Which one of these things doesn’t seem like it belongs with the others?
Making disciples of Christ
Evangelizing the lost
The Church Budget
Okay, you saw that one coming right?
This past week, the interns and staff discussed church budgeting as the main topic of the pastoral internship weekly discussion. With so much about ministry to learn, why would we discuss church budgets? Isn’t that what deacons or the finance committee should be working on and leave the important ministry to the elders?
Jamie Dunlop, the author of Budgeting for a Healthy Church, would answer with a resounding “no!”. In one of his opening paragraphs he says,
“While your church budget is written in the language of money, it’s not ultimately about the money. It’s about the glory of our Savior.”
Our church budget reveals what we truly value as a church. It points to our spiritual goals. Even though the budget deals with physical resources (money, salaries, equipment, materials, books, rented space, etc) a church should be seeking to utilize those physical resources for spiritual “investment goals”. Our investment goals are for gospel ministry now and for the future. Budgeting for the church is therefore pastoral work. It’s work that Dunlop argues should be lead by the church’s pastors and elders.
The Covenant Hope elders are currently working on the budget to present to the church for approval for the 2022 fiscal year. You can pray for us that the Lord would lead us to be faithful stewards as we plan how we’ll spend the money that we anticipate and trust that God will provide for us. And pray for us as a whole church, that we would all consider the church budget responsibility that we all share together.
Now I want to get a little bit personal with you.
Do you have a personal budget?
Just as a church is responsible to steward their resources for the glory of God, every individual Christian or family is responsible to steward their resources for the glory of God.
That’s right. The money you earn should ultimately serve to glorify God as well. Your rent, grocery bill, and even entertainment should work toward you “glorifying God and enjoying him forever” as the Westminster Catechism answers the question, “What is the chief end of man?”.
Let me suggest some principles that should guide you with regard to the money the Lord brings to you.
1) To budget means to plan your spending; not simply track your spending
Tracking your spending means looking backwards at what you spent on different things in the past week or month. Budgeting involves planning how you’re going to spend the next month’s salary. (Luke 14:28) Tracking your spending might help you spot problem areas in your money management but budgeting will help you prevent problems from occurring. If you budget with gospel goals in mind you might make plans for a larger grocery budget so you can host people in your home, for example.
2) Be very cautious about taking on debt
All debt isn’t bad but debt can be very dangerous. (Prov 22:7) Credit cards which promise us “get it now/pay for it later” can quickly become a terrible burden as the interest rate digs a deeper and deeper financial hole that you can’t get out of. It’s always a good idea to seek counsel before going into debt for something.
3) Provide for family members and others who are TRULY in need
This is a tricky one. Many of you may have family members who are depending on you for some financial support back in your home country. Joanne and I are in that situation ourselves. Scripture says that a person who doesn’t help their family member in financial need is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Tim 5:8) But scripture also says that it’s the privilege and responsibility of parents to save for their children rather than children for their parents. (2 Cor 12:14). If the money is going to be spent in foolish ways or there is not a true need, then providing for family members should be resisted. Additionally, it’s unwise to go into debt just to provide for family members. And everyone has to decide how many family members they can help based on their budget. Many of us will have to say “I’m sorry I can’t help” to someone in our family at some point.
4) Budget for faithful giving to your local church
One of the first things we do every month when we’re paid is to send our giving to the church. (Yes, in case you were wondering, every single one of the elders gives faithfully and generously to the church, even the paid staff). In the Old Testament, the offerings that the Israelites were to bring were the “firstfruits” (Lev 23:10) or the best and earliest that their crops produced. Giving at the beginning of your pay period protects you from simply waiting to give whatever you might have left at the end of the month. If you give quarterly or even yearly, that might be fine, just be sure to give what you’ve planned to give and not simply the “leftovers”.
It’s also important to understand that if you’re a member of Covenant Hope Church then your “home church” is Covenant Hope; not a church back in your country. The largest part of your giving should be going to your local church before beginning to think about giving to other churches or other ministries. Pastor Conrad Mbewe argues in his book “God’s Design for the Church” that the principle of a 10% tithe has its roots in Abram’s gifts to Melchizedek in Genesis 14:17-20. While I’m not entirely convinced this is sound reasoning for New Testament believers, Temporary crisis or loss of job notwithstanding, I do think that 10% is a good starting point for us when we consider what to give to the church. And when we give, one of the most important things to consider is not only the amount but our attitude. The Lord wants us to give cheerfully just as he paid our sin debt joyfully. (Heb 12:2)
If the Lord is truly our King in life he will have much to say about how we spend the money he guides into our pocketbooks. It is, after all, His money. (James 1:17) He calls us to be good stewards for his glory and our joy. Budgets, both personal and church, are an important way for us to live in joyful obedience to Him.
Grace and Peace,
P.S. If you’d like to chat about your personal budget, the church budget, or money and the Lordship of Christ in your life, please reach out to an elder. We’re eager to prayerfully help where we can. ( [email protected])