we wanted to free people to use the money they would normally give their church to minister to others. If their neighbor or co-worker was in financial need, we wanted them to be able to give to meet that need, in the name of Jesus.
We also wanted to free people to tangibly meet the needs of fellow disciples who were in need. Jesus commanded us to love one another, and this view of giving helped us do it. We encouraged everyone who was a part of The Church Up The Street to open a special checking account. We called them “Kingdom Accounts”, and each person could regularly set aside whatever amount God put on their hearts and give as they were led.
Let’s face it, many people are torn between giving to their local congregations and giving to others in need. Often we can’t do both. We’re forced to choose between one or the other. By telling people we didn’t want their money, they were free to give to whatever need God put on their heart: a fellow Christian, a neighbor or family member, or any worthy ministry.
How could we possibly do this? It was simple. Think about how much money is spent on church meeting facilities, overhead expenses and salaries. The amount is staggering. We eliminated these, and that’s why we didn’t need to take offerings. We met in places that were already paid for: Business and homes. Our leaders volunteered because they had other sources of income.
This is impossible for the church building kind of churches. The good news is, any house church can do it! It works!
What do you think would happen if more churches found a way to approach finances like this? Would you support it? Would you be against it? Do you think it could work?
Last week we posted a poll called “Do You Know How The Early Church (pre 150AD) Spotted A False Prophet” (Take the poll!) In it, we gave respondents 5 answers to choose from and only one choice was correct. It is important to note that this poll did not include all the ways the early church spotted a false prophet. Also, the one correct choice was taken from the Didache, a respected early church document written sometime between 50AD and 150AD. Do you know the right answer? Let us look at them one at a time:
5. They Believed The Gifts of The Spirit Had Not Ceased. FALSE! 6% of respondents identified this as the correct answer.
4. They Taught That There Were Two Ways Only: The Way of Life or The Way of Death: FALSE, and almost 13% of respondents chose this as the answer,
3. They Taught that People had Free Will and Could Choose to Follow Christ. FALSE! 13% of those polled chose this as the correct answer which would be a popular answer for followers of Calvin.
2. They Taught that Water Baptism Could be Done Without Immersion, FALSE! It is not surprising that this answer was chosen by 19% of those who took the poll. However, the early church did not make as big a deal about this as modern day Protestants. They preferred immersion in running water, but allowed pouring water over the head if running water was not available.
Fifty percent of respondents chose the correct answer. So, how did the church spot a false prophet? Drum roll pleeeeeease!
1. They Asked For Money!
“Now concerning the apostles and prophets, deal with them as follows in accordance with the rule of the gospel. Let every apostle who comes to you be welcomed as if he were the Lord. But he is not to stay for more than one day, unless there is need, in which case he may stay another. But if he stays three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle leaves, he is to take nothing except bread until he finds his next nights lodging. But if he asks for money, he is a false prophet. Didache 11:3-6
Think about this. If they asked for money, they were to be considered false prophets. Why do you think the early church used this as part of the criteria? Just as importantly, why do we not use this criteria today and if we did, how would things change?
BONUS: Here’s another way the Didache instructed believers to recognize wolves in sheep’s clothing: They did not practice what they preached!
“If any prophet teaches the truth, yet does not practice what he teaches, he is a false prophet.” Didache 11:10