Summary: This is the second of four messages "about the collection" in which we examine the principles of financial stewardship. This sermon examines the period, participants, and place of giving.
Last week I began a sermon series About the Collection. My intention is to preach four messages on the biblical principles of financial stewardship with respect to giving to the Lord. I would like to reiterate that these messages are intended to help you who are Christians grow in this vital area of discipleship. I have no desire to lay guilt trips on you. I want to motivate you on the basis of God’s Word to obedience in this area of your Christian life.
By the way, most of the material for this series of messages comes from John MacArthur, whose teaching on the subject I have found particularly helpful.
So, with that in mind, let’s read 1 Corinthians 16:1-4. In this text Paul gives us principles about the collection:
"1 Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. 3 Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me." (1 Corinthians 16:1-4)
In an article titled “Empty Plates, Empty Hearts?” Bruce Anderson says that at a time when consumer demand for church amenities, programs, and fancy gizmos continues to rise, the giving base to support all that has been dropping since 1956. Across the country, building projects are straining church budgets, mission programs are being cancelled, and staff pay raises are tabled for future consideration. Until financial stewardship is reestablished as a fundamental element of Christian theology and life, these negative trends will only continue.
Some churches don’t appear to have money problems. Their buildings multiply over night, their numerous staff people are well-compensated, and their shiny vans adorned with the church logo are visible all over town.
This sort of prosperity can be misleading. It illustrates two assumptions about church finances:
1. If a church has money problems, it must be financially dysfunctional, or
2. If a church has plenty of money, it is not financially dysfunctional.
Both of those assumptions are myths. In reality, from a financial stewardship perspective, many, if not most, churches that appear prosperous are no different than the poorest churches.
Anderson says that in the typical church today, 25 percent of the congregation gives 90 percent of the weekly offering. Within that group, the top 5 percent gives 50 percent of the church’s income, and the remaining 20 percent gives the other 40 percent.
That means a whopping 75 percent of the typical congregation contributes only 10 percent of the incoming dollars. Stated differently, in simple terms, nearly three-quarters of American church attendees drop about a buck a week in the offering plate.
Viewed from a purely business perspective, these numbers might give rise to a simple but hopeful challenge: By persuading the bottom group of contributors to give only half of what the next higher group (the 25 percent of the top givers) gives, one can double a church’s revenue base.
More importantly, however, viewed from a spiritual perspective, these numbers indicate that the majority of people who worship on Sundays are missing out on the most important elements of spiritual discipleship, reliance on God, and genuine worship.
My goal in preaching this series of messages About the Collection is to help you think biblically about your financial stewardship with respect to giving to the Lord. I want you to consider thoughtfully and prayerfully your giving pattern in general and to the Tampa Bay Presbyterian Church in particular.
As we begin today, let us review what we covered last week.
I. The Purpose of Giving (16:1)
Last week we saw that the purpose of giving as stated in verse 1 is “for God’s people,” that is, for the church. The church is to fund its own ministry and needs. More specifically, as you study Scripture you discover that all giving falls essentially into two categories: to support the ministry of the Word and to support the ministry of mercy.
Let’s continue to look at principles “about the collection.”
II. The Period of Giving (16:2a)
Second, note the period of giving.
Paul says in verse 2a: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.”
Paul did not want to take up a collection when he arrived at Corinth. He wanted a collection to be taken each Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, i.e. on Sunday.