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To the Christian who doesn’t give to their local church

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While most Christians delight to give to their local church to provide for their leaders and help fund gospel ministry, there are many Christians who do not give at all. It is often because of one of the following three reasons:

  1. I don’t make enough money to give

  2. I give to other missionaries or Christian nonprofits

  3. I don’t get spiritually fed at my church

I will respond to each of these below, and I hope this is helpful for any Christians that are not yet giving to their local churches. If that’s you, I pray you will consider these words and start giving to your local church!

I don’t make enough money to give

If you have any income at all, then you make enough to give something to your church. The reality is that many Christians who say they don’t make enough to give to their church are usually just poor managers of their money—they don’t have a budget, they don’t plan out their finances, and they end up spending it haphazardly on music, movies, food, and clothes and then it’s gone as quickly as it came. They fund Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon but not their local church. They need to be discipled into a healthier management of what God has given them. We are called to be good stewards of the resources God entrusts to us, and that means managing our money well and honoring God through faithful giving:

“Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce;” (Pr. 3:9)

Now, there are some Christians who genuinely want to give but are living in some level of poverty and simply don’t have much to give. First of all, if you're in a financial crisis like this, you should let your church know so that they can help share your burden and care for you (our church has a benevolence ministry for situations like this). But if you're not in a crisis and just feel like you don't really have much to give, then I want to encourage you. Giving a dollar or a penny may feel insignificant to you, but it can be tremendously pleasing to God. It may not make much of a difference in terms of meeting your church’s budget needs, but that’s not the ultimate reason we give anyway. We give ultimately as an act of worship to God, and God delights not in the amount we give but rather in the amount of faith and joy we have as we give.

“And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’” (Mark 12:41-44)

The widow didn’t have much to give, but she gave faithfully and generously anyway, trusting in God to meet her needs, and Jesus praised her for her gift of a penny. If all you can give is a penny, and you question whether or not it even matters, then remember this story—it matters to God, and he is pleased with faithful, joyful, sacrificial giving, no matter what the amount. God knows that some of us will have more to give than others, and he simply expects us to give to our local church according to what we have out of a heart of worship and faith and joy. 

“God knows that some of us will have more to give than others, and he simply expects us to give to our local church according to what we have out of a heart of worship and faith and joy.”

Paul says, “Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have” (2 Cor. 8:12 NLT). Again, it’s not a certain amount that matters, it’s the “eagerness”—the genuine joy and faith—that accompany our giving, according to what we have, which pleases God and makes our gift acceptable.

I give to other missionaries or Christian nonprofits

Giving to missionaries and Christian nonprofits is wonderful, but it’s not a replacement for giving to your local church—it's something that we should do, but not something we should do instead of giving to our local church. It should come after and on top of what you are first giving to your local church. Scripture is clear that we should support and provide for those who teach us the word:

“Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them.” (Gal. 6:6 NLT)

“In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it.” (1 Cor. 9:14 NLT)

“Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.’ And in another place, “Those who work deserve their pay!'” (1 Tim. 5:17-18 NLT)

Preaching and teaching is hard work, and Paul says that those who commit themselves to that work, and do it well, should be supported by those whom they are teaching. So you should give to your local church first, to support the ministry of the word which you are benefiting from, supporting and providing for your leaders as you are able. What’s great is that if it’s a healthy church, then they will likely have missions and mercy ministries included in their budget as well, so by giving to your church you are not only supporting your teachers and leaders, but you are also giving to missions and outreach! If you are able to give above and beyond this, then definitely make a priority of setting aside additional funds in your personal budget to support other missionaries or non-profits that are engaged in gospel ministry:

“For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth” (3 John 1:7-8)

I personally commend directing the bulk of your giving toward your local church, supporting a missionary (or multiple missionaries) on top of that, as well as setting aside money for spontaneous giving as needs arise in your church or neighborhood. I wrote another blog on this here. There's no hard and fast rule about this, but we should be careful that giving to other missionaries or nonprofits doesn't keep us from generously supporting our local church where we are being taught God's word on a regular basis (especially if part of our church's budget includes supporting global missions and missionaries). 

I don’t get spiritually fed at my church

This is a fair concern. Let’s say you agree that you should provide for those who are feeding you God’s word (Gal. 6:6), but you don’t believe your local church is doing that. You don’t feel “fed” there and have concerns about the teaching or character of your leaders. This is a reasonable concern. It’s important to clarify that the Biblical concept of “being fed” doesn’t imply you have a perfect pastor or the greatest preacher ever, but rather a pastor who is “above reproach” (1 Tim. 3:2) and is faithful to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). If he is following Jesus, leading others to do the same, praying for and caring for church members, and opening the Bible to preach the gospel each week, then he’s doing his job. If you only get fed by the famous preachers you listen to on podcasts, that probably says more about you than it does about your pastor:

“If you only get fed by the famous preachers you listen to on podcasts, that probably says more about you than it does about your pastor.”

We are fed by hearing the words of Scripture, for “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 8:3). With that said, maybe you belong to a church where God’s word is not being taught—the Bible isn’t central, the gospel isn’t preached, and Jesus isn’t lifted up as Lord and Savior week after week. This is a good reason to question whether you should give to the church, but even more important is the question of whether you should continue to attend or belong to that church. If your church persists in unbiblical or Christ-less teaching, or is led by men who teach the Bible with their lips but deny it with their lives, then you should almost certainly join a different church. Paul warns about leaders like this:

“You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. . . They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” (2 Tim. 3:1-5 NLT)

Unless you’re in a position to help bring about changes in those areas and you have a plan and pathway to do that, then you should seek out another church that is spiritually healthy and biblically faithful so that you can submit to the leaders, belong to the body, participate in worship, and give generously—all with a clear conscious and a joyful heart. In other words, if you don’t feel comfortable giving to your church because you’re concerned that you’re not being spiritually fed there, you should consider whether or not your concern is legitimate, and if it is then you should find a new church. On the other hand, if you realize that you are being taught the Bible and you are hearing the gospel, and your leaders are living out the faith in real ways as examples to you, then even if the preaching style isn’t your favorite you should stay at your church and start giving. Don’t stay in limbo, not committing and not giving—commit to a biblically faithful and spiritually healthy church, and start giving generously.  

Concluding thoughts

Belong to a Biblically faithful, spiritually healthy local church, and give to that church. Even if you only have a little to give, just give—it's ultimately an act of worship, and God is pleased with your giving when it's done in faith and joy. If you are able to give to your local church AND support other missionaries, then do it! What a joy it is to give to God and support the work of his kingdom. As the Lord Jesus himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).