I have friends who don't give to their local church. Some of them don't give yet because they don't know they should. Others don't give because they give outside the local church--to charities, to neighbors, etc. and don't feel compelled to give more.
Today I thought I'd tackle one reason to start giving to the church where you go on a regular, consistent basis:
You should give to your local church because you take from your local church.
I know, there are many more "spiritual" reasons I could offer. I could take you on a tour of the Torah, explaining the practice of tithing God established as a part of his people's covenant relationship with him. Or I could point you to the early chapters of Acts--a deeply challenging text, and suggest that everything you own belongs to your brothers and sisters in the local church (that's real). I could quote Jesus and tell you giving blesses you. I could remind you of how pleased God is with generosity.
But instead, today, I just want to point to the obvious: If you attend a church, if you walk through the doors of a building or home or high school gymnasium where God's people gather on a regular basis, if you log on to a church's website consistently, if you participate in a small group or tell your friends about the cool service projects your church does, you're going to need to give money.*
Here's why: It costs money to be a church.
Just like it costs money to be a family, it costs money to be a church. Let's consider an average Sunday...
You park in a parking lot that costs money to maintain. You walk into a building that costs money to maintain. You breathe in air conditioning. You grab a coffee. You pick up a bulletin (formatted by a staff member, printed on a color copier, and assembled by a person--probably a staff member). You walk to Bible class and learn from a church-trained teacher using purchased materials. You take your kids to Bible class where they eat snacks and make crafts with glue and paper and brads and listen to CDs with Bible songs played on CD players. The whole time you're walking through the building you're stepping on carpet that will be cleaned when you leave. You might go to the bathroom, grab some toilet paper, flush the toilet, wash your hands, dry your hands on paper towels, take a drink from the water fountains. You'll listen to a sermon delivered by a person who is paid to spend a week studying what you don't have time to study so he can deliver a message you need but might have missed on your own. You take communion, crackers and juice bought in bulk. You read scriptures and song lyrics from a screen, formatted on computers and projected on that screen by sophisticated machines. And you do all of it under the predictable glow of electric lights.
All of that stuff costs money.
If you're anything like me, you're thinking, "But most of that stuff isn't important. I don't want my money spent on coffee or carpet cleaning or bulletins." And I get that. But you're using it. So...
Also, I don't want us to forget the kingdom work done by coffee and bulletins. For real. There are people at Round Rock Church of Christ (my home church) right now who came to know Christ because, in part, the first time they visited Round Rock they felt comforted by the coffee and clean carpet. Still others picked up a bulletin (well-designed, warm, and interesting) their first Sunday and thought, "Maybe this is a different kind of church." And so they came back again.
That actually happens.
But even if it didn't, if you want to sit in an air conditioned building, you have to pay the air-conditioning bill.
Too many of us Christians think "the church" exists outside of us. We think there's some church fund somewhere in which money magically appears. But it doesn't. Every dollar spent by your local church comes out of the pockets of its members. And when we go to church or participate in church-wide activities or log on to Vimeo to catch up on sermons without giving to church we're essentially looking at the person beside us in the pew and saying, "Thanks for all this, bud. I feel totally fine mooching off your generosity."
But let's move on. Let's look at what else your contribution to the local church does.
At my church, the general contribution pays missionaries to deliver the good news of Christ to dark places like Tabora, Tanzania and Zagreb, Croatia.
It pays staff to counsel members, to lead Bible studies, to mentor young people, to spend time dreaming about the future of our church and planning practical steps to live into that God-crafted future, to teach people and challenge people and inspire people...
It pays for multimedia efforts like our testimony videos, website, and online sermons (sermons being watched by people all over the globe). Last month, a regular sermon-watcher who'd never stepped foot in our building showed up wanting to be baptized.
It pays for regular and abundant benevolence offered to the poor and disadvantaged that come to our building.
It pays for email delivery fees so the whole church can know the very day a new baby's born or the moment a brother or sister goes into the hospital.
It pays for camps created to help neighborhood kids know Jesus and regular events geared toward loving our community in generous ways.
(And--something I never want to lose sight of: if we gave more, we'd be able to do more of this great stuff.)
That's just my church. Yours is doing stuff like this, too.
The collection that happens on Sundays pays for our body to, in some significant and bigger-than-any-one-of-us-could-pull-off ways, live love. And when we choose to neglect the weekly collection, we're saying (I'm going to be frank here), "I want to go to a church that does that stuff, but I'm not going to pay for it."
Any time you feel happy or thankful or proud of the work your church is doing, you should remember, that work is enabled by the money we give.
We includes you.
No, we don't all have to give the same amount. We don't tally up water usage and make every person pay his or her part. That's not the way a church works. The church asks its members to share what they have so that, like the church in Acts, we have "all things in common." Those of us with less share less. Those with more share more. But we all share. And none of that 2% stuff, either. We share sacrificially. And joyfully. Because we all benefit.
If you want to go to a church, to belong to a body of believers, to exist within a family of faith, you need to give to that church. You need to give because you take. And give-and-take is the way a family works.
*Now, right up front I'm eager to say, Some people can give more than other people. No two people are expected to give the same. BUT I'm also certain, all people (even poor people) are called to give. Notice that when Jesus sees the widow throw in her two mites He doesn't run to her and give it back. That's because what she does is beautiful and good. God calls all of us to generosity, the kind of generosity that requires trust in God's goodness and provision.