We're all dealing with dramatic changes to our daily life right now. Many of our habits have been interrupted, and our plans are being upended. God says in James 4:14 that we "do not know what tomorrow will bring." That truth is front-and-center right now, isn't it? Thankfully, the One who does know what tomorrow will bring (indeed, the One who is charge of it!) — he cares about us, and he has promised to meet all of our needs (Matthew 6:25–34). If you're feeling the heaviness of anxiety in these uncertain days, I commend to you both what Jesus says in Matthew 6 and also this good word.
Today I'd like to talk about giving to the local church. Since each church's situation is different, what I'm writing here is primarily for New City Fellowship. For us, when we give to the church, it's part of an annual plan. We create a budget each year which generates the "weekly needed." This is a known amount, and I imagine this figure helps many of us know how much to give. Otherwise, we might give to the building fund or the deacon’s fund, each of which do not have a set "need," but they accrue and are available as needs arise.
As you reflect on those passages, what you'll see is that the giving was needs-based. But the needs weren't based on the church's board-approved and congregation-affirmed annual budget! Rather, they were based on the circumstances of the church in their time—a time when praying "give us today our daily bread" was, dare I say, prayed with more sincerity than we've been accustomed to in our lives.
But here we are, experiencing realities of "biblical proportion," and so it's good for us to reconsider how we give to the local church, and to do so from a biblical perspective. There's nothing inherently wrong with how we've given in the past, but we now have an opportunity to reconsider what is wise and best given our current circumstances. Here's the current plan for giving at NCF in the coming days.
1. Since giving at NCF is part of our worship service, we are pausing giving to the local church, just as we've paused meeting together. Christian giving is not simply a financial transaction, but it is an act of worship which is best done in the context of the local church's gathering. Therefore...
2. ..."On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper..." (1 Cor. 16:2). And then, when we meet again, bring what you have stored up. In the meantime I would encourage you to carefully set money aside "each week," not necessarily as pledged to God, but simply as what you intend to give to the ministry of NCF, as our Lord allows. To do this, you could earmark it in your bank account or on a calendar, put it in a jar on your dresser top, or use any other way that works best for you. And of course, do this with a joyful, thankful heart, "for God loves a cheerful giver."
3. Finally, that phrase in 1Cor. 16:2, "as he may prosper," is important. Some of us are already feeling the economic ramifications of this pandemic. Eventually all of us will. So it seems wise to me for each of us to stay nimble right now in terms of our household economies. As the economy slows down, I encourage you to "devote [yourselves] to good works, so as to help in cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful" (Titus 3:14). We are being humbled and sobered right now, so use this time to meditate on Scripture, to pray more than you have in the past, and to check on your family, neighbors, and fellow church members, seeing how you can love them best with what you have on hand. And let me and our deacons know if you see needs arise that we could address better as a church.
This is our humble plan right now. Join me in trusting Jesus to provide all of our daily needs. He will.
Grace & peace through faith in Christ,
- Pastor Josh